How’s the Citi Bike experience as an actual bike?

Always wear a helmet. And a Knicks jersey. Photo by Mary Dorn

Remember: always wear a helmet. And a Knicks jersey. Photo by Mary Dorn

So we’ve had Citi Bike for a little over a month, and we’ve seen people call it a communist/Muslim plot against New York, offshoot Hasidic Jews ask for it, people protest the aesthetics of a moving ad, jerks dump garbage on it and oh, almost 100,000 people sign up for memberships. But, how does the damn thing work as a bike, as opposed to a political football? Great question! The answer is…it’s alright, kind of. If you don’t have a bike.

Well OK, there’s more to it then that. The bike is easy to pedal around, but that’s bit of a double edged sword. It’s definitely a smooth and easy ride, but you if you have any experience on a bike that’s not a Citi Bike, it’s a little bit too easy. You’re going to feel strange dealing with the almost complete lack of resistance coming from the bike. So you feel like kind of a dork, pedaling as hard as you can not really getting anywhere fast.

Here's a tip: Don't ride across a bridge. Photo by Mary Dorn

Here’s a tip: Don’t ride across a bridge. Photo by Mary Dorn

The weight of a Citi Bike is definitely it’s biggest drawback. Start going up the slightest hill, and that’s where you feel the weight of the bike drag on you. Even if you switch down the lowest gear (not very difficult, since the bike only has three speeds), you’ll feel it.On slight hills it’s bearable, but if for some reason you need to go across one of the East River Bridges on a Citi Bike, you will learn to hate life very quickly. Even worse, the drag from the weight going up the incline on a bridge means that when you can finally start going downhill, you don’t even get to build up the speed of an out of control cannonball like you would on a normal bike, which everyone knows is the best part about going across a bridge.

The reason to ride a bike around a packed urban environment like New York is to look cool on your fixie have a nimble, lightweight way to get around. Citi Bike is fine in bike lanes and wider streets, but taking it around busier streets made me pine for my skinnier and more maneuverable road bike. Then again, the fact that these are tanks compared to normal bikes might at least mean that they’ll do some damage to a car that runs you over.

The bike’s basket, more of a slot really, is perfectly shaped for a shoulder bag. Sure the basket is a little small, but it also means it’s hard to weigh yourself down more than the bike already does.¬†The bungee straps on it are a little tight and hard to deal with at first, but they also do the job of making sure that whatever you put in the basket stays in the basket. I trusted a bag with my laptop in it, and didn’t regret it.

Walk it on the sidewalk, or Dorothy Rabinowitz wins. Photo by Mary Dorn

Walk it on the sidewalk, or Dorothy Rabinowitz wins. Photo by Mary Dorn

When I used it anyway, I didn’t have any problems with the docking stations, either getting bikes out or getting them back into the dock. It takes a little force to dock them again, but these things are built solidly enough that really jamming it in there doesn’t hurt the bike. Also, it’s nice to see the bike comes with lights, and it’s smart of the manufacturers to build them into the bike, since I’ve had light stolen off the back of my bike multiple times. What the hell guys? Those things cost $1.99, or is there some hot black market I’m unaware of?

In the end, right now, Citi Bike is just a little bit too limited in Brooklyn, outside the cluster of stations around DUMBO, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill to be of any real use to people outside of those areas. Especially considering that a 24-hour pass will run you ten bucks. If Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy and Greenpoint get their planned stations anytime soon, and bike share actually expands into Park Slope, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights (not Bushwick though, thanks DOT!) like the DOT has said it will, the idea of buying a yearly pass for just $100 will make more sense than it does right now.

At the moment though, ten dollars for a day pass still feels like a rip off, especially compared to the two dollars it costs to use it in Europe, and does a lot to discourages hop ons. And that’s supposed to be a selling point of the system, no? Walking by a bike share should make you want to use it, not wish you had an extra ten dollars in your pocket.

3 Comment

  • The bike lobby strikes again.

  • Great summary. I chose a recent Friday in Manhattan to see how getting around on one of these things as I went through the city to run various errands. I would say my experience pretty much matches your description.

  • The citibikes should be free, or like a dollar, because they’re already sponsored by a giant bank.