Cycling in Sydney Australia
OK, I have now registered with both schemes and gone for some test rides, so here's my take on them...
1) The app
Both apps are pretty similar, in that they present a map that shows where the nearest bike is. However, registering for ReddyGo was significantly easier – I was riding the bike away within seconds of downloading the app. oBike requires you to go through a lengthy registration process, registering your credit card etc, which is much more clunky. And generally, the UI is better on ReddyGo, offering a nicer route map of where you went after a ride and so on. So that’s a win for ReddyGo.
2) Charges and user agreements
Both schemes charge $1.99 for each 30 minutes. ReddyGo offers initial free rides when you sign up, which oBike doesn’t. Both schemes require you to make a deposit, ostensibly to ‘ensure your responsibility’. This deposit is refundable, and whilst ReddyGo make is clear in their user agreement that they will keep it if you damage a bike, the oBike terms are much less clear, only stating that you are liable for any damage to the bike. There’s some strange things in the user agreements for both schemes, such as clauses forbidding use in adverse weather conditions and requirements to return bikes to ‘designated parking racks’.
The deposit for oBike is $69, whilst for ReddyGo it’s $99, although ReddyGo allows you to initially hire a bike without paying the deposit. I’d call it a draw on the cost.
3) Bike comfort
OK, so now we get to the bit you were waiting for. What are the bikes actually like?
The general style is the same for each – upright, rather heavy, small-ish bikes with a basket on the front.
Both bikes feature adjustable saddles, although the oBike saddle is really hard to adjust. I tried a few bikes, so it wasn’t just one – I had to tug at it and twist it like mad to get it to move. (By default all the bikes I tried seemed to have them set really low.) The ReddyGo was better in this regard too – easier to adjust and get to a more sensible height. That said, both bikes a on the small size. I’m not that tall (about 176cm), and they were both too small for me – especially the oBike, with it’s very low saddle.
The ReddyGo has another controversial feature – solid (airless) tyres. No doubt great for the company as there are no punctures, but it does make for a rattly, harsh and slightly uncomfortable ride. Anything you put in the front basket that’s not strapped down is likely to jump out with all the vibration as you go along. And it you hit a bump or pothole, boy do you feel it. After a long-ish (45 min) ride on the not-very-comfortable saddle I definitely felt a bit, erm, chafed.
Mind you, at least the ReddyGo has tyres with a sensible profile. The oBike has what seem to be cyclocross types – smooth in the middle, but with really big rubber treads on the edge. This feels very odd when cornering, and makes the bike harder to ride than it should be. More sensible urban / hybrid tyres would be much better.
Notwithstanding the solid tyres, I think the ReddyGo pips the oBike for comfort. The oBike seat is just so low that it’s like riding a clown bike. So it’s a win for ReddyGo in the comfort stakes, but neither bike is really that comfortable.
4) Bike rideability
Comfort aside, what are they like to ride? The oBike is the more basic of the two. It doesn’t have gears, and the components are much more basic. The ReddyGo has more upmarket components (Shimnano gears, Tektro brakes) which work much better. In fact, the brakes on the oBike are hopeless. I hope you never need to do an emergency stop on an oBike, because even yanking the levers with all of my strength I was unable to do much more than ‘slow down gradually’.
The gearing on the oBike is rather high – getting up a slope can be a struggle (see below). The ReddyGo is much better in this regard, with the gears giving a sensible, low-ish range for cruising and tackling the occasional hill.
Perhaps because of the cheap components, the oBikes also seem to suffer more mechanical issues. I twice experienced mechanical issues on the oBike (strange noises from the front wheel, and a wobbly crank), whereas the ReddyGo bikes were all fine. The ReddyGo bikes are also a bit lighter (aluminium vs steel?), and just ride more like a normal bike. The oBike feels like a toy in comparison.
So it’s a clear win for ReddyGo on rideability.
5) The Gladesville Bridge test
Every day on my way to work I rider over Gladesville Bridge. When I tell people my route to work, they always comment on this, as if it’s some sort of epic achievement to summit this arch. In reality, it’s not that big a hill, but given its sort of iconic status, I thought I’d ride both the oBike and the ReddyGo to the top.
After reading the above, you can probably guess the result. Riding up Gladesville Bride on the oBike is indeed epic. Hard hard work – out of the saddle, knees hurting with the uncomfortable posture and high gearing. If it wasn’t for pride and the knowledge I’d be writing about it later, I’d probably have got off and pushed. I’m a fit guy used to riding a fixed gear up crazy hills. For the average non-cyclist jumping on one of these, any slight incline is going to be a struggle.
Whilst the ReddyGo was hardly a breeze, it was no harder than riding the Radish when loaded up. The gears help tremendously, and whilst I think perhaps could be set a little lower will at least give some relief when tackling an incline.
ReddyGo wins again!
6) Overall result
I was kind of hoping it would be a closer contest, but in fact there is a really clear winner. ReddyGo has a better app and much better bikes, and is the same cost. If you are going to sign up for one scheme, make it this one.
obike allows you to refund the deposit, twice without penalties if I recall
It's those that have bought the 180/360 day plans that might be out of pocket
'Under the new regulations, bicycles creating hazards need to be moved within two hours, and those cluttering streets in excessive numbers must be gone within 24 hours.
The company also has 24 hours to removed damaged or vandalised bikes, 48 hours for bikes in "inappropriate situations" like up trees or on roofs, and seven days to collect bikes in waterways.
The City of Melbourne was also given the power to fine oBike $3,000 every time oBike failed to comply.'
I guess the bit about this that grates is just how punitive this is the comparison with how car (drivers) are treated. The fine for illegally dumping you car (aka 'parking') on the footpath? $200. And not significant repercussions if the car is not moved in a prompt manner.
If illegally parked cars were getting fined $3000 if they weren't moved within 2 hours, I might be sympathetic...
Yip, its OK to do what you want with a car but not a bicycle. BTW is that Queens rd?