Powered by ride share giant Uber, JUMP is one of several players in Auckland’s new post-Lime micro-mobility scene – but it’s first to market with e-bikes, a combination of electric zip and big-wheeled comfort.
Our intrepid ride-reviewer Sam Finnemore offers a first-impressions guide to Auckland’s first dockless e-bike scheme: what’s happened, what the bikes are like to ride, and what we think the upshot is for people-friendly mobility around town.
Note: our reviewer paid his own way, and even had to be gently encouraged to use the Uber app for the very first time!
What’s the background?
It was probably only a matter of time before dockless e-scooters were joined by their big-wheeled cousins in Auckland, and Uber have made it happen with JUMP bikes, launched at a ceremony with Mayor Phil Goff and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye in attendance, followed by a chance for the public to test-ride the bikes for free in the Viaduct the day before the bikes went live on the app.
The initial numbers are big: 655 bikes on the ground in one fell swoop, which should make them easy enough to track down for a while – on top of their conspicuous colour and highly visible and punchy name (talk about ride halen!).
The best/worst thing about these guys is that they have a theme song which automatically plays in your head whenever you see one pic.twitter.com/sHyYdno2oz
— geogoose (@geogoose) February 23, 2020
JUMP has a few other aces up its sleeve. Uber needs little introduction as one of the most visible and swaggering tech disruptors, meaning they bring deep pockets and a lot of marketing muscle to put behind their micro-mobility brand.
For the bikes in particular, they also have a local assist in the form of Mercury, which is extending the big push they gave to e-bikes from 2016 by signing up as an energy partner for the bike scheme.
And it’s all offered via the standard Uber app – meaning thousands of people who are used to hailing cars at the swipe of a finger now also have the option of renting nearby e-bikes, as well as scooters, thus clearing a big hurdle for any tech-based business: getting users to download new apps and sign up in the first place.
What are the bikes like?
The first impression of the JUMP bikes is the colour – a conspicuous, dazzling, almost dayglo red.
The second, especially once you walk up to one and grab it, is heavy metal! JUMP have taken the familiar front-wheel drive e-bike layout and armoured it for rideshare use, with a monumental swooping frame that shields the battery, crank and bottom bracket. It all weighs in at a whopping 33 kilograms – in other words, “Not Intended For Off-Road Use Or Stunting” – but wears it lightly.
The components seem pretty high-quality too: the three-speed gear and speed selector is a Sturmey-Archer unit, and the tyres on the launch fleet are pneumatic, puncture-resistant commuter-fave Schwalbe Marathons in chunky e-bike size. All the gleaming metal is held in check by simple but effective Tektro disc brakes front and rear.
A dark black skirt-guard on the rear wheel adds a touch of Dutch, but also cleverly incorporates an integrated cable lock to secure the bike to public racks, and to store the bucket-style helmet that comes with every bike (at least in theory).
Plus, that rear spat functions as a handy billboard to woo potential riders.
The cockpit features a range of simple lights to indicate ride status and battery level, but notably no speed display – again, probably wise, to avoid attempts at record-setting!
There’s also a spring-loaded smartphone slot below the display, in concession to the extremely online among us. [Editor’s note: our other test-rider tried using the phone holder to film her ride, and dubbed the results #nostrilcam. We look forward to readers’ own footage obtained using this feature.]
And the bike comes with built-in lights, essential for city riding in all seasons.
What’s the ride like?
Like JUMP’s e-scooters, you can find and unlock the bikes through the ‘Rent’ tab in the Uber app. Scan the QR code on the bike and the cable lock springs open; coil the lock away inside its housing, don the helmet (again: in theory) and you’re ready to go.
You’ll hum along on your JUMP bike in a comfy upright posture. The seat has the right balance of durability and cushiness, and although the bikes lack suspension, their sheer weight and the tough balloon tyres soak up low-speed bumps and corrugations with ease.
There’s no zero-assist option at all – in other words, no acoustic option. Which is probably wise given the weight of these bikes – but beware of being caught off-guard when the power kicks in, especially in the highest of the three gears/speed settings.
Here’s how it played out in a couple of typical use cases…
- The waterfront ramble
It’s the traditional way to give a new micro-mobility operator a go, and after finding a bike at the Viaduct our intrepid tester headed on a shakedown cruise to Westhaven Marina.
Slow-speed handling was easier than expected: the weight of the bike is safely down low, allowing for careful threading on shared paths.
The upright riding position is at its best here too, with lots of visibility and no need to hunch forward. And although our test rider headed out without a camera crew, we’re cautiously inclined to accept his claim of looking unusually sharp in shop-front windows along the way.
- The on-road mission
As with our OnzO 2.0 review last year, a bike workshop pick-up also gave our test rider the opportunity to stretch the legs of a JUMP bike, on the road and on the clock.
The front-wheel power made for an easy climb up Nelson Street, and the integrated lights and generally high-vis nature of the bike gave a bit more confidence on-road.
Once you’re putting down serious speed, however, the upright riding position literally starts to become a drag, and you become gradually more aware of the weight of the bike when cornering or leaning into a curve.
As mentioned earlier, the brakes are generally good and strong, but our tester detected the beginnings of their limits when headed downhill at on-road speeds. So whether you’re going easy or going for broke, we suggest you heed the disclaimers on the handlebars and test the brakes out before riding away on your chosen bike.
What’s the cost?
Following the scooter model, you pay by the minute – 38 cents a minute, plus a $1 flagfall. That makes for just over $12 for half an hour’s riding and around $25 for a full hour.
You can reserve a nearby bike to make sure you get to it, but the same flagfall and minute rate kicks in from that point. Similarly, you can put the bike on hold to duck into the shops, the laundromat or the library, paying the same per-minute rate while you do so.
If you’re used to e-scooter pricing, the rates won’t be too much of a shock – but we’ve got to admit that the ticking meter does tend to concentrate your mind when you’re waiting at bike crossings and traffic lights [Editorial note: especially in the central city at the moment – a case for more advance bike boxes and a reason people may prefer to roll gently through at the end of pedestrian signals).
Commuters counting their pennies may find it hard to justify daily JUMP bike travel compared to public transport fares over similar distances, or their own bike for that matter. We can also imagine people doing the maths and deciding it’s time to get their own e-bike.
What’s the competition?
We reckon there are a couple of natural sweet spots for JUMP bikes: convenient scooter-esque short trips where more than walking speed is called for, including final-mile rides after bus or train trips; and the occasional longer jaunt to replace a four-wheeled Uber, with the added benefit of popping into shops on the way using the “Hold” feature.
The only other full-size bike share scheme in town at the moment – as opposed to traditional hire – is Nextbike, with “acoustic” offerings in a handful of locations and a modest rental rate of $4 an hour or $20 for a full day’s riding.
That leaves OnzO, which beat even Lime to the punch for dockless mobility in Auckland and launched a fancy new fleet just a year ago – but the super-cheap ($1 an hour) and cheerful yellow bikes are few and far between even in the middle of town, and the friendly OnzO team have gone untypically quiet when we’ve reached out to them.
What’s the upshot?
We’re optimistic about these bikes and what they bring to Auckland’s transport scene – as a gateway for bike and e-bike use, and as an alternative to the much less space-efficient four-wheeled rideshare. More people getting about nimbly on two wheels is something to celebrate, and it all adds to the momentum for a bike-friendlier city.
The ideal scenario is that JUMP riders will become another everyday part of our congestion-free transport mix, just as the growing numbers of private e-scooter riders have done. (For all the negative publicity about scooters, they’re here to stay, and we’re happy enough to count them as fellow travellers on the road to more humane streets and neighbourhoods!)
The full-sized JUMP bikes are of course road legal, and thus officially barred from footpaths where scooters have caused so much consternation. That’s going to introduce more riders to our slowly growing network of paths – and, in the absence of safe spaces, onto our roads. So it will vividly highlight how far we have to go with building a city that’s safe and convenient for bikes, even with electric power on the rider’s side.
With power comes responsibility, and our friends at Greater Auckland also make a salient point that per-minute charging may incentivise speed. This is something for us all to watch out for, since JUMP bikes will no doubt attract riders who are new to e-bikes as a whole, with the extra burden of care and courtesy they bring, and there may be wobbles along the road as people adapt.
As a ride share operator, JUMP will no doubt face some of the same challenges as other players: keeping maintenance in line with urban use and abuse, and making enough bikes available across the city to make the experience more ‘grab and go’ than ‘hunt and gather’. Uber claims to have a good handle on the former, with the bikes put to the test in several overseas markets, but time will only tell on the latter.
Overall, we’re encouraged by the appearance of JUMP’s bikes, and we think they’ll provide a spur both to private e-bike adoption (as happened with scooters) and to other operators filling in free space in the market. Our friends at the Spinoff noted in their quick-off-the-mark JUMP bike review that former scooter kings Lime might well be encouraged to return with their own bike offering.
It’s encouraging to see that elsewhere, JUMP has been keen to team up with advocates in support of better infrastructure for bikes in general, which is right up our multi-modal alley.
At the same time, however, we’re keen to see more evidence of a wider vision for bike share in Auckland from the powers that be. The approach with scooters, after their first surprise appearance, has been to license operators as street traders and then allow a competitive market to develop with a few basic guidelines – but not much of a detectable clear roadmap for the role they ought to play in Auckland.
Assuming that Auckland Council (note: it’s Council that sets the rules, not Auckland Transport) continues to follow the same approach with bike share, it’s unclear whether the sum of a group of private operators will necessarily add up to the full potential of bike share for Auckland, not least when price comes into the picture.
We think a more open approach, and a clearer statement of intent around what Aucklanders want bike share to achieve for this city, would give more confidence to businesses and to all of us about where we’re going with this micromobility revolution, both the pay-as-you-go kind, and the increasing sets of personal “wee wheels” out there.
As JUMP shows, private operators can and will deliver great-quality bikes for paying riders – but a quality plan, and quality infrastructure for all riders, of all ages and abilities, would help turn a small step into a giant leap.
— Ride report and photos by Sam Finnemore
Header image and the one below courtesy of JUMP.