Image by the author.

Have you ever biked down a hill and thought to yourself, “I really want to try going back up this hill for fun right now?” I hadn't, but with an electric-assist bike from new bikeshare entrant Jump, I did.

Jump, from the company Social Bicycles, is the fourth private bikeshare company to launch in DC this month, in addition to Capital Bikeshare. It's quite different from Mobike, LimeBike, and Spin in many ways. Electric assist is the most notable.

What it's like to ride an e-bike

I've never ridden an e-bike before, and it is smoooooth. Or, as contributor Topher Mathews said, “fun as f***.” When you pedal, electric power kicks in to add force. The faster you pedal, the more electric power. It makes riding up a steep hill quite easy. E-bikes are allowed on DC streets but not on trails (and Jump's website reminds people of this).

There are special e-bike instructions in the basket. Image by the author.

I rode a LimeBike up to Adams Mill Road in Adams Morgan to get a Jump bike, then took Jump back down the hill and up again. The difference is amazing. Of course, you get more exercise with the non-electric bike. Downhill, the e-assist can also add speed. It really feels somewhere in between like biking and driving.

In fact, I found myself riding in a much more vehicular way, taking the lane and feeling more comfortable even on wider downtown roads like 18th and 19th near K. I was able to keep up with traffic on 19th from L to K—uphill. Payton Chung wrote, “I note that my ride up 23rd St/Florida Ave NW was very Vehicular Cyclist approved; I usually take the lane on this stretch and get nervous while doing so, but this time it was completely natural.”

Drivers might be surprised though. Going northbound on 18th between L and M, a driver behind me honked even though I was keeping up with the cars ahead, and in Adams Morgan, so did a Tenleytown Trash truck driver. I suspect drivers will need to get used to people on bikes who go almost as fast as city traffic.

On that same trip, the electric assist suddenly turned off as I was nearing 18th and Connecticut. Spokesperson Colin Hughes said, “The brief motor shut-off you experienced is a result of our very safety-conscious electric-assist system: we implemented a number of software controls that shut off the bike's motor if our sensors think a user is not riding normally. Occasionally the safety shut-off is triggered accidentally, as seems to be the case with your trip. After a brief pause, or once the bike has come to a complete stop, the motor turns back on.”

Taller riders will likely be pleased: the seats have quick release levers and longer seat posts than on the problematic Mobike and LimeBike bikes. (If you're tall and try it, please post in the comments if the height works for you!)

The service is unique in other ways, too

You don't unlock the bike with a QR code and an app, as you do with the other three new bikeshare systems. Instead, when you sign up for Jump, you get a member ID and choose a PIN. (If you have a Social Bicycles account from another city, you need the special Jump app but can use the same login.)  You type that into a keypad with LCD screen on the back of the bike, and it unlocks the mechanism.

Image by the author.

Mobike/LimeBike/Spin all lock their own wheels and you can leave them anywhere. Not so with Jump, which locks using a large U-shaped bar that goes into two holes in the side of the bike mechanism. You have to lock it to something, most likely a bike rack or sign. The holes are too high to lock to tree boxes, which is just as well because tree boxes really aren't a good place to lock bikes.

The holes on a Jump bike are too high to lock it to a tree box. Image by the author.

If you ride the bike somewhere to run an errand and want it to be there when you're done, you can use a special Hold feature. Before you lock the bike with the bar, you press a Hold button on the bike keypad. It'll keep counting the time against your rental and/or charge you, and it also count down from 240 minutes (4 hours). Nobody else can use that bike until you take it out again, press a button to release it, or run out of hold time.

The bike on hold. Image by the author.

The Jump pricing is $2 per 30 minutes instead of $1 per 30 minutes for Mobike/LimeBike/Spin. Beyond 30 minutes, it's prorated at $4 an hour, so 36 minutes is $2.40, not $4.

Jump also has a set of “hubs,” apparently one per ward: by Columbia Heights, McPherson Square, Woodley Park, Georgia Ave/Petworth, Brookland, Union Station, Benning Road, and Anacostia Metro stations. According to the website, you get a $1 credit for returning to a hub.

You get $10 free for signing up with a new account, enough to try a few rides before putting in more money.

Right now there aren't a lot of bikes, just 20. Hughes, the Jump spokesperson, said they will increase to 120 within 2 weeks, and more later.

I'd also be interested to see if these bikes end up more balanced between downhill and uphill, since it's easier to go uphill (or maybe they'll end up more often up the hill!)

Here is a handy chart comparing the key features of these systems:

Capital Bikeshare Mobike/LimeBike/Spin Jump
Power Human Human Human + electric
Lock them At stations Anywhere At a bike rack or sign
How to unlock Key or code at kiosk Scan QR code with app Member ID + PIN
Hold feature No No Yes
Pricing Membership or $2/30 mins $1/30 mins (or pricier membership) $2/30 mins, $4/hour after
Bikes 2,500 in DC, plus other jurisdictions Up to 400 each (capped by DDOT) 20 and growing

Oh, one last thing: Jump, please turn the slider switches around in your app. The app uses a number of these but the dot being on the left signifies “on,” and the right is “off.” That's the opposite of everywhere else, and it's really confusing. (And use a different UI widget for toggling between “bike” and “rack” that's not usually used for on/off.)

These toggles are actually all on.

To try Jump, search for the app “Jump mobility” in your app store/market. Have you tried it? What do you think?

This post has been updated with information about the seat heights. Also a correction: the initial version of this post said that the service did not charge you during hold time. You can lock a bike and hold it, but it does deduct your time or charge you for extra time during the hold.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.