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Topic: "Singapore Bicycle Heroes" Series - Mr Wee

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"Singapore Bicycle Heroes" Series - Mr Wee

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An interview with Mr. Wee covered in Hokkien:


Q: How long have you been in this business? When did you first started?


A: My father started this bicycle business along Serangoon Road during the British colonial period in 1930s. The business managed to strive through the Japanese occupation. Back then, we sold and repaired English roadsters, Japanese and Chinese roadsters including trishaws. During the Japanese occupation, we sold Chinese and Japanese made bicycles in the shop but most customers would prefer to purchase English made ones if they could afford it. Their difference in quality and reliability was clearly noticeable. It was right after my National Service in the 70's when the business was passed down to me. I was in my early twenties then.



Q: Why were bicycles popular back then? 


A: Many steel roadsters were sold during the early days due to the lack of public transport. People usually navigate by foot or cycle to and fro attending to their daily routines.



Q: Which were the more popular bicycle brands in the 80s?


A: English and Italian road bikes were very popular in the 80's. Even though there was limited publicity and marketing, people seem to know the current trends and the latest model by word of mouth. Raleigh riders won many races in Tour De France during the 1970s. Therefore, Raleigh bicycles were among the top favorites. 



Q: Who bought these bicycles from you in the 80s? And cost?


A: Majority of my patrons were teens and young adults. During the 80s, a mid range Italian and English bicycle frame cost about SGD$300 to SGD$400. A high end English Raleigh (753 Reynolds tubing) frame alone cost SGD$1,300. Most of the bicycle frames were made of steel; carbon frames were unheard of at that time. Some customers even made special orders and imported these models that were not available in Singapore. There was no internet back then.



Q: Any difference in today's bicycle scene as compared to the 80s and 90s?


A: Nowadays, teenagers and young adults often choose frames that are made of carbon. But the mature working class adults and professionals like to own both steel and carbon. To them, Steel bicycles are evergreen and they bring back memories of their younger days. Many steel bicycle owners collect as many as 10 pieces and still continues to collect even more. Many modern bicycle riders also going into classic steel bicycles for its nostalgic feel. My shop sells modern road bicycle and performance parts but my main revenue still comes from servicing my regular customers' bicycles. Currently, most would purchase their frames online and subsequently they would send them to me for assembling, setup and tuned at my workshop.

 

Q: What do you see in the bicycle industry in the future?


A: I foresee that only major bicycle importers or distributors will be able to flourish in future. Big retailers would usually concentrate on sales and offer much less on after sales service. Small bicycle shops like mine can only survive by providing services and maintenance to these customers.

Mr. Wee continues to operate his shop along Race course road (nearer to Balestier Road) everyday except Sunday to keep his passion and his family tradition alive. Classic Vintage Cycles wish him all the best and hopefully we can catch up with him again as he still has many more stories to share.

 

For more information, please go to Vendor's Corner - Bicycle Workshop.

 



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