A Segway into being cool | PostIndependent.com

A Segway into being cool

April E. Clark
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Cody Isaman Special to the Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – They were nine words I thought would never spill from my mouth: “Hold on, I have to make a Segway appointment.”

Yes, I really said that. And no, I’m not embarrassed to say I made that call.

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t been that attracted to the idea of riding around town on a Segway. Maybe it’s the mall security stigma that follows these personal transporters around like a lost kid at K-Mart. The 2009 comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” starring Kevin James comes to mind.

He can definitely move a lot faster on one than I can.

Segways aren’t the sexiest things I’ve seen a human ride. Motorcycles usually get that glory. Bikes are also hot in the world of two-wheeled modes of transportation.

I always thought I was super hot on my white 10-speed when I was 13.

Taking off from Glenwood Adventure Co. last Thursday morning, I didn’t really care if I looked sexy. Segway or not. I did wear my favorite Run-D.M.C. T-shirt that day just to help offset the dorky stigma these machines have been known to portray.

“Nice shirt,” said my Segway guide, Thomas Breslin.

“Thanks,” I said. “I wanted to make sure I looked cool while riding a Segway.”

Not to worry, I took care of that later on during the ride. Let’s just say I’m not the most graceful girl to ever ride a Segway.

Joining me for the fun was a group of four couples from Oklahoma and Arkansas that were visiting Glenwood Springs. They rode in a few days prior on their motorcycles and had already enjoyed rafting and zip lining over the Colorado River. They had heard about the Segway tours offered by Glenwood Adventure Co. on the website tripadvisor.com, where there were many positive reviews.

Most of the group was excited and not nervous, except for Margaret Seymour and her friend Jannette Linn.

“I’m scared because I’ve never ridden on one,” Seymour admitted. “I think I might crash.”

Linn’s fears were a little more visual.

“I had a dream I went off a cliff and into the river,” she said. “I don’t have the greatest balance.”

It’s true, I have been known to crash a bike or two. Or three. I backed into my dad’s car in our driveway when I was a teenager. I also tried to operate our lawn mower as a kid and ran over something metal. My dad told me to never touch a lawn mower again.

He would have plenty of jokes about me riding this $8,000 machine.

Breslin and his fellow tour guide, Logan Bartek, told us all about the Segways. They can go up to 40 miles per hour. Lucky for me, Glenwood Adventure Co. has the electronic speed governors set to top out at 5 miles per hour. Seriously, no one would want me going 40 miles per hour on one of these suckers.

“If you’re going 40 miles per hour on a Segway, you better be wearing some Kevlar body armor,” Breslin said.

Before we hit the streets, Breslin and Bartek ran through several preparatory drills in the parking lot to ensure we knew how to start, stop, turn, remain upright, etc.

“You guys are used to being on two wheels, right,” Breslin said to the motorcyclists.

“You don’t know about my dream last night,” Linn joked.

Safety was first for our guides. They covered all the bases in regards to understanding the Segways, obeying traffic and respecting laws. Of course we wore bike helmets, but we didn’t need knee and elbow pads, they assured us.

The key to riding a Segway, we found out, is to stand tall with confidence, shoulders back, and to relax so weight is distributed evenly. I needed a reference on how I would remain upright, so Breslin likened the balancing to playing many of Nintendo’s Wii games.

“These are powerful machines, so it’s good to have nice, calculated movements,” Breslin said. “The machines are all balance-based.”

He coached me to shift my weight on my feet to propel the Segway forward or to stop, and to always make sure to relax my upper body.

Segways are battery powered and feature gyroscopic and fluid-based leveling sensors. These sensors help the users move forward, speed up, slow down, or stop.

To move forward, I would inch to the front of the platform or put more weight on the balls of my feet. To stop, I would move my feet to the back of the platform and lean back with my knees a little bent and pull the handlebar back.

The handlebar can be moved left or right to steer. This is where I was the least graceful.

These tips would help me later as we made our way up and down inclines on the different paths around town to see the historical sites.

We were on the Colorado River Tour, so we rode by the trailhead leading up to Doc Holliday’s grave. We cruised over to Two Rivers Park, visiting the Storm King Fire monument. We went by the Hot Springs Pool, the Hotel Colorado, and into Glenwood Canyon where we spotted bighorn sheep enjoying lunch.

“It is so amazing,” Linn said. “I got to go into the Canyon and see things I never would have been able to.”

Linn explained that with asthma and Colorado’s high elevation, even a short walk around town to sightsee is too much.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was worth every penny.”

Pat Scully, of Choctaw, Okla., appreciated the staff’s knowledge of Segways and their emphasis on safety.

“I was just impressed with their safety,” he said. “Safety on the trails and the way they handled all safety aspects, yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists. Heck, when I get $8,000, I’d like to get me one.”

Glenwood Adventure Co. owner Ken Murphy said the Segways have been a popular draw for guests since the outdoor adventure outfitter opened three years ago. Another local company had been offering Segway tours before Murphy purchased those machines and added them to the fleet.

The local outfitter owns 11 Segways total. Each tour is limited to six people per group. Larger groups, as in our case, are split into two.

“I think it’s a very fun, efficient way of seeing the town,” Murphy said. “Thirty years ago, people were mostly seeing the town by walking around. Now they can bike, raft, and ride Segways. It’s different, it’s progressive. It’s something people can cross off their bucket list and say, ‘I went on a Segway tour.'”

Segways have gained some notoriety lately in Glenwood Springs. A few trail users have complained that, as motorized vehicles, Segways shouldn’t be allowed to use bike path trails in the city.

The matter is before the Glenwood Springs City Council, which is exploring ways to permit Segways to use certain sections of the city’s trail system.

If riding a Segway for the first time taught me anything, it’s to relax. Tensing up definitely doesn’t help. There’s certainly nothing to be afraid of while riding one. All it takes is a little balance. And the guides are extremely helpful in making sure everyone is doing OK.

Next time I might smoke a cigar like Keith Remer, one of the Oklahoma gentleman who is a humorist and award-winning Western author. He didn’t seem to have any problem learning to ride the Segway.

There were a couple times I lost my train of thought – make that more than a couple times – and I found myself stopped when all I needed to do was lean forward.

Once, Breslin was surprised to find me with white knuckles on the handlebars. I won’t deny I needed him to remind me to relax.

I may have needed some extra coaching, to the extent that the folks in my group were calling me teacher’s pet. But I figure if I’m doing something people cross off their (kick the) bucket lists, I can be a little timid. I also don’t necessarily gauge speed all that well.

“How fast do you think I’m going?” I asked Breslin at one point in the Canyon, thinking I was moving.

“Probably three or four miles an hour,” he said.

I thought it felt more like 40.

Then again, I was on a Segway. I thought I was pretty cool like that.

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