Picking a Citi Bike is a crap shoot. Other than kicking the tires, there’s not much you can do to ensure you chose a good or bad bike until you actually start riding the bike.
It’s all in the seat (2014)
Last year, there was a period where you could tell which bikes were recently given a tune-up by looking at the bike seats.
Throughout 2014, Citi Bike had a big problem with their original bike seats cracking due to weather and soaking users’ behinds, so late last year, Citi Bike began replacing the old seats with weather proof bike seats. When they brought the bikes into the shop, they didn’t just replace the seat, but they gave these bikes tune ups, too.
So, in late September, October and November of 2014, choosing a “good” bike was as simple as looking at the seat: if the seat had cracks in it, you knew that bike hadn’t been brought into maintenance lately.
If the seat didn’t have cracks, it was recently brought into maintenance. And that was confirmed with smooth ride after smooth ride on bikes without cracked seats.
Citi Bike has since replaced all the cracked seats, so as riders we’re back to square one; gambling every time we walk up to the dock. With no discernible feature to visually tell me if a bike was better than another, I went back to choosing the bikes where the seats were already adjusted for my height.
That’s until last week, when Citi Bike added 1,000 redesigned bikes to their fleet. With new bikes, they’re obviously going to be better bikes than most older bikes.
How to tell a new, redesigned Citi Bike? (2015)
Even with 1,000 new and improved Citi Bikes released over the last week or so, it’s still not easy finding one in the wild.
One thousand new bikes may sound like a lot, but that’s just 14% when you factor in the fact that the fleet is 7,000 deep. The bikes themselves may have been upgraded with easier gear shifts, better handle grips, more comfortable seats, sturdier splash guards, an improved kick stand and an overall easier ride, but none of these upgrades are apparent at a quick glance… unless you know what to look for.
From afar you can tell if your station features any of the new redesigned bikes by looking for the upgraded large red reflectors on the back wheel’s splash guard:
This strategy will work in quickly locating the best bikes in the fleet. Of course, this will only be effective until Citi Bike upgrades all the bikes or the new bikes begin showing wear and tear.
Luckily for you, savvy Citi Bike user, Citi Bike is busy adding 1,400 more of these bikes by the end of the year so this should work for at least the next 3-4 months.