By Raymond Tiangco
The act of riding a bike is probably as simple as walking itself, but the opportunities offered by churning those pedals are extremely varied that the bike sports available to us require equipment specificity.
This article will cover some of the more popular professional bicycle sports and the bikes they require.
Riding on the smooth tarmac that crisscross our island may seem like a monotonous task that any bike can achieve, but road cycling is all about speed. Getting from point A to point B as fast as one’s fitness allows is of key importance in this sport whether one is riding a timed sportive (long, point – to – point rides), a criterium (short races in a small circuit), or a single or multi day stage race. To accomplish this, a bike that is light, stiff, and geometrically matches your preferences is the most important tool for a road cyclist.
A road bike needs to be light so that its weight does not hold you back during long, steep climbs. It must be stiff enough such that each pedal stroke transfers completely to the wheels (speed!) instead of the frame, in turn creating flex. The geometry must also provide handling that suits your personal preference. Do you want a bike that is sensitive and reacts to the slightest of inputs, or do you prefer a stable one that can easily track a straight line?
There are roadbikes that fall under these 2 extremes, and many others in between. It will be best to test ride different types of bikes that fit you, this will help you start off with a bike that handles just the way you like it! As you gain more miles, your preferences may change due to experience, and the events you may eventually participate in the future.
Ever wondered how road bikes would fare in muddy conditions? Cyclocross is road cycling’s closest cousin. It is a sport where riding a bike hard around a short circuit is the norm, with obstacles thrown in to add to the excitement. It is arguably one of the most exciting spectator sport on two wheels. Cyclocross has grown to be so popular that there are petitions for its inclusion as an Olympic sport.
Cyclocross races are very short, usually less than an hour, but require enormous physical effort from its participants. This, coupled with the need for racers to run up stairs, ramps, and obstacles with their bikes, make it a very demanding sport that provides tons of excitement from start to finish. While the sport is most popular in Belgium, where top cyclocrossers hail from, its popularity has begun slowly spreading across the Americas.
Cyclocross bikes look very much like road bikes, but are very different. These bikes are designed to handle well under slow speeds, brake well under extreme conditions in muddy terrain, and are light enough to carry when a rider needs to clear a tall obstacle. Cyclocross gearing also allows its riders to ride up short but very steep and slippery inclines as the best races are usually done under wet conditions.
Mountain biking is considered somewhat of an adventure sport where cyclists ride their bicycles over rough terrain. There are many sub-disciplines of mountain biking. Cross country is the choice for most beginners starting out in mountain biking and is another very popular cycle sport in Singapore.Mountain biking is a sport that requires strength, agility, and good bike handling skills. Many successful professional road cyclists such as Cadel Evans and Ryder Hesjedal honed their skills in mountain biking during their early years in the sport.
All bicycles in the mountain bike category come with a front fork suspension. In cross country biking, you can choose to go with either a hardtail which is a mountain bike with no rear suspension or a full suspension bicycle which is a bicycle that comes with a rear suspension for extra comfort and cushioning for steep drops and very rugged terrain.
Whichever bike you choose will provide you tons of fun. Singapore may be a small island, but it offers many mountain bike trails that are just around a 30-60 minute ride from wherever you live.
The Bukit Timah Trail which is located in the west is the most popular mountain bike trail in Singapore. The Kent Ridge Trail is located in the central part of Singapore. Over in the east, there is the Tampines Bike Trail (scheduled to close by June 2014), and the Ketam Trail located in Pulau Ubin island which is certainly worth the boat ride to check out as the Ketam Trail was designed and built to international standards. Remember to begin with a less technical trail if you are totally new to mountain bike. The former Singapore Rail Corridor (also known as the Green Corridor) is now a trail that is perfect for beginners to start with.
An offshoot of mountain biking, downhill mountain biking might appear similar to cross country full suspension bikes. This is certainly not the case. Downhill mountain biking is a sport that requires more agility and skill than aerobic strength because this sport is all about the rider, the trail, and gravity. Downhill bikes are built to withstand the extreme forces they must undergo as a rider makes his way down a steep “trail”, while keeping the rider protected from the intense shock at the same time.
Downhill contests are filled to the brim with adrenaline rush and are probably the most exciting event on two wheels to watch. While Singapore is not yet an ideal location for downhill mountain biking, expect this sport to grow, and trails be made available, as the country has played host to the Red Bull Dark Knights downhill event for a few years already.
Bicycle Moto-Cross (BMX)
Finally, there is Bicycle Moto-Cross, more popularly known as BMX. BMX bikes are the simplest of the disciplines featured here because they do not require multiple gears or advanced hydraulic disc brakes. BMX bikes are built to be quick, light, and agile to enable racers to maneuver around a twisty and tight track as fast as possible. Hence, they are also the most popular bikes amongst youth.
Quite a few of the biggest cyclists started out riding BMX for fun when they were young. However, there is a serious side to BMX as a sport - BMX has been included as an Olympic sport since 2008. For those who are keen to try out this sport, there are BMX lessons available and a BMX track at the Tampines Bike Park that was built for the Youth Olympic Games in 2010.
To receive the latest updates on the happenings in the Singapore sports scene, or to find out more about some of the latest programmes on offer at ActiveSG, like our Facebook page here.