More than a race
Article from the Sun daily (posted on 25 June 2015)
I REMEMBER fondly of the time when I enjoyed cycling. But as school got in the way, the cycling hobby found a place with Aaron Chan How Hee.
He was in his early teens when his uncle took him on early morning bicycle rides. Sometimes they were cross country cycling and sometimes they were just around the neighbourhood, setting off a new kind of passion in Chan.
Then at 17, Chan participated in his first ever downhill race and ended up with the third fastest time. A cycling coach and veteran, now his current team manager, saw the potential in Chan and took him under his wings. After just a month of training, he was already doing better than his coach. It was also at 17 that Chan got his first sponsor to go professional.
Now at 24, Chan, who is also a part time model and a regular face at The Grumpy Cyclist cafe, has five years of professional downhill mountain bike racing experience in his portfolio. For him, biking is the closest thing to flying.
How easy is it?
To anybody, downhill mountain biking may sound easy but throw in 20-foot jumps, rocks, routes, trees… and you're coming down about 10km/h and you have to think about where you need to pedal, where you need to brake, what suspension setups and tyres to use… There are a lot of things to think about, a lot of preparation, and practice that go into a win.
Tell us about a memorable race.
My first ever international race in Indonesia. It was an eye-opener to see how riding is in a different country. That was also when I broke my wrist. I was tired in my last run and I came into one of the corners and I just washed out. My bike slid and I went straight into a tree. I dislocated my knuckle and had a compression fracture on my wrist so I couldn't finish that race.
How do you prepare?
I try and spend at least three days a week on the bicycle. If I can't, I'll gym. Fitness-wise, a lot of people think that cycling just needs leg muscles but you need your whole posterior chain like your lower back all the way to your knees because that is how you maintain balance. With mountain biking, it's a lot about upper body as well because you need to manoeuvre the bike.
How do you choose the right bicycle?
As a professional, you would already have sponsors like how I am sponsored by Fakawi Bikes. But as a normal rider, you need to think about what kind of cycling you want to do first, then the bike as every one has different characteristics. For example, my bike got a longer wheelbase and lower centre of gravity so it's more stable on the corners. Frame-wise, my bike is a production model but I tuned up the suspension differently and it isn't just about how hard or soft; it's about how fast the rebound is and how much impact it absorbs. Mine is set up to absorb up to eight inches of shock.
What's the best thing about cycling?
The cycling part is fun but what got me into it is what goes on outside of cycling. You get to travel to all these places to ride and meet people who share the same passion. Racing overseas really taught me a lot about life.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I'm actually building my portfolio as a director doing some freelance videography when I have time. Hopefully, by then, I'd be working consistently as a director furthering my experiment with fashion film. In terms of cycling, the plan is to try to race in the world championships before I turn 28.