TR Bikes began in 2005 and their mission statement is a simple one; they want to convert you into a bicycle rider, they want to build you the bike you ride and they want you to love your ride.
The 3 gentlemen who own and run this bike shop, Lynten Ong (in his 40s), Henry Ang (in his 50s) and Chris Yeo (in his 40s); are far from typical and so is their shop which is situated under a HDB block in the leafy neighbourhood of Jalan Batu. And what sets TR Bikes apart from other bikes shops in Singapore is clearly, their unwavering and unique attitude towards the culture of cycling and bicycles. It’s a relationship based on passion, on a boyhood dream of one day owning and operating a bike shop and of simply loving to ride a bike so much that you had to do in life a job related to the humble bicycle.
As Lynten puts it, “What we do is definitely different. At TR Bikes, we re-invent the bicycle, we custom-build and we can give any old bicycle a fresh new look and what we sell at the shop, to a large extent you won’t find anywhere else. We tend to shy away from technology so trying to find a carbon frame in our store is like looking for a needle in a haystack”.
The haystack that Lynten is referring to is the stock of steel bicycle frames and full bikes that over-run the shop. Steel frames allow him, Henry and Chris to approach the customization requirements of the bicycle and it’s rider to a point where it’s nearly limitless.
These guys are artisans. And from around 2007, they began to build and customise single-speed and fixed-gear bicycles. Their peers thought they were out of their minds when they started going against the spandex, weight-weenie stereo-type, but the shop hasn’t looked back since. While the latter type of bike and rider are still the main-stay on our roads, there is another branchof bike andrider that continues to emerge – those who are defying all things carbon, titanium and aluminium and going at it the old ‘Steel Is Real’ way.
At TR Bikes, many of the bicycles are built from nearly mint condition vintage frames acquired from all over the world and brands like Legnano, Panasonic, 3Rensho, Raleigh, Cycle Pro and Bridgestone line the shop walls while newer brands like Surly, All-City, Soma and Salsa can be built up to the ride of your dreams. Henry articulates it like this, “If the S-11 (the $) is no object, then one of our bikes is akin to buying a hand-made suit – one that fits you perfectly – where you look forward to getting on that bicycle every day. We want you to absolutely love the bike”.
A bike built at TR Bikes represents the owner and rider more than it does the shop itself, the brand of the frame or its components. If you were to walk into the shop on a hazy afternoon and pick out a bicycle that has already been pre-assembled, you would still ride away in happiness, knowing that your bicycle was put together with quality components and that you won’t find another bicycle anywhere else on the island that even remotely resembles yours.And it will be a very stylish bicycle.
So, what types of bicycle will you find at the shop?
- Single-speeds: the kind of bike that was probably your first bicycle – no gears, just cycle and use brakes where necessary.
- Fixed-gear: no gears, no coasting (read: Freewheel), just keep pedalling and use brakes where necessary.
- Randonneurs: a cross between a road bike and a touring bike with moderately low gearing.
- Cyclo Cross:a mix between a road bike and an off-road bicycle.
When asked to articulate the difference between riding a Single-speed bicycle versus something with gears, the answer that came back was simple. Riding a single speed bicycle makes riding simpler, you stop wondering if you are in the right gear because let’s face it, how many of us actually know which is the right gear to be in, in the first place. You get a better cycling experience because you concentrate on the actual ‘cycling’ and you naturally become more aware of your surroundings. It’s the Zen art of bicycle riding. It’s freedom on 2 wheels.
And speaking of wheels, Lynten is also the central wheel builder at TR Bikes. When asked what the art of wheel building was, there came just a one word answer; “Patience”. Lynten can build up to 5 wheels a day and the perfect wheel, to him, is hand built within the required perimeters for the kind of riding. A good wheel builder will recommend what is needed and not what is wanted. There are lacing patterns that range from radial or straight laces. Though for him, first on the list is weight saving when he builds anyone a wheel set.
One custom build that currently stands out is the full copper plated road bike that was built to be auctioned off for charity (shown below).
Custom build bicycles. It’s an obsession to some the way buying watches, handbags and shoes are to others. Regular folk question why one would put so much effort, thought and cash into a mere bicycle. “It’s meant to get me from point A to point B”, says one. “I can’t imagine paying more than a few hundred bucks for a bike”, says another. But, when the art of a lugged steel frame is within your grasp, just one of a kind that allows you to choose your wheel set, you brake set, your drive train, your saddle, your handlebar and its grips, your gear system, the finish, the colour and polish of your steel bits – when everything on 2-wheels is creatively possible, bound by nothing more than your imagination and the money in your wallet or purse then you should prepare yourself for the ride of your life.
The assumption is that TR Bikes won’t build you a white elephant. And seeing is believing.
Full article available at the Red Bull Singapore website.
TR Bikes is located at Block 7, Jalan Batu, #01-107, Singapore 431007.
Check out their facebook page here!