Segway to Minneapolis history

The Segway Magical History Tour is a 6 mile historical venture that takes you through the Mississippi riverfront.

Raghav Mehta

 

It was 1999 when Bill Neuenschwander first learned about the Segway while watching âÄúGood Morning America.âÄù Little was known about the two-wheeled vehicle, but Neuenschwander felt inspired.

Within the next year, he ordered an entire fleet of Segways and purchased space on the St. Anthony Main riverfront.

âÄúIt was worth my effort and the additional expenses,âÄù Neuenschwander said. âÄúI thought it was a neat machine in terms of what it was doing physically and mechanically.âÄù

It was a product he knew people would want to try out. And given the steep retail price (most Segways cost about $7,000), renting them out seemed like the most sensible alternative.

Launched in 2003, the  Magical History Tour is a three-hour historical venture that covers six miles along the Mississippi riverfront on Segways. The tour costs $80 and each group allows up to 20-25 riders at a time. Now in its eighth year, Neuenschwander admits he didnâÄôt start out with grand ambitions and never really anticipated the business to have much lucrative staying power.

âÄúI thought my business model would only last 18 to 24 months. I thought it was going to be a shorter, more optimal thing,âÄù Neuenschwander said

The tour kicks off with a brief tutorial session that gives riders a chance to get Segway basics down. Stops include the Mill City Museum, a run down the Stone Arch Bridge and a break on Nicollet Island.

As far as navigation goes, the thingâÄôs fairly easy to operate. The newest edition âÄî the Segway i2 âÄî relies more on intuition opposed to the throttle-controlled system of the previous models. In order to accelerate, all the rider needs to do is lean forward. Turning takes a little longer to get accustomed to, but itâÄôs all really just a matter of a practice. Aside from a few accidental spills, the ride is relatively safe and itâÄôd take a disastrous streak of bad luck for anyone to get seriously injured.

âÄúPart of its great utilization is itâÄôs a heck of a lot easier than walking. ItâÄôs not practical for a lot of things, but itâÄôs so easy to learn,âÄù Neuenschwander said.

It was an experience that had Chuck Knower of Eagan, Minn., unsure itâÄôd be worth the hefty $80 price tag. But an afternoon of riding left him less skeptical.

âÄúI got to see a lot of places I otherwise wouldnâÄôt have been to,âÄù Knower said. âÄúIt was a lot more fun than I expected âÄî really interesting and informative.âÄù

Aside from some occasional mean-mugs from (jealous) passers-by and having to look like a bit of a dweeb for a couple hours, the Segway tour is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The two-wheeled human transport might not be the future of the workingmanâÄôs commute, but it makes for a pleasant afternoon. Oh, and you sort of feel like youâÄôre from the future while youâÄôre riding it.