Happiness on Two Wheels: Electric Bike Tours Offer a Joyous Adrenaline Rush on Hot Richmond Days | Local
By JO LORD Special Envoy
Richmond is elegant and eclectic. Made of cityscape and countryside. Rich in history and filled with adventure around the next bend.
Sometimes it is also unbearably hot and spectacularly humid.
Marna Bales is boosting the city’s appeal and helping Richmond residents beat the heat with Kul Wheels, her company offering e-bike tours. In fact, the heat and humidity were catalysts for the company in the first place.
It all started on a steamy Texas morning in 2015, when Bales and her husband, Jody Boyd, found themselves driving across the state. It was August in Austin. The temperature exceeded 100 degrees. Despite everything, they wanted to do some sightseeing. By chance, they had heard of a company offering e-bike tours.
It was love in the first round.
Yes, it was refreshing. Yes, it was effortless. But above all, it was absolutely liberating.
“I felt like a kid again,” Bales said. “I got into this flow mode where everything falls apart and joy takes over.”
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Bales began working to offer e-bike tours in Richmond as soon as the couple returned from their vacation in Texas.
“Richmond is a river town like Austin,” she says. “I thought e-bikes would work here too.”
When she brought in her brother, Bill Bales, and her best friend, Cheryl Assaid, a business was born. The name is a nod to the siblings’ Scandinavian heritage, “kul” meaning “fun” in Swedish.
At Kul Wheels, the e-bikes go up to 20 mph and can travel up to 60 miles on a single charge. If you think 20mph sounds like a gentle putt-putt across town – the equivalent of a Sunday drive, perhaps – think again. Electric bikes are extremely fast.
They are also gentle on muscles and joints. You can pedal entirely by yourself if you wish. But do you see that big hill in front of you? Simply twist the throttle on the handlebars and you’re instantly propelled by electric power.
“I would say it’s exhilarating,” said Jane Covington, 62, a retired teacher.
Bradley Fairfield, a 21-year-old student from Virginia Commonwealth University, agreed. He travels in his urban environment mainly on a traditional road bike. Of his e-bike experience, he said, “I would say you really can’t figure out how it feels until you’re on the spot and doing it.”
Andrea Edmunds, 51, an independent nutrition coach, also rides a regular road bike.
“Kul Wheels has been such a fun and different experience,” she said. “As a health coach, I also loved seeing all sizes, shapes, colors and ages of people exercising.”
Music lovers may be familiar with Bales and Boyd, who have long been part of the city’s music scene. She is a singer-songwriter and singer who has played with bands for 25 years and has shared the stage with Sara Evans, Delbert McClinton and The Charlie Daniels Band. He is a respected multi-instrumentalist, composer and music producer.
Bales and Boyd also own a recording studio, Red Amp Audio, in downtown Richmond. While running the studio keeps them busy, you’ll also find them making music around town on nights and weekends. They play regularly with their own band, 64 Crayons, as well as the West Groove Street Band.
So how do two very different pursuits and passions co-exist in Bales’ life? According to the singer, they are more alike than it seems.
“I love making music, singing in the recording studio and playing with a band. I get into the zone, the flow; I feel happy and free,” she said. the same feeling every time I ride one of these bikes.”