Today, I would like to share with you the technique that many kampongs kids of my generation adopted when learning to ride a bicycle in the 1950’s.
I was inspired to blog about this when I saw this photo of kids cycling in Pulau Ubin when I visited this blog last week last week. (Pedal Ubin! Saturday, 13 May at Deadpoet's Cave) When I saw the kids with all their safety headgear, I could not help chuckling to myself and comparing it with our rather unsafe technique.
Our technique had a rather obscene sounding name of Chng Kao Kang in Hokkien, which literally meant 'Crawling Through Dog Hole'. At first I thought it meant something vulgar. But when I checked with two of my middle-aged Hokkien colleagues, they assured me that it was simply a term that had been coined to describe the posture adopted by a kid trying to ride an adult bicycle. It resembled that of a (male) dog when it was peeing. It is a bit difficult to describe but I try.
First, picture a boy about the size to those you see in the above photo. And then try to picture him riding an adult bicycle like the one below. No way right? Because the height of the horizontal bar is up to the boy’s chest level. So instead of crossing his right leg over the seat, he has to insert his leg below the horizontal bar. Basically, this is how it is done.
1) Hold the handles as per normal.
2) Position left foot on the left pedal at its lowest position.
3) Push-start the bicycle until cruising speed, like what they do in skate boarding.
4) Lift the right leg and thread it through the triangular opening below the horizontal bar, and start pedaling with the right foot as well.
Thus, the position of the rider is very awkward, and it was quite dangerous. This is especially so when you consider that the bicycles those days were often the bulky and heavy goods delivery type. One of my colleagues told me that he remembers using the right hand to grab the horizontal bar, and steering only with the left hand; as opposed to both hands on the handles. This was probably because his right arm was not long enough to reach the right handle comfortably.
Naturally falls and bruises where quite common. But I suppose those days, our skulls and skins were thicker. Mind you, I am not laughing at today’s parents for being over-protective. After all, I too am a parent. It is indeed wise to adopt the proper safety procedure when introducing our kids to something they are not accustomed to.
Ours was a different world, you could say.