The History of the Pedal Bar Tavern (and How to Survive One)

Yes, it's definitely fun, but not an easy way to get around.

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Photo: D.Lopez-FotoMundo America (Shutterstock)

I recently traveled to Nashville for a friend’s bachelorette weekend trip, and on that trip I had an experience unique to only select cities throughout the world. In true bachelorette fashion, we sought out a creative way to drink and explore the area.

Cue an activity that combines sightseeing, drinking, some dancing, more drinking, and bike riding—a pedal bar ride. This touristic form of transportation goes by many names, says Wikipedia, including party bike, pedal crawler, beercycle, pedal pub, beer bike, and bar bike. Whatever you choose to call it, the experience is fun—but be prepared for a damn workout to say the least.

What is a party bike?

This is where all you Peloton-loving nuts out there should shine. A pedal bar bike pretty much looks like a trolley with all the seating facing inward so your group can talk and socialize. However, the bike requires a lot more work. Each person is seated on a bike seat (notoriously uncomfortable for your ass) with pedals. The bright side is that there is an open bar space in the center of the vehicle where someone will stand and hand you drinks as you ride around town.

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My pedal tavern adventure included two tour guides. One of them steered our mode of transportation through the streets of downtown Nashville, while the other enthusiastically sang and danced, serving as both our DJ and bartender throughout the two-hour tour. The adventure also featured a drinking game: Every time we reached a stop (whether it be a red light or just a general pause) we had to cheer and take a drink. Yes, we were THAT group of “woooo” girls. It’s a bachelorette party, you should expect nothing less.

The history of the pedal bar tavern

The inventor of the pedal bar tavern wanted to find a fun and safe way for people to enjoy some drinks while being on the go. In 1997 in the Netherlands, a local pub owner wanted to promote his bar during a parade. Two men, Henk and Zwier van Laar, developed a multi-person bike, which was the predecessor to the first pedal bike tavern, Het Fietscafe.

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Since then, pedal taverns can be found in cities like San Diego, Nashville, Houston, Detroit, and Portland.

How to survive your first pedal bar tavern

Based on my one and only experience riding around town on one of these pedal bars, let me offer you some tips. That one experience alone was filled with many lessons.

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  1. Dress for comfort, not style. That bike seat is going right up and into your crack, so unless you’re a master-level Soul Cycle champ who can remain standing and pedaling the entire time, I suggest comfortable shoes and bottoms. Also keep in mind, this experience is entirely open-air. Sunglasses and a light jacket you can take on or off are a must.
  2. Don’t eat a big meal beforehand. Much like a normal workout, you want to have something in your stomach but not enough to induce potential motion sickness. Plus, there’s that whole drinking aspect that could also contribute to your stomach feeling uneasy.
  3. You have to pedal. One of our tour guides was kind enough to inform us that the bike did have a small motor that would help us along, but 90% of the work would need to be done by our group’s legs In order to actually move. It’s okay to take a break here and there (especially when going downhill because gravity does the work), but you also don’t want to be the lazy one in the group not pulling your weight.
  4. Do two things at once, not three. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it is to drink, cheer/sing along, and pedal a bike all at the same damn time. I don’t care how in shape you are, it’s just not physically possible. I could pedal and drink. I could sing and pedal (barely). But the combination of it all could leave you gasping for breath by the end.
  5. Enjoy the sights and the ride. As much as the experience took a physical toll on me, it was a fun way to see downtown Nashville. Look around and feel free to wave at people—they will definitely be waving and looking at your group anyways. Embrace the experience.
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With that, have a wonderful time on your multi-tasking, chugging adventure. And don’t forget to stretch!