By Almeera Anwar
“I call it a 16-passenger pedal-powered vehicle that we use for pub crawls in Ballard,” said Cycle Saloon owner Tracy Drago, who is thrilled to see all the attention her business is getting after being featured in two deals on Groupon and Living Social.
The idea of having a pedal powered bike was born out of the Netherlands and migrated over to the U.S. when two guys in Minneapolis saw it in Amsterdam and wanted one of their own. It quickly turned into a business idea and sped off from there. They started setting people up with them around the nation and that was when Drago hoped on board.
Drago, an Oregon native, bought the bike and moved to Ballard in May with her husband and two children, she said, “I love it over here and missed it a lot. I have two kids and wanted to raise them on the West Coast.”
For Cycle Saloon, business was slow at first. The best form of advertising for the bike is just to be on it and there was no one to take it out. They would take the bike to festivals but still had to ask strangers to get on and pedal before it was really shown off. But since the online deals business has spun around; even the Komo 4 news crew took it out for a ride.
“You get so much attention when you’re on the bike that you feel like you’re famous!” said Drago. “People are honking and cheering and taking pictures. It’s quite the scene!”
People can do two-hour or three-hour time slots; people usually hit a few bars in the two-hour session and up to five in the three-hour session. Drago drives the bike and has suggested loops for riders to take but they can still pick whichever bars they want to go to. The route she recommends has some bars that offer specials for Cycle Saloon riders.
The bikes are made in the Netherlands, where people can drink on the street, so there is a barrel and tap on the bike. Naturally, the biggest misconception is that people think they can drink on it, which is not the case.
When the bike is not roaming the streets of Ballard, it’s housed in a boathouse where Drago shares space with someone else. The bike itself is 10 feet high, 19 feet long and weighs 23,000 2,300 pounds, which is why a lot of people complain about how hard it is to actually move.
“It is actually kind of a workout! Especially doing it in Seattle with all of the hills. Even in Ballard,which seems really flat, is not that flat when you’re pedaling a 23,000 2,300 pound bike. Suddenly little hills are hard,” said Drago, who noted that usually after a few beers people get the hang of it.
But despite the workout, Drago says about 90% of people who have done it will say they love it and want to do it again. Most people said they had a better time when they knew their fellow passengers, so she recommends booking with parties that fill up the whole bike rather than buying individual seats.
On the whole, Drago says it’s been a whirlwind but she loves the excitement of it all and the reaction she gets every time the bike is on the street. To see some of the previous trips the bike has made, check out Cycle Saloon’s Facebook page.