If anyone had ever told me that one day in the future I would be able to walk around Washington, D.C., with a special key, pass by racks of bikes peppered throughout the city, insert my special key, and ride off with a bike underneath me I would have said “No way! That’s just a crazy dream.”
But sometimes crazy dreams do come true. Capital Bikeshare is proof of that.
I joined Capital Bike Share (CaBi) two months ago for a $50 annual fee. (Now memberships are up to $75, but that’s still a deal for a year of bike riding.) At first, I wasn’t sure why I was joining, given that I have a pretty decent bike stable at home that I can ride for free. I did it more out of a desire to support bike riding in the city.
One rainy ride into the office made me see CaBi membership as an excellent commute alternative to my personal bike. Why dirty up my own steed when I can ride CaBi? They’ll clean the bike for me.
AND check out these amazing fenders and chainguards. Minimal worries about splatter, thanks to these babies!
CaBi is not only good for rainy rides, I discovered. It’s great for any short trip. After paying my annual membership, all rides up to thirty minutes cost me nothing. If my trip is one hour or less, I pay $1.50, which is easily comparable to Metro. And since I do not like to pick Metro as my first transportation mode of choice, CaBi is an excellent alternative.
I live near a Metro stop with a CaBi station and work downtown in an area where we now have three CaBi zones. It’s awesome. (I can’t move and my office can never relocate. Ha!) The only hitches are if:
- The CaBi station on the departure end is empty. So far, that hasn’t happened, although the bike supply has run low.
- The CaBi station on the destiniation end is full. That did happen to me once, but just as I went to park a CaBi service van pulled two bikes for service, and left me with a space. If that hadn’t happened, however, I would have had to resort to pedaling off to another station, farther away from my destination, to see if they had any spots. While a manageable inconvenience, it would have still been a bummer.
CaBi bikes are step-through steel frames with tires that must measure in at two inches. You can roll over pretty much anything with those puppies. The internal hub has three gears spaced out enough to get a rider up a hill comfortably as well as over flat terrain without spinning out.
Worried about riding in the dark? Not to worry! CaBi bikes also have lights. The front light works better as a “be-seen” light as opposed to a “seeing the road” lumination, but in the farily well-lit streets of the city, that is not an issue. The two brake lights are excellent, and make a rider easily visible.
Saddle height is adjustable to accomodate tall and short riders alike. Handlebar height or reach is not adjustable, but these bikes are designed for short trips, not long-distance excursions. It’s convenience over comfort. There is also a space in the front for a purse or bag, and a little bungee cord is also attached to secure these items.
These bikes even come with kickstands. And bells. Unfortunately,
- I was not smart enough to figure out how to make the bells work,
- CaBi bike bells are not very loud, or
- all the CaBi bikes I’ve ridden have defective bells.
I could not make the bell do much more than a teeny little “deeeeing.” It was quite sad. Fortunately for me, my pipes are strong so the bell is not critical. (But I would still like to know how it works.)
What about helmets? I am a fan of helmets. Of course, no CaBi bike comes with a helmet, but I now try to carry one around with me so that if I do decide to take a CaBi bicycle out for a ride, I’ve got a little protection for my noggin.
With CaBi, I don’t have to worry about looking for a parking spot for my own bike or leaving my bike locked up outside in the elements. Just park and go at a CaBi station (unless they are full. See above!).
CaBi has been an exciting addition to my commuting arsenal. It’s an amazing feeling to walk around Washington, D.C., with a key that unlocks bikes in places all over the city.
Sometimes crazy dreams can come true in this crazy capital city. Thanks, CaBi.