Burning Rubber

With so little time to work, exercise and have a social life, a sport that allows you to do at least two at the same time may be the motivation you need to get your heart (and legs) pumping. The New York Times recently quoted Silicon Valley venture capitalist Randy Kosimer as saying “Cycling is the new golf” and the rise in the number of people doing it here seems to attest to that.
Marcus Coghlan is President of ANZA Cycling, perhaps one of the most well-known and well-reputed of the organized road cycling groups. He agrees that the attraction of cycling seems to be that it can be a group activity, especially in the case of road cycling. “You’re outdoors and exercising with other people,” he says. Unlike sitting on a treadmill pounding away to your iPod, cycling in a group allows you to catch up on all the gossip while still burning a few calories.
But don’t despair if you can’t get your buddies into the lycra and out of the house. Here are some ways you can jump on board and be a part of this latest sport trend.
Going Bush
Who says Singaporeans aren’t adventurous? Bike hashing is ideal for those who like a bit of bush bashing and hard core all-terrain grunt, and Singapore Bike Hash (SBH) claims to have been the first ones to do it. The fever caught on, and now bike hashing is popular all over the world; SBH even rides regularly in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Off the Beaten Track
For those who’ve never heard of it, bike hashing is a bit like run hashing. The Grand Master of SBH (who likes to be known as “Barbarian”) describes it as a “non-competitive ride following a paper or chalk trail with loops, checks and false trails incorporated to slow the front riders down and keep the pack together.” If you’ve got a mountain bike gathering dust in storage and you can’t find those rough terrain paths, SBH will find them for you, as well as provide a group of friendly cyclists to ride it with. Barbarian says this is the “ultimate” way to use your mountain bike.
Indeed, if you’re sick of the big city with its concrete buildings and pollution, a bike hash will get you back to nature in all kinds of weather, provided you’re not squeamish about getting wet.
All Together Now
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the hash is that SBH welcomes all riders of any skill level. Hashes are designed so that all riders finish at the same time so, as long as you have basic cycling skills (can ride without falling off, use all the gears in the right situations, and are comfortable on your bike), you won’t be left behind. According to Barbarian, there are devices in the trail that are designed to slow down the front riding bikers and keep everyone together.
And don’t be scared off by Barbarian’s name: This is not an extreme sport only for the crazies. Barbarian stresses that it is non-competitive, and the fact that you’re riding off road means that road traffic is no longer a worry. Those who design the hashes (the “hares”) always try to ensure there is another way around an obstacle or a short cut.
If you fancy yourself a real jungle warrior on the bike, you also don’t have to worry about being bored as riders meet every three weeks with the trails changing frequently (check out meeting points at www.twa.com.sg/sbh). Most rides will take about two hours or are about 20 km long. Riders can join SBH for $60, which gives you at least 18 hashes a year, or pay $10 per hash. Make sure you get a helmet, though, as it’s compulsory to ride with one on, and mountain bikes are recommended.
On the Road Again
Get up early on a Saturday morning and you’ll see groups of sleekly clad cyclists on shiny machines pumping along in pairs. Don’t be intimidated: They’re actually pretty friendly and accommodating people, despite their space suit outfits.
Highway to Hell?
It’s not about being professional and fast at ANZA Cycling. To prove that the club’s not just for roadrunners, Coghlan stresses that there are usually seven to eight variations of rides per week. Some routes are as short as 30 km, others as long as 130 km. Route information and timetables can be found at their website (www.anzacycling.com) and don’t worry, this is not a situation where you’ll be waiting at 5am alone. There are currently 150 members, and Coghlan assures us that usually at least 20-30 people turn up for any given ride.
If you haven’t been on a bike since you came off your training wheels, you’re probably better off getting up to speed on your road skills before turning up. Being a nervous rider won’t help you when you’re in a big group: You’re much better off being comfortable riding on the road and building up your confidence first before trying to keep up with the ANZA pack. Coghlan advises it’s best for wannabe cyclists to be able to cycle a reasonable distance of about 15-20 km at above 25 kmh. A willingness to step up to the pace of what the group is doing is essential.
Pack Mentality
If safety is a major concern, then cycling with an organized group of experienced riders can minimize the risks. ANZA Cycling has a well established riding etiquette that means cyclists ride in pairs, move deliberately and predictably, and maintain open communication through hand signals and calling.
Contrary to popular belief, Coghlan maintains that road cycling in Singapore is pretty safe. While drivers with little appreciation for bikes might cut cyclists off using silly behavior, most motorists are not trying to harm cyclists, and the traffic tends to move at a slower speed than in many other countries.
ANZA Cycling members pay $110 annually to gain discounts at shops and attend club events for free. But those of us less willing to commit are still welcome along for the morning rides. You’ll have to be an early bird though: Rides typically start between 5:30am and 7:30am.
Spinning Around
No space for your bike at the office? Now there’s no room for excuses for not commuting to and from work by riding. Foldable bikes are well established in the market, so bulky equipment is no longer an obstacle. Speedmatrix (25 Jalan Mas Puteh, 6775-7133) sells Dahon bikes, foldable bikes designed in the US. Raise your eyebrows in skepticism, but these are impressive. The base product, the Speed D7 ($679), weighs only 12 kg, has seven gears and can be closed in four easy moves. It’s so small you can fit it into a suitcase to take overseas, and has been approved for travel on the MRT. Options include a built-in pump in the seat shaft, a specially designed carrier bag and, get this, an iPod charger.
But if you’re too old school to use a foldable bike, then The Bike Boutique (71 Tras St., 6298-9528) has bike storage facilities and showers ($10 daily or $150 per month shower and storage; $100 per month storage only; $50 per month shower only), so you can cycle first and then clean up before heading for the office. Towels are provided to minimize your load, and there’s a lounge area where you can buy drinks and chill out with other exercise freaks. The store is open six days a week.
Prescribed Relaxation
Yoga giant True has just opened True Spa (Tower A, 16/F Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Rd., 6732-9555) and True ’Est (Tower A, 16/F Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Rd., 6235-0990). Located side by side, clients can blend the luxury of spa facilities at True Spa with their aesthetic treatments at True ’Est, by booking appointments before or after. Spa services are extensive: There is a large manicure and pedicure area plus 15 massage rooms, 10 facial rooms and three VIP suites.
In a further blending of the spa industry with the health and wellness industry, Kinesis Physio and Rehab (#08-01 Novena Square Shopping Mall, 238 Thomson Rd., 6352-2252) is a physiotherapy center housed in the exclusive St. Gregory flagship branch. Physiotherapists can supervise exercises and therapy with patients in the surrounds of a spa environment using St. Gregory’s facilities. In these kinds of relaxing environs, rehabilitative work doesn’t have to seem such a chore and might even be a bit soothing. Kinesis has also recently opened a new outlet at Pilates Bodyworks (#19-01 Commerce Point, 3 Phillip St., 6538-8922).