Segway vs. rollerblades (vs. self-confidence)

I’m a man of the people, and the people named Bryan Raven and Nicole something or other request that I settle a battle that rages in few people’s minds.

That’s right! The Segway vs. the rollerblade.

The Segway

Hard to believe it’s been a decade since the Segway graced us with its hilarious 2-wheeled presence. Its breathless debut promised the end of walking and exercise — an impressive goal but one that doesn’t really solve a problem.

By targeting walkers, the Segway unwittingly competes with time-honored modes of transport such as legs. And unlike walking which is free, Segways cost $5,000 (used).

What did I miss here. Is walking hard?

The perks

If you’re a slow walker with solid balance and you’re not worried about things like exercise or popularity, the Segway can reliably get you from A to B. They’re incredible devices, really. When used properly, a Segway can easily whisk you up a hill and around the corner while you stand there dorkishly shifting your weight like a huge dork.

And as a bonus, Segways are green vehicles that run on phosphate-based lithiom ion batteries (don’t know either).

The downside

Popular with tour guides. Requires a big funny helmet. Max speed of 12.5 mph. Expensive.

In some states, you can’t ride one on the sidewalk, meaning you have to join traffic and hope for understanding, compassionate drivers with open minds. I have not encountered such drivers.

Lastly, the guy who owned the company rode his Segway off a cliff. This suggests they’re not as easy to control as legs.

Best possible scenario

Cities like Boston have recently unveiled bike-sharing programs. Segways need to get involved! Ideally, the bottom of any big hill, particularly in San Francisco, would house a Segway stand. You could pay a nickel (slang for $5 starting now), hop on, dorkishly lean forward, and hop off at the top of the hill. Then a ski lift-type device would take the Segways back down.

If you’re a city manager who’d like to chat about this, shoot me an email at

Does it pass the I Am Legend test?

100 PERCENT YES. As the last man alive, I would exclusively ride Segways from noon til night. And I would go 12.5 mph from the couch to the fridge, 12.5 mph while escaping the zombie hordes, and 12.5 mph up and down the aisles of a midwestern K-Mart with a working alarm system that runs on generators.

Rollerblades, aka in-line skates

Little-known fact, aka, fact I didn’t know: “rollerblade” is a trademarked term like Kleenex and Band-Aid. They’re really called in-line skates and they have a surprisingly cool story which I’ll quickly relate.

Back in the 1780s a Belgian by the name of John Merlin was playing around with the average shoe, looking for a way to make shoes faster. This got the ball rolling.

Then in 1849, a French opera prop-master invented in-line skates for a character who was meant to be ice skating on a stage without ice. But it wasn’t until the 1980 Olympics, when popular speed skaters used them for off-season training, that rollerblades infiltrated our recreational consciousness.

They soon exploded in popularity. According to something called, 22 million Americans strapped on rollerblades in 2000. By 2010, that number had dropped a whopping 65 percent.

The perks

Rollerblades are genuinely fun to use and much faster than the Segway. They also capitalize on something we already do (walk), which is the job of any good invention.

I have a vague memory of being 10 and pretending to be an Olympic speed skater, arm carefully tucked behind me, while I cruised around the neighborhood under my mom’s close supervision.

I can buy 100 pairs for the cost of a used Segway.

With the emerging popularity and coolness of cycling culture, it’s only a matter of time before we give the rollerblade its due. In that sense, today’s brave rollerbladers are early adapters who can soon say things like “Son I’ve been in knee pads since you was in diapers!”

The downside

Mainly the knee pads.

Best possible scenario

Drew Barrymore directs a movie that catapults the rollerblade back onto the national scene.

Wait, that happened?

Best quote from Whip It‘s imdb page

Iron Maven: Nice jump, “Evel Knievel.”
Bliss Cavendar: Thanks. Maybe I’ll teach it to you some time.
Iron Maven: [a little surprised] Really?
Bliss Cavendar: Yeah.
Iron Maven: [smiles] Okay.

Does it pass the I Am Legend test?

No. If the world ended and I survived, I would not rule out a spin or two on some choice rollerblades. But I also wouldn’t use them a lot unless I found some reliable over-the-pants knee pads, and I’ll be too preoccupied with food and water to look for those.

The verdict!

It’s not a landslide between these equally uncool modes of transportation,  but as long as the world is going strong rollerblades outpace the Segway. They’re faster, more affordable, and more fun.

Segways are an incredible invention for non-walkers with plenty of cash and they don’t require knee pads (as far as I know). The expense is what’s hurting here. They need to come down by about $4,983 before they give rollerblades a run.

Thanks for reading this inexplicably long post!

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5 Responses to Segway vs. rollerblades (vs. self-confidence)

  1. Alissa Looney says:

    haha. love it!

  2. blair says:

    “…i have not encountered such drivers…”

  3. randominternetlunatic says:

    DO YOU KNOW AAAAAAANNNNNNNNNYYYYYYYYYYTTTTTHHHIIIIIINNNNNGGG about roller derby (the sport depicted in “Whip It”)? They use ROLLER FUCKING SKATES, you philistine. If only you shared the monumentally multi-talented Ms. Barrymore’s dedication to research and accuracy, it would have spared the need to point out the above.

  4. Karen C says:

    Tell it to Job. Which you won’t get b/c you never got through Arrested Development. Which I’ll never understand and which I will continue to take personally.

  5. randominternetlunatic says:

    It’s spelled GOB, seriously.

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