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 (silver with yellow accents). Here’s a super handy cheat sheet to them:
|Bicycle colour||Silver with yellow accents||Orange with silver accents||Yellow with black accents|
|Pros||Fits wide range of heights
Plenty of bikes everywhere
|Good for kids and shorter people
Older bikes have gears
|Larger frame, good for taller people|
|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)||$5 for 30 days
$19 for 1 year
(can share among 3 family members)
|$7.99 for 30 days||$3 for 30 days on Qoo10 ($6.99 on app)|
|Price per use (need deposit)||$0.50 per 15 min||$0.50 per 30 min||$0.50 per 30 min (capped at $5)|
|Payment method||Credit/debit card
EZ-Link (Android only)
|Credit/debit card||Credit/debit card
|Promotions||Get $5 credit per friend referral||N/A||LiveUp members get $10 coupon monthly|
- The current cheapest monthly pass is Ofo’s $3 monthly pass on Qoo10, no deposit needed
- For families, Obike’s $5 monthly pass is good value too (can be shared among 3 family members)
- If you want to pay per use, opt for Ofo which has no deposit and costs $0.50 per 30 minutes
Read on for detailed reviews and instructions on the 3 major bike-sharing companies in Singapore.
Singaporean bike sharing brand Obike was founded in Feb 2017 by this unassuming Chinese wunderkind called Shi Yi, who’s only 28 and is on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list. (Yeah, I know. I feel like such an underachiever too.) Fun fact: It’s now in 24(!) countries. But it’s also drawn quite a bit of flak in places like Australia.
What are Obikes like?
Personally, Obikes are my least favourite of the 3 to ride. They feel very stable at first, which is nice, but after about 5 minutes (of inefficient pedalling) you’ll realise it’s because the bike frame is VERY HEAVY. There are no gears either. I guess Obikes are fine for short distance e.g. “last mile” rides to the MRT station but I wouldn’t ride one for too long.
How to use Obike
Download the Obike app and register with your phone number. You’ll see a map with nearby Obikes on it. You can actually reserve one but it’s not necessary as they’re plentiful.
When you find an Obike, tap the Unlock button and scan the QR code on the handlebars or back wheel to unlock it. To end your trip, manually push the lock back into place, and check your app to make sure Obike has registered it.
Where to find Obikes
Obikes are really easy to find. They’re usually clustered outside shopping malls, MRT stations and next to bus stops (in the yellow bike parking box).
Obike pricing for 30-day pass
Obike has just launched its deposit-free monthly passes (called “Super VIP Membership”) and it’s the most competitive right now, at $5 for 30 days. What’s good about this is that you can share membership with 2 family members for free.
If you really like Obike and want to lock in your membership before the price goes up, opt for $19 for one year instead.
It’s awfully easy to miss though. To sign up for a pass, tap on Member Centre on the left hand menu. You’ll be taken to the VIP Membership screen where you can buy a pass.
Obike charges & deposit for pay-as-you-go
If you’re paying per use, Obike is the most expensive one of the 3 bike sharing apps. It costs $0.50 per 15 minutes (but can vary depending on your “bike behaviour”). You also need to pay a one-time $49 deposit. You can get the deposit refunded, but sources say it takes a REALLY long time… so do it at your own risk.
Obike has a friend referral promotion. You get 5 x $1 coupons per successful friend referral, and your friend also gets 5 x $1 if they enter your invite code.
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.
Very much like Mobike, 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.
Update: Ofo is selling monthly passes for $3 on its Qoo10 online store. Go go go!
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.
Other bike sharing apps in Singapore…
Apart from the big 3, you might also have come across a couple of small players in the bike sharing industry. Though much smaller in scale, 2 of them are actually quite interesting:
ShareBike SG – mountain bike sharing app
I tried riding a Mobike on the dirt path from Pasir Ris Farmway to Lorong Halus (towards Coney Island) once. It wasn’t fun. I thought my teeth were going to fall out. So, even though the big 3 bike sharing apps are generally good for urban cycling, there are times when you might want a proper MTB.
Enter ShareBike SG. It costs $1 per 30 minutes and there’s a deposit of $49. I’ve seen these bikes at East Coast Park and they do look like they have decent shocks, but I can’t say if they’re really good.
SGBike – bike sharing with EZ-Link card
If you’re creeped out by the thought of some Chinese e-commerce conglomerate getting your credit card details, you might want to give SGBike a shot as you can use EZ-Link to pay. It’s more expensive at $1 per 30 minutes but there’s no deposit.
It also doesn’t require a smartphone app to unlock the bikes. You can link your EZ-Link card to your account and just tap the card on the bike. I really wish there were more of these around as they’re so senior-friendly.
Have you tried bike-sharing apps? Which do you swear by? Tell us in the comments.
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