It's just 12.4 miles and a slight downhill to bike from the North Side of Minneapolis to the West Side of St. Paul.

Leave it to Ed Kohler to figure out a way to make it more difficult.

The fan of Nice Ride rental bikes organized a group ride Saturday to stop at every one of the nonprofit organization's bike rental kiosks along the way. Doing so lengthened the ride to a hair over 81 miles.

Two companions accompanied the 38-year-old Kohler to all 145 kiosks operated by Nice Ride, now in its third season, in just under 12 hours. Others bit off shorter legs of the bike rental marathon. All pedaled the chartreuse rental bikes, which heft at close to 50 pounds.

Kohler, a resident of the Longfellow neighborhood, is an information technology worker who blogs on that topic and politics. He describes himself as a casual cyclist who uses Nice Ride maybe once a week, often to penetrate downtown to avoid paying to park.

But every so often, he said, "I like to do some kind of epic feat."

Two years ago, when there were only 85 Nice Ride stations, all concentrated in Minneapolis, he did his first touch-em-all ride. Alone.

This year, he put out feelers for what he billed as the Nice Ride 145 Challenge on his blog site ( and on Facebook. Ten people started from the corner of Penn and Lowry avenues in the North Side at 8:05 a.m. More joined along the way. Some dropped out as the heat peaked at 91 degrees and took its toll on riders used to sleeker bikes with more than three speeds.

Riders typically had to pedal only two to six minutes between Nice Ride rental kiosks. Some used the keys that go with a $65 annual subscription, allowing riders to dock and undock a bike at a kiosk in a matter of a few seconds; others used credit cards. Because the first 30 minutes of a rental are free, hitting kiosks so frequently meant the group could rent all day for no charge. The longest stretch of time was an uphill nine miles from Kohler's home kiosk on East Lake Street (stop 101) to one on Grand Avenue near Cleveland in St. Paul (stop 102).

"For me, it was like an opportunity to see a lot of Minneapolis and St. Paul at a level I've never seen before," said Mike McKinney of St. Paul, who logs several thousand biking miles annually.

Kohler plotted the route with mapping software used by delivery drivers, winding up with a map resembling an etch-a-sketch of the kiosk locations. He was able to shave 16 miles from the route with bike-friendly shortcuts, such as the Stone Arch Bridge.

Mitch Vars, who runs IT operations for Nice Ride, said he's glad that riders didn't incur charges for their rentals. "I don't want to be making money off people," he said. "I want to get people on bikes."

Nice Ride has been successful by that measure, with riders logging 110,308 trips in the year's first half, an 81 percent increase from the same point last year. Further expansion, however, depends on funding, Vars said.

That's all right with Kohler, who said he expects to organize a follow-up ride next year. "Two hundred [stops] would be pretty tough," he conceded.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438