Unless you’ve been holed up in your room playing eSports for the past 2 years straight, you MUST have seen the bikes everywhere (and sometimes in places you’d never expect to see one). And you might have been curious about trying one out, but never figured out how it works. Well I got you, fam. Here’s everything you wanted to know about bike sharing in Singapore but were afraid to ask.
Bike sharing in Singapore
Bike-sharing systems have been around in places like London and Taipei, where you can easily borrow and return bicycles around the city, paying as you go with either a credit card or their EZ-Link card equivalent. But the problem is, the bikes are docked in certain places. You need to know where the docks are to unlock a bike, and you need to find an empty dock when you return it.
In Singapore, we don’t do docking systems, no thank you. Instead, bike sharing here is pretty much like how it is in China, where you unlock a bike by scanning a QR code which triggers a Bluetooth lock, thus eliminating the need for a dock. 100% more convenient. But also 100% more likely to cause irresponsible bike-dumping behaviour.
Indeed, our public spaces are dominated by 2 Chinese bike-sharing giants – Mobike (orange bikes) and Ofo (yellow bikes)
plus Singaporean startup Obike.
(Update: Obike is dead.)
Here’s a super handy cheat sheet to them:
|Bicycle colour||Orange with silver accents||Yellow with black accents|
|Pros||Good for kids and shorter people
Older bikes have gears
|Larger frame, good for taller people|
|Cons||Difficult to control
Basket is quite small
Bikes can be hard to find
|No gears (can be tiring to ride uphill)
Seats are often missing
|Monthly pass (no deposit needed)||$7.99 for 30 days||$6.99 for 30 days|
|Price per use (need deposit)||$0.50 per 30 min||$0.50 per 30 min (capped at $5)|
|Payment method||Credit/debit card||Credit/debit card
|Promotions||N/A||LiveUp members get $10 coupon monthly|
Read on for detailed reviews and instructions on the major bike-sharing companies in Singapore.
Ofo is headquartered in Beijing and has a similar reach worldwide as its Chinese bike sharing competitor. One of its biggest investors at the moment is ridesharing app Didi Chuxing, China’s answer to Uber/Grab.
What are Ofo bikes like?
I often see tall guys wobbling away awkwardly on Mobikes and want to suggest they switch to Ofo bikes instead. They’re much easier to control and more comfortable for anyone with a larger frame. (If you’re super tall, look for Ofo 2.0 bikes which have even higher seatposts.)
The downside is they’re heavier than Mobikes and can be tiring to pedal uphill or for long distances. But Ofo bikes are fine for short rides as the seats are quite cushy. Maybe that’s why so many of them have gone missing. Please make sure your Ofo seat is securely fastened as they’re known to detach easily.
How to use Ofo
Download the Ofo app and register with your phone number. You’ll see a map with nearby Ofo bikes, but as with Mobike, the map is rather unreliable. You need to link a debit/credit card to use the app.
When you find an bike, tap the Unlock button and scan the QR code on the handlebars or under the seat to unlock it. You might be prompted to enter a 4-digit code on the lock itself. To end your trip, manually push the lock back into place.
You can’t count on Ofo to end the trip automatically, so you HAVE to end the trip in your app. I’ve opened my app to realise that my last trip has been running for DAYS. Luckily they have a $5 cap per ride and you can email them for a refund.
Where to find Ofo bikes
Like Mobikes, Ofo bikes are scattered all over the place. They’re commonly seen around park connectors, MRT stations and major bus stops. They are usually easier to find than Mobikes during peak usage hours, at least for me.
Ofo pricing for 30-day pass
Ofo’s pass is slightly cheaper than Mobike, at $6.99 for 30 days. You can buy a pass through My Wallet in the app. Other options are $1.59 for 7 days, $15 for 60 days and $25 for 90 days.
Note that some passes will auto-renew, so be careful! If your Ofo pass says “Renew” next to it, you’re safe. But if the button next to it says “Manage”, it’s set up for auto-renewal. You can tap on Manage to un-automate it.
Ofo charges & deposit for pay-as-you-go
If you’re paying per use, Ofo is the best app to use as it costs $0.50 per 30 minutes and is capped at $5. Best of all, there’s no deposit. But the trade-off is that you have to enter your card details in order to use the app.
Ofo’s current promotion is with Lazada and Redmart’s LiveUp membership programme. Sign up for the 60-day free trial and you can get $10 in Ofo coupons per month.
Keep an eye on the Ofo Qoo10 store too, as passes sometimes go on sale.
Beijing-based bike sharing company Mobike was founded only 3 years ago, but it’s now in 200+ cities worldwide and is the world’s largest bike sharing operator by fleet size. It’s now owned by Meituan-Dianping, a Chinese conglomerate that’s basically HungryGoWhere (restaurant reviews) meets Groupon (group deals).
What are Mobikes like?
Mobikes are the lightest and smallest among the 3 bike brands. Size-wise, they’re generally good for shorter humans like me (and kids), but taller/bigger people might find them uncomfortable. Because they’re so lightweight, you might find them difficult to control at first.
Older Mobikes (you can tell by the silver spokes) are more comfortable. They have gears and cushiony seats – I ride one almost every day on my hour-long 12 km commute and haven’t died. Newer Mobikes are still lightweight and feel “effortless”, but it takes a much longer time to cover the same distance.
How to use Mobike
Download the Mobike app and register with your phone number. You’ll see a map with nearby Mobikes on it, but don’t count on it – use your eyes instead.
When you find an bike, tap the Unlock button and scan the QR code on the handlebars or under the seat to unlock it. To end your trip, manually push the lock back into place. You should hear 2 sets of beeps. Always open your app to make sure Mobike has really ended your trip.
Where to find Mobikes
Mobikes tend to be pretty scattered. I have no trouble spotting them along park connectors, but I can’t always reliably find one at the MRT station or around my place, especially during peak usage times (weekday mornings and all day on weekends). I recommend pairing Mobike with another app as backup.
Mobike pricing for 30-day pass
Mobike USED to be the cheapest bike-sharing app as it has a deposit-free pass that cost only $5 for 180 days. That’s $10 a year for unlimited usage! But now, the Mobike pass is now the most expensive of all, costing $7.99 for 30 days.
To buy a pass, go to My Wallet. Other options available are $29.99 for 90 days, $52.99 for 180 days and $89.99 for 360 days. Wah lao, like that might as well buy your own bike.
Mobike charges & deposit for pay-as-you-go
If you’re paying per use, Mobike costs $0.50 per 30 minutes. But you have to pay a one-time $49 deposit. You can get the deposit refunded, but no one I know has actually tried so I can’t say how long it takes.
Nothing at the moment. Check the app or the Mobike Facebook page for updates.
A 3rd option, particularly if you’re creeped out by the thought of some Chinese e-commerce conglomerate getting your credit card details, is local startup SGBike. It doesn’t require your credit card details – you can just use your EZ-Link card to pay.
It also doesn’t require a smartphone app to unlock the bikes. After you link your EZ-Link card to your account, just tap the card on the bike.
The only drawback is the small fleet size compared to the other players. I really wish there were more of these around.
SGBike charges & deposit for pay-as-you-go
Unlike Ofo and Mobike, SGBike does not have a monthly pass so it may not be suitable for frequent riders.
The good news is that there’s no deposit. Unfortunately, it’s the most expensive of the lot at $1 per 30 minutes, and if you continue riding after 30 minutes it costs 3 cents per minute.
If you want to share your account with your family members – it’s great for kids and seniors – there’s an SGBike Family Plan that allows you to unlock up to 3 bikes at a time. There’s usually a subscription fee of $1/month but it’s free for now. It’s not a pass, however. The usual rates apply for each bike you unlock.
Currently, you get 3 free $1 coupons (i.e $3 credit) when you download the app, no questions asked.
If you regularly take public transport, download the EZ Rewards app and you can get a free $1 coupon with every $5 spent on your EZ-Link card (50 rewards points).
Conclusion: Now that Obike is dead, what should you do?
First of all, for those of you who tried but failed to get your $49 deposit back, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see it again. Sorry guys. Obike’s app says to download GrabCycle instead, but GrabCycle is not accepting new user signups at the moment.
If you mainly ride shared bikes for fun, you can try using SGBike (provided you see bikes around your area!) as it’s possible to ride it entirely for free, thanks to the coupons.
For frequent riders e.g. commuters, the options don’t look great. Ofo is your best best at the moment, but you’ll have to shell out $6.99/month. That works out to $84 a year! Not very worth it right? You might want to just get a cheap bicycle from Decathlon or Carousell instead.
Have you tried bike-sharing apps? Which do you swear by? Tell us in the comments.
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