The Rise of the Bike Hire Tribes

·3-min read
Which bike tribe are you? Illustration by Lydia Silver  (ES Magazine / Lydia Silver)
Which bike tribe are you? Illustration by Lydia Silver (ES Magazine / Lydia Silver)

When ‘Boris bikes’ were unveiled in 2010 (officially Barclays bikes, now Santander Cycles), a new era of cycle hire in London began. To a degree. It’s hardly turned the place into Amsterdam, has it? However, a new explosion of bike rental companies is trying to remedy that, alongside a few e-scooter hire companies currently being trialled. More people are embracing them after the pandemic made the Tube into a lab rat death run, but with so many brands to choose from, it’s important to know what tribe you will be joining. Here’s our guide.

Santander Cycles

Choosing a Boris bike to ride now is the transportation equivalent of smoking Woodbines. Non-electric and heavier than the Great Pyramid of Giza, much like the (almost) former prime minister these are barely clinging on to their dignity. Also like him they are clunky and embarrassing to be seen with in public. Only two kinds of people now ride Boris bikes: tourists and thieves.


Because Lime bikes are lime-coloured, they are the choice of CEOs of big advertising agencies keen to show they can be as cool as the young hip ‘disrupter’ outfits (called things like ‘Sasquatch’). Actually, Lime bikes are quite nerdy and more befitting of practically minded souls obsessed with always having a spare jacket ‘just in case’. For the record, no form of bike hire can ever be cool, always do your journey in visible shame.


Once you took drugs in your office toilets. Now you’re back taking drugs in your office toilets. Your long-term relationship collapsed and now the only thing worse than your schnozzle habit is your Tinder habit. It’s not the sex you’re addicted to, it’s simply the act of going on date after date in a downward spiral. Dott bikes get you to your Tinder meet-ups, create an instant talking point and then whizz you away while your recently unemployed date is in the toilet.

Tier e-scooters

E-scooters are the scariest form of transport to arrive in London since the Luftwaffe, but their baffling appeal shows no sign of abating despite more than 500 injuries last year. Now you can hire them (at least until a trial period ends in November). Tier is for those who are all too aware of the risks and want helmets and a sturdy machine to trundle cautiously through the city. For middle managers after a better outlet for thwarted ambition than public masturbation.


A cheeky upstart fond of playful slogans that humans like, Freebikes are for perky young polyamorists who will never own their own property but who never want to because the future will be about interactive apartment complexes filmed 24 hours a day for porn-ducation channels.

Human Forest

For casual eco-warriors who follow Extinction Rebellion on IG and wash their recycling. Human Forest talks a good game about electric bikes with zero emissions and renewable energy, but it’s hard to pretend you’re in some lovely woods when you’re on the A2 in a drive-in McDonald’s queue.

Lime e-scooters

Favoured by ambitious young execs and thrill-seeking families, these put a happy face on imminent death. Riding a Lime means high spirits, fast exploration of the capital and shouting at your kids for not having a nice time. In an ideal world everyone in London would ride Limes, traffic would be banned and car parks and roads would be turned into marijuana forests where people would work for collective well-being. But it’s not an ideal world. It’s a shit world.

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