Ohyesbike


Today, after yesterday’s disappointment, I gave obike another chance. I dropped La Serpiente off at school, looked for a nearby bike on the app, and set off to find it, walking down an alleyway in Tiong Bahru liberally studded with dog turds. The bike I found was parked outside the door of a flat, right next to a very nice looking road bike that was locked up. This second obike was much better than the first; instead of being some rubbish old bike with a few stickers on it and detachable handlebars, it had a huge, sturdy frame and a pair of handlebars held on by the kind of stem clamp you’d expect to see on a downhill racing rig.

On the downside, it weighed an absolute ton, but I needed the exercise and I’d figured out a quiet route away from the roads (or rather, on wide pavements next to the roads), down to the river and off to work. Most of it required ignoring various signs prohibiting cycling (which, when there’s nobody out at 9 in the morning, don’t feel that important anyway) and then trundling around the edge of the Singapore River, up past the National Art Gallery and then to my office.

Like I said, the bike was sturdy. I instantly regretted riding up a hill, and wished they’d equipped the bike with more than a single gear. THe handlebars are also sturdy, a pair of ape-hangers that are far too wide, and the seat is still one of those enormous, ridiculous affairs, but at least I didn’t feel like the bike was trying to kill me at every opportunity. I even had fun jumping it off curbs, although perhaps that’s the terrible immature joy of hearing a loud bang as you slam somebody else’s rims against something hard. That thrill never grows old.

I got to work, parked the bike under a shady tree and locked it, and then came back down again three hours later and took the same bike to a business meeting a mile and a half away. I was revoltingly sweaty after that – I’d had one shower when I got up this morning and another when I got to work, but I had no more dry clothes to change into. Although riding a bike in the sunshine is a joyous thing, it also makes you very hot very quickly. I’m not sure how to sort that out, apart from to stop wearing thick full length trousers in a tropical environment.

I took another obike home this evening, arriving just in time for Friday night pizza. So far that’s four rides, and I’ve not had to pay for any of them. I think at some point they must start charging (there are fees if you want to reserve a bike, but since the bikes are usually somewhere between my office and the MRT station to get home, it’s easy for me to pick one transport choice if the other is not available, so I won’t be paying that). I’ve saved a bit of money and I’ve had a bit of exercise in the daytime, even if that means I’m then too sweaty to even consider work when back at my desk.

I also discovered that obike is another Chinese interloper and not, as I had somehow been persuaded, a homegrown version. I’m beginning to wonder if, like Uber and Lyft’s rivalry in the US, the different bikes sharing companies are going round sabotaging each others bikes to inflict reputational damage. Could yesterday’s deathtrap been an effort by an errant mobike employee to persuade me that obike’s aren’t safe? Or was it a vigilante who hates all bicycles, or was it just poor maintenance? Never ascribe maliciousness where incompetence is a sufficient explanation, after all..


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