116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
New experience offers sweeping valley views from pedal-assist ‘bikes’
BOONE — Fields of farmland and a view from the 156-foot-tall Bass Point Creek High Trestle Bridge are some of the sights guests can expect to see on the Scenic Valley Trail Ride from Rail Explorers.
The 12.5-mile journey is the newest location of Railway Explorers, which offers the opportunity to ride a pedal-powered railbike on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad tracks through the Des Moines River valley.
The Boone location, which opened Thursday, is the first Rail Explorers experience in the Midwest. The company has other locations in New York, Nevada and Rhode Island.
Rail Explorers’ railbikes are hands-free and operate on the REX Propulsion System, which has a custom-built electric motor designed to make riding safe, accessible and fun for all ages.
Mary Joy Lu, CEO of Rail Explorers, said the inspiration for the company came from a Korean soap opera she saw in 2012.
Ten days after she saw a “strange contraption” being pedaled along railroad tracks in the show, she was on a plane to South Korea to meet with the vehicle manufacturer. Lu and her husband, Alex Catchpoole, opened the first Rail Explorers location in the U.S. in July 2015.
Catchpoole said the idea to bring Rail Explorers to Boone was first suggested in 2016, but it wasn’t possible at the time because the railbike wasn’t equipped to climb the 2 percent grade back to the station.
“We couldn't offer this ride without it being accessible to everybody,” Catchpoole said. “That's one of our founding principles is that we don't want the ride just to be for elite fitness enthusiasts. We want it to be for all ages and all abilities.“
As the railbikes’ technology advanced, Lu and Catchpoole were able to bring Rail Explorers to Iowa.
Lu wasn’t sure how the community would respond to the railbikes. They weren’t prepared for the “joyous reception.”
“We've had an overwhelming response,” Lu said. “The next four weekends worked out, and we were blown away, so I think we've resonated with the community much stronger than we thought.”
What: Rail Explorers Scenic Valley Trail
Where: 123 10th St, Boone, Iowa
Cost: $90 for a two-person bike; $160 for a four-person bike
Lu said the Boone location is ideal because of its reputation as a “railroad town.” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who spoke at the opening, credited the railroad with transforming the region in the 19th century.
“The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad dates back to 1883, and even now as it winds through the beautiful Des Moines River valley, it remains a beloved landmark in central Iowa,” Reynolds said.
Catchpoole said that while the Bass Point Creek High Trestle Bridge — the “showstopper of the ride” — might seem scary, he expects the experience will changes people’s minds.
“Riding across that rail bank is unlike anything else,” Catchpoole said. “You think it's gonna be terrifying, but then you get out there and the railbike is so solid, the bridge is so solid, then you think … I want to do it again.”