PERSONALITY: THE EVERGREEN
FREERIDER CALVIN AUW
A regular face amongst street riders from as far back as the mid 80s, you can say that Calvin Auw has seen it all in the street riding and freeride scene. From braving traffic executing the sickest tricks to shredding the competition, this guy has been there before! And he is still going at it, with the same level of enthusiasm and energy. Think you know Calvin? Read on to find out what goes on in his mind when he rips the urban jungle.
And he has a whole wealth of experience to share!
THE HIGHSPEED SECTION
Name: Calvin Auw
Age: 44 and growing
Years cycling: Since 1985
Current riding disciplines: Urban/XC/DH
Sponsors: Chapter 2 Cycle – Ibis Mojo HD 26” and Coast Cycle – Goliath 24” Fat Bike
Affiliated Cycle Group/Team: I do not have any group or team, I will cycle with anyone who wants to cycle and enjoy their company
How often do you cycle: About once to three times a week depending on work schedule
Where do you usually cycle: Butterfly trail, Ketam trail in Ubin, East Coast Park, Downtown Singapore
Favourite cycle spots: Ketam Trail – Less crowded and lots of switchbacks and climbs. Not forgetting the scenery is awesome too and the "coconut aunty" is always there to provide us cold coconut drinks.
Please share with us some noteworthy cycling achievements of your to date.
Batam Dangas DH Race – 2nd Place – Master C Cat
Red Bull Down Mall Race Velocity – 2nd Place – Master Cat
Tampiness Bicycle Festival DH Race – 1st Place – Master Cat
Malaysia Kluang Urban DH Race – 3rd Place – Master Cat
Audi Urban Challenge Race – 1st Place – Master Cat
Yew Tee Street Jam – 1st Place – Master Cat
Redbull Downmall Challenge 2015 – 1st Place – Master C
(And so on – cannot remember all of them. Lol.)
THE NITTY GRITTY
You have been an "evergreen" personality in Singapore's cycling scene from as far back as the 80s. What is it about cycling that kept you going all these years?
Riding is a form of exercise and let you see the world. It is free and helps you to burn some calories at the same time. The interesting part of cycling is that we get to go against the law of gravity. And descending a steep slope at high speed is simply priceless.
Some history since the 80s
I have been riding since the 80s and has never stopped since. I started off riding BMX freestyle back in the 80s where there aren’t many competitions. The only competition I participated was organized by GT/Dyno in 4th September 1988 and got 2nd placing in the Expert Class category. That was my first competition and I got sponsored by GT/Dyno bikes for a period of 4 years participating in numerous demos including the Chingay Performance. I picked up my bag of flatland tricks by watching videos with all my friends and we practiced from there. The hardest part in doing flatland trick was to be able to combine all the tricks into one run. It was quite challenging but we managed to churn out some nice routine.
I started to pick up motorcross – scrambler bikes – in 1991 and done a couple of races in the famous Loyang Track (the place has since been demolished and it's now a warehouse). I participated mostly in the open category and received a few podium finishes as well. I was "semi" sponsored by Ideal Motor then and got myself a Kawasaki KX 125 from Steven Lee – the owner of Ideal Motor. There were a few instructors coaching me back then. Steven Lee was one of them and the other person was Benson Lu. These two person inspired me the most in my racing career. Apart from racing, I also do trail riding with a group of friends. We would ride from Macritchie reservoir all the way to Mandai (most of the trail have been converted to Expressway now). I remembered the security personnel always blocking us at the car park after Macritchie reservoir trail. It was funny thinking back those old days. I also remember hanging out with Dzulkeflee Salleh (now also a mountain biker) back in those days at CMK kopi-shop in Joo Chiat before heading out to trail. The motorcross scene did not last long as I was posted to Commando Unit in 1993 and that spelt the end of my motorcross racing career. I was still riding a scrambler (Suzuki TS 200 and Kawasaki KDX 200) back then. These was my two favourite scramblers. (Racing Plate was 16J if you have seen them around before)
After national service, I went to Hawaii to study and got my Degree in Business Administration. I was there from 1996 to 1999. I got my first mountain bike (a Gary Fisher – Joshua Y) back in 1997 and started to play street trials in Hawaii. Rode a few Downhill tracks and XC trails in Oahu Island (Hawaii) and was thrilled by the steep slopes and speed. When I return to Singapore during my vacations, I rode with Attitude Bike Team. If I remember correctly, Hans Ray (GT) was here performing in Singapore Sentosa Island (forgotten the exact date). Rum was one of my supporter and was riding Correctec Bikes for him then.
In 2000, I started riding for team Bike Rendezvous. Bike Rendezvous was a bike shop located in Tampines and was ran by a couple Douglas and Jean. They have been the best supporter in my biking career where we get to travel to Penang for numerous demos. On top of that, Douglas is also my bike mechanic and he is always installing new stuff on our bikes for testing! I was given the opportunity to ride different brands of bike like Porsche Bikes, DDG, Azonic, Ellsworth etc. It was an awesome experience when I was riding for them. The shop eventually wound up as Douglas wanted to pursue his other interest. But he was generous enough to let me carry on riding one of the best bikes in his stable – an Ellsworth.
In 2008, I built my first 24” street bike – a Dobermann – compliments from one of my old friends who wanted me to try the frame out. Front travel was shortened to 80 mm and the bike was very responsive. That bike made me want to jump around again and I did lots of gap jumps on it. It was the most fun bike I ever had. I rode that bike for almost 4 years until I changed to a Trek Session 88.
In between my biking passion, I took up wakeboarding as well. This sport got me to react even faster when throwing tricks. Tricks like inverts requires me to spot the landing in advance in order to land properly with my board. This has indeed help me a lot in terms of looking and spotting where I should be landing. Took part in various competition at the Kallang River (back then that's where wake boarding competitions were held) and earned myself a few podium finishes as well. After wakeboarding for a couple of years, I went back into cycling again. I still wake board from time to time currently.
I only get to ride a real full suspension bike back in 2012. I participated in some competitions and also trips to Batam Drak Bike Park. I remembered participating in the Tampines National Cycle Championship DH in July 2012 and got injured with a big gash on my left knee during my first practice run. I told the on-site medic to stitch up my wound but he said it was too dusty and my wound may get infected. In the end, I asked him to bandage it hard enough so that I can complete my race. I went to the hospital and had to get 4 stitches to for the wound after the race. An unforgettable day for me indeed.
Now, regarding my Trek Session 88 downhill bike. I can say that this is one of the best downhill bike I have ever ridden. It weighs like a street bike and feels like a 24”. Even though it has a pair of Fox 40 fork up front, climbing with this bike at Ubin Ketam Trail or Butterfly Trail is still so much fun. It really doesn’t feel like a downhill bike. I have used it for Batam Drak Bike Park as well and the performance of the bike was awesome. I sold the bike in 2013 and got myself a Trek Scratch 8. Somehow I got my setting a little wrong using a 180mm fork instead of a 160mm. Obviously, that bike didn't stay with me for too long. I was about to participate in the Red Bull Dark Knight when Chapter 2 Cycle offered me an Ibis Mojo HD along with joint sponsors BOS using their suspension products. I have been using the bike for all kind of races from Jamboree to Kluang Urban Downhill since then. For my downhill rides, I simply angle the headset to a slacker angle. The handling of this bike has been awesome so far and it doesn’t feel like a XC bike when gunning down slopes at full speed.
Currently, I am also riding the Goliath 24” fat bike, compliments from Coast Cycle – Jansen. It doesn’t feel like a fat bike at all. I brought it to Butterfly Trail once and the handling was fantastic. Climbs were effortless and descents were quick. Usually, I use this bike for street riding – for urban jumps, gaps and spin. Love riding on the beach with it too.
Being a regular face at local and regional races, it seems like you are always ready for some competitive actions. Do you actually do any sort of training?
I don’t really have a lot of training nowadays. Most probably built up my skills gradually when I was riding BMX freestyle back in the 80s and Motorcross plus mountain biking in the 90s. Wakeboarding helped me to have a stable mind when participating in any competition. What I consider an important pre-race preparation is to ride your bike and understand its behavior a couple of days before an actual race. You need to know the feel of your bike.
Tell us how do you "train" on your technical skills in your younger days.
When I was riding BMX freestyle, one of the "skills" is to watch videos and analyze how they attempt the tricks. Same goes with wakeboarding. But for mountain biking, especially when you are gunning down a steep slope, fear comes into the picture, skills is next. Watching videos does do you good but do take note that all tracks have different drops and lines to take. One mistake and you will see the tree coming in your face. Train on your responses – and that means how quick you can maneuverer on your bicycle.
And how do you keep yourself strong and fit as you age gracefully?
I don’t go to the gym at all. Proper diet and plenty of rest. When you are on your bicycle, go beyond your limit every time you pedal. Maybe 1% today.. then add another 1% for tomorrow and the day after. Be patient and train slowly. Once you have a strong mind, your body will flow with it.
When you first attempt more gnarly obstacles or park/trail features, how does your mind process the situation at hand?
Everybody has fear. Even myself. When I first attempt a more gnarly obstacle, I always tell myself to focus, do not hesitate. Once you hesitate, all things fall apart. Let your body flow with the bike. Concentration is the power to everything.
Please tell us more about your sponsor(s) and what are you suppose to do for them.
Currently I am sponsored by Chapter 2 Cycle for my Ibis Mojo HD. Ben and Nat have been very supportive, always making sure the bicycle is race ready. They are a bunch of friendly people as well. Not much demands from them but just to race for them. I always remember their words “You can race but just don’t get injured”. This is what keeps me going riding their bikes.
As for the Fat Bike Goliath 24” – Coast Cycle's Jansen is an old friend, and he provided me with the bike for urban riding. Nothing really demanding from his end as well. All I need to do is ride the bike and give him any feedback I may have so that he can improve on the bike's design and performance.
I am lucky to have these two companies supporting my passion. Without them, I will not be able to contribute as much to the bike scene here in Singapore.
Remember any memorable contributions to the cycling community that you wish to mention?
Back in the 90s, I participated in the Chingay Festival parade at Orchard with my BMX. It was my very first time performing and was overwhelmed by the crowds along the road side. It was the first time we get to perform at Orchard Road without any police intervention!
I remembered Jef Ng asking me to perform in a Chingay Festival parade riding on water. I was like “Huh? Riding on water?" When we started rehearsing, I found myself enjoying more than anyone. It was an experience of a lifetime to wheelie and attempt 180s on the water.
What do you think the cycling community need most currently?
What we need most is a place to ride “safely” for bicycle only. There are always inconsiderate or inexperienced riders going the opposite direction in a trail and/or trekkers who could pose a danger to bikers and themselves due to their different pace and in some instances standing in the paths of fast bikers.
And how do you think you can help?
We can help by organizing rides in these “safety” areas. Provide the inexperience bikers with proper guidance and trainings – I would volunteer to help!
Any other areas which you wish someone could also help look into?
Building and offering more trails for mountain bikers!!!
What do you think the Singaporean cycling would be like in 5 years' time?
In 5 years time, everyone will be riding an E-Bike. Haha. Just kidding. Well to be honest, there isn’t much places to ride nowadays so I predict that the trails in Singapore will be getting even more crowded.
In your riding years, have you encounter any dangerous or near-death incidents?
In all my years of riding experience, I have never encounter any near-death incidents before. I only have 5 stitches on my head, 4 stitches on my knee and 4 stitches around my ankle. To be honest, every rider has different fear in them. Once you got over that fear, anything is possible. Fear is major cause for us to get injured most of the time. Always bear this in mind – do not hesitate!!
What is your advise for beginners who just joined the cycling world on how to attempt more technical obstacles and trail features?
My advise to those beginners is to first wear safety equipment, maintain your bicycle well, do small obstacles first and then move on to the next bigger one. Learning how to balance on a bicycle is very important, once you have mastered that, learn how to control your brakes by feathering them and not pressing them.
Calvin's quote to the cycling community:
Ride Safe and please do not hesitate. Hesitation only brings trouble.
We thank the evergreen master freerider for his valuable advise! See you next ride!
Photos by Calvin Auw and Bikezilla