By Shahrizan Jefri Aziz
SUNGAI BULUH (Bernama) -- I was completely awestruck watching Abang Zaidi and Abang Mat cycle up the steep hill energetically. They then descended with control and expertise as they ride their way around the oil palm plantation.
You would be amazed too, if you saw them. Abang Zaidi, whose full name was Abu Zaidi Abu Hassan and Abang Mat, or Mohd Som Mahat, are both 60 and 61 years old!
At 39, my fitness level was nowhere near theirs. I huffed and puffed as I struggled to push my KHS mountain bike uphill.
Abu Zaidi and Mohd Som were members of a 20-odd WhatsApp group called "Geng Barai". With the exception of the two, the members of the group were all around 40 years in age.
I, myself, was not part of the group but my brother Shariem Aizul was. He would always update me of the group’s activities and events.
Mountain biking is a form of extreme sport that requires a high degree of stamina and mental resilience. This is in addition to the strong ability to focus because some routes can be highly challenging – uneven, slippery and sometimes downright dangerous.
This makes the sport extremely popular – especially among youths – as they particularly enjoy the adrenaline rush.
OPTING FOR THE EXTREME
Those in their 40s or older typically engage in more recreational form of sports such as running, football or sepak takraw
. So what makes mountain biking so appealing to the members of Geng Barai?
Abu Zaidi told me that in addition to improving his physical and mental agility, mountain biking also allows him to meet up with new people and form friendship bonds.
The retiree, who once held the post of human resources manager at an international oil and gas company, started becoming active in mountain biking five years after his retirement.
However, he had been a fan of fitness and health even before that.
"Mountain biking is very suitable for those aged 40 and above because the sport is less taxing on the knees compared to other forms of sports like running,” he said.
The first mountain bike he bought was a 26er Merida, made in Taiwan, which retailed around RM2,800.
Biking was a great way to de-stress while enjoying the beauty of nature, said Abu Zaidi, and advised those his age to engage more frequently in sporting activities.
He also thought that those younger should make it a point to set aside time to exercise instead of burying themselves in work.
“We need to achieve that balance between work and exercise. This is extremely important because if you only busy yourself with work, you’d inevitably become stressed. Then, if you’re not careful, the ailments and diseases will start coming.
"Remember that health is wealth, so we need to take care of it,” he said.
Members of "Geng Barai" discussing before starting their route.
--fotoBERNAMA (2019) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
CYCLING FOR HEALTH
Mohd Som, also retired, started mountain biking in 1982.
In addition to climbing, he also enjoyed trail running and cycling with friends three to four times a week to ensure that his fitness is at an optimum level.
He realises that taking care of his health has become even more important as he ages and finds cycling to be one of the best sporting activities to do so. A bonus to that was that the sport also enabled him to meet up with like-minded friends.
"To my peers, don’t just wile your time away at the coffee shop. Sure, it’s a great way to catch up with friends but we also need to take care of our health through exercise like walking and jogging,” he said.
Private sector worker Khairul Hisyam Awang Ahmad, 40, agreed that mountain biking helps form strong friendship bonds. The sport also hones his ability to focus and improves his reflexes.
“I know that I’m getting older and need to be more wary about my health. Mountain biking is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses and to alleviate the stress from work,” the 40-year-old said.
The sport has also made Mohd Ridzuan Nordin, 41, quit smoking.
“I was a chain smoker. Things were so difficult when I first tried to quit as I tried everything to overcome my addiction. Fortunately, my friend was an avid mountain biker and I eventually became interested to join him. I was aware that the sport required a great deal of stamina and strength so I became determined to quit smoking.
“It was through sheer willpower and determination that I overcame my addiction. It has been four years now since I quit smoking,” said Mohd Ridzuan.
Translated by Sakina Mohamed