Remko Tanis • 22 March 2019

You can almost write entire sentences by just pasting the brand names together of the bike sharing bicycles you’ll find on the streets of cities in China. That way at least there’s some purpose to them. The bikes, owned by companies like Hello Bike, Ofo Bike and Mobike, don’t seem to be doing much else than standing -or laying- around unused, collecting dust and rust.

Here’s how one of the biggest global bike sharing companies, Mobike from Beijing, imagines its bikes are used:

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Here’s how Mobikes, and the bicycles from competitors Mo, Ofo and Hello, actually spend most of their time in the cities of Changsha and Shenzhen:

Bike sharing bikes in Changsha, China. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Bike sharing bikes in Changsha, China. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Mobikes and Ofo bikes in Shenzhen, China, in front of ‘China Dream’ / ‘Chinese Dream’ propaganda posters. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Mobikes in downtown Shenzhen, China. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Mobike said earlier this month it will pull out of some Asian countries, such as Singapore, Thailand, India and Malaysia. The 4-year old company, which was bought for USD 2.7 billion by Beijing-based on demand services company Meituan Dianping only last April, also retreated from Australia.

Ofo, once Mobike’s biggest competitor and backed by Chinese internet giant Alibaba, is on the verge of bankruptcy. They’ve been competing against each other to the edge of despair - allegedly losing USD 25 million a month. Seems the only revenue stream for these companies came from people paying deposits when opening a user account. Money these customers now struggle to get back.

I’ve used a Mobike in Shanghai last month. The quality is mweh.

Navigating traffic on one of these bikes feels like joining a Formula 1 race in a 1986 Peugeot 205. Every other vehicle (or purchased bike) on the road is way stronger than yours. A slight look in your direction from someone else in traffic is enough to make your Mobike completely disintegrate right from under you.

It’s gonna be a field day for steel and plastics recycling companies in the near future, processing all these excess bikes into something more useful.