Didn’t think you could contribute to a good cause through your love for cycling?
Then meet the enthusiastic participants of Ride for Rations (RfR), who’ve banded together to conquer an arduous 240 km-ride from Malacca to Singapore – all in the name of charity.
Organised by Bike Aid (Singapore), RfR is an annual charity bike ride that aims to raise funds to provide monthly rations for 380 households living in one- and two-room rental flats in Chai Chee, Marsiling and Hougang. Thanks to overwhelming support over the years, the event’s other beneficiaries now include 200 school-going children, who receive monthly breakfast packages, too.
For avid cyclist Kenneth Tham, 42, it’s the perfect opportunity to “feel young and adventurous again”, and of course, build an enduring camaraderie with his fellow riders.
Tham, a hairstylist managing his own hair salon, used to run the cycling group Punggol Night Riders for some years and has been cycling with RfR since 2015.
This year, together with fellow participant-turned-friend Eugene Wee, 42, the pair are once again attempting the 1K RfR route – a gruelling 1,000-kilometre ride that’ll take the cyclists on a nine-day journey through several parts of Malaysia. “The regular RfR route covers only 240 km, so the remaining 760 km that we do for 1K RfR is a bid to create awareness for our cause – by going the extra mile, so to speak,” Tham explained.
Wee, a product marketing manager who lives in Choa Chu Kang, counts the 18km-ride to his office in Yishun as a form of daily exercise and training. An avid participant of 1K RfR since 2013, Wee only started cycling more seriously a few years ago, after his doctor advised him to pick up a moderate cardio workout to improve his irregular heartbeat.
He said: “After seeing how cycling has improved my heart’s condition, I began looking at it as a way to challenge myself to become fitter and healthier. My family, too, has since adopted a more active lifestyle and on weekends, we’d head out for a morning ride together before breakfast. Along the way, I’ve also roped in some of my colleagues to come help out with RfR’s monthly rations distributions.”
Tomas Tay, chairman of RfR 2017’s working committee, added: “For RfR’s inaugural ride in 2011, we managed to raise $78,000, but last year, we raised a record $372,000. So, it’s heartening to see interest and awareness of what we do growing – from the number of RfR sign-ups to the willingness of the public to contribute to a worthy cause.”
The self-employed 58-year-old, who has taken part in every RfR since 2011, was an active marathon runner until problems with his knee forced him to turn to the gentler alternative of cycling some eight years ago. Tay now cycles with his club GP (derived from local snack goreng pisang) Riders, which makes regular “makan trips to Changi Village for the goreng pisang”.
When asked to share some challenges he faced on his numerous RfR experiences, Tay laughed and said: “One year, we had to ride during a heavy downpour and the roads were flooded – we couldn’t even see if there were potholes or uneven surfaces as we rode. The going was slow and it was so cold, my teeth were chattering. When we finally came to a rest stop, I had to hug the car bonnet of our support crew to keep myself warm!”
Sharing a memorable anecdote of his ride from last year, Tham said: “We rode hard all day on one of the toughest uphill climbs to reach our mountain-top rest stop for the night – only to find that the budget resort had closed down! We ended up forking out more to stay at a luxurious resort, which became an unexpected bonus after so many nights on a budget.”
Despite these curveballs, all three RfR enthusiasts agreed on the reason that kept them coming back year after year. “There’s nothing like the kinship forged among people from different walks of life who come together to do something for a good cause – through a love for cycling – and who look out for one another while doing it,” affirmed Tham.
Wee concurred: “Sure, there are times when the ride is arduous, but there’s also plenty of joy and heart in it. My motivation, besides challenging myself physically to complete the 1K RfR every year, is my conviction that charity is for life.”
So, should you feel like joining next year’s RfR but feel intimidated by its intensity, Tay had this to say: “Sign up first, think about it later! Once you make that commitment, the rest will come. We were all novices once; I myself joined the first RfR as a complete novice.
“If you’re worried about training, start small – find some friends with the same interests, or join a cycling group you’re comfortable with, commit to a routine, and most importantly, have fun,” suggested Tay.
“Or, pop by our month-end rations distributions on the last week of every month and join our training rides. That way, you’ll be seeing what we do and who we’re helping, and you might feel more inclined to want to do your part, too.”