Thursday, 3 September 2020

Flying with your Genny

Genny is a great travel companion. It will get you places you may not have the energy to access without it and with such a great range on a battery charge it can replace a hire car to some extent. And what style, it will raise eyebrows and get you into many interesting situations and discussions  

We know however that going anywhere with a wheelchair may have additional considerations and getting your wheels into the air can be quite an ordeal. With a motorised chair the issue is more than likely to be about the batteries

Genny comes with 3 batteries. The first is a small 12 volt old school lead-gel battery like you would get in a small motorcycle. The other batteries drive the Segway and are a pair of 5.2 Ah, 73,6  volt Lithium-Ion batteries made with 92 cells each. Lithium batteries have proved unstable under certain conditions and there have been fires on planes because of them. As far as I am aware Segway batteries have proven safe

The movement of lithium by airplane is governed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations. If your wheelchair is powered by lithium batteries the details are covered in their "Battery Powered Wheelchair and Mobility Aid Guidance Document (updated 2021)" This document is definitely your friend. Print it out and always carry it with you when flying. I also keep a link on my phone just in case. Many times I have needed to resort to this document in discussions with ground operations representatives at the departure gate. I have also spoken to several pilots who have always supported my transportation when referencing the IATA regulations

The issue is that everybody and his mate has an understanding of what the regulations state. From the staff at check-in, the disability advisors on the phone, to the captain, all have their own interpretation and most of it is negative. The word Lithium is a red flag in aviation so have the IATA guidelines printed out and at hand

Once you get past the lithium issue there is another specific design floor with Genny that will also cause havoc. I have several "Acceptance for Travel Guidance" documents that are available on my RESOURCES page that give Genny flying instructions. The problem bit is with the small control panel that puts your legs down. After activation the lights on this unit stay on for up to 8 minutes. This is 8 minutes with the ground operations team twiddling their thumbs and waiting till the lights go off. It is also 8 minutes with you in your aircraft seat watching out the window as they all have a play trying to make the lights go out. Every time someone touches these switches, the 8 minute counter is reset and starts again

Legs down switch control panel

I have 2 solutions for this issue. The first is a small plastic food container that has been adapted to fit the control panel. The switches are then protected and beyond reach of impatient baggage handlers   

Switch protection using a modified food container

The second and much better option, is to fit an additional switch into the 12 volt battery lead that completely isolates the Genny power source. This is a fantastic modification that instantly puts Genny to sleep to the delight of the ground operations crew. This is obviously not an official Genny modification but will greatly assist in airport situations. I have this hidden under the seat and directly above the battery as shown below. Anyone with a simple understanding of electricity would be able to install something like this and it sure beats trying to convince people to wait the 8 mins till the lights go out by themselves. It also helps with children who just can't resist pushing buttons. If you want more details of this solution please leave me a message in the comments space below 

Battery isolation switch (home made)

Another very useful addition is some small wooden inserts I have fabricated. These fit into the side handles that you lower if using a sliding board or to put the legs down in emergencies. These are visible in the following photo and are held in place by 3 cable-ties. I use these just in case a loader accidentally operates these handles. With the legs down Genny is very difficult to move and every time it is lifted, the legs come out more, making it even harder to move. If you want the pattern for these please leave me a message in the comments space below. This would be a good item to get 3D printed      

Inserts that stop the handle operating accidentally

Bon Voyage

Monday, 24 August 2020

Wanted / For Sale

Are you wanting to sell or buy a second hand Genny Mobility wheelchair? Check out my new page: HERE

Friday, 26 June 2020

Segway Folds

So finally Segway is ending production on 15th July 2020

What a sad end to this unique concept vehicle. First on the market in 2001 this vehicle has had such a mixed reception over the years for what is an amazing product. Apparently the total amount of sales since 2001 are a mere 140,000 units

How can such a cool device not be successful? Apparently Steve Jobs was quoted as saying it was "as big a deal as the PC" when it was introduced. In 2006 Segway discontinued all the earlier models and introduced the i2 and X2 models that used the leanstear as opposed to to a turning handlebar for steering. They upped the top speed to 12.5 mph and introduced regenerative braking

In 2015 the company was bought by Ninebot, a Chinese robotics company who were already producing a variety of personal transport systems including electric scooters. In 2014 they released a third generation of the Segway the i2 SE and X2 SE. These were principally the same as the i2 but with minor changes like lighting and a redesign of the frame and leansteer system

Apparently Segway sales only contributed 1.5% of the company profits and the high production cost, low sales and some bad publicity over the years are responsible for putting the iconic Segway to rest

Will this be the death of the various Segway powered wheelchairs like the Omeo, the add Seat, the Sui Gereris or the Going? I so hope not

 


Ninebot produce another 2 wheeled, self-balancing powerbase that is used as the core of other wheelchair systems, notable the Nino. This looks like a great chair and is well priced but doesn't have the charisma or style of the Genny
The Nino









Built on the Ninebot power base, will this become the standard for the 2 wheeled wheelchairs of the future? - we can't even ask Steve Jobs any more

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Gearboxes

Traveling across the beach on wet and salty sand inevitable leads to corrosion of metal parts. The most vulnerable bits on a Segway are the gearbox drive shafts. The shafts emerge from the aluminium gearbox case through rubber seals. Corrosion on the shafts make for leaking seals so with a replacement core Segway fitted to my Genny (see previous post) I have sent my old leaking gearboxes off for repair

I have found a company who specialise in all things Segway. The company is called PT Pro and they are based in Amburg Germany. They have been great at supplying various parts over the last year and I am starting to build a relationship with one of the engineers. Isn't it amazing that many Europeans speak fantastic English - puts us all to shame

PT Pro have a great website where they have many resources and are able to offer services that aren't available in the UK. Things cost a lot and postage from Germany seems to be expensive but they are quick to process your orders and parts arrive when they are due. There are many simple repairs and modifications that can be made by someone with very limited knowledge and simple tools. I have highlighted some modifications in my Genny Mods page
 
A small and easy modification I wish I had made 5000 miles back was to change the type of oil and add magnetic drain plugs to the gearboxes. These easy to change items have a small magnet that collects the tiny metal particles that get suspended in the Segway gearbox oil bath. These items are available through PT Pro and are likely to extend the life of your gearbox. The parts required are: magnetic drain plug and gearbox oil. You will need one magnetic drain plug and 70 - 80ml of oil for each gearbox of which there are two on your Genny

PT Pro have have great information about the care and repair of Segways particularly in relation to GEARBOXES and BATTERIES, They can also sell new wheels and tyres as well as being able to repair those delicate buttons on you Infokey

Here is a picture of the corrosion on my Segway driveshaft after being sandblasted to remove the rust. The pitting will stop any effective seal leading to a loss of oil which is not a good outcome for a metal gearbox.


Antigua 2020

How fantastic to be back in winter sunshine and warm water again. I love this island, it's another world and a home from home. Being my 4th visit and on such a noticeable vehicle I am now well known on the island. To see my other Antiguan posts follow these links: 2018, 2019



























The same familiar route enables me to leave home at 6:00 for a 7:05 flight morning flight. Collecting my wheels just inside the terminal I have time to shed some winter cloths, grab some hot porridge and a milky coffee before cruising to the departure gate. The usual discussions about lithium power cells and isolating batteries and I am boarded. The 8 hour flight arrives just in time to grab a quick swim before a fresh fish supper and several 'rum and Ting's'
A freshly polished Genny at Gatwick airport






















Two and a half weeks swimming with colorful tropical fish and turtles in 27° water, fresh food and casual easy living is a great recipe for shortening the winter



I did a lot of small dingy sailing this holiday which was great fun. I first learned to sail aged 11 at school and have owned several dinghies over the years but have not sailed at all for at least the last 25 years. Getting back on the water under sail was a delight and Antigua, being one of the Windward Islands, was ideal. I was able to rent a small dingy from local National Academy of Sailing which was 4 doors down the road from where I stay. The Academy is based in Falmouth Harbour which is a a substantial area of enclosed shallow water ideal for sailing. Within 5 minutes I had capsized but was able to remember the drill and was upright again within minutes




View from the supermarket jetty in English Harbor






























Parts

In the uncertain time when Genny Mobility was not in production I decided it was a good idea to get what parts I could together to keep my Genny running. My gearboxes were getting increasingly noisy and although I had changed the oil and various other components in the drive train, they were a worry

As a backup I purchased a very low mileage second hand Segway at the end of last year (2019). It was a 2009 model and came with an 1 extra faulty battery. I was very cautious as that is old, particularly for the batteries, but I was reassured the see that it has less than 200 miles on the clock. It had had a very quiet previous life at a shortcut to the village pub

It was great to have a play on a stand-up Segway but my interest was mainly about it as parts. My mobility is now such that although I can get around in a limited way, I would be lost without my wheels

It turned out that this Segway was in fantastic condition apart from the batteries. I think at some point is had probably been left for a considerable period and that one of the batteries had dropped below a point it could be recovered. So this was why there were 3 batteries, one built in 2015 and the original 2 batteries that had been constructed in 2008 one of which didn't work

Although a shame about the batteries, the rest of the Segway was pristine so I changed the entire unit for my original and was cruising with less than 200 miles on the clock again. I had plans to rejuvenate my own unit and had another trip to Antigua lined up in February so needed something I could depend on

Another small modification I made was to change the cool looking tubeless tyre valve units for some proper inner tubes. Although less pretty to look at they have been fantastic and I haven't needed to check tyres since



Sunday, 15 December 2019

chasing the tide

Living next to the beach is fantastic and I try and plan journeys to cross the sand but this is somewhat dependant on the state of the tides

Jersey has one of the worlds biggest tidal ranges with over 12m on some spring tides between low and high water. The beach I normally cross is divided by a small rocky headland that is only navigable below half tide

If I miss the tidal slot I need to take the road which although generally quicker is not as scenic. I am forever chasing across the beach last minute trying to get past the middle rocks



Tidal flow is not linear and the fastest part of the tide is mid-range where the rocks divide the beach. Tearing across the sand I frequently end up crossing shallow water between waves from one side to the other

Soft sinky sand and rock pool depressions make for a chancy race at times but Genny seems to cope with minor dousing in sea water



Dragging my wheels out of the soft sand through rising water is my worst nightmare

5000 Miles

Today I hit the 5000 miles mark on my wheels. This is in a little over 3 years so am clocking up the miles. Apart from an issue with the core Segway detailed HERE Genny has been fantastically reliable despite repeated use across the beach in sandy and saltwater conditions

I have fitted a new set of covers and tyres and a wheel that I buckled accidentally dropping Genny out the back of the car whilst loading. I have also recently fitted new couplings and elastomers that had been recommended to quieten down the gearboxes which are a little bit noisy. This made little difference to the noise so was unnecessary

I have also recently got hold of a secondhand Segway i2 with just 164 miles on the clock that I will use for spares as and when required. I made this investment as the current build Segway i2 SE is slightly different in design from the original i2 my wheels have been built to

I am hoping the next 5000 miles goes as well as the first


Friday, 4 October 2019

Les machines de l'île

Located on an island in the Loire River right in the centre of Nantes is 'Les machines de l'île' project. The exhibition, show, concept is the vision of two artists and according to Wikipedia: "The projects aim to promote the city's image and intend to build an identity for it as a creative metropolis of dream and of fantasy"



The Great Elephant is a moving mechanical model, 12m high and 8m wide. It is made from 45 tons of wood and steel. It can take up to 49 passengers

There are several versions of these humming birds in varying colours. They are brilliantly animated with one approaching a flower


The design and detail is inspired


This enormous spider climbs from a hole in the exhibition floor



The Heron is controlled by 2 people on its back and carries 2 more in baskets at its feet

Subjects chosen for the structures are the strange and macabre in nature and have a steampunk element







Definitely worth a visit - Genny often stands out in the crowd but didn't get a look in here

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the small French town where pilgrimage routes from across North Western Europe converge, prior to crossing the Pyrenean foothills into Spain on route to Santiago de Compostela. Both the French Way (Camino Francés) and the Routes of Northern Spain are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites

This small town is on the river Nive and is only 8km from the Spanish border. It is the gateway to the Roncevaux Pass and the last stop before the arduous mountain crossing at over 1,000m

Pilgrims across the centuries have entered through La Porte Notre-Dame before crossing the river to the rue de d'Espagne. There has been a bridge here since at lease the 14th century



Initial steps from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port cross this bridge



Genny at La Porte Notre-Dame immediately before the bridge

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Carcassonne

This trip seems to have turned into a medieval tour of Europe. Today I visited Carcassonne

Carcassonne is another UNESCO world heritage site with its roots in neolithic times

There are buildings from many periods making up this citadel but I particularly enjoyed the gargoyles on the 11th century church, the Basilique des Saints Nazaire et Celse. Apparently it is a gothic development of the 6th century Visigoth building





























The inner walled town is lovely with fine buildings



In true commercial tourist style there are shops dedicated for all your present day crusading requirements












Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Étang de Montady

How cool is that?




I first discovered this looking around on Google Earth and today I visited the Étang de Montady. This was originally a wetland that was drained by monks in the 13th century. I tried to get to the very middle but was completely defeated by a train line and the Canal du Midi which can both be seen in the bottom right of the image

This is also the site of the Tunnel de Malpas which I had heard about but didn't realise I was going to find as well




The Tunnel was excavated in 1679 and was Europe's first navigable tunnel. It is 165m long and passes through the same hill that was tunneled by the monks in order to drain the Étang de Montady. In the nineteenth century, a third tunnel was excavated, passing through the Hill d'Ensérune beneath the Malpas tunnel to house the railway.

Charging Genny from 12 volt DC

If you travel with your Genny Mobility chair you have the issue of potentially different mains voltages or even no mains at all. Genny has the capacity to charge with between 100 - 240 V Ac 50 or 60hz, so as long as you have the appropriate adaptor to cope with differing sockets, it should charge. This post is about my experiences with charging from a vehicle battery

Charging with DC to AC inverter plugged into 12 cigarette lighter socket


I have a VW van with a rear hoist that can carry my wheels. Although not kitted out as a camper van it is big enough to take a small mattress and other bits to travel as I wish. Having my wheels with me enables me to do much more active holidays

My wheels have above 4,500 miles on the clock and I notice I am not getting the range I got when it was new. I am more conscious of how much life I have in the batteries and I would hate to run flat

In considering power options for my camper van I was not sure where to go with charging my wheels. Most camper vans would have an additional dedicated leisure battery that would power your fridge, TV etc. usually mounted under one of the front seats. It would be setup to charge from the vehicles alternator with maybe the addition of a solar panel. People use various charge splitting systems that ensure the main vehicle battery is always fully charged to avoid flat batteries when starting the vehicle

To turn 12vdc into something that will charge a Genny you need a DC to AC inverter which come in different sizes and qualities. I purchased the following inverter which I think is beyond the requirments but it was small and quoted to be about 90% efficient (LINK)

Genny is powered by 2 main batteries of 5.8Ah at 73.6vdc and a small 5Ah at 12vdc. I have read a number of forum posts on the charge consumption and I understand that a Segway requires about 180w to charge. I have assumed that Genny will require a maximum of 200w to charge for about 6 hours for a substantial charge

There are equations to work out the theoretical requirement for a vehicle battery that will deliver this level of charge rate. Unfortunately I don't know how to come up with the answer but I have some experience of getting it wrong

I did 2 charge sessions on my wheels, each of about 2 1/2 hours over 2 days with a run of about 10 miles to recharge the vehicle. This was done just using my main and only 95Ahr vehicle battery. When I came to start the van later it didn't have the power to start

I have not made up my mind what to do about an additional leisure battery for my van. There are various considerations like where it will live in the van as I have swivelling front seats that mean I can only use a short battery. Do I go for a standard or deep-cycle battery, how about lithium etc.

How I am coping is I only charge Genny when the van motor and therefore alternator, is running. I have also discovered you can get a very small but high capacity lithium jump start power pack something like the following (Link) I was rescued by a fellow camper with one of these packs and I couldn't believe that it worked. His pack was half the capacity of the one I have linked too
Lithium jump start power pack

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Bonificio

Bonificio is an ancient town built on the southern limestone cliffs next to a fantastic natural Harbor. It bears a similarity to Mdina in Malta but is about 1000 years younger dating to 800 AD





It's ancient buildings are made from the local stone, many carved into the rock itself. Having my wheels enabled me to access the town surprisingly well and there was only a few bits inaccessible to me. It would of course be different if I wanted to enter some of the shops and restaurants but there is a lot happening on the street. I was able to see the sights and eat ice-cream