Hailed as the kingdom of bicycles in the 1980s, China’s rapid economic growth helped the country broaden its roads and streets, in turn letting cars conquer the throne. Then, for many years, bikes were few and far between—until the mid-2010s, when bike-sharing startups took China by storm. Entire cities became overfilled with a menagerie of coloured bicycles creating a rainbow of metal and rubber.
Today, most of those early start-ups are defunct or bought out by larger companies, but bike-sharing itself lives on. The major players are Meituan Bike, Didi Qingju, and Hellobike.
Meituan Bike is the bike-sharing unit of Meituan-Dianping, which absorbed competitor Mobike. Qingju is the bike-sharing unit of Didi. Hellobike is backed by Ant Financial
The similarities between their bikes are obvious. They all use QR-codes and smartphone apps to let users scan and unlock them. They all come with front baskets, hand brakes, and a bell.
The easiest way to tell them apart are their colors: turquoise for Qingju, yellow and orange for Meituan Bikes, and white and blue for Hellobike. There are other subtle differences, however, and these small details are enough to attract a Beijinger to hop atop one ride or another. In this video, let’s take a look at each of these major players in the market.
For reference, here’s a breakdown of China’s bike-sharing rivals.
- Orange or yellow colors
- Since Meituan bought bike-share competitor Mobike, the Meituan app can also unlock older Mobike bikes. However, the Mobike app can’t unlock the newer Meituan bikes.
- Bike seat height is adjusted using a lever bar and, depending on the model, seat height is listed in centimeters, or a number range of 1-10
- Seat is firm, but comfortable
- To register, users must provide ID card or passport info within the app. For foreign passport holders, the application process takes longer, sometimes requiring emailing Mobike directly
- Starting price per ride is RMB 1.5 for the first 30 minutes, with an additional RMB 0.5 every 15 minutes afterward. No deposit required.
- Turquoise color
- The Didi app or Qingju WeChat mini program can be used to unlock Qingju bikes, as well as Bluegogo bikes (an early entrant which the company has bought) and Ofo bikes (which is a partner of the firm)
- Like the Meituan bikes, seat height is adjusted using a lever bar and heights are listed in centimeters
- Seat is firm, but comfortable
- To register, users need to provide ID card information or passport information within their app. As a foreign passport holder, registering for Qingju takes longer than the estimate given by the app.
- Starting price per ride is RMB 1.5 for the first 30 minutes, with an additional RMB 1.5 every 30 minutes afterwards. No deposit required.
- White and blue colors
- Unlockable using the Hellobike app or using the Alipay mini program
- Depending on the model, there are two styles of seat adjustment. Some have lever bars, while others have a crank that can be loosened or tightened. The models lack indications of height, so any adjustments have to be assessed by eye
- Cushioned, comfortable seat, great for bumpy roads
- To use Hellobike, users need to register for an Alipay account
- Starting price per ride is RMB 1 for the first 15 minutes, then RMB 0.5 for every 15 minutes after that. No deposit is required.