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Topic: "Singapore Bicycle Heroes" Series - Mr Loh Choo Teck

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"Singapore Bicycle Heroes" Series - Mr Loh Choo Teck

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Interview covered in Hokkien on 16 May 2013:


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

A: My father, Loh Jin Hwee (passed on in 1995) started this bicycle shop in 1932. He embarked Singapore from China at the age of 9. After undergoing an apprenticeship in a local bicycle shop in Malaysia, he started his business at the age of 19 near Joo Chiat Road. He raised a family of 5 sons and 5 daughters, three of his sons and two of his daughters continued the business after his retirement. His business had managed to strive during the Japanese occupation in 1943 to 1945. During that time, he sold mainly English bicycles, even the Japanese rode English bicycles which were mostly confiscated properties. Japanese bicycles were of an inferior quality and Chinese bicycles were only introduced until early 60s. It was only in the 70s when the Japanese bicycles were better built. SONG SENG CHAN was eventually relocated to this current location after the war in 1946. I start helping my father in 1968 and that was during my late teenage years. He was also the Chairman for the Bicycle Dealer Association for two terms - 1965 and 1976.

 

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Mr Loh Choo Teck's late father, Mr Loh Jin Hwee, a chairman of Singapore Bicycle Dealer Association.

 

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

A: I sold all sorts of bicycles, from Road Racers, Hardy Roadsters, Choppers and infant trikes, etc. During the early days, there were only 2 choices of bicycle for adult customers to choose from. Most customers bought the hardy 28" roadster for work and deliveries whereas the 26" sport models were made for leisure as it is more agile. These bicycles cost around SGD300 back then. Many Chinese roadsters were sold in the 70s due to its affordability; it was retailed at SGD60 and its parts were mostly compatible with third party spare parts.

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

A: Men were my main customers. Most of my loyal customers consists of local malays who love Raleigh roadsters and always kept their gems polished and cleaned. These group of enthusiasts kept the sales going in the 80s. Ladies models were preferred among the malay community since Malay men wore "Sarongs" when they ride. Back then, many Coastal Team riders who were mostly Singapore National Riders would gather at my shop front and together they would ride to East Coast Park for their training.

Q: Why were Raleigh Choppers and Roadsters popular back then? 

A: Raleigh Choppers was introduced in the early 70s. Many customers bought them for their children. These Choppers cost around SGD300 each. However, not long later, Taiwan copies were released in the market and were selling at half the price of Raleigh Choppers. Raleigh faced fierce competition as Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese bicycles were very much cheaper. Since English roadster uses Sturmey Archer hubs, these hubs had proven to be difficult to service but were very popular because they were heavy duty and very durable. They don't require much maintenance and can last for many years with a single pair of brake pad. Even the concealed 3 speed transmission gear located in the hubs were bomb proof. The main factor is that repairing or servicing on SA hub was no easy task. My elder brother, Loh Choon Khiam who is a certified SA mechanic required special tools to get into the intricate SA parts.

 

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Mr Loh Choon Khiam, a certified Sturmey Archer Mechanic.


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

A: These days, there are still many old customers who patronize my shop. Even young vintage bicycle enthusiasts will bring their vintage bicycles here for service and repair. I believe that this trade is always in demand especially when the classic and vintage community flourishes. The only worry is that there are not many people willing to take up this trade.

 

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Mr. Loh Choo Teck aka Ah Teck who is 66 years old this year, together with his siblings look forward to retirement at the end of June 2013. Unfortunately, his elder brother, Mr. Loh Choon Khiam passed away on the 21 May 2013, a few days after the interview. Classic Vintage Cycles express our deepest condolences to Loh family and wish him all the best and hopefully we can catch up with him again as he still has many more stories to share.



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