The bike share company VeoRide has been operating in C-U since 2018, but despite me being a huge proponent of bike transportation, I’d never ridden any of the Veo bikes. UNTIL NOW.
Come along with me readers as I download the Veo app and test drive the two models of e-bike that they offer for trips here in Chambana.
First off, before you can take a Veo ride, you must install the app on your smart telephone. I never like using the word “intuitive” (because it’s a myth) however, I was able to install the Veo app and be ready to cruise within minutes, even though I have the technical skills of a cranky 77-year-old dock worker.
The Veo app will show you a map of all the bikes in the whole town.
You just need to pick one nearby and find it on foot. I put on my serious biking duds (Veo reminds you to always wear a helmet), and found the closest bike to me a few blocks away stashed in an alley.
This model is the “Veo Halo-E,” a bicycle with electric pedal assist. Before you unlock the bike with your app, make sure to adjust the seat to the proper height. You’ll want to do this before your ride actually starts and you start spending actual money.
Once you are totally ready to hit the road, use the app to read the QR code on the bike. The app will unlock the rear wheel and you’ll be good to go!
Controls for the Veo Halo-E are standard bike stuff. It’s got three gears, plus brake levers on the handlebars. How does the electric assist work? Well, you just start pedaling and it kicks in, making you feel like an ABSOLUTE GOD; each movement of your legs ROCKETING you forward with supernatural force and speed…. At least until you hit 15-ish miles per hour, then the electric motor cuts out and you’re just there pedaling a bicycle that’s slightly heavier than most.
So, what other features does this Halo-E have? Well, it’s got a built-in LED headlight and tail light. They’re great for night rides, but they’re always on, so if you need to be super stealthy a Veo bike probably isn’t your best choice. This particular bike is a lovely dark green and appears to be a transplant from Cedar Rapids, which, according to this bike, is the “City of Five Seasons.”
None of the bikes I saw had Champaign/Urbana/Illini branding, but Veo should work on that.
There’s also this handy cargo basket up front. The Veo app tells you to never drink and ride UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. However, there is a beverage holder built into the basket which fits a local brew perfectly. I often ride my bike to board game nights, so I tested the basket to see how many games it could hold.
Quite a few! Though these would definitely obstruct the headlight, which is problematic. Also, as you can see the games aren’t very secure, so if I were to have ridden like this and been forced to brake abruptly, all my games would have fallen out and been immediately run over by a bus, and all the people on the bus would laugh and call me a dweeb. I guess what I’m trying to say here is, don’t put too much stuff in the cargo basket.
Next, I wanted to try a Veo Cosmo, the new model of bike that’s only been available here since April. The Cosmo sorta has the look of a motor scooter like the classic Vespa.
This obviously necessitated a costume change on my part into something more… Mediterranean.
I assume this is what members of Vespa gangs look like as they prepare to scoot around the island of Malta, smoking cigarettes and drinking olive oil straight from the tap.
The Cosmo is straight up space-aged compared to the Halo. It’s got this LED speedometer and battery meter (which are completely unreadable in full sunlight).
Plus, when you unlock the bike, a voice from inside it says in a scary, robotic, female tone “WELCOME TO VEEOH.” Yes, this is how I found out it’s pronounced “vee-oh” not “veh-oh.” I had to hear it from the bike robot itself. The Cosmo has a little bell which is great, but the biggest feature is the throttle, aka, THE GO BUTTON.
Unlike the pedal assist on the other bike, on the Cosmo, you can just jam the GO button and you’re off, no pedaling required. Which is a good thing for me because you can’t adjust the seat height on the Cosmo so actually pedaling the bike was very difficult. Also it weighs 6 billion pounds, so moving the thing without the throttle is uh, unpleasant.
But as long as your Cosmo has juice, scootin’ around absolutely kicks ass. Look at me having the absolute time of my life cruising on my Cosmo. The wind in my chest hair and face hair. Not a care in the world. Pure freedom baybay! (Well pure freedom at the cost of 30 cents per minute.)
After you’re done riding a Veo Cosmo, you have to take a picture of where you left it so Veo knows it’s not in somebody’s living room, or perched atop the corpse of a pedestrian. Fair enough Veo, fair enough.
VERDICT: While there’s no chance of me replacing my own beloved commuter bike with Veo, I’m definitely keeping the app on my phone and I look forward to using Veo bikes to get around when it’s convenient for me. I think it’s a pretty slick system with a reasonable price. Also, Veo’s whole fleet of bikes in C-U is electric, so if you’re curious about e-bikes, Veo is a cheap way to try some out for your real-world transportation needs.
Sorry, no joke at the end of this column, but here’s another pic of Vespa gang Tom.