On Saturday we decided to have a local adventure on Manchester Mobike. This meant that we would head towards Manchester city centre, grabbing Mobikes en route and then cycle our way to Didsbury for a picnic and wander.
What are Mobikes?
Firstly, let me explain what a Mobike is. The other week, while wandering town for our evening miles, I came across a couple of stands of nice orange bikes. On closer inspection we realised that they were rental bikes that came with a nifty app so that you could pay for them and borrow them on the fly. To us this was a perfect alternative to replacing the ones that we have had stolen. Save having to worry about them and we can pick them up and drop then where we needed to.
It is a Chinese company that is running a trial in the city because we are so into innovation. 1000 bikes have been dropped off in the city for us to try out and enjoy. You pay a deposit and then top up your credit, which used at a rate of 50p per half an hour. (You still get charged 50p if you go 10 minutes in, so I recommend you make the most of your time) All you have to do is scan the bike to unlock it and start the timer and off you tootle.
Our Mobike Adventure
We set off eagerly with our phones at the ready to track down the bikes. We followed the roads around the back streets and onto the canal. After 2 miles we were still without bikes despite having spotted some on the maps. As we came towards town we excitedly spotted two underneath the trees. We grabbed our apps, scanned the bikes and discovered that they had been reserved. A great idea, but it wasn’t going to help us get to Didsbury any time soon.
Knowing that there were usually some on Market Street or Deansgate at the furthest, we headed down that way. Luckily though, there were two around New York Street. Apparently I rang the bike that I had chosen, which led to some bemused faces on the people walking by. A quick snap of the QR code and we were off.
Riding the Mobikes
The first thing we noticed was the need to adjust the seat. They are set very low so need pushing upwards for comfortable cycling. The next thing is the bone shaking of the rubber tyres on the pot holed road. Boy did my boobs bounce! They pick up speed well, but if you get a bit too fast, you’re left with your legs swinging as there seems to be a limiter on it. Good thing, I guess, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a warning on that one. But overall, it was fun.
Dutch Cycle Lanes
Yes, there is a bit of a Dutch theme going on at the moment at The Urban Wanderer, but it is not the reason that we decided to cycle down Oxford Road. Honest!
Recently, Oxford Road was upgraded to include Dutch cycle lanes. Something we would have loved when we were students and living around there. So as we had some bikes, it was the perfect opportunity to give them a go. One thing you notice quite quickly is that you do feel separate from the cars and buses. We have ridden on the roads around there a few times without the lanes and it can be a bit hairy at times. Having your own space gives you a bit more breathing space.
It was only when you hit the cycle lanes that you realised how much you are limited on the Mobikes. Everyone else seemed to fly by with little effort while we were pedaling like mid only to have the limiter kick in. We did also realise at that point that the Mobikes aren’t for racing, but for commuting and pootling around. Once we remembered that we got into a leisurely pace.
Besides the bum pounding pot holes in the road, the ride was pretty comfortable. We stopped to rehydrate from time to time, but it was generally quite non-stop all the way from Town to Didsbury.
The rules state that you can park the bikes anywhere that doesn’t cause an obstruction, so long as it is a public accessible place. We decided to be really good and take them to a bike stand. Unfortunately, we don’t know Didsbury well enough to know where the stands are so we did spend some time hunting one out. Once we had locked them we were away.
Something that felt really good for both of us was that we didn’t have to think about the bikes again after they were locked. You don’t particularly have to remember where they are, whether you still have your bike lock key or whether it will still be there when you get back. That was certainly a plus for us and a good reason to invest in the scheme.
While we were buying lunch, we enjoyed watching curious people around the bikes. Oh and we did get some shouts and cheers from other cyclists (not on Mobikes) on the journey there. It is nice to feel popular, even if it is for a minute or two.
We had our lunch, grabbed a coffee and had a browse of the charity shops. Deciding that we would ride back to town we grabbed the app again to search for bikes. To our surprise there were two right outside the coffee shop. Grabbing them, we headed back towards town.
Overall we really enjoyed using the Mobikes. It was a bit of hassle trying to get hold of them, but imagine with a larger fleet it will get better and better as they spread through the outskirts of the city. They can be a bit hard on the old bum because of the rubber wheels, but I think it was more to do with the pot holes than the bike itself and the fact that our bums are out of practice of cycling seats.
Unfortunately, as we were getting the bus to go home, Jit noticed that despite locking the bike, it was still running. After sending a help ticket, we managed to shut it off and he got the extra bit of journey free. The app did have occasions where it plonked your location right in the middle of China, which was a bit confusing at times!
Our verdict is that we will be using them again as it saves me from having to purchase a bike of my own. However, I’m not sire I’d want to be doing the hill up top our hour on it with the single speed!
The only downside so far is that in the past 11 or so days since the launch, there seem to be fewer and fewer bikes available. On the news we have seen kids trying to break them. We have even seen some near us with the locks hacked off. Oh and a couple chucked into the canal too.
I am hoping that this is just a teething problem and that as everyone gets used to them, the crime levels against them drop. We would love to continue using the bikes. As I imagine the many other people we’ve seen genuinely using them would too. However, it is something we will have to wait and see.
For now though, I will be using them when I need to get about and there is one available and we will encourage Mobike to keep trying. If you do get chance to have a Mobike adventure, please do. They are definitely not for the pro cyclist, but if you want something to nip about on they are great!
Fingers crossed for a Manchester Mobike future!
Have you tried the Manchester Mobikes yet? What do you think could be done to keep them in the city?
Let me know in the comments below
There is no need to own your own bike
You don’t have to tuck your trousers into your socks as the belt is concealed
You can drop the bike pretty much anywhere sensible (and within the rules)
It is pretty cheap
It looks good – so good that my clothes matched them!
Mud guards to keep you cleaner in the rain
Basket big enough for my 32 litre rucksack
Not so easy to get hold of in the East of the city
The stock is reducing due to crime
If you’re taller than me at 5’8 then they might be to small for you
The speed limiter can be a bit surprising
Teething problems with the app