A new way to get on your bike

It’s great to see the spread of city bike schemes with racks now visible in London and Madrid since I moved to China, but now here’s an implementation from China that changes the game (in Shanghai and Beijing so far) – Mobike.

Instead of going to the special bike hire rack, and having to return the bike to one later, you look for and book the nearest available bike on your smartphone.  It’s simple and easy to use, and, unusually for a Chinese app, it is also available in English.

Having left my last bike behind on moving cities I was keen to try alternatives so here goes:

Step 1: find a free bike

Step 2: scan the QR code on the bike to unlock it

Step 3: park the bike and lock it to end the hire

I successfully rode 3 kilometres for 1 RMB (0.15USD).

Gotchas, caveats, questions and doubts:

  • although the app says this is all you need to do, before first use you have to pay a 300RMB deposit (about $50), then upload pictures of yourself and your passport and wait for them to be validated, so don’t expect to download the app and cycle off rightaway.
  • the bikes are made to 1 standard size.   Which is Chinese size.  According to 2012 data quoted on wikipedia average heights in China are 5’6″ for men and 5’1.5″ for women (167.1/155.8cm) [actually more in Shanghai, maybe 173.78/163.79 according to 2015 survey].
  • Will this work?   The rent is only 1RMB  per half hour, but the bikes are expensive and have GPS and communications equipment installed.  They’ll have to survive almost continuous use for over a year without breakdowns or thefts to pay for themselves.


Personal Conclusion

Great concept and fun to try this out, apart from the soreness induced by riding a bike that was several sizes too small.  So because of that I bought a more appropriately sized bike from the shop across the road for not much more than I had to deposit to use the Mobike …

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