Mariana Mohammad

International Women’s day is celebrated in March every year and to commemorate this special occasion (in our March-April Volume 20) we thought we would meet with three women - some of the most feared and respected in cycling - to see what their journey has been like.

In this feature we have Noraidillina Adilla - best known as Malaysia’s up and coming track cyclist, Siti Hajar Abu Bakar, a mountain biker with nerves of steel and Mariana Mohammad - known to be one of the fastest female road cyclists Malaysia has ever produced.

This is the second of these features - Mariana Mohammad.

Mariana is undoubtedly one of the most well known names when it comes to women’s road cycling. Fierce, fast and also always striving to grow the women’s road cycling community, Mariana has always been one of the more famous road cyclists in Malaysia.

On the tarmac she can put most men to shame, but knowing Mariana she will probably encourage anyone on the road to go faster and is always willing to help give out tips. She hosts a ride every Monday night at Putrajaya called Recovery Ride and although it’s not exclusive to women, she hopes that more women would actually come and join her.

Photos by Ibah Zakaria

Q&A

It was back in 1996 when I was first introduced to a bicycle. It wasn't love at first sight cause I was forced to learn to ride a bike by a friend of mine.

He wanted me to do a cycling race, so he made me learn it. There was a lot of cursing and struggling at the beginning, but in the end, WOW!!! I was so proud of myself and will forever be grateful to this friend for forcing me to ride a bicycle.

It's an adventure. It's the beautiful scenes of a place that I get to see or discover that I know I wouldn't explore otherwise. It's healthy. It's cheap and better for the environment. It's social - where you meet with like-minded people. It's the freedom. It's addictive. It soothes my mind & body in unimaginable ways. It's part of my therapy, because most of all...it makes me happier!

I did my first local race in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah back in 1997 with the bike I had then, a steel bike. I got on the podium; I surprised myself. I guess that's when I realised that I could and should go further in cycling. It's amazing what cycling can do. I am where I am now because of cycling.

I have always been a very active person since my childhood. I couldn't sit still at all, I was always up to something. After school, usually you would find me climbing up trees, hanging out in the branches, exploring the nearby jungle, eating wild fruit - I was always out and about.

I was very adventurous then. I came from a medium-sized family with five siblings. I went to Chinese school for most of my schooling period. It started from kindergarten, then a few years of primary school back in Labuan, then my family moved to Kota Kinabalu in 1988.

I continued my primary school and high school there. The majority of my friends are Chinese. I love the Chinese community and I blend quite well with them. But then it all changed when I moved to Kuala Lumpur. My circle of friends is now bigger and wider, and I have many friends from all over.

No. I don't work but my husband does (hahaha!). Someone has to be out there earning an income, right? My husband has always been the main person behind me. Always supporting me and providing things that I need. Thank You!

My family thinks I spend too much time cycling. Simply because I love cycling very much. My friends who share the same passion, we think alike. We all know what we do in cycling.

What I actually do when I'm cycling? That depends on what I have planned. It could be just cycling trying to lose weight if I have put on some pounds, staying in shape, maintaining my fitness, trying to improve my speed, venturing out to new places, meeting new faces or just a typical Sunday social/coffee ride.

My greatest achievement in life would be giving birth to my two beautiful kids and watching them grow up. Priceless! 

In cycling, I won the title "National Champ" in a National Cycling Championship that was held in Seri Menanti, Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan in 2010. That certainly opened my door to the cycling world. From there, one of the opportunities that I had was competing in UCI Road World Championship in Geelong, Australia in 2010. Although my finishing result wasn't great, but that was a dream came true...racing amongst the world’s top cyclists.

I have two idols. The first one is Emma Jane Pooley of Britain, an English sportswoman and presenter on the Global Cycling Network. A former professional cyclist who specialised in time trials and hilly races, she later transferred to endurance running, duathlon and triathlon, and is currently a professional triathlete and duathlete, and the reigning quadruple world champion in long distance duathlon.

My second idol is our local heroine, Noor Azian Alias from Johor. She was a Gold medallist in Road Cycling event in the 23rd Sea Games in the Philippines back in 2005. She's still actively racing competitively and still gets very good results. I really admire her patience and perseverance. That's why even until now I still look up to her and always get advice from her. 

In my opinion, Malaysia needs to improve general awareness on cycling. When the government promotes road safety campaigns, they should include cycling, which is the most energy efficient urban transport mode with a high potential to reduce energy consumption. Society should be aware that cyclists are part of the contributors towards a healthy city or town and that their rights should be equally respected.

The Malaysian government should also implement awareness within the corporate sectors - the transport operators like LRT and KTM. Cyclists should be allowed to take their bikes on board when they are travelling from one place to another, without giving them time restrictions.

Just like cars with good insurance coverage by insurance companies, they should provide the same coverage for the bicycles as currently there are not many options available and the coverage is quite limited.

Well, I think we should create an environment where more females feel they can be a part of it. We should create a female cycling community so they feel comfortable to participate.

An example is the Monday Night Recovery Ride that I organise regularly in Putrajaya. The number of women who join are growing, slowly but surely. At the moment we still lack participation from women but I'm not discouraged. In fact, I'm hoping more women will take part as word gets around that there's actually a ladies ride in Putrajaya. We invite as many women as we possibly can. We should always talk to women friends of friends who cycle and invite them to join the group. Give them a reason to ride. Tell them about the goodness of cycling. Keep encouraging them. Keep motivating them.

Watch, learn and ask questions. Always open your mind and heart. Don’t be afraid to discover or try new things and always challenge yourself to be better than before. Opportunity doesn’t knock, you must chase it like you are cycling in a race with a cut off time.

Full Name: Mariana Mohammad

Birthplace: Lahad Datu, Sabah

Birthdate: 18th May 1978

Status: Married with 2 children.

Bike discipline: Road & Time Trial

Favourite bike and why: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6. It's sleek, smooth and serious. Seriously gorgeous, seriously fast, seriously amazing to be riding it. It's my dream bike.