On 6th April 2018, a Singapore Sidecars team slated to complete a 72 hour, 500 mile charity ride to Penang departed, a 10 strong team with 4 sidecars and 2 support vehicles loaded with mechanics, spare parts and 2T oil for the classic 2 stroke engines - with a ground crew back in Singapore clearing the path ahead for their journey. Accomodation had been lined up all the way, with the highlight being a brief stay at Sekinchan, crowned by an unexpectedly breathtaking ride through the paddy fields of an otherwise nondescript West Coast fishing town.
Goodwill by the Bucket
Rewind a few months, to a cafe in the eastern suburbs of Singapore. Triquetra’s Co-Founder Simon Wong comes up with the idea of riding a fleet of these historic vintages - incidentally a product of joint production between Italy’s Piaggio and Singapore’s past Vespa plant - 500 miles north to the tropical island of Penang, bringing continued awareness and funds to the cancer cause as part of ongoing initiatives at InHerShoes, Art and Music Against Cancer, which Wong founded in 2009.
Next the cause needed a team with tenacity - through the path-finding efforts of the team’s Lead Rider Juvena Huang, a veteran of a solo 44,000km 2 year scooter ride to Europe, and Chief Mechanic Yusri Sallim, a veteran of 25 years riding with a solo scooter ride to Thailand under his belt - a course was plotted through Malaysia, a course deemed doable bearing in mind the demanding handling required by the unstable nature of a sidecar, the estimated 50-70kmh sidecar speed limit over poor roads, a likelihood of rain worsening road conditions and possbile flooding.
InHerShoes Expedition Planner Marie Tang then speedily got to work, quality hotels quickly put up their hands to house the team, AirBnb pitched in, DJI Mavic sponsored the drone, and while on the road Petronas offered to sponsor fuel for the next ride upon a chance meeting during a pit stop, Toyo Oil intercepted the team with 2T to keep the fleet going, and as word spread north that “the charity riders from Singapore are coming...!”, the Harley Club of Penang sent 10 riders on recces to determine the best bridge - and indeed lanes - for extra-wide sidecars to cross into Penang, while Georgetown’s historic Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansions prepared rooms to recieve the riders, and a courtyard to nurse the fleet in.
Penang Bridge by Sunset
After a handful of breakdowns, including the first ship-down in No Mans Land on the Causeway bridge to Malaysia itself - naysayers who poo-pooed the plan to take 1970’s vintages suited more for city-hopping, and successfully rough it 500 miles through the tropics in a race against the clock - looked like they might be winning. By that mid morning, the team had lost a 2nd to mechanical failure. By that same evening, all 4 were back in service and had successfully regrouped, 63km short of Malacca, the end point for the 1st day.
“We quickly learned what the frequent faults might be under high performance conditions, and the time it would take to fix them. We took no chances with the limted daylight we had and started out subsequent days just before sunrise, not wanting to end in the dark on poor roads, or caught in tropical rainstorms.” says Wong.
By the 3rd day Singapore Sidecars had made it 60minutes early to the rendezvous point on the mainland, greeted by 40 riders from Penang’s Harley and Vespa Clubs. The original 10 Harleys who set out to greet the team had many many equally charitable amigos, it turned out. In Georgetown, word spread fast, helped by WIT Indie’s Geok Oei Ling, bringer of many blessings to the cause.
And so the by then 50-strong group rode across Penang Bridge at sunset - and so it turned out into the record books - for the longest recorded land journey by a team of vintage sidecars.
The New Mille Miglia
The next big vintage endurance ride will almost certainly hail from Asia, and hopes to export goodwill across the region, linking good causes and bringing attention and awareness to those in need along the path. The 500 Mile Ride has already seeded the next: the 2019 Singapore to Saigon Ride.