I’ve been an avid mountain biker for years, but as of 2021 I’ve never experienced how painful a bike emergency can be.
But it wasn’t just the pain that I remember most. A year after the accident, I still remember the bitter frustration of being ripped off at a time when I needed help the most.
It all started during one of my regular bike rides with a friend on a trail in the Bukit Timah area.
For some reason I messed up a simple roll down onto some rocks which caused me to fall off my bike.
I jumped headfirst into a rock and the resulting impact shattered my helmet and gave me what must have been the worst headache of my life.
I passed out for a few seconds without realizing what had happened. I was bleeding profusely from a cut on my forehead and also fractured my left wrist trying to cushion my fall.
My friend had the sense to bring a patch that helped stop the bleeding to some degree. Together he helped me hobble to a rest stop along the way and call an ambulance.
We both knew we were in the middle of nowhere. Since the only way out was down the hill, my friend carried our two bikes while I called the ambulance and walked alongside him.
But as I arrived at the rest stop and waited for the ambulance, a sudden realization hit me.
Despite the size of an ambulance, I knew I couldn’t take my bike on board.
If I left my bike unattended it could be stolen and there were no bike racks to chain my bike to in this wilderness. My family was also abroad at the time and couldn’t help me pick it up.
My friend couldn’t possibly push two bikes several miles back to his place in Yew Tee.
So I started looking online for a bike shipping service to bring it home.
With my head still aching from the collision, I managed to send 12 messages to 12 different accounts on Facebook and Carousell.
I waited an hour for someone to answer and decided to hold off calling an ambulance until I could guarantee my ride would be safe. Only one company replied.
The transport company person offered me S$35 to take my bike from Dairy Farm to my friend’s house in Yew Tee which was 7km away.
When I told him on the phone that I was injured and waiting for the ambulance, he decided to charge me an additional S$20 for this urgent request.
And that despite the listing that he could come anytime, anywhere at short notice 24 hours a day.
Given my condition, I agreed as I had little opportunity to have immediate medical attention as well as the peace of mind that my bike was being stored safely.
But less than five minutes later, I received another text message from the company saying that they would add an additional S$15 to the rate as my request was “super urgent”.
The total cost was about S$70. I would pay a premium for a short 10 minute ride to transport a bike.
I saw red, not because of the blood from my wounds, but because of the ridiculous price I was quoted.
Although I was in pain, I texted the driver who was in charge of my request. I argued that the tariffs were not transparent and unfair.
He replied curtly: “If you can do it better, then do it yourself next time.”
DO IT YOURSELF
In a twisted way, his indifferent words served as an inspiration and continue to drive me to do things better.
I immediately canceled the pick-up order with the transport company.
When the ambulance arrived and the paramedics fitted me with a bandage on my forehead and a cast on my wrist, I declined their offer to be taken to the hospital.
I signed a form to release the paramedics from any liability. I then pedaled to my boyfriend’s house with my working right hand while he supported me with his hands on my back.
A doctor later said it was an unwise move as I had suffered internal bleeding which was causing the headache.
I was treated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for three days, undergoing multiple scans and surgery as I appeared to have a head injury and internal bleeding.
Although I couldn’t remember much because of the medication, the driver’s text message kept ringing in my head.
Even as a full-time student at Republic Polytechnic studying for a business degree, I believed I could do better than anything else out there.
On my second night in the hospital, I decided to start a bike transport service from scratch.
I created a Telegram group of cycling enthusiasts about my idea and my experiences and recruited a pool of riders including my friends among them.
Through word of mouth and exchange among cycling enthusiasts, I managed to recruit more than 100 members within the first week. I offered myself to new members as a transport service to connect drivers with cyclists in need via Telegram.
A small commission for this service allowed me to earn about S$1,200 in the first month, which was a morale-boosting sum for a polytechnic student like me at the time.
It was also the place where I first felt that there was huge unmet demand for bike transport in Singapore as it moves toward a car-free future.
The sheer number of orders to fulfill meant many sleepless nights and I had been manually connecting riders to cyclists and vice versa for months.
So I learned the Python programming language and created a Telegram bot called GoBot! to automate the work.
In August 2021 I was already running a serious start-up called GoBike, which hired three part-timers to help with my start-up.
I have also joined the Alibaba Cloud-Singapore University of Social Sciences Entrepreneurship Program and also received a S$50,000 SG Founder Grant to boost my fledgling business.
Through the program, I learned how to overcome complexity to take my startup to the next level.
With the scholarship and working with my mentors from the Entrepreneurship program, I can use it to develop and hire people to take my start-up to the next level and prepare it for future funding.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t always easy to set up a company in Singapore, especially in the middle of your studies.
Like many young aspiring entrepreneurs who started their business as a student, I had to balance my attention between school and work, so learning how to manage my time and balance the two was crucial.
The business world is never idle either, and I have had to adapt to the needs of consumers whose behavior and preferences are constantly changing.
But every time I ran into a problem with the company, I would recall the frustration I felt that fateful day when I fell on the rock.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has had quite a few bicycle accidents over the years, once said: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling.”
Maybe that was the lesson the driver was trying to teach me that day when he told me “do it yourself”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laurent Misso, 21, is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GoBike and a recent graduate of the Alibaba Cloud-SUSS Entrepreneurship program from the Singapore University of Social Sciences.