Back in February, I prognosticated that despite having the worst bikes to ride, Mobike was going to win Sydney’s bike share war. Three months later, it’s starting to become clear that they did indeed win… so far.
Four reasons Mobike won
The first reason is simple: they’re the only ones still trying. In the last few weeks, not only has a fresh flood of Mobikes hit the streets, but some of them are the next-generation Mobike Lite 2nd gen bikes that are much lighter than the old ones and have seat height adjustable up to 180 cm, making them so much more pleasant to ride. Still no gears, and they feel a lot flimsier since they have a normal, exposed chain transmission instead of the Heavy’s fully encased shaft, so it remains to be seen how they’ll stand up to the mean streets of Sydney, but all in all they’re now almost as good as Ofo bikes used to be. By comparison, what was the last time you saw a new Ofo or Obike?
On that note, while the few remaining Ofos and Obikes are looking pretty beaten up these days, the indestructibility of Mobikes has served them well and the average Mobike is still perfectly functional, although it’s worth checking the brakes before taking off. That said, some troglodytes have figured out that if they smash the lock button with something hard enough, like their skull, they can not only pop off the button, but bend the underlying pins so badly that people can’t unlock the bike anymore. Sigh.
Third, Mobike has much better pricing. Single rides start from $1.50/hr, which is already better than Ofo/Obike’s $2 minimum, but the killer app is their $7 per month Mobike pass, which gets you unlimited 2-hour rides. My typical ride is ~1.5km around Darling Harbour between the office and the bus stop, so if I do this twice a day for four weeks, I’m looking at $160 on Ofo… or $7 on Mobike. Not a hard choice, is it?
Last but not least, Mobike is the only one still restocking helmets: here’s a recent shot of 6 Mobikes in a row, where every single one has a helmet. (Although I’ll admit this was more like winning the lottery than a daily sight.) Given that the boys in blue are actually enforcing the law every now and then, meaning you risk a stonking $319 fine if caught without one, you’re a fool to bike without a helmet — and good luck finding one that’s not orange.
…but for how long?
All that said, I’m not sure how long this current happy state of affairs will last. Restrictions are getting tighter, with the entirety of Darling Harbour (including the bike racks!) being marked as a no-parking zone in the Mobike app despite being possibly the best place to bicycle in the inner city, and those helmets will keep disappearing unless either the law is changed or Mobike comes up with a way to enforce returning. (Side note to Mobikers who just plonk the helmet in the basket: stop doing that, srsly. Lock it up.)
But that’s the other nice thing about the $7/month plan: you don’t need to commit too far in advance, and you can always stop when it’s no longer working for you. In the meantime, I’ll keep Mobiking.