First Segway owners are rich, bright, but not fat

Walking the Talk


Bicycles are the best 'short-range personal transportation devices' you can buy yet the
mainstream media still seems to think Segways are more sexy. Could electric bikes and ultralight electric motorbikes plug the gap? BikeBiz.co.uk talks to one of first Segway owners in the world.

Phillip Torrone is your archetypal early adopter (he had 'come and feel' parties when the first i-macs and PC phones came out) and loves his Segway, but he says
it's ease of transportation he's after, so could he be converted to an electric bike? Or how about a digitally-controlled Smover bike from Shimano?

Phillip Torrone is a techhead, not a fattie, and he says his daily commute to downtown Seattle on his Segway has enabled him to get rid of one of his two cars and the time it's freeing up in his daily life has enabled him to schedule a daily jogging session.

Torrone is director of product development for Fallon Worldwide, an advertising and design agency.

He was one of the winners of the Segway early adoptors competition ran with Amazon.com. Thirty Segway purchasers were chosen from the hundreds of consumers who pre-paid on Amazon.com for April delivery of the first Segways. The lucky 30 received their Segways
before Christmas. None were particularly obese. All were well-off (Segways cost $5000 apiece) and mostly college-educated and above.

Torrone was thrilled to have been picked. He believes the Segway is "one of the most interesting transportation innovations of our time. It's wearable, it's more than transportation, it's another nervous system, it's a thought constructed."

And just like Apple's Steve Jobs, who famously said cities of the future would be designed around Segways, Torrone believes the Segway isn't just a computer-controlled, gyroscopically-wonderful upright Hoover, it's a quantum leap for mankind:

Like most great inventions

"You get the immediate feeling that what you're part of isn't just another form of transportation but an evolution of our species."

And Torrone walks the talk: he's just ditched one of his cars.

"In 2003 my household will be a one-car household. All the places we need to go are well within the Segway HT's range (1 to 15 miles) that includes work, shopping, and entertainment. Having one car in 2003 will save the household a total of roughly $10,000 in
payments and insurance. When you add gas and maintenance, that's another $5,000 per year. Add parking, that's around $1,200 per year too. So, we'll save about $16,000."

The consumer Segway costs $5000.

"My commute by walking would be 62 minutes, it's less than 17 on the Segway HT. I could jog or run there, but that would be about 30-40 minutes and since I meet with clients, coming in sweaty, late and run down isn't really something that makes sense. I jog two
miles every morning now. Most great inventions kill the inefficient tasks, and give you time back.

"We simply cannot continue to live in a fossil-fuel dependent society. 43 percent of all pollution from cars is caused from sitting in traffic; the average speed of a car is 8mph in cities. I'm not a granola hippie or anything, I'm a business person.

"I use [my Segway] each day on the roads and sidewalks. The sidewalks are empty, most people are driving their cars (one person in one car) talking on their cell phones, drinking triple latte no-whip mochas and eating. I never noticed this as much until I started my daily 7-mile commute to and from work."

I want to ride my (electric) bicycle

While he's clearly in love with his Segway HT, he's also enough of an early adoptor to realise that if a better product came along, he'd buy that instead.

Bikebiz.co.uk wondered whether an upscale electric bike might be just as practical as a Segway, if not even more so?

"It certainly might be. If range is an issue, then based on individual needs I'd certainly recommend that. Each person's needs are a little different. For
my needs (so far) the Segway has really been a great way to get around and giving up a car has been liberating. In the USA that's very hard to do."

Torrone is about to test drive a Veloci, a US-made lightweight electric motorbike. "If it suits my travel needs better, I'll be using it, it's that simple."

The Segway has a top-speed of 12mph and a range of just 15 miles. The Veloci is light, has a top-speed of 30mph and a range of 50 miles. It's said to have four times the power of existing electric bikes. And the $2500 Veloci has been lauded as 'super-cool' by a variety of US tech and lifestyle magazines since its launch this time last year (most US magazines
still think Segways are dorky).

But just like the Segway, the Veloci isn't terribly easy to schlepp home if it runs out of power, so Torrone said he could be in the market for an electric bike that looked as good as the Veloci but can be pedalled too.

"The Segway has a very concise [user interface] that lets you know how much battery you have. In training they teach proper techniques to optimize your ride and not get stuck. I've been doing this for a bit now and I don't think I've ever gone below half full. The Segway is on wheels, you could push/pull it anywhere if needed."

Both the Veloci and the Segway are made in the US but they may not be commercially successful there. Both companies see scope for huge sales in Asia, where small motorbikes already rule the roost.

In Europe and the US, the race is on to grab market share in the transport concept known as 'the first mile'. Most journeys in the UK, like elsewhere in the world, are of five miles or less. With gridlocked cities, expensive parking, and pollution caused by idling engines, 'short-range personal transportation devices' can solve many problems. Of course, there's
an existing device that works just fine here: it's called the bicycle.

Smover Operator

A folding bike is even more of a fit.

Yet as can be seen by the transportation choices made by Phillip Torrone, and more like him to follow, many people have negative perceptions of cycle-use and bicycles in general. Perhaps Shimano's Smover concept can help shift this perception?

Smover stands for 'smart way of moving' and integrates digitally-controlled gears, suspension and a user interface. Batteries? Who needs 'em, the Smover concept bikes are dynamo-powered.

And Smover is concept no longer: bike companies will soon be able to spec upscale bikes with Cyber Nexus and Nexave C810 groupsets. These feature computer-controlled, automatic-changing internal gear hubs; computer-controlled front and rear suspension and
the FlightDeck, "a man-machine interface that displays information about riding conditions and current Smover settings."

Shimano says Smover-equipped bikes will be "for those who want the best but who didn't know what to buy."

Will Phillip Torrone have a 'come feel the Smover' party next year? © BikeBiz.co.uk

Related stories

San Francisco bans Segways on sidewalks, bike paths
Segways go on sale. No need to walk ever again
Segway joins the Arms Race

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • US, UK, Western Europe fail to hit top 50 cheapest broadband list
    Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Ukraine came top. Are you starting to see a pattern?

    In an analysis of 3,356 fixed-line broadband deals in 220 countries, price comparison website Cable.co.uk found that the UK has the 92nd cheapest internet, beating the US, which came in 134th place.

    Based on 41 packages, the average cost per month for broadband in Britain came in at $39.01. Stateside, this rose to $55, from 34 packages measured.

    For these bulwarks of western democracy, 92nd and 134th place isn't particularly impressive. But if you really want to shave the dollars off your internet bill, you have a number of options.

    Continue reading
  • The right to repairable broadband befits a supposedly critical utility
    A bolt of lightning has caused me days of misery, because the fix requires too much proprietary tech

    Column I heard an electric discharge, a bit like a Jacob's ladder, immediately before a deafening crack of thunder. I'd never been so close to a lightning strike! All of the lights in the house went bright, then dimmed, then went back to normal. "Uh-oh," I thought, "I'm in trouble now." Everything in the house had been hit by a nasty surge and the oft-spoken aphorism that broadband services are now a utility to rank with water and electricity was suddenly very, very, real to me.

    But it was electricity I worried about first. I use top of the line surge protectors so my most sensitive devices – computers and monitors, of which I have many – all seemed fine. But I'd overlooked two other connections that come into nearly every home: the antenna and the phone line.

    My television seemed to have taken a direct hit. It still worked – mostly – but appeared unable to receive any digital broadcasts. That circuit, lying on the other side of the antenna lead, likely took a big hit from the lightning strike. But the rest of the television seemed fine – at first. After a few days, and several spontaneous reboots, I began to intuit that devices don't always immediately fail when hit by lightning. Sometimes they gradually shed their functions and utility.

    Continue reading
  • Telecoms growth forecast for 2022 may be optimistic
    Analyst view: 4Q21 drop plus strains from war mean component shortages drag on

    The telecoms kit market had a good 2021 with revenues close to $100bn, up more than 20 percent since 2017, but growth is now slowing, according to analyst Dell'Oro Group. Huawei is also starting to feel the effect of sanctions, but still leads the global market by a fair margin.

    However, the Dell'Oro Group's prediction of slightly less growth for 2022 may turn out to be optimistic amid warnings that the Ukraine war is already having an impact on the fragile supply chain recovery.

    Dell'Oro's analysis is based on the telecoms market sectors it monitors, including Broadband Access, Microwave & Optical Transport, Mobile Core Network (MCN), Radio Access Network (RAN), and Service Provider Router & Switch.

    Continue reading
  • Fibre broadband uptake in UK lags behind OECD countries
    Not very 'world-beating'

    Optical-fibre internet now makes up 32 per cent of fixed broadband subscriptions across the OECD countries, and is the fastest growing broadband technology. However, there is a mixed picture with cable still dominant in the Americas and the UK still predominantly DSL.

    These figures come from an update to the OECD's broadband portal, indicating that fibre subscriptions grew by 15 per cent across the OECD countries between June 2020 and June 2021, with demand for faster internet speeds as employees worked remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions cited as one reason.

    Fixed broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totalled 462.5 million as of June 2021, up from 443 million a year earlier, while mobile broadband subscriptions totalled 1.67 billion, up from 1.57 billion a year earlier.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022