Spin reaches 1,000 rides in first two days, have you tried it yet?

Looking for bike share app download links, an up-to-date list of companies in operation or rules on where to park? We’ve got it all and more in our Seattle Bike Share Guide.

Spin staff were biking around Monday helping people learn about the new service.

People took 1,000 rides on Spin bikes during the company’s first two days of operations, the company said via Twitter Wednesday:

A snapshot of available bike locations as of Wednesday afternoon, following two full days of use.

The launch Monday is the young company’s largest venture, so it’s pretty impressive to see their bikes get solid use so quickly out of the gate while they are still putting more bike on the streets and squashing inevitable bugs in the system.

As a comparison, Pronto saw 3,134 rides in its first week of operations, but averaged only 394 trips per day over the course of its first year. July and August weeks saw more than 4,000 rides on Pronto.

Of course, it’s hard to compare the services based on the number of bikes alone. Pronto had stations, so getting a bike was dependable if you knew where the stations were. With Spin, dependability will increase as the number of bikes increases. They are limited to 500 for the first month, but a sustainable number is much higher than that. In a press release Monday, the company said they have their sights on 10,000 bikes eventually.

Both Spin and LimeBike have said they wish they could go bigger at launch, but the city’s rules are written to ease into the water rather than jump into the deep end. LimeBike has a couple bikes in circulation, but their real launch is still on the way (they said they hoped to be launched by Friday, so stay tuned). In a month, the companies can add other 500 bikes. The next month they can add another 1,000. After another month, the limits will be lifted, assuming things are going well. So think of the service as it is as a beta test of the concept.

Spin has focused distribution of its first 500 bikes on areas in and around downtown, but users are allowed to ride them anywhere they want within the city limits.

As of Wednesday afternoon, people had biked as far south as Georgetown and White Center. Several bikes have gathered in Columbia City, Mount Baker, Fremont and the U District. Some have made it to West Seattle and Ballard. One even made it to the end of Discovery Park at the bottom of that massive hill near the waste treatment plant (that one might be there for a while unless Spin staff or a very ambitious user rescues it).

It’s very interesting to note that demand seems higher in Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley than Green Lake and Greenwood.

So far, fears that people would park the bikes poorly have not been founded. Almost all I have seen were parked according to the city’s rules (outlined in this handy graphic we put together). I have seen a couple parked on grass planter strips, which is technically not allowed. But I dunno, if the grass isn’t super well cared for anyway, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I’d be much more concerned about bikes blocking bus stops, businesses or accessible parking spaces, and I haven’t seen those issues yet. So good work, everyone!

And hey, if you want this bike share thing to work out, go ahead and fix any improperly-parked bikes you see around.

There are so many questions about how this is going to work in Seattle, and Spin is tackling them in real-time as they arise. It’s pretty bold to put your company out there like this. Sarah Anne Lloyd, who has been covering the bike share story for Curbed, and I joked on Monday that LimeBike is using Spin as their canary in a coal mine. Not a bad strategy, perhaps.

So far, the two companies have been very friendly, but they also both clearly want to come out on top. LimeBike hid the fact that they had 8-speed bikes for months in hopes their hill-climbing prowess would give their bikes an advantage. For their part, Spin sprinted out of the gate to beat LimeBike to the opening day press and capture people’s first rides on one of the new bike share services. Derrick Ko of Spin and Gabriel Scheer of LimeBike recently sat down together with KUOW’s Bill Radke. Despite all the naysayer caller comments (give them a chance!), it’s worth a listen.

As with any new venture, there are some bugs in the Spin system. Some people have reported some bugs in the app (bikes displayed that aren’t actually there or promo credits being calculated strangely). Hopefully, those are easy software fixes.

By far the biggest complaint I’ve heard about Spin’s bikes has been the gearing. The bikes are not heavy, but they only have three gears. And the lowest gear is not low enough to get up popular bike routes like Pine Street without standing up and putting in a significant amount of work. Climbing hills is never going to be particularly easy, but lower gears allow you to sit back and take your time.

Even before the service launched, Spin staff was talking about lowering the gearing on their bikes. If they want many users to help them distribute bikes back up hills, they will definitely need to do that.

The company responded to the low gear suggestion with this promising cat GIF:

A couple of the bikes I’ve tried have had issues shifting smoothly or staying in the low gear. I’ve heard from readers who have reported the same issue. This might just be a maintenance issue, but it’s something for Spin to keep an eye on.

The bikes also only have a headlight and rear reflector (this is all WA law requires). Many people have voiced a desire for a rear light, and Spin says they are looking into making that change:

UPDATE: The company has also responded to concerns that the headlights are too flimsy and should come on automatically (there is an on/off switch, but it’s not very obvious):

So far, the company’s receptiveness to suggestions for improvement already put it on a better track than Pronto, which consistently failed to make significant improvements to its service despite years of suggestions from users and yours truly. Of course the real test will be whether the company follows through.

It is also vital that bike share companies get ahead of city rules about equitable access to their services. Spin’s Derrick Ko says they will work to tackle the problem from two directions: Equitable distribution of bikes and ease of access to their services.

With only 500 bikes, it is hard to serve areas very far from the downtown core without spreading the network too thin to be useful. Critical mass is the key to a bike share system’s success. That means being able to depend on a bike being within a convenient distance from you at any time. So don’t expect more than a handful of bikes to make it out of downtown in the first month while numbers are so limited.

However, the companies need to focus on serving south and far north Seattle as soon as they can. This means not only distributing bikes there, but also focusing marketing efforts there to help people learn how to use them.

They also need to find a way to provide access to their bikes to people who can’t afford a smart phone and a data plan. The company is thinking about this already, and told the Bicycle Advisory Board last week that they are working on ideas for possibly charging accounts using cash and unlocking bikes via SMS messaging (you still need a phone, but a cheap one will do and no data plan is required). They also said they were looking into how the company can work with existing programs, like ORCA Lift, to help people get access and possibly get discount fares.

I love all these ideas, and I’m sure there are many more out there to explore. The next test will be to get them into action.

Have you ridden a Spin bike yet? Let us know how it went below!

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40 Responses to Spin reaches 1,000 rides in first two days, have you tried it yet?

  1. Alex W says:

    My first ride was kind of terrible. The bike was very squeeky and had the aforementioned shifting issues. The back brake was dangerously loose and eventually the bike threw the chain after going over a bump at which point I ended my ride because it was difficult to reset the chain. My second ride was pleasant so it might have been just a single faulty bike.

  2. Dan says:

    “They also need to find a way to provide access to their bikes to people who can’t afford a smart phone and a data plan…They also said they were looking into how the company can work with existing programs, like ORCA Lift, to help people get access and possibly get discount fares.”

    I don’t understand this at all. Does anyone say this about Uber? Or about taxi cabs? Or Car2Go? Do airlines need to find a way to provide access to flights to people who can’t afford them? It’s a private company offering a remarkably inexpensive service. I get that public transit should make all efforts to be affordable, but at some point people have to pay for services that private businesses provide. Or they don’t. They don’t have to use the business. But there’s no right to access to private bike shares.
    Also, discount fares? The fares are $1! How much of a discount are we looking for?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      These are ideas they suggested.

      Over time, $1 rides will add up. Two a day for a year… yeah, that’s not nothing.

      And yes, people say this about Uber all the time. And Uber doesn’t care because Uber is a terrible company. I’m glad Spin isn’t Uber.

      • Steve M says:

        I agree with Dan. These privately funded services are welcome to create their business as they see fit. If they want to cater only to folks with smartphones that’s their right. They are not publicly funded and don’t need to provide universal service. Yes Uber has a sullied reputation and that may be a bad comparison. OK, how about Lyft? Lyft is pretty cool and you can’t access their service without a smartphone either.
        And $1 per 30 minute ride may add up but other than walking it’s the least expensive form of unsubsidized transportation in the city. Why would Spin (or the city) choose to make their service less expensive than that with subsidies? It’s already the least expensive option.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I guess I believe that companies can do things for the sake of doing the right thing. I also think doing the right thing wins them public support, which could turn into more profit or help them gain community partners who can help them grow. Investing in the community isn’t the same as throwing away money, whether it’s a donation to Bike Works (which Spin already made when they started their Spin Cities program) or a policy to help more people access your transportation service.

        They are also using public space for private gain, so the City does have the latitude to focus an equity lens on their operations. I think it makes more sense for them to just get ahead and do it themselves.

      • JTinWS says:

        Thanks Tom for your thoughtful perspective. I agree that it’s a worthy goal and rightfully a top priority to make access equitable. That will help ensure success.

        I have to say I had a bit of a similar reaction of like “whoa, let’s cut them some slack at least for a bit” and I think it’s understandably motivated for many bikeshare fans by losing Pronto. Criticism, or even asking what might be a tall order (to do well), can sound like part of the chorus of complaints that helped bring Pronto down.

        I’m really glad they’re already at least saying the right things about equitable access and look forward to thoughtful advocates like Tom helping nudge them in the right direction.

        A super simple starting model for subsidized access would be to give ORCA Lift users the first 30 minutes free on rides, like Pronto and most municipal bikeshare systems have, then $1 or $0.50 per half hour after that. So it’s still an accessible last-mile resource, but if you really wanna cruise for 7 or 8 miles, there’s some cost sharing. Just spit-balling!

    • Steven Lorenza says:

      I agree. It’s a private business providing service for $1. I wouldn’t expect anything more from them.

  3. Bryan says:

    Took spin home from downtown to West Seattle this evening. Had a little problem with the shifting into low gear while mashing on the pedals. Lightening up on the pressure and it shifted down just fine.
    Overall, love having options for $1. Well done Spin!

  4. SounderBruce says:

    I tried and failed repeatedly to rent a Spin bike using their Android app. Froze right after confirming a bike (took several attempts for the QR code to be scanned…or for the keyboard to pop up when entering the number) and crashed just about each time.

    The app also seems to use a lot of battery power, even without location switched on. And when opening the app without location on, you have to zoom in from a map of the entire continent down to your area; being able to set a home location would be really helpful to suburban commuters who want to scan for bikes when getting off their bus. Really hope things are resolved soon.

  5. Alkibkr says:

    At the risk of branding myself a dinosaur, I found that I could download the Spin app but not the Limebike app to my iPhone because Limebike requires ios 10 and my older phone will only support ios 9.3.5. I told Limebike, sorry, I will have to use Spin instead.

  6. Breadbaker says:

    The comparisons to Pronto’s debut are not really valid. What was the weather when Pronto launched?

  7. Stevo says:

    Took my first ride tonight. Generally pleased and I will definitely use as a last-mile solution. Welcome to Seattle Spin! I think it’s a great value at $1 for 30 minutes. I question whether it’s a sustainable business at that price, though: $2 or 2.50 would still be attractive for me at least, perhaps with a volume discount for frequent rides. Other thoughts and questions:
    Bike rode well overall…but it should as it was new.
    Front brakes pretty ineffective–by design? Rear nice and strong.
    Very odd feeling to not have the basket turn with the wheel when steering–had to get used to that.
    Switch on the headlight — but I think it would be better if it was always just on.
    Headlight flimsy– mine may have broke during my ride!
    Gearing fine for me — I’d ride it up Pike/Pine but not much steeper. (Caveat: I ride a heavy old-school 19-speed up it every day).
    Business model should provide free ride credits to those going uphill to reduce repositioning costs.
    Thinking about the piles of bikes at some of the homeless encampments…how will Spin prevent parts from being stolen?

  8. asdf2 says:

    There’s a bug in the app where every 5-10 seconds, it automatically resets the map to your gps position. Which is tolerable if your gps is accurate, very annoying if your gps is not accurate.

  9. Steve M says:

    In all the time that Pronto was here I never rode one. The barrier to entry vs the service advantage didn’t add up for me. Also the pricing model didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to commit to an annual membership and the per use rate was too high for almost any use case.
    Within the first two days of Spin being on the ground I have already downloaded the app, set up an account, given them my payment info and taken my first ride! This is a much better option. The ride was pretty good, although I couldn’t get the bike to stay in first gear. And riding without a helmet kind of freaked me out (not Spin’s problem, but mine).
    I will definitely be using Spin again but I sure to wish we had safer routes to take where riding without a helmet didn’t feel so precarious. I’m not a helmet zealot but I feel quite vulnerable riding DT without one. Can’t wait for a few more bikes to appear in WS though!
    Welcome to Seattle, Spin & Lime Bike! Long live bikeshare in Seattle!

  10. Amy says:

    I rode Spin to the Sounders Game today from Beneroya and it was fine but not so good going back after the game / need lower gears – I’ll try Lime next

  11. Fish says:

    Saw spin bikes all over the Burke yesterday. Who would have guessed that people would want to use bike share along a flat bike trail in a corridor with no good E-W transit routes and horrendous traffic. Very happy about the private bike share but still mad at the city for screwing up Pronto.

    • Jake says:

      One of the ironies is that Pronto avoided expanding to the Burke-Gilman because, as a public partnership, it had to be concerned with equity. For the same reason, they couldn’t do cheap app-based purchasing, but needed expensive payment kiosks to be (at least in theory) accessible to folks near the poverty line. Those kinds of decisions doomed it in the end, and in one sense critics were right: a private company can do it better. But that’s not because private companies are inherently more proficient at such things, but rather because they are free to ignore social issues and focus on the bottom line.

      • Fish says:

        Completely agree. I’m more angry about Pronto b/c the city lost a lot of credibility for how much they screwed up what should have been a pretty easy thing. I still see Seattle Times editorials and commentors railing against pronto every chance they get. Some things the gov’t should run and they do it much better than any private industry.I’m okay with bike share being privatized though.

    • I couldn’t agree more.

      This morning’s 9:44 am demonstration of the Law of Gravity:

      3 — bikes in a ~20 x 25 block area in the entire Capitol Hill/Hilltop/Squire Park area: Yesler to Aloha and Bellevue Ave E to 23rd Ave E. This despite the fact that they have already seeded the area at least twice as part of the initial rollout.

      8 — bikes in a ~6 x 10 block area of Fremont/lower Stoneway. This despite the fact that the closest bikes in the initial rollout were over 2 miles away.

      In their next deployment they should try the following locations:

      * Ballard
      * Fremont
      * Greenlake
      * Alki
      * Columbia City
      * UW light rail station
      * Mount Baker light rail station
      * Columbia City light rail station
      * Othello light rail station

  12. Joe Z says:

    I had a great first experience yesterday (First Hill to UW) but I did have similar issues with first gear.

    I wanted to get one again this morning but unfortunately all the bikes have moved downhill (not surprising). I imagine that redistributing the bikes is expensive, so Spin might want to consider ‘community’ redistribution by offering free rides if the bike is dropped off more than 200 ft elevation higher than it started. I noticed the app already saves the starting/ending location so this should be easy to implement.

  13. Nick says:

    I rode one to work for the first time this morning! There was one a few blocks from my place in the Central District at 25th and Cherry, close to my normal bus stop. I found the brakes a bit squeaky, and the front light was a bit flimsy as someone had mentioned before. Other than that, not a bad ride. Can’t wait to try LimeBike for a comparison.

  14. Weaksauce says:

    I rode a spin for the first time yesterday from Fremont to Centurylink field for the Sounders game and I thought it was pretty good experience. I contemplated riding without a helmet ,but I brought my own because there is no way in hell I’m riding down 2nd ave during rush hour traffic without one.

    I walked about 5 minutes from my house to the bike and it was located right where the GPS said it was. I was concerned that some one would pickup the bike before I got there. I think it would be great if you could reserve the bike for 15-20 minutes(similar to ReachNow) so you know the bike will be there when you show up.

    Like others have mentioned, I also had problems with the bike staying in the highest gear for climbing hills. I would consider myself a fairly fit cyclist and I did find it to be a bit of a slog up a few hills, but cycling isn’t easy. I felt my efforts were justified as I cruised past the rush-our gridlock.

    It was cheap too! It only cost me 2 bucks for a 32 min ride. It’s cheaper, healthier, and faster than the bus! I really hope this catches on!

  15. Robin says:

    I commented this in the other article, but just wanted to share it here again with the compilation of first-ride reviews. I really hope this was a one-off, because I really want bikeshare to work in Seattle, but on my first Spin ride, not TEN blocks from where I started, the chain SNAPPED! Not just jumped, snapped. Unusable. This was Tuesday afternoon, maybe 30 hours after that bike had been released into the wild. Also, the handlebar was loose from the frame. Jeepers. It otherwise looked in fine condition and had not been parked anywhere sketchy, so I feel like it must have been pre-existing to the launch. Which, in worst case scenario, means the manufacturing quality of the likely mass-produced chains is a bit poor. The guy on the help chat line assured me “the bikes meet/exceed the highest safety/quality standards (both CPSC and ISO4210” yadda yadda yadda. Ok, that’s nice, but the chain snapped WHILE I was riding it on a slight downgrade. And should it matter regarding the mechanical stress it was under, I will clarify that I am not a heavy person.

    I’ll be trying more of them, but was disappointed that they hadn’t bothered to make sure the first 500 were in perfect working condition. Seems like they were a little too anxious to beat Limebike to the launch.
    Other thoughts: distribution already surprisingly good, although with their 3-speeds they will indeed spend a lot of time driving bikes back up Capitol Hill. (But elevation felt MUCH more manageable than with the Pronto bikes). And I love the $1 ride pricing, but agree that they should do bulk discount or some kind of reward for frequent users. Maybe they could give free rides for bringing bikes back up the hill! The Pronto price model was flawed for sure, but $65/year (discounted through work) was actually a darn good deal.
    With a dock-less model, I totally understand the bikes are somewhat more vulnerable to tampering, and I don’t expect every Spin bike a month from now to be in perfect working order; that’s their problem of attrition, not mine. And once there are thousands, it will be even less of a big deal for riders. But a day after launch??

  16. Michael says:

    I’ve been wondering about something the past few days: is there anything geofencing the bikes? That is, is there anything keeping them from being unlocked outside of a certain distance from Seattle? I’m curious if we’ll start seeing a few of these bikes naturally make their way down the trails to comparatively further places (Snohomish, Everett, etc.). Would that cause legal problems for these companies if they’ve only gotten approval to function in Seattle? If not, would they just consider their network as expanding or would they consider it a problem that their were bikes in areas with a smaller concentration of users (and thus less profit per bike)?

    I ask mostly out of curiosity, but also in the hope of seeing a bike or two pop up here in the northern suburbs ;)

  17. KJ says:

    I’m so disappointed because I’ve been trying to ride a Spin bike for 3 days now and all attempts were unsuccessful.
    I first had trouble scanning the QR code several times – 2 different bikes. Once the app successfully scanned the code, the Apple Pay screen came up and asked for me to enter a “Passcode” which I don’t have and wasn’t aware I needed one. The app already had my cc info saved and I also have $20 worth of free rides in my Promo Codes. The get “Immediate Help” option on the “Help” page is useless.

    Is anyone else experiencing this? It would be nice to alert the programmers of this issue.

    Hoping to get to ride one of the bikes soon but these barriers definitely turn me off.

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  19. J. Rand says:

    One trip per bike per day is not very impressive for a high profile launch like this. cities like new York and Chicago are seeing three or four trips per bike per day. Outlier cities like paris are seeing 8-10. The classic bikeshare performance metric breaks down with these newer bike share systems because they have onboard locks and flat pricing models. With pronto we had to check the bike back in every thirty minutes to avoid a penalty, and then check it back out again to complete the trip. Now we can just continue directly to our destination. So what’s the new apples to apples measure for success when comparing these new bikeshare systems to the older ones that still punish riders for renting a bike longer than 30 minutes?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I am mostly interested in total rides on the system. Theoretically, the more bikes there are, the more rides per bike there will be because the network effect makes the system more dependable for more people for more trips. 500 bikes probably isn’t enough to hit that mark, though. Also, they didn’t have 500 bikes those first couple days when they got 1,000 rides. In fact, I think they are still rolling bikes out.

      • J. Rand says:

        I’m interested in total trips too, and I also think that total trips per bike will be less than in a comparable legacy system. Not because people will be using the bikes less, but because the pricing models and technology in older bikeshare systems force people to check the bikes in frequently to reset the clock. This inflates the trips per bike measure because it may take two “trips” to finish one journey without being charged extra. With spin priced at $1 per 30 minutes, the incentive to check back in all the time and reset the clock is gone. If you take two 15 minute trips you get charged $2, but if you take one 30 minute trip you are only charged $1. Once you have the bike out for 31 minutes you might as well keep the bike out for an hour to get the most use out of your two bucks. Spin will only count an hour ride as 1 “trip” even though the bike would be in use three times longer than the average pronto “trip” of 19 minutes. So anyway all that to say I think we should be looking at the total number of trips but also the amount of time each bike is rented if we want to see how it stacks up to pronto.

  20. Bruce Nourish says:

    Rode one from Ballard to Femont this morning. Despite some significant suboptimality in the experience, it worked overall and I’m even more excited now about the future of these services.

    My biggest complaint by far is the gearing: even though the route is slightly downhill I never went over second gear (of three), and first gear is too tall for comfortable slow-speed maneuvering or any kind of hill climb. Also, shifting was clunky, particularly into first. The tires are skinny — they should have chosen fatter tires, given the slow-ish speeds at which these bikes will mostly be ridden, the mixed pavement and road hazards riders will encounter.

    The app crashed when I put in my credit card, and again when I tried to scan the first time. Presumably this will get fixed pronto, after all, it’s just software (AMIRITE?!?). Once the app started working correctly, the checkout/checkin process was impressively smooth — communication between the bike and app feels instantaneous, much less clunky than car2go. My only gripe is that they didn’t implement NFC in addition to the QR code, that would be even more slick.

    The bike is small on me, but I’m 6’4″ so that’s inevitable for a one-size fits all. The solid rubber tires do diminish ride quality a little but are a worthwhile tradeoff for reliability.

    From what I hear, LimeBike’s bikes seem to address all of the issues I have with Spin, and their app seems more polished, although I have yet to actually rent something with it. Even with all the issues above, I feel I had more than my $1 worth, and it seems like things will only get better.

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  22. anthony says:

    I am really excited about Spin bikes. Of course, I am biased as I am a Brand Ambassador for them. But looking at their policies from the inside, the respect they have shown for their brand ambassadors and the city. Not to mention giving riders a generous 5 hours of free rides to start. I hope it’s very successful.

  23. james says:

    I think the difference between walking in the city or riding a bike is like night and day. I am totally sold on all these bikeshares, i love them!

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