I began learning how to ride a bicycle when I was seven years old, considered quite late compared to some other kids in the neighbourhood. My three ‘sisters’ were already riding the bicycle and it was time for me to ride one. We had two types, one with a steel bar attached between the seat and the handle and we called this bicycle “basikal jantan” (male bicycle) while the other one without the steel bar and we called this one “basikal betina” (female bicycle). To learn riding the bicycle at an early stage it was advisable to use the ‘basikal betina’ because you can balance your body more easily. Once you have the grip of holding the two handles and able to balance your body while peddling, then you can start riding the ‘basikal jantan’. However, some others preferred learning how to ride using the ‘basikal jantan’ because one can hold the steel bar and the other hand holding one handle of the bicycle. As for me I preferred using the ‘basikal betina’ first.
Being able to ride in Muar town was most imperative as that was about the only mode of transportation for an individual. Of course we had buses and the trishaws at our service but it wasn’t for free and furthermore buses were not in operation in some housing areas and if there was one, these buses would only come every hourly. Trishaws too were not always available. Thus, if you were unable to ride a bicycle in Muar town, you would surely be considered as ‘koman’, literally it means ‘useless’ and you can forget about having a steady boyfriend or girlfriend.
I had three coaches at my disposal…my three ‘sisters’.
Almost everyday grandma would ask me to buy something at ‘kedai Kadir’ the mamak sundry shop and Kak Fuzi would normally accompany me. Our problem was only that naughty looking dog belonged to our Chinese neighbour. Every time when we reached the house, our eyes would focus on the dog and if that dog was at the front pretending to be sleeping, we would walk quietly until we reached quite a distance. So every time we walked to ‘kedai Kadir’, we always had two problems; going to the shop and returning home. It was now time for me to learn how to ride a bicycle and if the dog noticed, I could peddled as fast as I could.
Kak Shidah began the coaching while Kak Arah and Kak Fuzi were her assistants. I was the student, a very stubborn student in fact.
The bicycle belonged to Mak Chu our auntie. Of course it was a ‘basikal betina’ with a carrier at the rear. Some bicycles would have a small bag instead of the carrier.
“Now get yourself in between the bicycle”, began Kak Shidah and then she told Kak Arah to be on guard at my front besides the handle while Kak Fuzi was to push the bicycle from behind. As I got myself standing in between the bicycle, I had my right leg on the peddle while my left leg resting on the ground. At seven years old I was still short in height and holding the handles with both my hands was quite difficult.
The first attempt was not only miserable, it was also horrible and terrible. When I began the peddling, I could not balance the bicycle with my body and I could not get the peddle going even for one round. It took me almost ten times to get both feet at both peddles and to be able to move the bicycle for a short distance. Kak Arah kept on holding the handle of the bicycle while Kak Fuzi kept herself always on guard at the rear. I was already giving up the idea and felt very frustrated.
Kak Shidah lectured me that if I refused to keep on trying, then I would not be able to ride a bicycle for as long as I lived and that would be not only disastrous but more of shame. It was unthinkable for a boy not being able to ride especially when you lived in Muar town. This made me more adamant to be able to ride. Towards the end of the first day’s training, I managed to ride the bicycle from one lamppost to another with both Kak Arah and Kak Fuzi running alongside while I rode.
On my second day of training, I managed to ride from one lamppost to another without both Kak Arah and Kak Fuzi running alongside me and finally I managed to cycle up to the junction of Jalan Omri and Jalan Ibrahim all on my own. As I cycled further and further my grin became wider and wider. Now it was time to show off.
I must make sure everyone in the neighbourhood knew that I could now ride a bicycle. We had three bicycles at home; two belonging to Mak Chu and Wak Yem which were ‘basikal betina’ and one belonged to grandpa the ‘basikal jantan’. The one belonged to Wak Yem was once owned by auntie Mak Ru and when she got married, the bicycle was given to Wak Yem and Wak Jis the youngest in the family had to wait for Wak Yem to leave home.
Much as I can remember, there was only one brand name and that was the ‘Raleigh’. We had to pay a yearly road tax of two dollars. Most bicycles were black in colour, fitted with a battery either at the front or rear wheel. The battery was small, made of metal and quite heavy for a small size. It was placed at the steel bar of the tyre with its head towards the rim and the head could spin. During the night, the battery’s head would be placed onto the wheel and as the wheel moved, the head would spin providing the energy to light the bicycle’s little lamp at the center of the handle. At the rear of the bicycle was a small luminous plate that could provide a flicker when shone by the car lights.
Some owners would decorate their bicycles with all sorts of gadgets, some with the Johor and Muar flags flying as their bicycles moved. Others would add some smaller bulbs at the front and rear parts of their bicycles and during the night these lighted bulbs would produce lights of different colours.
“Mak, tak ada apa apa ke nak beli kat kedai Kadir”, (Mum, is there anything you would like to buy at kedai Kadir?), I asked grandma whom I called ‘Mak’. Now being able to ride a bicycle, I wouldn’t mind riding the bicycle to the sundry shop even ten times a day. When I was on the bicycle, I would ring the bell whenever someone I knew was along the same path. I would grin widely every time I rang the bicycle bell. Mind you, I was still small and I rode the bicycle on a standing position.
Once I decided to take one round of riding and that was from my house to kedai Kadir, then after having bought the necessary items, I cycled along Jalan Abdul Rahman where stood the house of Dato’ Suleiman Ninam Shah (Tun) and took a turn along Jalan Ibrahim and turning back to Jalan Omri where my house was. Every time I did this I would brag to Kak Shidah and her two sisters and Kak Fuzi would just stare at me with her eyeballs looking up.
Sometime when you brag too much you’d be slapped with a price that equates the degree of your bragging. One afternoon after buying the stuff needed by grandma, I took another round of the same route. As I reached the front of Dato’ Suleiman’s house and turning towards Jalan Ibrahim, I saw a huge Alsatian on the loose. I knew this could be trouble and so I stopped my bicycle and looked straight at the big dog. Then the dog stared at me and was seen to take position to chase me. I took no time to turn back and to do that was not easy as the bicycle was bigger than me but out of great fright I managed to do it. When the big dog began chasing me I began peddling as fast as I could on a standing position. I was already sweating and the dog was nearer and nearer. I thought my knee was about to break into pieces but I kept on peddling. Out of good luck, the Alsatian stopped and just stood staring at me. When I reached kedai Kadir I turned to Jalan Omri towards my house still peddling as fast as I could. The big dog wasn’t chasing me any longer but my two legs kept peddling like as though the dog was about to bite me. When I reached our Chinese neighbour’s house, their dog was on the road licking something at its body. Then it noticed me coming towards its spot and it began to stand and take position to chase me. The speed of my cycling forbade me to stop immediately and so I had to keep on peddling and this time faster. When I reached the spot where the dog was, it was already in a position to attack my leg. I guess when we are pushed to a corner we become braver as the only tool for survival. When the dog barked at me, I shouted as loud as I could at the dog showing my teeth. Luckily my two front teeth once missing were almost grown to its full length, otherwise the dog would be laughing at me of trying to scare it with my two front teeth missing.
When I reached the tembok of my house, I was panting like hell and my two legs were still shivering. I even had the urge to urinate but I could still control it. When I got myself composed, I parked the bicycle at the front stairs and walked slowly towards the house. Then Kak Fuzi noticed me and she asked, “kenapa ni, pucat aje?” (What happened, you looked pale). I did not want her to know that I was chased by two dogs and so I answered her in style, “Aku practice bawak laju lah” (I was practicing riding as fast as I could). Since then, I stopped riding around the neighbourhood.
Few months later when I was more braver, I began cycling slightly further from the neighbourhood. I cycled to my grandmother’s house near Tanjung and sometime to my cousins’ house in Jalan Khalidi. I still did not cycle to school as my primary school was about two and a half miles away and that was very far for a young kid like me. It was only in Standard Five when I began cycling to school.
While in Standard Six I began cycling in few different styles. I could ride without holding the handles and sometime I would stand on the bicycle seat while the bicycle was moving. But the most amazing style was placing my whole body lying horizontally with my two hands straight towards the front and my two legs straight behind while the bicycle kept moving and I thought I was like Superman.
All these styles of riding could only be achieved with some price to be paid and most dearly and that was to keep on falling. I could not recall how many times I had fallen from my bicycles and most of the time it was my knee that had to be torn. Sometime, while waiting for the knee to heal, I would fall again worsening the same knee. Grandma could not say anything but grandpa did. Whenever I passed by him limping, he would just say, “No common sense”.
Once I challenge someone for a race. He was one of the fastest cyclist in town. His name is Usop Lanun (Yusof Dahalan) sometimes known as Usop Teksi, that’s because his bicycle looked exactly like the bicycle used by the trishaw. In Muar town we called trishaw as ‘teksi’. Every time when he cycled in front of my house he would show off like as though he was in a cycling race. One day I approached him and told him that I could beat him in race. He laughed at me and gladly accepted my challenge.
We both suggested the race starting from my house and to turn to Jalan Ibrahim and then to Jalan Abdul Rahman towards the south and back to Jalan Omri where my house was. There wasn’t any one else except the two of us. We planned the race the next morning at around 9.30am because by then traffic would have eased. Those days traffic was never heavy anyway. The next day before the race, I did some exercise and massaged my legs. I was still in Standard Six, the year I did not do well in my examination.
Usop Lanun arrived wearing sunglasses and gloves and he really looked like a real cyclist in a competition. I was just normal wearing my shirt and short but I had my rubber shoes on. Then I tied my handkerchief around my forehead so that I would look like a cyclist in a cycling race as well.
When the race began, Usop Lanun peddled fast and he was ahead of me. I wasn’t perturbed and peddled as fast as I could until I managed to overtake him. When I reached the corner, Usop Lanun overtook me with his ‘koner baring’ and he did it superbly. I chased him with all my might but he was ahead of me but only for a few feet. Jalan Ibrahim was a straight road and I took the opportunity of overtaking him and he was quite steady and followed me closely behind. When we reached the junction of Jalan Abdul Rahman, again Usop Lanun did his ‘koner baring’ and it was here he overtook me again. Jalan Abdul Rahman was also another straight road but longer and so again I took the opportunity of overtaking him. I managed to overtake him and this time I tried to loose him further but he was still steady and followed me closely behind. It was at the junction of Jalan Omri that Usop Lanun overtook me with his fantastic ‘koner baring’ and when he was ahead of me, I could not challenge him any longer. He was first but I came very close behind him.
Both of us were panting heavily after the race. In spite of winning the race, Usop Lanun commended on my courage and told me to improve on my ‘korner baring’. What is ‘koner baring?’
‘Koner baring’ is an art of lowering your bicycle while it was moving very fast but you must not peddle. If you did than the peddle could touch the ground and that could be fatal. At the same time your body must be in tandem with the position of the bicycle. But make sure the spot where you ‘koner baring’ do not have plenty of sands because it could very slippery and you will surely fall.
That was why he could overtake me every time when he reached a corner because in my case I normally applied the brakes and could always make my speed slower.
I asked Usop Lanun to teach me how to ‘koner baring’ the way he did. He obliged and I began my lesson that evening. He demonstrated how he did it and later told me to do the way he did. It was in no time that I managed to ‘koner baring’ just like Usop Lanun. In months to come we became very close friends and would cycle together all over town, at Tanjung and we would even race together along the long stretch of Jalan Joned.
Usop Lanun later formed his own band known as ‘The Hell’s Angels’ together with one Indian lad named Guna and Koko (Lt. Col. Abdul Razak). In later years he played the keyboard at the Genting Highlands and eventually became the Resident Band. If you happened to go to Genting Highlands and managed to meet with Mr. Yusof Dahalan, tell him that his old friend from Muar town named Din Kolah sends his regards and tell him that you know the story how he taught Din Kolah how to ‘koner baring’.