November 22, 2005
Mom came to visit this weekend, and while we were walking down by the beach, we noticed a sign for a Segway rental place. Disenchanted with the archaic notion of bipedal locomotion, we decided to rent some. After signing and initialing a few dozen pieces of paper to the effect that we really really wouldn’t sue them, we watched a ten minute instructional video about how to get hurt riding a Segway. It was very thorough.
Then it was time for our training. The guy at the Segway rental place, who smiled a lot, gave us helmets and instructed us on how to use the Segway. First, we put them into balance mode, and then we stepped on. I segwobbled at first, but quickly stabilized. We then practiced going forward and backward a bit. It really is just as easy as standing after a few minutes practice.
Turning, on the other hand, is not. I suppose I had always assumed that it was completely directed by your body weight, but that’s not the case. The Segway moves forward and backward to keep under you, but turning is controlled by a little throttle on the left handlebar. This is problematic for two reasons
- It is easy to forget which way is which.
- It turns like a tank, not like a car.
The second point caused no end of confusion. Turning on the spot is convenient if you remember it, and cranked up to the maximum, you become quite the little segwhirlwind. But the natural inclination, having used vehicles that have both front and back wheels for most of my life, is to turn the control one way while moving forward and then turn the other way while moving backward. In a car, this does a nice little three point turn. On a Segway, you do a nice little half-turn forward… and then reverse to segwind up right back where you started.
After slaloming around some little orange cones, Smiles was convinced that we probably wouldn’t lead to any serious litigation, so he let us go out into the world.
We segwove our way down State St. and through the crowds of people at the Santa Barbara pier. Several people asked about the Segways, and fun was generally had by all.
At one point, Mom decided to see if the differential would handle one wheel on pavement and one on sand. It segwouldn’t.
Clearly, she wasn’t paying attention to the video.