A sport that encourages fitness and bonding while enjoying nature and skylines is exactly what many need now.
While my friends were learning how to perform wheelie tricks on their mountain bikes, I was still learning the basics of cycling like pedalling and balancing at the age of 18.
No, my inability to cycle wasn’t because I had a fear of cycling on roads or narrow paths. It’s just the thought of learning how to cycle never crossed my mind, and nobody ever taught me how to do it when I was younger.
There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the dramatic increase in bicycle usage in Singapore. More Singaporeans are picking up this sport, with a significant increase in retail sales of bicycles in 2020.
If you do a quick search on Instagram, you will also probably find that one, if not more of your friends, have taken up cycling in the past year.
For a generation that spends most of its time glued to the digital world, why are youths suddenly getting hooked on cycling?
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Singapore last year, I too, like many other students, spent most of my time completing assignments and catching up on my home-based learning (HBL) lessons.
If I wasn’t busy with school, I would spend up to ten hours a day binge-watching Netflix shows to kill some time. Despite having my favourite movies and series to keep me company, being confined to my house for an extended period negatively affected my physical and mental health.
During my semester break, I had plenty of time, with not much for me to do. So I made a bucket list of skills I wanted to learn – and cycling was one of them.
Being unable to do something as simple as riding a bike at 18 years old, I knew this was something I had to do.
As COVID-19 restrictions eased during Phase 3 (Heightened Alert), I had asked one of my friends to teach me how to cycle using SG Bike, a public bike sharing platform.
With the empty paths and cooling breeze of East Coast Park, I felt comfortable learning how to ride a bicycle without feeling intimidated by an overwhelming crowd. Surprisingly, cycling turned out to be much simpler than I anticipated, though I realised I needed to practise more often to improve.
Making an effort to make cycling a part of my weekly routine was challenging. However, the more rides I went on, the more I fell in love with cycling.
As a homebody, the COVID-19 restrictions have only made me become a couch potato. I never made an effort to engage in any fitness activities since the circuit breaker was imposed in April last year, and my health was far from good.
Wanting to change this unhealthy habit, I started cycling since the gyms were closed due to safe distancing measures.
Every weekend, my best friend and I would cycle from Marina Bay Sands to East Coast Park, admiring the breathtaking views at night while enjoying the breeze.
After actively cycling twice a week during my semester break, I noticed that I became much stronger and leaner. In addition, my stamina and endurance also improved as the rides went on.
The realisation that such a simple sport could help improve my physical and emotional well-being was life-changing for me. The positive effects that cycling had on my body motivated me to prolong my cycling trips.
After adopting the sport for over five months now, my mood has also significantly improved.
Similarly, my friend Adli Syazani shared with me that cycling has helped him remain active during these unprecedented times. The 19-year-old, who enjoys riding his mountain bike, cycles two to three times a week now, instead of once a week before the pandemic began.
“Right now, it is not uncommon to find ourselves sitting behind a computer from nine to five. Thus, cycling helps to get the body moving,” Adli said.
As for 19-year-old polytechnic student Maninder Kaur, who rediscovered the sport last year, cycling allows her to exercise with her family while overcoming her unhealthy pandemic-induced sedentary lifestyle.
“I started cycling more during the pandemic because exercising wasn’t a thing and everybody got into this rut of being really unhealthy. So, my dad would take the initiative to make sure that we cycle and run at least once a week,” she said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated people through social distancing and stay-at-home orders, cycling has helped me connect with my loved ones in various ways.
After partaking in our usual cycling route that stretches to about 20km, my best friend and I would indulge in our favourite hawker dishes from the East Coast Lagoon Food Village, such as satay and barbequed chicken wings, to reward ourselves for completing the ride successfully.
The whole experience of riding a bicycle from one point to another has undoubtedly strengthened our friendship as we spent almost the entire day together.
Moreover, cycling has allowed us to catch up and encourage each other whenever our legs were burning during the ride.
Cycling has also helped Maninder connect with her family since the pandemic struck Singapore. For her, cycling is a good form of bonding because it forces people to spend time with each other and bond with their loved ones.
“It’s a very wholesome feeling to know that you’ve completed something big together. My dad and I would have a little celebratory feast at the end of the day after we hit a milestone, so that’s really cool,” she said.
Likewise, Adli, who enjoys tinkering with his bicycle, finds that helping his family members fix their bikes helps him build a stronger relationship with them.
“My dad initially felt uncomfortable with his bicycle as it was not perfectly set up from the get-go. It allowed [my family] to bond by solving this problem for him. We also spent more hours together cycling around the city. There, we shared more encouragement and conversations together.”
Setting aside time out of my schedule for cycling had initially been a foreign concept to me as I had never been one to enjoy sports activities. Despite having a busy schedule due to my internship priorities, I have found solace in this sport and will try to cycle at least once a week.
The pandemic has made cycling a necessity for me as it has brought about benefits for both my mental and physical health. If it wasn’t for the pandemic and the unhealthy state I found myself in cooped up at home, I might have never discovered my love for cycling.
I think it’s safe to say I won’t be letting go of this hobby anytime soon.
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