I'm not going to lie here. The main reason I woke up at 6am on a Saturday is that I thought food would be heavily involved in the 20km OCBC Cafe Bike Crawl - much like alcohol in a pub crawl.
That, and the promise of scenic routes and a light cycling workout, was more than one could ask for in a weekend assignment.
But, when I arrived at East Coast Park, the designated meeting point, I began to wonder if I made the right decision.
Most of the 17 riders I was supposed to pedal with, comprising cycling enthusiasts and some members of the media, were decked in Lycra suits, wore cycling shoes and wielded customised bicycles complete with ultra-modern gadgets.
Among them, I looked out of place in my T-shirt, bermudas and army-issued sports shoes. It reminded me of the time I showed up for an important job interview in skinny jeans - and sneakers.
Throw in the fact that the last time I rode a bicycle was two years ago, and you can imagine my trepidation.
Was I going to slow the group down? Would I be safe on the open roads? What if I fell?
My brain never conjectured so rapidly on a Saturday morning.
Thankfully, that was as bad as it got, as I got acquainted with and enamoured by a sport which is rapidly gaining traction in Singapore.
The cafe bike crawl showed me why cycling is among the top 10 most popular sports in Singapore, according to the latest results of Sport Singapore's National Sports Participation Survey, and why a mass event like OCBC Cycle has grown from 5,400 participants in the inaugural edition in 2009 to 11,500 last year.
Mark Cheong, a trained bike-fitter and avid cyclist, said the cost of an average bicycle had also gone down, which could have contributed to the sport's upswing.
Price aside, it is easy to get hooked as one trawls the various park connectors in the east, part of NParks' vast Park Connector Network which totals over 200km islandwide.
The journey took us to the Singapore Sports Hub, Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay, among other stunning landmarks.
Like watching videos of babies laughing, there is something about the Marina Bay landscape that one can never get enough of.
Cafes conveniently located along the route, such as Coast Cycle, a sprawling two-storey cafe and bike shop in Siglap, and the numerous eateries at Kallang Wave Mall, are also excellent pit-stops to refuel.
There is even a well-curated cycling gallery at the Sports Hub's Shimano Cycling World bike gallery to enthrall diehards.
For the rest of us, the shop's air-conditioning was a lifesaver.
Beyond picturesque routes and sumptuous meals, the cafe bike crawl also opened my eyes to the wider cycling community.
There was none of the raging cyclists of YouTube fame.
Instead, riders observed etiquette and were courteous, even on the odd occasion that their paths overlapped.
Strangers greeted one another, and even though I thought I was coping, a family I rode past told me in Mandarin to press on and not give up.
No wonder the medics shot me several nervous glances along the way.
We wrapped up with lunch at Loysel's Toy, a cafe at Kallang Riverside Park.
Six hours (including pit-stops) and 20km later, I'm still fearful of cycling along open roads. Pedalling for hours under the unforgiving sun can also be quite daunting.
But, to be really honest, there's hardly a better way to start the weekend. Even for us poorly-equipped, faint-hearted folks.
New team to nurture youngsters
Teen cycling enthusiasts now have a new cycling team to develop their skills and give them a chance to be sent for regional and international competitions.
Pro Development Project (PDP), a joint venture by Singapore and Terengganu, was launched yesterday at the Shimano Cycling World gallery at Kallang Wave Mall.
The cycling team - which is the brainchild of Terengganu State Sports Council, Terengganu State Cycling Association and several Singaporean sponsors including Shimano - aim to develop young riders' chances of becoming future national athletes.
This comes as good news to the local cycling fraternity, as they struggle to find support for the professional cycling community.
Said PDP's team manager, Loh Kheng Wah: "The local cycling scene desperately needs this.
"Last year, we only had one competition and even then, that was cancelled.
"Terengganu has a great cycling community and I believe this venture will be a big boost for us."
In addition to Loh, the team is also mentored by Terengganu coach Syed Mohamed Hussaini Syed Mazlan, who was named Terengganu's coach of the year in 2012 and 2013.
The PDP will provide youth-level cyclists with the resources to train like professionals.
Members will also be given the opportunity to compete more regularly, giving the local riders here much-needed experience that would go a long way to help them excel.
Currently, the PDP has six members, and a team of four are already scheduled to take part in the Tour of Friendship in Thailand to be held next month.
This article was first published on Apr 19, 2015.
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