MALACCA: IT was 2001 and the public was complaining about the rampant mosquito bicycle gatherings causing havoc in Kuala Terengganu.
While Kuala Terengganu has never been known for traffic jams, it was masses of mosquito bikes that clogged roads at the Batu Burok beach one day.
A “nuisance”, which Nasiruddin Wan Idrus described as similar to that of mosquitoes.
The former national cyclist, who ran a small bicycle shop in Jalan Sultan Mahmud in Kuala Terengganu at the time, coined the term “basikal nyamuk”, or mosquito bikes.
“Just like mosquitoes, you can hear them whizz around.
“Sometimes, they cause an irritation similar to that of a mosquito bite,” said Nasiruddin, 51, who is now the chief operations officer of the Terengganu Cycling Team.
“We could have sprayed them with insecticide and killed them off.
“It would have been easy with the authorities already noting their presence.
“But, I thought, just like mosquitoes, they would be back if we did that.”
Nasiruddin began rounding them up, even hiring some of them as mechanics in his bicycle shop, which prompted others to gather and use the tools to modify their bikes.
With the help of the local cycling community, he began organising races for riders of the mosquito bikes by introducing a sub-category in cycling races.
Eventually, a structured system was formed to allow mosquito bike riders to move to mountain bikes and road or track cycling.
This structure is still in place in Terengganu today, thanks to the Terengganu Sports Council, which acknowledges the importance of capitalising on the widening talent pool of cyclists.
Nasiruddin said: “If we pushed them aside and antagonised them, they would rebel because that would be seen as cool.
“By engaging them, we not only ease the worries of the public, but also provide the children with education in cycling.
“They learnt how to do what they love, safely.
“Then, we showed them what they could achieve as cyclists.
“They became respectable and they respected us.”
The programme also engages coaches in all districts, thus establishing a scouting network that helped Terengganu emerge as a cycling hub of the nation.
The bottom line, Nasiruddin said, was recognising that cycling was a sport these children were deeply interested in.
“It usually grew out of their economic situation.
“There was nothing else for these boys, who came from low-income families.
“They had no big homes with lots of toys. This was their escape and adventure.
“They developed a camaraderie and mosquito bike gangs emerged.
“We should see this as part of our cycling culture, which is unique to our country,” he said.
This engagement has given birth to virtually all Terengganu cyclists who have gone to represent the country and become professional cyclists.
“When we started in 2001, Anuar Manan was just 13 years old. When we identified his talent, we put him on a mountain bike to build his skills.
“Then, we moved him to road racing. When he joined the LeTua Cycling Team, he exploded on the international scene,” said Nasiruddin.
“We need to capitalise on our talent base.
“We should look at complementing the interest of our youth by giving them a chance to achieve their dreams.”