(Photo courtesy of NiceRide on Facebook)

Last spring I won a free season pass for NiceRide MN through QBP (our distrubutor and big momma) on a Ride-to-Work day. This coming weekend they'll start closing down the kiosks and pack up the bikes for the winter. I figured I'd provide a short review of the service for y'all: it's freaking awesome. 

There are a boatload of kiosks, and more are on the way for 2012. Especially in Northeast, Downtown and Uptown Minneapolis, you're hard-pressed to walk more than a few blocks without seeing one. With the season pass ($60.00), you're provided with a bar-coded key. This allows you to walk up to an available bike, stick the key in the kiosk, take the bike and roll. The process takes less than 10 seconds. 
But Chris, you already own a bajillion* bikes? Why on Earth would you want to borrow one?
It goes without saying that the NiceRides aren't the most performance-oriencted bikes out there, so when I get pumped about it my cycling friends get confused. In fact, I didn't use the pass for the first two months because I didn't see a use for it. However, after a couple test runs I started using it on a regular basis. I considered the following:
  • There are stations nearly everywhere I want to go in town
  • Less commitment to the bike—I could go one way and ditch the bike. With my own ride, I'd be committed to riding it home, locking it up, etc.
  • Trips under 30 minutes are free. It never took me that long to get anywhere I wanted to go. 
  • "Normal" clothes—I was able to wear pants without rolling up the cuffs 
  • Integrated head and taillights—no worrying about if my blinky's batteries are dead or running back into the house to grab 'em. 
  • Friends—my bikes don't always fit my visitors from out of town. The NiceRides work for anybody.
  • The bikes are there in a pinch—twice I ended up using a NiceRide to get [closer to] home when the need called. Without my NiceRide key, I'd have been up a certain creek without the necessary implement to maneuver it, know what I mean?
  • Mobile App—find a station within walking distance with your smart phone
For these reasons, I plan to pony up for the season pass next April when the NiceRide stations return to action. If you've got any questions about how the service works, or how it worked for me, give me a shout. Their website also does a good job of explaining things: https://www.niceridemn.org 
*The truth hurts too much to share.