How to Hire a Bike in Shanghai

MoBike | © paul.wasneski / Flickr
Monica Liau

Over the past year, bike sharing in Shanghai has taken over the city, the yellow, blue and orange wheels happily spinning around town and taking up the public parking spaces. It’s an awesome way to encourage biking in the city, is easy to use – and there’s absolutely no better way to experience Shanghai than on two wheels. Both Mobike and Ofo are quickly expanding around the world, but the bike availability in Shanghai is like nothing you’ve ever seen! Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use the two biggest companies MoBike and Ofo, both of which have released English-language versions of their apps.

A quick background

MoBike was the first bike sharing system to come onto the Shanghai grid, founded by Beijing Mobike and funded by China tech giant Tencent. They’re the ones you see with the orange rims – and they’ve recently come out with a lighter bike that’s easier to use for long distances. They’re currently in 160 cities around China, and in 2017 have been expanding aggressively to cities in other countries, including Berlin, Washington D.C., London and Fukuoka, Japan. The built-in GPS system is pretty awesome because it gives you live, accurate updates from wherever the bike might be left, and accurate accounts of how far you’ve traveled.


Ofo Bike, the other big bike company coming out of China, was founded in 2014 and is funded by tech companies Xiaomi (which makes cell phones) and Didi Chuxing (which is the ride-sharing app that kicked Uber out of China). After a year of aggressive expansion, they have more than 7.5 million bikes under their belt around the world, and have logged more than 500 million shared bike rides. Needless to say, both of these rides are good options.


How to use them:

Step 1: Download the MoBike App and/or Ofo on your cell phone.

Do this before you actually need the bike and when you have strong Wi-Fi.

FYI, for Mobike, it’s the app that looks like this:

Not this!

Step 2: Register (and certify you’re over 18)

As a non-Chinese resident, you’ll be asked to provide your cell phone number and email, and then they’ll send you a confirmation text. Make sure you have service!

Step 3: Top up account

To get started, add money onto your account. You currently can use an international credit card, but you could also use Alipay or Wechat as well. The amount for deposit varies (as the bike shares have become more popular, the price has gone down), but a deposit will probably run you about US$10-40. Sometimes less, if promotions are running!

Step 4: Locate a bike near you

Check out the map – it’ll give you live updates on where there are open bikes for you to use around the city. Obviously, the closer you are to the city center, the more bikes you’ll be able to find.

Step 5: Scan QR code and unlock the bike

This is where it gets cool. Click the “unlock” button and scan the QR code on the back of the bike. This will unlock it and let you get on your way!

Ofo Bike

Step 6: Ride, ride, ride

Tip: Exploring the Former French Concession (FFC) by bike is the best way to see the cool back alleys, ride beneath the plane tree boughs, and get from one place to another.

Step 7: Park and lock

When you’ve arrived at your destination, find a place designated for bike parking (don’t just leave your bike on the sidewalk), and lock your bike. If you’re using MoBike, pull the lever that snaps the lock into place to end your session. If Ofo, terminate the trip on the app, and lock the bike manually.

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