Sunday, October 16, 2011

Good Writing Lives Forever

Not sure if any of you remember my rebuttal to the Mat-Sikal  or the Fixies trend. But here it is again taken from The Star. I am reposting this as this was one of the time where TSB showed his writing brilliance - lest the blog title refers to his writing, not mine.
Watch out for his article after mine below.


Tuesday May 17, 2011

‘Mat Sikal’ giving real cyclists a bad name


YOUR report First Mat Rempit, now Mat Sikal (The Star, May 16) has irked me as I am now officially know as “Mat Sikal”.
These so-called “cyclists” are giving the legitimate people who love the sport a bad name.
Firstly, no (real) cyclist will ride without a helmet. Secondly, no cyclist will ride a bicycle without brakes.
Thirdly, no cyclist will ride a bicycle without shoes!
What these boys are riding is called a “fixie”.
A “fixie” is a term for a bike on fixed gear. It has rear cogs that do not have freewheels (meaning the wheel will stop spinning if the rider stops pedalling).
To stop the bike, the rider must stop pedalling.
Now, imagine that they ride at 50kph, as claimed, and a car comes out of a junction, how do they stop? Will they stop in time? Will they end up as news the next day?
What they are doing are giving us a bad name and motorists will see us as a nuisance in their daily commute.
If the parents really care about their hobby, they should educate them to at least wear proper cycling helmets and learn to respect other road users.
Please gear up and ride with your helmet on.
To these self proclaimed “fixie” gang, please get yourself a real bike and pick up the hobby in a proper way! Respect the sport!
TRISTUPE,
Petaling Jaya.
-----------------------------------------

The Cool of Mat Sikal (or Fixies)

Article published on Side Views, The Malaysian Insider, 24 May 2011
‘Mat Sikal’ certainly made some news last week. Dubbed as the offsprings of ‘Mat Rempit’, because they ride bicycles instead of motorcycles. ‘Mat Sikals’ are mostly made up of school students who ride out in big or small groups at midnight around the pekan, Bandar or bandaraya.
I have seen some of them on my rare night out in the city. What fascinated me the most are their colourful bicycles, modified creatively from old, used frames with single-speed or fixed gear transmission, otherwise known as ‘Fixies’. One must admit they do exude a certain ‘cool’ of youth rebellion and non-conformity.
Something that we, well maybe some of us could relate to.
As it turned out, most of us do not want to relate ourselves to them.
Without a doubt, rebellion comes with traits of recklessness, daredevil, extremism and brashness. I do not deny that Mat Sikals disregard the most important thing — safety.
You can do without lycra skin tight shorts and body hugging jerseys but even the Mat Rempits wear helmets. Needless to say that most of Mat Sikal’s bicycles are fitted without brakes too. Apparently it’s ‘uncool’ to use brakes and much more ‘challenging’. You either use your foot or back pedal to slow down as your bike comes to a halt.
While it certainly sounds cool — if you’re cruising at 12 km/h, I’d like to see them doing that on a descent.
Mat Sikals are also called nuisance much like their big brothers, Mat Rempits. They often cruise the main roads of Kuala Lumpur late at night in big groups while deliberately taking up half the lanes, annoying the hoots out of motorists.
I read a feature published by a Malay daily about ‘night cycling’ last week. They interviewed some of the ‘Fixies’ who roam the road on midnights. Notice how I term them as ‘Fixies’ and not Mat Sikals? So what is the difference? They are technically similar. Although Fixies are the term used by Hipsters for their bicycles.
The urban crowd dictates that fixed-gear bicycles are now ‘hip’ again therefore ‘Fixies’ are must haves for those aspiring to be the ‘cool’ Hipster. History has shown that every cool movement will spread all over the world even without viral social media campaigns. The Fixie is a prime example of this. The other is Uniqlo. But that’s a different story.
I would expect that most hip, urban Malaysians will be influenced by the ‘Fixie’ movement. Why wouldn’t they? It’s definitely cool to be riding your fixie in the ridiculously warm weather while wearing skinny jeans, printed Uniqlo T-shirt and Wayfarer in the middle of Jalan Ampang? They’ll just pretend it’s New York or London.
Some of the older ones are not about to be excluded from this coolness too but the heat gets to them, of course. So they started something called midnight fixie cycling. They claim that it’s also much safer since there are not many motor vehicles for them to negotiate with.
Alas, some of them still forgot the most paramount safety measure — helmets and brakes. At least they’re not hogging the roads, right?
A friend of mine, a triathlete was pretty annoyed by this new ‘phenomenon’ that took the media by storm. He decided to write an open letter to an English daily to voice his dissatisfaction. He stated some of the things that I wrote above which sums up that Mat Sikal’s or Fixie’s disregard for safety and proper riding ettiquete are giving cyclists a bad name.
Ok wait. Is there another type of cyclists?
Let me try to define this for you. For cycling enthusiasts, they take their rides seriously. Feather light, carbon fiber frames with skinny tyres fitted with 11-speed Italian-made gear transmission (with brakes). It’s sleek, sexy and fast. The prices can probably buy you a Perodua Viva or Proton Saga (Face-Lift edition). Most of these bicycles are designed aerodynamically for speed. The same bicycles you see professional cyclists race up the mountains in Tour de France.
They clad themselves in skin-tight cycling apparels, state-of-the-art helmets and carbon sole shoes. Yes, money can buy you the best indeed.
Nevermind if you’re slow. As long as you look fast.
These cyclists are called Roadies and they definitely ride faster than your usual Mat Sikals or Fixies. They live by the code. An etiquette of putting safety above everything else and that includes riding in a proper double or triple files in groups. I’ll give you an example on how fast they can go — 60 to 70 km/h on a descent in big groups — and yet uphold safety while doing that. Even then, crashes are inevitable.
Injuries (or death) do occur with road cycling.
So, I completely understand where Roadies are coming from and they take pride in their expensive bicycle investments.
A counter-letter came from a Fixie enthusiast in response to my friend’s letter a day after. He claimed that ‘Fixies’ are actually a very responsible lot. Those without helmets are not allowed to ride in their group. They advocate a single brake or pedal brake to be fitted to their bicycles too. And he strongly denied that Fixies are giving cyclists a bad name. Fair enough.
Here’s what I think though. This whole debacle is really about recognition. Mat Sikals or Fixies or Roadies are all passionate about what they do and they want to be validated by it. It’s only human to expect that. And I’ve not even included the Mountainbikers and the Foldies in the equation.
The other form of recognition that all cyclists long for is from motorists who share the same roads. While cyclists may practice utmost safety precautions during their rides, there is always a worry that an inconsiderate or irresponsible motorist who would just disregard safety on his part.
Let’s face it, Kuala Lumpur will never become bicycle friendly like Belgium or Holland. It’s high time that cyclists in Malaysia must be protected. We actually have a National Cycling Assoication but none of us are quite sure what they’re doing. When I was involved with the organisation of Tour de Langkawi many years ago, one of the biggest goals was to create awareness on cycling as a lifestyle in Malaysia. I think we’re starting to see that coming up in a big way.
And that means, we’re going to see more Mat Sikals, Fixies and Roadies on our roads. Looking at it positively, we should strive to achieve mutual respect for each other while advocating safety first. I believe it can be done.
A few days ago though, I read a proposal by a State government to create a programme for Mat Sikals to channel their passion and skills in a better way. Sounds awfully similar to the attempt of turning Mat Rempits to Mat Belia.
Why are they still missing the point again?
Putting a structure to these exhibitionistas would cramp their style and take away the cool factor. I’d say let them be and pay them incentives to wear helmets. It would cost a lot less to do so too.
* TSB has been a roadie for 9 years but recently sold his road bike to focus on being a runner instead. 2 marathons and several half marathons later, he still regrets selling his bike. TSB runs and rides to eat which explains why he can’t fit himself into Uniqlo apparels.

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