The collision between a hapless Segway-mounted cameraman and Usain Bolt has thrust the motorised scooter into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. But how tricky can they be to master? Rebecca Nicholson gets on a roll
Steve Jobs famously declared that the Segway would be “as big a deal as the PC”, until he actually saw one, at which point he recanted and decided that “it sucks”. Since its launch, the self-balancing motorised scooter has had just one other big moment in the spotlight, in 2011, when Jimi Heselden, the British businessman who acquired the US-founded company, rolled off a cliff to the great scrapyard in the sky. Far from changing the world, the Segway has been an underwhelming innovation, limited in its reach, lacking in transformative powers. It evokes images of retirees gently trundling through Florida towards the golf course, or portly security guards trundling towards the coffee machine, or tourists with tired legs trundling around European landmarks. Trundle is not a very sexy word.
Until last week, when a humble, trundling scooter took out the fastest man in the world. At the World Athletic Championships in Beijing, cameraman Song Tao interrupted Usain Bolt’s 200m victory lap, knocking the world’s greatest sprinter clean off his speedy feet with a misjudged lean against an unseen barrier. The Segway was everywhere, again, for the wrong reasons, again. It looked as if Tao’s battery-run vehicle had careered out of control. It looked painful. But how hard can it be to learn to ride the world’s most talked-about gyroscopic balancing machine? I went to Segway Unleashed to find out.