More office workers are cycling to work, to beat the jams and the rising costs of fuel, parking and road tolls. Here’s how they do it.
Safwan Siddiq, 28, media content producer
He started cycling to work sometime last year.
“I was preparing for a 160km century ride. It was hard to get enough training during the weekends,” he explained, adding that he could easily clock 30km a day from commuting.
To stay safe, he advised going through housing areas where possible.
“These roads are typically less congested compared to the main roads, especially during rush hour, but not too quiet (and dangerous),” he said.
Safwan, who hails from Shah Alam, Selangor, carries as little as possible when bike-commuting, saying he keeps his laptop at the office. But he does bring his office attire and shoes with him, and he also keeps extra work clothing at his office.
“I’m fortunate enough to have gym facilities at work, so I just shower before I clock in,” he said.
“If the weather is really bad, I will take the car. But if I get caught in the rain while cycling to work, I have a raincoat and also rain cover for my backpack plus bright lights,” he explained.
To prevent his parked bicycle from getting stolen, he keeps it in the office. He said that showering facilities in office buildings would really help people who are considering cycling to work.
“I’m sure employers would appreciate healthier employees who exercise, right?” he quipped.
He also noted that there have been more cyclists since bike lanes were set up in parts of Petaling Jaya, Kota Damansara and Shah Alam.
Safwan uses a cyclocross bicycle, which is a hybrid between a road bike and a mountainbike, to get to work.
“It’s sturdier than a regular road bike, so it can handle potholes and going on or off road kerbs easily. It can also be fixed with racks to carry bags,” he explained.
Having said that, he added that almost any bicycle can be used to cycle-commute.
“When I was in university, I used a cheap RM200 single-speed bicycle to get from campus to class. I always tell people that the best bicycle for cycle-commuting is the one you already have at home,” he said.
Saiful Zulkifli, 37, bicycle consultant
He started cycle-commuting to work six years ago when he joined an IT company in Section 13, Shah Alam. He cycled from and back to his home in Bandar Puncak Alam, Selangor, clocking up a total of 70km every day.
“I saved up to RM600-RM700 monthly (in petrol, car maintenance and tolls) just by commuting to work. Plus I got to enjoy the fresh air in the morning and the fun!” he enthused.
Saiful has since opened his own bicycle workshop, Toptube, which offers door-to-door bike pick-up, service, sales and accessories, at Bandar Puncak Alam.
He advised, “Don’t wear or carry any fancy bags or belongings that will only attract those with bad intentions. I use a normal dull-coloured backpack which can safely keep my things. And always be alert and aware of your surroundings.”
In the days when he cycled to work, he would bring his office clothes in his backpack.
“When I arrived at the office, I would just shower and change,” he recalled.
To safeguard against unexpected things like bad weather or punctures, he would carry emergency tools in his backpack, including a spare tube, mini hand pump, mini multi-tools, and also a riding raincoat.
“The most important facilities to encourage more cyclists to commute to work are dedicated bike lanes and safe bike parking facilities in brightly lit areas,” said Saiful.
“It’s great seeing cycling activities like Ride for Malaysia, and even the Car Free Day in KL and Shah Alam, which encourage people to cycle,” he added.
Titan Kong, 32, project manager
His car had broken down. So he tried to take the bus to work.
But he had to wake up at 5am every day to catch the bus, to reach his office by 8.30am. And the bus journey home took two hours.
That’s when he decided to cycle to work – it took only 30 minutes to reach his office!
Kong said, “The distance is doable, and I don’t have to worry about looking for parking or paying expensive parking fees.
“On average, my fuel consumption per month was around RM300 and parking was RM8 per entry. So, in a year, I saved over 5K (RM5,000)!
“It really pays off if you keep doing it long-term. Your metabolism rate and stamina will improve in the process. Of course, your appetite will grow too!” he added with a laugh. Even though there were no bicycle lanes along his route, it didn’t stop him.
“On my first day of commuting, I took extra precautions. I kept left and cycled at a slow pace,” he recalled.
“The only issue I faced were the potholes, metal gratings, pebbles and other rubbish along the left side of the road,” he explained.
“It would be great if there are shower facilities at the office so that those who cycle to work can freshen up. The good thing about commuting early in the morning around 7am or in the evenings at 6pm is that it’s not hot at all,” he added.
“If I have a punctured tyre, I can fix it on the spot, or just fold the bike and hop onto the bus. That’s one of the advantages of a foldable bike!” he said.
“It would also be great if the Malaysian driving syllabus includes how all road users should share the road with others such as cyclists,” said Kong.
He rides a foldable bicycle to work because it takes less space for storage and easily fits into a vehicle boot. At work, he keeps it safe under his table.
Kong usually wears long-sleeved shirts and slacks at work. To prevent them from wrinkling, he rolls them up instead of folding them, before putting them in his backpack. He keeps his laptop and work shoes at the office.
“If there are fewer cars and more bicycle-commuters on the road during rush hour, it will have a huge impact on Malaysian cities. Statistics show that people on bicycles are happier and less stressed than those who drive, and this leads to better productivity,” he said.
Marina Rushe, 42, consultant
“If you’re combining cycling with public transport, then a foldable bicycle is more convenient,” she advised.
“To stay safe on the road, keep on the left side, wear reflectors, be well lit, use hand signals, and always take a glance back when making any turns on the bicycle, even if overtaking a parked car,” she advised.
Rushe, who lives in Petaling Jaya, says that clothing, accessories, and makeup are not an issue.
“I don’t wear much make-up, just mascara and lipstick, so it’s not affected by sweat. Usually, I cycle in shorts and sandals and change to my skirt and heels after I reach my destination,” she explained.
“Bicycle parking stations with high visibility and security at offices would be useful for cyclists who commute to work,” she added.
She advised those who are considering cycling to work to scout out their routes beforehand.
“Choose the safest and most practical route rather than the fastest one.”
This is part of a series for the Ride for Malaysia event.