Fresno Pedal Company’s party bike looks like a Tiki bar on wheels, with its thatched roof and tropical faux foliage. A wooden idol is posted up front like a masthead. His name is Edward and he plays a large drum that doubles as a beer cooler. There’s a stuffed parrot on a perch in back and LED torches posted at the four corners. Ten pedal stations run the length of the 12-foot bike/bar.
The bike is hard to miss, parked on a side street in Fresno’s Tower District waiting on its first tour of the day. Those passing by do double takes, unsure of what exactly they’re looking at. Some, stop to snap pictures. That’s been the general response since it hit the streets at a beach-bum themed pub crawl last weekend.
“Without seeing it, it’s kind of hard to explain,” says Brandon Johnson, who operates Fresno Pedal Company with his partner Tuyet Nguyen.
Think of it as a multi-passenger pedi-cab that allows drinking. Johnson and Nguyen serve as designated (read, sober) driver and tour guide, ferrying passengers from the various bars and nightclubs around the Tower District. The company offers two-hour tours, at $20 a seat, or a $5 shuttle service that will run during peak entertainment hours. The bike is also available for private parties, business events and team building exercises.
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This is the Central Valley’s first party bike, according to Fresno Pedal Company, but similar bikes run in larger cities around the country. In California, the number has grown over the past year thanks to state law SB 530, which was proposed by senator Richard Pan and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The popularity of these so-called beer bikes (along with surge in the craft beer movement) led to the passage of the bill, which allows for the bikes on roads and sets guidelines for their use and regulation.
After signing the bill, Brown took a tour and tweeted an official video of the ride.
“He’s a craft beer drinker in his off time,” says Johnson, who was turned on to the idea of owning a bike, after seeing a news story on the new law.
The pair spent nearly eight months researching party bikes, including a trip to Sacramento for a tour with Sac Brew Bike. They found a company that manufactures the bikes and had one shipped in from China. They added the Tiki decor themselves. There were questions of insurance and safety, city ordinances and regulations. Though SB 530 allows for the bikes, cities are given the ultimate authority over their usage. Which meant, calls the city and county and check-ins with the Fresno Police Department, Johnson says.
“Nobody even knew what it was,” he says.
Once he explained it, no one seemed to have any problems with the operation, though there is no specific ordinance in place, Johnson says.
Mostly, the bike follows the same regulations that govern limousines. Alcoholic beverages are limited to beer and wine, strictly on a BYO basis and can be consumed only on the bike. There is that drum cooler up front and space to fit a keg in back, Johnson says, though he thinks it would mostly be impossible for a group to get through a keg in a typical two-hour tour and he’s not looking to test the thought. Both Johnson and Nguyen had to get certifications from the Alcoholic Beverage Control and must both be on the bike with the passengers. The company also supplies plastic cups – no glass is allowed on the bike.
Helmets are welcomed, but not required.
Because the bike’s top speed is somewhere around seven mph, it is prohibited from driving on roads with a speed limit over 35 mph. So, Johnson and Nguyen spent days fine tuning its tour routes and time schedules to make sure there would be space for this rather large and slow-moving vehicle.
For now, the tours operate solely out of the Tower District. Once the Fulton Street project is complete, the company hopes to expand downtown, possibly running between the two areas of town. Eventually, there will be multiple bikes running tours simultaneously. The ultimate goal is to open a brick-and-mortar shop, which would serve as a starting point for the tours and a garage for the bikes. It would also be a place for passengers to stock up on beverages, if need be.
It’s like being on vacation all year round.
Brandon Johnson, Fresno Pedal Company, on his Tiki-themed party bike
That’s the business model for Sac Brew Bike, Johnson says.
Johnson and Nguyen have lived in Fresno their whole lives and believe the business can work here. They chose the name, Fresno Pedal Company, to reflect their dedication to, and excitement for, the city. The morale of residents here is changing, Nguyen says. People are ready to take a chance on new kinds of entertainment options, she says.
“We wanted to be part of that.”
Fresno Pedal Company
- For tour schedules and rates: 559-825-6613, www.fresnopedal.com