Have bike, will deliver: Vélo Express KL, the bicycle messenger delivery service

Jordi Arif bin Rahman shows how delivering with a bicycle is done. — Pictures by Saw Siow Feng
Jordi Arif bin Rahman shows how delivering with a bicycle is done. — Pictures by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — In Malaysia, we are so used to seeing delivery guys on motorbikes... whether they work for specific delivery companies or in-house despatch guys.

When you mention a delivery service using bicycles, people think of New York city bicycle messengers.

Introducing Vélo Express KL, our very own bicycle messenger service that was launched in early September. Cycling enthusiasts Jordi Arif bin Rahman, M.Farid Rahmat and Aedewan Adnan thought the city is ready for this service now.

“Before this, there is no bicycle messenger service in Malaysia. You can find it in Singapore and Indonesia but not here so we thought, why not start one? It is really important, especially for the environment. It’s not just something we do for a living but it contributes towards Mother Nature,” said Jordi.

Currently, Vélo Express KL serves the city centre, Ampang, Bangsar and they are planning to expand their network.
Currently, Vélo Express KL serves the city centre, Ampang, Bangsar and they are planning to expand their network.

“We reduce our carbon footprint while offering a delivery service to the people,” added Aedewan.

There is a total of nine bicycle messengers at Vélo Express KL, covering the city centre, Ampang, Bangsar and Cheras. If you want them to deliver outside of these areas, you can ask them to quote the charges for you. All requests are on a case by case basis but the charges range from RM8 to RM25.

“All of us have more than five years of experience as a cyclist and delivery. It’s not just a job for us. We commute every day on bicycles and it is our main mode of transport,” said Farid.

The main objective of creating a bicycle messenger service is to raise awareness that cycling can be used as a mode of transport. You save fuel, time (avoiding traffic jams), parking costs and you get to exercise as well!. “We want to promote a city that cycles,” said Jordi.

Each Vélo Express KL team member ensures their bicycles are in tip-top condition (left). Bicycles are regularly checked and serviced to keep everyone safe (right).
Each Vélo Express KL team member ensures their bicycles are in tip-top condition (left). Bicycles are regularly checked and serviced to keep everyone safe (right).

Farid said that he has friends from overseas who comment on the cycling culture or lack thereof in Malaysia. It is not just due to a lack of cycling lanes because places like Indonesia and Thailand do not have specific cycling lanes either but they cycle, according to Farid.

“It’s more about our culture and perception towards cycling. Even though there is no bicycle lane, that should not stop you from cycling. It is not true that cycling is dangerous,” said Aedewan.

The seasoned cyclists have been cycling for so long even on high traffic roads that they have learned certain things from experience; when does the car move, how to react and to ride the bicycle safely even though some drivers can be inconsiderate.

“We are very different from weekend cyclists who only cycle as a hobby. We spend most of our time on the bicycle so we know how it is like,” said Farid.

By cycling, Vélo Express KL avoids traffic jams and they don’t contribute to the pollution. When they first started offering this service, many customers were surprised and happy with the bicycle messenger service!

“Just today I delivered something to a customer and I did it within 30 minutes even though our promise is to deliver within the hour. My customer was very impressed by it,” said Farid.

The typical gear of a bicycle messenger.
The typical gear of a bicycle messenger.

Vélo Express KL offers banking services, courthouse filing, post office pick-ups, food orders, prescription deliveries, personal deliveries, holiday season deliveries and even copy jobs. Most of the customers are office workers who do not have the luxury of time to get out of the office. A lot of their requests are food deliveries within the city. Vélo Express KL also collaborates with GoGet.my, an errands website to deliver and run errands for them.

“The pricing for the delivery service we offer cannot be compared to bigger delivery companies. Riding a bicycle does not mean that our delivery service is cheaper because we are a small company. We charge X amount of money because it is a community and it is user-friendly. We want to build a network and we have really positive response because we use bicycles. People see what we do and it builds their confidence about cycling,” said Farid.

Weather conditions are not a problem for the bicycle messengers because for them, their priority is delivering on time. Despite the haze situation, they continue delivering various items.

“People often ask us what will happen if it rains. I think it is more difficult to deliver during haze than rain. But we make sure that our deliveries are within the same day so if the weather affects our delivery we will inform our customers. We try to deliver the items anyway,” said Farid.

More equipment donned by one of the bicycle messengers of Vélo Express KL.
More equipment donned by one of the bicycle messengers of Vélo Express KL.

Vélo Express KL plans to have more bicycle messengers so that they can expand to more areas. “We will train them, for those who are not familiar with delivery service. We prefer to have locals who are familiar with the area that they work in,” said Aedewan.

Although there are nine bicycle messengers in the team, only five work full-time while the rest are back-ups who have night jobs of their own. Whenever the five of them get really busy, that is when they call the back-ups to help with the deliveries.

The name Vélo Express KL is derived from the French word vélo which means bicycle. It is a common term used among cyclists. The only things that the bicycle messenger service does not send are flowers and cakes because they are fragile and can be destroyed during delivery.

The Vélo Express KL team uses backpacks and messenger bags for delivery so usually they will ask for dimensions of the parcel to see if they can deliver it. The bicycles are also equipped with racks so if the bags are full, the racks can be used. From the time you engage Vélo Express KL, you can be assured that they will send you updates via text message to let you know when they can arrive and how long the errand takes.

One of the biggest challenges the team faces is wary security guards. “A lot of offices and buildings in KL have a no-bicycle-policy so the security guards get suspicious when they see a bicycle around the area. It is hard to convince them that we are delivering something because we don’t have a logo,” said Farid.

“We don’t want to confine ourselves to a uniform or brand identity because we want to be able to wear what we want. It is an independent group and I want all of us to be free so we don’t control what we wear or even make rules about what kind of bicycles to use,” said Jordi.

When it comes to servicing the bicycles, each member knows when it is time to service their bicycles as they are experienced cyclists. They maintain their own bicycles well to ensure that deliveries are smooth. Since Vélo Express KL started out, there has been many inquiries asking to join the service.

You can count on Vélo Express KL to be on time with your delivery (left). Backpacks and messenger bags as well as racks are used to carry delivery goods (right).
You can count on Vélo Express KL to be on time with your delivery (left). Backpacks and messenger bags as well as racks are used to carry delivery goods (right).

“It’s great that people want to join us but we need to get to know them first and see if they can deliver on time. We can’t just hire someone who does not know how to do the job well,” said Jordi.

Trust is also very important, noted Farid. “Potential bicycle messengers need to know the risks of joining,” said Jordi.

Customers find out about Vélo Express KL through social media and word of mouth. Now, they get people who are just trying out their service so sometimes they get random requests for personal delivery. The service they offer is from 9am to 7pm on weekdays. On weekends, they take a break but if there are requests, you can also ask if they can deliver on weekends or holidays.

Marhamah Ibrahim is the only woman bicycle messenger in the team and she too has decades of experience as a cyclist. “As a cyclist, one dreams about becoming a bicycle messenger and I never thought of doing this as a job. I didn’t have the guts to do it before but then I realised that I wanted to do it so that is why I joined,” she said.

As a kid, Farid’s family owned a convenience store so he used to make deliveries for them on his bicycle. Vélo Express KL does not have an office yet but they meet at KL Sentral, KL Live Centre and Titiwangsa because they are comfortable with these places.

The bicycle messengers hardly use GPS because they are already experienced around the areas. “We get directions from despatch boys usually. They get really excited when they find out we deliver using bicycles and they tell us they want to do that as well!”

For more information about Vélo Express KL check out:

Website: www.veloexpresskl.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/veloexpresskl
Instagram: www.instagram.com/veloexpresskl
Email: [email protected]

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