SINGAPORE - When work ends at 6pm for retail merchandiser Lawrence Loh, 29, he primes himself for an adrenalin-charged evening.
First, he swims in a public pool or jogs for an hour. Then, he hops onto his road bike to meet his cycling buddies who gather in different corners of Singapore.
For instance, on Tuesdays he rides with Team Midpoint, which meets in Toa Payoh, and on Wednesdays he meets with Cyclekakis in Yishun. The bachelor rides with a group for two to four hours every weekday night, as well as on Saturday mornings.
The groups can be as big as 30 to 50 each time. Members usually wear team jerseys and ride in a single file or two abreast to fill a road lane, mindful of the dangers that cyclists face on busy roads.
They pedal furiously; the silence broken only when someone spots danger - potholes on the road or a vehicle turning ahead - and shouts warnings which are relayed down the line.
When the group reaches its destination at 11pm and disbands, Mr Loh still chooses to ride home alone, clocking an impressive 60km to 100km each night.
"I know I have achieved something when I have had a good workout and pushed my body."
Whether they are leisure riders or hardcore competitive cyclists such as Mr Loh, an increasing number of people are joining non-commercial cycling groups, amid growing interest in cycling events.
The OCBC Cycle Singapore grew from 5,373 participants in 2009 to 11,700 this year. Likewise, the NTU Bike Rally had a turnout of 1,200 this year, up from about 800 last year.
Participants are drawn to organised groups as they offer regular rides on well-planned routes which cater to all abilities.
Checks with 10 cycling interest groups showed that all have attracted more members over the years. Anza Cycling Club, for instance, has seen its membership balloon from four people in 2001 to 300 today, said its president, Ms Megan Kinder, 42.
One of the newest recreational cycling groups here, Singapore Cycling Tours, now has 1,571 members - and is still growing by about 15 members a week, said its founder, Mr Alvin Low, 42.
Mr Low said more than 20 people signed up within a week of him setting up an online group in January last year.
Singapore Cycling Tours, an offshoot of cycling and adventure tours operator Shangrila Adventure, grades its riding events to cater to cyclists of different abilities.
For example, a grade 1 event is a leisure ride that covers no more than 30km at between 14kmh and 18kmh, while a grade 5 event covers more than 100km and cyclists are expected to ride at more than 25kmh.
Other groups try to cater to riders of varying abilities. Mr David Ho, 44, route planner of West Coast Riders, said its Wednesday sessions of 100 to 120 cyclists hit the roads in four staggered groups. The fastest group, the "crazy greyhounds", hare out first, cycling at more than 34kmh.
Other groups, such as TernOut@SG, attract members who ride on specific bike models. The group's recent outing on National Day last month attracted 49 cyclists, most of whom ride folding bikes from Taiwan brand Tern, said TernOut@SG co-founder Roger Tan, 39.
Many groups also have ground rules for members, such as requiring cyclists to wear helmets and have lights fitted on their bikes and helmets.
The PG/SK (short for "Punggol/Sengkang") Relatively Relaxed Riders Group, which Mr Loh is a part of, discourages its cyclists from drinking alcohol before and during a ride.
There is another huge draw to riding with a big group, and that is safety in numbers, more than 10 cyclists told Mind Your Body. Said Mr Daryl Chan, 33, from Team Midpoint: "The more cyclists there are, the more likely drivers will be looking out for us, instead of looking through us."
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