To the ordinary Filipino, the name Vincent Leow does not ring a bell. But ask around the Philippine cycling community—especially the pros—and Vincent Leow bangs a gong.
Leow, perhaps one of the most successful yet low-key Singaporean entrepreneurs, has crossed borders to bring his passion for cycling to Filipino riders.
“I have this extreme concern and passion to help Filipino cyclists,” Leow told the BusinessMirror one afternoon last December during the Velo Bicycle Expo at the SM Seaside in Cebu City, where he was asked to judge the lightest bike contest.
“I have often been asked why the Philippines? Why not Singapore,” added Leow, who tagged along elder brother Thomas for his umpteenth visit to the country. The passion, Leow narrated, started five years ago when he was invited to observe a road race in Tagaytay City.
“I saw Filipino cyclists competing with all they’ve got and yet they didn’t have the best equipment to ride on,” he said. “I told myself ‘what if they rode on top-of-the-line bikes’—then the result would be different.”
“I always tell my friends back home that they haven’t seen the Philippines, that is why they don’t know the reason why they [Filipino cyclists] need my help,” he said. “Singaporeans do not need my help, they could afford just every bicycle they want. But they don’t have the passion and dedication that Filipino cyclists possess.”
With the Filipino riders’ endearing love for the sport catching his fancy, Leow felt he had a mission to accomplish: help Filipino cyclists.
And further catching his fancy was veteran rider Lloyd Lucien Reynante, son of the late cycling great Manuel Reynante.
“I saw in Lloyd his deep love for the sport and that, besides earning the respect of the other cyclists, he is trustworthy,” he said.
That was five years ago and fast-forward to the present, Reynante is now Leow’s right-hand man in the country, managing his cycling business that distributes top Italian helmet brand SH+, shoes Crono and the bike brand Goerciotti.
But Leow explained that the cycling business—he owns the only bicycle shop called Bike X Singapore that is located in a mall (Tampines Sports Hub) in Singapore—is his way of giving back to the sport he loves most.
“I have been running the shop for over five years now and I never took a cent from it,” he said. “The shop is there to help cyclists, Filipino riders.”
Leow belongs to a rather big Singaporean family—he has four brothers and three sisters. His father died when he was 13 and his mother is up and about at 86. He, too, is a devout Roman Catholic. He is married to Eileen, who fully supports his weekend rides, and has two sons—Justin (18) and Jeremiah (17), both active student leaders in their schools, not to mention being at the top of their class.
“It’s always about giving back to the community, about being charitable in business,” he said.
Leow could no longer recall exactly how many top-of-the-line bicycle frames, shoes and helmets he has donated to Filipino cyclists.
“Perhaps around 25 frames [each costing from SG$2,000 to SG$4,000],” said Leow, who learned the ropes of running a business when he was a senior management staff at McDonald’s first branch in the island state. His potential was so evident during those days that management sent him to Chicago to attend the global chain’s Hamburger University.
Like any other businessmen, he had his ups and downs. “There was a time when I lost so much in a business venture, no thanks to SARS, that I was forced to eat just one meal a day,” he added.
Those painful experiences brought Leow closer to God and to the community.
“I remember when Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines, I helped gather donations—in whatever form—for the victims. It turned out that many were just too concerned about the Philippines that I transformed my bike shop into a donation station.”
Donations came pouring in that Leow joked “we could no longer move around the bike shop because of the sheer volume of the relief goods. But the feeling of being able to help was very fulfilling,” he said.
The blessings he has reaped from his charitable works—including an automatic deduction from his bank account that benefits the Singapore Kidney Foundation—also earned him the monicker as Singapore’s “Doctor of Cars.”
“There was a time that my car growing business grew that I could no longer accommodate more clients,” said Leow, adding that Lexus and Toyota are his biggest client and that he had to turn down a contract with BMW.
As the BusinessMirror interview went on, Leow inspected with scrutiny each of the close to 200 bikes on display in the expo, organized by Mike Flores of cebucycling.com, but in between expressed his dream for Filipino cyclists.
“I dream that someday, I would see a Filipino rider competing in the world championships and the Olympics. When that happens, I could say I have accomplished my goal and have fulfilled my dream,” he said.