akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Monday 1 December 2008

akmal's biking - his story and history

After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.
H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance

This is a narrative that spans a period of more than 20 years and more than five bikes (with a lot of people named - try to find yours). If you do get bored after the third paragraph, you may resort to something else much more active (like chess, for instance) and resume reading afterwards.

I started learning how to ride a bicycle quite late – when I was 9 years old - without training wheels, and without my own bicycle. Jamsari my neighbour at Jalan Strachan lent me his blue Chopper bike, and taught me the art of balancing on two spinning wheels. It's quite amazing, how with a pair of wheels you could go far, and fast. Ayah had a Chopper too, in red. That, I used with my elder brother Amri. Pretty soon Ayah bought a bike for Ibu for her to use commuting to Tabika Kemas. We used it too, for riding in the evening among our friends.

The rage back then was BMX. I frequently borrowed my friend's Skyway and Kuwahara while learning how to do the wheelie (which, until now, I still don't manage to execute). Every year on February 1st DBKL would hold a carnival at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa during Hari Wilayah. BMX races held on a purpose-built BMX race track.

During those years, I didn't have the luxury of owning a BMX. I remember my classmates and I drooling on the Katora (Ninja/Shogun/Samurai) BMX series advertisement laid on the back page of Kuntum, each time we receive it in our class. Ayah promised me a gift of $100 if I could get 5As in my Penilaian Darjah Lima exam. I was short of one, getting a B instead. So, knowing my maths well (particularly on the chapter of ratio), I figured I could get $80 and save some more to get my dream BMX. Apparently that's not the deal. It was all or nothing - and I got nothing. So I continued borrowing my friends' bikes as and when the opportunity arose.

(feel like playing chess now?)

My parents released me to the 'wilderness' quite early. Form 1, I was allowed to join the Rukun Tetangga camp held in Taman Rimba Kanching (minimum age was 15, but they made an exception). After that, my friends and I were introduced to various outdoor activities organized by Jabatan Belia dan Sukan Wilayah Persekutuan - including bicycle expeditions.

It was my high time. I joined several cycling expeditions - mostly to Sungai Bil and Peretak in Kuala Kubu Bharu. The farthest I went was to Pulau Pangkor. On an expedition to Pulau Lumut (in Klang), I was unofficially the youngest rider in the pack. Those were during my early teens - 13 to 15 years of age. I used my cousin Azizi's Raleigh 18 speed metallic red steel road bike on all expeditions. I lose weight quite dramatically, many of my friends couldn't recognise me. I got darker from the sunburn. Only then I know that they used to think that I was a chubby boy, when they said "you look thinner now, not a fatty anymore". Duhh...

Part of my motivation for my SRP exams (apart of getting out of the school) was a gleaming pearl white Raleigh 'Rapide' 21 speed road bike displayed in the Singer showroom. It's located at the cross junction of Jalan Sentul and Jalan Kovil Hilir - just opposite my school. I would take a look at it every time walking back home. I made Ayah to promise me that bike as a gift if I get good results for my exams. He agreed, and long story short - my brother and I went to Singer a week after the results were out. Thank you, Ayah.

No more walking to school for the whole of my form 4. Every day with my bike, and I even frequented my cousin's house in Kampung Pandan to learn playing the guitar (and about DOS on his PC). I didn't have the chance for an expedition with JBSWP with the bike, though.

Then there was the turning point. I went to Jasin to continue my studies (and out of Sentul). I had to leave my bike. Knowing how I love to ride, my cousin Liza asked me "are you going to bring your bike along?”. I said I have to see how things go first. Back home something happened, and I knew about it only when I reached home for my first boarding school balik kampung outing ever. Ayah broke the news to me: "Your bike is gone". Indeed, a very memorable balik kampung outing ever. I spent most days sulking.

Apparently, it was an on-off affair with cycling. I didn’t join the cycling club while I was in Jasin. The same thing also when I was in Shah Alam during my A-Levels and NCUK – although I did borrow Hairul and Tuan Yusoff’s road bikes a couple of times. I guess I put cycling on the backbench during those years, giving way for other priorities. I was a bit envy, though, when Faizi & co went for cycling expedition - Peninsular Malaysia, including Borneo I think.

While in Manchester, my housemate Zulhilmi bought himself an orange (in colour) bike, and he rode to UMIST attending lectures. The same with Azizul. Trying to rekindle the dying flame of biking, I bought one steel road bike (K-Factor branded) for 20 pounds at a car boot sale. I went there by bus, and cycled back home. The next morning I found out that the rear tire punctured – and never attempted to repair it anyway. It still puzzled me why. I guess I was too lazy to maintain a bike and also do not have the funds for it. It is generally much cheaper to DIY than to send it out to the shop for service. But then again, I don’t have proper tools. Basically I just didn’t care much, really.

Anyway, I did bring the bike home with me. It was in August 1998. Again neglected, it was left hanging outside not being attended at all. I guess there wasn’t much left of my biking spirit during that time.

October 1998 I moved to Pasir Gudang and started working. It didn’t take long before love at first sight hit me. I was wandering in Masai and casually went into a bike shop. Took a look at a LeRun, and loved it. Exchanged a few hundred cash with the shop owner and he drove me and the purple 21 speed Grip Shift LeRun Krakaton hardtail home. I rode to the office a few times on Saturdays, and once impressed Naza by pedaling from Kota Masai to Plentong (although later on she drove me back to KM with the bike in the bonnet). I owned the bike for a few years, but done no serious riding on or off road. Rather casual rides around the house (and chased by dogs). The bike was more of being neglected. Perhaps because of that, I found out one morning the bike was gone – probably stolen.

August 2007, while working in KL, my colleague Zulhisham told me about the T-Bolt that he bought through Bicycle Buy & Sell. I was only partly interested, but visited the site quite often. I guess cycling has always been in my blood. Pretty much internalized. An offer came from Zul’s friend Shah. He bought a new bike for a few thousand Ringgit, and letting go his Polygon Xtrada – for an attractive price. I grabbed his offer without much thinking, for I know that a second hand bike priced way much cheaper than its market price (and a bit cheaper than the Krakaton that I used to own) is an offer a newbie couldn’t refuse. And so, my real mountain biking obsession began… although quite a slow start during the initial period.

(hey, you’re still reading this monologue. Found your name in here yet?)

I bought the necessary accessories, and with the big help of internet (Kevin Han’s BBS site in particular) I learned a lot about mountain biking. Albeit, my rides were on tarmac around KL, after 10pm during weekdays. Being a weekend hubby/daddy, weekends were reserved for family in JB. I did an offroad ride in FRIM with Zul and Shah – my first. Later I had another opportunity to return to FRIM and tackle Steroid – alone. Then it was time when my tenure in KL was about to end. Thinking that it would be a hassle to bring back the bike along with a truckload of my personal effects by car, I sold the bike off in November 2007 – through BBS, of course.

A few weeks later Zul and I found out that there are mtb enthusiasts in the same office building as ours. I guess the excitement drew me to a hunt of a new bike, while at the same I didn’t feel so bad about the one that I’ve sold. The hunt led me to a used 18” Proton T-Bolt, offered with Fox Float R rear shock at a very attractive price. I went back and forth to Putra Heights in the process of building the bike with the help of Hood and Bro Yazid. The T-Bolt was finally ready in December, and I rode it first time off road in FRIM. New bike, new year, new friends, and a new trail – Dream in FRIM. It was not solely about the bike. It’s the whole experience and the people that I get acquainted with while building it. That’s why I have quite a sentimental attachment with the T-Bolt.

Shortly before going back working in Pasir Gudang for good, I enquired in BBS if there are mtb riders in Pasir Gudang – Panjang and Melaka shouted back, welcoming me to their trails. In PG, I was welcomed right from the first time at Restoran Ruza in Nusa Damai – by the local riders, and also a cramp nearing the end of the ride.

Now it has been close to a year since then. Pretty much obsessed with mtb, I have learnt quite a lot (from a lot of new friends), met many fellow cyclists and made more friends (virtually and in-person), build (and dismantled) a few bikes, countless offroad riding (although my odometer shows only a bit more than 500km), lost a few kilograms, and a few thousand ringgit – all on mountain bikes.

I also learnt an important thing about my wife – she loves me dearly. Once I fell off the bike downhill and onto a rubber tree (felt not so rubbery!). Hospitalised and underwent a tracheotomy. She took care of me, and during that time I know how deep her love is. That was also the time when I learnt about the spirit of brotherhood among fellow bikers. Jamaluddin took care of me from that rubber tree back to my car in Nusa Damai, slowly riding beside me and assisted with whatever he could – and that was during the first time ever we rode together.

(if you copy this entire entry up until this point, it would make a 4 page Word document easily)

I am still making more friends in the mountain biking circle. It surprised me how effortless it was to have a friend anywhere as long as you’re a mountain biker. It’s much like an affiliated program. Show up with a mountain bike, and you’re accepted in the club. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. A good friend BC Kelolo once offered me to ride with him and GLC when I asked for a casual teh tarik session on a Thursday (GLC were riding on Thursday nights back then). Not just that, he even offered me his bike complete with helmet and gloves. How can I ever pass such opportunity? And so I made friends and get re-acquainted with a few that I met at FRIM on New Year.

From that single night ride, I learnt and experienced a lot. One: It’s a small world, particularly if you’re on a mountain bike. Two: Night riding requires extra safety precautions. Three: Night riding is more relaxing and doesn’t tax your energy as much as during the day. Four: Friends are abundant, and friendship transgresses boundaries. Five: You better bring along a chain tool, and know how to use it.

From this point on, my mountain biking story continues in the bits and pieces of this blog. On and off the road, on and off the saddle.

Thanks for reading, dear friends.

Just curious:
Did you print this out and read it during your leisure time – in the toilet, while in the train, etc.?
Did you bookmark this blog entry and re-visit in between chess games?
Did you spend your lunch hour over a few days reading this entry? How many days?


Anonymous said...

sentimental story..

and 15 minutes, in the office.

jafa @ the panjang said...

dafi.. abes dia kuar segala cerita pasal beskal dia. hehe. berpinor bijik mata aku baca.. dah la tu.. siap soh print n baca dalam toilet. pastu soh bookmark ngan baca ulang2... huhu.. ko bayangkan la kesan kecederaan pandangan dan perasaan kalo ko buat camtu..

isk.. aku nak sambung buat keje.. terbengkalai.

akmalhizam said...

fuhh... lima belas minit kau baca Dafi?

Panjang: toilet kau takde lampu... tak seswai untuk membaca. kunci pun takde pulak tu...