PERSONALITY: RAD RIDING FAMILIES
PASSING ON THE BARS (AND BIKES) TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Many of us would remember how our parents brought us for rides on granny bikes, or our first East Coast Park ride, or our very first bicycles. These are those first steps that made us grab on tightly to the bars, and kept on pedaling till today. Fast forward and many are now parents themselves. The new generation of parents is a little different from our seniors – we seem to carry the mantle of passing on the passion for cycling with a little more purpose with. Sounds like a good thing to me as this could mean a high probability for more cycling enthusiasts and sports stars in the near future! While we are fully aware that there are hordes of parents that are spreading their love for cycling to their kids (both in Singapore where our interview took place as well as around the world), we singled out 3 Singaporean families that are "noticed" for their fiery passion in (mountain) biking.
THE RAD FAMILY
CHATTING WITH THE FAMILIES
(CK: CHEE KEONG CY: CHONG YAW MC: MARIAN)
The interview took the families into areas that should provide a good framework for fellow parents who intend to rough it out with their kids at the trails. What these 3 interviewed families have in common is that the parents stood out as good sporting role-models and are infectious in their passion for cycling. (Ed: To our other sporty parents readers and supporters, we salute you guys for introducing and passing on this beautiful life experience too). Here goes …
We notice that your child and you ride together in the trail. Please share with us how it all started?
CK: Brendan likes to ask me where I am going whenever he sees me going out of the house with my bicycle. And my reply is always the same: "I'm going riding in the forest". One day, he decided that he wanted to come along with me and I obliged. So far, he's only ridden the trail once. He enjoyed the ride very much and I expecting him to want to go again soon.
CY: I started bringing Way Wren to ride BMX when he was 4 at the Tampines Youth Olympics BMX track. He really enjoyed it and was able to clear the whole track by himself. After the track closed down, we went to ECP Skate Park more often. Then came the opening of Chestnut South MTB Trail and we started going there every Saturday. Each time he would go for 2 – 3 loops followed by a little more riding around the Gangsa/Track 15 area before calling it a day.
MC: It all started when Luke was 2.5 years old. Luke started to show a lot of interest in wanting to ride a bike so we decided to get him one to go riding as a family. We started off with easy park rides and as his skills improved, the riding routes got longer. We then noticed he loved to ride on the grass instead of the pavement and said it was “off-road”. Seeing his interest, we decided to take him to a real bike trail.
Was there any pre-ride preparation? Is there a need to prepare the kids in terms of physical fitness, cycling skills foundations or mental expectations?
CK: Yes, for a 4 years old especially. We cultivated in him the need to wear safety gears before going into the trail, and that he must stay close to dad during his rides, amongst other things.
CY: No extra preparations needed. We just make sure his bike, gloves, shoes and helmet are all in good working condition. I want them to explore the ways to do things themselves. Other times, let's just let kids be kids – they play at playground, run and jump around, swim and slide … in general that will help build up a good physical fitness.
MC: We were (still are) very particular about safety and worked with one simple rule “No protective gears = No ride/skate”. Initially, we started with making sure he knew how to use his brakes. I think it also helped that he watched lots trail ride videos before hitting the trail for the first time, so he knew what sort of environment he would be in.
How was the first ride in the trail like? What were the feedback?
CK: Great! He enjoyed it very much. Asking questions about every little thing that we came across during the ride – from the little stream, to trees, birds and flowers. He was also singing as he rode the trail which I thought was really fun and cute.
CY: Chestnut South MTB Trail is quite flowy. He loves it very much!
MC: Tampines Bike Park was opened then and Luke experienced his first trail ride. The trail was manageable for a 3 year old and he was able to experience a variety of terrain. We were surprised that he was not put off by the effort he had to put in given the little wheels he had. In fact, he totally loved it! From that ride onwards, all he wanted to do every Saturday was to go riding.
And how easy was it to move on the the next ride?
CK: Not yet, but should be soon enough.
CY: Easy, he loves to ride offroad.
MC: We now have bigger headaches if we don't go riding on ride days!
Outside of trail rides, where do you guys hone up your skills or continue to fuel the interest in cycling?
CK: He has 2 bicycles that he would ride whenever he feels like it. We do not put a schedule to it.
CY: ECP Skate Park and T15/Gangsa Area
MC: The Tampines youth Olympic BMX Track was opened to the public then. Luke spent a lot of time there riding with the older kids. It was practically his playground and he loved going there to play with his buddies. In fact, both our kids (Luke and Carmen) literally grew up there. The park was an awesome place for families to come together. Kids could hang around/ride the BMX track while parents squeezed in a few well needed laps in the trail. There was even a mini pump track which kept Luke occupied for hours. Luke also loves the skate park at ECP. It was a good alternative when we got tired of washing bikes. We also allowed Luke to do demos and to participate in races whenever possible. He loves race events as it meant being able to hang out with fellow riders (and run around) all day. We observed that the support he received during these events boosted his confidence and it also encouraged him to push his own limits.
Do you think that the fact that the parent(s) being good biker(s) (like you guys) help influence the child to be more eager to try out the sport?
CK: Definitely, as they are exposed to equipment like bicycles and safety gears at a young age. Even though they may not be riding with us yet, I am sure they can sense the fun we had on our bikes.
CY: Actually not, we cannot force our kids to live in our shadow. They may not follow what we like to do, i.e. riding. We can bring them to ride and watch us races, if they like what they saw, they will do it. In fact I never teach Way Wren much with regards to cycling, I just follow him from behind and let him explore the trail by himself. So far I’m proud of his development.
MC: We think that being an active biker is the key to influencing any child. Watching dad go for his weekly rides might have ignited Luke’s curiosity/interest. For Carmen, it definitely didn’t have anything to do with our riding abilities. I guess she saw how active we were and didn’t want to be left out while we had fun.
What are the precautions that the parent(s) take to minimize the risk of crashes/falls/accidents? And what are your sentiments on the kid bruising due to cycling?
CK: As parents, we will definitely feel the pain whenever our kids hurt themselves regardless of whether it's inflicted from riding. For cycling, safety gears are definitely a must, and getting them to stay alert while they are doing the sport is key to minimizing crashes.
CY: Crashes are part of the learning process. We started out with no protection gears at all so that he can feel how is it like to get hurt in crashes. Young kids are light and flexible, no problem at all. He is happy to show off his new found bruises or cuts to his mother!
MC: Bruising is part and parcel of growing up. We don’t believe in sheltering them. As the old school saying goes “if you don’t fall, you don’t learn”. However, I do have a lesser tolerance for injuries as compared his dad. I will not take any chances if I feel he is not ready to try something new. We take different measures to prevent or minimize any foreseeable injury for 2 simple reasons. One, the child will find the activity more enjoyable. Two, weekends will not be wasted because of “down time” (weekends = precious riding time). As parents who cycle, we constantly brief them of the dangers to anticipate and how to overcome them. We observe them during their rides and correct them along the way.
How do you fuel the passion of cycling with each other?
CK: Make sports as enjoyable as possible. Don't pressurize them to excel when they are at the learning stage.
CY: Just make it a routine, for example, every Saturday morning its riding time! We ride be it rain or shine. We make him pack his own bag of riding clothes, knee pads, gloves, helmet and water, as well as make him clean his own bike and pump his own tyres.
MC: We enjoy watching races and riding videos together. We discuss our rides and also have conversations about his favorite downhill riders. We sometimes have a game of “Chase” in the trails.
Have your family been on bike trips outside of Singapore? If not, any plans to do so? Where did you went/plan to go?
CK: Nope, no plans yet. May consider it if my son is more keen on riding than other sports.
CY: Not yet, maybe plan to bring him to Putrajaya Challenge Park, Kuala Lumpur.
MC: We took Luke to Batam to ride the Dangas Downhill Track 2 years ago. It was awesome! We are waiting for Luke and Carmen to be a little older before planning for any overseas bike trips.
What would your advise be for families who wish to pick up trail riding? Or mountain biker parents who wish to bring their kids to rough it out with nature?
CK: Try riding out easier trail to gain good vibes and experience e.g. Chestnut MTB Trail
CY: Just do it. Singapore has many designated and proper riding trails and a very nice skate park. When the kids meet each other, they will make friends with each other and new "kakis" to ride together. I look forward to a time when we can just drop them off at the trails and they carry on with their own riding while I meet my friends to ride as well.
MC: Trail riding with young ones requires A LOT of patience and time. You’ll need to mentally prepare your child for what to expect in the trails (heat, rough terrain, mozzies, insects, etc) . Depending on your child’s age, start with shorter rides and choose the appropriate terrain. We always take the cue from our kids. With our daughter, we always offered her the opportunity to join us and didn’t start her on trail rides until she decided that she was ready. I guess most children will generally find it more enjoyable if it was an activity of their choice. Do not be over ambitious. For us, it helped to have very low expectation. What the child is able to do today does not mean you’ll get the same results during the next ride. Trail riding is very different from PCN (Park Connector Network) riding. The terrain changes with weather. Besides having to constantly shout out instructions during the ride, a lot of encouragement will also help. As with most pre-school children, they will also need constant reminders in the trail. We would rather be the crazy parents shouting after their kid than to risk a serious injury. The good news…. the “nagging” gets lesser as they grow older. I've seen an increase in the number of parents taking their child for trail rides (especially since the opening of Chestnut South MTB Trail). It's always so heart warming to see them and I salute these parents for their dedication and effort. (Ed: Yes we noticed that too!)
The Kids Words:
What would you tell your friends about riding in the trails?
Brendan / CK: I had fun riding with my daddy in the forest.. Wee!
Way Wren / CY: There are squirrels and roosters in Chestnut MTB Trail! Come enjoy the nature.
Luke / MC: Riding in the trail is fun but it can also be quite tough and tiring in certain sections. You will need a lot of stamina. You can also make new friends. Remember to wear protective gears such as helmets, gloves and knee/elbow guards. Don’t forget to bring water too.
This interview was done separately with each family, yet many of their advices and views pointed to a similar direction. Sounds like some winning formulae in our opinion. And during the interview, a few points popped up – the successful planning & construction of Chestnut MTB Trail which caters to riders of all ages, the usefulness of gaining good technical foundation from skate parks, pump tracks & BMX tracks and the beauty of sharing a common passion amongst the family members. Big thanks to the 3 rad families. See you at the trails soon!
(Chee Keong leading Brendan along Chestnut MTB Trail)
(Carmen with mum Marian)
(Chong Yaw and Way Wren at ECP Skate Park)
(Brendan at OCBC Cycles)
(Luke at Tampines Bike Park when he was 8 years old)
(Way Wren on a 16" BMX vs rock that's about the height of his bicycle's wheels )
(Luke in the hot seat at Urban Wheels the City Challenge 2016)
(Brendan with protective gears and ready to roll)
(Check out Way Wren's single speed 16" BMX which he rides the trail with)
(Is Brendan more interested in washing the bike or just playing with the water-jet?)
(At 3 years old, Luke was already exposed to MTB races!)
(Way Wren at ECP Skate Park)
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All information and photos by the respective families.