Have you seen the electric bicycles and scooters that are starting to pop up on more and more street corners across the US? Wheels is a new option in the e-rental space offering an electronic bicycle that stands out in a sea of e-scooters. Wheels bikes are fully electric (no pedaling required), and unlike Bird & Lime scooters, you can take a seat while you ride.
I rented a Wheels bike in Los Angeles, then combed through their knowledge base to bring you everything you need to know about Wheels: How to rent a bike, the cost to rent, bike features, and how you can get paid to move bicycles around the city.
- Wheels for Users: Cost, Features, How to Rent
- Comparing Wheels vs. Bird, Lime, Uber & Lyft scooters
- How to work for Wheels as a Transporter
What is Wheels? E-Bike rentals
Wheels is an electric bicycle rental app that allows users to rent e-bikes by the minute. Bikes are placed in public areas, and users unlock the bicycle with their smartphone.
To rent a Wheels bike, download the Wheels app, approach a bike, tap the “Scan to Unlock” button, and point your phone at the QR code on the bicycle handlebars.
How much do Wheels rentals cost?
Currently Wheels bikes are free to unlock, and cost 35 cents per minute to ride.
Is there a Wheels promo code? Yes, Wheels offers promo codes for riders. To enter a promo code, tap the menu icon in the upper left corner of the app, then tap payment. There is an option to enter a promo code beneath Payment methods.
Where are Wheels e-bikes available?
Wheels is available in San Diego and Los Angeles. Atlanta and Chicago are accepting applications for new Wheels Transporters (the workers who help move bikes), so those cities may launch soon.
Requirements to ride a Wheels bike
You must be 18 years or older to ride, and you must have valid driver’s license. I was not asked to verify my license when I rented a Wheels bike, so underage users and those without a license may have an easy time avoiding the license and age requirement.
Wheels E-Bike features: 22mph top speed, 30 mile range
- Top speed of 22mph
- 30 mile range
- Padded seat
- Collapsible pegs to rest your feet – no moving pedals
- 14 inch bicycle tires – Good for bumps
- Electric horn
- Bluetooth speaker – Play your own music
Wheels offers a unique, fully electric bicycle that is different tham other electric scooters and bicycles. It’s lighter and more compact than other electric bicycles (like the one offered by Uber Jump), giving it a more maneuverable feeling.
The padded seat and relaxed riding position make it practical for long rides. Older riders might prefer Wheels to an electric scooters, which require more balance to use.
My impression after riding a Wheels bike: I rented a Wheels bike and took it for a ride around my somewhat hilly neighborhood. The Wheels bike had slower acceleration than e-scooters, but a faster top speed. The bike had good stability, although it didn’t feel quite as stable as a full-sized bike because of its smaller size and upright riding position.
It was able to handle moderate hills, but it struggled to get up the steepest hill in my area. Overall I enjoyed the way it rode, and felt like I would be comfortable riding it for long distances.
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How to rent and ride a Wheels e-bike
To get started in the Wheels app, you’re asked to enter your phone number and input a security code that is text messaged to you. Next, enter your credit or debit card details.
The Wheels app displays available bikes on a map. Walk up to a bike and tap Scan to Unlock. Point your phone at the QR code located on the bicycle handlebars. For your first ride, you’ll be asked to agree to a terms of service that lets you know you’re riding at your own risk, and that you need to be 18 to ride.
Riding the bike: If prompted, press the power button. Kick up the kick stand, and kick down the foot pegs. Walk the bike to a safe starting area and take a seat. The accelerator is a twist handle style, similar to a motorcycle. There are two squeeze-operated brake handles, one for front and one for rear.
When your ride is over, swipe to end the ride. You’ll be asked to take a photo of your parking location, rate the trip, and report any issues there may have been with the bike.
Where to drop the bike off: You can drop it off anywhere as long as it’s in a public area. Wheels recommends placing it near a bike rack or on a sidewalk in an unobtrusive location. Don’t block doorways, driveways, or pathways. Don’t park it in gated areas, in underground garages, or anywhere that it would be hard for another user to access the bike.
Other rules: Follow all local laws. Don’t ride the bike on sidewalks (although every LA Wheels rider I’ve seen was on a sidewalk). Don’t take the bike with you on trains, buses, or in vehicles.
How does Wheels compare to other e-scooter and bike services?
The electric scooter and bicycle rental space is getting more crowded by the month, and here in Los Angeles I can choose from Bird, Lime,Uber scooter & bike, Lyft scooter, and possibly others that I’ve forgotten to mention. There are lots of options, and they’re all pretty similar.
Cost: Wheels is more expensive than the competition. Bird, Lime, Uber & Lyft rentals all cost around 15 to 20 cents per minute, while Wheels costs 35 cents per minute. Currently there is no cost to unlock a Wheels bike, while the others charge $1 to unlock.
When it comes down to it, the costs of these rentals is so low that even the 10 t0 20 cents per minute premium for Wheels doesn’t have too much of an impact on the total cost of a rental if the total trip distance isn’t very long. These are all low-cost ways of making a short trip around town.
Features: Wheels stands out from e-scooters on practicality for the simple fact that riders can sit, rather than stand. Scooters may be more fun to ride for some, but bicycles are the way to go if you’re looking for practical transportation. If I were to commute to a train station in LA on busy streets, I’d rather be on a bicycle than a scooter.
Wheels bikes also have a longer range and top speed compared to Bird, Lime, Uber & Lyft scooters. Wheels can go 30 miles and up to 22mph, while scooters can go around 15 miles at 12mph.
Wheels vs Uber Jump bikes: The other main option in the e-bike rental space is Uber’s Jump bikes. Jump bikes have a range of around 30 miles, the same as Wheels. The key difference is that Uber Jump bikes are electronically-assisted pedal bikes, so users still have to put in some effort to make the bike go. Jump bikes are larger and heavier than Wheels bikes, which could be a positive or a negative depending on your size and preference.
Read more about e-scooters and e-bikes:
- Guide to Uber scooters and bikes
- What is Lyft scooter?
- Bird vs. Lime vs. Uber scooters vs Lyft scooter
Work for Wheels: “Transporters” move bikes to charging hubs
How does Wheels manage to charge & maintain its fleet of electric bikes? Other scooters companies like Bird & Lime pay gig workers to haul away scooters, then charge & store them in their own homes.
Wheels does it differently: Managing the bikes is a joint effort between gig workers called Transporters and Wheels employees. Transporters are paid per to relocate bikes to hubs, which are small groupings of Wheels bikes in high-traffic areas. Wheels employees then travel between hubs to swap out batteries as needed, or remove the bicycles for the night to store them off the streets.
Wheels Transporters are paid around $4 – $6 to move a bike to a hub. Payouts are every 1-2 days via direct deposit. Transporters typically use a vehicle to relocate the bicycles, but you can also move bikes on foot.
Requirements to become a Wheels bicycle transporter
- Must be 19 or older
- Have a drivers license, at least 2 years of licensing history
- Clean driving record and criminal record
How to apply to be a Wheels Transporter: Begin the process by signing up at transporter.wheels.com. The application is simple: Just enter your information and select your market. Wheels then sends you a link to the contractor agreement. Follow instructions to initial and sign. Once your agreement is received, Wheels will enable Transporter mode in your Wheels app. The entire application process only took me a few minutes from start to finish.
What do Wheels Transporters do? Picking up and relocating bikes
After you’re activated as a Transporter, a new “Transporter Mode” button appears in the Wheels app menu. In Transporter Mode, an in-app map shows bikes that need to be relocated to Hubs, how much you will be paid to relocate the bike, and where to drop off bikes.
When you locate a bike that’s available for relocation, scan the QR code and follow on screen steps to mark it as picked up. Next, toggle Drop Off mode to see nearby hubs that have spaces available.
Relocate the bike to the hub and park it alongside other bikes . Tap “scan and drop off,” scan the QR code, then take a photo of the dropped off bike.
How Transporting for Wheels compares to charging for Bird & Lime
Bird and Lime also pay gig workers to transport and charge scooters, so how does transporting bikes for Wheels stack up? Bird and Lime also pay around $5 per scooter charged, but the job has different responsibilities. Bird & Lime chargers take the scooters off the streets, transport them home, and use their own outlets & electricity to charge them. The scooters then have to be placed back on the streets early in the morning, by 7am.
Wheels transporters have fewer responsibilities, but the work may arguably be harder. Rather than pick up many scooters and take them to one location (home), Wheels transporters have to pick up many bikes and move them to several locations. That means more miles, or more walking. But that also means you don’t have to be up early to put scooters on the streets, and you don’t have to figure out how to charge a bunch of bulky and dirty scooters in your home.