Monday, April 13, 2009

The bicycle story

Admittedly I’m quite into cycling these days. The only form of exercise doctor recommended for 40 plus people other than swimming. I can’t afford to build a private pool and swimming in public is quite an embarrassment – with ‘perut boroi’ and all. Mine is a Giant TCR bought 5 years ago, Yati got her TCR-3 RB [road bike] replacing the heavy MTB [mountain bike – for the uninitiated] only recently.

The first ever bike we had was Along’s in her standard six. It was a Raleigh I think. A ‘basikal puang’ (a lady bicycle) rewarding her Penilaian 5 As. When she went to STF it was handed down to me and later to Ajik and A. Before that all we had was the old ‘Norton’ a ‘basikal tua’ we used to learn cycling. That Norton was the family workhorse capable of loading ‘kayu api’ or several gunny load of ‘ubi setela’ from Tanah Belia. It could also take Ayah and three of us – usually two at the rear carrier and one perched on the bar. Unlike the present tricycles kids have these days, we learnt cycling the hard way with an oversized bicycles riding ‘celah batang’ until you learn the art of balancing and move to riding on the saddle. But because of the bicycle height and the foot hardly touching the pedals a sudden stop results in great knock to the groin.

The current bicycles are much more advanced than the bicycles Mr. Frank Bowden produced on Raleigh Street in Nottingham England in 1888. It now comes with advanced frame materials like carbon or lightweight aluminum alloy. If the old ‘basikal tua’ weigh a ton, the new bike weighs a mere 9kg. That, we are not talking about the state of the art competition road bikes yet.

Bicycles now are downright minimalist – basic engineering components meant for lightness and speed. They used to be well adorned with side mirror, mud guard, rear reflector, dynamo powered light, thumb-bell and fitted with a back carrier and a front basket. Those with babies even had a rattan child seat on the bar.

If bicycles now are recreational, they were once a symbol of effluence. Those who can afford bicycles are those well off, son of government officers or those in the employment of British companies. At the least, a clerk or a teacher. To own and flaunt a Raleigh is like flaunting a Honda if not a Beemer these days. Ayah then must have fitted the bills; son of the Government Forrester working for Bukit Besi Mining Company.

Ask Mak about this.

She once told us (after much persuasion of course) that she fell for Ayah when he and Ayah Da Hadi used to cycle around kampong. At that time Mak was recently moving from Kuala Terengganu and staying in the house near the Pondok Polis. The house later known as Rumah Che'gu Man Ayam. Aki Man had just taken a job as a bus driver with Thong Aik after resigning from the police force. Then Ayah had been widowed and the new kampung lass, a young beauty from Kuala Terengganu was quite a sensation. Those bicycle rides were not without reason. The rest was our history.

Funny Mak never learn to cycle to these very days.

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