The patriotic red, white and blue pedal-powered bike rides slow, but steady with 15 excited passengers cruising through Bellingham, where it will make stops at local breweries.
Tom and Amy Lawson bought the Pedal Party bike in January 2015. After their daughter suggested the idea, the Lawsons decided that Bellingham needed a pedal-powered party bike of its own. Pedal-powered bike tours to local breweries are frequent in large cities such as the Cycle Saloon in Seattle, the Cycle Pub in Bend, Oregon, and many others that are showing up nationwide. With Amy Lawson’s day job as a teacher and Tom Lawson’s work as a carpenter, they added owning Pedal Party NW to their resumes.
Pedal Party NW allows people to tour downtown Bellingham and it’s unique local breweries as they enjoy music and friends while pedaling to each choice brew pub. The bike seats 15, 10 of which pedal and the other five are along for the ride.
The bike is 20-feet long and travels about 5 to 7 miles per hour and picks up the speed a little downhill.
“It’s heavy. It doesn’t go fast but it goes fun,” Tom Lawson said.
Scott Pelton, former Western student and sales marketer for the Bellingham Tap Trail, said he had initially planned to start a pedal bike business of his own in Bellingham, but decided it wasn’t the direction the Bellingham Tap Trail wanted to go. Tom and Amy Lawson contacted Pelton and they got to know each other as they developed their business in January. They now work together to promote local craft beer.
"They’re just great people,” Pelton said. “They are really good hearted and we all love them. They offer a really unique way to experience craft beer in Bellingham.”
The Bellingham Tap Trail is a beer map and media company with the goal to promote local breweries and tap houses.
“I’ve seen it in other cities,” said Colleen Kuehl, owner of Wander Brewing, one of the choice breweries the pedal party stops at. “I was just waiting for someone to start one here.”
The Pedal Party NW bike came from Minnesota with the name “Moonshine Roadster.” The bike tours to three out of a choice of five local Bellingham breweries that include Aslan Brewing Co., Boundary Bay Brewery, Kulshan Brewing Co., Wander Brewing and The Local Public House.
“I think it’s a great way for people to explore the city and try all of the beers,” Kuehl said.
Amy Lawson said they have to choose breweries that are easily accessible for the pedal bike.
Despite the power from ten people pedaling, it is a deceivingly difficult workout, especially if you’re not a regular exerciser,” Tom Lawson said.
The reward for pedaling hard is having a beer at the end, Tom Lawson said.
“We find that the participants aren’t as worried about the workout so much after the first beer,” he said.
The pedal to each brewery destination takes around 15 minutes and the party gets about 25 to 35 minutes at each brewery, Amy Lawson said.
The Lawsons encourage the party-goers to bring their own upbeat playlist to play music during the rides to each brewery on their six-speaker stereo system.
There is a middle aisle between the seats where people can walk, and underneath is where the coolers of water is kept. “People have been known to dance in the aisle,” Amy Lawson said. “They’ve been having so much fun.”
Tom Lawson said it’s fun for him to watch people loosen up.
“We’re all here with a bunch of friends to just have a good time,” he said.
The Lawsons give notice to the breweries before the large party arrives. Amy Lawson said the whole Bellingham beer community is very strong.
“They have all been so supportive and fantastic,” she said.
So far the Lawsons have hosted many of birthday parties and a few business meetings.
“Although I didn’t see them talking much about business [at the meetings],” Tom Lawson said.
Currently they are primarily booking tours to local breweries, but they are open to suggestions of other types of tours and parties. Children ages 12 or older are welcome on the tour, but have to be 21 or older to participate in drinking.
The Bellingham beer community welcomes Western students, Pelton said. He encourages students to discover Bellingham’s beer community by exploring craft breweries.
“Make sure you pick up a tap trail map and hop on the pedal party bike,” Pelton said.
Alcohol is not allowed on the bike since there is a no open container law in Bellingham. Bike-riders wait to drink until they reach the brewery destinations, but water is available in coolers to keep passengers hydrated. Each ride has a designated driver who steers and controls the brakes as they ride along the streets through town, as well as a host who keeps the party well hydrated. The business is currently looking for part-time drivers and hosts primarily for weekend hours, Amy Lawson said.
Sometimes different small parties can be arranged to make up a full tour ride. Last week, they had a group of three different parties who didn’t know each other, Tom Lawson said.
“By the end of that tour you could tell the three groups really had a good time together,” he said.
Each tour lasts about two hours and starts at the Pedal Party NW headquarters off of North State Street, and is $25 per person.