App review: Mobike (4 stars)
Pros: Genuinely flexible in drop off and allowing you to go straight to your destination
Cons: Bikes can be hard to find
I have a just-long-enough to be annoying walk to London Bridge to get home at night, so I've wanted to find a way to speed it up for a long time.
Boris Bikes just never appealed. London Bridge is one of the city’s busiest stations, and the idea of arriving to find no room at the racks was extremely off-putting.
Mobike sells itself as an easier, and indeed breezier, way to rent and ride bikes around the city. The difference with this Beijing company’s idea is that you do not need to go to a station to pick up or drop off your wheels. You park your bike wherever you like. As long as it’s within the city limits, it isn’t on private property – like a garden – and doesn’t block a pavement, you’re fine.
You use the app to find a bike and then scan the QR code on the handle bars. This pops the lock open on the back wheel. It costs 50 pence per half hour, and when you arrive, you simply re-lock the back wheel (the lock is integrated into the mudguard) and wander off. It takes a few rentals for that “seriously? I just, leave it?” vibe to go, but it does.
Overall, I liked it. There are some small niggles. Firstly, you have to hope one is nearby. The app shows you on a map where the bikes are, but the roll-out in London is fairly new. I usually needed to walk for a few minutes before I found one. The bikes only have one gear, and to make sure they can be ridden by everyone, this means they are noticeably, but slightly adorably, slow.
As you’d expect, they’re super heavy. The bikes are designed to run without maintenance for up to four years in the hands of us, the great unwashed, so you can bet they’re sturdy. This is fine as long as you don’t need to lift them anywhere. I actually did, which sucks for me.
Would I recommend it though? Yes, pretty happily. Boris Bikes are probably cheaper, but it’s still cheap. Plus, there is something incredibly liberating about going exactly where you need to go and then leaving the bike (sensibly) where you want.
Oh, and obviously: wear a dang helmet.