With the capital enjoying some pretty glorious weather – and those blasted tube and rail strikes also taking place – there’s been no better time to explore the city on two wheels. Or perhaps just head to work… Luckily for us, London town has more than its fair share of bike hire services, and you can pick up a bike using just a mobile app, Apple pay or a debit card – it’s simple! Sadly Ofo and Mobike are no longer with us due to too many of them being *ahem* dumped in the river, but we’ve still got plenty in town! So without further ado, here’s our rundown of the services you can use for bike hire in London:
1. Santander Bikes (otherwise known as ‘Boris Bikes’)
This is the original, official London bike hire scheme, operated by Transport for London, and they just keep getting more and more popular. Over 12,000 Santander Bikes – otherwise known as ‘Boris Bikes’ – are available to pick up from over 800 docking stations across central London, and the cycle hire zone stretches all the way from Brixton in the south, to the Olympic Park in the east, and from Chalk Farm in the north to Hammersmith in the west.
You can hire Santander Bikes by inserting your credit or debit card into the terminal at a docking station. The system charges you £2 for unlimited bike rides that day, as long as each journey is under 30 minutes. For longer journeys, you’ll be charged an extra £2 each time you go over a 30-minute threshold (for example, a 70-minute ride will cost £4 – £2 for minutes 30-60, and then £2 for minutes 60-70.)
You finish your journey by depositing your bike at another docking station, making sure it locks to its base station properly! If there aren’t any spaces at the docking station, too bad – you’ll have to find another one – otherwise you may be charged 300 quid! Several transport apps let you check bike and docking station availability from your phone, including CityMapper and the official app. They’re also launching e-bikes too.
2. Lime Bikes
Partnered with the behemoth that is Uber – who now also have control of the waterways too – Lime Bikes (previously known as Jump Bikes) are one of various different electric bike hire companies in London, who have a mission ‘to build a future where transportation is shared, affordable and carbon-free’.
It couldn’t be simpler hiring one of these pedal-assisted electric bikes either. All you need to do is open the Uber app on your phone and follow the directions provided for renting a bike. You can either reserve a nearby bike or simply walk up to the e-bike to get started. Once you’ve scanned the QR code, the bike will then unlock and you’re free to go!
There’s no docking required, so to end the trip, you simply need to lock the bike using the cable lock on the back wheel. You should always lock bikes out of the way of pathways and accessibility ramps, and park your bike in the correct area shown on your app. It costs a quid to unlock the e-bike itself, then around 15p per minute thereafter. Lime have also just launched their e-scooter service too, so if you’d like something a bit different, then this could be just the ticket!
Fully climate neutral – and the first bike hire service in London to do so – TIER are leaders in the travel sustainability movement. Operating e-bikes, e-scooters and even e-mopeds, they’re a leading provider of micro-mobility, and are focused on reducing carbon emissions as best as they can all around the world.
To make use of their services, all you need to do is download the app and sign up, then you can locate the e-bike closest to you. After scanning the QR code, you can then unlock the cable lock, flip the kickstand up, then boom – you’re ready to go!
You can then opt to park in a designated parking spot or can just leave the e-bike on the pavement away from passers-by. Click ‘end ride’ in the app, replace the cable lock and that’s you done! It’s as simple as that. As with other providers, it costs a quid to unlock the bike then around 15p per minute after that.
New kid on the block HumanForest is all about sustainability, with the overall aim for London to literally become a ‘Human Forest’. Essentially, the idea behind the company is as trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere, so too do humans if they make their journey via an e-bike emitting zero greenhouse gases. Sounds pretty neat if you ask us!
Riders will get ten minutes for free every day, and will be charged 17p thereafter per minute. All bikes are electric and are fitted with a battery that is charged solely through renewable energy. All you need to do to begin your HumanForest adventure is to download the app and sign up – then you’re ready to go!
You can ride anywhere you want in the city, but you’ll need to make sure you park in a ‘green bay’ to avoid any parking charges. If you park outside a green bay, you’ll incur a charge of £1.50, and if you park it outside a designated ‘Human Forest’ zone, you’ll be given a penalty charge.
If you’re looking for a bike subscription service which is longer than just an hour or two, then Swapfiets may just be the ticket. The disruptive Dutch brand offers its members a package deal curated specifically for peace of mind: you get your own bike or e-bike, with all repairs and maintenance included and if your wheels can’t be fixed, they’ll swap it for a replacement in 48 hours or less.
When it comes to memberships, the Dutch brand offers two options: ‘Flexible’ or ‘Regular’. Under Flexible memberships, joining fees apply but you can cancel anytime, while Regular memberships have no joining fees and a 6-month minimum contract. They’re also offering a free month on their memberships for the Summer period. You can find out more here.
Rounding off this list of the best services for bike hire in London is Dott, whose ethos is to free up our cities with ‘clean rides for everyone’. Alongside e-bikes, they also have e-scooters, and their aim is to be a key player in the fight against air pollution and global warming.
They achieved complete carbon neutrality in 2019, and have teams of dedicated, trained professionals who constantly clean and maintain their fleet of vehicles. With in-house operations, they also hold regular safety demonstrations, and their e-bikes come with all the best safety kit, including extra bright front and rear lights, 60 km range swappable batteries, and 26” wheels for a sturdy grip.
They’ve even got a spacious basket, a phone holder and adjustable seats, so you’re definitely gonna be riding in style with this one. As with other electric bike rental services in London, all you need to do is download the app and locate an e-bike or e-scooter. It costs a quid to unlock one, and then 17p per minute from then on.