Golf bikes in Boise
Mike Mesbergen of Boise is on the front end of what could be a new way to play golf.
Mesbergen is one of at least a handful of people across the country experimenting with a golf bike — a vehicle that would combine two popular outdoor activities.
“It’s someone coming up with the right bike,” said Darryl Glinski, the superintendent at BanBury Golf Club in Eagle who has tried Mesbergen’s version. “Obviously it hasn’t caught on yet, but I think it will someday.”
Mesbergen has built three golf bikes, which he has tested at BanBury and Warm Springs Golf Course in Boise. All are adult tricycles with custom-built attachments to carry a golf bag. The two latest bikes are Torker Tristar HD models, a heavy-duty version of Mesbergen’s original model.
After playing 18 holes at BanBury last week, Mesbergen considered adding fatter tires, tweaking the gearing and possibly adding a pedal-assist option. His ultimate goal: Create a bike that courses will want to add as a rental option.
“To me, it adds another little dimension of fun,” Mesbergen said.
The bikes could tap into two different niches, Glinski said — players who enjoy the fitness aspect of cycling and those with physical ailments that make walking painful. Mesbergen, because of his feet, and Glinski, with an ankle injury, find biking easier than walking.
“I get to 12 and my feet are killing me,” Mesbergen said. “But biking, my feet are fine. I could probably play 18 more and be fine.”
Mesbergen, 51, operates Mike’s Bikes & Things out of his home shop. He previously worked in maintenance roles for the city of Boise, including at Warm Springs.
He started thinking about a golf bike two years ago, when he borrowed a tricycle for his mom to ride on a visit. The bike ended up in the maintenance yard at Warm Springs for a few days and Mesbergen wondered if it could be used on the golf course.
And he’s not alone in pursuing the idea.
Glencoe Golf & Country Club in Calgary, Alberta, rented two-wheel bikes this season with a golf-friendly saddlebag attached. Pedego has a trailer attachment that is used to pull golf clubs around courses in Southern California. Mesbergen has run across golf bike prototypes in New Mexico and Florida, too.
“It’s starting to kind of pick up around the country a little bit,” Mesbergen said. “... I think it will work. People will get a kick out of it and have some fun with it.”
The bikes would be an ideal fit at courses like BanBury, Warm Springs and Lakeview in Meridian — places with mostly flat terrain and many golfers who could bike to the course from their homes. Retirement communities in Arizona are a natural fit, too.
The challenge is finding the right combination of equipment. Mesbergen has focused on tricycles because they eliminate the need for a kickstand or specialized saddlebag. You can strap your golf bag onto the tricycle and go. A thumb-operated parking brake assures the bike doesn’t roll away while you’re hitting a shot.
“It just sits there,” Mesbergen said. “You don’t have to worry about your balance. You’ve got a chair wherever you go as well.”
The tricycles present a bit of a tipping hazard on sidehills, which is one concern. The Torker Tristars also have just three gears, which can be a problem when pedaling uphill on wet grass, and narrow tires.
Mesbergen would like to add fatter tires — perhaps 3 inches wide — but would need custom wheels.
“In the long term, that’s the way to go,” he said. “It’s more finding the right combination of parts.”
Still, the current model works fine for anyone who’s comfortable riding a bike on some hills. And even on a dewy morning at BanBury, it didn’t seem to cause any problems for the turf.
Scott McGeachin, the director of golf for the city of Boise, says golf bikes are permitted at Warm Springs. The course straddles the Greenbelt.
“I want people to get out and recreate, whatever that is,” he said. “Whether it’s a bike or a cart, it just creates some accessibility.”
Already, McGeachin often sees two or three golfers a day in the summer arrive by bike. They don’t take them on the course, though.
“There’s been a lot of people throughout the last 15 years who have tried to mock up something,” McGeachin said. “I could see people who love bikes and love biking wanting to utilize something like this, but it’s probably a little smaller percentage than you’d think.”
I played 18 holes last week at BanBury Golf Club in Eagle with Mike Mesbergen. We both rode his golf bikes for the entire round. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to feel like a natural thing to do — it was only when we passed other golfers that I felt strange riding a bike. The grass, particularly since it was wet for our early-morning tee time, provided more resistance than I expected. Often, it felt like I was pedaling uphill — especially in the rough. But that was OK because the whole point of walking (or biking) on a golf course is to get some exercise. I got into a bind once on a significant sidehill to the right of the 18th fairway. It felt like the bike might tip, so I pushed it back to flat ground. Steering is different on a tricycle — the adjustment took about one hole. The bikes didn’t appear to leave any marks on the ground other than a trail in the dew. We treated them like power carts, keeping our distance from greens, but were told later we could treat them more like push carts. We played 18 holes in about 3 1/2 hours (we spent some time shooting photos and video on the first nine, which slowed us down). The biggest benefit for me: My feet, back and shoulders weren’t tired and sore. After driving home, I didn’t have the usual stiffness getting out of the car. I usually walk and carry my golf bag, so I got a double benefit from the bike.
If you’re interested in learning more about the bikes, contact Mesbergen at firstname.lastname@example.org.