The new Citi Bike design is hitting the streets, with about 1,000 of the new blue bikes due to enter circulation for now. Upgraded features aim to improve comfort, reliability and ease of maintenance. The question is: Will you, as a rider, notice a difference?
You won’t know until you try one and compare, as I did recently at the West 13th Street and Fifth Avenue station in Greenwich Village. The changes are visually subtle, so here’s how to pick the new design out of a line-up. Sweep your eyes across the back fenders. As seen in the top photo, a surface-mounted rear light, along with a gentle up-sweep of the tip of the rear fender, are distinguishing signs. (In comparison, the rear lights of the first-generation bikes are built into the frames.)
Have you noticed the differences? Please share your opinion in comments below.
3 of the Most Visible Changes
The upgrades were designed by the legendary racing bike builder and fitter Ben Serotta based on conversations with Citi Bike employees, users and mechanics. They are part of the massive overhaul to New York City’s bike share since Motivate took over its operation late last year. Citi Bike also reports replacement of the software that runs the system, and of software and hardware at all 332 stations and 12,000 docking points.
In eyeing the present and new models side-by-side, here are the most visible changes, along with their benefits to the rider:
Split decision: A cut-out in the saddle prevents puddling that occurs when rain or snow accumulates. The split, a feature commonly found on expensive racing saddles, also may help add comfort to your ride by relieving pressure on your backside.
Two-prongs are better than one: A two-legged kickstand helps improve stability when the bike is parked on the pavement. This design is similar that seen on some European-style bicycles. The trick to getting the bike off the stand when you’re ready to get going again is to gently lift the back of the bike and nudge it forward, which helps ease the kickstand back into its folded position.
Shift in direction: It’s still a three-speed bike, but there’s a new gearing system. You’ll notice that the shifter looks different, and that its operation is reversed. In other words, you twist the right handlebar grip clockwise, or away from you, to get into a harder gear on the new bikes. On the first-generation bikes, that’s achieved by twisting counterclockwise, or toward you.
Gearing Adjustment Helps Boost Speed
But in my own comparison of the features, I found the most significant one to be found in the mechanical guts of the bike. Like many regular Citi Bike riders, I find too little differentiation among the gearing options on the current fleet. Specifically, Gear 3, which is meant to be the hardest, yields too high a cadence; the pedals spin too fast to attain a satisfying speed on a flat road. Speed, I know, is relative on a 45-pound bike. But the new gearing means that Gear 3 now gives you enough purchase on the pedals to pass the laggard on the Westside Greenway with greater authority, to achieve better cruising speed when you’re running late for a meeting or to squeeze a little more cardio into your climb over an East River span, if that’s your choice.
While these alterations relate to the bike itself, changes to the docking stations may be in the offing, as well. Streetsblog reports that Citi Bike is testing a new docking system that butlers the bike to you automatically after you dip your membership key. So, no more tugging:
That system also gives you the option to tap your Citi Bike key at a touch point on the right-hand side of the dock, rather than inserting it into the slot on the left.
The package of bike upgrades, along with the potential seen in the docking station test, make one wonder what additional enhancements might be in store as bike sharing continues to spread to new neighborhoods on its path to doubling in size by 2017.
This post was updated on 7/6 to reflect the gradual introduction of the first 1,000 bikes.
Photos: velojoy; Vine by Stephen Miller/Streetsblog