Monday, May 27, 2013

CitiBike is here!

Obviously I haven't blogged in a while but I had to do a quick entry on CitiBike because I've been waiting for this day for a very long time...

What is Citibike, you ask? It's a bike share program, similar to those in other cities across the country and around the world. Basically you rent a bike for a short period of time/short distance and return it to any other dock (not necessarily the same one). I describe it as a supplement to the public transit system we already have in place. These are not all-day rentals for tourists who want to ride around the park, and they are not meant for long distance trips (more on that later). They are simply, the way I see it, to go short distances. For me, I envision them as replacing things like a long walk or a bus ride if I happen to not have my own bike for whatever reason.


Now, Citibike was supposed to launch LAST spring, then it was pushed to summer, then pushed further out. Then there were problems with the software which delayed the launch again and finally - to add insult to injury - Hurricane Sandy wiped out half the fleet of bikes. Because of that, less bikes and less stations ready for installation, but with over 6000 bikes and 300+ stations they planned to install them in Manhattan from 59th St and down, and a few in Brooklyn (none in Greenpoint... yet). (The entire station map is here)


Earlier this year we were told it would launch this May. But with all those delays I doubted I would really ever see the day it would happen. Then, on April 15, annual memberships became available. I immediately signed up.

Just to explain the memberships, there is an annual membership, which I bought. It's $95 (+tax) for the year. That entitles you to unlimited rides up to 45 minutes long.   

Then there is a 24 hour pass, which will cost you $9.95. Or a 7 day pass which is $25. (full details on pricing are here) Both of those plans give you unlimited rides up to 30 minutes at a time. (Note: if you are low on time but still need to ride, just dock it and take out another one!)

For me, the annual membership makes sense because as long as I rent a bike at least 50 times, I've more than made up for the cost that I'd spend on the bus or subway for the same number of trips.

A new launch date was finally set: Monday, May 27th. And last week my key arrived! (*note: after you receive your key you must activate it online before attempting to use it at the kiosks)



Look what finally arrived! #citibike #bikenyc #foundingmember #may27 #bikeshare #unlockabikeunlocknewyork


Today I had no plans other than riding. I had to wear something blue to match the bike (for photos, naturally)


Citibike outfit!


I knew where I wanted to start out - in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at the dock on South 2nd St off Wythe. I love this street & view! There's the Williamsburg Bridge in the background.


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my first time using my key!
I put my key in to release the bike from the dock 


While curious people looked on, I adjusted the seat and jumped on for my first ride!


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A moment later, riding on Wythe



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Headed to the bridge on South 5th St

On my way to the bridge who should I run into but Dmitry (my photographer & official photographer of #BikeNYC). He was on his way to City Hall for the Mayor's press conference for bike share. We rode up the bridge together and I asked him to get a photo of me when we got to the top. Fortunately he was early and had time to do that for me.


first time up the Williamsburg Bridge!
after an exhaustive climb up the ramp


Dmitry grabbed a shot of me for my Instagram -


Lucky enough to bump into @gudphoto on my maiden voyage up the #williamsburgbridge! #citibike


and one for his own Instagram -


Dmitry shot this - he saw me on my approach to the bridge from the Brooklyn side


Impressions from my first mile, including the ramp up the Willie B from Brooklyn?

OH MY EFFING GOD! THIS BIKE IS SO HARD TO PEDAL!!! First off, it's fairly heavy - 45 pounds - but my Hello Kitty bike is 50 and I often have stuff in the baskets making it closer to 60. Citibike has 3 gears. HK is single speed. Yet, HK is infinitely easier to ride up the bridge. It seems Citibike is really not made for steep hills - I was pedaling furiously and felt like I was going nowhere (which is one reason I would not want to use this on a long trip!) but after a lot of effort, I got the job done...

After that, Dmitry headed to City Hall and I was on my way to Union Square -


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basic reminders on bike rules in NYC


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I made it to my destination and docked her at Union Square

From there I went to Sephora & Whole Foods to do some shopping. Just out front on 14th St was a lady selling fresh cut mango. This, to me - the mango ladies - is the official start of summer. Naturally, I had to buy some.


bought my first sliced mango of the season!


After doing my errands, I returned to Union Square and took out a new bike. I headed down Broadway -


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Passing another CitiBike station 

As I waited for a light I noticed this time my bike had Spanish instructions!


just noticed my bike is in Spanish!
every bike has a bungee in the front to carry up to 17 pounds worth of stuff. very handy!


Nearly every other CitiBike station I passed had curious onlookers.


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Suffolk & Stanton

This was my first time returning to Brooklyn over the Willie B on a CitiBike


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at least this time I knew what I was in for!



first try on a Citibike
Tried to get my favorite shot but missed it

Just about at the top on the Manhattan side...


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I made my way back to Williamsburg to return the Citibike to a dock and unlock Isabella. As much as I enjoyed my adventure on CitiBike, boy was I glad to see her!!

Here are my initial impressions from my first ride:


  • The gears: There are 3 gears and they are set in such a way that even in high gear you are pedaling your ass off. I estimated having to pedal about twice as much as usual to go the same distance (I came to that number because I know how many times I have to pedal to get from Delancey to the top of the Willie B on Isabella: 100 But with the Citibike, that same distance caused me to pedal 195 times)
  • First Gear: You will never, ever have a reason to use this gear. Trust me. And if you go into it accidentally, you will find you can't pedal fast enough to keep up with it. For the most part, you'll use gear 2 and if it's flat road/downhill, gear 3 (see below).
  • Third Gear: even on flat road, in this highest gear, you are not going to be able to go very fast. It's not because of the weight of the bike, it's because you have to pedal so much! I could barely make it to green lights that normally I would have no problem making in time.

  • Hand brakes: Oh dear god, it will take me a very long time to get used to a (right) rear hand brake. It took me months to get used to the left (front) handbrake on Isabella. If you're used to them, this shouldn't be a factor.
  • No coaster brake: Again, for most of you, this will not be an issue but I'm used to pushing backwards on my pedal and stopping. I don't like that when I push backwards, the pedal keeps going back and around. It's very disorienting!
  • The seat: It's very comfortable. That seat might be more comfortable than either of my own cruiser seats.
  • Storage: The bungee cord in the front is super tight and great for carrying your stuff.
  • Illumination: I love that the lights are activated simply my moving the pedals. This is genius.
  • Docking & Undocking: Getting the bike out of the dock can be tricky if you don't know what you're doing. I got it on the 2nd try. After swiping your credit card or using your key, wait for the yellow light. About 5 seconds later, the light will turn green. At that time, you have to lift it by the seat to slide it out. Returning it is similar - line up the front thing in the slot, wait for it to turn yellow and then green. (I was nervous about re-docking it, not sure if I did it correctly. I kept checking and rechecking that it was securely back in place - I don't need to get charged $1000 for an unreturned CitiBike!)
  • Turning: You know that expression "turns on a dime"? No one will ever use it to describe turning on a Citibike. You have a much larger turning radius than you will expect - It takes a lot more room to turn. This was especially noted trying to get onto the Willie B from South 5th St via that very sharp turn.
  • The ride: They ride very smooth and feel very sturdy - even over cracks & bumps and cobblestone.
  • The App: I love the app! It shows where all the stations are and has a timer you can activate so you are alerted when you're running out of time (you don't want to pay the overtime fees!) Again, if your time is nearly up but you have more riding to do, just dock your bike and take out another one to avoid the fees. (note: the station locator wasn't working today but I'm sure it will be online soon)

In summary, I'm thrilled to welcome CitiBike to NYC and think it's a great addition to our public transportation infrastructure. I would definitely recommend it. And it looks like there's currently a $15 discount off the annual membership, which means you can get a year's worth of 45 minute rides for $80 instead of the full priced $95. That's a great deal!

If you aren't sure about riding in the city, or want to know more about CitiBike, attend one of their classes. I went to the one at Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette and can tell you from firsthand experience that not only are they full of great information (especially for new street riders) but you'll get a pass to try CitiBike free for a full day!

Now that I'm recovered from that initial ride, I'm ready to do some more. See you out there on a blue bike!



60 comments:

  1. Very cool Sheryl! I've seen Citibikes in London and maybe in Belfast (or was it Manchester???) but never used them. We have our own version of Public Transport bikes and they are also HELL to pedal and much heavier than my own bike but when you want to commute they are super handy (I won't tell you the price but it's RIDICULOUSLY cheap).

    Biking is SUCH a great way to get around the city, I hope lots and lots of people will take advantage of Citibikes!

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  2. What a great program! I hope it works out well for the city. Good to hear from you! :)

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  3. The front carrying area is nice but a basket would be even better.
    We have Bixi here in Toronto but the placement of the bike stations hasn't worked out. They should have put bikes at all subway stops and at the major bikes trails instead they put bikes every few blocks in the core of the city which has terrible bike infrastructure and they are going under.

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  4. Interesting, I was wondering how the system worked. In terms of tourists, could we use them if we were riding short distances and then stopping to look around? I'm planning a NYC trip in October and it would be a good way to see things. I usually end up walking very long distances while on holiday.

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    1. You absolutely can use them, I didn't mean to imply you couldn't. I would just think this program would mostly appeal to locals. But yes, if you're adventurous enough to get around and dock in different stations, you can buy the 24 hour or 7 day pass and all the same rules would apply.

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    2. awesome, thanks Sheryl.

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  5. Great program! How exciting!
    Sarah
    www.thinfluenced.com

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  6. whouda thunk it? bein from a VERY rural area I have NEVER had to deal with mass transit except takin the tram into dc on a day visit one time. it just boggles the mind that this is something needed, but I shall take your word for that since you are THE expert on biking in nyc! glad to see you back on blogger I enjoy the fb posts but blogger is where I first encountered that wonderful bike goddess BABS so it holds a special place in my heart!

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  7. Good to hear from you. Thanks for explaining the program.

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  8. Great to see you back blogging Sheryl!!

    We've have a very similar system in London nicknamed Boris's Bikes after the Mayor who brought in the system. Our system is very much aimed at tourists because you get the first half an hour for free you just have to have registered first.

    Does the app show you how many bikes are in each station, if it does i'd recommend you keep an eye on your intented stop as it helps to know if there isn't a spare space or a bike available. Once the system becomes popular this is a god send!

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    1. AnonymousJuly 02, 2013

      I was wondering the same thing, what if you get to a station and there is no where to put your bike?

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  9. AnonymousMay 28, 2013

    So happy youve written again! Great bike scheme! Im from holland ( if you get over your dislike of flying, you have to visit it! Even more bikes than people! ) and we cycle everywhere. Now living in england its a bit too hilly for me here so i walk instead.

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  10. The world is back to normal again with your blog post-thanks for the inspiration

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  11. very cool program and service ot the community. you show it off in style!

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  12. How cool! We have that program here in Denver and I think it's been really popular (our bikes are red). I'll have to keep the Citibike in mind next time I'm in NYC. (p.s. I've so missed your blog posts - it's great to see your smiling face again!)

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  13. So excited to see this post pop up on my blog feed. You're looking great. From another Isabella

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  14. I wish my city, Omaha would implement a program like this. But it is probably not as useful here in the suburbs. I am glad to hear from you though, your posts have been missed!

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  15. I love our Boris bikes here in London (aka Barclays Cycle Hire as they're officially known as)! They're a great way to do a quick hop over the parks or down the road over the course of a day since we get the first 30mins free after you've paid an initial £1 day fee. Ours are quite chunky and not happy going uphill - I sometimes struggle to maneuver them around. And you're right, they shouldn't have bothered with first gear! Have fun and thank you for coming back to us (to misquote the final scene of Brief Encounter).

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  16. oh awesome! we have citybikes in Copenhagen too :-)
    //Camilla Christine

    NIKE GIVEAWAY ON MY BLOG!
    http://www.fitspoblog.com/2013/05/200-bl-followers-giveaway-nike.html

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  17. That is such a fantastic idea, and your review is just great. Thanks! BTW, blue is my favorite color, so the bikes look super spiffy to me. :)

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  18. I was sooooooo excited when I opened my blogger today and saw a post from you!!!! Sounds like a wonderful programme. Would DEFINITELY not work in South Africa! LOL!!!!

    Hope to "see" you again soon.

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  19. So good to see you back in the saddle again. :-)

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  20. Welcome back. I miss your posts. We have a bike share program here in DC which is fairly new, around 2 years old. DC has made great strides in having street access for all types of bicycling and hope it's a positive thing up there in the Big Apple.

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  21. AnonymousMay 31, 2013

    Hi! Im a bit confused. YOu own a bike but have a citibike membership? How come.

    I owne a bike also but intrigued with getting a citi membership but it doesnt make sense for me. BUT I dont bike nowhere as mush as you. SO I was wondering why did you get one?

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    1. lol yes - for a few reasons. sometimes I won't have a bike with me - let's say it was rainy or super cold when I left the house and then it cleared up after I took the subway/bus somewhere. or for other short trips when I'm in Manhattan - I don't want to pay a full 2.50 subway fare to go one stop and taking a citibike is a lot faster than walking say a mile or 2. another scenario is when Im out running. sometimes I hit my mileage when I'm still a few miles from home. again, the citibike home is a lot faster than walking! :)

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  22. AnonymousJune 02, 2013

    So glad to see a post from you! Wishing you well ~ may have to try a bike ride on my next trip to NYC! Hoping to see more posts and pics from you ~ love, love, love the blog.

    Allison from NC

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  23. Our Fort Worth Texas bike share started a few months ago. We have pretty bright red bikes!

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  24. AnonymousJune 05, 2013

    Glad to get some news from you! Especially since this bike program is initially from over here in Montreal (although similar initiatives pre-date this specific company). We've had it for a few years over here and it is very popular and a great way to get around the city. A lot of people use it instead of the subway to get to/from work. I would say the appearance of these bikes has helped make a great push to improve the bike lane network in the city. Enjoy your summer riding!

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  25. I just saw your pic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as he was doing a segment on Citibikes! Made me smile when I recognized you!

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  26. So glad to see you post! Hey, did you know your picture was on Jon Stewart on his segment about citibike? Super fun!

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  27. Saw you in a citibike pic on the Daily Show and came by. Glad to see you!

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  28. I've been bitten by the Citi Bike bug too! (Those bikes have spoiled me for comfort and I'm not using them for distances in Manhattan I used to walk...uh oh.) Hopefully Steve Levin is able to fast track the implementation in Greenpoint. Perhaps one of your many followers has already pointed this out but you made the Daily Show! http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-6-2013/full-pedal-racket---citi-bike

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  29. OMG!!!! I swear I just saw your picture on Jon Stewart!!! He's talking about the citi bikes in NYC. AND - he just had your picture AGAIN!!! I hope you already know this - but, this is sooooooo COOL! And again! I swear it's you! It would be last nights episode (6/6/13) I'm so excited for you! And as a side note - I don't like Dorothy Obinowitz(sp?) Please watch Jon Stewart - let us know, is it you!

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  30. Just saw your flickr account - it is you!!! Too Cool!

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  31. Aaaand then you end up on The Daily Show. My jaw dropped, and I was like, "itʻs...Ms... Bitchcakes...!!" Couldnʻt remember your name in the heat of the moment, haha! Well done!

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  32. Was that a pic of you on The Daily Show last night?

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  33. Aaaand then you end up on The Daily Show. My jaw dropped, and I was like, "itʻs...Ms... Bitchcakes...!!" Couldnʻt remember your name in the heat of the moment, haha! Well done!

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  34. I moved away from Brooklyn and miss seeing you riding around, but I just saw you on the Daily Show! Congrats on getting on TV :-)

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  35. I used to live and Brooklyn and miss seeing you ride around, but just saw you on the Daily Show! Congrats on getting on TV.

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  36. OMG, just saw your picture on the June 6th episode of The Daily Show, as Jon Stewart led with a segment about the CitiBike program! http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-6-2013/full-pedal-racket---citi-bike?xrs=share_copy

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  37. they used your pics on the daily show numerous times http://video.ny.timeout.com/video/The-Daily-Show-on-Citi-Bike-hat?intcid=leader

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  38. they used your pic on the daily show http://video.ny.timeout.com/video/The-Daily-Show-on-Citi-Bike-hat?intcid=leader

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  39. I just saw you on "The Daily Show". We were watching and about halfway through their piece on the bikes, I realized that the picture was of you. More fame for Sheryl!

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  40. AnonymousJune 08, 2013

    Recognized you on The Daily Show on Thursday! Way to go!

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  41. AnonymousJune 09, 2013

    So glad to see your pic on the Daily Show. Woot!

    Lisa from CA

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  42. AnonymousJune 09, 2013

    You made it on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart! I was just watching the episode from 6/6/13 (free on Hulu) and he did a segment on CitiBike. They used a pic of you on the bike (6 times!).

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  43. So cool ~ Thanks for sharing! Btw, I'm pretty sure that I saw you on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in a segment he did on Citi Bikes in NY. Check it out: http://gothamist.com/2013/06/07/video_daily_show_takes_on_citi_bike.php#photo-1

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  44. Hey- I was watching the June 6th daily show-- they did a segment about Citibikes and I thought- boy that still photo above jon Stewart's shoulder looks like Sheryl. When I came to check your blog- the image is most definitely you! Very exciting.

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  45. I saw your image in the still image on the June 6th Daily Show. Very exciting!

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  46. OMG, Sheryl!! Look at the beginning of the clip -- you're famous! http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-6-2013/full-pedal-racket---citi-bike

    Congrats. Miss seeing your fabulous face on Tuesday nights now that my office has moved.

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  47. AnonymousJune 10, 2013

    You were on the daily show... congrats. Your picture was used for the entire segment.

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  48. OMG you're on JON STEWART!!!! I freaked out when I saw you as the poster girl!!!!!!

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  49. You know you were on the Daily Show? http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-6-2013/full-pedal-racket---citi-bike

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  50. AnonymousJune 11, 2013

    You know you were on The Daily Show? Your look is unmistakeable. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-6-2013/full-pedal-racket---citi-bike

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  51. AnonymousJune 11, 2013

    Have missed your blog! Welcome back! =)

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  52. I randomly check your blog to see if you have posted and what a lovely surprise to see this! How exciting. I live in a metro area with very limited access to public transportation and biking can be extremely dangerous too. Wow! I hope this program is well-used. Nice to see you looking well.

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  53. I check your blog from time to time. Miss hearing what is happening in NY, glad you checked in. Hope to see more from you. You Rock!!

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  54. What's on the bike screen?

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  55. I came across this post by googling "Citibike gears" which after trail
    and error have sort of figured out. I went over the Willie B myself this past weekend and I most certainly agree with you on that: "OH MY EFFING GOD!!".

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