VOL. 35 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 12, 2011
Peddling an alternative to cars, two-wheelers
By Hollie Deese
Riding a bike to work is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and get in a good workout. But certain limitations can prevent some people from enjoying that option – unless they have a Rhoades Car.
The four-wheeled vehicle is actually a bicycle, or quadricycle, and can accommodate a wider range of people than the standard two-wheel version.
“We have the four-wheel stability so anybody, whether they be overweight or have balance issues or are just scared of a two-wheel bike, can exercise,” says Bill Pomakay, president of Hendersonville-based Rhoades Car International. People with vision problems can sit and pedal independently with a passenger and Rhoades can even customize seats to accommodate people with special needs or paralysis.
Pomakay, who has a background in marketing, took over the business in February 2010 after inventor and original owner David Rhoades passed away suddenly in December 2009 without a succession plan. His next-door neighbor, Pomakay had always been intrigued by what Rhoades was doing.
“He was just a genius as far as coming up with the concept and laying it all out and having a working model,” he says. “He started the business back in ‘91 out of a small barn in his backyard and then moved it out to an industrial facility ten years later.”
When paying respects to Rhoade’s family after his death, he asked whether the business, which had been on the market for a few months, had sold or not. It hadn’t.
“They didn’t really have a plan, and I have a bunch of friends who are entrepreneurs and thought one of them might be interested,” Pomakay says. “And as I looked at their business I realized that I was interested myself. So I made the family an offer and they accepted. They were thrilled because the company was going to continue.”
There are four models of bikes and all come in one-, two-, or four-person models and can be customized with all kinds of features. When Pomakay took over, he mainly worked on appealing to a broader range of clientele.
“He had the designs down pat and he had a really good presence on the Internet and had a good marketing plan, but what I have done is institute more cosmetic changes,” he says. “We knew we had models who appealed to the senior population, but at the same time -- with rising gas prices -- we knew that there was a need for alternate transportation for people age 30 and up.”
So they came up with Sport Ped model, which uses the same frame as the classic, but has an aerodynamically designed windshield with UV protection. Ranging from seven- to 42-speed options, Rhoades Cars have been sold all over the world. And increasing gas prices have only helped sales here at home.
“From a personal standpoint, I don’t want gas prices to go up, but as they do our sales have gone up because people are looking for alternate means of transportation,” he says. In fact, last year only 10 percent of his orders had an electric motor added. This year, it was 20 percent. And because the electric motor is programmed to stay around 14 miles an hour, they still fall under bike road rules.
“In Hendersonville, a lot of people have golf carts and have to license them with the DMV and insure them to be able to drive around,” he says. “One of these vehicles does not need to be registered because it does follow the bicycle law. If we gear it to go over 20 mph, then it would be a motor vehicle.”
Also important to Pomakay is the fact his product is certified made in the USA. Not only is it manufactured here, but most elements that go into the bike are made in Middle Tennessee.
“We are using local suppliers to make our components,” he says. “Our steel is United States Steel fabricated in Goodlettsville, powder coated in Madison by another company. Our canopies and canvas fenders are made by Bennett’s Upholstery right here in Hendersonville. We can see other families benefitting from Rhoades Cars.”
Next up, Pomakay hopes to get involved with Nashville’s bike share program, which recently received a 100-bike donation from Regions Bank.
“We are asking them to embrace a local company that has a four-wheel bicycle that everyone can ride,” he says. “There is a lot of discussion about fighting obesity but realistically a large person is not comfortable on a two-wheel bike. We have bicycles available for obese people to ride.”