Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour de B-Cycle

The Tour de B-Cycle is a an on-going challenge by Denver Bike Sharing (tw/fb) to visit each b-cycle station in one business day.

The goal is to check one bike into and out of each station, keeping the travel time between stations under 30 minutes so that each ride is free. Returning to and checking in at the station where you initially checked out your first b-cycle concludes the tour.

On Friday, June 25, I did it.

In 100 degree heat. Yow.

But, verily, it was fun of win.

Above is a slightly shopped picture of the Tour website, getting your name on which is one of the prizes for finishing. Other prizes include-

  1. Braggin' rights

  2. Rad t-shirt (1)

  3. Cool b-cycle poster (1)

  4. Sore glutes and legs (2 each) 'cause those bikes all weigh a bah-zillion pounds.

I spent a lot of time planning my route on mapmyride before realizing that you have to pay to print your route, which I consider to be poppycock.

Fortunately, investing that mental energy beforehand made it such that I was then able to proceed with confidence armed with nothing but the basic map of locations from

The exact route I took, unfortunately, can no longer be taken. When I completed the tour, there were only 42 stations. A 43rd station has since opened at 7th & Grant.

And one thing I learned quickly is that the touch screens aren't like normal touch screens. It's like the screen covers actual buttons, and you have to manipulate the screen in such a way that actual buttons are pressed.

For example, sometimes there are three buttons in a row, and if you press the left hand button you get the menu from the middle button. So you back up and press the far left bit of the screen, not necessarily on the button itself, and get the left button menu.

It's a little eccentric.

Below is a reckoning of all 42 stations.

I started my day at about 6:30 AM by purchasing a $5 day membership at Park & Tremont (1) since it's the station closest to my house. I then jumped up to Five Points (2) and over to 28th & Larimer (3) area. (The 28th & Larmier station is right outside the B-cycle main offices.) The 25th & Larimer station (4) kiosk wasn't working, so after I checked my bike in, I called b-cycle and left a message to that effect, and walked back to 28th & Larimer to check out another bike and continue from there. (Sadly, this was the first of several instances of having to walk to another station from one that wasn't working.)

Car scrap art @ 24th & Larimer

Several stops passed with little incident: Broadway & Walnut (5), 22nd & Market (6), Coors Field (7), 19th & Market (8), 17th & Larimer (9), Market St Station (10) and Union Station (11), where I found a b-cycle membership card atop one of the bike stalls! (I would later return this card to the b-cycle offices.)

The board game benches at Market St Station

15th & Delangy (12) was a nice stop. I liked the view of the big stabby heart thing outside the art museum.

Some truck driver paused in his truck-drivin' to ask me about b-cycles. Seriously, about 1.5 points into a 3 point turn, he stopped and started gabbing at me through his truck-drivin' window.

The Little Raven station (13) is where I ran into my first little bit of trouble.

I returned my bike and when I tried to check out another, the station gave me a green light and a Go Ahead. It said it released a bike, but then it didn't. The dock clicked as though it had unlocked, but the bike remained locked steadfast.

So suddenly we had an annoying little discrepancy between life as it is actually lived, and life as it is represented in computers. I called b-cycle for help but they wouldn't open for another hour, so I got somebody from a call center, who encouraged me to buy another membership by swiping a second credit card, with the expectation of having one $5 membership refunded at some point. Fortunately, I had a second credit card with me, so that's what I did.

On past the National Velvet station (14) by Salvagetti, and the only station in the Highlands by Little Man Ice Cream station (15), and back to REI (16).

By that time, it was approaching 9:00 AM, which is when I had scheduled a doctor's appointment, so I rode from REI back to Park & Tremont, where I parked my b-cycle and picked up my own bike, which I had locked there, and went to the doctor.

Turns out I have pretty good cholesterol!

After that, I checked out another bike at Park & Tremont and rode to the Pepsi Center (17) where I checked in but was unable to check out because the screen was frozen, or locked, or broken. It was unable to advance past the initial welcome screen. But it did not say "Welcome" or anything. It merely displayed two rather fuzzy, somewhat pixelated boxes: one for English and the other for Spanish.

Unable to do anything else there, I called b-cycle to report the problem, and then walked to 14th & Larimer (18), from where I was able to zip along through 17th & Curtis (19), the US Bank building (20), the Convention Center (21, and 14th & Welton (22).

A fantastically detailed knitted u-lock "locked" to the station at the Convention Center

I didn't see the station at Denver Pavilions the first two times I rode past it because, I guess, it was under that land bridge and in the shade. After I finally checked my bike in there (23), I was unable to check another one out. (Got a "Sorry the system is down" type message.) So I hot-footed it on over to 15th & Tremont (24) which was also down.

I walked further on to the Webb Building (25) which was also down. (Three in a row!) I tried to call b-cycle but the call didn't go through, so I thought the entire office had lost power, been struck by lightning, or been raptured up somehow.

At this point, it was blazing hot and, facing the prospect of all the stations being down and b-cycle being unreachable for help, I almost called it quits and caught a bus home.

Starting to walk home/towards a bus stop, I saw the station at the news building (26), and I thought I'd try it for the hell of it. And lo and behold, I got a bike! I rode to 16th & 16th (27) and to the library (28) without incident.

"Lao Tzu" outside the library

Confidence restored, I rode to 11th & Broadway (29), which is an oddly placed station in the parking lot of an Arby's. A reeling, shirtless dude approached me as I was swapping bikes and offered to do 25 push-ups for me in exchange for 25 cents. I apologized for not having any change on me, and hurried along.

Past the Sunken Gardens, I traded bikes at Denver Health (30). A doctor paused in his doctorin' to ask me about b-cycles.

After that was one of the Long Rides of the day, during which I came close to approaching the 30 minute time limit. But at the end of it, I found myself at the Pearl & Louisiana light rail station (31), where I stopped for lunch, and to get out of the heat, and to rehydrate.

Entrance to the underground Light Rail station at Pearl & Louisiana

Then down to Pearl & Florida (31), and Buchtel and High (32, where somebody apparently flipped out and hulksmashed the kiosk in the face, shattering the screen and rendering it rather embarrassed. Couldn't check out there, so walked onto campus--calling b-cycle along the way to report the broken kiosk--to Nagel Hall (33) and rode from there to the Driscoll Center (34).

Those two DU stations were Denver's first.

It was about this time that I discovered the weird little thing on the handlebars by your left thumb is a bike bell! So I tootled around campus after that dinging and smiling at everybody.

Smashed screen

After a second Long Ride, during which I saw a group of b-cyclers among which might have been some of the six others to complete the tour that day, I arrived at the Cherry Creek mall (35), and hit the stops there (36, 37, 38) and stopped again to cool off for a spell at the Ross-Cherry Creek library.

There was a girl at the hot dog cart across the street who took off her shoes and waded into a fountain to cool off. It was hot, yall.

From there, to the Botanic Gardens (39) and 9th & Downing (40), 13th & Pearl (41), and finally to the last station at 19th & Pearl (42)!

Returning to Park and Tremont (1) completed the loop at about 3:30 PM. That's about nine hours altogether, including several long stops.

I then tried to check out another bike so I could ride to B-cycle HQ to turn in my found b-card, say hi to the crew, and fill up my water bottle. But instead I got another false check-out. Having run out of credit cards with which to buy memberships, I just grabbed my own bicycle and rode on over.

And that's pretty much all there is to say on the matter.

That was Friday, and my shwag was available after the weekend.

The ride was obviously not without its challenges, and the b-cycle system as a whole is obviously not without its own problems, but it's new. And it was a fun ride, and it's an awesome service to the city and people.

I'm happy to have it.

Ride on.

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