Repairs to the Box Bike

This past weekend, I had to make a quick fix to the Joe Bike Box Bike we bought last year. We’re still very happy with our purchase of a box bike, and for the most part, we’re still happy we bought the Joe Bike version. I wrote a full review of the Joe Bike Box Bike here.

Regular readers will recall that we tore down our garage a couple months ago and are slowly building new one. This means that without a garage, the box bike has been stored outside, and the open elements have really taken a toll on the plywood box. Even when the box was brand new, it never really had much in terms of a protective polyurethane coating to keep it weather tight. After a couple months of being stored outside, the box is really showing some age. One problem we’ve had with the plywood box is that the two seat blocks that support the fold-down seat fell off. They were held on with construction adhesive, and that simply hasn’t held up very well.

Seat supports fell off.

To fix the problem, we stuck them back in place with some new construction adhesive, and tacked them into place with an air nail gun. We used three 18 gauge 3/4″ long brad nails in each seat support. So far so good, and the nails seem to be doing a great job holding the supports in place. Joe Bike should really consider adding this to the construction method in the factory, as it’s about a 200% improvement over adhesive alone.

Pop three 18 gauge 3/4″ brad nails into each seat support.

The only other issue we continue to have with the Joe Box Box Bike is with the very poorly designed seat tube clamp. Despite our best efforts, we simply can not find a way to get the clamp to hold the seat tube tight enough that it isn’t constantly slowly falling down as we ride, at least, short of clamping down on it so tightly that my wife and I can no longer adjust the seat to our preferences without tools. We already clamp it tight enough that my wife is barely able to adjust it herself.

Your Official Travel Guide for Biking the Luce Line State Trail

Welcome to Your Official Travel Guide for Biking the Luce Line State Trail. In this short inspirational post, I will tell you everything you need to know about biking the Luce Line State Trail so that you can pretend you’ve actually done it yourself. I’m doing the biking for you, so you can enjoy the wonders of the great State of Minnesota without leaving your comfortable living room. In this post, you will read all about the features of the trail, survival tips for beginners, and sights you should expect to see along the way. If you’d like, you can move your feet up and down in a pedaling motion while you read to help foster the illusion of physical activity.

The Luce Line State Trail is about 63 miles long, and only goes as far east as Plymouth. But Three Rivers Park District manages the rest of the same rail-to-trail corridor, where it is called the Luce Line Regional Trail, for an additional 9 miles. Same difference, except that the Three Rivers portion is paved, and the DNR portion is unpaved. Big Difference. By the time you start biking from your home in South Minneapolis, the trip will be about 82 miles each direction. Here is a map of your entire vicarious journey.

You will leave your home early on a Saturday morning with a singular goal in mind: to ride a bicycle to the wonderful metropolis of Cosmos. You plan to camp overnight at Thompson Lake near Cosmos, and make the return journey the following day.

The paved trails will be easy going at first, and when the trails transition to crushed limestone, you will laugh at the universe’s attempt to thwart your plan. Crushed limestone is an excellent bicycling surface. You will quickly reach the town of Watertown. Here is what you will see:

A couple of little trails in Watertown.
Downtown Watertown.

You will want to stop at the small grocery store and buy several apples, beef jerkey, and some sodas. Do not skimp on the sodas.

Buy Apples Here.

Next, you will continue on the luxurious crushed limestone trail to reach the slightly-less bustling berg called Winsted. Upon closer inspection, you will discover that it appears to be a fine town, and you will daydream about eating pizza on a bench next to Winsted Lake. Do not let your mind get carried away. You have a lot of cycling ahead of you and there is no pizza (there should be pizza).

Winsted Skyline.
Some park next to Winsted Lake.

As you continue on your journey, you will get momentarily lost as you try to find your way to the trail on the other side of town. You will quietly curse the City of Winsted for not providing a continuous trail through the city, or at least providing some cheap and simple wayfinding signs directing cyclists towards the trail. When you do find the trail, your spirits will sink a bit as you realize you have reached the end of the crushed limestone surface. The trail is now barely a gravel road. It is here that you will realize that the Luce Line State Trail is really more of a snowmobile trail than a biking trail, which is why you have never really heard cycling enthusiasts talk about what a great trail it is. The world will make more sense for a few short moments before reality sinks in that you will have to continue the rest of your journey on a gravel road. You will not be properly equipped. You will take photos of yourself and your travel companions at this time.

Trail is more or less a gravel road.
Jazz Hands.

This part of the journey will be slow-going, as cycling on gravel is hard, and it will be a very hot day. You will start to drag a bit, and you will begin to run low on water. As you approach the town of Spring Lake, you will plan to stop for a water break. To your complete surprise, you will find that the trail passes right by a municipal swimming pool. Rejoice! You will park your bikes outside, ask the 15-year-old sitting at the front desk for permission, and proceed to fill your water bottles in the sink. While they’re not looking, you will also stand in the shower which will feel heavenly when you get back on the bike and head towards Hutchinson.

Hutchinson will come soon enough, and you will be ready to stop for lunch. You will find a mexican restaurant, and you will eat burritos. Do not skimp on the burritos.

Eat Burritos.

After lunch, you will spend a few minutes checking out the City of Hutchinson, and you will be pleasantly surprised by its pleasant surprises.

Downtown Hutchinson.

You will buy several more apples, some crackers, and more sodas at The Fresh Place.

The Fresh Place

On your way out of town, you will pass by this neat little part of the river where all these rocks dam up the river to make a little lake thing. You will like it, as well as the lovely little park in town on the edge of the river. You will sort of wish you were just staying there for the night. But you have set a goal (!) to vicariously travel to Cosmos, and you are too determined to stop short of your goal.

Hutchinson City Park.

Your journey will continue on a rapidly deteriorating trail until you reach the small town of Cedar Mills.

Cedar Mills City Hall.

At this point, the trail will be completely impassable for bikes, and you will have to travel along the shoulder of Highway 7 to reach your final destination of Cosmos.

Huzzah! Victory is yours, vicarious traver! You have done it! You have reached the city of Cosmos without leaving the comfort of your home!

You will observe the following scenes within the City of Cosmos:

Cosmos City Park.
Cosmos Lions Water Fountain.
Welcome to Cosmos.

At this point, you will be very tired, and after taking a few minutes to catch your breath, you will proceed the final mile to Thompson Lake, your planned destination for the evening. You will have grand visions of a cool, clear oasis perfect for swimming and camping. As you enter the park, you will be optimistic. The grass is green, freshly mowed and well cared for. The gazebos and shelters will look inviting.

Unfortunately, you will quickly discover that Thompson Lake looks like a lousy place to go swimming. It’s shallow, murky, and full of greenery. Also bugs and mosquitos everywhere. Your spirits will sink, and the thought of spending the night here fighting the mosquitos will not be a pleasant.

You are momentarily distracted, however, by the tallest slide you’ve ever seen, a sure safety hazard that is one poorly-balanced child away from a lawsuit that bankrupts the entire County. You will ask yourself if parents really let their kids play on it. Seriously, though, look at this thing. It is simultaneously badass and terrifying.

Tallest Slide Ever.
Surface is hot.

At this point, you will have to make a difficult decision. You will be dead tired, but you also do not want to spend the night at Thompson Lake, or in the Cosmos City Park. You will decide to bike the additional 18 miles back to Hutchinson to stay at the adorable lakeside campground you saw earlier. The one with a beautifully inviting lake, flushing toilets, and heated showers. It will be worth the 18 miles, plus you’ll get to claim you biked 100+ miles in one day, something you will have never done before.

The return trip home the next day will be less eventful. Since most of the Luce Line State Trail isn’t paved, you’ll decide to detour slightly sough and ride the Dakota Rail Regional Trail instead. You’ll enjoy the smooth paved surface, and the new scenery, and you’ll enjoy a lovely dip in Lake Waconia on the way home.

Lake Waconia.
Dakota Rail Trail.

Huzzah! You’ve don’t it, vicarious traveler! You’ve conquered the Luce Line State Trail. Feel free to print this post, sign your initials to the bottom, and hang it on your refrigerator to remind you of your accomplishments! Good job, weary traveler. Time for a nap.


Lakeville Pan-O-Prog 4 Mile Race (or Accidental Biathlon)

Greetings, folks. Saturday got off to an interesting start at about 4:30 AM when the alarm went off. Why such an ungodly hour?

Well, I decided to participate in the Lakeville Pan-O-Prog 4 mile run on Saturday morning. It was a work thing. They want us all to be more active, so that we can be more productive and happy people and live healthier, happier lives, but more importantly, so that we can all get 10% off our health insurance premiums during 2013. To do that, we have to participate in one of any several approved “wellness” events, the Lakeville Pan-O-Prog 4-mile run being one of them.

Apparently, riding a bicycle to and from work 8 miles each way every day year-round didn’t make the list of approved “wellness” activities. But signing up for a 4-mile run did (actually, I probably could have easily petitioned the HR department to count the bike riding, but I don’t mind a little encouragement to get out and jog a bit more).

The race started at 7:45 AM, but I needed to register by 7:00, which would mean leaving the house at 6:30 or so to drive there. And I’m such a darling and loving husband and father that I couldn’t stand the thought of waking my dear wife and daughter so early in the morning. So SOLUTION: I’ll ride a bike. It’s only 28 miles so google maps says I need to leave at 4:30 AM.

OK. No problem.

But first off, WTF is “Pan-O-Prog”? Sounds like a skillet of whale lard or something. It’s short for “Panorama of Progress”, which is a mouthful. I understand their desire to abbreviate the name a bit, but I’m not sure “Pan-O-Prog” was the best option. How about just “POP”?

Anyway, mostly it was just an excuse to go for an early-morning solo bike ride, since I don’t get the chance to do that too often anymore.

Part of my route took me on a dirt path through the Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Refuge, which I wanted to capture on camera for you. I got a kick out of this photo, because it looks like something out of a horror movie.

Bad photography? Or fatigue-induced hallucination? I report. You decide.

This is the scene where a I realize that I’ve been pricked in the back of the neck by a poison tipped dart. The world starts swirling, vision blurs. The next thing I know I wake only to discover that I’ve been stripped naked strapped to a wooden stake in the ground while natives dance around the fire they will ultimately use to cook me. Or I find myself strapped to a metal hard-back chair in the middle of an empty warehouse somewhere in siberia while scar-faced russians prepare to beat me with rusty steel pipes.

Or maybe I’m just a lousy photographer and can’t be bothered to stop cycling while I take a photo.

Anyway, the race went fine. Legs were a bit tired, but I don’t think it slowed me down much. Results below:


Distance: 4 miles
Time: 29:03
Pace: 7:16

And since this is the first time I’ve ever run a 4-mile race, this is also a new personal record!


Big Rivers Regional Trail

I’ve ridden my bicycle on the Big Rivers Regional Trail a number of times, but recently I took a different turn and saw a part of the trail I’d never seen before. I thought I had seen the entire trail, but a short segment somehow escaped me.

Big Rivers Regional Trail

Big Rivers Regional Trail is on a former rail right-of-way for much of the alignment, so it’s mostly flat and pretty straight.


The coolest part was the trailhead that I never knew existed overlooking the unfortunately named “Gun Club Lake”.

Gun Club Lake, from Big Rivers Regional Trailhead

And because people love animals, here’s a picture of a deer along the trail.

Deer along the trail.

It’s cool when you discover a trail that you thought you’d ridden a zillion times (but apparently not) so close to home.

Collins Family Cyclefest 2012

Announcing the annual Collins Family Cyclefest 2012! This will be the third Cyclefest, much anticipated after a disappointing ball-dropping omission in 2011 from the ancient tradition began in 2009.

Collins Family Cyclefest 2012 is a friendly bike ride around the neighborhood where we stop and enjoy some refreshments along the way. The ride will be slow-paced, and families are encouraged. If you’re reading this, you’re invited. No need for us to have met before or have anything in common, other than that we’re all riding bikes.

We’ll meet at Cottontail on the Trail, a bronze bunny located at the intersection of Minnehaha Parkway and Portland Avenue.

The ride will begin at 10:30 AM sharp (sorry about naptime) on Saturday, June 30th, 2012. That’s two weeks from now, suckas.

Here’s the 9 mile route.

We’ll start at the bunny and head down Minnehaha Parkway to Minnehaha Falls, where we’ll enjoy some iScream at Sea Salt. From there, we’ll make our way to Fat Lorenzo’s, where we’ll enjoy some tasty gelato. Finally, we’ll continue to Pepito’s, where we’ll end the day with a great burrito.

Of course, you’re welcome to come along and eat or not eat any of the stops, and you’re welcome to peel off from the group at any time if you don’t want to make one of the stops.

Sound good? Cool! See you there!

Some Bike Questions

Huzzah! New questions in the mailbag! Actually, these are old questions that I never had a chance to answer because of the moving and homelessness and such. Apologies for being so tardy on answering.  I really do love getting questions, even if it takes me a while to answer.

First question was asked back in early October by my friend Curtis:

What are your thoughts on the new bike lanes as a cyclist and a driver?

Good question. It depends on which bike lanes we’re talking about. The City of Minneapolis has installed several miles worth of new bike lanes over the past year. The bike lanes on 1st Ave seem entirely unnecessary, but are nice as far as bike lanes go. I was thrilled to see bike lanes added to portions of Blaisdell and Chicago Avenues. I love the bike lanes over the Franklin Avenue bridge, and I have high hopes for the lanes being added to Riverside Avenue.

However, I’m not thrilled by the lanes on Franklin Avenue west of the bridge. They’re classic door zone bike lanes, and in an area with a very high parking turnover rate. Franklin wasn’t a great place to ride before the bike lanes, but I’m not convinced the lanes are much of an improvement.

But generally, I’m totally bananas for new bike lanes.

Next question was asked anonymously, also in early October:

How has your bicycle commute changed now that you live in the ‘burbs?

Well now isn’t this question a little outdated now that I’ve already moved back to Minneapolis? Actually, anything south of 38th Street totally feels like the ‘burbs to me, so since I’m way down on 49th Street, I pretty much live in Bloomington.

Since moving to the ‘burbs, my route is longer, and much more of it is on streets. I used to live 4 blocks from the Midtown Greenway. Now, I live half a block from Minnehaha Parkway, but the parkway just isn’t nearly as direct a route, so I ride north 20 blocks to get to the Greenway. So much more street riding out here in Bloomington.

Apologies again for taking FOREVER to answer these questions!

Any more questions?
Ask Me Anything!!!

First Weekend with a Box Bike

After a long wait, I am happy to announce that Mel and I are now the proud owners of a the 2011 Box Bike from Joe Bike. For those of you who don’t know, “box bike” is a generic term for a type of cargo bike that has a large box between the handlebars and the front wheel.

Joe Bike Box Bike
Joe Bike Box Bike

Mel and I decided to buy a box bike specifically to be able to carry our new daughter KP around with us while we bike in a way that we hope will make cycling as fun for KP as it is for us. We hope that the box bike will allow KP to enjoy the fun of feeling the wind in her hair (meaning, in the future when she has hair…).

Joe Bike Box Bike Panda
Joe Bike Box Bike Panda

For now, since KP is way too little to use the built-in seat in the box, we’ve found a way to attach a spare car seat into the box. We’ve placed a few layers of foam in the bottom of the box, and attached a nylon strap that we use to keep the car seat firmly attached in place. The box is just barely big enough to fit a standard car seat.

As I think any owner of a box bike will tell you, the best part of using a box bike to carry around kids is that the the kids are positioned right in front of you where you can easily keep an eye on what they’re up to. Here’s my view from the saddle:

KP in Box Bike
KP in Box Bike

Like riding in a car, KP tends to fall asleep instantly once the box bike starts moving.

Since I’m sure more than one person out there is wondering about it, yes, we have considered whether KP is too young for this kind of thing. Yes, we’re taking it easy, going very slowly at first, and taking great care to avoid major bumps in the road. No, we don’t really have any idea of how bumpy is too bumpy for a kid at any age, let alone an infant. But for now, we’re comfortable with our approach.

Box bikes have distinct drawbacks as well, which I’m sure I’ll talk more about later. Over the next couple weeks, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about box bikes in general, our experiences, and this particular model. Stay tuned for that, if you’re interested.

In the mean time, what do you think of box bikes in general? Would you ever buy one? Why or why not? Wanna come test ride mine?

[UPDATE: A full review of my experience with this bike is here.]

Bicycle Bells

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This one comes from Marla, who blogs at Muppets & Me. Here’s her question:

what do you recommend for newbie bikers?
do you have a bell?
what are some good things to get for a 100 mile bike trip?
🙂  you are the expert.

Thank you for recognizing my expertise. I recommend the following:

  • beef jerky
  • two packs of playing cards
  • bacon
  • soda-pop
  • a needleand thread
  • shovel (wood handle)
  • a good lubricant.

Do I have a bell? YES, on one of my bikes. Not on the others, which is unfortunate. I think nearly every bike should have a bell. I strongly encourage you to buy a bell.

However, now we have a little problem. There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to lay it out: I read on your blog in a post called Ding Ding! that you’ve been thinking about bike bells, which is fantastic. However, let’s just get this out on the table: Bicycle bells should not go “Ding Ding!”, “Ding!”, or “Ding a ling a ling!” as you stated in your post. A proper bike bell is more of a “Brrrrrring!” or maybe “Brrrrrring Bing!” In some cases, more of a “Csha Cshing!” sound is acceptable. But never “Ding Ding!”

The only exception to “Ding!” is if you’re talking about one of these brass bells:

Universal Bike Bell
Universal Bike Bell

Brass bells can often make a sound similar to a “Ding!”, but depending on size, it’s often more of a “Ping!”

Good luck bell shopping!

Any More Questions?
Ask Me Anything!!!

A Disappointing Nice Ride Experience

Nice Ride Midtown
Nice Ride Midtown

In my last post, I mentioned that I was able to spend a rainy Saturday hanging out in North MPLS.  Since it was raining at 8:00 AM when I had to show up in the morning, I had decided not to ride my bike.  So Mel dropped me off.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get home at the end of the day since Mel had other plans.

By about 3:00 when we had finished working for the day, however, the sun had come out and it was shaping up to be a nice afternoon. It occurred to me that I could use Nice Ride, the local bike sharing program to get home! Huzzah!

Luckily, I had previously downloaded the Nice Ride app for Android, which is a handy tool that shows you on a Google map exactly where you are, where the Nice Ride stations are, and the status of that station.

I was pretty deep into North MPLS, a little beyond the Nice Ride service area, so the nearest station was about 0.8 miles away. It was a pretty easy 15 minute walk, which gave me plenty of time to ruminate on the subject of bike sharing and transit.

As a side note:

In my case, I thought it was interesting that I greatly preferred to use the bike sharing system over taking transit, and I am decidedly pro-transit.  Despite the fact that I was walking along Lyndale Avenue in North MPLS, which I assume is a heavily traveled bus route. I know that parts of North MPLS have some of the best bus service in the metro area.  Still, there were too many unknowns for transit to be an attractive option: how long until the next bus arrives? Which route do I want? Where will that bus take me? How many transfers will I have to make? How long will the trip take?  None of that info is readily available to potential transit users in Minneapolis that haven’t planned ahead. I know there are 800 numbers you can call, and probably an Android App to download that would tell me that, but that was still enough of a hurdle that it wasn’t an attractive option.  Nice Ride, on the other hand, put me in complete control of my route and my timing.  For me, Nice Ride was the obvious choice. Or maybe I just like bikes. I dunno.

Unfortunately, Nice Ride was not as convenient as I had hoped it would be. When I arrived at the Nice Ride station at 26th Avenue N and Lyndale Avenue, I found the station to be entirely out of commission. It was powered on, with the touchscreen encouraging me to “touch here to start.” But no amount of touching yielded any results. I was just out-of-luck.

I called customer service, but after waiting on hold for several minutes, I decided I should just start walking to the next station on Broadway Avenue, about 0.6 miles away. I managed to complete most of the 0.6 mile walk while I was still on hold. Eventually, a service representative answered and thanked me for reporting the problem, but did not provide the apology I felt I deserved at the time for the inconvenience.

Luckily, the Broadway Avenue Station was fully functional, and my ride from North MPLS to my home in Powderhorn was relatively uneventful.

The point of this rambling post is as follows: I really want Nice Ride to be successful, but this type of technical malfunction is unacceptable. I’ve only tried using Nice Ride twice now, but both of my experiences with the system have involved calls to customer service because some aspect of the system wasn’t working correctly. All I can say is that I hope the regular users of the system are having much better luck with the system than I have had.

Have you experienced similar technical problems with Nice Ride, or am I just lucky?