James Watts, a California software salesman and entrepreneur, chose the Bend area to launch a new company, Cycle Pub, and debut his locally made, American version of the Holland BierBike.
“It is basically a 20-foot-long pub on wheels that you pedal,” said Watts.
To build what he hopes will be the first of many Cycle Pubs, Watts turned to Jon Pyland, a former building contractor who shifted gears and opened Atek Customs, a custom metal design and fabricating company in Bend after the mortgage crisis quashed Central Oregon's construction industry.
Watts, 42, lives and sells software out of Sacramento, but he has been coming to the Bend area for more than two years. He said he found out about the Pylands from an article in The Bulletin last fall about out-of-work builders who opened different kinds of businesses when Central Oregon's construction industry collapsed due to the 2008 nationwide mortgage crisis.
“The BierBike has really taken off in Germany and other European countries,” Watts said. “I was about to write a big, fat check and have one imported from Holland when I saw an article in The Bulletin about Jon Pyland and his son Josh starting their fabricating business.”
After talking to the Pylands, Watts said he decided to give them an opportunity to build what he says in an American version of the BierBike, which he dubbed the Cycle Pub.
“As the name implies, the Cycle Pub incorporates two favorite pastimes, bikes and beer,” Watts said.
Current plans call for debuting the Cycle Pub Feb. 18, offering rides around the Old Mill District during the 2011 Bend Winterfest.
“It looks like a trolley or San Francisco cable car, but the twist is that riders actually provide the horsepower by pedaling this passenger bike while enjoying the various sights and attractions of Bend along the way,” Watts said. “We provide the driver, so riders can legally enjoy a local fine-crafted beer, glass of wine or cup of coffee en route, and bring snacks aboard to keep the energy high.”
Josh Pyland said he and his father had to design and build the Cycle Pub based on the design concepts provided by Watts and some website photos of the BierBike, which is made in Holland.
“It was kind of difficult because it was something we had never done before,” said Josh Pyland. “It took awhile to figure out how to get 12 people sitting on opposite sides of the bar to pedal and go in one direction,” Pyland said.
Watts and the Pylands declined to describe or allow photos they thought might reveal certain design elements of the Cycle Pub.
“I have been working with the Bend Police Department, the City Council, city attorney and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to get our vision in front of them and get their support, which I have received,” Watts said.
In addition, Watts said he'd like to add the Cycle Pub to the Bend Ale Trail organized by Visit Bend.
Doug La Placa, president and CEO of Visit Bend, said the Cycle Pub represents the kind of ancillary local business development envisioned by Visit Bend officials.
“Once the Ale Trail was started, we hoped businesses would be created to support it,” La Placa said. “The Cycle Pub will be a great addition to the attractions of the Bend Ale Trail.”
In addition to the entertainment value of the Cycle Pub as a fun activity that supports Bend's breweries, restaurants, hotels and other tourism-related businesses, La Placa said the potential addition of local manufacturing jobs building Cycle Pubs provides a bonus to the area economy.
“Any time that a tourism program can generate new local jobs in manufacturing, that is a big win,” La Placa said.
Q: How big is the Cycle Pub?
A: The Cycle Pub will weigh close to 1 ton. It will be between 15 and 20 feet long, and nearly 8 feet wide. It seats 12 pedalers seated on opposite sides for center bar, three people in a nonpedaling bench seat, one driver and one bartender or waiter.
Q: How will you make money with the Cycle Pub?
A: We plan to offer tours, typically two to three hours in length. The Cycle Pub of Bend is a fantastic way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, golf outings, book clubs, weddings, corporate events, grand openings and just about any event imaginable.
Q: Is there any kind of gas or electric engine in case the people drinking and pedaling get tired?
A: It doesn't have any engine. It's a green machine.
Q: Why are you launching this business in Bend?
A: Partly because Bend is an outdoor kind of community where bike riding is already very popular, and partly because I have been a consumer of the wide variety of brewpubs, restaurants and other recreation and entertainment the community has to offer, and I wanted to produce something that adds to what is already here.
Q: If the Cycle Pub tours catch on in Bend, are there plans to expand to other towns?
A: Yes. Absolutely. The long-term growth vision includes franchising the Cycle Pub and expanding into other bike-friendly towns, such as Eugene, where we'd like to set up a green and gold Duck's Cycle Pub.
Q: Is the Cycle Pub only for beer drinkers?
A: Absolutely not. I want to stress that the Cycle Pub will be available for families for hot chocolate tours with the kids, or things like coffee tours, that take advantage of some of the excellent coffee shops Bend has to offer.
Company: Cycle Pub
Founder: James Watts
Manufacturer: Atek Customs, a metal design and fabricating firm
Phone: 541-678-5051 (not active for a few days)