A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

(In my previous post, I said that renting a bike in a city bike share program was cheaper, more convenient and fewer worries than owning one. But these arguments mean nothing if the rental bike is not fun to ride...)


I took a Montreal's Bixi for a test drive one day last week ($5/day flat rate) and was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

The bike is heavy, but sturdy, and the elevated handlebars mean that you are seated in an upright position. This is perfect for those of us who fear bending too far forward and exposing more than we care to. The gear-changing was smooth, and the brakes worked well even in the rain.

The bike is equipped with decent front and rear lights with two reflectors on each tire and one on the seat for safe night riding. There was a good chain guard, so there was no risk of getting grease on my trousers and  fenders to prevent any dirty water from spraying my back or face. Raising or lowering the seat is relatively easy, and the Bixi is skirt friendly, ie, no crossbar.

The drawback was the basket, which is more like an open groove where you place your bag (see picture above). There is a bungee cord that you attach around the outside to keep your bag in place. This is fine if you have a shopping bag or purse with a solid shell, but problematic if your bag is cloth. I had a cloth bag on the day of my test drive and nearly lost my wallet. I suggest taking a backpack.

The ride was very smooth, and the bike's weight adds to its momentum. In other words, I was able to travel much faster than I expected. Others have also discovered just how fast, hassle-free and convenient Montreal's bike share program is, much to dismay of the city's cabbies. This weekend, a cab driver told my husband that the Bixi was hurting his business.

Overall, the Bixi is comfortable, fast and fun. I highly recommend it. Just don't forget your cycling helmet.

At the end of this cycling season, I will send my tired pink bike to Cuba or the Dominican Republic through an adopt a bike program, so he can spend his last few years basking in the sun.

Related post:
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning

9 comments:

AKAmamma's Toronto Friend | July 9, 2009 at 11:13 AM

I wish Toronto would copy Montreal and provide us with a similar bike rental system and am going to put a bug in some of my Green Party and City of Toronto friends' ears.

Even though I bowed-out of taking a bike downtown to the Jazz Festival when I was in Montreal last weekend (I was afraid of being left behind by AKAmamma and her Partner), I was really impressed by the frequency of the bike stands and the simplicity in renting and returning one. Plus, they looked really cool as per Montreal style!

Way to go Montreal!

AKAmamma's Friend from Toronto

AKAmamma | July 20, 2009 at 7:44 AM

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I didn't know that you were worried about getting lost in Montreal. There would have been more than a few offers to help a belle damsel in distress. Believe me!

Anonymous | May 14, 2011 at 6:57 AM

The unexpected "twist and turn" will be presented on your next credit card bill. This is when the real surprise begins.
The flat rate is only for removing the BIXI from the bike stand.
Soon after, the clock starts ticking and the amount charged to your card makes you wonder why you didn't grab a cab.

Make sure you study the 48 page instruction manual presented on the 2x3 display or go online. This is where you learn about the real drawback.

AKAmamma | May 15, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Sorry, you had a bad experience. I must say when the system was smaller two years ago, there were fewer technical glitches. Here's another argument in favour of not expanding as quickly as this "corporation" has chosen to.

Anonymous | May 2, 2012 at 4:29 PM

5$/day flat rate???? You wish!!!! Hope you didn't have an heart attack when you received your credit card bill!!! 5$ is you 24hr membership if you prefer. And nowadays it changed for 7$/24hr membership 1st 1/2hr free, 2nd 1,75$, 3rd 3,50$ and after that, it's 7$ every 1/2hr! So think twice before hopping on one of those tank. For those of you who don't know, BIXI stands for BIcycle taXI, so it's not meant for long rides, it has been thought as a commuting bike. You take it to go to work, put it back in the station and at the end of the day you take another one to get back home!!!

Anonymous | July 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM

In theory, I love the idea of a bike-sharing service in the city. It's great for the environment, and helps people get some exercise.

In practice, Bixi is a mess. DO NOT RELY ON BIXI FOR YOUR DAILY COMMUTING NEEDS. If you want to use it occasionally for leisure purposes, it may be ok, but it you are using it daily, you will lose your mind.

I use a bike to commute to work, and when mine became too broken to ride, I decided to try a subscription to bixi instead of buying a new bike. What I experienced was that EVERY TIME I needed to take out or return a bike, there was a problem. Either there are no bikes available, or there's no space to return them. Flat tires. Docks that won't read your key. The real icing on the cake though, was that after trying 4 different stations and not being able to return my bike one night, I had to spend 30 min. on the phone with bixi in order for them to tell me that I would have to keep the bike overnight. I would be responsible for any theft of the bike, and late fees would be applied to my credit card, which it would be my responsibility to call back and have them remove. Which I did. Next time I tried to take out a bike: oops, the late fees still haven't actually been removed and they've frozen my account! I told them to cancel my frickin subscription and give me a refund. Without explanation, they gave me only a 60% refund on the year subscription, even though I had only used the bikes 4 times. I am not happy.

AKAmamma | July 21, 2012 at 8:04 AM

And I understand. I too stopped using Bixis to commute this year. I had been to all the stations downtown (I work at Banaventure)and found none to return my bixi to, so I had to return to McGill before I found a place and then walk 20 minutes to work. I was very late for work! Then a month later, I had the same situation as you did. I drove home from downtown, but couldn't find a free dock, at three, then four stations. When I finally found any empty dock, it was broken, so the bike wasn't returned properly. This has happened twice before and I had to pay out of pocket about $30. Now I use Bixi only for occasional rides. It's a shame...I used to sing its praises on a daily basis.

Darrell41 | January 26, 2013 at 2:30 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with the last two comments, the whole BIXI concept has been set up from the start with the goal of making big profits for the owners rather than providing the users with a fun, safe, and convenient way of getting around the city. Too many stations have either a shortage of bikes, or docking stations, and this translates to big cash for BIXI if the user does not want to venture far out onto busy highways to unknown neighbourhoods to find one. Plus the 24 hours for $5 ad is intentionally misleading. To top it off, BIXI is a private company, not one connected with the municipalities, so its an entity existing on taxpayer money and with no public obligation other than to maximize its profits.

AKAmamma | July 10, 2013 at 7:43 AM

I agree with Darrell41 wholeheartedly. There's a lack of transparency.Tax payers have been taken for a ride!Just another underhanded scheme from our city officials. Oversight is required. Bixi has beoome the ex I never want to meet up with again. Too many bad memories. Nevertheless, I still take one on occasion for the pleasure of cycling, but only if I don't have to be somewhere on time and never during rush hour.

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