Group Therapy Bike Tours puts new spin on city tours

By Tammy Bain on April 12th, 2013

Twenty feet are better than two.

Drew and Katie Philippi, the owners of Group Therapy Bike Tours, recently introduced their newest Lincoln attraction, a trolley-like bicycle that travels at five miles per hour, can go on any custom tour and is powered by group effort pedaling.

About a year and a half ago Drew, who also operates Landscape Curbing with Katie, was researching vacation spots and found a traditional “Bier Bike” in Amsterdam. The bike contained a wooden keg on the front for its passengers to drink from.

Drew and Katie decided it would be fun with a different spin. Open-container laws prevented the keg aspect, and the couple wanted to appeal to all ages – not just those of drinking age.

Then, the Philippis heard of the new arena in Lincoln’s Haymarket.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘If we’re going to do it, now is the time,’” Drew said.

After some research, the Philippis found Cycle Pub, a company in Bend, Ore. James Watts, the founder of the company, built his own version of the bike. Drew said his bike includes 14 seats, 10 of which require its passenger to pedal. While the driver, usually Drew, can over-steer the bike, the passengers pedal together to keep the bike powered. The bike can be rented for two hours for $280, or $20 per person.

Facing each other, being out in the open and having a group effort to keep the bike going creates an experience of its own, Drew said, which is in part why the company earned its name.

“It’s hilariously fun,” he said. “I can all but guarantee you’re going to walk away feeling revived.”

Changes after arena construction will allow open containers in an “entertainment district” in the Haymarket, and the Philippis hope this will also allow passengers bring alcoholic beverages on the bike to enjoy between stops.

“I don’t want to speculate one way or the other,” Drew said, adding that local officials wouldn’t confirm or deny whether the laws would work in the bike’s favor.

Either way, he said, his hopes won’t be dampened.

“If that doesn’t happen, that doesn’t hurt our business,” he said. “We’ll live to ride again.”

Not all publicity for the bike has been good, Drew said. On the 1400 AM/94.5 FM KLIN morning radio talk show, Jack Mitchell and Dave Miller debated the concept of Group Therapy Bike Tours.

While some said it was just another permissible form of public alcohol use, others defended the bike, saying it will be safe and fun.

“There is a reason that our name is not ‘Beer Bike,’ or ‘Pedal Party’ or ‘Cycle Pub,’” Drew said in a statement on the radio station’s Facebook page. “We have chosen to brand our company to be more open minded to alternative demographics.”

One example, Drew said, is an already-booked birthday party for a 74-year-old. He said the bike could also celebrate a child’s party, and while the Haymarket is the main location for tours, the bike could go anywhere for local tours, as well as outside of Lincoln. It’s already been invited to parades in Milligan, which is about 60 miles from Lincoln, and Shickley, which is more than 80 miles from Lincoln.

Drew said he has since offered Mitchell and Miller their own, free bike tour, one which the radio hosts gladly took.

Last Saturday the bike made its debut to family and friends, and later gave a tour to TMCO Inc., Drew said. One fan of the tours was the Philippis’ 18-month-old son Nash.

“He had a blast,” Philippi said. “We’ve promoted Nash to Group Therapy CEO.”

A friend of Philippis,’ Tyson Frazen, also enjoyed the new attraction.

“Everywhere we went, people looked, took pictures and were smiling,” he said.

Katie’s sister, Rachel Swarts, also enjoyed the new attraction.

Despite the typical, two-hour tours, she rode the bike the whole day, she said. She called the bike an adventure for sister and brother-in-law, and loved that it let the passengers be outdoors.

“You could use it to celebrate anything,” she said. “Lincoln can always use another attraction.”

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