“It’s easy they said” – the infamous last words of my tour guide from Daema Aventura that took us on a Segway tour through El Montseny National Park, an hour outside of Barcelona.
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These two wheeled human transporters are growing in popularity and there aren’t many European cities you can visit these days without being run over or chased to the side of the street to avoid being rammed into by yet another novice Segway driver.
“Bloody Segways” was a phrase I used daily when walking around the streets of Prague – my adopted city that I now call home. They are everywhere, and I vowed that I would never drive one. But when the opportunity arose in a trip to El Montseny National Park in May I couldn’t say no. After all, we were in the countryside and there were no pedestrians to run over, no street lamps to smack into and no cobbles or cars to worry about. So what could go wrong?
I opted for one of the electric bikes at first since our group was too large to all have Segways at once. It was my first time on an e-bike too but I figured nothing could go wrong since it is just a bike with a motor, and I’ve been riding bikes since the age of seven. But surely enough, no more than 20 minutes into our cross country adventure, my first accident occurred. For those who have never ridden an e-bike before, its like riding a heavier version of a normal bike that has a motor that kicks in from the slightest turn of the pedals and you’re never quite sure how quickly or how fast the motor will react.
So while riding under the shaded tree canopy my bike decided to accelerate just as my friend Natalie in front decided to slowly break. With plenty of space in front I also decided to break, bringing my bike to a complete stop.
“SMACK!” Our tour guide’s Segway rammed straight into the back of my ankles and my bike (accidentally) not realizing I had come to a quick stop. With one bruised calf and grazed ankle we both picked each other up from the floor, rubbed off the dust from our legs and set back off through the countryside. Knowing how clumsy I am, it was the accident I was waiting for (something almost always happens when I do something adventurous!)
We stopped just under half way and the group swapped vehicles. I jumped on to a Segway after a brief 5 minute practice before hand. Playing it safe at first I drove my two wheeled machine up bumpy hills and through puddles at a slow speed. The Segway is incredibly intuitive, so much so that it is kind of freaky. It goes where your mind goes, almost as if it is following the invisible line your eyes map out in front of you.
I guess you could say I became more confident with the Segway as the tour went on. By the time we reached the picturesque lake I thought I had completely mastered the art of “Segwaying” – I couldn’t of been more wrong!
No more than 5 minutes after this picture was taken, my beautiful day in the Spanish countryside was about to come to a crashing end! With my increased confidence I rather stupidly decided to speed up a little, pushing my Segway to almost hit it’s top speed of 12kmph. Riding down the gritty and sandy path I looked up to see a corner approaching in the distance. I remember telling myself “its probably a good idea to slow down a bit now” and with that the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.
Head thumping, legs throbbing and my body paralyzed by fear I lay dusty on the ground, scared to move in case I had done any damage. I could hear the sound of the rest of the group approaching and as I opened my eyes and wipe my face from the dust, I realized I was ok. Taking my time to sit up I analyzed the damage I had done to my body. My entire right side scraped, grazed and cut from my shoulders, to my hips to my knees and hands – I was a mess.
Showing signs of concussion it was decided I would travel to the nearest hospital to get my head checked out and my cuts cleaned up while the rest of the group continued with the activity. I would later catch them up at the planned Spa Hotel (although I clearly was in no state to be jumping into any hot tubs!). I thanked my lucky stars that I wore a helmet and cursed at myself for not following my gut instinct and staying clear of these beastly machines. Needless to say that when I visited Barcelona later on in the trip, I stayed well away from the Segway city tours and reverted back to cursing under my breathe at them as the sped past me on the streets.
FIVE TOP SAFETY TIPS FOR SEGWAYS!
1. Learn To Operate Them
If you about to embark on a city tour or country adventure and have never operated a Segway before, take ample time to learn how to safely operate the Segway before beginning your tour. If you don’t feel 100% confident, ask your guide for a little extra time to get used to controlling it and if need be as for some tips or advice on how to use it if you still feel uncomfortable.
2. Wear Appropriate Clothing
At a minimum you should be wearing a helmet. If I hadn’t of taken the advice of the tour guide, my accident could of been fatal since I fell backwards and hit my head. Official safety guidelines from Segway suggest wearing long pants, knee and elbow pads. I think they are a bit excessive and in hot weather or a stuffy city the last thing you want to be wearing long trousers and a long sleeved t-shirt. Having said that, had I taken their advice I wouldn’t of ended up with half my skin scrapped off my knees, hips, elbows and shoulders.
3. Keep A Firm Hold On The Handle Bar
Make sure you have both hands on the handle bar at all times and do not attempt to carry anything or take photos with one hand while operating the Segway. If you need to take things with you, put them in a backpack or in the cargo holder if your Segway model has it.
4. Watch Out For Obstacles
Apparently one of the second biggest cause of accidents on Segways are drivers not paying attention to their surroundings. Watch out for standing obstacles such as trees, lamp posts and benches and be aware of your surroundings when riding through city centers, paying attention to cars and pedestrians.
5. Be Mindful Of Uneven & Slippery Surfaces
The main cause of my accident was uneven and a loose gravel surface that caused my Segway to skid and flip me back when the tires lost traction with the ground as I quickly slowed down. So be mindful of your speed if the ground has loose stones, gravel, sand, broken glass or ice as it may cause the Segway tires to lose their grip and cause an accident.
“Segways – you either love them or hate them” – Daema Aventura Tour Guide