While we were in San Diego I rented a Segway for an hour to see what it was like. I have wanted to do this for a long time and decided to take the opportunity to experience it first hand. This is a collection of my thoughts and experiences. For first time Segway riders, after signing your life away in paperwork, you are required to take 15 minutes of training. It involves a few minutes of verbal instruction and then 10 minutes of practice where you demonstrate to the instructor that you have learned and understand what you have been told and you have to maneuver around a course set up with cones that shows how well you can steer and control the Segway. The biggest thing they wanted to teach you was that the Segway is wider than your shoulders and they want you to understand that so you won’t catch the Segway on an obstacle (like fire hydrant) and cause you to fall. The orange cones behind me in the picture were part of my “training course”.
Starting up and getting on the Segway was more complex than I expected but in retrospect it all makes sense. Each Segway has a remote control that gives you a lot of information that isn’t on the Segway itself. The remote turns the Segway on and off, locks it so someone else can’t take it, turns on and off training (turtle) mode, and tells you how much charge is left on the battery (or alternately how many miles you have left/have used). When you turn the Segway on some lights turn on in the middle of the platform where you stand. You need to hang onto the Segway when you are turning it on so it doesn’t fall over. The lights on the platform tell you if the Segway is tilted correctly, if too far forward a red light turns on in the front, if too far back a red light turns on in the back and if correct a green light is on in the middle. With the light green, you raise your right foot and gently tap the platform on the right side where your right foot will be placed. If everything is ok a cluster of green lights turn on around the single green balance light telling you that the Segway is ready for you to get on. While continuing to hold onto the Segway (if you let
go it will move forward on its own), you now step onto the platform between the wheels and balance so you don’t go forward or backwards.
The Segway goes forward and backwards when you lean in the direction you want to go. To turn you move the handlebars to the left or right. It is possible to turn in place by not moving forward or backwards and just turning the handlebars. When you are learning the Segway is placed in “Training” mode (shown by a turtle) on the remote. After you have used the Segway for 30 minutes you can switch to “Normal” mode. In training mode the maximum speed is 6 mph and normal is 10 mph. Once you get the hang of the controls it is pretty easy but you need to be very aware that the wheels are wider than you are and to not go over a curb or other obstruction more than one inch high I was off and spent an hour wheeling around Mission Bay. One thing that is hard to describe is how the Segway reacts when you reach the maximum speed – it pushes back at you! When you experience it you will understand.
One of the first things I noticed was how tall I felt. I looked down on
everything, walkers, bikers, skaters, runners. It gives you a feeling of power and “can do no wrong” probably not a good thing at 10 mph. It also means there are obstacles (like trees) that you normally wouldn’t have to deal with. Good thing I had a helmet. Some other interesting things happened. While in training mode, a group of runners got on the path just ahead of me and I knew they were very consistently running 6 mph since we maintained our distance apart for quite a while. Then another runner came up beside me – matched my pace and asked “How fast are we going?” – I immediately replied 6 mph since I was going as fast as I could in training mode. He then moved on ahead. The Segway isn’t completely quiet – there is a whine from the electric motors. I think it is actually more noticeable in training mode than normal mode – at least to the rider. But then if you completely stop – it is completely silent. I stopped several times when there was congestion on the path. As I went by one of the many parks on the Bay there was a person practicing on a Bagpipe. It seemed a very appropriate place to do that and I enjoyed the music as a wheeled by.
So I had a wonderful experience with my first Segway ride and I highly recommend it. But be sure to pay attention to the training. Taking a spill from one would not be fun. Not sure what the rental rates are in other places but here they charge $45 for the first hour and $30 for each added hour. The added $15 for the first hour covers the training time. I know in lots of cities they have tours that are Segway based so you can see more things in the same amount of time. There was another rental place that I found later that offers tours also.
So – if you get a chance – ride a Segway!