By Zaihan Mohd Yusof
SINGAPORE - Behind every helmet is a compelling tale.
This is the fifth of six stories in conjunction with Singapore Ride Safe 2012.
Even with six years' of experience, he considers himself a newbie.
He believes there's more to learn even though he now rides a Class 2 bike - a 1,000cc Yamaha R1.
It feels like just "yesterday" that Mr Muhammad Farhan Abdul Nasir passed his Class 2B licence.
Says Mr Farhan, 24, who is a student at ITE College West: "I used to hide my helmet and gloves at the dry riser outside my flat in Bukit Panjang.
"After that, I would fluff my hair so that my mother wouldn't suspect I had been learning to ride."
In 2006, he decided to come clean. He told his mother, now 55, he had passed his Class 2B licence, which allowed him to ride motorbikes up to 200cc.
Coincidentally, that was the same day he had completed a course - service skills in retail - at ITE Clementi.
Says Mr Farhan:"It was two moments of joy for me - passing my course and getting my licence.
"While my mother gave me a 10-minute scolding for riding, she bought me a new helmet the next day."
After graduation, he entered national service and later worked part-time. In January this year, he enrolled in ITE College West to upgrade his qualifications.
Mr Farhan says he was drawn to motorcycling at an early age. During his primary school days, his grandfather used to take him for motorbike rides.
It's understandable why Mr Farhan's mother was concerned. Young riders, given their lack of road-riding experience, often fall prey to accidents.
Her fears were not unfounded.
One day in 2008, she received a call from Mr Farhan, who had been in a bike crash in Choa Chu Kang. "I was riding along fine when all of a sudden a ball came into view and hit my front wheel.
"The small ball got lodged in my front wheel and sent me sprawling on the road," he says.
Apparently, a student had wanted to see if he could kick the ball from one side of the road to the other and had not seen Mr Farhan approaching.
Mr Farhan suffered a broken left wrist and a torn ligament in his right knee.
Now, the fear of experiencing the pain from crashing keeps him alert on the roads.
"I always slow down when I come across kids playing near roads," he says.
It has taught him to prepare for the unexpected fall.
Whenever he rides, he puts on a jacket, riding boots, gloves and his full-face helmet. His safety gear may not protect him 100 per cent, but it gives him better odds than not wearing any, he says.
Riding a sportsbike has made him a target for other bikers to "test the waters" - they taunt him to a race at traffic stops.
As a youth, it's easy to get carried away by moments of folly and pride, he says.
"What's the point?" asks Mr Farhan.
"I'm not going to risk my safety and most importantly, my licence."
He ignores the challenges, but is troubled by some of the rash acts by his peers and those close to him.
He had previously lectured one of his two brothers for using earphones while biking.
His 22-year-old brother's response?
Music makes the journey more soothing.
Says Mr Farhan: "I scolded him because listening to music blocks out the ambient road sounds.
"How are you supposed to be aware of your surroundings when you can't hear them?"
He confesses that most youths are attracted to fast motorbikes or heavily-modified ones.
"I have friends who suggested that I modify my motorcycle," says Mr Farhan.
"The truth is, sportsbikes today are already fast without any tweaking. I am just not willing to spend that kind of money (on modifications)."
Youths can also be hot-blooded and impatient.
"If anybody tailgates you, you should just give way and not get too upset. On the road, if you are polite, other motorists will be doubly courteous. If you're inconsiderate, they'll be doubly inconsiderate," he says.
Like most youths, he enjoys going out with friends. They ride to their favourite coffee shops to catch up.
But the situation can quickly go wrong. In 2007, one of his friends riding in front waved to the group Mr Farhan had been riding with.
The group was about to go their separate ways.
The next thing he saw was that the biker had crashed with his pillion rider.
"I still don't know how it could have happened," says Mr Farhan.
The pillion rider was in a coma for a few days before she died in hospital.
Adds Mr Farhan: "I have learnt that whenever I take a pillion rider, my responsibility is a huge one.
"I just wouldn't know how to explain to the pillion rider's family if he or she died."
Get The New Paper for more stories.