Anthony Harrison looked at the line of water bikes through his blue reflective sunglasses, contemplated for a moment and quickly made up his mind.
“I’m ready!” he announced.
Anthony and his wife, Ashley, who live in Houston, were celebrating their first anniversary in Tampa last week and happened upon Tampa Bay Water Bike Co., a new business that’s making it easy for people to get on the Hillsborough River.
“We wanted to be able to take something that’s really unique and fun and bring it to people that may not have had a chance to see them,” said owner Dan Fleischbein.
Water bikes are more like traditional bikes on pontoons instead of pedal boats. The pontoons keep the bike afloat, and riders sit up, off the water. The handlebars control a rudder at the front of the bike, and pedaling turns a propeller at the back.
“You can have a nice view of the city,” Fleischbein said. “Some people see dolphins out there. You see all sorts of birds and things like that.”
Almost anyone who can ride a bike can ride a water bike.
“We’ve had kids about 10 years old – usually if you’re tall enough that’s really the key — and we’ve had people about 80 years old ride them,” Fleischbein said. “So, it’s a very wide demographic.”
Fleishbein served in the U.S. Air Force, then earned a degree and began a job as a recruitment agent. But after working in an office building near the Tampa Riverwalk and staring at the Hillsborough River every day, he started looking for a way to get on the water and be his own boss.
“I read an article about water bikes. I said, ‘Hey, these could be a good thing for our community ... Let’s do it,’ ” he said.
Fleischbein and his wife, Amanda, now operate Tampa Bay Water Bike Co. from a boat slip outside the Sail Pavilion next to the Tampa Convention Center.
Although some discounts are available, a spin on a water bike will typically run you $30 per hour.
“An hour does give you quite a bit to see,” Fleischbein said. “And it gives you a little bit of a workout.”
Anthony and Ashley Harrison seemed to have little trouble getting the hang of maneuvering the water bikes.
They pedaled next to each other, smiled and waved goodbye as they trekked up the Hillsborough River together.