SINGAPORE — By now, everyone in the Republic is familiar with bike-sharing, thanks primarily to three companies, oBike, Ofo and Mobike that have inundated our sunny island with two-wheelers.
All three have released their own unique bikes which come with different pricing systems and usability. But which of these has the most value, is easy to use and the most comfortable to ride around with?
We tried out all three bikes in different parts of Singapore to find out which bike-sharing app is suitable for you.
GETTING A BIKE: oBikes are the easiest to find among the three. We found an abundance of them at HDB void decks and it is even easier to spot them outside MRT stations. If you’re about to leave the house and want to save time scouting for one, the app gives you the nearest one to you on the map and even lets you reserve it for 10 minutes.
THE RIDE ITSELF: The oBike comes in two different variants: The silver with orange highlights and the white with orange highlights, which is a newer model. We rode both of them and found the silver model to be much heavier. On the flipside, that means it’s sturdier and easier to balance.
There aren’t any gears on either model and getting it moving is the hardest. It requires more force possibly because of its weight and might be tiring for some, especially when you are pedalling uphill.
The white model is a lot lighter and easier to pedal, despite not having any adjustable gears. Both models come with baskets on the front for you to place your belongings but the newer model has a deeper one so you can carry more of your barang-barang.
RETURNING IT: You just need to find a bicycle parking area and turn the lock at the back of the wheel down to end your session.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Before you can even rent one, you need to pay a S$49 deposit while students only need to pay S$19. Your deposit will be refunded to you within 1 to 14 days.
Once that is done, your ride will cost S$0.50 for 15 minutes of use. You should note that oBike is generous with their promotions, giving free rides on certain public holidays and weekends to encourage you to ride. You can also get a S$3 coupon if you use a friend’s referral code.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4.5/5 — easy to find, affordable (sometimes free) and a sturdy ride. But try to get the white variant if you tire easily.
GETTING A BIKE: Looking for an ofo bike is like looking for an Apple user at a Samsung store. They are hard to find and if you ever see one, chances are someone is already riding it. Unlike its competitors, the app doesn’t tell you where the nearest ones are.
It took us an entire day to finally get one at Punggol and even then, we could tell people were eyeing it already. Yes, the availability of the bikes differs depending on your location, but it’s generally still a difficult bike to locate. That’s possibly because people can keep them in their own homes and still be charged the same price for it.
It doesn’t come with a QR code for you to scan but instead, you have to enter the bike number stated at the back of the bike on your app. From there, the app will give you the combination code to unlock it and voila, you have yourself an ofo.
THE RIDE ITSELF: It’s a pretty simple bike that most people are familiar with. It’s the only bike out of the three that comes with adjustable gears but it’s also the only bike that doesn’t come with a basket. It’s the lightest amongst the three and thanks to its gears, it’s the easiest to ride, too.
RETURNING IT: You can park this thing anywhere as long as it doesn’t block any pathways and not in the middle of the road. You randomly spin the combination and then turn the lever down to lock it. The app should register that your session has ended but you can always select “end trip” if it doesn’t.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: It’s the cheapest amongst the three, charging you only S$0.50 a trip regardless of how long it is. It also doesn’t require any deposit. As such, some have been found abusing this generous system by locking it with their own locks or keeping it in places out of reach for many to use.
It’s an ambitious effort by ofo to provide a bike at a more than affordable price, but this seems to be taking a toll on the amount of people that can use it because of a few selfish users. Is this why we can’t have nice things? Probably.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5 — it’s the most affordable and the easiest to ride ... if you can get your hands on one.
GETTING A BIKE: Just like oBike, you get a map of the bikes closest to your location, but they can mostly be found outside MRT stations. You can reserve one as well for up to 15 minutes. In our experience, it wasn’t hard to stumble upon one at all.
However, our first few tries unlocking the bike didn’t seem to work, even though we had our Bluetooth turned on and also had enough in the e-wallet to rent one. We tried four different Mobikes outside an MRT station, but three could not be unlocked while the other was waiting to get fixed. Finally, we managed to find one that worked at a void deck.
THE RIDE ITSELF: The Mobike feels a little like a hybrid of the silver oBike and the ofo. It’s light but also sturdy, making it an easy ride. It feels smaller than most so you will get used to it after five minutes of riding.
Its basket is roughly the same size as the old oBike and the solar panel at the bottom keeps small items from falling through the holes. This makes it convenient for you to place your phone and wallet in it during the ride without worrying about it slipping out of your pockets or the basket.
RETURNING IT: You can park it at any bicycle parking area by pulling down on the lever at the back to lock the bike. The app should state the end of your trip but you can always select “end trip” if it doesn’t do so automatically.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Mobike charges you S$0.50 for every 30 minutes of riding. There are also always referral codes and coupons you can use. There’s even a credit system in which you can earn credit for your future rides by reporting broken bikes, parking at correct places and so on. But it can also be deducted if you damage the bike, and park at places you should not. So always do the right thing.
There is a S$49 deposit to take note of. Unfortunately students do not get to enjoy any discounts at the moment.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 3/5 — It’s the bike that requires the most getting used to. There are not as many discounts or promotions as oBike, but at least you won’t have trouble locating a ride. It does a good job of encouraging users to treat the bikes properly, but we still found a number of bikes that would not unlock or were awaiting repairs.
A version of this story first appeared in STUFF Singapore.