I was a pedal-powered child.
I started cycling when I was in primary school. Like a lot of people growing up in my neighbourhood in Bandar Baru Bangi, Malaysia, we learnt to ride around schooling age. After school was done for the day, we would rush back home to get our butts on the bike! Who knew where we would end up cycling that day.
As the years went by, I stopped cycling for a while because of school, homework, exams, chores, (puberty! Lol!) and when I moved to a different state for my tertiary education. But as a working adult, I picked it up again. This time, I got myself a road bike. Malaysia has endless roads, beautiful scenery and lovely rolling hills to ride. I cycled over the weekends with friends, joined bike races, climbed many hills, and even took my bike on tours to different states and other countries. Sometimes these rides involved camping too!
Across the Causeway.
10 years ago, I decided to move to Singapore, where fantastic parks dot the country with designated paths for bikes, scooters, rollerblades, runners, etc. My road bike came along with me to Singapore, of course. After I sorted out my living arrangements, I started exploring the roads here. The only catch was, getting to the park requires you to ride on the main roads, since bikes are not allowed on public transportation i.e. trains and buses.
There are two major differences with Malaysia – (1) the roads are fairly flat and (2) they are extremely narrow in comparison.
Motorised vehicles don’t like the idea of sharing the road with cyclists, since they pay handsomely for cars, the Certificate of Entitlement needed to drive, and of course road tax. The other option for cyclists is to stick to the pedestrian and bike path on the Park Connectors Network or PCN*.
Back then these paths weren’t as well connected, and are shared with pedestrians / runners. Let’s face it – neither mutually agrees nor finds this “sharing” a safe arrangement.
Well, back to the road then. Did I mention the roads are very narrow? Which means - like it or not, we have to share the same roads as motorised vehicles. So that’s what I did, and I almost got hit by a car 3 times. The last incident was a pretty close shave. So I hung up my bike for a while until my nerves settled. Eventually I figured out that the only way to ride safely, was to put my bike in a cab which would drive me to a Park to ride and vice versa. This was the only way I could continue riding safely. I hated this and over the years, rode less and less outdoors.
The search for a two-wheeled alternative.
I’ve always loved cycling and I don’t think I will ever stop. I continued cycling indoors at the gym or on my indoor trainer, but it never quite felt the same. There are no views of green fields, no sign of the countryside, hills or rivers, and I feel no wind on my face or in my hair.
In the last few years, the Singapore Government has extensively developed and expanded the PCN. Foldable bicycles are also allowed on public transportation. Huzzah!
It was then that I thought about investing in a foldable bike. Why a foldie?
- Smaller and easier to navigate on PCN and shared pathways
- Allowed on public transportation
- Smaller and easy to transport. They fit in the trunks of cabs, cars, trains or planes, if you need to travel to another state or country
- Compact, so it saves storage space in Singapore, where houses are mostly small.
- Parking is a breeze when I commute to work, I can also easily fold and hide it under my desk.
- Mobility. If I don’t want to park it, I can also just fold it and push it along.
Why the Birdy?
- It’s a unique bike and I just love how cool it looks!
- Beautifully designed and comfortable to ride. Because of its size, it’s easier to zip in and out of small paths and crowded places. It’s more responsive for a small person like me to react immediately and even hop off the bike safely in a flash.
- I know basic bike fitting for myself for a road bike, and what’s comfortable in terms of saddle height, handlebar height, torso to handlebar, distance, etc. The basic Birdy fits me without having to tinker with so many parts.
- Customizable/ upgradable gear sets. The basic Alivio gears work for commuting, but upgrade to higher range ones if you plan to do touring, for speed, or more challenging hill climbs. The wheels can also be changed to suit your activities as well.
- Folds with ease and is fairly compact. The fold also protects the main components like the derailleur, a major plus point when you are packing your bike for a flight.
- Can stand on its own in folded state. Fairly easy to wheel it when moving between bus/train platform, underpass, bridge, malls etc. (Even smoother with the addition of rear rack with rollers)
What other bikes I tried & why I didn’t opt for them:
- Tern – design, compact fold and ride comfort were not as good.
- Tyrell – Close competition! Pretty much ticked all the right boxes against the Birdy. Perhaps a better fit for a seasoned roadie like me, but lost on the pricing point.
Another bonus point: I rode Eka’s and Nadiah’s Birdy(s), and they felt good. Also, I knew they had already done their research and tried a number of bikes. I trusted their judgement completely.
The deal was sealed when I tried a Birdy at GW Cycle. It was the perfect yellow color and the price was just right.