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"Tested" is our column where we check out goods and services that might be helpful. We see if they're worth your time and money so you don't have to. See More

[Tested]: The Mobike

We take the new Shanghai city bikes that you can rent with an app for a spin.
By May 5, 2016 Deleted
"Tested" is our column where we check out new goods and services. We see if they're worth you're time and money so you don't have to.

They see me rollin. They hatin.

Those are the lyrics that repeated through my head as I attracted all kinds of stares riding down Changle Lu on the new Mobike, a city bike, recently launched in Shanghai, that you can rent with an app. Not because the bike itself makes a pretty strong visual statement with its bright orange wheels and a thick steel frame. And not because my own good sense in cutting edge transportation methods was on display to all -- the Mobike only costs 1rmb every half hour and you can leave the bike just about anywhere you please, therefore bypassing the many pains of actually owning a bike.

No, I was attracting stares because I looked like an oversized man-child who'd stolen some poor kid's bike.

The Mobike itself isn’t particularly small, but if you’re anything over 170cm (192cm in my case), you’re going to have quite a lot of difficulty on this bicycle -- the seat isn’t adjustable. The same is true if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum.

This was probably a conscious decision on the part of the designers. Everything about the bike from the way it rides to the the way it looks feels sturdy. An adjustable appendage would likely make it less so. And you can bet that these bikes are going to take a beating on Shanghai’s streets.

How To Sign Up and Ride

The app, downloadable from Mobike's website, comes in English or Chinese depending on the system language of your phone. First, you register an account with your phone number via the usual SMS verification process. Then you have to pay a refundable deposit of 299rmb through WeChat Wallet or AliPay. Next, they ask for your ID information.

If you’re a Chinese national, just enter your shen fen zheng and name to get started. For foreigners, it’s a bit trickier. You’ll need to send them a copy of your passport and two additional photos of yourself by email at or to their official WeChat account "摩拜单车". This should happen fairly quickly but can take up to a few days to process.

Once you’ve been verified, you’ll be able to reserve bikes. Add anywhere from 10rmb to 50rmb to top up your account, then tap on a bike near you on the map screen, and hit reserve. Your reservation gives you directions and 15 minutes to get to your bike. When you’ve located the bike, scan the QR code located between the handle bars with the app, and the lock will snap open, allowing you to ride.

From there, you’re charged the rate of 1rmb every half hour. The app will keep track of the distance you've traveled (although rather poorly) and even estimate the calories you've burned. When you’re done with your ride, find a parking area with white lines to park the bike (pretty much any sidewalk). Pull down the lever that snaps the lock into place to end your session.

And that’s it.

Currently, Mobikes are available in the busier and more densely populated areas of Puxi, from Hongkou to Xuhui, but the company isn't operating in Pudong yet. The bikes could function as a pretty good way to commute, although you do need to factor in additional time for locating bikes, especially since the bike you brought somewhere earlier, might not be waiting for you later in the day. The bikes could also work if you find yourself lost in some corner of Shanghai on foot and are looking to get to some place familiar faster.

If Mobikes can survive through the rainy (rusty) summer months, the city’s master thieves, and receive regular maintenance, the bikes might become a mainstay of Shanghai’s streets and butts... for the shorter portion of the population anyway.



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  • 5 years ago ping88

    You didn't mention that they rides extremely heavy. I'm more tired from riding than simply walking the same distance.

  • 5 years ago handoogies

    They are heavy bikes, but the real issue is the internal chain and crankset (for durability) feeding power to the rear wheel: the ratio is almost 1:1. So the way to ride a mobike is up on your feet, pump like hell to get decent speed going, then you can sit down and spin to maintain speed. If you tried to start moving on your ass yes you will get tired as fuck.

  • 5 years ago gini_in_shanghai

    Did not feel it was heavy. Love the concept of QR code unlocking, and leaving the bike at any parking space. T
    he GPS is not very accurate though, I found myself turning and turning in the neighborhood looking for bikes I never found

  • 5 years ago Kyrol

    the new generation of the bike is so heavy that i won't want to choose it. prefer much the first version.

  • 5 years ago TSkillet

    I'm a relatively shorter portion of the populace (5'6") and the seat height was a bother for me - the pedaling angles were all wrong.

    ping88/handoogies are right - the thing is extremely heavy. and after years and years of riding my own bikes, the steering is super squirrelly.

    on the other hand, the app set-up and usage is simple and very smooth. My foreigner application was approved in ten minutes. I couldn't find the initial bike I looked for, but then I saw some other bikes so I just re-requested. I probably won't use this for regular transport (I was huffing and puffing riding from Shanghai Stadium to Xujiahui only - I was planning on going further, but when I saw the subway, I pulled over and parked and just took the subway instead) but it's not a bad option to have.

  • 5 years ago etmm375 Unverified User

    I am unable to download the app to my iPhone with a European Apple ID. It says the app is only downloadable in the Chinese store. Did anyone else have this problem, is there anyway around it?

  • 5 years ago SpaceAids Unverified User

    anybody wanna share how to download the ios app without access to the chinese app store?

  • 5 years ago KalanStar Unverified User

    They aren't steel besides the wheels. They are aluminum. But that doesn't make them light. I'm guessing they are about 35kg.

  • 5 years ago KalanStar Unverified User

    The app. I had no problem on Canadian App Store.

  • 5 years ago chirichan

    Just now I was able to download it without any hassle via non-chinese app store.

  • 4 years ago SZTallBike Unverified User

    These bikes look nice. App is easy to use. Everything else is shit!

  • 4 years ago Old Mike

    I would like to purchase 2 of these "Mobikes" and sent to Australia for evaluation. Could the company in charge of manufacture please contact me.

  • 4 years ago dynamitetom

    Anybody have a contact telephone number. I registered and paid over a week ago but still not verified. Have sent email and wechat but no reply.

  • 4 years ago sunsetlover

    As with anything "public" in China, these things have presented more problems than they have solved. Many of them are busted, on some the locks don't work (what happens if you can't lock it again after your ride?). Plus getting a deposit back from any Chinese entity is not for the faint of heart! The Chinese themselves agree with me on that, hence the popularity of Ofo which charges a 99 rmb deposit. Bike-sharing in China is not a great idea, the concept of '"sharing" is not exactly respected here (understatement of the year?).

  • 4 years ago go-ahead

    u know, the latest generation would be easier to ride.

  • 3 years ago CY Unverified User

    I’ve requested for my refund 2 months ago and sent them biweekly reminders - still no refund. Anyone facing similar issues ?

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