I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to see how I’ve fared with the GetB — the UK's cheapest bicycle — over the last few months.
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Last week, I finally took some time to try and get the bike back in working order, but sadly, the results of my efforts were incredibly disappointing.
After the freewheel failed in dramatic fashion after just 30 seconds of riding, I opened it up to make sure it wasn’t just a stuck return spring that had stopped it from working.
However, as I expected, the drive ring had been totally chewed to pieces by the pawls and the freewheel was unsalvageable.
Replacing a freewheel is normally not a difficult or expensive task, but the GetB was outfitted with one that had no wrench flats or slots to remove it.
This meant I had to turn to more agricultural means of removal, but after 20 minutes spent mangling the soft jaws on the vice in the BR workshop and wrestling with a set of mole grips, I gave up on ever trying to remove the thoroughly seized body of the freewheel.
I’m sure I could have turned to more drastic methods to try and remove it, but I don’t hate myself enough to make being forced to ride the GetB to and from work a possibility.
It disappoints me that energy and resources have gone into making something so utterly useless. So poorly made is the GetB that I honestly don’t think I can bring myself to even donate it to any of our local bike recycling charities, leaving a trip to the scrap merchant the inevitable fate of the bike.
So thus ends the GetB saga.
Reading this small update alone, it should be evident to a cyclist with even the most passing interest in tech that the GetB is worse than useless, but if you need further convincing, the original article continues below.
If you’ve ever wondered what the UK’s cheapest bike looks like, this is it.
I first noticed the GetB on eBay a few weeks ago, priced at a frankly ridiculous £40*. Intrigued, I began a little research into where the GetB had come from and pulled the trigger on what is without doubt the stupidest purchase I have made in a while.
Who is GetB?
My research revealed that GetB is a bike-share scheme that was due to launch in London as well as a number of Chinese cities early last year. The full press release about the launch of the bikes can be found here.
And that’s all I have… There is no other information online as to what happened to the scheme — no Twitter feed, no Facebook page, nothing.
However, it's probably safe to assume the scheme went the same way as OBike and others, with regulatory hurdles and an oversaturated market likely consigning the GetB to an early demise.
The only clues come via the scheme’s app, which is still live on the App store — there’s no rating on the English app, but the Chinese version has 13 consecutive 1-star ratings, with most complaints directed at the poor availability of bikes and deposits not being refunded after the scheme (presumably) collapsed.
Attempts to contact GetB (via phone and email) to find out what happened to the scheme have thus far proved fruitless.
How have GetB bikes ended up on eBay?
Exactly how the bikes have ended up on eBay is equally weird.
A search reveals there are a number of sellers stocking the GetB. Every listing uses the exact same text and images in their descriptions, so I think it’s likely the same company is possibly, for some reason, operating multiple eBay accounts.
Just in case you want a GetB of your own (though I suggest you read this article thoroughly before you commit!), these are the sellers who currently have a stock of the bikes:
- £49 — goodink88
- £49 — druckpatronen
- £49 — zilonyan02016
- £60 — colorday888
- £49 — tonerguy_woohoo
- £49 — immortal_ink02
While this all sounds a bit odd, be assured that because the purchase is processed via eBay, you’re covered by buyer protection, and my bike also arrived within the estimated arrival time, so no complaints there.
Indeed, the buying experience for the GetB was painless right until to the point of delivery — the perilously thin box the bike was been packed in had suffered in transit, arriving with a great big gaping hole in the side and bottom (though this of course could have been the fault of the courier).
These holes had allowed one of the pedals (which must have been floating about loose in the box) to fall out — not an issue for a seasoned cyclist who will more than likely have some naff old plastic pedals kicking about, but likely an awkward hurdle for the casual cruiser who the GetB is likely intended for.
The GetB was also poorly secured within the box, and the way the bars were attached to the bike meant that some parts were sitting metal-on-metal. Unsurprisingly, this meant the bike arrived with more than a few battle scars.
The bike did arrive with the 15mm spanner and 6mm Allen key, alongside — quite remarkably — some relatively legible instructions on how to put the thing together.
Fitting the pedals was a painless affair, but the quill stem required an alarming amount of torque to prevent it from slipping inside the fork — that the bolt didn’t round is nothing short of a miracle.
Why is the GetB so cheap?
The GetB is a tour de force of cost cutting — the bike is built around the nastiest mix of pressed-steel components I’ve ever seen in one place, with the frame held together with the most remarkably blobby and unfinished-looking welds.
Starting from the front, the one-piece cockpit allows for a degree of vertical adjustment, but nothing else. There is also a curious plate brazed over the top of the stem, which if my furious Googling is to be believed, would have held a mount that would allow a user to charge their phone while on the bike.
A pleasingly loud GripShift style twisty-bell finishes off the cockpit.
The seatpost is held in place with a quick-release clamp. A stop has been added onto either this or the frame, so full removal isn’t possible, an issue if the maximum extension isn’t enough for lanky legs, as was the case with my 32in inseam. The seatpost is topped with a suitably inoffensive squishy and wide saddle.
I was delighted to see the bike built with a simple singlespeed drivetrain as I hate to imagine what a multi-gear transmission would have looked like on a £40 bike. This is all protected by a simple pressed-steel chainguard.
There’s also a vestigial length of tubing on the back of the seat tube and a large plate on the seatstays. This would have been used to mount the wheel lock and the associated bike-share gubbins.
I hadn’t realised upon ordering the bike, but the bike ships with a set of solid tyres that are mounted to an agricultural-looking set of 24in wheels.
This bike forum's research suggests that the GetB was modified with a stiffening plate at the junction between the seat and down tubes for the European market, raising the weight limit of the bike to 100kg.
While I can’t recommend trying to exceed this, I have little doubt that the stout nature of the frame would probably lend itself well to urban portaging duties. If you can find/modify a suitable rack, you could even take advantage of the mounts on the head tube.
The bike is finished off with a set of perfectly serviceable full-cover steel mudguards and a kickstand.
GetB bike first ride review
After building the GetB, I took it for a quick spin along the length of our workshop. The bike began making unpleasant noises from the first pedal stroke, and less than 30 seconds into riding it, the pawls within the freewheel completely failed with a dramatic crack and a quality knee-into-the-bars moment.
While £50 is pretty damn cheap for a bike, £100 per minute of riding does not work out as great value for money by any measure.
With the drivetrain rendered useless, I was forced to use the GetB as a glorified scooter. Luckily, BikeRadar’s native Bristol is a rather vertiginous locale, allowing me to scoot the GetB up to suitably reckless speeds.
The first thing that struck me was the ‘unique’ ride quality of the tyres — the solid tyres are made of a compound that feels closer to waxy cement than rubber.
Not only do these give an innard-shatteringly harsh ride, but they are also the most comically slippery tyres I’ve ever used — they’ll be great for doing sick drifts around corners, but not so good if you are trying to traverse even the most slightly off-camber terrain.
With that said, I think you’ll be hard pushed to coax enough power out of the woefully underpowered drum brakes for sick skidz. I think drum brakes are a great option for a low-maintenance city bike, just maybe not these particular drum brakes…
Even at slow speeds, rolling the GetB off a curb is an incredibly unpleasant experience and the leaden shock left me with a sore lower back for the rest of the day.
At 15.7kg, the GetB is heavy, but not ridiculously so compared to a typical, similarly equipped town bike. I also suspect that you could easily drop a good kilo off the bike if you swapped out the solid tyres for pneumatic ones, though this would involve drilling a hole in the rim for a valve.
As I mentioned before, I was unable to get the saddle high enough for my lanky bod, but this is hardly a performance-focused bike, so I’m sure I’ll survive without a perfect fit.
GetB bike early verdict
Despite its many, many flaws, I find it hard to truly hate the GetB — it’s very hard to be meaningfully scathing about a bike that costs 40 bloody pounds.
Even if you take into account the cost of potentially replacing the freewheel and fitting a set of 24in pneumatic tyres, the bike will still come in at far less than £100. Even Argos’s (a huge national retailer for our non-UK readers) cheapest bike of a similar spec comes in at £107!
Even if it only just scratches the surface of the growing problem, I am also delighted that something more useful is being done with this small number of bikes than piling them up in a giant scrapyard.
Of course longer term testing — and yes, I am being forced to ride this thing to and from work — will reveal how well the GetB holds up to day-to-day abuse. Stay tuned and wish me luck.
Is anyone out there riding a GetB? Do you find yourself oddly compelled by the idea of trying out a bike for less than £50? Or am I just a fool who’s heading towards a crash or early-onset sciatica? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.