If you’re planning a visit to South Lake Tahoe, California (and you really should!), bike rentals are one of the most popular ways to get around town. With parking limited at some top locations and bike lanes on most main roads, bikes are a great way to get where you need to go while enjoying that famous fresh mountain air. South Lake Tahoe bike rentals can be a bit pricey, but thankfully there’s a new super convenient and affordable way to snag a short-term rental. The best part? You only pay for the time you’re riding and you can drop them off anywhere. I was initially a bit skeptical, but once I tried them, I was absolutely hooked. Even bigger bonus: LimeBikes are available in other cities around the US too, so you may just run into them on other travels.
LimeBikes are not available in South Lake Tahoe for the 2019 season, but the scooters can be found throughout town.
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How to use LimeBikes: your easiest South Lake Tahoe bike rental solution
When you arrive in South Lake Tahoe, it’s hard to miss the neon green Lime Bikes parked in front of popular spots. But how do you use them? All you need is a smartphone with a data connection and the free Lime Bike app (Android | Apple). Once you download the app, you can create an account using your phone number, and once you add a credit card number, you’re ready to roll.
The app features a map with all currently available bikes displayed on it. If you’re lucky like I was – there was always at least one Lime Bike parked in front of my hotel – you won’t have to walk far to find one. Pick the bike you want to ride by tapping on its icon on the map. Once you reach the bike, use your phone to scan the QR code on the plate underneath the seat to unlock it.
I’ll admit to being way more amused than necessary by the next part: the bike plays a cute little tune and the lock looped through the back wheel opens, therefore releasing the bike. Make sure you’re actually ready to start riding when you do this because this is when the timer for your ride starts counting.
After you finish your ride, you end your LimeBike rental by flipping the red lever on the lock to slide it through the back wheel. You get a cute little melody again and your app immediately updates showing you your cost. Unlike bike share programs that work with docks, you don’t have to go to a specified place to return the bike. You just park it when you’re done, lock the back wheel, and then walk away.
Starting this summer, Lime now offers electric scooters through the app too. There are stricter requirements for using these (ages 18+ with a valid license only), so make sure you read the instructions to ensure you meet them. They’d only been unveiled a few weeks before my visit and locals mentioned that they’d already seen riders being ticketed for not following the scooter rules and traffic laws. I can’t give you a review of them though – they were so popular that I never even saw one available to rent.
Here’s my favorite part about the LimeBikes in South Lake Tahoe: they only cost $1/half hour of ride time. That was perfect for me to use during my evening adventures after work. I took one from my hotel to the beach one night, and then grabbed another one for the return trip. I did the same thing for dinner another night. It was nice not to have to pay for a bike rental while I was swimming or eating dinner. I never would’ve bothered with a regular South Lake Tahoe bicycle rental, but for my evening at the beach, renting a LimeBike was cheaper than paying for parking would’ve been, and it kept me from driving unnecessarily. If you’re a student or faculty member the news is even better – if you register with a valid .edu address, you get half off.
Pro tip: when I signed up, I was prompted for a referral code and a quick google search turned up one that got me three free ride credits. These expire, so do a quick search for yourself when you’re ready to sign up with the app.
Tips for using LimeBike rentals in South Lake Tahoe
- Make sure you park the bikes respectfully and don’t block sidewalks or streets or drop them on private property.
- Take care of the bikes so that the next rider doesn’t try to rent one and then discover that something is broken.
- You can use the app to report missing or damaged bikes.
- Not all of the bikes have gears – I had bikes both with and without – so riding uphill might be a challenge. There doesn’t appear to be any way to search for bikes with gears on the app, so you’ll just have to scout them out if being able to shift is important to you.
- Make sure you remember to lock the back wheel when you are finished, otherwise you might end up paying for rental time you don’t use.
- Register with a student email address for big discounts.
- You should definitely wear a helmet – especially if you rent their scooters because helmets are required for riders.
- LimeBikes come with a basket on the front and a holder to mount your phone on the handlebars.
LimeBike rentals might not be for you if:
- You intend to spend all day biking
- You want to do some mountain biking on trails or at the Bijou Bike Park
- You have young kids who are too small for an adult bike, need training wheels, or a kiddie carrier
- You need to be able to shift gears in order to make it uphill
- You’re staying out of the way in an area where it’s hard to find available bikes
For more information about the LimeBike rental process, check out their official website.