PERSONALITY: THE HUMBLE MOTIVATOR CHRISTINA TEH
Somewhere along Bukit Timah Trail. Familiar?
It goes without saying that biking is cool. Our bikes are our darlings and we love our trails. But you know what's even cooler? A funky lady on a bike who inspires other beginning riders with her can-do attitude and bottomless reserve of zest.
The lady we're featuring today will having you re-evaluting your definition of 'cool'. I've actually had quite a number of 'first'-meetings with Christina before we were formally introduced. The ONE that I won't forget was at Ketam trail in Ubin, at Black Cobra rock garden. But she probably didn't notice me because she was occupied with sailing down the rocks, with grace and ease that gave the Swan in Swan Lake some run for its money. I was busy standing in a corner, gawking and trying my best not too appear too awestruck.
And then recently I found out that Christina is learning bunny-hopping at the age of – okay that's classified, but trust us, it's for your benefit. Knowing would probably just make you cower in self-loathing.
Everyone, meet Christina!
Name: Christina Teh (just call me Chris!)
Number of years riding: 16 years and counting
Current bike: Pivot carbon Mach 6
Affiliated riding group: Big Tree
Favourite local trail: Original BT trail and Butterfly (hoping it will be open soon!)
Other hobbies: Cooking/Baking, Painting, Trekking, Reading and learning about health and alternative therapy
THIS WRITER DECIDES TO LEARN HOW TO RIDE FROM HER … AND HERE'S MORE ABOUT CHRIS
Let's start from the beginning. Tell us about how you started bicycling.
I think I first got on a bike when I was possibly 5-6 years old! I have my Dad to thank for introducing so many forms of sports to us. He was a good sportsman himself and taught us how to love the outdoors. As for mountain biking, it was my husband, Ming, who got me started.
Ming and Christina @ Lower Porcupine Singletrack – Whole Enchilada
You're a familiar sight at the trails on Saturdays and Sundays. How often do you cycle? What's your secret to keeping so lean and fit?
I try to mountain bike 3 times a week. Once, midweek with the girls and then on Saturday and Sunday. No secret really, I've always been lean, it's actually hard for me to put on weight no matter how much or what I eat! I would say I'm only reasonably fit. I was a lot fitter a couple of years back. I'm not one who can sit still for very long so being active comes naturally to me. In my schooling days, I was into all sorts of sports like basketball, tennis, swimming, track and field. For now, it's mountain biking.
I'm sure you've got a wealth of experience cyling overseas too. Mind sharing with us some particularly memorable experiences?
I've been on a number of overseas biking trips and that has really helped me to improve my skill level for sure because overseas trails are much more demanding and technical. We've been to New Zealand – Rotorua Queenstown (South Island) 4 times. Closer to home would be Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur's Mount Kiara, Penang, Kuantan, Johor and Chiang Mai. But my favourite would have to be KL. Last year was epic, we rode in British Columbia – North Vancouver, Whistler, Colorado, Utah and Moab.
British Columbia – North Vancouver – Lower Griffin Trail. Look at the size of that root!
The most memorable experience so far has got to be our trip to Canada and the US! The trails in North Vancouver were just so different from anything we've ridden. Challenging with lots of technical sections, lots of crazy skinnies (woodwork) yet super flowy. I've always been apprehensive about riding skinnies but there was really no choice because at skinny city there, we had to learn to ride them like it or not. Not only did we have unique trails to ride, more importantly, we had the pleasure of riding with 2 wonderful friends, Grace and Joe! They made our trip so special, unforgettable, and taught us quite a few new skills which have definitely benefitted my riding. They also drove us to Whistler where we rode the single tracks and parts of the flow trail.
Mount Fromme – Crazy Skinnies. Terrifying but fun!
The other ride which I do have to mention would be the Whole Enchilada in Moab. You start from Apline and it's mostly downhill all the way to the desert! Epic for sure because it took us through so many different types of terrain. Apline with beautiful Aspen trees, steep loose extremely tight switchbacks, open super flowy single tracks, red slick rocks with unbelievable views and ending at the Colorado River. It took us 7 hours to complete, definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a ride I would say everyone should do!
Whole Enchilada in Moab
Our inner sources reveal to us that you're quite the guru at coaching newbies. If you had to give some helpful pointers to beginning mountain bikers, what in your opinion would be the 3 most important?
I look at coaching as sharing what others have so generously shared with us, and hopefully inspiring others as we have been inspired. Keeping the mountain biking spirit burning. After riding for so many years and having my fair share of crashes, I would say 1) Body Position 2) Vision 3) Passion and a strong mind.
What is it about MTB, both riding and coaching, that motivates you and gives you great fulfilment?
MTB-ing is really like no other sport. It transcends me to another world, a paradise almost, filled with so much joy and beauty! There's a smile inside my soul because I'm surrounded by pure natural beauty. The other part of MTB would be that it's really mentally and physically exacting. It demands all of you when you are riding. It teaches you to be in the moment… It's me, my bike and the trail! It forces me to focus, face my fears, overcome them, keep moving forward. That's like living life, isn't it? The mental part is so much harder than the physical part hence you need a strong mind to be a good rider. Not forgetting of course, riding with great company, friends who share our passion for mountain biking. So as for sharing (or coaching), this is what I want to pass on!
This is from the old Bukit Timah Trail, before the revamp. How many of you find it familiar? Photo credit: Nurhakim
We know that you are always seeking progress in your craft, and also planning to take a coaching course next year. Will you be open to officially starting actually bicycling lessons after that?
I never thought the day would come when I would want to be a certified coach. It makes me so happy to see friends improve, be able to ride what they thought wasn't possible. To see the big smiles on heir faces when they make it up a really steep hill, go down technical sections that scared them so much, to see them gain confidence as they improve. So yes, I would want to say officially that I have a certificate to coach (when I get it) and will start working on that next year.
When it comes to biking, what do you think is your super power?
My passion for the sport that has driven me to where I am today.
Where do you hope to see the mountain biking scene in Singapore progress, maybe in the next 3-5 years or so?
We need a lot more trails. A variety of different trails in the north, south, east and west of the island. More input for trail building, and more funds for building our trails, even bringing in trail builders from oversease (as in the case of Ketam at Ubin). Active involvement of female riders in mountain biking if we want to grow this group of riders. Female coaches, rides organised for girls!
So we hear you live in the East. Any good food spots to recommend?
The good ones close to home would be Bedok Market Place, at Simpang Bedok. There's a lot of variety like Vietnamese, Western, Japanese, very good chicken rice and lots more.
You've shared lovely pictures of your pets. Tell us more about them!
Uri (Silky Terrier, male) is 16 and Terri (Schnauzer, female) is 10. They are part of my family and I love hanging out with them. I enjoy baking healthy homemade buckwheat/cranberry biscuits whichy they absolutely love! I'll also cook brown rice, pumpkin, carrots, chickpeas and broccoli. My dogs love veggie like I do! As for Mia the somewhat-stray cat, she's the street smart neighbourhood cat and only in the past year started hanging out in our garden. Now she comes in and out of our home like it's her own!
Uri (left) and Terri (right)
Mia – the somewhat stray cat that adopted us
That's plenty of effort in taking care of your pets! I'm sure they love you for it! Back to one more question about cycling before we end. What are tips on general etiquette and practice which you feel are important when riding on trails?
Trail etiquette is important, like moving aside to let a faster rider pass. For myself, should I need to pass someone else, I always ask in a polite manner and give them time to find a place to move over. Not forgetting to say a simple 'thanks' because that doesn't cost you anything but makes things so pleasant for everyone! Respect for our trails – not damaging them like chopping off roots or moving rocks because you can't ride over them. They are there for a reason so it's either you learn to improve your skills by seeking coaching, or push your bike over these obstacles. Don't leave any footprints like wrappers, cans, tubes etc.. Take out whatever you brought in with you so our trails can stay pristine.
I work on my skills as much as I can. Riding a section differently (line choice), cornering better, pumping certain sections on the trail and so on. Improving your skills will go a long way! Lastly, ride within one's limits. That doesn't mean to stop challenging yourself, but rather going about it progressively. Practise and practise until you can consistently perform a maneuver and then move onto something bigger. Especially in the case of taking air, launching off rocks and drops. Being foolish can lead to unnecessary injury and in some cases could result in being off your bike for months. That's really not worth it. Ride safe always and have loads of FUN. Two good tips to go by!
To conclude with a rather random question, which is your favourite cartoon princess?
This is the toughest question yet! Probably one who is very passionate, with a strong mind, and to whom family matters most. Caring, active and loves and respects all living creatures and our beautiful earth. Neytiri from Avatar comes to mind. But, I'm really describing my dad!
While the rest of us are growing up / old (depending on which age category you fall in), Christina is busy growing more awesome. The next time you get off your bike and push it down at any point in the trail, be inspired by this gutsy lady whose
current project is conquering the double drop most recent acoomplishment was clearing the double drop at BT! **EDIT: It turns out that the day after the draft of this article was written – the abovementioned double drop has been nailed. Congratulations Christina!
The section that scares many of us. Very privileged and honour to witness, Chris trying this for the first time!
Here are some photos and videos that Chris has shared! Enjoy!
Christina (Top Left) with husband, Ming (left), and their friends, Grace and Joe in Vancouver
New Zealand, Rotorua
Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand. Fun ride when my twin sister, Marina, came along! Can you tell us apart?
A painting by Chris, looking out at the Annapurna Range, Poon Hill – Nepal trekking trip in 2011.