If you, like the rest of Singapore, have been out exploring your own backyard, you can't miss the cyclists who seem to be everywhere. You see them on the roads, park connectors and everywhere else. How did Singaporeans catch the cycling bug, and how do cyclists stay safe?
Yahoo Lifestyle SEA spoke with Dr Hing Siong Chen (affectionately known as Dr Siong within the cycling fraternity), President of Singapore Cycling Federation, and Terence Lee, who provides cycling tips on social media under the moniker of Bike Guru. Together, they shed some light on the latest cycling trend – and how you can embrace this sport safely for you and your family.
Dr Siong started cycling some 12 years back and have never looked back since. He clocks 3 to 4 rides weekly despite his busy schedule. He is the President of the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) and a Treasurer and Management board member in the Asian Cycling Confederation. As the SCF’s board president, Dr Siong wears many hats, including overseeing the organisation’s finances, vision, mission, staffing and long-term goal setting. He is also a full-time General Practitioner and serves as a family physician.
Terence Lee, aka Bike Guru, discovered the thrills and spills of cycling 23 years ago and continues to clock rides four times a week. A full-time engineer, he is also a rider in the Geylang Cycling Team Singapore and competes in both local and overseas races. He spends the rest of his time serving the general population in the area of cycling. Bike Guru provides expert tips and advice for cyclists of all proficiency levels. His vision is to spread the love of cycling to the community through safe engagement of the sport. Find him on his Bike Guru website, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel.
What do you love about cycling?
Dr Siong: Besides health benefits, cycling breaks down language, race and nationality barriers. I had always felt welcomed by the local cyclists when I was overseas.
Bike Guru: Cycling helps me destress and gives me the adrenaline to maintain a happy work-life balance. I like to fly with my bicycle when I travelled to other countries as it allows me to self-navigate everywhere and make friends with the locals.
Why do you think everyone is cycling now?
Dr Siong: People realise that it is an excellent form of exercise and helps their mental well-being. Recently, more are exploring the great Singapore outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions. Singapore’s extensive network of roads and suburban roads are beautiful for cycling. Plus, it allows them to avoid congested parks.
Bike Guru: Travel restrictions, COVID-19 regulations, and sports venue lockdowns have pushed people to explore Singapore for food discovery, sightseeing, and making new friends.
What are some of the main benefits of cycling?
Bike Guru: Cycling’s a full-body workout and environmentally-friendly. It also bonds people together regardless of race, religion and nationality.
Dr Siong: It provides good cardiovascular exercise, mental relaxation, opportunities for friendship and camaraderie. It is suitable especially for people with bad bone joints.
How do I get started in cycling?
Bike Guru: You can get started via rental bike services or purchasing your own bicycle. Try SG Bike (bike share rental using a mobile phone) or bike rental kiosks located throughout parks across Singapore.
Dr Siong: Join one of the many welcoming social cycling groups on social media, or find someone you know who can point you in the right direction. It’s all about having fun.
What are some general rules in picking out a bicycle that suits my frame?
Dr Siong: You can buy your bike from a bike shop with experienced staff who can help you. For example, there are bicycle consultants at Decathlon who can measure you and fit you to the right bike at the right price. Remember that you can have as much fun on both a $200 bike and a $20,000 bike.
How do I stay safe from the coronavirus while cycling?
Bike Guru: i. Put on masks when you dismount from your bicycle during your toilet and makan breaks. ii. Do not mingle after cycling. Head home immediately after the ride. iii. Observe the maximum number of cyclists in a group while adhering to safe management measures.
Dr Siong: Also, follow the Gov guidelines published by SPORTSG and Singapore Cycling Federation.
Is it illegal to ride a bicycle without a helmet in Singapore?
Bike Guru: Always place safe riding as the number one priority for cyclists regardless of your riding proficiency or bike type. While it is not a violation for cyclists not to wear helmets on PCNs, it is crucial to do so to protect your head should you fall. Check out my article on getting the right fit for bicycle helmets.
The million-dollar question: Should cyclists be taking the pedestrian or car lanes?
Dr Siong: Both! It depends on where you are going and how fast you are cycling. Pedestrian footpaths have a speed limit of 10km/h, park connectors 25km/h and car lanes have higher speed limits.
Do you think Singapore is a good place to cycle?
Dr Siong: Singapore has one of the best-paved roads in the world. LTA is very responsive to repairing road defects. Overall, the co-existence with other road users can be better. On another note, cafe stops are the holy grail for all cycling outings. I like Dempsey and Far East Square. Both have suitable bike parking spaces and good coffee.
Bike Guru: Singapore is definitely a great place to cycle with delicious food and places to sightsee. I enjoy cycling on Tanah Merah Coast Road, which links Changi Beach Park and East Coast Park. It is the only road in Singapore with a cycling lane for cyclists who prefer riding along the roads in a safer environment. Besides the cycling lane, we have PCNs (Park Connector Networks) for leisure cyclists and pavillions for pit stops. I love admiring the open seas here. I especially like the local food and desserts at Changi Village Hawker Centre.
Another route I enjoy is from Labrador Park to VivoCity. There, you get to see the private yachts docked at Marina Keppel Bay while cycling on the pavement by the coastal walk. I particularly enjoy the variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian food at Seah Im Food Centre. For cyclists who have more stamina, continue your expedition into Sentosa island.
Saddle sores are a pain in the butt, literally. How do I prevent bum chafing?
Dr Siong: Firstly, get a good pair of bicycle shorts and use chamois cream on your sitting area before cycling.
Bike Guru: To add on, you can reduce the chance of saddle sores by using a suitable saddle. Each saddle has a length and width, and cyclists should know their specifications before buying.
How do I stay safe while cycling?
Bike Guru: All cyclists should obey the rules and regulations while riding on the PCNs and roads.
Dr Siong: Always follow traffic rules. Cyclists, like pedestrians, are more vulnerable as road users. Please do your part to make it a better and safer place on the roads. It is also important to be alert and conscious of the road conditions and situation. Even if we have the right of way, always practise defensive cycling, especially at traffic junctions, slip roads and pedestrian crossings. On shared paths, always look out for the pedestrians; slowing down in crowded areas allows the cyclist more reaction time to avoid accidents.
Is there such a thing as riding too much? What can I do to enhance the biking experience?
Dr Siong: That sounds like a healthy problem. If you develop injuries or recurrent pains, it is good to head down to see your friendly family doctor and get the issue diagnosed early and treated. Sometimes a good bike fit is all it takes (e.g. it can be as simple as raising the saddle by 1 cm). Don't rush, leave your worries at home and don't ride during rush hours!
Bike Guru: There is no limit to the riding distance as long as it is within your physical fitness. It is vital to insert rest days to allow your body to recover and prevent injuries, allowing you to enjoy cycling for longer. Delicious food places and sightseeing via the bike are my greatest motivations.
What are some misconceptions regarding cycling?
Bike Guru: Here are three common misconceptions regarding cycling I would like to address:
Misconception 1: “Buying an expensive bicycle equates to the ability to go faster.”
Not true. Ultimately, the fitness of the cyclists dominates the statement. The bike is 10%, while the rider is 90%.
Misconception 2: “Cycling everyday will make you a strong cyclist.”
Logically, the more you practise, the better you become. In cycling, do remember to incorporate rest days between training days. It allows the body to recover and be stronger.
Misconception 3: "Every ride must be long distance."
It is essential to increase the ride distance gradually so that your muscles get used to it. Cycling is a lifelong sport. Do it slowly and steadily, and you will enjoy it for a lifetime.
Dr Siong: Some people say that cycling and cyclists are dangerous. Please don't let the few black sheep and law-breaking cyclists spoil your day or your drive on the road. Almost all the cyclists I know are law-abiding, and we cycle, be it to get a workout, for delivery or to commute to work. We aim to get home safely to our families.
Anything you would like to say to non-cyclists?
Dr Siong: I would like to appeal to your humanity and tolerance to help watch out for cyclists and keep them safe on the roads. These cyclists may one day be your child, a relative or a friend at work.
Bike Guru: May I sincerely request all non-cyclists to be more patient and empathetic towards cyclists. In recent months, there has been news of road rage incidents between cyclists and motorised vehicles. I hope one day there will be an equilibrium of respect between the pedestrian, cyclist and motorist. Anyone who wishes to utilise the road should be protected with third party insurance to protect themselves.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the biking community in Singapore?
Dr Siong: I think road safety and responsibility go both ways. All cyclists should respect other road users (cars/pedestrians etc.) and abide by road traffic rules if they wish to be respected on the roads.
What activities can cyclists look forward to during the pandemic?
Dr Siong: OCBC has organised an exciting OCBC Cycle Virtual Ride this month to help cyclists kickstart new cycling adventures.
Bike Guru: OCBC Cycle 2021’s line-up of Virtual Ride categories is suited for cyclists across most ages.
What do you hope to achieve with OCBC Cycle 2021?
Dr Siong: I hope that OCBC Cycle 2021 will be the platform to promote safe cycling to all participating cyclists.
Bike Guru: I believe more families will be picking up cycling in the years to come, with the majority commuting to school and work. This will make our city greener and keep everyone fit and active. My dream is for the government to hold an all-day, car-free day for cyclists to commute around Singapore at least once a month. OCBC Cycle 2021 will bring cyclists together in both the Speedway Championships and Virtual Rides with a common goal to complete the distances for each category.
I look forward to OCBC Cycle’s expansion into South-East Asian countries. Many of my followers are asking if they can participate in the OCBC Cycle Virtual Ride. It will be great as OCBC Cycle is well-known in the cycling community and allow international cyclists to form a common goal to keep fit through the love of cycling.
Find out more about OCBC Cycle.
Note: In light of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), the deadline for submitting OCBC Cycle Virtual Ride details is extended from 13 June to 4 July. Cyclists do not have to worry about going out to complete their Virtual Ride during this period as there is now more time to complete the ride.
If you are heading out for your rides or workouts, please follow safe management measures, mask up and keep your social distance. Stay home as much as possible and stay safe during this period.
In partnership with OCBC Cycle.