JOSEPH TAN WAS an avid cyclist in his youth. But adulthood, abound with priorities and responsibilities, soon took over, and his passion was promptly forgotten. Fast-forward to age 55 and having entered semi-retirement, Tan resolved it was time he rekindled his love for the sport – a decision largely inspired by a chat with some friends. “One friend started talking about how he managed to get back into cycling after purchasing a foldable bicycle which could be easily fitted into vehicles; that sparked the idea of my getting back into the sport as well,” says Tan, whose cycling adventures have since taken him around Malaysia and abroad.
With Japanese members of the Brompton In The Palace group at the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
“Cycling allows me the luxury to take in my natural surroundings at a much slower pace,” he says, adding that it has also enabled him to cross many items off his bucket list, chief of which was to travel to foreign countries. “Exploring scenic places around the world has always been one of my biggest aspirations when I was younger, but I was focused on my career then, which ultimately hijacked the time I could have otherwise spent on travelling. So, when I finally reacquainted myself with cycling again, I did just that,” says Tan, who is now 63.
“By travelling on bicycle, you’ll more easily take notice of the countless intricate details peculiar to the country life of a particular region; you’d miss them if you are just cruising by in a car. The locals, I’ve noticed, are friendlier towards cyclists as well, giving you plenty of opportunity to find out more about their customs and culture.”
New Zealand is a favourite of Tan’s to explore. “The country is abundant with rolling green hills and gorgeous sceneries, making cycling even more enjoyable and fun there. The geographical terrain in New Zealand is also filled with lakes and river streams which are equally as beautiful.”
"I only started cycling actively as I was retiring, so it is never too late!”
Taiwan is another preferred location. “The region is dotted with towns and cities which all possess unique identities of their own. One town might be famous for producing mangoes, while another is well-known for their noodles; this makes the cycling adventure ever more interesting as you travel from town to town sampling a variety of local specialties.”
The Jeju-Busan trail in South Korea that runs along the Han River is also high on Tan’s list of recommendations. “The South Korean government has managed to lay out an extensive network of cycling trails covering major towns and cities, making public roads safer and more convenient for cyclists to travel around,” he says. “Interestingly, the South Koreans mostly cycle for recreational and sporting purposes, a stark contrast to the Europeans who cycle for the purpose of commuting to workplaces or to universities.”
In front of the De Riekermolen windmill while cycling along the Amstel River trails just outside Amsterdam.
Closer to home though, Tan says the network of cycling lanes and related infrastructures laid out by the Penang state government has been a commendable initiative, “but it is now up to the private sector, in raising public awareness, to encourage their employees to use cycling as a form of commute.”
Tan’s trusty Brompton accompanies him on all of his cycling adventures. “It is portable, so it offers me more flexibility and convenience while I am travelling overseas,” he says. “I am also delighted that I’ve indirectly influenced some of my family members, particularly my brother, to start cycling as well,” he says. “He wasn’t too keen initially, and it wasn’t until one day when I invited him for a ride up to Teluk Bahang that he ended up being as passionate about cycling as I am. He’s now a regular participant at triathlons!”
Tan also manages his own blog “Ah Pek Biker” where he documents every one of his bicycle adventures. Visitors to his blog can expect to find travelogues of the places he has visited, as well as cycling tips and advice for each of the different regions he has been to. “This is for the benefit of amateur cyclists who might have just picked up the sport,” he explains.
“For those considering taking up cycling, I’d advise to start off one step at a time, you shouldn’t hesitate about when to begin, just do it according to your own pace. I only started cycling actively as I was retiring, so it is never too late!”