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So you want to work in ride-sharing..

The first time I sat as a pillion rider on a stranger’s bike, I was not in the best condition to do so. I was drunk–that’s the only reason my friends got me a dedicated rider who would take the responsibility for taking me home safely. 

It was December, Christmas Eve, and a meetup with friends had turned into a drinking competition. Obviously I won the competition. I wanted to go home so that the drunk me would not embarrass the regular me. So my friends did what everyone has been doing these days to get from point A to point B after dark: they fixed my ride with a ride-sharing platform.

When I hopped onto the bike, I immediately felt uncomfortable. Yes, I was under the influence, but the bike’s passenger seat height was also high enough to take my dizziness to another level. To steady myself, I tried to grab the rider’s waist, arms, bag, the bike’s seat, seat rack, anything I could get a grip on. I did request the rider to not speed up, but my plea apparently fell on deaf ears. Fortunately, I did get home partially free of the dizziness–thanks to the chilly air.

From then on, I have never felt the urge to opt for ride-sharing. I would rather walk for hours than to go through all that discomfort. But I am probably in the minority, because most of my friends and acquaintances speak glowingly of the convenience that ride-sharing offers them. And quite a few of them are also working in the ride-sharing sector.

After thorough discussions with some of them (both riders and passengers), I began compiling a list of things that those wishing to get into the ride-sharing economy need to know.

Bikes or scooters?

This question does not seem to come up for most riders before they approach a ride-sharing company. Usually, riders sign up for their gig with the two-wheelers they already possess, and most passengers also do not complain about the vehicle they get on. But the presentation below of the ‘bikes versus scooters’ debate should come in handy for both potential riders and passengers. 

Vehicle-mastery difficulty level for beginning riders

Let’s start from the basics: what’s easier to learn how to ride? A bike or a scooter? 

When learning to ride, scooters, owing to their automatic transmissions, are much easier to learn and master than clutch-and-gear operated bikes. Scooters come mated to a single-speed CVT transmission, which means all you need to do is wring the throttle to speed up and apply the brakes to stop. Bikes, on the other hand, need the rider to have more patience and learn a few more techniques just to get things going–chief among the first skills to pick up is the art of balancing the clutch and accelerator simultaneously.


Engine size

In Nepal, the scooters available have an engine size between 110cc and 160cc. Bikes, however, come with engine sizes that start in similar territory and go beyond 1000cc. We would obviously not suggest that you go for superbikes if you primarily want to use it for ride-sharing, but the market here does offer a wide range of bikes, including those with a bigger engine size that delivers more power and torque: powerful bikes perform better on steep hills and difficult terrain, so do take that into account.


Stability and manoeuvrability

Scooters have smaller wheels and shorter handlebars, making them more easy and precise while manoeuvring at low speeds, especially on narrow roads, in crowded places, and in traffic. For their part, bikes, which come with larger wheels and a longer wheelbase, provide more stability at higher speeds.


Ground clearance

There’s a reason that most Nepalis want their vehicles to have a higher ground clearance. Roads in Nepal are so pockmarked and uneven that even city-riding often feels like off-roading. Then there are badly designed speed-breakers and water-logged road sections. Generally, scooters have a lower ground clearance than do bikes; that said, some scooter models are starting to get to clearance levels that are closer to a bike’s. But you do need to know that even bikes, especially when carrying heavy loads, will struggle to go over some of Nepal’s speed-breakers without registering a scratch on the lower chassis.


Fuel tank and efficiency

Bikes have a dedicated fuel tank mounted between the handlebar and the seat (a facility the scooter does not have). On average, a typical bike comes with a fuel-tank capacity between 10 and 13 litres and a typical scooter has a fuel-tank capacity of 5.8 litres. As for fuel consumption, the average scooters–lighter than bikes and paired with a CVT–are more economical than the average bikes.

In conclusion, bikes need less refuelling than scooters do and are more favourable for longer commutes.


Storage space 

Regarding convenience, the scooter wins by a fair margin. Scooters are usually designed with lower fuel-tank capacity, and that design decision seems to be justified because it allows for ample storage spaces: under the seats or at the front (on the front footrest). Most scooters come with 15-21 litres of underseat storage space, which easily accommodates small grocery bags, raincoats, and helmets. 

For bikes, you can definitely add aftermarket carriers (such as saddlebags) to create storage options, but doing so might diminish your motorcycle’s aesthetic appeal.


Comfort and convenience

Bikes usually come with a stronger suspension (to deal with all types of terrain), but as per my experience, scooters clearly win in terms of ride comfort and convenience. With a scooter, you get broader seats, smaller wheels, light handling, and overall agile dynamics–perfect for manoeuvring through stop-and-go traffic.

Women and girls do, however, find scooters more comfortable and safe as they don’t have to worry about their dress (sari, lehenga, kurta, dupatta, etc) getting stuck in a bike’s naked wheels.


Maintenance 

Another advantage scooters have over bikes is that scooter maintenance is far less expensive. The cost for basic scooter servicing is almost half that for a motorcycle, and the cost of scooter spare parts and labour is also pretty manageable. Furthermore, some repairs are so simple that you can do them yourself at home with just a basic tool kit.


Price range and variants available

In Nepal, scooters cost marginally less than bikes. You can find a scooter at a starting price of around Rs 1.78 lakh, although some do cost more than Rs 3 lakh. Most scooters have similar designs, and they are categorised on the basis of engine capacity. 

Bikes are offered in a wider range of styles—standard, cruiser, dirt, cafe racer, scrambler, tourer, sport bike, and dual sport, among others— and can also cost as low as scooters. 


First-hand or second-hand

Normally, one wouldn’t purchase a new bike just for the sake of ride-sharing. So, opting for second-hand bikes would probably be a better alternative. 

Browse new bikes at autolife.com.np and second-hand bikes at hamrobazaar.com.


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