Holey airless tires: user experience tradeoffs in China’s bike sharing wars.
By now, you’ve probably heard of the Chinese bike-sharing companies MoBike and Ofo with their millions of park-anywhere, smartphone rentable bikes.
What you might not have known is that MoBike (in orange) has used airless tires on their bikes since v1. Their chief competitor, Ofo (in yellow) used traditional air-filled tires which were much lighter and easier to ride, but resulted in higher maintenance costs.
This gave MoBike bikes a reputation for being heavy and hard to ride. Perhaps causing some users to prefer Ofo. But apparently that’s no longer the case: I rode Ofo bikes 3 times today and all three were equipped with heavy, stiff, airless tires. I guess at this point in the competitive game, “easier to ride” is less important than “cheaper to maintain”.
I wonder if Ofo is trying to reduce costs as they are speculated to enter merger talks with Mobike? More merger speculation in this Oct 3 Bloomberg article.
In any case, Ofo’s change is definitely a case of degrading the riding experience, but maybe the worse user-experience was to unlock a bike and suddenly find that it had a flat tire.
Fred leads business immersion tours for executive audiences in China.
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