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The Ballad of Brutal Cramped Fingers

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“EVEN if you ride a bicycle but you can keep up with us, we don’t mind,” Bill tells us with a shrug, expressing an invitation to join the “Brutal Cramped Fingers” on their normal weekend rides.

Not long ago, Charles “Bill” Nicolai and his three biking hombres, Anselm Ashraff Lim (Ashraff), Tan Ching Ming (Ming) and Haji Zen Abdullah Tenny (Tenny) sacrificed half of their weekend to sit with us over coffee and enlightened us with the story of how the fascinating moniker came about.

“When I first rode with the guys, I began having cramps in my hands. By the end of our journey, one of them said ‘I have a name for our group. Let’s call ourselves the Cramped Fingers’. But that didn’t sound tough enough so we added ‘Brutal’ to the name,” says Bill, who owns a Harley Davidson Fat Boy Lo.

Thus, the humorous storytelling of the Sarawak-based 14-member biker group began.

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“All of us own different kinds of bikes. And riding, for us, is a hobby and leisure interest,” Ashraff tells us. Sitting in his porch is a Harley Davidson Sportster 883.

For the record, the Brutal Cramped Fingers are proud owners of a range of two-wheelers spanning Harley Davidsons, Beemers, Kawasakis and Suzukis.

Mind you that they call themselves a “group” rather than a “club”. The reason being all members are not bound by rules of any sort and street riding is always done in the name of simple fun and pleasure.

“We don’t set any rule in terms of what to ride. Even our name is a joke!” Bill says, attracting an orchestra of laughter from the rest.

“This is something we do for fun. All of us have day jobs and we don’t want to add any more pressure to what we get in the real world by having rules.”

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It was a rather gloomy day with mild drops of morning rain and by the looks on their faces, it wasn’t difficult to tell that their hopes of taking their bikes for a ride out were dampened.

The Brutal Cramped Fingers have existed for a year and a half despite most members having been in the motor biking scene for close to 25 years. And though it could be assumed that with that long of an experience, they have had more than their fair share of finding themselves stranded and lost.

The group recounted straying away from the planned route from Kuching to Bau some time ago and ended up on the far side of the Sarawak map.

“Well, it was a case of miscommunication. The other guys rode off first. Me and Bill were the last to leave and he thought we were to meet in Serian,” Ashraff recalls.

As this point of the interview, Tenny quips: “There is a saying that goes ‘the blind leads the blind’.” Tenny has a generous collection of bikes, including a BMW GS and a Suzuki B-King, among others.

Considering that all four are married, the subject of things-that-my-wife-says becomes a point of interest.

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For someone who rides a Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited, Ming is aware of the precautions he has to take when handling the bulky tourer.

“I have been riding motorbikes since the 1990s and throughout those years, I have never been in any accident, touch wood,” he tells us, as he literally knocks on our table.

Bill, on the other hand, says his spouse was a little sceptical at first when he proposed the idea of getting his first bike.

“She’s sort of apprehensive and afraid about going on long riding trips.”

Tenny, who has 25 years of experience in taking on terrains on his two-wheeled machines, admitted to spending big bucks on gears and accessories, which rouses his wife’s concerns.

“The ladies always complain about us men spending too much time taking care of our bikes than of them. She should be thankful that I clean my bikes well and even bring her along on trips!” he says with a chuckle.

Ashraff’s other half, as it turned out, shares common ground concerning his leisure pursuit as she owns and rides her own street bike.

As our conversation diverted to the topic of safety and security, the Brutal Cramped Fingers were quick to emphasise that riders’ wellbeing and protection are of supreme importance. In this context, being under the influence of alcohol is a definite no.

“We don’t drink,” Bill insists. “I oppose to being hurt and getting my Fat Boy Lo damaged. The whole point about riding is to not get injured.”

“Some people have this perspective towards bikers that we are rowdy. We are not like that at all,” Tenny iterates.

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As it appeared to us some members have convoyed across countries and before long, the Brutal Cramped Fingers are planning to take their activities up a notch by travelling around Borneo encompassing Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan.

In the meantime, the group continues to indulge in what they do best, in the Malaysian state known for its ethnic diversity and mountainous regions.

“We normally go all the way to Sematan for great seafood. That’s part of our weekend getaway,” Ming says.

“The beauty of living in Sarawak is that ethnically, everybody gets along well. We may be riding Harley Davidsons, Kawasaki Versys, you name it, but it is always about getting down for a good ride and meal,” Bill explains.

Ashraff tells us: “We are just a group of guys getting together to have a good time. Neither are we registered as an official club nor are we soliciting anyone for funds. When it comes to charity work, we do it out of generosity, without the presence of the media. We think of ourselves as the ‘people behind the scenes.”

Just as our gathering ended, the skies began clearing and as the sunshine slowly blanketed itself on the damp roads of Kuching city, the Brutal Cramped Fingers in all agreed that it was the perfect time to go out riding.

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About Adela Megan Willy

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