Man at His Best

Opinion: Singapore—A Cycling Nation?

Nicholas Fang reckons Singaporeans need to join the two-wheel cult, or risk missing out big time.

BY Nicholas Fang | Aug 4, 2016 | Fitness & Health

Cycling has emerged as something of an oddity in Singapore. Not unlike other sports, it suffers from a lack of funding that would allow us to flourish at an elite level globally. The fact we don’t have a single velodrome means we cannot contest disciplines on the oval track, nor allow aspiring cyclists to practise in a safe and controlled environment.

At the same time, the government has expressed an interest in boosting the popularity of the sport on a national level, to alleviate congestion on the roads and pressure on the transport system, while encouraging an active lifestyle among Singaporeans.

Naysayers, however, point to hoary old arguments about the hot and humid weather, as well as the lack of bike parking and shower facilities that would allow people to ride to work regularly. Singapore roads are also said to be too dangerous for cyclists due to reluctant motorists.

I’m not sure that I buy all these reasons enough to declare that we don’t have any future as a true cycling nation.

Our weather may be muggy, but at least, we don’t have wintery conditions to contend with. More bike-friendly infrastructure is also being built. Of bigger concern is the attitude of drivers towards riders. But this is a cultural issue that will be helped along if more people ride, and share their love of riding with others.

And there is much to love.

As a long-time fan of cycling, I have to say it’s a remarkable pursuit. The connection between man, machine and the open road is never felt more acutely than when on a bicycle. The lack of any significant barrier between rider and nature allows one to embrace the sights, the sounds, the smells and the textures of the world around us, in all their unbound glory. Being able to move at speed under one’s own locomotion creates a buzz that has to be felt to be understood.

Perhaps I’m speaking from the point of view of a typical gearhead, but there’s something about the flowing lines of a classically designed steel steed, and the swooping frame of the latest lightweight carbon-fibre model that makes me, and many others, part willingly with stacks of cash to add to our collections.

But the one aspect that will have the biggest impact when it comes to converting more people to the cult of cycling is simply the environment that riders inhabit. Whether it’s the majestic mountains where the legends of the sport ply their trade, the outdoor trails that are the playgrounds of mountain bikers and cyclocross racers, or even the urban landscapes that are home to fixies and foldies, there are many scenes of beauty that those in cars, buses or trains will never experience.

There are truly few words that can describe some of these scenes, and the best way to experience them first-hand is on two wheels. If more of us get out there and ride, hope exists yet that we will become a true cycling nation eventually.

From: Esquire Singapore's August 2016 issue.