“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
This quote by Albert Einstein is a motto that Jessen Lee, a Kuala Lumpur-based triathlete and riding coach, believes in.
Lee, who turns 35 this year, says it is important to be healthy and fit, and his philosophy in life is achieving balance.
“Work hard but make sure you reward yourself and enjoy life too,” he says.
Lee, who started mountain biking in 1999 when he was in high school, has been coaching people on how to ride bicycles since 2011, first with a foreign company and later through his own business, The Ride School, which he started in 2012.
“I was in the car industry when I started coaching part-time with this Australian-owned company. I jumped at the opportunity because it meant doing something that I enjoy and also helping others to enjoy riding,” he enthuses.
Lee has been quite busy since starting his business, coaching almost every day. His students range from children as young as five to 60-year-old senior citizens. Most of the kids he teaches are aged between seven and 12.
He says that teaching kids as well as adults requires a lot of patience.
“A lot of people think kids are fearless. I would say half of them are, while the other half are really scared because they have had a fall before or some are overcautious and tend to overthink. The fearless ones learn very fast because they dare to try, while the rest take some time. It is the same with adults,” Lee explains.
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Lee also holds bike riding classes for children with mild autism.
“It’s not easy to teach autistic kids and you might need their parents to be around to control them. This is different from non-autistic kids who usually behave better and are less whiny without the parents around.
“To get the autistic kids to focus, I get them to do some drills repeatedly so that they can learn as they go along,” he shares.
“Contrary to what most people believe, these kids learn how to balance the same way. They might not have motor coordination, meaning their brain can’t easily process the signals to the body, but they can learn to move properly on a bike,” he adds.
According to Lee, riding classes are best conducted on a one-to-one basis as it is easier to work on a student’s strengths and weaknesses. However, he has been flexible enough to take on three siblings together before.
Classes are usually an hour long and conducted at the park.
“It’s a controlled environment. There are no cars or other vehicles so it’s safe and free from distractions,” he says.
“Usually people sign up for a five-session package, and most learn how to ride by the third lesson, even if they never knew how to cycle before,” he says, adding that those who come from an athletic background might learn faster.
On the other hand, his mountain biking classes are usually conducted in group sessions on actual trails.
Lee also coaches people keen on participating in triathlons. He does that with his life partner, Sue Teoh, 40, a national triathlete.
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While Lee focuses on teaching mountain biking and running, Teoh – who has competed in the SEA Games, Asian Games and other international triathlons – concentrates on swimming.
Lee admits that it requires a lot of patience and positivity to be an effective coach.
“When you teach someone something, you’ve got to be very positive and patient. Even if things don’t look great, you’ve still got to be encouraging because ‘plants can only grow in the sunlight’,” he says, adding that being overly critical or pessimistic will hinder a student’s progress.
In between coaching, Lee also takes part in local and international off-road triathlon and biking events.
“I’ve seen guys who are in their 70s competing in races. It’s my dream to travel everywhere and participate in triathlons and biking events,” says Lee, who is based in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Last year, he travelled to Rotorua in New Zealand; Danao and Albay in the Philippines, and Johor to take part in Xterra, an off-road version of the triathlon comprising swimming, mountain biking and trail running. In 2017, he took part in the Xterra events in Phuket and Langkawi.
However, racing remains a hobby for Lee, as coaching is his rice bowl. He is glad to be able to earn a living doing something he loves.
In the long run, it is Lee’s goal to continue teaching to a ripe old age.
“It’s difficult to earn a living from sports, unless you’re world-class like (Datuk) Nicol David or (Datuk) Lee Chong Wei,” he says with a laugh.