Monday, September 27, 2010

CaBi: My Test Ride

They're red, they're shiny, and they're just as cute as can be. The Capital Bikeshare bikes are parked in my neighborhood and despite the fact that I own what I jokingly call a 'wardrobe' of bikes, I've been eager to take one out for a spin. 

Sunday night, I got my chance. 
As a key-holder--I was among the first 2,000 to join--all I had to do was slip the key into the box that's positioned to the side of the left handlebar when the bike is parked. There's an indicator that not only lights up, but makes a chirping sound to let you know the bike is now 'unlocked'. 

I admit, I fumbled at first, trying to pull the bike out of the docking station, so it took a second try to get it free. I liked the feel of it. It's not a speedy number, it's built for comfort and ease of use. The seat is broad (trying to tell us something, CaBi designers?) and the height can be adjusted--there's a quick release that allows you to set it to a comfortable position. 

Pedaling is easy, it's a hefty bike, but you don't feel that on the flats. You get three speeds, and I have to say on the inclines and the one small hill I took while on my CaBi, it wasn't the challenge I expected. I have a serious Dutch commuter bike, the Gazelle Medeo, and that baby is so smooth you never feel a pothole, it can make you feel you are getting a strength training workout while bringing the groceries home, and the CaBi didn't feel as heavy in its body. 

My only gripe, and it's a small one, is the lack of a back rack for panniers. The front rack is fairly generous, but I like having the option of buying that extra gallon of milk or that juice (especially if it's on sale!) 

The one note I have is this: It's  not a nimble bike. I'm not picking nits here, but I'm thinking for those who are used to a speedier ride, this bike means making very deliberate choices about your behavior in traffic. Evasive moves are going to be trickier --here's hoping you don't need to employ any on your ride--so it's something to think about. 

Something else about behavior on these bikes: Anyone who rides one is a mobile billboard--and thereby an ambassador for the program. So riding with care isn't just an act of self-preservation, it's also good PR.

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