An Early Adopter
I am what the high-tech marketing men call an Early Adopter. In other words I am the sort of idiot who patrols Tottenham Court Road in search of the latest anything. I spend hours scanning the internet looking for gadgets which have been released in Taiwan or Cupertino but are not due in England for another six months. I am, in other words, a rather sad nerd.
All of which may explain why a few years ago I nearly wet myself when I first read about a gadget in American called a Segway. This, I was assured, was about to revolutionise personal transport. Walking would be a thing of the past. Cars would be irrelevant. Motor scooters (another of my passions, by the way) would go the way of the Reliant Regal and the Bond Minicar.
The Segway consisted of a single axle on which was a small platform big enough for a pair of shoes. Sticking up from the platform was what looked like a pair of bicycle handlebars. There would be zero pollution, zero noise, zero hassle.
Quite how one was meant to balance on a single axle without years of training as a circus high-wire acrobat remained to be seen. But as far as I was concerned, the Segway was top of my Must Have list.
And then my personal radar screen went blank. For at least two years I heard nothing about the Segway, and I assumed it had been aborted at birth. Until, that is, the editor of LUSSO asked me if I might be interested to try some strange gadget called a Segway. Would I hell!
I punched Segway into Google and found that it was still alive and not unwell in the United States where it was being used by policemen in flaky Californian towns and by warehouse managers who had to scoot up and down huge hangars storing washing powder, window frames and Wonderbras. I even learned that it was possible to take a Segway tour of Paris instead of sitting on a Bateau Mouche or one of those open-topped buses filled with Japanese ladies and men from North Dakota.
All of which succeeded in getting my early adopter juices to start flowing copiously as I fantasised about whizzing round rural Cambridgeshire on this electric chariot. But the snag is that in addition to being a member of the human race I am also a farmer. This means that many of the places I have to go during the course of a day are somewhat off the beaten track. In other words they are dirty and muddy and slippery and bumpy.
No worries said the editor of LUSSO. It appears that Segway had thought of me when they invented their special XT model. Instead of having smooth and narrow tyres well-suited to urban pavements, this machine has fat and bungy low-pressure tyres which look as if they had fallen off a small tractor. The machine weighs 100lbs but can carry an additional 260 lbs, and it has special lithium-ion batteries which will keep it going for ten miles across bumpy fields.
And then the Segway arrived at my farm and suddenly I felt a few degrees less than happy. How in heaven’s name was I going to be able to balance the damned thing? Compared to a bicycle it looked both complicated and clumsy. Surely I would simply fall over forward onto my face.
However, armed with courage, fortitude and foolhardiness, I stepped aboard. I did not, repeat not, fall onto my face. For some strange reason I remained vertical. Umpteen tiny gyroscopes were apparently compensating for my every movement. I pushed my toes down a fraction and the damned thing rolled slowly forward. I twisted to rubber grip on the handlebar and the damned thing turned left or right. I pushed my toes down harder and the damned thing speeded up. Up came my toes and down went my heel and the damned thing stopped. Hells bells. It was magic. Totally magic.
After no more than five minutes timidity my fear had disappeared. It was replaced by the sort of confidence which is usually displayed by skydivers, olympic gymnasts and championship surfers. It was as if I had been riding a Segway all my life. It was second nature. How could something this new be this easy? Beats me Guv. But it was.
Then came the road test. Out of the gate and down the road. But where should I go? On the pavement with the pedestrians or on the road with the traffic? This is the single greatest dilemma for the Segway driver since there is no legislation covering these machines. I opted for the road because, living in the country, there is not a lot of traffic. If I lived in a city I think I would choose the pavement, though what the pedestrians would say when approached by me on my Segway remains to be seen.
So far so good. But how would the Segway XT cope with the world of agriculture? Through a puddle with a splash no blue sparks or short-circuits. Up a grassy bank the machine slowed somewhat. Onto a field of wheat stubble, no problems. Free at last. Fifty acres of space in front of me and my only worry was how long the battery would last.
Half an hour later I was back on tarmac muddier but happier. This time I pushed my toes hard down and felt the tiny motor buzz happily. How fast did it go? I haven’t a clue because the Segway does not include a speedometer. The instruction manual says the maximum speed is 12 mph, but it felt more.
By the time I returned home I was in love. Totally smitten. I had to have a Segway. There was, however, only one small problem: the price. It costs £3,799 plus post and packing. And that’s a lot even for an early adopter.