While the world patiently awaited the arrival of the Royal Baby, my colleague Dee and I were driving up to Horsham for a go at a Segway Rally with our friends at Segway Events.
The sun shone down with exuberance and we were feeling positively jovial on the journey; it was great to get out into countryside and fresh air. Situated in Holmbush Farm, we drove next to vast fields and the occasional farmyard animal, including some very woolly alpacas! Soon we arrived at the Segway Events base, where we introduced ourselves to our instructors Tom and Addie, and got our first glimpse of the strange-looking machines.
If you’re unsure what a Segway actually is (I had no idea how they worked), here’s a brief history and description: Invented in 2001 by Dean Kamen, the name ‘Segway’ comes from the word segue, commonly used in music to describe the smooth transition of two pieces. The vehicles are self-standing on two parallel wheels, and are battery-powered. There is no accelerator lever or pedal, the vehicle simply moves when you lean forward, and stops when you lean back (you can go in reverse, but apparently that’s quite difficult so we didn’t try that). Although there are handlebars, the steering is not the same as a bicycle, you don’t twist the handles to go left or right, rather you lean the control shaft in the desired direction.
Our lead instructor, Addie, got us kitted out in knee and shin pads, elbow pads and helmets, then gathered the group (about twelve of us) for a safety briefing. It was obvious a lot of people were slightly nervous about the machines (including myself and Dee), but Addie was so funny and helpful he put us right at ease. After explaining how to control the Segways, we each individually had a test run around a tree to get a feel for the steering and acceleration. Most of us were rather jerky and a few came close to hitting cars in the car park, but everyone managed to stay on and there were luckily no casualties!
We set off into the forest, 12 Segways rolling and Addie on foot (with us moving at about 5mph he wasn’t exactly left behind). Our first exercise came when we entered a clearing with big barrels dotted around, Addie gave us free rein of the field and we got a great opportunity to really get to grips with the Segways. It didn’t take long to get used to the feel of the steering, acceleration and stopping, soon enough the vehicle starts to feel like an extra limb that seems to react to your thoughts rather than your movements. One of the strangest sensations was coming to a stop, Segways don’t actually have brakes, so it’s less of a complete stop but rather a balance between forward and reverse. At first, it was somewhat difficult to maintain that balance, so there was quite a lot of rocking back and forth!
Reconvening as a group, we had some photos taken by Tom, which were available to purchase at the end of the day. Not wasting any time, we were straight off into a more wooded part of the farm to try navigating a slightly rougher terrain. There were dips and hills, twists and turns, and all manner of woodland obstacles to avoid – it was easy to forget how big the wheels actually are! Again, we had free rein of the area, so we could push the speed of the Segways and really see what they can do. The sensation of driving with your body is very strange, but fun in equal measure!
I can just see myself cruising down Brighton seafront on a Segway, definitely cooler than a bike. However, for a sweet price of £6,000, I think I’ll stick to the experience tours instead! I’d recommend the same for everyone, it’s like nothing I’ve done before and so enjoyable. The staff were great and helped make the day even better, plus we got a complimentary photo and certificate at the end so we have a tangible reminder of a brilliant experience. Can’t wait to try it again!
Segway Rallies are available at numerous locations: