The Segway Human Transporter : 07-14-2003
By Carlos E.
It's been joked about, used on TV, and is as hard to come by as a Vertu phone...
That's why it was quite the surprise this past week, when, during my vacation, I saw someone using it and decided to ask if I could try it out.
So, for those of you that are wondering... NO, I did not fall down when I got on for the first time.
The Segway is an interesting machine; it looks just like something out of a sci-fi movie. The construction is very clean and its appearance is very minimalist/functional. The owner, who was also a dealer of the machines (thus his stroll around was more of a marketing ploy than a real commute), was carrying 3 'keys' that, according to him, set the maximum speed that the Segway can operate in. He started it with the Red one, presumably the one that was the easiest (or fastest to play a joke on me).
Now, as for getting on, the platform accommodates your feet nicely. It looks like, size wise, like those foot massagers in the sharper image, without the texture. Once on, however, you realize how mechanically unnatural the whole thing is. Here you are, standing on top of what looks like an old-school 2-wheeled lawn mower, and yet you aren't falling. Weird feeling.
My natural inclination was to try and 'balance' like you would with a cart or while doing a wheelie on a skateboard, however, because the Segway is trying to balance you out, you essentially only aggravate matters. Thus, my initial stance was quite a bit wobbly, even if I wasn't moving at all.
The left handle has the turning rotor. If you turn it, it essentially makes the Segway make a flat spin in either direction. It turns like tanks do, by turning one wheel one way and the other in the opposite direction, thus turning in one spot, aka “on a dime”.
Now moving forward is the really cool part, the feeling is one of intentionally face planting. You lean forward and magically your feet come with you. It accelerates at a fast pitch too, but I never was allowed to reach top speed, for the owner said to stop and turn around. Well, I did just meet the guy; he probably wasn’t too keen on me running away with it.
As for stopping, it almost feels like pulling a horse’s reins and leaning back. It's not immediate, and I don't think you could make it skid stop like you could with a bike. That said, it’s quite the experience to lean back onto nothing. At least that’s how it feels.
Turning and moving was my next thing, I tried it both going backwards and forwards. Mind you, all the things I've mentioned so far I did in roughly 5 minutes, so I think the learning curve is definitively short for those of the Nintendo generation.
All in all, the Segway is a curiosity. I don’t know if I’d buy one other than for just toying around and getting people to talk to me. I don’t have any comments on the real vs. advertised battery life, max speed, and durability, but I’m sure someone else might have that out there. Definitively cool, though.
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