saturday morning segway

It’s a Saturday morning and I am standing, along with 9 others, in the grounds of a swish hotel, next to a table covered in boxes of protective equipment and helmets. We are waiting to be briefed for our Segway Rally. Soon there is a high pitched hum of of electrical motors and our instructor emerges from the woods on his Segway followed by 10 smiling attendees from the group before us – all motoring along on the odd 2-wheeled vehicles. They all look remarkably at home on the machines and I assume they must be an advanced group…

I had seen footage of Segways before – most famously of George W. Bush falling off of one – and the image I had in my head of a Segway was of a fragile looking white plastic contraption – a little like an upright Sinclair C5. These however were VERY different – solid, sturdy and with plenty of room to stand and large, chunky off-road tyres. They looked substantial. And reassuring.

Within minutes, we are kitted out with pads and helmets and are undergoing a safety briefing – the correct way to mount and dismount the Segway, how to turn and, most importantly, how to stop. Then we are led to a small course marked out with cones and allowed to practice manoeuvering.

Mounting the Segway for the first time is an unusual experience. The Segway is controlled by shifting your weight so stepping onto it is initially a precarious job – you attempt to gain your balance and as you shift your weight the Segway begins to move back and forth. A little disconcerting but it only takes a few seconds to acclimatise. Steering is performed not by turning the handlebar but by pushing it sideways. As the wheels move independently, a push fully to one side makes one wheel go forward and one backwards effectively allowing you to pirouette on the spot. This is what makes the Segway so manoeuverable. After we have all had a chance to get acquainted with our Segways, we tentatively follow our instructor out into the woods where we are shown a course marked out through the trees. This is out track and we are now turned loose to ride round it. Everyone takes it easy for the first few laps but confidence and speed comes surprisingly quickly. Our instructors watch from the middle of the track to ensure no-one gets into difficulty and soon everyone is making their way round the track at their own pace.

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There is something exhilarating about twisting and turning through a forest on a near silent machine. Anyone who has ridden a mountain bike will relate to the experience but unlike a mountain bike, you are not the power source. The steering becomes intuitive very quickly and is like one of those dreams where you are flying – you think about going in one direction and you just go there. This must be how Harry Potter feels whilst playing Quidditch on his broomstick.

After about 40 minutes, and just as I am beginning to physically tire a little, our instructor tells us we have one more lap before heading back. Soon we are all following him out of the woods, single file, back to where we were briefed an hour ago. The difference is this time, to the people waiting for their session to start, we look like the advanced group – effortlessly gliding across the terrain on the funny little electric vehicles.

Once we had removed our padding and helmets, everyone was talking about how much fun they had. Un-scientifically, I took a quick straw poll and asked everyone I could how many would do it again – everyone I spoke to said they would. It is a brilliant, fun activity that can be done with a bunch of friends or booked as an experience for a special occasion. No-one can get too competitive and it would make a great “team-building” activity for a business – far better than the hackneyed attempts at trying to construct a bridge or build a raft. I really enjoyed it – far more than I expected – and will definitely be doing it again.

This and other gift Experience Days can be booked through Activity Superstore.

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