By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Aug 28, 2007 at 5:32 AM

One of the first things a Segway of Milwaukee instructor will tell you as you prepare to mount the sleek, two-wheeled transportation device is that, "If you can walk, you can glide."

And for the most part, it's true. Segways are designed to intuitively move with your natural body motions -- that's why the industry calls the tour a "glide," rather than a ride. The idea behind the technology is that it's supposed to feel more like an extension of your body that you control instinctively than unstable foreign equipment requiring constant attention.

As instructor Mary Kelliher puts it, "You become one with the Segway."

Milwaukeean Dennis Wanless followed his fascination with Dean Kamen's Segway since its 2002 unveiling as "IT" and then as "Ginger" into the thriving business and tourist attraction now known as Segway of Milwaukee.

The Segway arrived on the Milwaukee scene in 2005, though, as Wisconsin's sole dealer, Wanless's West Side company was primarily focused on commercial sales to plants, warehouses and public and private security ventures.

A year later, inspired by a recreational Segway tour he'd taken in Chicago's Millennium Park, Wanless relocated to the Third Ward to offer tours of Downtown Milwaukee.

"We had to get support from the city and county," he says of his company's move and expansion. "They accepted our proposal because they saw it as a nice addition to the image of the city."

Technology advances, sport and adventure aside, Segway of Milwaukee does work well as a cultural commute and truly is a fun way to explore some of the city's highlights.

The two-hour glide -- with an extra half-hour tacked on the front for training -- starts at Segway's Third Ward headquarters and takes you on an informative tour through the streets of Downtown, along the Riverwalk and to the shore of Lake Michigan. Tour guides relate the histories of Milwaukee's neighborhoods and cultural institutions -- such as the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World -- allowing for plenty of breaks and photo opportunities.

The $70 tours ($60 if you book online) run daily during weather- appropriate months at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and always begin with a half-hour training and safety session inside the Segway building. Segway can accommodate up to eight gliders per tour. Here's a tip: Wear comfortable shoes, because although the Segway is doing the legwork, you're still standing for close to three hours.

Although safe, fun tours are a large focus of Segway of Milwaukee, Wanless is still Wisconsin's source for residential and commercial Segway sales. Depending on the model -- and how many accessories you desire -- the crafty little device is going to set you back between $5,000 and $6,000.

"The typical person who buys a segway for personal use is between 35 and 65 years old," he says. "I have a number of people who live in condos and work in offices in the Downtown area and they use them as a means of commuting. We have people who use them for a casual glide down the Oak Leaf Trail as well as commuters trying to save money on gas and not pay for parking or just who want to reduce their carbon footprint."

Segway of Milwaukee has two 10-unit fleets of Generation 2 Segways and, as it stands, is the only Gen 2 tour company in the Midwest.

"The difference is LeanSteer technology, meaning that if you want to turn left, you point the machine by pushing the handler bar left. In Generation 1 models there was a static handle bar and you turned by moving the grip. This is more intuitive and natural. It's a huge step forward in steering technology."

The fascinating thing about the Segway is probably its intrigue. Even Walness admits to his initial skepticism.

"How do you convince somebody that you can stand on a two-wheeled machine and it will balance you? Intellectually, I embraced it, but I wasn't willing to believe it until I could feel it."

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”