Strangers form bonds on cycling trips


Yong Foo Chuen (right) with Gezimi Femijeve, a friendly Albanian he befriended during his cycling excursion. Photo: Yong Foo Chuen

This story is part of the Ride for Malaysia series.


Freelance leadership coach Yong Foo Chuen aka Krankster has been cycling for 17 years and likes “people watching”.

During the stopovers on his cycling expeditions, he would walk around and observe what the locals are doing. Some of them would also be curious about the stranger in their midst.

“When I soaked up the sights, I get into their world,” says Yong, 56, a retired sales director.

“It’s fascinating how people react to strangers. Some are curious and would come forward to talk to you. Some would only open up if you approach them.”

According to Yong, the Bosnians are friendly while the Bulgarians are more reserved.

Locals he met during his travels would sometimes buy him meals, and even offer to host his stay, such as the friendly Albanian choir conductor he met. They communicated using body and sign language but still managed to forge a bond.

“He even offered me a place to stay but I declined. It would have been a good experience if I had stayed,” says Yong.

He chuckles, recalling how he and the Albanian had to run after a goat that escaped from the garden. Thankfully, they caught it. His friend also took a photograph of him and his young granddaughter in the garden with his goat and chickens.

“It was a strange and wonderful encounter. The Albanian also gave me fruits and roses from his garden when he left and we are now Facebook friends.”

Yong is an avid cyclist who loves mountain biking, bike commuting, and most of all, bicycle touring.

Since 2012, he has been sharing his touring adventures in his blog, Reflections from the saddle (https://krankster.wordpress.com), hoping to inspire others through his cycling experiences.

The beauty of cycling, he adds, is “that it gives me a chance to slow down, meet different people and live in the moment and in their country”.

Yong is part of a network of cyclists (warmshowers.org) who supports each other worldwide, with advice on routes, weather and safety measures.

During his trips, he would camp in the open if he could not find accommodation. Locally, he joins cycling groups of 15 to 20 people, or combined groups of 30 to 40 bikers. Some bikers, he says, are in their 60s and 70s.

He also enjoys solo biking – both locally and overseas.

Yong usually cycles for five days and rests a day, or he might cycle for 10 days straight before taking a break.

He has three bikes. His mountain bike is for off-roading weekend rides covering 15km to 50km.

His Enduro Brompton bike is for commuting in the city, where he rides and takes the LRT or MRT, as well as for Sunday rides.

His LKLM Touring bike is for mountain and off-roading rides. Yong also uses it for long distance rides like the Balkans Tours or his Turkey-Switzerland expedition.

Yong explains the different types of cycling. He said: “Solo cycling is free and easy. To cycle in pairs, it’s better that you know your partner very well as you need to be tolerant of each other.”

Group cycling can be fun too.

“But you have to be tolerant of other cyclists in the group as they all have different personalities and opinions,” he says.

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