There's something thrilling about overtaking a Mamil (middle-aged man in Lycra). At least, that’s what I tell myself as I zoom past a perplexed-looking pedal cyclist in Upper Street without so much as breaking a sweat.
The truth is that I feel a little out of control, surprised by the speed I’ve taken off down Islington’s main thoroughfare at rush hour.
At least no one can complain they didn’t see me, given the blindingly bright coral colour of my new wheels dazzling in the Friday afternoon sun. I’m trying Uber’s latest innovation: its electric bike, called Jump. The ride-hailing company unleashed 350 of its dockless bikes in Islington last week as a rival to Lime’s green e-bikes — they are going head to head.
Uber, which partners the Evening Standard’s Future London Clean Air project, claims its bikes are cheaper, sturdier and faster than Lime’s, although they’re heavier too, and currently only available in Islington (the firm says it plans to hit other boroughs soon).
The race is on to dominate London’s transport. Here’s how Jump and Lime measure up.
Both networks work through apps, which show available cycles on a map.
You scan a QR code on the bike to unlock it (both models then play a snazzy tune), but the Lime app links with Apple Pay, so I was away within seconds.
To use the Jump I had to re-enter my card details, despite being an Uber user already, which slowed me down.
Lime’s app also gives a more thorough breakdown of stats after the ride: apparently I burned 101 calories and saved 1,125g of carbon over my 4.5km zoom: a fun reminder you’re saving the planet as well as getting from A to B.
Uber’s bikes are high-spec. Jump comes with three gears (Lime has none), it includes a built-in cable lock (Lime doesn’t) and features a dashboard under the handlebars so that you can put your bike on “hold” or in repair without having to get your phone out.
Both cost £1 to unlock, and Jump is £7.20 an hour after that (the first five minutes are free) — almost £2 less than Lime’s £9 an hour.
As a (fairweather) London cyclist, the idea of an electric boost under my wheels is novel — or that’s my excuse, anyway, as my Lime bike jolts abruptly forwards after half a pedal, sending me (nearly) straight into a turning motorbike.
The sudden acceleration happens every time I turn the wheels, so much so that I’m forced to keep an almost permanent hold of my brakes to avoid colliding with the lunchtime traffic (sorry, bus drivers). I’m glad I brought a helmet. The reaction quickly alters to a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” when I jump on Uber’s wheels.
While Londoners are well accustomed to seeing a flash of green zoom past, they are less so with a flash of red: the mighty Uber cycle draws remarks almost everywhere it goes. “Those bikes are crazy,” says one wide-eyed worker by the canal.
Others are less impressed: “They’re just so… bright,” winces one man to a friend. I turn my head in embarrassment and almost swerve into the river — bulky 15mph e-bikes are not made for busy towpaths, it transpires.
But there’s more to the contest than colour. Lime claims to reach speeds of 14.8mph while Jump runs to 15mph (current laws restrict e-bikes to 15.5mph). In reality, the contrast feels much starker — especially on hills.
I rope in the photographer for an official head-to-head. Lime takes an obvious lead for the first few seconds, thrusting itself into first place by a good couple of metres, while Jump is actually the less jumpy of the two. The red devil accelerates steadily and quickly overtakes its mean green competitor, zooming up the hill. Lime is left in the dust.
Scores on the doors: Lime 12mph; Jump 15mph. This time, smooth and steady wins the race.
Jump smashes the contest, not just on speed but ride, bike specs and price.
Neither Lime nor Jump are cheap but they’re a whole lot better for your bank account (and the environment) than an Uber car — and at rush hour, probably faster too.
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