service provider Mobike has rolled out a series of tweaks to make its bicycles
lighter and more comfortable to ride.
"The bike is constantly getting cooler and lighter, to meet the growing needs of our users, of whom 80 percent are the post-'80s and '90s generation," said Xu Hongjun, general manager of Mobike's manufacturing base in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.
The company has chosen Beijing and Shanghai to introduce new machines in tens of thousands. Notable improvements include lighter bikes (weight down by 3 kg to 23 kg), an adjustable seat as well as a basket, and disc brakes at the rear for greater control.
According to Xu, each fleet of bikes is custom-produced to suit the city and climate where it will be introduced. In Beijing, for example, the bikes use cold-resistant batteries, and tires with deeper tread to give better grip on icy roads in winter.
Bikes in Wuxi, a rain-prone eastern Chinese city, have extended mud guards on both front and rear tires to protect riders from splash back.
These tweaks have not come at the expense of classic features that have attracted many of Mobike's customers, such as its easy-to-use V-shape frame, dust-proof paint, airless tires, and magnesium alloy wheels. The GPS-equipped smart lock also remains, which is key to Mobike's online-to-offline business model.
Charged with constant development and innovation, Mobike's Wuxi production line is in high demand. Not only does it have to be able to produce enough bikes to match the ever-growing demand of the market, but it has to maintain the high quality of end-products that made the company a success so far.
Such demands on the production line are not a problem for the moment, according to Mobike founder Hu Weiwei, who revealed in a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang earlier this year that the Wuxi manufacturing base is capable of producing 14,000 units per day.
The manufacturing base was just a two-story factory in Wuxi's Hongshan town a year ago, but today it consists of two buildings taking up nearly 30,000 square meters. It also serves as Mobike's R& D center, applying for and receiving 30 technology and design patents such as the smart lock and magnesium alloy wheels.
Without the base, much of Mobike's core ambitions would never have been realized and its future not as bright. This integral part of the business is what Mobike CEO Wang Xiaofeng calls the company's "core competence".
"Many people may misunderstand the manufacturing sector in modern ways; they assume it is a place where workers assemble things with a straight face," Wang said. "They couldn't be more wrong, there are a lot of technical details in it. If an internet company underestimates the importance of manufacturing and the supply chain, it will lose everything."
Mobike is also in negotiations with Wuxi authorities to further expand its base as it expects demand to continue to grow.
In just two short years since the new public bike-sharing system was introduced, the market has been flooded with millions of bicycles. There are an estimated 3 million public bikes operated by 29 different brands and service platforms across dozens of cities, according to statistics from the association of the bike industry in Tianjin, the country's largest bicycle manufacturing base.
Mobike, however, has managed to stand above the rest and become a clear market leader with 3.1 million active monthly users and a 72.5 percent market share as of December, according to a report by Trustdata. It leaves ofo in a distant second position with a 21.8 percent market share, and all other brands combined with less than 10 percent share.