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Bicycles Back in Business
Three die-hard cycle commuters change their careers to promote cycling as a mode of transport.
We met with M.Farid Rahmat, Jordi Arif bin Rahman, and Aedewan Adnan of the newly formed cycle courier company: Vélo Express KL, and they told us their story and what led them to start this business together.
“At that time, we were already talking about messengering and because I had come from the punk scene in Europe, and this subculture has a lot people working as bike messengers. They kept saying the same thing to me, you have no boss following you, no CCTV checking on you, you will be free and you’ll enjoy cycling.”
Part of the move toward laughing their new business also came from the fact that Arif had begun to hate his office hours and wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. Aedewan was in a similar position, exploring the bike messenger scene in Europe and when they returned to KL there was serious talk about starting laughing what became Vélo Express.
“A lot of big cities have bike messengers and because there was none here, I had to start it,” Arif says. They all met through Farid, a mutual friend and long-time rider, as well as one of the founders of Bike Kitchen KL, a community of DIY bicycle repair and maintenance enthusiasts. These dedicated cyclists have been riding the roads of KL for the better part of the last decade and their cycling experiences mirror that of most using cycling as a form of transport in large cities - a way to save time, money and an easy way to integrate exercise into daily life.
This is almost the regular background story for cycle commuters, though in KL one does have to be quite ballsy to begin with. Aedewan, for examples, commutes from Shah Alam to KL, with a one-way route of 30km. A challenging experience with the heat, potholes and hills, but this is rarely the experience they focus on. To the trio, the fun is in dodging cars, skipping lights, and knowing where to take shortcuts to beat the traffic strewn streets of KL. There is a camaraderie present with being a cycle commuter that other cycle commuters recognise, and is a distinct mark of your identity. They share the joys, annoyances, the dangers, and most importantly, the philosophy that cycling somehow frees you from the confines of societal norms.
“It’s liberating, you take control using your own energy and power, your legs are the engine and, the bike, it’s part of you. You can enjoy the view, and here’s nothing separating me from other people so I become much more friendly,” says Marhamah Ibrahim (the only full-time female rider) and Arif about their philosophy on cycling.
Indeed there is a belief that messengering would be the next step in the revival of cycling in KL, with the progress of the Bicycle Map Project, and seeing cyclist friendly cafés likeThe Grumpy Cyclist opening, along with the rise of cycling events that encourage more mountain biking, weekend cycling and cycle challenges. The recent economic slowdown and the well-timed opening of the first bicycle path into KL may also convert a small percentage of the population to commute with bicycles.
This venture also reflects the way millennials want to live their lives. They want to choose their own path, work on their own terms and live a life of meaning. The trio commend the huge support they have received since laughing this journey. “We didn’t know if it was going to work or if we would survive, but we had to try. The feedback from people has been surprising. We didn’t think anyone would care, but before we even finished our blog or even launched officially we already had enquiries about our services,” says Arif laughingly. Since then the news of Vélo Express has spread quickly, leading to collaborations with goget.my and bicycle equipment sponsored by Mayhem Troopers Fixed Gear.
Ultimately, the guys want to change perceptions about cycling, see their venture to a growth point where there are more cyclists in KL. It is their hope that cycling will be seen as part of work-life balance, as well as a means for us to foster a clean and sustainable environment.
Find out more about what Vélo Express can deliver, locations, pricing and latest news here:
By Abigail Lo
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