Phoenix's new bike share program, Grid Bikes, launched in late November -- just in time for absolutely gorgeous cycling weather and holiday visitors. Jackalope Ranch was there, of course, to take a test ride.
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Guys, Grid Bikes are pretty rad.
Let's be honest, sharing sucks. And technology is weird. So the whole bike-share-driven-by-technology thing just seemed kinda complicated. But guess what! Grid Bikes makes it really, really simple.
Here's the concept: You reserve a bike, either online, via the Grid Bikes app, or in person at a hub. You then have 15 minutes to unlock the bike. You ride it, and then drop it off at any Grid Bikes hub. Easy peasy.
We used the app to book our reservation. Note: the app is not called Grid Bikes, it is called Social Bicycles. (Grid Bikes' parent company is CycleHop, but Social Bicycles supplies their app services and bicycles.) We set up our account on the two-minute walk to the bike hub. It takes almost no time at all, and so far we have not received any annoying notifications or unnecessary e-mails, hallelujah.
When creating an account through the Social Bicycles app, you will create a custom pin code. This pin allows you to unlock the bicycle. You can also put the bike on hold if you need to make a stop. This hold does count towards your total ride time, so make sure you keep track of how long you're off the bike. We tested this feature with a quick coffee stop, and had no problems whatsoever with this function.
The bikes themselves are very well-maintained. The seats are easily adjustable, so they can accommodate riders of all shapes and sizes. The tires were full of air, the gears shifted easily, and the seat was surprisingly cushy. The bike also had a great basket that held our giant purses and a laptop without any fear of spillage.
We rode for about 45 minutes; the bike tracked both the time and the distance that we traveled. When we finished, we simply locked it back up and walked away. Within seconds of returning the bike, there was a receipt and a trip summary in our inbox.
The only real complaint we have about the Grid Bike system were the huge advertisements on the sides of the basket. For now, we're happy to ride around and have no choice but to promote the bike share -- but, when they begin to sell that space to other companies, it could get pretty obnoxious pretty quickly. Aside from that very minor complaint, everything about the experience was easy and fun. A representative from Grid Bikes notes that Grid Bikes is not tax-funded, so they will rely on this sponsorship space to keep up their awesome work.
Grid Bikes offers several membership levels. A pay-as-you-go ride costs $5 and grants you an hour of bike time (including riding, holding, reserve time, and locking out of hub fees.) For $79, you can get a whole year of rides. For more information or to find the Hub nearest to you, check out Grid Bikes' website.
Editor's note: This post has been edited and updated with new information from its original version, which erroneously stated that Social Bicycles was the parent company of Grid Bikes and that hold time on a bike rental did not count toward overall ride time.