LABUAN – A corporate captain’s passion for bike riding has helped turn this duty-free island into a hub of sorts for biking enthusiasts from not only nearby Sabah and Sarawak but Peninsular Malaysia and even Brunei and Indonesia.
What started as purely a recreational activity for Datuk Sri Mohd Alias Abdul Rahman eventually evolved into an active pastime after he established the Smart Ryders Club (SRC) and opened a Harley-Davidson gallery in Labuan.
It is obvious that Alias, who is the chief executive officer of Labuan Liberty Port Management Sdn Bhd, revels in the pleasure he derives from biking and sharing his know-how with like-minded individuals.
For him, owning a Harley-Davidson gallery is akin to making a lifestyle statement and he even confesses to having an emotional attachment to it.
The outlet, located at the SRC clubhouse at Jalan Gersik Baru, only displays and sells original Harley-Davidson merchandise, ranging from badges, helmets, jackets, shirts to motorcycles shipped directly from the United States.
“I want to bring more collections to my gallery and continuously upgrade its merchandise,” he said, adding that he has also visited Harley-Davidson centres outside Malaysia, such as those in Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines.
And, not forgetting the United States, where the brand originated from and where some of the biggest dealers are located.
Among those Alias visited were Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson, one of the oldest and largest Harley-Davidson motorcyle dealers in Los Angeles; North County’s House of Motorcycles in San Diego; and Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Marina del Rey, all located in the state of California.
The establishment of the Harley-Davidson gallery in Labuan has somewhat helped to raise the island’s profile among biking communities across the country.
According to Alias, motorcycle tours such as the Borneo Island International Big Bike Festival, Labuan Island Bike Week, Tawau Bike Festival, Beaufort Bike Week, Sibu Bike Week, Miri Bike Week and Harley Owners Group (HOG) gathering have brought many bikers to Labuan, indirectly boosting its tourism sector.
Alias, who has four sons and a daughter, said he took up riding as a hobby in the early 1980s.
“Initially, I rode in convoys with my company staff around the island (Labuan), I then started riding further to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding that he also organised and facilitated biking and other related events.
Alias said he took his hobby seriously as he believed that was the only way he could excel in it. “When I’m on my bike, (I feel like) I’m working,” he said.
As a beginner, he rode an ordinary bike – an SYM motorcycle – and slowly found himself getting hooked to riding.
“Soon, I progressed to a Can-Am Spyder, then Honda Gold Wings, Ducati and, in 1994, I became the owner of a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200,” he shared. “By then, bikes had become my passion”.
Besides savouring the adrenaline rush of riding a big bike, Alias also enjoyed traversing the beautiful landscapes of Borneo and meeting people of different races.
“To test my riding skills and improve my endurance, I’ve made several exciting trips to interesting locations around Sabah and Sarawak.
“Initially, my fellow riders and I did it for recreation only but later we realised that we might as well do something beneficial for the needy in Sabah and we used our own resources to buy foodstuffs for them,” he said.
Alias and his co-riders are continuing the initiative under the auspices of the Smart Ryders Club.
“These days when a big group of us go riding, we don’t do it just for our own excitement and enjoyment, we also contribute to society,” he said.