If you have $5000 and are looking for a way to break your scapula, Giant Bikes would like to help

One of my local bike shops has been pushing (well, metaphorically, I mean), the Giant Full-E+ 1, which looks like this:

It’s an XT-level mountain bike with dual suspension and disc breaks, and I have no trouble with that. 2.6″ tires, which are pretty much the norm nowadays, and a Yamaha motor that puts out 500 watts. Surely, nothing can go wrong there.

Yes, I know, there are times when having extra power can get you out of a jam, and to get the fun of riding downhill you typically first have to ride uphill, which can be a drag. But among the complaints I hear from people on mountain bikes, “doesn’t go fast enough” has never been mentioned, not even once. And given the propensity of mountain bike riders to endo even under their own power, I’d hate to be the insurance company that stands behind Giant or its dealers.

A Tale of Two Cities

Wheeled Thing’s work group has access to a car.  Unfortunately the office is located in the Financial District (Think Wall Street) and the parking spot for the car is in Manhattan Valley (Think Columbia University).  The distance is a little less than 10 miles.

Last week Wheeled Thing volunteered to drive this car uptown, with the full knowledge that he could use Ciitbike to return to the office.  It was a beautiful Autumn day… what could go wrong?

Manhattan Map

10 Miles… No Problem!

It is amazing the difference the choice of a transport mode makes.

The way northbound was stressful, difficult and annoying.  There was a crash along Route 9A, so the west side was a sea of red.  Cars jockeyed for position in the stop and go crush.  Wheeled Thing shifted to 10th Avenue to avoid some traffic, which may have shaved a few minutes off the drive, but also shaved a few minutes off his life.  At one point a dump truck claimed his lane… basically the truck was getting in front, and If he did not call “chicken” there would be some dented metal.   It made you really hate New York City.

The good news is he made it!

Then he hopped on a bicycle for the southbound trip, and everything was different.  Stress free pedaling.  No traffic and light salt breeze in his face, heart pumping for joy, instead of stress.

It took about the 45 min in each direction – but the first half Wheeled Thing hated the road, while the 2nd he loved it.  It really is a tale of two cities.

Nordic Biking – Gothenburg

Wheeled Thing has already covered the the four capitals of the Nordic Region (sorry Reykjavik) and have a bonus:
Part five  – Gothenburg. Sweden.  Due to my short stay, this is a mini-review.

The bike share system is Styr & Ställ which according to Google translates to Control & Set.

On the good side

  • The system is unbelievably inexpensive. A 3-Day Pass costs 25 SEK ($3 USD)!  This comes with 30 minutes per trip.  (A season pass is only 75 SEK ($9 USD))
  • There were enough docks… especially for $3
  • The bikes worked and did not have motors
Styr & Stall

Old & Tired

On the bad side

  • If you go over the 30 minutes, you are charged 10 SEK ($1.25 USD) – Not much but it “feels” excessive next to a $3 pass
  • It was painfully long to punch in all the codes and screens to sign up for an account at the kiosk – which did not have a touch screen.
  • The bikes were meh.
Styr & Stall Kiosk

Party Like it’s 1999

If this were a Nordic Capital the quality would be just above Sweden.  So… I guess you can say when it comes to bike share, Sweden has some catching up to do.

Nordic Biking – Copenhagen

Part four of the Wheeled Thing review of Nordic bike share systems is Bycyklen and if you have read the other three parts, you will not be surprised to learn that it translates to City Bikes.  No, you will not be confused by the name of the system as you travel from country to country.

Unfortunately, Bycklen kinda sucks, and I did not give it a try.  Let’s do the bad side first this time!

On the bad side

The pricing did not make any sense.  The website has two options for tourists:

1: Pay as You Go – The price for Pay as You Go is DKK 30 ($4.75 USD) per commenced hour.  Each account can have 2 simultaneous users on each user account. They both pay DKK 30 per commenced hour.

2: Packages:  Pre-paid package of 600 minutes DKK 300 ($50 USD) that allows 5 simultaneous users on each user account. All users that are logged into your account will be using your pre-paid minutes.

As I could not figure out what a “Commenced Hour” was, I  reached out to Byyken.  They wrote:

“The ‘pay as you go’ means that you are charged 30 DKK every initiated hour. That means that if you take two bikes at the same time and ride on them for 20 minutes then you will be charged 2×30 DKK = 60 DKK. It is possible to rent maximum two bikes at the same time on one pay as you go-account, hence the charge.
It is not possible to accumulate minutes, which means that it will calculate after each bike on each trip.”

This means that two bikes taken out for 20 minutes costs $10!  And I though Stockholm was expensive.  Buying a package was an option, but also confusing.

The other problem is the bikes were motorized  and has a tablet mounted, they look like this:

Copenhagen White Bike

Copenhagen Motorized Tablets

No thank You… instead we did a traditional bike rental at Copenhagen Bicycles

Copenhagen Bicycles

Motor Free Cycling!

48 hour rental for DKK 180 ($28 USD) – it was kinda nice not to have a time limit or look for a dock.  The bike worked!

The next reason Byyken is lousy is people ride the bikes too fast… why???? because it has a motor.  Bike share should be slow, as many people are novices riding in the city, and slow is good, especially on vacation.

Copenhagen City Bikes is the worst bike share of the Nordic Capitals.

Nordic Biking – Stockholm

Part three of the Wheeled Thing review of Nordic bike share systems is Stockholm, also called City Bikes.  What came first, the innovative naming convention of the Helsinki or Stockholm bike share???  Really, who cares – I’m just happy they both cities offer bike share.

Unfortunately, Stockholm City Bikes is not that good, but to I’ve heard they put a an RFP for an updated system, so by the time you read this, there may be a better system in place.

On the good side:

  1. Each time you take out a bike you get three (3) hours.  Yes, you never really have to worry about an overage charge.
  2. They have an app for both iOS and Android which assists in finding the location of docks and how many bikes are available.
  3. There were plenty of bikes available
  4. The hotel I was staying at was selling the 3-Day Card.  Just tap the card at the kiosk “Card Reader” to take out a bike.

    Stockholm City Bike Kisok

    Tap Then Pedal

On the bad side

  1. It was hard to locate a dock – as both sides had huge advertisements.  When a truck parked in front of the dock, we missed it completely, even when using the app.

    Stockholm Bike Share Dock

    Docks Duck Between Signs

  2. The price was on the high side at $20.50 (SEK 165) per three day pass, but there are no overage charges.  It is a three strikes and you’re out policy.
  3. The docks were a bit difficult to work with – as you need to pick them up and line them up in the holes.

    Stockholm City Bikes

    Pick and Insert

  4. The bikes were in poor condition and did not work very well.  It was clear that this system was all about the advertising, and the bikes were an afterthought.
  5. There never seemed to be docks where we wanted them.  The geographic distribution was wide, but the docks were spaced too far apart.

Stockholm City Bikes is the 3rd best bike share of the Nordic Capitals.

Nordic Biking – Helsinki

Part two of the Wheeled Thing review of Nordic bike share systems is Helsinki, where they have named their system City Bikes.  I hope they did not shell out too much to the marketing firm for that one.

On the good side:

  1. It only costs $12 (10 €) for a week of riding, but if you go over that, it’s only $1.20 (1 €) for the next hour.
  2. You can sign up online, just click here. Once you register you get a UserID # and select a password.
  3. You can use a USA Phone number to sign up!
  4. To take out a bicycle, you don’t need to visit a kiosk – just select a bike and enter your ID/password combo on the handlebar computer to take out a bike.

    Helsinki City Bikes Handelbars

    The computer between the handlebars

  5. The bike has a lock cable which allows you to walk away from the bike.  The clock is still ticking on your rental, but its good to have the option.
  6. You never have to worry about finding reaching a dock that is full.  The same cable can be used to secure the bike within 20 meters of the dock to end your rental
City Bike Dock - Helsinki

When is a bike dock like horseshoes? When its in Helsinki.

On the bad side:

  1. It was sometimes challenging to find a bike – as the full docks were really, really full – and there were lots of empty docks.

    Lots of Bikes at the Dock in Helsinki

    Helsinki Bike Dock – Always room for one more!

  2. No app!  This makes it difficult to find docks.  You need to compare the station map to GoogleMaps and life.  It is hard enough to pronounce the names of these stations (MESSENIUKSENKATU, MEILAHDEN SAIRAALA or JÄTKÄSAARENLAITURI) let alone type them into your smart phone.

Helsinki City Bikes is the 2nd best bike share of the Nordic Capitals.

Nordic Biking – Oslo

Wheeled Thing just returned from a trip to five Nordic cities (Oslo, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm).

All five cities have a bike share system – here is the first of a series of reviews

Oslo Bysykkel translates as City Bike, and their system is great.

All Lined Up

First of all, you can find info at oslobysykkel.no/en and they have a great app for both iOS and Android.

Here is why I loved Oslo Bysykkel

  1. It works and is focused around the app: You can both buy your 72 hour pass (NOK 99 [~$13] for 72 hrs) and can undock a bike on the app.
  2. You can sign up with an American phone number!
  3. A 72 Hour Pass includes 45 minutes with each borrowing along with minimal overage charges (NOK 5 [~$0.65] per 15 extra minutes)
  4. There is a smartphone holder built into the handlebars:

    Oslo Bike Share Dock

    Look Ma… A smartphone holder!

  5.  If you are about to go over on time, Bysykkel sends you a text message
  6. There were plenty of bikes available – when and where we wanted them.

Oslo Bysykkel is the best bike share of the Nordic Capitals.

motorized unicycle seen in the wild

I’m pretty sure we’ve written about this design before, but I’m too lazy to check. Seen in the wild today in Grand Central Station. The thing looks to weigh at least 30 pounds and the rider had to lug it up a long staircase before he could use it.

setting up

riding