Montreal is sexualizing the Segway

Advertising now suggests that a Segway ride around the Olympic Park can be romantic. We found out if said suggestion was true.

Romantic enough for you?

Is there anything more intimate than a Segway ride with your partner? Possibly.

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I purchased a Groupon advertising a one-hour trek in Montreal’s Olympic Park for two persons at Écorécréo (up to 63 per cent off!). The advertisement featured a picture of a safely helmeted couple holding hands, gazing into a beautiful sunset, awkwardly separated by the oversized wheels of their Segways.

“How romantic,” we jested, delighting in the absurdity of the scheme.

We argued that, of course, if any city were to sexualize the Segway, it would be Montreal. I thought of what I would say to girlfriends who asked of me, incredulously, “What kind of dates do you even go on after two years?”

“Why, Segway dates, of course,” I would reply, and watch them flounder for something to say.

But what started out as an exercise in irony quickly turned into an earnest experiment. Was the Segway actually sexy? Would this date perhaps be the penultimate date, the climax of my romantic career?

As a vehicle, perhaps, the Segway does not often enter into our modern courtship fantasies, and is usually represented by the popular media in one of three ways: as the killer of its own CEO, as the subject of this terrifying photo of Chinese anti-terror commandos that went viral in 2008 and as the not-so-sexy vehicle of choice of Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth. In 2001, Dean Kamen envisioned millions of American citizens buzzing off to work on his millennial invention. Yet, in 2013, the Segway remains one of those newish utopian relics of our Y2K imagination, hardly ever used as a commuter vehicle, let alone as a vehicle of romantic pursuits.

But once you know that the word “segue” is Italian, denoting an “uninterrupted transition from one piece of music to another,” the conceptual leap is not so difficult to make, right?

After a complicated reservation process — the Segways must recharge for two hours after each tour, making scheduling difficult — we

The author, clearly enjoying her Segway ride.

embarked on our Amazing Adventure Ecological Tour For Two at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, a rather untraditional hour for a date. As we gazed up at that white heap of concrete familiar to Montrealers as “the Big O” that was to serve as our date’s romantic backdrop, sweaty and a little hungover, we had no idea what to expect.

A tour guide named Christine made us sign some waiver forms that bolded the phrase “in case of death” an alarming number of times, and gave us a speedy two-minute lesson in Segway riding. Once you’re on, it turns out, the Segway is virtually impossible to fall off of, especially due to the mechanically imposed 20-kilometres-an-hour speed limit. It’s just the mounting and dismounting that’s rather tricky, demanding a simultaneous hand and leg gesture that I never fully mastered.

The only accident our tour guide ever witnessed on one of the Écorécréo rounds involved an unsuccessful dismount and a scratched shin. While it must be stated that the machine was surprisingly graceful — engineered to respond to even the slightest shift in body weight — as I zoomed around the stadium’s wide multi-colored slabs of concrete, I didn’t know whether to be comforted by the apparent security of my vehicle or bored by its palpable lack of danger.

Indeed, the greatest threat to our safety turned out to be angry (toned) rollerbladers in Parc Maisonneuve. With visible contempt for our non-human-fuelled machines, they whizzed by us, snorting haughtily as we leaned forward, sure that we must be able to go faster.

Christine led us to the middle of the park for some “off-roading,” by which she actually meant attempting to surmount several grassy mounds. This was, obviously, not as exciting as it had originally sounded to our romantically inclined ears. Still, we attempted to hold hands at the top of one of these mounds, like the couple in the advertisement. Instead, we were interrupted by the noises of a scantily clad couple making out in the bushes behind us, clearly having a more romantic time than we were.

When we finally dismounted after an hour, I had a foot cramp and sweat stains, and I knew less about the Olympic Stadium than I had known before. My boyfriend and I dreamed of water for our parched mouths, rather than each other’s eyes, and still faced a 10-kilometre bike ride back to the Plateau.

No, not even Montreal can make the Segway sexy. Not even Romeo and Juliet could make the Segway sexy. But although I’ll probably never pay to ride a Segway again —  trust me when I say it’s one of those experiences that need only be performed once — a part of me hopes that this will one day be the vehicle of a futuristic, more agile commuter culture. ■

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