Despite her busy schedule, full-time working mum Lee Pei Sze cycles over 1,000km every year to raise funds for charity.
A breezy community night cycling event with her husband in 2014 was what kindled Lee Pei Sze’s love for the sport. “Compared to being in a bus or car, being on a bicycle gives me a totally different and wonderful perspective when it comes to exploring my surroundings, ” she says. It also reignited her active life that she had put on hold since starting a family.
Little did she know that her leisure rides from Punggol to Changi would, one year later, evolve into a 1,000km-long journey spanning five days from Penang to Singapore – all in the name of raising funds for lower income kidney dialysis patients.
Till date, Pei Sze has participated in five consecutive years of the Kidney Dialysis Foundation (KDF) Millennium Ride, an annual charity cycling organised by the Epic Cyclists, a local non-profit cycling group, which she joined after being spurred on by her cycling friends. The founder, Clifford Lee, organised this challenging ride to draw others like him, who share a passion for both cycling and charity work. “It was heartening to see that everyone, cyclist or supporting crew, was united by the same objective,” she says.
The tan lines on the 45-year-old’s wrist and thighs – a stark contrast from her otherwise fair skin – are telling of the many hours spent under the sun. Training for the 1,000km ride starts as early as a year before, mostly over weekends in Malaysia to condition themselves to the harsh weather conditions and rough terrain they would encounter on the actual route there.
For the full-time working mother of two, her cycling commitment meant precious time away from family, and having her once elaborate beauty and skincare routine stripped down to the bare minimum. “Gone are my perfectly manicured nails and coiffed hair,” she shares.
A week after Pei Sze crossed the finish line of the KDF Millennium Ride 2019, she chats with Shape about the humps and bumps of her journey, and why she finds immense joy amid her sacrifices.
“I only intended to participate once, but seeing how my cycling efforts help those in need kept me going back year after year.”
The first attempt was the toughest, especially since I was relatively new to cycling. Covering a distance of 200 to 300km in a day meant being on the bike from dawn till dusk, suffering abrasions and saddle sores. Your hands go numb from the vibrations on the handlebar as you rattle over potholes and uneven roads, and your mental stamina is put to the test at the halfway mark – usually around noon where the sun is at its highest and hottest. Initially, I told myself that I was done after one year. But when Clifford called for the next year’s participation, I signed up immediately. I’d forgotten about the aches and pain it comes with. What remains is the thought of being able to raise funds to ease the financial burden of the dialysis patients, coupled with the strong bonds forged with fellow cyclists.
“For me, cycling is no longer just about cycling anymore.”
I used to cycle for the beautiful scenery. But with events like the KDF Millennium Ride, it has become a more valuable experience now, as I am able to use my passion for a good cause.
“I wouldn’t have the courage to pursue such a challenging ride without my family’s support.”
Our family is very close-knit and gatherings are often held at my house as we live with my mother-in-law. Despite my frequent absence at home due to training, none of them has made a single complaint. My kids, who are 12 and 15 years old, are more independent now and hardly need any supervision. When I’m away on weekends, my husband ensures that he is always around for them. He also takes the initiative to donate and spread awareness about the ride. Last year, I discovered how proud my daughter was of me and what I was doing. She presented my participation in the Millennium Ride event to her classmates for a project. Though quiet and reserved by nature, she was eager to share about the meaningful purpose behind this cycling event with her peers.
“I hope for more women in the cycling community.”
There is a lack of females in the cycling industry and the six of us on the team of 60 are a clear testament to that. As a woman myself, I understand the potential obstacles that stop others from hopping on. It could be the challenge of juggling cycling with work and family commitments, or the fear of harmful UV rays and skin damage that come with long hours under the sun. Besides cycling, I’ve befriended many women, who like me, have full-time jobs and we often share how we got into riding, and how we cope with our busy schedules – it’s a community. To those who already share our love for cycling, I would like to give them a nudge to rise up and ride for a purposeful cause like we do.