OCBC Cycle: Slow but steady, a 72-year-old is determined to take on 23km ST Virtual Ride

Madam Ngern Kah Cheng is the oldest female participant for this year's OCBC Cycle.
Madam Ngern Kah Cheng is the oldest female participant for this year's OCBC Cycle.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - One of Chua Hui Yi's fondest childhood memories is of her parents taking her and her elder sister, Jing Yi, to an empty field in front of their residence along Nile Road (now renamed Havelock Road) to cycle on weekends.

The 31-year-old user interface/user experience designer said: "When we were younger, we did not get a whole lot of family time as our parents worked long hours as hawkers. So it was always a treat when our parents could spend one or two hours with us outdoors during the weekends."

These days, it is the daughters who are planning the leisure breaks in a bid to get their mother, Ngern Kah Cheng, to take more days off work and spend more time with them. Ngern, 72, works three times a week helping out at the Delicious Duck Noodles stall at Tanglin Halt market.

Jing Yi, a 33-year-old primary school teacher, often organises outdoor family activities on weekends, and Ngern is now doing something that she introduced to her children all those years ago - cycling.

On weekends, the family usually takes a leisurely ride of about three hours, covering a distance of about 8km.

After many failed attempts at riding a two-wheeled bicycle in the beginning of Ngern's cycling journey, Jing Yi bought her mother a light, foldable tricycle last year for her birthday, which Ngern found was a safer alternative and was easier for her to balance.

As Ngern is hesitant about riding on roads, they usually take public transport to park connectors and begin their ride there. Their most common routes are around Labrador Nature Reserve, or to Tanjong Rhu Promenade, where they will cycle towards Gardens by the Bay.

This year, Ngern has signed up for her first official cycling event - the OCBC Cycle - and she will be the oldest female participant in this edition. She will be participating in the 23km The Straits Times Virtual Ride on her tricycle. Jing Yi, on the other hand, will be taking part in the 42km Sportive Virtual Ride.

On days when she does not have to work, Ngern, an avid lover of the outdoors, prefers heading out of her house rather than staying at home. It stops her from getting "too bored" and "wasting my day away by falling asleep".

Tagging along with her daughters on weekends, she often goes cycling early in the morning before it gets too hot and where there are fewer people around. When she is not cycling, she remains active by going on long walks with her daughters or other family members.

As participants can complete the required distance in four rides or less from May 15 to June 13 for virtual races, Ngern plans to complete the 23km in three rides.

She is confident that she can complete the distance without much hiccups.

She said: "Being a hawker for 52 years, I am used to standing for long periods of time, and generally do not face much leg issues. I might experience some aches and soreness during my ride, but I think I will be fine after some rest and stretching.

"I have also cycled this distance (8km) many times with my daughters, so there is really nothing for me to worry about."

She also pointed out that the virtual format and the fact that she could split up the distance covered were what assuaged her initial doubts when her daughter offered to sign her up for this year's OCBC Cycle. She said: "I like the virtual format very much. It is not a competition and you do not have to feel pressured to win a medal or finish the distance in one go. You can cycle at your own pace and distance, and even enjoy the scenery in the process."

Looking ahead, she is determined to train up so she will be able to cover longer distances in the future, saying: "For me, cycling is about keeping my joints and body healthy. It is a fun, enjoyable sport and I want to continue cycling for as long as I can. Should there be an OCBC Cycle next year, I will definitely sign up again."