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London’s electric bike revolution has transformed the way we get about the capital.
All of which begs the question: Which of the London electric bike services is the best?
To help you sort the brilliant from the best-avoided, we’ll be comparing the three e-bikes on:
- The Contenders: Human Forest, Tier, And Lime
- How Much Do London Electric Bikes Cost?
- Which Of London’s Electric Bikes Has The Widest Coverage?
- Which Shared London Electric Bike Is The Best Quality?
- Which E-Bike Service Has The Best App?
- The Verdict: Best Electric Bike London
Ready for the lowdown on London’s e-bikes?
Let’s hit the road!
The Contenders: Human Forest, TIER, And Lime
The new kid on the block, HumanForest bikes hit London’s streets in the summer of 2021 after a trial period the year before.
The only London-specific service on our list, HumanForest has an emphasis on sustainability. This focus is backed by an all-electric fleet of maintenance vehicles, renewable-only battery charging, and a commitment to zero-emissions operations.
#2. TIER Bikes
European micro-mobility giant TIER launched in London with 500 e-bikes in late 2021, having already run successful programs in over 150 cities across 17 countries.
TIER runs e-scooters alongside the bike service, and has committed to a climate-neutral pledge – not quite as good as HumanForest’s zero-emissions promise, but still nothing to be sniffed at!
#3. Lime Bikes
Remember the distinctive red Jump bikes that used to be dotted around London before suddenly disappearing a couple of years ago?
The Uber-owned brand was struggling on the verge of collapse until it was snapped up by Lime back in 2020, and their e-bikes are now back on London’s streets with the new owner’s branding.
Like TIER, Lime also runs an e-scooter hire service.
Honorable Mention: TfL Santander Cycles
Often nicknamed for a certain Tory PM, TfL’s Santander bikes are now a staple of London’s transport network.
We’ve left them off this list as their fleet is currently made up of pushbikes rather than electric bikes, but they’re so familiar to Londoners that they provide a handy benchmark for new startup services to compare to.
And with 500 new e-bikes due to join the network in summer 2022, the Santander bikes might soon be challenging their electric-powered rivals on London’s streets.
How Much Do London Electric Bikes Cost?
|HumanForest||TIER||Lime||TfL Santander Cycles|
|Bike Unlock Fee||Free||£1||£1||£2|
|Price per Minute||15p||15p||17p||£2 per 30 minutes|
(first 30 minutes free)
|Non-Parking Zone Fee||£1.50||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Typical 20-Minute Ride||£1.50|
(inc. 10 free minutes)
(60 minutes total)
Based on the headline price for a single 20-minute journey, HumanForest is the clear winner when it comes to London electric bikes’ value for money.
Even when the free 10 minutes are used up, HumanForest rides still end up cheaper than TIER or Lime as there’s no unlock fee.
Both Lime and TIER are trialling ‘safe pricing’ schemes that pause the clock while you’re at a standstill to discourage dangerous riding (such as jumping traffic lights). While this should remove the frustration of being charged for sitting at the lights on a HumanForest, it’s unlikely to make enough of a difference to make them more cost-effective.
However, if you’re making multiple journeys in a day, the trusty old Santander bikes can’t be beaten for absolute economy. Once you pay the £2 unlock fee, you get unlimited rides for 24 hours (provided they’re shorter than 30 minutes) – but you won’t get the electric boost of an e-bike!
Which Of London’s Electric Bikes Has The Widest Coverage?
Despite a recent expansion, HumanForest’s operating zone (or ‘Forest’ as they call it) is still somewhat limited compared to its rivals.
The Forest now extends south to Wandsworth, east as far as Bethnal Green, northwards to Finsbury Park, and west as far as Hammersmith. The area includes Green Zones where you can park for free – there are plenty around central London, but as you push towards the edge of the zone they start to get a little spaced out (though still only a 5-10 minute walk apart).
If you can’t be bothered trekking to a Green Zone, you can leave the bike anywhere in the Forest for a £1.50 fee – but parking in a Red Zone can land you with a hefty fine.
Coverage Rating: 6/10
TIER’s operating zone extends further east, west, and south-west than HumanForest, but leaves a gaping hole between Brixton and Richmond Park.
Unlike HumanForest and Lime, TIER e-bikes don’t allow you to end the journey outside a parking zone, even for a fee.
TIER bikes also operate in Islington – which for some reason they’ve not included on this map.
Coverage and Convenience Rating: 5.5/10
Lime bikes have the best coverage of the three by some distance.
They extend further in every direction than either of their competitors, and with fewer gaps – although you’re sometimes left with a bit of a walk to find a bike when you venture out to the suburbs.
Coverage and Convenience Rating: 7.5/10
Which Shared London Electric Bike is the Best Quality?
One of the standout features of Human Forest is the build quality of their bikes.
They steer and accelerate smoothly, feel sturdy and durable, and deliver (relatively) consistent power regardless of charge level – plus the dark green and brown leather styling blows Lime and TIER’s bikes out the water in a beauty contest.
They give you a pretty hard jolt over speed bumps, and taller riders would probably like the saddle to rise a little higher, but overall Human Forest’s bikes are the pick of the bunch.
Build and Ride Quality: 8/10
TIER e-bikes can be a bit of a mixed bag.
When they’re in good nick, they’re not far off the quality of the HumanForest bikes, if a little heavier. However, a glance at any user review site confirms our experience that TIER’s bikes are sometimes poorly maintained, even to the point of being unrideable.
They also have geo-located ‘Slow Zones’, where the bike will slow you down for safety. However, we found the sudden loss of power a bit dangerous in itself – especially when the GPS is off by a few metres and slows you on a road where it shouldn’t!
Build and Ride Quality: 5/10
The first generation of Lime e-bikes to hit London’s streets were famously shoddy, but their standard improved when the company absorbed the old Jump fleet.
The current batch are decent enough to ride, though like the TIERs there are more reliability and maintenance issues than there should be – and with a lurid red and green colour scheme, they’re the ugliest bikes of the lot.
However, Lime is set to replace its London stock with its new Gen4 e-bikes in summer 2022, so we’ll hold off judging them too harshly until we’ve taken the new bikes for a spin!
Build and Ride Quality: 6.5/10
Which E-Bike Service Has The Best App?
The HumanForest app looks simple and elegantly designed, but in practice can be slow and buggy.
The majority of the time it’ll just about work, but every so often expect to have a frustrating time attempting to end a ride as the app ‘fails to connect’ to the bike.
It seems as though HumanForest have focused their investment on the bikes themselves rather than the software – but at least their customer service is friendly and quick to fix a refund when something goes wrong.
App Rating: 5/10
TIER’s app is the best of the three – which admittedly isn’t saying a great deal.
It generally gets the job done without too much fuss, though some users have reported problems with the app’s reliance on GPS technology which can be frustratingly imprecise.
App Rating: 6.5/10
Lime’s app can be clunky, and its garish colour scheme makes it something of an eyesore to use.
There have been widespread reports of bugs preventing users from ending rides or allowing them to hire bikes that are out of service, while Lime’s customer service can be difficult to contact and are reluctant to dish out refunds.
App Rating: 4/10
The Verdict: Best Electric Bike London
|Coverage and Convenience||6||5.5||7.5|
Without a doubt, HumanForest is our favourite shared e-bike service for zipping around London.
With the quality of its bikes, its great value for money, and its eco-friendly tilt, we’re willing to overlook the clumsy app and the slightly restricted coverage.
If you live outside HumanForest’s operating zone, TIER and Lime are both still worth giving a shot. They won’t save you much money compared to public transport, but they can work out faster and more convenient for certain routes – plus they’re a much more enjoyable way to get about the city than wedging yourself into a packed Tube!