Over the past several months you've likely seen Healthy Ride bike kiosks popping up all over the city. These bikes are one of the many new services coming out to help encourage visitors and locals to get out and explore the many bike trails the city has to offer, and with over 500 bikes and 50 stations, they're doing a great job at it.
We finally got the chance to try one of these bikes on a day out exploring the North Shore bike trail, and had a pretty interesting experience with the service.
What is Healthy Ride All About?
Healthy Ride offers several rental options from the flat rate of $2/30 minutes (pro-rated based on use), $12/month for unlimited 30 minute rides, and $20/month for unlimited 60 minute rides. As the latter is aimed to target commuters who are using the service from point A to point B on a regular basis, and not those going out on extended day rides like us, we opted for the pay-as-you go plan.
Our initial rental hit a bit of a snag as we arrived to the kiosk in the North Side at Federal and North Avenue to find that the digital display at the rental kiosk did not work. Oops. Luckily, the kiosk itself was functioning just fine and the printed instructions told us to register for their iPhone or Android app to check out a bike from our phone.
A few minutes after downloading the app, registering, and adding my credit card on file, grabbing a bike was as simple as typing in the bike number and removing it from the rack a moment later. This was so easy, in fact, that we'd go as far as recommending everyone download the app before heading out to rent a bike- partly to avoid dealing with it at a kiosk, but also because it saves a lot of time in the long run if you plan to rent out bikes again in the future.
Riding on the North Shore Trail
The journey we went on took us all along the North Shore trail, one of our favorites in the city. During our trip we ended up venturing out to what amounted to the end of the line, where the trail turned into a very narrow pathway along the railroad tracks well past Millvale.
If you are not familiar with the North Shore trail, I highly recommend this be your first trip out on a rental bike. The views are some of the best in the city, you can ride along the stadiums if heading west, and you can also explore Washington's Landing (a quieter and gorgeous side of the city most do not venture to) if heading east. Just be careful if you ride near the stadiums on game days as the crowds can make biking a bit of a challenge!
The bikes performed quite well over the gradual slopes of the North Shore trail but, being rentals, we did find a few subtle issues such as the seat on Angie's bike not holding its place or the gears of mine never quite being in the spot I wanted them (although what can you expect for a seven speed rental?). A few of these issues probably would be overcome by renting from a dedicated bike company, but for its price is hardly enough to warrant a major complaint as I can put up with quite a bit for a modest cost savings.
Bring Your Own Gear
If there is one major issue that the Healthy Ride bikes have, it is that you may need to bring some of your own gear. The bikes do have built in lighting systems and a small basket, but there are some functionalities that are currently not very helpful. A few we found include:
- The basket is made of grated metal (two sides) and bungee cord (two sides). This takes some maneuvering to hold a bottle of water down, such that you may want to bring a bottle with a clip-on attachment as the basket is useful for large items only (and even then, it isn't the best).
- The built in bike lock is also pretty much useless. At the time of publishing Healthy Ride only recommends to use the lock if you have to return your bike at a station that is full. This is a problem Healthy Ride says they are working on, but for now bringing your own bike lock is recommended if you want to stop and do a bit of shopping and leave your checked out bike unattended. This issue may be fixed in the future so check their FAQ section out before riding to confirm.
Overall, we really enjoyed our day out on the Healthy Ride bikes. We do not intend to use them to substitute our primary mode of transport, but if we need to make a quick trip between kiosks or want to go biking on a trail, we'll definitely be using them until we buy bikes of our own.
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