How to use Mobikes

By Melanie Ham

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We all know what a headache it has become to hail a cab lately in Shanghai. How many times have you seen the green light on the top, but a red light on the meter and a driver shaking his head while scowling at you as you try to flag him?  I’ve been able to bypass a lot of taxi woes by downloading the Mobike app and just hopping on a bike to get home or to the nearest metro stop. There are dozens of companies in the competitive rental bike market, but Mobike has a full English interface and an intuitive flow making it an easy and cardio-friendly alternative to fighting the taxi wars.

My home is about a 12-15 min walk to the metro station. It’s not far, but if I’m in a hurry that extra walking time is a barrier for using public transport. Now with Mobike, it’s about a 5 minute bike ride and I find that I’m riding metro about three times as often as before. I didn’t realize Mobike would be the game-changer it has become for my day-to-day commute.

You can get started with Mobike by downloading the app from App store or Google Play. Once you download the app, you’ll need to create a username/password linked to your mobile number. You’ll need to use authentic details since you’ll receive an activation code to proceed. Follow the steps through the registration until you are fully setup with a linked payment account (WeChat or Alipay).  

There is a 299rmb refundable deposit that you can pay via WeChat or Alipay. I’ve known people who have successfully had this deposit refunded when they have left China, so no worries about Mobike keeping your money. The Mobike app says it takes 2-7 days to receive the refund.  

Once you’ve paid your deposit, Mobike will ask you for your ID. You can enter your passport details (let’s just cross our fingers Mobike has a secure server!). They ask you to upload a photo of yourself holding your passport. Once they have received it, it takes about 24-48 hours for your account to be activated.  

The final step is to add funds to cover your Mobike rides. You can charge any amount of credit to your Mobike account, though I usually do it in 20rmb increments. This usually lasts a few weeks even with daily rides since the rate is about 1rmb for half an hour (.5rmb for Mobike Lite). Due to fierce competition in the rental bike market, the various companies are aggressively trying to build a user base. As a result, I haven’t actually been charged for a Mobike ride for the whole of March- every time I ride it’s been free! 

Once your account is activated and credit is paid, you are ready to ride. Mobike has a feature to display your calories burned and distance travelled- Enjoy!



-Make sure your mobike is locked really well. Wait until you hear a beep before you walk away, or take a pic of the locked bike if you don’t hear the locking beep.  I’ve had situations where I manually locked the bike, but a software glitch kept the bike tied to my phone. I was charged excessively for this and had to lodge a complaint to have the fee removed.


-You can reserve a specific Mobike in advance based on the GPS settings of bikes nearby, or just walk up to any bike and scan the QR code on the back fender or under the seat using the Mobike app (not the WeChat QR code reader).


-Mobike Lite is half the cost of a regular Mobike and is lighter and more nimble. Mobike Lites also come with a basket.


-Mobike users earn credit for rides and good behavior. For example, properly parking and locking your bike earns you one point of credit.  You can also earn points for reporting others who have not parked properly, or for reporting a defect to a bike. If your credit drops below 80 points, your Mobike rides will be more expensive.


-Don’t park your Mobike inside a compound or risk losing credit. You should also park on a sidewalk, but not in the way of foot traffic.


-There have been stories about scammers putting fake QR code stickers on rental bikes that will install malware on your phone. If a bike doesn’t scan properly, use your instincts.