A vacation experience got Marna Bales interested in opening a business in the Richmond area.
Bales and her husband were in Austin, Texas, about six years ago whey they took a tour there on electric bicycles.
"I had a ball," she said. "I fell in love with the experience. I even bought [an electric bike] for my husband."
She wanted to operate a similar business in Richmond. After all, cycling was at a high point then in the region - the UCI Road World Championships bike races was held in Richmond in 2015 and the Virginia Capital Trail, a 52-mile paved trail from Richmond to Jamestown, opened four years ago.
In 2016, after a year or so learning the ropes, she created Kul Wheels to rent electric bicycles and conduct bike tours.
Now the business is expanding.
Kul Wheels (Kul is pronounced "cool" and means fun in Swedish) has leased a building at 1106 New Market Road in eastern Henrico County along the Virginia Capital Trail to sell and rent electric bikes and to be a hub for its bike tours.
The 1,200-square-foot shop, a former gas station that's located near the intersection of Osborne Turnpike, opens Oct. 5.
It will be open weekends through November but hours may be curtailed during the slower bike months of December, January and February, Bales said. She plans for a big grand opening in the spring.
Kul Wheels rents electric bikes - $25 for one hour; $40 for two hours, $55 for three hours and $70 for four hours. It also offer six tours that are bookable online on the weekends and it offers custom tours for parties of four or more day of the week.
Before, the company stored bikes and met customers in Rocketts Landing for the tours and rentals. But now Kul Wheels can do that at its retail shop.
And by having a shop, Bales can sell bikes. The business is a dealer for five electric bicycle brands, selling for between $1,200 to $5,000.
Having an electric bike helps with pedaling, she said.
"I was out on a traditional bike and it was not fun. It was too much for me," Bales said. "When I get on an electric bike, it was fun. I could keep up with people."
The electric bikes have power-on-demand with an electric motor that can be operated manually using a throttle located on the handgrip. These bikes enable a rider to pedal using just human-power, to use just the electric motor power or a combination of both.
In addition to Bales, Kul Wheels also is owned by her brothers, Bill Bales and Charles Bales (he's a silent partner); and Cheryl Assaid, her best friend since high school.