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Segway’s X2: roughing it was never so good

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It is often difficult to find a gadget that stands out above the rest. But after trying out Segway’s new all-terrain X2, SEAN BACHER thinks he has found it.

I often get asked what I think is the coolest gadget on the market, and often I tend to reel back and forth in my mind trying to remember something that really stood out. I could mention the latest cellphone, or I could mention the latest 3D television set. Truth be told, although these gadgets are awesome and offer something great in their own way, they don’t stand out above the rest. There are also just so many different models on the market, it is often difficult to discern the best.

Then, last year, I tried out Segway’s i2 human transporter. Ever since, I’ve regarded it as one of the most innovative and fun gadgets I have seen. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why: perhaps it is the technology that is behind the unit: perhaps it is because it is so easy to use: or perhaps it is because it has given me hours of fun, whisking in and out of traffic, dodging cars along with pedestrians on pavements. (Read my review here).

Segway has since launched a new model ‚ the X2. It can be thought of as a rugged, all-terrain version of the i2, complete with off-road, oversized tyres. When I heard about the X2, I thought it was just what was needed to navigate the potholes dotting the streets of Gauteng.

I put it through the Gadget 5 Question User Test to see how the Segway X2 takes to the streets and pavements, and whether Segway has managed to improve on the fun factor offered by the i2.

1. Is it ready t use?

You won’t get the X2 in a box: you are more likely to have to collect it pre-built from your local agent, who will show you how to use it without causing any serious damage to yourself. However, reading the online instructions and info from the Segway website will be enough to get you going. You need to remember one thing, though: give into the technology and let it control you. Trust it. Easier said than done, I know. Technology does have a tendency to let us down at the most inopportune of times.

The Segway has numerous safety checks it runs through before you hear it start up. You will know when it is ready to roll as the sound the motors make sound very much like an R2D2 robot getting itself ready. This, combined with the array of lights between where your feet are positioned when driving, indicate if everything is working. Four green lights, and everything is running 100 per cent. One flashing red light, and the X2 won’t operate. Not enough battery power, and you won’t be going anywhere. Of course, you have to charge the device before you can use it.

The remote that comes with the X2 indicates any problems that may be present before you climb aboard and make a complete fool of yourself.

2 Is it easy to use?

Using the X2 is like riding a bicycle: you never forget. But you do need to forget about the fact that you are stepping onto a 54kg machine capable of propelling you at speeds of up to 20km/h. I thought of it as climbing up a step and completely relaxing.

To prove just how easy it is, I let someone who has never been on one climb on, with only two instructions: climb on flat footed, and keep your centre of balance. She had no problems whatsoever.

Once you’ve boarded, moving the X2 backwards, forwards, left and right was no problem. It is simply a matter of tilting your weight, allowing the gyroscopes to compensate for your weight, and moving you the way you lean.

The included remote also makes things a little easier. Its battery meter lets you view your power status, lets you switch between the speed settings and also acts as a security device. Much like you need your keys to start your car, you need the remote to start the Segway. The remote also needs to be in close proximity to operate the X2. Once it is out of range, the unit will shut down.

3 Does it deliver on its promise?

Unlike the i2, the X2 is more of a rugged machine, meaning that you can go places you wouldn’t normally take the i2 with its standard ‚street-like’ tyres. The entire unit sits a little higher off the ground and its off-road tyres mean that you should be able to traverse most obstacles. However, I found that the X2 did deliver a little short here.

Many off-road vehicles today have suped up suspension, and different axels to cater for the dongas and potholes you may experience along your route. But the X2 has none. There is no suspension. In fact, the only shock absorbers you can expect from the X2 are from its large tyres. Often, when driving over uneven terrain, I found one wheel lifting off the ground, meaning that the other wheel turns in the opposite direction, throwing me off balance. Luckily this was at low speeds, so I was able to correct myself before face-planting myself in the dirt.

4 Is it innovative?

I have been told there are ‚cheap‚ rip-offs of the Segway, some employing three wheels instead of two. But the fact that the Segway keeps you upright on only two wheels through a complex system of electronics, gyroscopes and motors is enough for me to flag it as innovative.

The simple idea that a device that would normally fall over it is able to keep itself upright on a flat surface without rolling away is mind blowing.

5 Is it value for money?

R68 000 for a gadget that will offer you nothing more than some fun is a little bit of overkill. You can use it to scoot down to the nearest shops but, as I learned the hard way, you are not allowed to take it into any shopping centre. Furthermore, its bulkiness and sheer weight means it’s not something you can chuck into the back of your boot when you go on holiday.

But, the Segway does serve a purpose. It is a great alternative to those noisy quad bikes you see security guards using, it is great for moving around a warehouse where you have just about enough space to swing a cat and, best of all, it makes for great team-building exercises. Your employees will love you for letting them race each other on a controlled circuit. It sure beats go-carting ‚ just make sure you save the drinks for afterwards.

In conclusion

If you are flush with money and are looking for a new toy, the X2 will give you endless fun. If you are feeling the pinch, a bicycle should do.

On the serious side, if you have security guards who need to roam shopping centres or parking lots, renting a few Segways will be the way to go. Their unobtrusive nature will guarantee you won’t upset the tenants.

¬∑ For more information on renting Segways for company team building events, visit Segway’s website at www.segway.co.za

– Click here to read the review on the Segway i2.

– Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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