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With Hawaii expansion and a new book, bike-tour entrepreneur Todd Roll is on the move

Posted by on April 3rd, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Todd Roll in February with his fleet of tour bikes.
(Photos courtesy Pedal Bike Tours.)

Todd Roll of downtown-based Pedal Bike Tours has had a big spring.

Last month, his company — maybe best known to Portlanders as the one behind downtown’s “America’s Bicycle Capital” mural — expanded to Honolulu. And next month, his first book is coming out from Timber Press: Pedal Portland, a compilation of 25 easy city bike rides informed by his company’s experience renting out bikes and leading local tours.

Roll launched his business five years ago “with four bikes in the back of his brother’s bike shop,” company spokeswoman (and Roll’s wife) Lota LaMontagne wrote in an email. Now it’s got “11 seasonal and six year-round employees, as well as a fleet of 100 bikes in the downtown shop.”

Each ride includes a scavenger hunt.
(Image courtesy Timber Press)

I first heard about Pedal Bike Tours’ expansion in late February, when I stopped by their downtown shop to talk about Portland’s boom in car-lite tourism. With both the new shop, called Pedal Hawaii for short, and the new book, Roll and his team are looking to spread some of that happy idea to visitors from around the country.

Pedal Portland, a 224-page paperback that will retail for $16.95, includes rides in all five Portland quadrants plus Beaverton, Vancouver and other nearby areas. The rides range from eight to 12 miles, with optional public transit legs to shorten the trips. Each route description includes a scavenger hunt that can be completed along the way, plus tips on good places to eat, drink or relax.

We’ve got an advance copy of the book and hope to share a full review soon.

As for the Hawaii shop, LaMontagne writes it’s “hoping to bring a bit of Portland’s two-wheeled culture to the island’s own burgeoning bike culture, and more importantly, to some of the 4.5 million annual visitors to this island.”

In addition to bike rentals by the hour, day and week, Pedal Hawaii will offer two family-friendly tours, the nine-mile “Hidden Honolulu” for $69, which currently runs twice a day, and the 13-mile “Explore the North Shore” for $129 including “grinds” (lunch) and a support van.

Pedal Hawaii general manager Sam Haffner and Roll, opening the new shop.

The new shop is on the ground level of the Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Waikiki, at 150 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815.

“Considering Honolulu has the 12th highest bicycle commuter rate and the 2nd worst traffic in the country, the island is primed for what we’re doing,” Roll said in a news release.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Todd (R), Aloha and good luck!

    Honolulu is a tough bike nut to crack in my experience working there.

    Though Waikiki and tourism is a great place to start…along with the military bases.

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  • Alison Graves April 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Congratulations, Todd!

    I have always admired your positive energy and ability to get great things done!

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  • dan April 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Nice Work Todd!

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  • Rob Chapman April 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Good going Todd, don’t let Sambagger slack off over there!

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  • Carrie April 4, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I wish him luck. But as someone who lived (and rode both for fun and tried to commute as much as my nerves would let me) in Honolulu for 15 years, I really don’t know if the infrastructure can support what he wants to do. I LOVED riding the North Shore, but I don’t know if I’d love riding it with my kids — narrow roads, lots of traffic, and horrible road conditions.

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    • Todd April 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for your input. I remember the first time I visited Haleiwa and tried to rent a bike, the rental shop actually talked me out of it! Since then many people have warned me about it, a few even with stories of someone they know dying on the road. Of course, I still meet people in Portland all the time who can’t believe I ride a bike in Portland today.

      To create our North Shore tour, we started first with the magical jungled Sunset beach bike path, which runs 3.5 glorious CARFREE miles to Waimea Bay. Since the van accompanies the riders the whole way, we encourage all our guests to quit and ride in the van when they want to and we give them several spots where they can do so. The 75 yard ascent out of Waimea is the most challenging, but even there the shoulder is wide. The stretch to Laniakea (Turtle) beach has a 5-7 foot wide shoulder and traffic is often slower than the bikes or stopped!

      Then we turn into Haleiwa with its slow traffic. After the shrimp trucks (across from McDonalds) we take a super quiet country road to Waialua where we finish the ride on the car free path to Aweoweo beach to swim with the turtles.

      Again, guests are encouraged to quit when they’ve had enough and I’ve found Hawaiians drive with much Aloha. I hope you’ll come and ride the North Shore with us sometime!


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      • Carrie April 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        Todd — I really hope you can make this work, because if there is any way to really have a voice in cycle infrastructure on Oahu, it’s the tourist industry, not the people who live there.

        Be very, very careful near Turtle Beach. While car traffic is incredibly slow there, pedestrians dart out without looking, the drivers are very frustrated, there is usually a significant amount of sand on the road, and there is ZERO shoulder on the makai side.

        And add me to the list of someone who knows someone who was killed riding the N. Shore (as well as familiar with the recent story of the child killed, in a bike trailer, while being pulled along the Sunset Beach bike path, by a car/driver). Of course these things happen everywhere, but even though the bike path is separated, it’s still vulnerable. (I used to run on it semi-regularly).

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  • Silkyslim April 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Reminder to self: adjust my own business plan to include Hawaiian expansion.

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  • william higgins April 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    My best wishes for Pedal Hawaii. Commuting/pleasure rides on Oahu takes grit and .fortitude. After 13 years, my beautiful Hawaiian bride and I sought a better transportation life in Tucson. I would not call Hawaii’s bike community burgeoning but they are a dedicated group that had to fight tooth and nail for .anything. I agree that the traffic is second worst in the country but I find it hard to believe Honolulu is 12th in ride share. I was a die hard commuter (think H3 from Kaiser to Kaneohe, when The Bus stopped for the night) and just didn’t see it. I love Hawaii and I’m glad to see the fight go on.

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  • Brad Parker April 6, 2014 at 10:20 am

    If anyone can make this work, its Todd Roll. Good luck man

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  • Todd April 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks to each of you for your encouragement and feedback. Please look us up when you’re in Wacky-wacky!


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