PERSONALITY: ZESTY GUERILLA AOWEN
THIS MEGAWATT GO-GETTER BOY-NEXT-DOOR WANTS TO SHRED TRAILS AROUND THE WORLD
When we met Aowen years ago, he was just like any ordinary boy-next-door with a strong enthusiasm for mountain biking. This impression dissipated quickly once we started chatting. A cheerful young man who is very pro-active, be it in voicing out his views, to volunteering for help, to setting his riding goals. Fast forward 3 years, we caught up with him in an interview to see how he has been juggling school and bike life. Seems like he has some stuff to update, read on!
CHATTING WITH A FAMILIAR FACE OF GANGSA CHALLENGE PARK
It's not the first time we chat with Aowen, but it's the first time we put what he said on print. After reading through our interview with him, it became clear to us that his "NOT-SHY-GO-GETTER" attitude is the main reason for his seemingly right footings in his bike life thus far. This dude knows what he wants, and will work his way to get there! Sounds very much like a certain rainmaker-sponsor personality in his current team. No wonder they struck it off so well!
FIRST MINUTE WITH AOWEN
For those who do not know Aowen in person, here’s a quick introduction of him.
Full Name: Tang Ao Wen
Nickname(s): Ao (pronounced as OW as in ouch) or the renowned famous “Paitao” king for my shenanigan in my early riding days
Affiliated Biking Group(s) and Team(s): Teh Peng Crew, Yap Bicycle Compania Racing
Current bike: Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail, 2017 Safety Third Orange
Sponsors: Yap Bicycle Compania, Wize Asia
Favourite Local Trail: Chestnut Bike Park (Gangsa Challenge Park)
Favourite Trail (anywhere else): Whistler A-line (Wishlist)
Years Riding: 4
Pet’s Name: Hamster: Ruby
Favourite food: A lot to name, errr … lets see. Mee Goreng, Steak, Naan, Black Pepper Beef, Seafood Fried Rice and the best of them all – My Grandmother's cooking!
Biking idol: Brendan Fairclough, Brandon Semenuk, Cam McCaul and Aaron Gwin
To further introduce yourself a little bit more, tell us what are the races/events you have joined? And how did you fared?
I started joining races the moment I got my full-suspension bike – a Polygon AX1. It had since been sold sold to a close friend of mine (shoutout to Ken Yong) in 2014. The first race I joined was the Yew Tee Street Challenge 2014 and I got "podium position" … if you count from the rankings backwards. Yes, I was placed somewhere at the bottom of the list.
I also joined the Singapore Bicycle Festival in the same year. Again, I came in somewhere along the position of my first race.
At the Gravity Challenge 2014, as one would expect, I did not do well again.
For 2015 and 2016 were my quietest and shortest seasons with only participation in the National Championships (Downhill) and Urban Wheels 2015.
I began to focus on improving my riding and fitness for future competitions in 2017. It was a year that I didn't race. I volunteered to help at the Singapore Open Enduro 2017 which expanded my social circle.
2018 opened with a spanking new bike and sponsors for me. My first race for 2018 was Urban Wheels 2018. I made a few mistakes and overestimated my riding abilities which ended with some poor results. Then came the toughest race so far – the Indonesia Enduro, also known as Induro. This race opened my eyes to a whole new level of riding! I barely finished the race and is happy to share that I managed to complete the race!
Remember that training and learning may not be all smooth sailing. It is highly unlikely that you could get your tricks or basics right on the first try!
We are aware that you and another team mate entered a new phase of your biking life. Please tell more.
One of my role as a company rider is to showcase the brands and products that I am using. The team also wishes to publicize the company, the bike and components' brands we use through races and events.
Good podium positions are usually appreciated and encouraged by sponsors, and it is the same with mine. While I am aware of my hungry attitude, I am also aware that my racing track records hasn't been that attractive. For this, I am thankful for the opportunity given to me. Here's hoping that I would clinch some good ones for the coming year.
I'd like to take the opportunity to thank a few persons:- My team manager Benny Koh, who offered tremendous amount of help in securing my sponsorship. Chris Yap, the Chief People Officer of Yap Bicycle Compania – my sponsor. Yap Bicycle Compania distribute and retails the following brand – Guerrilla Gravity, Wren Suspension, Dumonde Tech, Red Monkey Sports, RSP, Wize Asia for Vittoria Tires – all awesome products.
How did this sponsorship relationship came about?
It started off with a casual chat with my current team manager, Benny. We were chatting on what bike I should consider for my next purchase when he told about Yap Bicycle Compania looking for company riders. On hearing this, I got one of my best mates KangJie along for a meet up with Chris and Benny. One thing led to another and 2 weeks later we became official Yap Bicycle Compania riders! Currently, we have 4 riders in the team – manager Benny, Terence, Kangjie and myself.
How do you prepare yourself for the races?
I try to hit about 15 – 20 km of trails 2 – 3 times a week. I would also try different methods of training, both on and off the bike. For example, during training rides, I would try to sprint at every descent. For non-bike days, I would be skipping ropes and doing cardio exercises.
I think that Singapore is a good place to train. A friend of mine once told me: "It's not about the quantity but the quality of each ride."
On race days, I usually walk around and chat with my riding mates to keep myself from getting too nervous. I would continue with this light-hearted mood all the way to start line. While some may think I am not taking things seriously, it is my way of keeping myself calm. But once the riding starts, it's all about getting to the end point as fast as I can.
You are a regular at the Gangsa Challenge Park, always seen practicing your techniques there. How do you go about improving your biking techniques?
Over the years, I learnt that not every method of doing a trick works for everyone. Simple things like body posture on a bike makes a huge difference in executing different tricks. It all boils down to practice!
My trick list may be short but I always believe that “One should be more afraid of the man that practices one move 100 times than the one that practices 100 moves once!”.
My method of practice: Just Keep On Riding.There's no short cut to learning (faster), you just have to hop on your bike and keep going at it!
Another important aspect is confidence. Or should I say ‘Feel’. (As in how you feel when you do a trick) e.g “No feel no go, if it's there, go for it!”
Last but not least is a motto I go by: ”You won’t know if you don’t try!” Acknowledge the fact that crashing is always part of the learning process. No rider rose up the skill-ladder without crashing in their riding career.
How do you manage your school obligations and your current serious cycling?
I have not begin my Polytechnics course yet and so I am unable to share how I would cope with the load. But I'm sure I would find a way to juggle studying and riding properly. On my non-biking social life, I keep in touch with a few good friends from secondary school. We would catch up for LAN games occasionally. Somehow, my biggest, most prominent social circle is still the mountain biking one.
What are your parents’ view about your involvement in mountain biking and all these traveling too races? (are they concerned about your safety?)
All parents care for their children. I acknowledge their concerns and address it accordingly by telling them every about my rides. They would know every detail of my trip and local rides. Since I ride with a usual group and at familiar trails, they are not too worry about me. Both my parents love me a lot, but like typical Asian parents, they do not show it openly. So to sum it up, they let me do what I love, knowing that I would stay safe and keeping them informed on my activities.
What do you think are the qualities that landed you the sponsorship?
I can’t really justify this as i don't wish to sound arrogant. Let's just say that I am still in the midst of creating these “qualities”.
What is your next target?
I wish to attend the Enduro World Series and meet my idols! I also wish to ride Whistler, BC and Skyline Bike Park, NZ. With regards to my sponsorship, I wish to fulfill my sponsor's objectives and help promote their products into. In 5 years' time, I hope to be able to complete one round of Bukit Timah MTB trail in less than 20 mins on an enduro bike. Alright … a more realistic goal is to master Moto Whips and land a Superman!
What would you tell a young rider who has some potential and wish to develop a biking career (or something like that)?
Mountain-biking is a very time-consuming hobby from my perspective, You must be able to allocate time properly and commit to many events and races.
Start out by waking up early everyday to ride and over time you would develop the discipline to train and improve yourself!
Remember that training and learning may not be all smooth sailing. It is highly unlikely that you could get your tricks or basics right on the first try! It took me 2 full years to master a proper bunny hop and even longer to manual. It all boils down to how much effort do you you put in.
Have the diligence to train! It may be boring to ride the same few trails every week. And it is definitely tiring to complete Bukit Timah MTB Trail, but with every ride, there will be some improvement to your riding!
If you have the opportunity to create a factory custom bike frame and fork in your name, what frame and fork would it be? And how would you customise it?
I wish to pay tribute to my dads old car by having a carbon enduro frames in silvery-grey. Design cues would be taken from my favourite cars like the Koenisegg and Nissan Skyline. My bike will no doubt come with bottle cage bolts! Riding in Singapore's hot weather without water sucks!
I feel that a fork similar to Wren Suspension would be great! I support unique forks with infinite adjustment!
My signature would be a metal fork attached to the bike fork's lower legs. Now I can tell people that I own 2 forks.
Interview and photos by Bikezilla