One thing that is able to unite people from different backgrounds is an activity like cycling.
And national unity and patriotism are, in fact, the prime goals of the Ride for Malaysia – organised by the Star Media Group and rising property developer Sunsuria Berhad – which was just launched last week.
Avid cyclists, from all ages, concur how cycling has helped them build friendships and widen their social networks.
For “Cikgu Chin” or Chin Sin Chuan, 63, a retired teacher who hails from Rawang, cycling brings people together and expands one’s social network.
“Cycling cuts through all barriers of race, religion, age and gender. Those who join rides that I’ve organised become my friends, and when I join rides organised by others, I become their friend,” he testifies.
He likes cycling for the low impact workout, the sunshine and fresh air, the beautiful scenery along the way and, being Malaysian, the good food that often accompanies cycling trips. And of course, there’s the fun and laughter from being part of the group.
Chin emphasises that the most important thing when organising a cycling event is to take care of the group.
“To me, that means all riders must be safe from accidents. So, I usually choose routes with less cars, like kampung roads. And, at every junction, I make sure that everyone crosses safely,” he explains.
To Mohd Adib Noh, 65, from Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, both safety and caring for one another as cyclists are very important, especially when cycling in a group.
Mohd Adib began cycling 19 years ago and soon after joined more friends at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) in Kuala Lumpur for weekly mountain bike rides. Through cycling, he found that his network of friends has expanded.
“What I like most about cycling is I get to exercise while meeting friends and having fun, it’s like being a kid again!” he shares.
Sense of community
Sin Tai Lim, 59, a retired businessman from the construction industry, relates how cycling has boosted his social life: “When I started cycling in KL, I found myself gathering more and more friends by the day, mainly through Facebook, where I could join cycling activities and meet new people. After a year, I started a group called Happy Cycling and we host a ride every Wednesday, when possible.”
A sense of community is built because of the need to keep everyone together – literally.
“Safety is of utmost importance when organising rides. Since our roads are not always conducive for cycling, it’s important to ensure that all the cyclists are kept within the group at all times. So we don’t rush or leave anyone behind,” explains Sin.
“Our rides are mainly leisure ones with no speed nor time limit, as long as one enjoys their time on their bike. Usually, the route will include interesting places to visit and good places for food,” he adds.
He started seriously cycling five years ago when he saw his brother riding his mountain bike.
“I really loved doing it during my younger years, and that incident inspired me to cycle again,” says Sin who hails from Padang Serai, Kedah.
“I have 11 bicycles now,” he smiles.
“My wife, Jocelyn, who is 54, only learnt how to cycle two years ago, and often cycles with me during weekends,” he adds.
“Cycling has many benefits. It gives me freedom, helps me to destress from work and other stuff, and even alleviates my backache,” he explains.“My bikes have taken me to many exciting places, both local and overseas.”
Journalist K.S. Sia adds, “I have taken part in several rides organised by Cikgu Chin, Pak Adib and Sin. Those who join these rides are from different races and backgrounds. But when we are on the road, social barriers dissolve because we are all one as cyclists.”
He explains that group members on these rides watch out for one another. For example, when someone gets a puncture, everyone stops and some will go to help repair the tyre.
“So there’s a real sense of camaraderie,” says Sia.
“Thanks to cycling, I have come to rub shoulders with some celebrities too, such as Patrick Teoh and Baki Zainal! But they are very down to earth people. When cycling, all of us are comrades on the road, there’s no place for putting on airs.”
Sia adds, “I really want to thank Cikgu Chin, Pak Adib and Sin. They take such good care of all the cyclists who join them.
“For example, they will often patiently wait for the slower riders at junctions to make sure they don’t miss the turn. And they take the trouble to map out interesting routes for all of us – for free!
“So naturally, we feel gratitude, warmth and respect for them. It’s this kind of spirit that fosters friendship bonds among cyclists.”
Japheth Lim, 27, says that no matter what their social background, cyclists feel united on the road as fellow journeymen.
One manifestation of this esprit de corps is to warn each other about dangers on the route during group rides.
“The cyclist in front will often shout out ‘Hole!’ to warn those behind about potholes and missing drain grates. That’s one of the ways in which we try to take care of each other.”
He says that cycling definitely helps in developing friendships among all kinds of people.
“In fact, it was friendship that led me to start cycling. I met up with Sin Tai Lim (see above) through a friend and then joined his Happy Cycling Facebook group. From there, I met many others on the group’s makan rides.”
He started cycling to his secondary school in Petaling Jaya when he was 13, and throughout his university days in Penang.
Lim, who is currently based in Singapore as a green building consultant, sometimes cycles to work in the republic too.
Mohd Radzi, 37, who hails from Kepong, KL, says that bike touring enables him to better see and experience rural places and also get to know the people there.
“With cycling, it’s easy to develop friendships. We share ride experiences with one another, exchange views on bike maintenance, and also organise rides together,” adds this senior bank executive.
Kenneth Tan, 35, began cycling when he was 12, in Slim River, Perak.
“I started cycling because that was the only form of transport for me,” he recalls.
“I love cycling. I do it not so much to stay fit, but to go further to explore new places and cultures; to meet and befriend people of all races, ages and professions,” says this avid cyclist, a senior 3D designer who is currently based in Bangkok.
He enjoys both the speed of road cycling and the jungle adventures of mountain biking.
He says there are many cycling groups that ride for different reasons – leisure, adventure, or competitions.
“The discipline in a group to cycle the right way is important, for example, giving hand signals to alert other cyclists about traffic in front and at the back,” he explains.
“But for me, the most important thing when cycling is mutual trust. In a cycling group, we have each other’s back when help is needed, and also to push one another to be better.”
Ride for Malaysia will flag off at 6.30 am on July 30 from the Celebration Centre at Sunsuria City.
There is a Fun Ride of 30km along nearby scenic routes (for individuals aged 16 and above, entry fee: RM60).
There is also a Family Ride of 5.5km. The entry fees are RM40 (adults aged 18 and above) and RM25 (children aged 7-17). Register at: http://sites.thestar.com.my/rideformalaysia