Fun with Segway at Spier wine estate

Posted on April 4, 2011

A while back there was a special on at the group buying site Wicount* (signup code Justin-5h) for Segway tours of the Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch. For those who don’t know, the Segway was the gyroscopic based two wheeled personal transporter invented by Dean Karmen and introduced back in 2001. There was a huge amount of hype around the device and it was touted as being able to change the world. A huge expectation was built up around it and when the launch came it was a bit of damp squib. Read more on the history etc at Wikipedia.

I have seen the transporters around in South Africa, mainly used by security guards in shopping complexes and the like, and while it has always looked intriguing there hasn’t really been the opportunity to test one out.

The tour is around 2 hours in length. We booked for the Sunday morning 9am tour and were back at the wine tasting around 11:20. Plan to be there until around 12:30 if you want to have some time to chill and enjoy the environment after. The Segway tour price included the wine tasting as part of the package.

The tour itself started with an introduction session for the group. The instructor briefed the group as a whole then give us each a short test drive, followed by a bit more instruction and then each of us had to drive the Segway through some traffic cones and around a little bit of a course set out on a tennis court. The whole process took about 35 minutes but was well worth it to get us all acquainted to the Segways, which are the X2 (specs and info here)

The Segway is quite easy to control. Lean forward it moves forward, the harder you lean forward the quicker it goes. Lean back to slow down and stop, and then to reverse. Lean the “steering column” left or right to turn left or right. When you are not moving then the Segway turns its wheels in opposite directions allowing you turn spin on your axis. Pretty nifty. The Segway also gives you a sort of “force feedback” while you are riding. If it feels you may be losing control it pushes back harder at you encouraging you to slow down. The only times I had minor challenges in the driving were when my feet slipped back on the standing area so I was effectively moving my centre of gravity back, making it difficult to then lean forward. Once I was over this navigating around was a breeze.

Our group of 8 was a mix of guys and girls, ranging in age from 13 to around 50 (I’m guessing here 🙂 Nobody had a real problem getting used to the Segways and once we finished the introduction session we were let loose on the estate. Our guides led us along varies paths through the protea garden, past the water recycling plant and into the vineyards.

Initially the Segways are set in tortoise mode, which makes them a little slower and less responsive. About 20m into the tour we stopped for a water break and the Segways were reconfigured to give us the full speed and maneuverability.

To get a feel for the speed (and quietness) of the Segways check out the short video clip :

With the change the unit was significantly quicker and turned a whole lot quicker. This made them a whole lot more fun to ride. It was really interesting to watch the group grow more confident in their riding as the tour progressed and by the end most of the people were happily zipping around, racing each other and really enjoying the experience of the Segway. Everybody enjoyed it immensely, even those who were very apprehensive up front.

When we were finished the tour and climbed off the unit walking felt a little strange, almost as if one had been walking on the treadmill at the gym for an hour or two. Walking also felt quite slow and cumbersome. Although the Segway doesnt travel terribly fast, compared to walking it’s a real boon. The tour covers a distance of some 8km. It doesn’t feel like it as you just glide around so effortlessly.

The wine farm itself makes a great environment to experience the tour. Just the right amount of onroad and offroad type experience and a really good scenic environment. The guides were also able to tell us a fair bit about the processes used to grow the grapes, make the wines as well as how the owners are gradually bringing more and more organic farming methods into the environment.

I look foward to other Segway tours being introduced around the country and would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting a fun way to spend a half day. The guide told us that they have introduced tours at Sun City and will be introducing more shortly.

The tour is quite popular and they turned away quite a few people while we were waiting for the tour to start and also before the next one started so be sure to book ahead of time. Normal price is R380, we paid R190 each on the special. Look out of more specials, but I would still recommend it at the full price. Don’t forget that it includes the wine tasting, and the Spier wines are rather enjoyable too. Add a cheese platter for R50 and some organic olives for R32 and you have the makings of a lazy end to the tour in the little courtyard. On the Sunday we were there a little craft market was also in operation, lots for everyone to do, even those not interested in riding on the Segways.

Thanks Wicount, Spier and Segway for an awesome morning!!!!

Segway Tours @ Spier
Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch , 7600 Cape Town
Phone 021 809 1157

* If you signup after clicking on the Wicount link, you get a 20% discount off your first purchase and I get a R50 voucher when you make that purchase. Good deal for both of us then 🙂 Use code “Justin-5h” cheers if u do 🙂

** All pictures and video taken with a Canon Ixus 210.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Cape Town, Fun things to do

3 Responses

  1. Expired:

    Justin-5h expired 🙁

    13.09.2012 01:14 Reply

  2. Justin:

    We had a really good time on the farm and would recommend it to anyone.

    28.04.2011 13:18 Reply

  3. Marina Vermeulen:

    The Segways are a great way to explore the farm. It sounds like you had lots of fun! Thanks for the post – Marina

    21.04.2011 10:11 Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: