Another shared bicycle firm hits the road, offering mountain bikes

Mr Ethan Tan's company, ShareBikeSG, differentiates itself from the five other companies as it offers mountain bikes. The bicycles will also help bridge the 1km distance between Chestnut Nature Park, where he has a bike rental service for cyclists ri
Mr Ethan Tan's company, ShareBikeSG, differentiates itself from the five other companies as it offers mountain bikes. The bicycles will also help bridge the 1km distance between Chestnut Nature Park, where he has a bike rental service for cyclists riding the off-road trail, and the nearest bus stop.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

ShareBikeSG offers mountain bikes to set itself apart from rivals

If you can't beat them, join them.

Since shared-bicycle operators made their debut here last year, some bike rental firms claim their revenues have gone down by as much as 30 per cent.

However, Mr Ethan Tan - the owner of Aire MTB, which rents out mountain bicycles at Chestnut Nature Park - has decided to ride out the competition by starting his own bike-sharing operation, ShareBikeSG.

"I wanted to make it more convenient for people to go into the park to ride," said the 30-year-old, who also owns FixieSG, a shop selling fixed-gear bicycles in Geylang.

The entrance of Chestnut Nature Park - which features more than 8km of biking trails - is more than 1km away from the nearest bus stop in Petir Road.

Started just a month ago, ShareBikeSG is different from the rest of the pack because it uses mountain bikes, which come with features such as front suspension and seven gears.

These make them more suitable for off-road riding, unlike the city bikes used by the likes of oBike and ofo, which are more suited for short rides in an urban environment.

But Mr Tan - who said $1 million, made up of his own money as well as funds from friends and investors, has been invested in the business so far - is unfazed by the competition.

"Some people will like the other bicycles (from other firms), and some will like ours," he said.

The frames of ShareBikeSG's bicycles were designed by Mr Tan, a mountain biking enthusiast who also designed the other bicycles rented out by Aire MTB.

ShareBikeSG currently has about 300 bikes, deployed at several locations, including Chestnut Nature Park and Gardens by the Bay, a number Mr Tan hopes will grow to "a few thousand".

Aware of complaints about faulty shared bikes, Mr Tan has a team of six staff who maintain ShareBikeSG's two-wheelers. They are also responsible for locating damaged and haphazardly parked bikes.

ShareBikeSG's entry into the market comes even as other home-grown firms are expanding.

SGBike, which started with 300 bicycles in the Holland-Bukit Panjang area in August last year, now has 1,500 two-wheelers.

 
 

The firm is moving into other areas to expand its reach, said marketing director Benjamin Oh.

"We recently had a soft launch with Jurong-Clementi Town Council and (the bikes) will be available there shortly," he said.

oBike - which began its operations in Singapore with about 1,000 bicycles in January last year - has expanded its fleet here to 14,000, and currently operates in cities across 20 countries.

Some are still sceptical about whether the Singapore market is able to support six firms offering the same service.

"Despite the presence of so many players, it is still not clear how sustainable the bike-sharing industry is," said Singapore Management University transport economist Terence Fan.

Still, Mr Tan is hopeful.

"I hope that when people think about riding bicycles, the first company that comes to mind is ShareBikeSG."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'Another shared bicycle firm hits the road'. Print Edition | Subscribe