Ofo vs Mobike vs SG Bike – Beginner’s Guide to Bike Sharing in Singapore (2019)
Unless you’ve been holed up in your room playing eSports for the past 2 years straight, you must have tried bike sharing in Singapore at least once. (At the very least, you would’ve heard of Obike’s ugly demise.)
These are the 3 major bike sharing companies that are still alive (just barely):
Ofo (yellow bikes)– officially unlicensed as of 22 Apr
- Mobike (orange bikes) – will exit Singapore at unknown date
- SG Bike (red & white)
The dockless concept is simple and beautiful in theory: you use an app to scan a QR code on the bicycle, which unlocks the Bluetooth lock, ride to your destination, then push the lock back in place to end your trip.
In reality, it’s not that great. Messy bicycles everywhere, poorly maintained bike fleets, and – most importantly – annoying pricing changes are all deterrents to Singaporeans seriously considering bike sharing as a legit form of everyday transport.
UPDATE (JAN 2019): It’s all over, guys. I’ve been spending more time looking for a bike that’s not broken than actually riding one. I don’t think it’s just me, so I suspect all 3 companies have been quietly neglecting their bicycle fleets since the new LTA regulations kicked in, which also restricts the size of each fleet.
The nail in the coffin? A new $5 fine whenever you park your bike in a non-approved box AND don’t scan the accompanying QR code. Well, good game then.
I honestly don’t think there’s any point in subscribing to any one of these services anymore. You’re better off getting a cheap bike from Aleoca or Decathlon. But if you’re curious about the historical data and the latest updates on these 3 companies, read on.
Ofo vs Mobike vs SG Bike – which bike sharing app is cheapest?
Here’s a brief look at the listed rates of Ofo Singapore, Mobike and SG Bike:
|Bike sharing company||Mobike||SG Bike|
|Pay as you go||$0.99/20 min||$1/first 30 min, subsequently $0.03/min|
|Max. ride length for unlimited pass||120 min||30 min, subsequently charged at $0.03/min|
Right now, bike-sharing isn’t cheap. Long gone are the introductory rates of $5 for 6 months worth of unlimited rides (that was Mobike back in the day). But the worse problem is that even if you pay for a monthly pass, the limited number of bikes and poor fleet maintenance means that bikes in working condition are few and far between.
Paying as you go has always been the more expensive option, but it’s now actually the cheaper option. The cheapest rate is $1/30 minutes (SG Bike). It’s still a lot cheaper than renting from a shop, where bikes go for $8/hour and above.
Ofo (小黄车 or “little yellow bike”) is a Chinese company that was one of the global market leaders in dockless bike sharing… until recently.
In 2018, Ofo made waves by jacking up their prices rather dramatically from $0.50/30 minutes to $0.50/15 minutes + $0.50 just to unlock the bike. Their ride pass also increased from $6.99 to $8.99/month. This was directly after LTA’s new regulations for bike-sharing companies kicked in, and was no doubt a way to pass operating costs to customers.
That was just the beginning of the end.
These days, everyone (who’s not affected) is breaking out the popcorn as we watch the company self-destruct from a safe distance, like in Mythbusters. To date, Ofo Singapore has vanished from its office premises before its lease expired, owes their employees thousands of dollars in unpaid claims, and otang at least 3 vendors close to $1 million.
Just for fun, I tried re-downloading the app. When prompted to enter the verification code sent to my phone, no SMS came despite several tries. Guess maybe Ofo didn’t pay their phone bills either.
Update on 22 Apr: Ofo is officially out of the market and has lost its LTA license.
Beijing-based bike sharing company Mobike was HUGE in Singapore back in 2017 and early 2018. Every sidewalk and patch of grass was crammed with those signature orange bikes. But after it was acquired by Chinese conglomerate Meituan-Dianping in April 2018, Mobike has understandably been slacking off. Game over already mah.
These days, the remaining fleet seems to be mainly broken bikes, at least in my experience. In November 2018, Mobike also quietly doubled the rates for pay-per use from $0.50/20 min to $0.99/20 min. Good thing you can never find a working Mobike, then.
While Mobike isn’t making headlines like Ofo is, it’s almost definitely fading away. I personally stopped using it after I was charged $5 for parking my Mobike in a LTA-designated parking lot, but didn’t scan the QR code. There was no way for me to scan the QR code retroactively. Screw you, Mobike.
If you’re creeped out by the thought of some Chinese e-commerce conglomerate getting your personal data, try local startup SG Bike.
You have to enter your credit card details to top up your wallet (minimum $10), but the good thing is that this app doesn’t auto-debit from your card if you run out of money.
The major drawback is the very small fleet size compared to the other players, so you cannot rely on them for commuting. You can still try your luck at places like East Coast Park where they’re a bit more common. If you get a monthly pass, make sure you limit your rides to 30 minutes or you’ll be charged.
The bikes themselves are usually in decent condition to ride, but I wouldn’t use them for long-distance commuting as they get tiring. Some have baby seats and pet baskets, but those cost more. (The rates are written on the bikes themselves.)
What’s next for bike sharing?
Given this spate of exits from Singapore, you might be surprised to learn that LTA has actually granted fresh licenses to a couple of new operators: Anywheel has been granted a license to operate 10,000 bikes, while newcomer Moov Technology has a “sandbox” license toto operate 1,000 bikes.
Also, not a bike-sharing app, but could be of interest to recreational cyclists is e-scooter sharing app Neuron, which operates a small fleet mostly in the Marina Bay Sands area.
Have you tried bike-sharing apps? Which do you swear by? Tell us in the comments.