MOBILE MANIA

NDP 2019: Look who's leading the riders

First Sergeant Soh Jia Yu leading the 21-bike contingent, which consists of riders from the Singapore Armed Forces, Traffic Police, Rapid Deployment Troops under the police, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, during a preview of the National Day
First Sergeant Soh Jia Yu leading the 21-bike contingent, which consists of riders from the Singapore Armed Forces, Traffic Police, Rapid Deployment Troops under the police, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, during a preview of the National Day Parade last Saturday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The mobile column, comprising 171 vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team, returns to the National Day Parade for the first time since 2015. The Straits Times speaks to the men and women who make up this year's show, from trailblazers to pioneers.

When First Sergeant Soh Jia Yu dons her helmet on Aug 9, she will be leading 20 men in a motorcycle formation in the mobile column segment of the National Day Parade (NDP).

1SG Soh, 29, will be the first woman lead rider for the bike contingent, which consists of riders from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Traffic Police, Rapid Deployment Troops under the police, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

"For the longest time, it has always been guys riding bikes. Having a woman for the first time will definitely have a great impact on how the civilians will see us," she said.

1SG Soh, who has been with the SAF for three years, received her bike licence in 2013.

"I will show that women in SAF are able to uphold the same standards as the guys. And also, this will give credit to how strong women are in the service," said the military policewoman, who is a section commander at the Ministry of Defence.

The earliest recorded display of a bike motorcade at an NDP mobile column was in 1975. It takes less than a minute for the triangular formation to roll past the stands at the National Gallery building in the mobile column display's third segment, titled Securing Our Singapore.

For 1SG Soh, who was selected for the role, the difficulty lies in maintaining a constant speed of 12kmh and the line of movement so the formation can be kept. Weekly training began in May, starting from a slower speed of 8kmh and with larger spacing between each bike.

 

She will be riding the Triumph Tiger 800, a new bike making its mobile column debut since it entered service in January, replacing the Honda VFR800 P.

She said there was no problem building up rapport with the men.

"In fact, (being the only woman) motivates me more... They give me encouragement and make small talk during break time, and make me feel like I'm part of the team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'Look who's leading the riders '. Print Edition | Subscribe