My derrailur broke...again, and I was tempted to try something new: enter mobike
Mobike is a chinese bike sharing service that launched in Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City a few months ago. The services costs 2 dollars per month; a lot more expensive than Mexico’s own EcoBici, that costs less than 1.5 dollars per month to subscribed users.
Setting up an account is as easy as inputing your credit card, your phone number, and your email. No need for further ID, which makes it better than EcoBici.
However, Mobike is restricted to some neighborhoods of Miguel Hidalgo, and Roma Norte/Condesa in the adjacent borough of Cuauhtémoc. Despite the restrictions, mobikes have been stolen and taken to the black market at Tepito for disassembly. The electronics inside, mechanical parts, and other accessories are exclusively of Mobike bikes (and patented), which is supposed to serve as a deterrant to thieves. But they manage to sell the bikein parts anyway. Another issue is that mobikes are often locked inside offices or malls by users to preserve their spot, this has encouraged for the biggest mall of the area to be deemed a restricted area.
Mobike’s app is very intuitive and encourages users to park bikes in so called “hubs” that are placed around the service area. In order to unlock a bike you aim your camera at the QR code on the seat post or the front fork. The bike quickly unlocks via an audible warning and the removal of the tire lock at back.
As for the bikes themselves, these bikes have smallish tires with hub brakes, they weigh much more than my mountainbike and the gearing is rather uncomfortable for riding at speeds higher than 15-20km/h. This would unencourage riders into using the roads, and instead drive them to the side walk.
All of the components are inside the frame, the brakes are really bad, but in exchange for being bad, the bike is impossible to drift, I guess a safety feature. I don’t think this bike has a chain drive either.
The seat is easily adjustable, the seat itself is comfortable, and it has safety features like lights and a bell.
As for availability in general, Mobike’s website isn’t as user friendly as their app, it also doesn’t display a map of where it’s available. According to Wikipedia however, Mobike is available in cities across Asia and Europe, but for North America it seems to have been restricted to three US cities and the Mexican Capital.
Given the cost, restrictions, and quality, mobike is clearly a niche product, any usability as a bike share program is stripped by the restriction. However, due to the limited availability of EcoBicis, they seem to have succeeded thus far as an alternative during rush hour or to bike within the restricted area.