What's it like to ride a Segway?
November 4, 2009 8:05 PM   Subscribe

What's it like to ride a Segway?

I've only ever seen them on TV and the movies, never in real life. If you've ever ridden one, what was the most surprising thing you discovered the first time you tried it?
posted by Sully to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My wife bought me a Segway tour of DC earlier this year--we live here, but I had the same questions you did, and it looked like fun.

We had a few minutes of training, then we were off on the tour. Getting on and off is a bit tricky, as the things are made to keep you on them. The only real surprising thing was how they acted when they were going down hill--they actually lean back against you to slow you down. Kind of hard to explain unless you've been on one. The servos/gyroscopes are amazingly powerful; you can really feel them pushing and pulling to keep you upright. Strange, but cool.

If you live somewhere where Segway tours are offered, I highly recommend giving them a try. We tooled around town for about 3 hours, with plenty of time to just play around with the machines. Honestly, 3 hours was about enough. It's kind of like a go-kart--lots of fun for a while, but then the novelty wears off. But it was, indeed, lots of fun for a while.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:13 PM on November 4, 2009

Moving backwards and forwards is indeed very intuitive and easy to master -- just lean. Turning involves twisting a handle, and was, to me, a lot less natural. The high center of gravity of the rider also makes turns feel more precarious, because the Segway is self-balancing along the direction of movement, not side to side -- I half-expected it to feel just as steady on the turns, but of course that wasn't the case, because the Segway doesn't lean into turns. As a result, it is easy to turn in place, and easy to perform a gradual turn when moving, but making a sharp turn while moving is less comfortable.
posted by Behemoth at 8:19 PM on November 4, 2009

There's a minimum weight limit; if you are too small, it won't work, or won't work well, for you. It makes sense considering how the thing is operated, but I hadn't considered it before.
posted by amtho at 8:29 PM on November 4, 2009

It's fun.
posted by timeistight at 8:35 PM on November 4, 2009

I think it feels counter-intuitive. You have to get over that initial hesitation and learn to trust the thing and lean without assuming you'll fall over. It's kinda fun, but I wouldn't be caught dead doing it in any serious manner.
posted by greta simone at 8:48 PM on November 4, 2009

I've never "driven" an official Segway, but I did try a homemade one which was smaller, lighter, and faster. It felt totally natural to me. After about five minutes, it became an extension of my brain, and I had no issues at all maneuvering around.
posted by spiderskull at 9:04 PM on November 4, 2009

It's fun. I rode a Segway in Montreal - first you do a training course indoors, then ride around outside. THe most surprising aspect was how intuitive it was to control.
posted by lsemel at 9:15 PM on November 4, 2009

As someone who rides bicycles, skis, and runs a lot, I found the Segway to be counter-intuitive. And I didn't enjoy it much, since there are much more affordable and practical options for moving around under my own power with the same speed. But I'm able-bodied, so I can see the appeal for those who are infirm or lazy.
posted by randomstriker at 9:55 PM on November 4, 2009

I found it very, very natural to use a Segway on and off of pavement. That said, the same time I learned how to use it, another guy got on and the thing immediately threw him to the side as he lost his balance and directed it to turn hard, significantly injuring his knee [he was off of it for days].

For reference, it's a lot like riding a __recumbent__ bicycle -- you barely, barely touch the steering.
posted by rr at 11:16 PM on November 4, 2009

I've ridden a Segway a few times. Once you get over the wobbly first time you step on and off it, it's really very easy. What surprised me the most was how much work your ankles do. You do learn on and off the handlebars a bit to propel yourself, but a lot of it is just changing the pressure distribution of your feet.

One other thing was that when it wants you to slow down -- it has built-in speed limits -- the handlebars lean back. This made no sense to me, since I didn't realize what was happening and my intuition was "Oh shit, I'm falling backward; I'd better lean forward some more." I fought with it for a good 100 yards before I realized what was happening, and once I slowed down all was well again.

Incidentally, the new Segways have handlebars that lean, instead of the handlebar knob, for turning. So you can "bank" turns. The platform doesn't bank much, which still makes it feel a little odd, but at least it feels better than turning the handlebar.

Second the Segway Tour idea. I am famously skeptical of the utility and coolness of the Segway, but I bought a Segway tour for my parents while they were visiting (Mom's got a bad knee and can't otherwise walk the city), and it was a great application of the technology. You do get pointed and laughed at, though.
posted by olinerd at 3:54 AM on November 5, 2009

You can go a LOT faster than you were expecting. Stopping feels a bit scary because you have to shift your center of balance backward; like leaning back or crouching a bit as if starting to sit down. And you feel like a complete dork. Or at least I did. Which is why I was glad I was doing it at 2am in the suburbs.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:08 AM on November 5, 2009

I did a tour in Cape Town. It was fun, but I didn't like the lean-back part. At the time, I did it just to see what they were like. Now, however, I have a bum knee and can't enjoy walking very far at all. However, a Segway isn't a good solution, since you have to stand on the dumb things. Yes, I could go further and see more, but I'd still get tired from standing, and for me, standing is often worse than walking, when it comes to pain. It would only be especially useful in order to enjoy walking sort of activity with my partner, or others.
posted by Goofyy at 7:22 AM on November 5, 2009

I'd have to say the most amazing thing I experienced was how easy it was to learn. It was fun. You should have a great time.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:09 PM on November 5, 2009

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