In Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, a peddling entrepreneur might pull up and offer you a leisurely oceanfront tour via a three-wheeled passenger bike known as a pedicab.
On the way to a ball game in Denver, another pedicab operator might offer you taxi service to the stadium from the vast parking lot.
The two experiences are very different, but the vehicles likely come from the same place: the three-car garage of a home on the Five Mile Prairie here.
From their home north of Spokane, Tim and Cathy Riddle make about 15 to 20 pedicabs annually through a company called T.I.P.K.E. Pedicabs Northwest Inc.
Pedicabs Northwest is a part-time venture for the couple that they tend to in the evening and on weekends, but Cathy Riddle says, Wed like to make it a full-time gig.
The company, which the Riddles bought three years ago, recently received an order for six pedicabs, which has boosted an otherwise slow year to what likely will be a normal sales volume. Tim Riddle has begun making the first of those vehicles, which are for a Las Vegas operator who will use the pedicabs to transport people from one casino to another.
The Riddles decline to disclose Pedicabs Northwests annual income, which also includes revenue from parts sales.
The vehicles cost $3,500or $3,000 without the carriage cover.
A pedicab weighs 280 pounds empty. It pedals like a conventional bicycle, but has hydraulic brakes and a differential gear so that the back tires can turn at different speeds when the vehicle rounds a corner. The carriage is large enough to comfortably seat two adults.
Pedicabs also have headlights and blinker systems so they are street legal in most locales.
Riddle assembles each pedicab himself, using components he buys from various sources.
It takes him about four full days to assemble one, though that time typically is spread out over a number of evenings and weekend days. He ships them out fully assembled.
The frames and carriages are ordered in for each pedicab, but the Riddles keep all other parts in stock.
Because of the time it takes to order in the frame and carriage, the turnaround time for delivery of a pedicab is four or five weeks, Riddle says.
Except when test-driving a new one on the long driveway to their home, the Riddles dont ride pedicabs.
Those who buy the vehicles typically use them for business venturestaxi services, scenic tours, or both. An exception to the rule was a California customer who bought a pedicab to cart around her dog.
In addition to South Carolina and Denver, Pedicabs Northwest has sold vehicles to vendors in Seattle, San Francisco, and Southern Florida, among others.
The Riddles say that based on conversations with Pedicab operators, taxi businesses are more lucrative than tour ventures.
In either instance, however, operators often generate more revenue by selling advertisements on the back of the passenger bikes than they do by toting people around.
For example, Tim Riddle says, the Denver operator has an advertising contract with Coors Brewing Co., of Golden, Colo., and the beer makers ads appear on the back of each passenger bike.
For most people in the business, what they make taxiing or doing tours, thats all gravy, Tim Riddle says. If you get a sponsor like Coors, they dont care if youre carrying anybody or not. They just want you on the road nightly.
The Riddles, both of whom are 44 years old, bought the pedicab company here in 2000 from longtime acquaintances Drew and Carol Bond, of Spokane.
Tim Riddle, who operates a residential contracting company called Tim Riddle Construction Inc., was doing some work for the Bonds when they showed him their shop and introduced him to their pedicab business.
Riddle told them, If you ever feel like selling this, let me know.
A few years later, the Bonds contacted Riddle and sold the enterprise to the couple.
The Bonds had bought the company from its founder, Jim Tipke. Tipke, who operates Tipke Manufacturing Inc. here, started the company in the early 1970s and made vehicles to transport people during Expo 74.
The Riddles plan to change the name of the business to Premier Pedicabs in the next year or two. The companys Web site and literature already is using the Premier Pedicabs name.
The couple is unsure when the pedicab business will turn into a full-time venture, and say that might not happen before they retire.
Were hoping its something our kids will show an interest in at some point as well, Cathy Riddle says.
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