What could possibly be better than pedaling down Dauphin Street with 11 of your closest friends, stopping for drink and food specials along the way? That’s the exact thought that inspired Mackenzie and Matt Kelly to launch Gulf Coast Pedal Tours in October 2018, which offers customizable, private pub crawls or public mixer rides through the heart of downtown Mobile on an insanely fun 12-person vehicle.
MB recently had the chance to sit down with the owners of Mobile’s newest attraction-on-wheels.
MB: How did Gulf Coast Pedal Tours come to be?
Mackenzie: We had been dating for eight years, and the whole time, all he would talk about was how he wanted to own a business. Finally, we got married and started talking about a real business. We actually went on a pedal tour a few years ago and kind of put it in the back of our minds. We started thinking about it and doing a little research.
Matt: This was after she told me “no” to about 50 different business ideas.
Mackenzie: (laughs) Finally one stuck. I was like, ‘OK, sounds fun.’ I enjoy driving people around and showing them Mobile. We both love Mobile and wanted to bring something new down here. We did a little more research and found a company that builds the pedal vehicles here in the U.S.
Matt: The boom of Downtown and what it’s done over the last few years was definitely a driving factor. Whenever we had the idea to do this, one of the first people I reached out to was Mayor Stimpson, and he was all over it.
MB: Why the decision to make the vehicle pedal-optional?
Matt: We went on a pedal tour that required you to pedal the entire time — that’s for a certain crowd. I don’t know if I enjoyed it or not (laughs).
Mackenzie: We wanted to do something that we would enjoy doing ourselves, and we know that once people are having fun, they might not want to pedal the whole time. So we wanted to have the option to have the motor on board and make it more accessible to everybody.
Matt: Most people pedal for a few minutes, then they just kind of kick back and relax.
MB: Where was the vehicle built?
Matt: Fredericksburg, Texas.
Mackenzie: A tour operator there had changed to a different style of vehicle, so they hadn’t used this one as much, and it was run-down a little bit. We basically bought the base structure, and then all of the woodwork and painting we did ourselves. That was probably the hardest part, the manual labor of the mechanics and stuff like that. But it was fun — it was a learning process.
MB: What is it about riding down the street, seeing people and being seen, that’s so much fun?
Matt: Well, you’re the most popular person for two hours whenever you’re on here.
Mackenzie: Oh, absolutely. People are taking pictures, videos. We have a bell on the bike, and that’s one of the most popular things — ringing that bell and interacting with people on the street. It kind of breaks down barriers. People you wouldn’t normally interact with will come up and ask how your ride is.
Matt: I think there’s an allure of being able to legally drink on a vehicle and have us drive you around downtown (laughs). And besides the afternoon thunderstorms, we’ve got the best weather around. Even during the winter we were doing rides. Just bundle up a little bit and you’re good!
MB: What’s the feedback been like so far?
Mackenzie: Everybody’s enjoying it! We had a group on Wednesday who said it was the best Wednesday night they’ve ever had!
Matt: What kind of shocked me was that I thought this was something people would come do one time and that would be it, but we’ve got one group who has just booked their fourth ride with us.
Mackenzie: One thing that I didn’t expect was for so many locals to do it. But I’d say 90 percent of the groups that we have are locals. Even though they’ve gone to these bars and restaurants before, it’s a whole new experience.
MB: Why is something like this good for the city as a whole?
Matt: With all the new things that are happening down here, I just think it’s a way to get people engaged and get them into the Downtown area to experience the revitalization that’s occurred over the last few years. We get a lot of people from Baldwin County who come over that didn’t even know Mobile had a brewery. So it’s a new way to get people down here, experience the revitalization and hopefully bring them back, whether they’re riding with us or not.
Visit gulfcoastpedaltours.com for more information