Slow down, smell the roses, and get to know your neighbours and community.
That’s what many of the people taking part in the Ride For Malaysia event next month are saying about this increasingly popular activity.
“The slower pace of cycling and touring on a bicycle exposes one to different people and different views of places, and you find that at the heart of it, people are basically the same everywhere. Whether famous or not, we are all just ordinary folks who want to lead simple but happy lives,” says David Chin, 65.
In fact, the F&B entrepreneur feels that cycling is good for the mind, body, and soul.
“Not only is it a good exercise, but it can be an affordable sport, pastime, or means of transport. It’s also environmentally friendly. And besides, it’s cool!” he enthuses.
Chin – who started the now famous Dave’s Deli group with a sandwich bar in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, in 1989 – believes that cycling is good for Malaysia because it’s an activity that is closer to the grassroots and makes people interact with one another, which will in turn make them more accepting and tolerant of one another, regardless of age, race, or social status.
Chin, now retired, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer four years ago and began cycling as part of his self-healing process. He cycles three times a week, but what he looks forward to most are the one- to four-week long cycling tours.
RasAngela Wong, 34, also strongly believes that cycling can help to bring people together and inspire unity and patriotism.
“Cycling, just like most sporting activities, can encourage a spirit of cooperation, teamwork, compromise and trust. It goes beyond cultural and religious beliefs and ethnicity,” says Wong, who runs her own event management company.
“Whether it’s a leisure ride or competitive racing in a team, cycling encourages people from all walks of life to unite in one common goal,” says the former beauty queen who has participated in many international races where she proudly bore the Jalur Gemilang.
“Cycling communities have always emphasised a common tagline, ‘leave no one behind’, and everyone cooperates to look out for one another.
“A cyclist with a punctured tyre is able to get assistance easier than a car with a flat tyre. We also share route info and security news across different cycling groups,” she explains.
Wong, who loves to travel and explore new places, started cycling at a young age and got her first bicycle at the age of 13. She rides her road bike on leisure tours and also in competitive races. In fact, she is deeply embedded in the cycling world, as she is a bicycle and cycling apparel brand ambassador and she writes a column for a local cycling magazine.
Her first tour began at Simpang Pulai, Perak, and she rode to Cameron Highlands, Pahang, with a support car last year. Subsequently, she went on her first self-supported cycling tour in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand, and this year, she completed a 10-day self-supported bike-packing tour in South Vietnam.
Her favourite place to cycle in is Penang, where she can ride for coffee and good food.
“There is a variety of terrain there, ranging from flats to breezy coastal roads and scenic hilly mountains.”
Malaysian TV presenter and radio host Baki Zainal, 36, believes that cycling is an activity that cuts across race, culture, and socioeconomic background, and can help to instil a muhibbah, or multicultural, spirit in people.
“From my observation, cycling doesn’t differentiate people by social status or culture, everyone on a bicycle is a fellow cyclist. There is no barrier of race or language, and people are usually welcoming of cyclists,” he says, referring to his experiences of bike touring through Malaysia.
He’s hoping that more Malaysians will take up the activity.
“We Malaysians, especially those in urban areas, often live life at such a fast pace that we don’t have the time to properly digest information around us, and often consume what we are fed without properly digesting it.
“When we cycle, we take things at a slower pace, we can get to know a place and its people better, and once we know and understand a place or people better, we learn to accept them,” he explains.
Baki picked up cycling seriously again three years ago; he loves the current popularity of the activity, and is happy to see how even his Insta-gram photos and Facebook postings have started influencing people to get out there and cycle.
“Many have this idea that cycling in cities like KL is dangerous because of the heavy traffic and theft. But after seeing me cycle, they have started to think otherwise. In fact, cycling is a lifestyle and I’m glad many have started to embrace it,” he says.
Singer, voice-over artiste, and MC Sharizan Borhan, 43, known to many as the King of Swing, believes that cycling is good for the nation. The avid cyclist has certainly seen the effects of the activity, having started his two-wheel love affair at the age of four.
“From my observation, people on two wheels are united, regardless of their social or cultural background. You can see that when a cyclist is involved in an accident, you can see everyone stopping to help – some people will hold back traffic while others will go and assist the injured cyclist,” he points out.
Sharizan, who owns four bicycles – a hybrid commuter, a folded bike, a mountain bike, and a road bike – enjoys cycling a few different routes in the Klang Valley with his buddies, including the Guthrie Corridor Expressway and the Damansara Heights area.
Actor and long-time radio personality Patrick Teoh, 70, fondly remembers meeting all sorts of people on bicycle tours, such as a recent tour he embarked on from Sungai Pelek near Sepang, Selangor, to Tanjung Pilai, the southernmost point of the Asian continent, located in Johor.
“When you go on a bicycle tour, you get to meet many people from everywhere along the way. This makes one less narrow-minded or inward-facing and helps to dispel a lot of prejudices that many urban folks might have about many things Malaysian,” he explains.
He admits with a laugh that he was surprised to discover many people in the rural communities that they cycled through actually recognised him.
“Although they were too polite to come up and ask except when prompted, many would shriek in delight at discovering that I was the guy in this or that movie,” he smiles.
Teoh, as anyone who knows his story, walks with a limp after contracting polio when he was eight years old. But that did not stop him when he took up cycling three years ago.
“I like cycling because it provides me with a level of mobility that I otherwise don’t have because of my polio-afflicted legs and poor balance,” he explains.
He cycles at least three times a week, between 25km and 40km each time, for exercise; he also joins rides organised by cycling groups and goes on cycling tours once or twice a year.
Actress, model and producer Kavita Sidhu believes cycling can bring people from all walks of life together, which is why she’s happy to support the Ride for Malaysia event.
But the statuesque beauty also loves the event simply for the fun it will offer: “How fun will it be? No dialogue, debate, or politics, just celebrating our nation, and showing love and gratitude for each other, which is the true essence of all human beings!
“A collective ‘we’, not ‘me’,” adds Kavita, who married Italian geologist, Roberto Guiati last year.
The 40something former beauty queen actually bears a scar from her first bike ride! Her mum and two brothers taught her to pedal when she was six – and the adventurous tot promptly rode down a hill and came off the bike at the bottom and scraped her nose, a scar she still bears today. But the fall didn’t put her off and she’s still cycling today. In fact, she hopes to encourage more Malaysians to take up the activity, as she believes it also brings a lot of health benefits.
Malaysian singer DJ Dave (real name Datuk Irwan Shah Abdullah) knows all about the muhibbah spirit: Over the years, his classic tunes have appealed to every ethnic group.
“The Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Punjabis have all enjoyed my music over the years,” he says proudly.
The 70-something singer is all ready to bring that spirit to the Ride for Malaysia event on July 30.
“The power of music is like the strength of sports, as both are able to break through social, cultural, and religious barriers, and bring people together,” he says.
Ride For Malaysia is hosted by Star Media Group and property developer Sunsuria Bhd. The event will be flagged off at 6.30am at Sunsuria City on July 30. Whole families are welcome, and there will be special prizes for the most sporting family of four, the best looking couple, and those who come in fancy dresses.
There is a Fun Ride of 30km along scenic routes for individuals aged 16 and above, with a RM60 entry fee. There is also a Family Ride of 5.5km with entry fees of RM40 for adults aged 18 and above and RM25 for children aged between seven and 17. A first prize of RM2,000, second prize of RM1,000, and third prize of RM500 are up for grabs in each category.
For more information and to register, go to sites.thestar.com.my/rideformalaysia. For group bookings, call 03-7967 1388 and ask for Events.