"MORE Singaporeans are going the distance for cycling. To Malaysia, to be exact.
Some are even helping organise cycling trips for other Singaporeans.
Cycling enthusiast Mark Cheong, 27, observed: "Two years ago at the annual Pedalholic Cycling Club Interstate ride in Malaysia, there were about five Singaporeans. This year, there were about 55."
Mr Cheong, a bicycle shop manager who is based in Kuala Lumpur and who plans to set up a bike shop there, now organises cycling trips in Malaysia for about 15 of his Singaporean friends.
He said he started cycling upcountry in 2004,when his army friend,who cycles there regularly, took him along.
"It's a place where you can get an endless route and cycle for hours without coming across a traffic light. You don't have to stop and start again," said Mr Cheong.
He organises the trips in his personal capacity and does not charge his friends.
"When friends come by, I help them by sorting out routes, taking them on routes and advising them on accommodation.
"I cycle with the locals here, so from there, I fix an interesting route for my friends. I can alter the route based on their fitness," said Mr Cheong.
And he is not the only Singaporean to organise such trips to Malaysia.
Madam Kathleen Seng, 40, started cycling in Malaysia in 2006.
She said: "We (Team Bandung) started with about five or six girls. Now we have about 120 who go with us, the majority of whom are triathletes."
Madam Seng, a manager, travels with 20 or more people each time she goes up north.
Most go to enjoy the scenery and get away from the city.
Recalling how the team started, Madam Seng said: "We were a group of like-minded triathletes and we wanted a change of environment for training. Malaysia has long stretches of road without any traffic lights, few cars and fresh seafood."
Local cycling groups like Joyriders have also been venturing across the Causeway - from Genting to Cameron Highlands.
The group, which was formed five years ago,makes trips there almost every month.
The coach they hire can accommodate only so many people and their bikes, 20 to 30 Joyriders go at a time. For their next trip to Ipoh in July, the group plans to hire two coaches for 56 people.
When they started out, such trips were made less than five times a year.
Said their founder, Ms Joyce Leong, 55: "At first, people were a bit scared because of the mountains and all.
"But I arranged for a support car to give people more confidence. People are more gung ho now."
Mr Kartick Thapa, 35, a software engineer, is one of those who have gone cycling in Malaysia.
"Usually,we cycle 150km a day.When we go for weekend trips and we start at 5am, we have two big breaks where we all regroup," he said.
Even teens aren't left out of a Malaysian cycling adventure.
One of the youngest cyclists who rides with Mr Cheong is Jenevieve Woon, a 16-year-old student. She goes with her mother, Ms Anne Chua, 48.
They either fly up north with their bikes or drive, then cycle over 100km in the mornings until about noon.
Said Jenevieve: "I go there mainly because Singapore is only so big and you can do only so much. There are big climbs like the Cameron Highlands, Fraser's Hill and Genting Highlands in Malaysia."
Her mother, Ms Chua, said the trips are a good opportunity for her to bond with her daughter. She said: "We enjoy climbing the routes in Malaysia. We sometimes drive to KL for a few days and go sightseeing.
"My favourite memory was cycling across Penang Bridge on New Year's Day."
Engineer Dennis Goh, 29, was introduced to cycling in Malaysia by a friend.
"The rides in Malaysia take more time and are usually over longer distances. It's only the really hardcore cyclists who will go to Malaysia,"Mr Goh said.
But it's just not the young cycling in Malaysia.
Mr Robert Tan, 70, has been cycling there since he retired some three years ago.
In fact, Mr Tan has plans to re-enact the cycling route Japanese soldiers took during World War II when they invaded Singapore.
"The route is about800km and we plan to do this over 10 days," he said.
Still, Mr Cheong advises newbies to make sure they are up to the rig ours of cycling upcountry before they sign up for such trips.
He said that his first major cycling trip in Kuala Lumpur last year left him battered and badly dehydrated.
"I had cramps everywhere. Myneck, everywhere.
I couldn't even walk up the hill," said Mr Cheong, who cycles an average of three times a week. He underestimated the terrain and did not pace himself enough for the climbs despite training in Singapore.
Mr Goh agrees, and offers some advice to those willing to pedal up north.
"It's definitely better to cycle in groups or with a buddy who can offer help.Obey traffic rules and try to keep to the left of the road."
Mr Goh also says to look out for hazards and to dress for safety and comfort.
"The roads in Malaysia are not as well maintained as the roads in Singapore, so look out for potholes," he said.
"Wear bright coloured clothing, have lights and do pre-ride checks each time."
And like Mr Goh, Mr Cheong says it's mostly the seasoned rider that would enjoy Malaysia for all that it has to offer.
Said Mr Cheong: "You really need to train for it. You can't go out wanting to hammer the ride and think that you can get away with it."
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Cycling in Malaysia (TNP article, 30 May 2011)
"Cycling for hours without traffic lights," by Diane Louys and Kwan Hui Xian. The New Paper, 30 May 2011.