The arrival of bikeshare in Auckland has been fascinating, with some teething problems, as we predicted. One biggie: a shortage of customer support, that led to a flurry of enquiries to us and likely to other places as well – many of them from members of the public who saw a dockless bike as an abandoned bike.

The good news: OnzO now has a phone number – 0800 646 696

Please contact them about any issues. 

OnzO has offered to meet with us so we can hear more about their plans, which we understand may involve a rollout of more bikes – including electric ones. We’ll keep you posted.

OnzOs hanging out, chatting with the other bikes at a recent Auckland Conversations event.

Auckland Transport’s Walking, Cycling, and Safety Manager Kathryn King issued a new memorandum about cycleshare on 9 November, which includes this information:

  • Onzo, a dockless cycleshare company, have now been in operation in Auckland for two weeks. They have approximately 200 bicycles in operation, predominantly based in the city centre.
  • AT has heard from members of the public and people working in the cycling industry concerned that Onzo are operating without a licence.
  • AT and Auckland Council have agreed a process for ensuring that cycleshare companies are licenced and follow an agreed code of practice. This will be managed through a street trading licence with specific requirements to ensure safe and appropriate operation.  Enforcement of the licence will be carried out by the council.
  • Staff from AT and council’s Regulatory Compliance team met with Onzo’s legal team on Friday 3 November to explain the process for applying for a street trading licence and the terms of the code of practice. We anticipate the licence will be in place by the end of November.
  • The code of practice focuses on ensuring that the bicycles in operation are legal for the NZ conditions, are safe for use by customers, and are located in places that don’t cause an obstruction for other road users.

Next steps:

  • AT will work with the council to complete the licencing process with Onzo and will ensure any further private cycleshare companies follow the same process. AT and the council will monitor the use of the cycleshare schemes and will restrict the number of operators and bikes if necessary.
  • AT will continue with its business case for investment in cycleshare and the request for interest in operating in the Auckland market will be published in late November. The private cycleshare operators will be invited to provide submissions on the request for interest. AT will evaluate private dockless systems, against the criteria for a successful cycleshare system in Auckland, as established in the business case.

So how do they ride? Our committee member Duncan Laidlaw took one of the bikes for a spin. Here are his thoughts:

I didn’t take myself through the rain last Wednesday, and as I rode on the bus out to work I noticed a couple of Onzos parked behind the St Heliers Library.  By the afternoon, the weather had cleared and I was sitting at my desk at 4:30 thinking how nice it would be to have my TCX waiting for a ride home … then I had an idea!  Rent one of the Onzos from St Heliers and ride it to the Ferry Building.

For the record not all my ideas are good ones, but a little randomness helps keep life interesting, I find.

Having initially criticised the signup process for being a bit shaky, my experience of opening the app, scanning a bike, and getting going was relatively painless – and the time from scanning to unlocking was impressively fast.  I have used City Hop carshare in the past, and this process was equally satisfying.

The pre-ride experience

  • Solar panel basket base – a sunny touch.

    The helmet was basic, but adjusted well and was a good fit.

  • I was impressed to see the base of the basket looks to be a solar panel which I assume keeps the lock powered.
  • There are two barcodes, one on the lock and one on the stem.  The one on the stem had fogged up a little so I used the one on the lock and the app registered it quickly.
  • The bikes are new and despite looking cheap the chains are heavy duty units, the brakes worked really well, there was no noise or resistance that I noticed in the drive train.
  • The bell is easy to use and effective.
  • The bike surprised me at how light it was.  This is important if you have to carry it over a hazard or catch a ferry to Birkenhead with it.
  • I had assumed I would chuck my laptop into the basket but the basket is too small (despite my laptop not being that big).  I adjusted the strap of my bag and hung it over my back… and in the process dropped the bike because I forgot it has no top tube to rest against.
  • I adjusted the seat as high as it would go, but that wasn’t very far.

Getting under way

As I rode the bike from St Heliers to Okahu Bay, where I stopped for a while, I noticed a few things:

  • It took a lot more effort than I expected to get moving, I think partly due to fit.
  • Once moving, it took little time to get to top speed.
  • Once at top speed, it was easy to maintain on the level run round the bays, even with a breeze from the front.
  • The front wheel moved a lot along the path, which has a lot of ups and downs for tree roots etc.
  • The ‘cockpit’ is tiny. With my wrists resting on the grips, my elbows were at 90 degrees.
  • The seat is very short. Later I checked and when the pedals are horizontal, my thigh is too. That means my thigh comes up above horizontal about as far as it drops. My quads can confirm this.
  • Overall though, I had a smile on my face the whole way.
  • There were lots of people out riding Onzos, all the way round, and it felt like you were part of something cool the young people were doing (which definitely meant I was not cool doing it!)
An OnzO in the wild on Market St. We hear they’re popular with students – including school students!

From Okahu to town

  • I had to stand up in the pedals to get over Ngapipi into the breeze – quads didn’t want it any other way, but it did feel a bit strange.
  • I tried to get as aero as possible along Quay St and got the rpm up. This resulted in a lot of exertion for not a lot of extra speed – these things are definitely designed to cruise.

A closer inspection

I had noticed the ride seemed quite harsh, and partly put it down to the bike fit. As I rode over some glass in Mission Bay, I wondered what I would do if I got a flat. Once on the ferry, I checked out the bike more closely and noticed it had no valve stems. Then it struck me – it has airless tires/ solid rubber tyres.  A quick squeeze and this was confirmed.

I haven’t checked the diameter of the wheels, but they are definitely smaller than 29” and look smaller than 26”. The seat it self looks well padded but a squeeze demonstrated that the foam is quite soft and won’t provide a lot of absorbtion and the seat isn’t as much sprung as it has hard rubber dampers.

All this, combined with a fairly solid seat post, meant the ride was very harsh over the 10km distance I travelled.  Smaller wheels are more rigid, there is no suspension in the frame, no give in the seat post, the seat padding colapses to the hard core – and the tyres are pretty hard so you don’t even get them reducing the bumps.

The solid tyres I think also contributed to a couple of new sensations while riding. They don’t deform like air filled tyres do, so they don’t roll over road surface imperfections – hence the sensation that the front wheel moves around a lot. Also, they don’t grip the surface in the same way, hence I had a nagging sensation of reduced traction.

The solid tires: no flats, but also no bounce.

Overall thoughts

So, where do bikeshares fit into general bike usage, and into the bike tribe universe for people like me? In my case, I’d still use Onzo bikes for limited short trips at the moment – mostly from the CBD along to the viaduct or similar.

While tall, at 6ft I am not a giant, and the bike I used was miles to small.  Although a lot of people are giving them a go, the size issue would worry me.  I would guess the sizing is best for those under 5 ft, and indeed, a lot of the people I saw riding were shorter people.

I also saw OnzO riders who looked like they were not part of the regular cycling statistics.  That can be hard to tell but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone wearing anything other than ‘normal’ clothes to ride Onzos.

Helmet use was excellent, and people were out riding in pairs having fun.

The user experience of Hire-Ride-Leave was smooth, and I think that is extremely important.

I think regardless of fit, the ride quality would tend to disuade me from using these for longer rides. People looking to explore the city (e.g. cruise ship passengers etc) would probably want to hire something a little better.  This is a good thing, because it still leaves space for existing operators and also means that having a cruise ship in town doesn’t mean all the OnzOs disappear to Mission Bay.

An OnzO in Victoria Park –something about the seamlessness of bike share really suits Auckland.
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  • Bruce Copeland

    Fascinating to see how these bikes are being used and how quickly and enthusiastically they’ve been adopted. I wouldn’t consider myself a bike snob but being reasonably tall they don’t seem that appealing. I’ll get over that and give them a try. Does prove that there is enormous pent up demand that may not have been properly considered when determining priorities for transport budgets and road space.

  • Taylor

    Rode one of these today from Parnell to Britomart and it was quite fun. A bit hard to locate as it was up a driveway and next to someone’s garage but I quickly unlocked the bike and got moving.

    It certainly is a bit hard to get going but the overall ride was nice. Helmet made me look a bit like a dick.

    Unfortunately it appears these bikes are disappearing from the central city and spreading out. Time to drop some more!