Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Scandi Running Part 3: An American From LA Reviews Danish Bicycles

Rain, shine, or ice... Copenhagen is a biking city.
To see how I got here, also check out my review of British Airways World Traveller Plus

Yep.  This is happening. At this point, I think the only time I actually ride a bike is when I'm in Denmark, or someplace similar.  So clearly, you need my review of this.... because I am a super expert.

I’ve been to Denmark 4 times now, and each time I have to rent a bike.  To be in Copenhagen without a bike is like being in Los Angeles without a car, or in Boston without feet.  It’s not done, or it shouldn’t be done.  You won’t see the city as it should be, or as much as should be seen.  You also won’t understand the struggle of finding bike parking, or getting caught in bike land rush hour.  Or just… learning how to make a left turn.

No bikes, just Orstedsparken in the sunshine.
So, anyhow… The first time we came to Copenhagen we rented from a shady place around the corner from our hotel in Centrum.  There were extenuating circumstances at work, namely that we needed bikes and didn’t’ want to cough up the US $35 a day per bike the Radisson wanted.  There are any number of more or less reputable independent rental places in Copenhagen, but what I’m really here to talk about are the two most prevalent bike share companies in the city.

Since our first time there a few new options for people visiting Copenhagen and needing transportation and flexibility. 

Byckylen is Copenhagen’s take on the citybike model that’s popping up all over.  There are stations all over the city, and they’re easy to find. 

Bycyklen bikes at a docking station.
You can pay as you go, or buy a block of minutes in advance.  I opted to buy a block of 300 minutes for the year, since this let me be flexible and not buy hours at a time.  It turned out to be great, as like I said, Copenhagen is small and you simply don’t need too many minutes to get where you’re going.  A full weekend of cycling only used up maybe 60 minutes of use.


-The bikes are quazi-motorized.  This is honestly a super fun way to roll around the city.  If you use the ‘countryside’ or ‘hill climb’ settings, the barest of pedaling will shoot you forward up to 25kph and in short order you’ll realize just how small Copenhagen is.  I can’t overemphasize how fun this is. 
-They are also e-bikes, and sport an android tablet with navigation that can guide you around the city and help you find pick up and drop off locations. 

The cons:

-They’re heavy, due to the motor and whatnot, so I can imagine trying to take one on and off trains and such could be a pain.

-You have to pay for ‘parking’- the bike’s minutes are ticking down even if you’re not riding when it’s not in a docking station.  This results in planning a bit around going docking station to docking station so you don’t run your minutes down too fast.  This wasn’t a big deal since there were so many stations, but if you’re thinking of taking one a bit out of the metro area, you will burn through your subscription. 
Now….I was all good with using Bcyklen for all three of my planned weekends here, and the 300 minutes was going to be plenty to get me through.  However, when I got to town none of the bikes were working!!  I checked in with the company and they, go figure, were hacked the exact night before I arrived.  Their entire network was down, and no bikes could be removed from any docking station.  Massive fail.  From what Twitter tells me, they were up and running again the day after I left.  Of course.

But, like I said, in Copenhagen you need a bike so I had to go to plan b, which brings me to...

Donkey Republic

Now, I remember seeing these pop up on Google Maps last year when I was in Denmark with family and not really getting that this was a bike share, rather than a chain of rental shops.  What it is is a service more akin to the LimeBikes now scattered around the US.  The major difference is that, as Scandinavia tends to be, it's more organized.  The bikes can only be picked up and returned to designated spots, which have bike racks, so they don't clutter up the city.

Bright orange and simple Donkey Republic bike
How it works is you download the app, set up and account, and then can reserve, check out and return the bright orange bikes throughout the city. 


-You rent by the day, not the hour or minute, so there's not that rush to return the bike to a docking station.

-Simple app and simple operation.

-Reasonably priced daily rate.


-They actually could be hard to find.  You do need to reserve one before you set out to the pick up location, or someone else may get to it first.  Once you reserve it, that bike has a number on it and will only unlock with your code on the app once you get into Bluetooth range.

-No fun motorized zipping around the city like with Bycyklen.  The bikes didn't really seem to have gears much either, so you actually have to pedal.

The bikes are numbered, so you know which one you reserved.
Either way, it's a good idea to look into these services before you go if you're planning on using them.  Make sure there are docking stations/pick up points near where you're staying and the attractions you want to check out.  All in all, it's great that Copenhagen has let these companies set up shop in the city, since they can be a great and less pricey option for people staying there for a limited time.  I'm looking forward to one more weekend doing just that in October when I wrap up my three weekends of Scandi Running!


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