by Adam Ghassemi
HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – Prince Harry recently took a spin on a 4-wheel bike in London that was made by a company from right here in Middle Tennessee.
Rhoades Car has actually been around since the early 1990s, but when its inventor, David Rhoades, passed away in 2009 the couple next door bought it.
"We just really make it possible for people of all abilities to ride a bike," said Vice President Phyllis Shelton, who owns the company with her husband, Bill Pomakoy.
They've seen the company grow, but have never had as much attention as when Prince Harry got on one last week to celebrate the reopening of London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
"I think I cried when I first heard about it because I thought, you know, finally someone's going to see how much fun these are and what it can mean to a family," Shelton said. "You can't buy that branding. You know, we didn't pay a dime for that."
Shelton said a Rhoades Car is true green transportation that lets riders power by pedal or a solar panel-powered motor.
A purple one will going out this week to a Virginia girl with cerebral palsy, complete with specialized pedals and a harness.
"This is going to give this child a sense of normalcy. That she is riding a bike with her mom, side-by-side, not behind her mother and I think that's a big thing. It will make her feel normal," Shelton said.
The bike parts are made almost exclusively by Tennessee suppliers.
Master Builder Chris Spann built the one Prince Harry drove.
"I thought it was Photo Shopped at first," he joked while finishing one bound for a blind Indiana man and his epileptic wife.
"They can't ride a regular two-wheel bike so this gets them out, gets the mobile. So it makes you feel real good," Spann said.
Most customers have been people with special needs or people who want to be more active with their families.
Shelton hopes future deals mean companies replace golf carts or similar vehicles with a Rhoades Car. She also says they can help companies get high risk employees to participate in wellness programs.
The bikes come in one to four seats with the price ranging between $1,300 and $9,000 depending on features.
Students at Vanderbilt University and Tennessee Tech University are also working with the company to develop new versions of Rhoades Car to become even more customizable.