If you’ve been to Paris any time in the last few years you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous bicycle rental kiosks. Called Velibs, the concept has become so popular that the model has been replicated elsewhere. Just this past summer in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, the city outfitted the downtown area with a variety of stands.
With such a large user base and number of units on the road, maintenance becomes a critical part of operations – and an important thing to look out for when picking a bicycle. Many a time have I spent twenty minutes plugging my American Express card into the kiosk, paging through the terms and conditions and picking out a unit only to jump on, get halfway down the street and realize that the bicycle doesn’t shift out of first gear or that the seat slooooowly sinks when I’m riding it. Trust me: as a tall person, nothing sucks more than riding a bicycle with the seat all of the way down.
A host of things can go wrong with your Velib after you check it out, which is why I now equate them to a mixed box of chocolates. They may all look the same until you’re heading into traffic and you find out that they handlebars aren’t bolted into the front fork.
At this point I’m past surprised or frustrated if something is wrong with my bicycle – now it’s a personal challenge to see if I can adapt to whatever is wrong with it. But for you, my advice is as such: kick the tires and test the seat before you rent a bicycle. The ten seconds you spend checking out your Velib is well worth the frustration of dealing with a broken bicycle on the road.