The London Cycle Hire scheme has officially kicked off. The Boris Bikes are in the docking stations ready to go and just waiting for you to sign up to the scheme, unless you can hang on for a few weeks when you can start paying for them at the stands.
Before you saddle up on these hire cycles, you might want to know more about the gadgets you're about to put between your legs. So, exactly what can you expect when you hop on a Boris Bike? Well, these machines may be for public use but there’s certainly a few bits of technology you’ll be grateful are there.
Each Boris Bike has a set of front and rear LED lights which are dynamo powered by your pedalling. As soon as you start moving, they turn on and will stay lit for a minimum of two minutes once you’ve stopped. The idea is that you don’t find yourself in the dark while waiting in traffic. If that’s not enough for you, then there’s also reflectors on both the back of the bike, on the saddle and on the wheels as well.
Gears & Brakes
Yes, the Boris Bikes are geared. There are three to play with and they’re made by none other than top manufacturer Shimano. For the record, they are the Shimano Nexus 3 Speed Hub with the ratio at the front geared up to 38 and 23 at the rear. As it happens, the brakes are also courtesy of Shimano and are both front and rear operated at the left and right ends of the handlebar as per normal.
The Boris Bikes need to be hardy machines. The idea is that they’re too heavy to run off with and chuck in the river while being light enough to actually ride. It’s also helpful if they come off okay in the event of a collision with a cabbie. The magic figure that’s come out is 23kg - not exactly on a par with the Scott F01 but certainly functional.
There are plastic chain guards, mud guards, cable guards and even a guard for the bell. Yes, they have one of those too. On the one hand it’s good because it means your skirt won’t get caught in the mechanism and your turn ups won’t get oily, but the main reason behind all the plastic is to keep the Boris Bikes from having as few bits and pieces exposed and sticking out as possible. The less that’s on show, the less easy it is for them to get damaged, either by accident or on purpose.
Built to last
The London tax payer will be pleased to know that these Cycle Hire bikes are built to last. They’re made by Devinci Cycles - the same Canadian company that makes the similar models for the Montreal Bixi bike hire scheme. They come complete with puncture proof tyres as well as a 5-year life guarantee and the ability to go for 40,000 miles. As it happens, in lab created conditions, the bikes withstood up to a simulated 15-year test. Just in case, Cycle Hire will be sending out mechanics to give them each a once over every 2 weeks.
With Oyster proving a success, TFL has put the Cycle Hire scheme into the trust of RFID technology as well. When the Boris Bikes are stowed back into the docking stations, the tag on the bike will register with the sensor at the stand and will know exactly how long you’ve had the thing out for. So, do make sure you’ve put them back properly or you might find yourself facing a serious bill.
No technology or gadgetry here, but you might like to know that you are insured when you hop on a Boris Bike. So long as you abide by the London Cycle Hire terms and conditions - no using a mobile phone or being under the influence or drink and drugs etc - then you’re covered by a third party policy up to £2 million per incident. Now, that doesn’t cover you and your body if it gets damaged and it happens to be your fault. Also, you should know that when you make a claim there is a £250 excess to pay. So cycle safe.
Again, not a matter of tech nor anything official from TFL either but, if you see a Boris Bike at the docking station with its saddle turned the wrong way, avoid it. That's what people do in Paris to indicated that bike is broken.