War of the rental bikes in Zurich – the big test

Since the late summer of 2017, three new bike rental systems were established  in Zurich. What was initiated by the Singapore-based company Obike when it flooded the city with hundreds of bikes overnight (without the approval of the city), nearly became a rental bike war on the city’s streets. This, of course, is good for you if you want to rent a bike simply as a means of transport to explore the city, but also because this fierce competition means better offers for you as well as cheaper prices.

UPDATE June 26, 2018: The war is claiming its first victim. OBIKE ceases operations in Zurich.

There are currently no less than four competing rental systems, three of them free-floating (park wherever you want) and one with stations where you have to bring the bikes back. The city had to limit the number of bikes each company is allowed to place, so it doesn’t get out of hand, but believe us when we say that there’s no shortage of bikes. We tested all the different bikes and systems to help you choose the one that suits you best. All you usually need is a credit card and a smartphone.

LIMEBIKE
This California-based company with its iconic green and yellow bikes entered the market a little later. The bikes have three gears and are therefore quite comfortable to ride in the city. You still won’t win a race with them and climbing hills still requires some strong leg power, but they’re not bad for getting around the city. They are also free-floating, so you simply find the nearest one on its app and then unlock them. Furthermore, no deposit is needed and a ride is only 1CHF per half hour. Better yet, the first ride is free! Download the app, scan the QR code on the bike and off you go.

www.limebike.com, no deposit, 1CHF per 30 minutes

ZÜRI VELO – PUBLIBIKE
This is the one company with a concession from the city. They won a bid a couple of years ago, but legal action by competitors delayed them so they only began this spring. These are high-quality bikes with continuously variable hub gears and hydraulic disc brakes. Half of them are e-bikes which support a speed of 25kph. With these bikes you can make it everywhere and in our test they were actually fun to ride. The e-bikes might not be worth it on the flat though, as there are no gears and you can’t travel faster than 25kph. The main downside of the system is that you have to bring them back to an official station. For now there are some 30 stations and 300 bikes in the city, but over the next two years more and more stations will be opened (up to 150 with more than 2,000 bikes) so you should have at least one within walking distance almost everywhere in the city. You can locate the stations, book and unlock the bikes with its app (credit card needed). To bring back your bike, you just have to lock it again – but it only works at the stations. The first 30 minutes cost 3CHF (e-bikes 4.50), then 0.05 CHF (0.10 for e-bikes) each minute. For CHF50 you can get an annual pass with the first 30 minutes free for each ride (CHF400 for e-bikes).

www.publibike.ch, no deposit, 3CHf  for the first 30 minutes, 4.50CHF for electric bikes (cheaper or free when paying an annual fee)

SMIDE
The Swiss company Smide  operates a free-floating e-bike system. They offer powerful bikes including electro support with a maximum speed of 35kph (helmet needed, but it’s included) and you can park them wherever you want after riding them (within the limits marked on its map). The downside: to register on its app you need a Swiss mobile number and a driving license (at least for a moped). 1 minute costs 0.25CHF. Great if you require speed or need to go uphill.

www.smide.ch, no deposit, 0.25CHF per minute, driving license and Swiss mobile number required

MOBILITY ELECTRIC SCOOTERS
Since mid-April the Swiss car sharing company Mobility has been operating a fleet of 200 electric free-floating scooters. The system works the same as the free-floating bikes. You locate the scooters in the app, find and unlock them and off you go. Two people can ride on one and helmets are provided. You can park them at any official motorbike parking place within its operating limits. You need a credit card and a driving license valid for small motorbikes (A1). When registering, you have to upload your driving license and then give them a call. Within one hour you should be good to go.

www.mobility.ch, 0.30CHF per minute, 0.25CHF if you’re a registered user of mobility car sharing

OBIKE -> stops operating in Zurich by the end of June 2018.
This Singapore-based company was the first to offer free-floating bikes in Zurich. Free-floating means you can locate and unlock their silver and yellow bikes with their app and leave them in the official bike parking place of your choosing when you’re done (even parking them on a sidewalk is legal, as long as there is 1.5 meters of free space). Unfortunately, the Obikes are pretty heavy and only come with one gear. That makes them essentially only usable for short distances in the flat area of the city, unless you’re in really good shape. However, the company announced the introduction of new, more comfortable bikes with more than one gear in the future. You also have to pay a deposit of CHF49 before you use the bikes (refundable anytime).

www.obike.com, deposit CHF49, 1.5oCHF per ride of max. 30 minutes

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