Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published January 10th 2013
For some seriously good fun
While in Sicily this week, we did a Segway Tour of the old town of Ortigya. Segways are those slightly whacky looking upright scooters which look a little bit like a golf buggy without the golf bag. And yes, they are a lot of fun. A serious lot of fun.
To buy one of these funky transporters will set you back over $/Euro 8000, so while you save your pennies, you will just have to whet your appetite with a tour or rental. Segway tours are nowadays offered in many of the main tourist cities of the world.
Segway tour through the winding streets of Ortigia, Siracusa (Italy)
Segways are more correctly called People Transporters, and were invented by American 'inventrepreneur' Dean Kamen, in 2001. They look remarkably simple, but contain 5 gyroscopes and an onboard computer, which constantly rebalance the rider. They go a top speed of 20 km/hr and can travel up to 38km on each electric battery recharge. The nifty thing is that this constant stabilisation means that they really are remarkably easy to ride and incredibly intuitive: if you want to go forward, you tilt forward, if you want to stop, pull back.
You really only use the handles to rest your hands, not to push or pull, though they do have a roll in turning when they operate much like a bicycle's handbars. The turning circle is impressive: it basically 'turns on a dime'. It really only takes moments to master one (even for someone coordination-challenged like me) and you will soon be doing wheelies and going up and down hills with aplomb. The Segway website talks about the 'Segway Smile' effect of 'gliding' and it's true: it's a pretty joyful experience and seems to make others smile too.
The first company to offer tours, City Segway Tours operates in the USA in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington DC and in Europe in Berlin, Budapest and Vienna. Italy Segway Tours are available in Rome, Florence, Milan and Pisa and they offer both tours and hourly rentals. In Siracusa, we went with Sicily Green Mobility, an authorised Segway operator. Raimondo was our very calm, patient and helpful tour guide (he also knew where the best gelateria was), and we were provided with audio guides for all the tourist stops throughout the city.
In Australia, Segway Tours offer on and off-road tours (with a special off-road Segway) at Sydney's Olympic Park. On the Gold Coast, you can take a Segway Safari of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Further south, Segway Victoria takes people on 1.5 hour tours of Yarra Valley Vineyards. In the UK, Segway (normal and off-road) tours are offered at various cities throughout England and Scotland, and at Alexandra Palace in North London.
The easiest way to find an authorised tour near you is via the official Segway website, where you can type in your location to be linked to a list of their authorised tour companies worldwide.
Prices for the Segway tours are not cheap, starting somewhere around the $/E80 mark, for 2 hours and including an initial orientation. However, it is a singularly great experience which can be enjoyed by the whole family. Generally, you need to weigh more than 45kg and less than 117kg and under 16's need to be accompanied by a responsible adult. If you fit within those parametres, make sure you put a 'Segway Glide' on your bucket list. You'll be glad you did.
Crossing by Segway over to Ortigia Island from the Siracusa mainland
An interesting article Julie. My husband and I were travelling around Australia and I noticed that a number of regional town were offering segway tours around town and even in one place through parks and wetlands. I had always wondered if they would be easy to ride but before I read your article I didn't know they stabilised themselves and the rider. I may be tempted to give them a try now.
We did a segway tour of Washington DC, it was the best fun you can have standing up! I was a bit worried I wouldnt be able to balance as I have very poor co-ordination and balance due to a life time of ear problems - I blitzed it! Hubby and I are late 40's and daughter was 19 - we all agreed it was the one of the best days together we have ever shared.