MAN OF TRACTION
Sliding off cliffs, near death experiences, inundated with pure adrenaline rush, constrictive habitat, brotherhood. Nothing else matters...
By : Trina Tan
Overwhelmed by the absence of adrenaline rushes and the sweaty pores that soaked his outwear, Nicholas Rankine, 20, could not break off from the recent memories of his experience with mountain biking trails, especially in his school. Mountain biking is not a distinguished sport recognised or highly supported by any authority here. On our tiny red dot, to have a sport that requires a vast amount of space is difficult. Yet, despite the unfitting environment, Nicholas Rankin is nowhere near discouraged by his circumstances, however it even intensifies his passion.
Catch online: Who and what exposed you to mountain biking?
Nicholas: I was always interested in cycling since young. I used to ride down staircases. Then, I added this dude on Facebook when I was just 11 years old? He is an experienced mountain biker. So from there, we just started to talk to one another on Facebook. Faroz, the guy whom I contacted on facebook, is the one who introduced me to the scene. I never knew it existed. Things then just started to fall into place from there. I got a proper bike and we go biking together. He and a few of my other mentors and bike mates taught me and introduced me to mountain biking races.
Catch Online: Are there any organisations in Singapore that hold events or support such scenes?
Nicholas: There is a governing group by the government called the Singapore Cycling Federation. Every year, they will organize national championship races but despite that, there really is nothing much. In Singapore, it is really hard to maintain such a sport. Even though it is hard, there are still places for us to practice.
Catch Online: How do you know it is your passion to ride?
Nicholas: I don’t really know how to put this but you just know when you’re passionate about something. Whatever you feel or experience, it is hard to put it into words. It is just like explaining how the light looks like to a blind man. No matter where I am or what I was doing at the moment, I constantly think about biking. It may sound cliched and cheesy, but it’s just like falling in love where you can’t just stop thinking about something.
Catch Online: What is it about biking that intrigues you the most?
Nicholas: I think it is mainly due to the adrenaline rush I received and the moments of falling down repeatedly, not giving up and doing it all over again. Friends are part of the reasons why I am intrigued by it. Well… we are not friends, we are more of a big family. No matter how many times we fail or fall, we all laugh it off and get back up. No whining, No procrastinating and most importantly, no giving up at all. We are all there to push one another forward. No matter where we go, we are there to fall on. It is a great way of building us up mentally.
Catch Online: So tell us about your past experiences with mountain biking?
Nicholas: * laughs * I remember there was a time when I was riding off from a slope, I flew over a cobra. It was at Bukit Timah. That was when I was having my first biking race. It was thrilling how the cobra was in attacking stance, but I was way too high over it. I got second in that race and I thought that maybe I’m really pretty good after all. But reality hit me when I flew over to Malaysia for mountain biking races, and I got second last. I’ve been to two different countries, Indonesia and Malaysia for races.
That was when it really did open my perspective of the standards of mountain biking in Singapore and the competitions. Malaysia really does have good biking trails and they too have amazing bikers. They even have an uplift whereby they bring us with our bikes up the slopes to the starting point.
Catch Online: Where are the good places to bike in Singapore?
Nicholas: In Singapore, we have a variety of trails. The main trails are at Bukit Timah Hill, Tampines Trail, Kent Ridge Hill, Bukit Panjang (Gangsa) and Ketam Trail (Pulau Ubin). All these trails each have their own uniqueness. For example, Gangsa (Bukit Timah) is more of a cross country trail and it offers really good downhill sections. But for the climbs, they are pretty tough. Tampines Trail is mostly man-made with many jumps and berms to ride over. It is really sandy and dusty. Kent Ridge has very good gradient with a short downhill track and good cross country track. Pulau Ubin has a natural cross country track and Bukit Timah is really wet, humid and surrounded by forest. Every biker likes different trails, so it is a good thing that Singapore has that.
Catch Online: Are your parents aware of your hobby?
Nicholas: My mum and dad are aware, but my mum has never once seen me race. My dad does come down to the racing track to support me even though he is the one suffering the most – standing under the hot sun, climbing up the hills and being constantly worried about me. I remember while in Malaysia for my first competition, my dad came along too. He is old, so it was tough for him to catch up. What made it even worse was during the race, I almost fell off the cliff and I didn’t tell him anything about it until the next competition. Someone went up to my dad and said: “Eh Raymond, do you know your son almost fell off the cliff during the last race?” And that was when my dad began to be more concerned than usual. I felt really bad though, for not being able to be the one to inform him about the incident.
Catch Online: What do you think of the mountain biking scene in Singapore?
Nicholas: I think it is way too small and it doesn’t help that the reputation of cyclists in Singapore is pretty bad. There is road rage, stories of rude cyclists circulating on social media. I mean, after receiving proper training of being a cyclist, such events and accidents can actually be avoided. But recently, we were involved in events like drifting where there are cars and cyclists coming together.
Metal Games holds events and races for car racing and bike racing. One of their renown events was a race in the shopping mall at Singapore Flyer. For the elite bikers, they had to jump off the second floor during their race which was really cool. There was a lot of media coverage and cyclists from around the world coming over to join the event. That was when there was a spike in the popularity of mountain biking. However, there are many who are just temporarily interested in it. There is almost a negligible amount of people that try to push the spot and get it well known.
Catch Online: For those who are interested in the mountain biking scene, how would you advise them?
Nicholas: Just get out there and make an effort to discover what mountain biking really is about. Dare to take the risk and step out of your comfort zone. There is so much you can possibly learn from mountain biking. It is not just about the techniques and riding. It is about the friendships and experiences that should matter the most to you.