Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Nice Ride and the electric bikes

Dear Nice Ride,

As the bicycle ride share platform for my beloved Twin Cities I have been occasionally in contact with you over the years and have had many emotional responses to your journey as a young twin cities institution.

When you first introduced docking bike stations where a tiny fob can unlock a bike for an hour, my wife and I quickly became subscribers. I had only good things to say about you, your vision, your clever relationship to the twin cities, your reasonable annual prices, your good faith commitment to spread across the twin cities, and your non profit status. When I saw you at a street fair I had only fawning enthusiasm to express to you, and a small request for more stations along the river...

to which you were strangely defensive.

But it was okay. Maybe just your marketing wing was a little weird.

I wrote it off as nothing. We continued to subscribe. My wife and I rode your bikes. Most of them worked. We were fans.

But then very few new stations came as we waited hopefully.

Then you changed your annual fee structure to your advantage, not mine.

Then you sold out to some large, private, national company in what was surely a high level graft situation profiting the mayor and the city council and most of all, the upper management of nice ride.

Then you started making lots of promises that looked fishy.

Then you brought in a bunch of pointless, irritating "dockless" bikes that required phone activation to use and were immune to our magnificent key fobs.

Then you completely moved out of the city of St. Paul, vastly reducing your range and somehow managing to cast both yourself and St. Paul, in a dark light.

Before our eyes you had rusted and congealed.

And I was horrified.

I cursed your name.

I sowed salt on the fields of my former praise. I despaired. I gave in to hopelessness.

Must capitalism ruin everything? Does everything once good always grow worse and worse and worse?

I was sad.

Oh, we still rode your bikes. I think they cost a bit more. And they could go fewer places. But I was a bit heartbroken.

Until one day an email came. A hopeful email came.

Electric bikes are coming.


I was so excited. I could hardly breathe I was so excited.  I forgot all my suspicions and sour feeling towards you. My disappointments fled like leaves from the autumn trees, raining to the ground to be crunched joyfully under my feet!

I was really looking forward to it. You were aces in my book!

Then the electric bikes were delayed.

Then the electric bikes were recalled.

And I waited.

And waited and waited and waited and waited.

And then one day, when I was almost despairing yet again, they came!

I was so happy.

I tracked them on the map you provide.

But these electric bikes never came near me. Until, finally, one day, at a station towards the end of my ride, I found one!

It was broken.

But then another day, at the end of my ride, I found one and it wasn't broken. I rode it for a minute. It was fun.

So I hung in there.

Then a little while later I found one at the start of my ride! It was so exciting! I ran to it.

It was broken.

Then much later I found one that wasn't broken. I had to sprint to it and fight off a vacationing couple for it, then explain why the one they had wasn't working. 

But mine was. So I rode it!

I was on an electric bike!

It is a terrible bike. It looked like it had been beaten with a sledge hammer. It surged violently. The electric power cut in and out with a jolt and fluctuated madly. The whole experience was jarring, rough, and rodeo-like, to say the least.

Yet still, I loved it. I had lots of fun. I was assisted! I was powered! I was faster than normal!

I have yet to find another electric bike of yours that is both available and that isn't broken, but don't think my heart doesn't race with anticipation every time I go to get a bike with my little magic fob.

So I'm just saying,

Keep up the good work,

Your customer,

Feldenstein Calypso


  1. I've looked with interest and perhaps some envy at the bikes you write of. I never tried one, and I don't believe I ever will. My last outing on my own bike ended in a bad fall. And I no longer trust my balance on a bike. I might be just fine, but then...I might not.

    I look forward to reading your opinion of scooters, scooter riders, and scooter abandoners.

    1. Well, perhaps then one day you shall have that opinion! Early indications suggest that it will be something like: Why have large companies been allowed to abandon garbage on our sidewalks?

      I do understand the appeal of these bikes, but since you never use them let me emphasize that, while I like these bikes and find them very useful, they are heavy, often terrible bikes- beater bikes, and if you have a memory of riding a really nice bike these are quite different.

      Nevertheless the grab and go part is pretty fabulous even as most of the promise of them has been betrayed.


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