One of my complaints about the Kona MinUte has been that it is just a couple of inches too long to fit on a bus bike rack. In the city, and given the way we use the bike, this is a noticeable limitation—my usual strategy when we’ve forgotten a kid’s helmet or have too awkward a load or have a tire low on air is to load my bike onto a bus rack (or in the case of the Brompton, under my seat) and head home that way. This isn’t an option with the MinUte. Or rather, it hasn’t been.
But I had never seen another medium-tail bike so I assumed that this was just the way things were. That is, until I saw this beautiful medium-tail bike on the BikePortland twitter feed. I had no idea who made it; I had to read the logo on the bike: Ahearne. So I wrote to Ahearne Cycles to ask (a) did it fit on a bus bike rack? And (b) was this a model they were producing? Joseph Ahearne wrote back: the answers were yes and no. The bike was custom, a one-off. But it was customized to fit on a bus bike rack. To make it work, the front wheel rotated 180 degrees to shorten the wheel base just enough to fit on the bus rack. That way, the front fork pointed backward instead of forward, shaving 3-4 inches off the length.
I thought “Joseph Ahearne is brilliant!” but assumed this had no relevance to the MinUte. That is, until Mission Sunday Streets earlier this month. We were eating donuts on the back deck when another rider bumped into the bike, knocked it over, and spilled my daughter’s milk all over the sidewalk. She was traumatized and he was apologetic, and he kindly bought her a replacement. But I was transfixed, staring at the front wheel, which in the fall had rotated exactly 180 degrees. Could we put it on a bus bike rack just like that custom Ahearne?
It wasn’t until this weekend that we found a bus with a bike rack that would let us fiddle around and see. Last week we realized that the university parks its shuttles, complete with bike racks, in the lot behind my daughter’s preschool on weekends. Matt was game to ride the MinUte (although without any kids on board) up the brutal hill to preschool to try it out—the kids and I walked. When we got there, we flipped the front wheel 180 degrees and tried it out. Bingo! MinUte on a bus rack!
It is still a tight squeeze. The MinUte has big wheels (700c, or 29”, rather than 26”) and they are already a little larger than the front wheel space allotted on a bus rack—the bottom of the rack has a crosspiece that’s supposed to sit at the back of the front wheel, and the space is a little narrow for such large-diameter wheels. As a result, the front wheel doesn’t fully seat on the bottom of the bus rack. However after some efforts to dislodge the bike (meaning we yanked on it), we concluded that the spring-loaded support arm at the front holds the bike steady nonetheless. I would trust this setup on a cross-town ride.
We’d also been talking about putting a front basket on the front of the MinUte. To get it on a bus rack, this will have to be frame-mounted; a traditional basket mounted to the handlebars and/or the fork would prevent the front wheel from making the full 180 degree rotation needed to load it. So now we have to get a special frame mounted front basket on order to get the front carrying capacity we wanted. This is a price we’re willing to pay.
A mere bagatelle! This is a big deal for us. We can carry two older kids on the back deck of the Kona MinUte (they’re now 3 years and 6.5 years, and our oldest is extremely tall). With the newfound ability to put the bike on a bus rack, we have dramatically extended our range. We can now take them much further than we could ride on this bike by ourselves. (But I should note that we have not put the bike on a moving bus yet. We are taking this one on faith for the time being.)
There are still some things I’d change about this bike. We’re definitely upgrading the brakes, and the kickstand, although burly, is less stable than we’d like when we put two kids on the deck. A chain guard and dynamo lights would be welcome additions to a bike that Matt uses to commute. And as mentioned, we want a front rack. But these are all changes we can make over time—the only thing we felt was impossible to change was our inability to load it onto a bus. And now we can.