Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nice Ride Tour

The Nice Ride stations that usually dot my commute in familiar yellow-green along the route from Minneapolis to St. Paul have been conspicuously missing the past few weeks. (And with the white backdrop of snow, the landscape is all the more drab.) The program shuts down the first week of November each year and stations get packed up over the course of the month and won’t be back up again until the first week of April (weather permitting). For the past couple of years I have wanted to try the bikes out to see how they handle. Increasingly so after a trip to Madison, WI which has a similar program (red bikes), and after watching the US Olympic BMX team take to the streets of London on the “Boris” bikes that received so much attention during the recent summer games. It was fun to see them riding wheelies on these tank-like comfort bikes. (See video piece with Lester Holt from NBC News.)

So when my office sponsored a series of Nice Ride tours this past Fall to help educate about the program as part of promoting a healthy lifestyle, I was all-in. I was able to participate in two of the rides through downtown St. Paul in September and October. The best was seeing heads turn at a 'peloton' of Nice Ride bikes passing by (there was really only 12 of us, but big yellow-green bikes make a double impact).



About the Bikes

The bikes are really well-geared and surprisingly easy to ride, given the weight. I also like that the bike has good lights built-in. Not sure what to do with the awkward bungee cord “basket” on the front, but I suppose it could come in handy if you didn’t have a backpack and needed to carry something. Seats are instantly adjustable and pretty plush (which I am not used to); I found myself wanting to stand on the pedals a lot while riding.

I think that may have been because the size ratio from me to the bike was such that it reminded me of my BMX bike as a kid (I started out small for my bike). I also wanted to test the suspension and handling, so I was riding into every crack and pot-hole and hopping curbs just for fun (probably annoyed the tour guide). Go ahead and try to pop a wheelie too - you will be even more impressed at the Olympian ability that it takes to do on this bike.

About the Program

Matthew from my office giving the low-down.
The mini-tour our office sponsored started with Nice Ride staff talking us through how the program works, what it costs and they showed us how to “check-out” the bikes (super easy). The nice thing is that if you have a mechanical problem on the road, you can just walk it to the nearest station (they are pretty close together in some parts of downtown), push a button on the bike rack indicating that it needs maintenance, and swap it for a new ride.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, the $65 “annual” subscription (as mentioned, they only have the bikes on the road from about May to November) seems pretty reasonable if you plan on using it. $6 per day is a little steep in my mind, but is probably great price for tourists (as I recall, Madison charged a lot more per day when we visited, which was a deterrent). If you don’t own a bike and only go for short, slow rides or don’t want to worry about bike maintenance, this program is for you. Or even if you bike a lot and just want a backup plan for when you are downtown and like supporting local non-profits, this is a great program.

Amber, Me, and Angie on tour #2. I seem to be the only one not concerned about safety colors.

Pick up a comp Nice Ride pass during one of their many promotional events.

When you finish paying, you can print a ticket with your one-time use code that is good for 5 minutes.
You will need to get a new code after you dock your bike for the next trip.
Select a bike.
Punch in the code to unlock your bike.

Remember your helmet.
(Nice Ride has been giving these snazzy matching
green ones out at promotional events.)

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