The New Paper's Biker Boy column turns 10

The New Paper's Biker Boy column turns 10
Zaihan Mohamed Yusof on a Ducati scrambler bike.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Time flies like a Ducati.

Ten years have passed since a senior editor at The New Paper threw me a challenge: Come up with a column to connect with male readers and those who are adventurous.

After much huffing and puffing, like starting an old Norton, TNP's Biker Boy roared to life.

Today, the column is as recognisable as the Harley growl. Biker Boy has grown to become a feature covering everything motorcycle-related.

More than 500 articles have been written, some 100 motorcycles reviewed and thousands of pictures taken as the test riders pushed the bikes without breaking them.

In that time, the "boy" in Biker Boy has also matured - now married and blessed with two children who are slowly developing an interest in motorcycles.

There have been highlights.

I broke three bones, raced against a horse, tested a waterproof headset under the shower and sat on MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi's bike when he wasn't looking.

I also regularly brought home sand from different parts of the island, parted Miss Universe Singapore 2014 Rathi Menon's hair and acquired several motorcycles without telling the long-suffering wife.

WHY

But none of this would have been possible without the people in the biking community, who remain the main reason I write about their pursuits and all things two-wheeled.

From locals who brave uncharted destinations and adventures to international racing stars who appear on TV each weekend at break-neck speeds during races.

Credit goes to Braap Brothers for surviving the treacherous Red Bull Romaniacs enduro last year which had close to a 50 per cent DNF (did not finish) rate.

Even as I write this, my friend Juvena Huang is somewhere in Iran, riding solo on her trusty two-stroke Vespa on a lifetime adventure which started here in May 2015.

Rising stars Muhd Jazil and Hasroy Osman continue to represent budding talents on the local racing scene.

Occasionally, we're visited by the gods of racing like Briton Chaz Davies, who races in the World Superbike championship for Ducati, and Australian Cameron Donald, famed for his exploits in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.

Despite their lightning-quick reflexes and superhuman abilities, these professional racers are level-headed and modest during interviews.

These days, riders can buy machines similar to the ones pro racers ride.

But the major break in the last decade has been smarter and safer motorcycles equipped with traction control, ride modes and anti-lock brake systems (ABS) as standard equipment.

Some brands add more excitement with features such as cornering ABS, up/down quick-shifters and anti-wheelie.

With stricter emission rules geared for Euro 4, we can also expect greener motorbikes.

But concerns remain.

Mechanics need to be trained for the new technology and workshops need to invest in equipment to service Euro 4-compliant motorcycles.

GREEN

As a rider, you'll pay more for environment-friendly motorcycles.

For owners of smaller motorcycles, who make up about 70 per cent of the biker population here, things won't be good given current Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums.

It continues to hover above $6,000.

In the last decade, the population of bigger bikes above 500cc has steadily increased.

It appears that bigger motorcycles become better investments when COE prices are high.

But big or small, the lure of freedom, affordable transportation and countless adventures will continue to attract a certain breed of men and women to motorcycling.

And one thing has been constant over the decade: TNP remains a strong advocate for safe-riding practices.

We "gave" our face to Traffic Police's Riders For Life campaign by appearing in two standies.

We also lent our voice by speaking at Singapore Ride Safe events in the hopes that more bikers suit up.

Motorcycling can be a safe activity if we remain alert and take certain safety precautions.

I could go on but I don't want to take up your precious riding time.

Here's to the next 10 years.

Ride on!

zaihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 22, 2016.
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