According to the Bixi people, I have made roughly 60 trips on a Bixi bike so far this summer, for a total distance of 113.8 kilometres. My average time per trip has been 9 minutes and 48 seconds, and I have saved 8 litres of gas relative to if I were driving. While I would suspect that Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey and those types do not have a space in their training plans for “Bixi Riding”, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t generally a nice service to have in town.
In case you don’t know, Bixi is Ottawa’s (and some other cities’) public bike share program. There are a number of stations around downtown Ottawa where you can pick up bikes and return them. You can pay on a per trip basis, or buy a season’s pass for about $80, which is what I did. Provided you don’t go more than half an hour without returning to one of the stations, that is all you pay. I would call this a pretty good deal if you are a regular user. Bixi bikes could be used for all sorts of things.
My primary use is for days when Megan and I drive to work. We drive from Old Chelsea and park at Jacques Cartier Park, allowing us to shorten the drive and avoid traffic on the bridge. From this parking spot, Megan can walk in about 10 minutes to her work in Hull, and I can take a Bixi bike for about 10 minutes (actually, Bixi says it took me 11 minutes and 56 seconds yesterday) to where I work in downtown Ottawa. Overall, this is pretty convenient. I have also used the Bixi to do things like errands at lunch on a pretty regular basis. So, by and large, I guess you could say I am a Bixi supporter. If that also makes me a "bicycle riding pinko", so be it! Anyway, I thought I could share a few things I have learned so far about Bixi riding.
1. The bikes and the system are very user-friendly.
Overall, the system is easy to learn, and the bikes are simple and practical. They have three speeds so as not to confuse anyone. There is nothing that will stain or tear your new Burberry trousers. There is a convenient spot for securing your briefcase. There is also a kickstand and lights that work automatically. The only thing you have to figure out is how high you want the seat.
Above, we see an example of a bag on a Bixi bike, as well as the shifter. 3 speeds...this should be manageable.
2. The bikes are not particularly light, fast, or nimble.
Don't expect them to be otherwise, or you will be frustrated. I would advise changing gears mentally if you are used to riding something fast. Bixi bikes are made for going slow...so accept that and enjoy them for what they are.
3. There are some special techniques that will enhance your Bixi riding experience. I would love to teach a Bixi riding skills clinic, but I don't have the time for that. What I've learned so far is that transitions are important to your speed. This means getting out of the station and on in a seamless series of movements, and the same when you bring the bike back. Trying to ride fast on a Bixi bike is not worth it. Ride slow and nail the transitions-that's my advice.
Note the Federal Government ID wearing Bixi rider-very common in the nation's capital.
The rider above is reasonably stylish, but her transitions need work.
4. While I haven't mastered this, you can look stylish on a Bixi bike. Stylish enough even for romantic evenings on the town. http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/2011/06/montreal-cycle-chic-j.html For some reason, none of these people (or the ones pictured above) are wearing helmets. The helmet/Bixi debate is just not something I am going to get into here.
Interesting Reading. . .