My bike and me

Three bike enthusiasts taking part in the May 11-12 OCBC Cycle tell The Sunday Times about their unusual and precious sets of wheels - a testament to their passion and ingenuity.

As a child, Lewis Foo would get an earful from his parents whenever he dismantled his toys to observe the mechanics.

But all those scoldings did not hinder his interest. As a teenager, he started building his own bikes and, nearly 50 years later, he now has designed and built three cruisers on his own.

"There's a sense of fulfilment in building something that has not been built before," said the 58-year-old. "At first, it's just a dream, just a sketch but then you build it and it's almost the same as what you envisioned in your head. That's such a good feeling."

The bicycle (pictured above) cost him about $7,000 to build and Foo's favourite aspect about his cruiser is the customised metal saddle, which he spent five days hammering into shape.

He said: "I knew that I had to find a saddle that matched the frame, but I didn't want something from the shops so I decided to make something simple but with more curves for comfort. It's like my signature and it matches any bike."

Foo, who is semi-retired, has owned his own bicycle workshop for the past six years.

DREAM BIKE

The machinery, and how they laser-cut the parts before putting the metal pieces together with bolts, I had already dreamed of owning something like this when I was young.

ROSMAN LAMRI, singer-songwriter, on his custom-made bicycle.

"When I started building bikes, I realised that I can make bikes that are better than the ones on the market," he said. "To me, this is an art piece - one and only design."

Sharing his love for designing bicycles is singer-songwriter Rosman Lamri, whose motorbike-looking bicycle was designed by two Singaporean bicycle designers for about US$3,600 (S$4,880) 10 years ago. The 50-year-old then customised it to make it his dream bike as he was not a fan of the low-riding style.

"The machinery, and how they laser-cut the parts before putting the metal pieces together with bolts, I had already dreamed of owning something like this when I was young," he said.

While the bicycle is heavy and not suitable for long-distance rides, he enjoys the community and conversations that surrounds this bicycle.

He fondly recalls one occasion when his neighbour knocked on his door at 12.30am because his son was interested to look at the bicycle.

"His sister saw three of my bikes earlier in the day and the boy wanted to see it so much that he just couldn't wait for the next day," said Rosman, who rode BMX bikes as a child and has seven other customised bicycles. In future, he hopes to design a children's bicycle completely made out of plastic.

He said: "I want to sell the template and let children and their parents fix the bicycle together. This builds that sense of bonding and communication between a parent and a child which is so important."

Like Rosman, innovation manager Kevin Lim's love for bicycles started with racing BMX bikes in primary school. After nine years studying abroad, he returned to Singapore and discovered fat bikes.

"Ironically, when I was in the States, which is where fat bikes were born, I didn't really hear of them but, when I came back, I saw my friends riding it and that piqued my interest," said the 42-year-old.

Initially, he thought that the bicycle would feel heavy but, after trying it, he fell in love with the ride.

Lim, who owns three other bicycles, spent a month building the 20kg bike with his friend.

"This is probably the fattest tyre that is commercially available and it comes after many generations of fat bikes. I have a Surly Pugsley but the tyres on that are 2.6 inches (6.6cm) wide, which is about half the width of this bicycle," he said.

Over the years, he has also added various features to the bicycle like the frame bags for his essential items and a camera, and spent about $4,000 on this bicycle.

"This bike is good for countries with seasons because the wheels are designed for snow but people in temperate regions have realised that it's good for riding on sand.

"And, as for us in Singapore, it's just a jeep-like bike that can take you anywhere," said Lim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'My bike and me'. Print Edition | Subscribe