Last Wednesday morning marked a historic moment — at least for me.
That's when I rested my rear on the seat of an electric bicycle for the first time as one of four participants in the new "Soul Train Tours" provided by Electric Bicycle Memphis, which rents electric bikes from their headquarters at WellWorx Sports Club downtown. They also sell the bikes from their website.
Three ladies — two from the Downtown Memphis Commission and a reporter from another newspaper — accompanied me on the tour. First, we chose our favorite from a small selection of electric bikes.
I picked the "Classic Cruiser" with its white frame and red rims. The bikes were created by California-based electric bike manufacturing company Pedego.
The electric bike has a power button located on the right handlebar that must be pressed to start the motor. There's also a throttle on the right handlebar that can be twisted to increase speed, similar to a motorcycle. The bikes can get up to about 20 miles per hour, and the charge lasts up to 30 miles, depending on how they're operated.
After a brief safety lecture, we were introduced to our tour guide, Tommy Meriwether, a tall, slender man with an inviting personality. Then we set sail on the northbound version of the tour (there's also a southbound tour available) heading up Main to Exchange Street.
It didn't take me long to get the hang of the bike: The bike was difficult to pedal on its own, but the ride is very smooth when you use the motor.
The stylish, motor-operated bikes caught the eyes of construction workers, trolley riders, and Memphis Police officers.
The tour took us past the Uptown Square apartments, which our guide informed us was once known as Lauderdale Courts, where Elvis Presley and his family once lived before his rise to fame. Prior to the tour, I wasn't aware of this downtown link to the King.
From there, we rode through the Pinch District for a close-up view of the Pyramid, which looks much larger when passing by on a bike rather than in a car. And then we breezed along the sidewalk of the A.W. Willis Jr. Bridge for an amazing view of the Mississippi River.
As we trekked through Greenbelt Park, we were attacked by a plague of dandelion seed heads, which were flying freely throughout the area. Fortunately, everyone came out unscathed and cruised over into Harbor Town.
Out of harm's way, we stopped at Miss Cordelia's Grocery, another spot that I wasn't familiar with prior to the tour, for a restroom break and some conversation. As we sat on the breezy patio, employees, impressed with our motorized bikes, came outside to snap pictures.
Then we made our way back to the starting point via Front Street. When we finally arrived at WellWorx, everyone wore smiles from our fun ride. I was just secretly happy that no one lost any limbs on their first motorized bicycle ride.
The tours would be an excellent way for tourists to check out downtown Memphis, but locals could also benefit for a close-up view of the places they pass in their cars every day. Anyone can rent an electric bike for $15 an hour with a two-hour minimum. Tours are $60 per person, but group discounts are available. To make a reservation, contact 461-1675 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.