‘Yer Man’ auditions for Top Gear presenter role

Graeme and Wesley on the off road course. INLM0613-108gc
Graeme and Wesley on the off road course. INLM0613-108gc

‘MAIL’ reporter Graeme ‘Yer Man’ Cousins takes a test drive on a Segway

‘I’M not usually one to be impulsive, especially about modes of transport, but having taken a test drive in a Segway this week, I now want one of my own.

However, I might as well take my time in saving the £6,500 needed to buy one because Segways are currently illegal on Northern Ireland’s roads and town centres.

In the meantime, if you want to have a go on one, and I would strongly recommend it, Craigavon-based company Segway NI should be your first port of call.

The business, run by 32-year-old Portadown man Wesley Jameson, fixed it for me to have a test drive on the X2, a model being used to promote Segway as an outdoor pursuit.

I’ve never road tested a vehicle before, so Monday’s adventure made me feel a bit like one of the Top Gear presenters - minus the machismo, offensive stereotyping and hair.

Wesley met me at Tannaghmore Gardens and we chatted briefly about the Segway phenomenon before I was allowed to hop on board the personal transportation device, first unveiled to the world in 2001.

For all of 60 seconds it was a daunting experience as I jerked back and forth trying to get used to my new wheels.

In the days leading up to the test drive I’d been going through all sorts of scenarios, all of which ended with me lying on my back in a muddy puddle, pinned in place by a seven stone machine with its wheels spinning.

In reality, I didn’t come close to falling off. The Segway is programmed in such a way as to work in harmony with your body weight.

As well as containing two lithium batteries which can power the Segway for up to 16 miles, the machine has five gyroscopes which keep it upright.

If you point your feet forwards the Segway moves forward, if you tilt back on your heels in slows down to the point where you’ll start moving backwards. To turn left or right you have to dip the handlebars to the left or right.

The Segway also has the ability to turn on a sixpence, something that would have come in very handy during my Mid Ulster footballing days.

Wesley can programme the Segway to a speed of anywhere up to 13 miles per hour. For beginners he keeps the speed down around six miles per hour and the gyroscopes work in such a way as to slow you down once you get to the maximum speed.

I quickly loosened up and after a few laps of a circuit of coloured cones I was set loose at the magical 13 miles per hour.

The movements needed to power the Segway are incredibly subtle. At times I was thinking where I wanted to go and the next thing I knew I had changed direction without even realising I’d moved my feet. It was as though I was powering the Segway with my mind. I suggested this to Wesley, who burst my bubble when he told me that wasn’t possible.

The movement of the Segway is incredibly smooth regardless of the terrain it’s passing over. Wesley said it was suitable for all weathers except ice.

“Even when we had the snow a few weeks ago people were still out on the Segways,” said Wesley, who also runs Portadown Recycling.

Segway NI, based at Tannaghmore Gardens, recently won the Best Newcomer to Northern Ireland’s Outdoor Industry at the OutdoorNI.com awards.

The activity is providing a big tourism boost for Craigavon, with weekend places fully booked up until April.

Wesley, who is married to Ann and has a three-year-old daughter called Ruby, said: “We started Segway here in February 2012 and it’s been growing ever since.

“I’d seen it on TV and it always looked like good fun. I did a bit of research and saw that no one offered this service in Northern Ireland.

“I bought in six Segways from the States. They cost around £6,500 each.

“We’ve been given great support by Craigavon council who are really helping develop Segway in Craigavon.”

He added: “In America and parts of Europe Segways are used as a form of transport. Because it’s not legal to use them in the UK anywhere other than private property with the owner’s permission, that why we’re using Segway as an outdoor pursuit.”

Segway NI offers the ultimate outdoor experience for stag and hen parties, youth organisations and corporate groups as well as guided tours and private hire. Wesley has even provided Segways for a couple of weddings.

“They look great in the photos with the bride and groom,” said Wesley.

He commented: “In terms of a typical session, we get everyone up to speed with a few training exercises then we have time trials, circuits and other competitions.

“We generally say it’s for people aged 10 and above, but the main thing is that you’re over seven stone so you have enough weight to power the Segway.

“We’ve had an 86-year-old woman on one. She loved it but her husband wasn’t that keen.”

My experience on the Segway was an incredibly relaxing one. The feeling of hovering just above the ground at a steady rate of 13 miles per hour was, not surprisingly, a sensation I’ve never experienced before.

In this reporter’s reckoning the next step up from the Segway will be a prototype of the hoverboard used by Marty McFly in Back To The Future.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with the Segway phenomenon described by Steve Jobs as being “as big a deal as the PC”.

But more, much more than this - I did it Segway.’