Cycling is like life. Cycling with no goal is meaningless. What meaning is there cycling in circles? Or living aimlessly? Meaning comes from direction and destination. Join me in my life's journey on a mountain bike :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dodging dog

Seeing red in the grey sky
Mandai, 33 km. After the rain stops, I start. Up the slopes where I ran weeks ago, to where the black dog lurks. My feet on my pedals, my heart in my mouth, I charge down the road, eyes peeled for black death lunging at me. It is neither seen nor heard.

The evening sky brightens with a flash. Lighting. I cycle up the highest point of a hill, as lighting flashes in the distance while dark clouds hang over my head. I survey the scene below me, then hurtle down, past black dog's turf. Well, I hope you're gone for good.

I headed out when the rain stopped, but feathery drops brush my face now. The road is wet on the return leg. So it rained while I was away. Great. I'm coming down with a cold, so please don't drench me. I'm not in the mood for it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Long haul

Around my home, 20 km. Things have been falling from the sky. First, dust particles aka haze. And the sky is rumbling today, which means rain is on the way. I head out anyway. Not on my new toy, but my nine-year old bicycle.

It's funny how having a gleaming new toy has made me more interested in cycling. And not with my new toy, but with you. I suppose most people would've cast you aside after putting down good money on something new. But I wouldn't have sought out something new, if I was sure you weren't going to break down and leave me stranded thousands of miles away from home. Or worse, break and get me maimed or killed.

Because old is gold. And silver? Fortunate babies are born with silver spoons. And those who live long enough, get silver-haired.

Nine years, almost 43,000 km. What a journey! Few things (or relationships) last that long.

Back home, I unscrew you and lube your shifters after the grease in you got gummy. The way I've been doing for sometime, to restore you, so that we can click together.

I've looked after you, and you've looked after me. But I know you're weary. While I can fix some things, like lube and replace an exploding rim, what can I do about your very soul, your frame?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

In the long run

Explore new places with an old bicycle
Mandai, 32 km. I've cycled over 64,000 km and my weekly distances are falling with a big thump like big durians from tall trees. Just 20-30 km per week?! I used to cycle that distance for road tests of new equipment.

Today, I don't have to psycho myself to head out.

Two reasons:
a. to cycle down memory lane, part of the route of my longest run ever. 101 km. Did I really do it? Yeah!
b. rekindled the joy of cycling. I have a new (spare) bike. Little Red Tank,  meet Matt Black.

Matt Black
It's just a couple of weeks old. I navigated it safely home through harrowing traffic then scratched it; gouged the crank arm through urban offroad.

Today, I cycle Tank. Soon, my dear machine, your wheels will no longer spin safely and your shifters, already failing, will no longer click.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Up and oval

Sep distance: 273 km

11-14 Sep, Malaysia (Cameron Highlands, Ipoh), 252 km

Prologue
This is my eighth Bike n Blade. This charity ride is the longest in terms of days (two days to travel to and fro, by bus on 11 and 14 Sep respectively, and two days to ride) and the highest we climb: 1,500m. Everyone's a roadie (including triathletes) except a guy on a recumbent and me on my MTB.

I've a migraine on arrival. I try to sleep it off but fail. I eat a few mouthfuls of dinner, telling myself "three more mouthfuls". I want to keep my food down so I can ride up tomorrow. I want to complete my ride but leave my dinner uncompleted.

This has never happened to me on a charity ride but given this is my x ride. It is reasonable to expect that someday it would happen, just a matter of time. Rather than being unfortunate, I've been fortunate to escape it for so long.

12 Sep "Up". Cameron Highlands, 63 km
We ease out of morning rush hour to the base of the hill. Various roadies talk to me as they overtake.
"Mountain bike?" Well, this is the highlands, which means mountains, which goes with mountain bike. "Are you going to change bike tomorrow (160 km ride)?" "No, same bike, different rider," I quip.

They leave me trailing behind. It's a long climb. I think about strawberries, which grow in these hills. Being a couch potato, I like potatoes. You can slice them, dice them. Stack, drop, fry, bake, mash and freeze them. And strawberries? They go bad so fast. Squeeze them and they leave a sticky mess. Expensive and unsuited for carbo loading. Potatoes are a staple! Strawberries are delicacies, which need delicate handling.

I should stop thinking about these things. The journey doesn't get easier with these thoughts; they get harder. Enjoy the ride instead, ok?

I ask myself, "why am I doing this?" My heavy heart weighs me down. At a water point, I ask the crew if they are from The Salvation Army. "Thank you so much for your support," one says. And that's why I'm doing this. 70 cyclists, 30 crew, $320,000 funds raised for charity and an estimated $0.5m worth of bicycles. My bicycle would be the cheapest. When I unload other people's bikes, I can carry each with two fingers: one to lift, the other finger is just to balance the bike.

Lunch is served at the end of the ride. Buffet of pasta. No water. Strawberry juice is served instead!

13 Sep "Oval" 170 km around Ipoh
Blending in with the peloton and road colour
When the alarm rings at 0530, my first thought is: "I want to sleep, not ride." But I get up; call it habit or discipline. I breakfast on potato wedges.

I stick to the second peloton at the start but get dropped. As I cycle solo, the only rider with me is a motorcyclist who draws alongside and says my jersey is the colour of the road and not visible. I agree.

At a traffic light, the ambulance crew asks if I need anything. I ask if the ambulance is air=conditioned. Of course it is. "Massage?" I ask. "Well there's a bed but you need to get your own masseuse," comes the reply.

As the day draws on, various cyclists pass by, look at my fat tyres and make passing comments such as "strong determination" and "hard core". The ambulance passes by and the crew asks "are you ok?"

I am, until I miss a water point at the 140 km mark. The support vehicle isn't there. When I stop at a coffee shop, a couple of cyclists are there. One insists on buying me a Coke. By now, lunch time has passed. I'd bananas, 100Plus, a packet of energy gel and two cereal bars.

170 km is a long way to go on rolling hills. With fat tyres. Good thing there were some nice, quiet, scenic routes to pass the time.

14 Sep Epilogue
This is the toughest Bike n Blade to date and my toughest charity ride. Cycling up Cameron is cool (pun intended) but 170 km, hot sun and rolling hills is something else.

At breakfast, J says: "I look at his tyres and I feel tired already." S: "He has downhill rims." A: "So the part you enjoy is downhill? What was your max speed?" It was 61 km/h compared to her 58.

Our bus is 90 minutes late. I go back to my room to sit in bed. I'm a couch potato :)

To round it all off, I cycle home, about 9 km away, the same way I came. I seem to be the only one using my own muscle power to get home.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Lap it up

Around my home, 21 km. The ominous black clouds hover above, see? Will the sky open up and the rain pour down? As I'm short of time and don't want to get drenched and fall ill, I do something I've never ever done before in over 60,000 km of cycling.

I cycle around my home, a 2 km loop. There's a little slope, two pedestrian crossings, two traffic lights and some lousy drivers. And if it rains, I don't have to wait it out at some bus stop. I can go home in a jiffy and do other things.

Round and round I go. Easy. Well, it's meant to be a recovery ride since I ran yesterday. It's kinda like a training ride too.

Let's see: one charity ride last week. A 5-hour run yesterday. Another charity ride in a this weekend. And the longest run (so far) of my life the week after that. Whew! Tough?

Not as tough as the puzzling things at work ...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sugar, ice and everything nice

Aug distance: 349 km

22-24 Aug, Malaysia (Malacca - Batu Pahat) - Singapore, 281 km

Prologue
This is my third ride to raise funds to buy food for the poor. It's good to meet some old cycling pals, some of whom I met in 2010 for a charity ride in Sarawak. We catch up during lunch as we bus up to Malacca on 22 Aug. In the hotel, I catch up on some work.

Nightstop: Hatten Hotel

Proper concentration
23 Aug Malacca to Batu Pahat, 111 km.

One of my bidons is filled with Gatorade, mixed in what I hope is close to the recommended dose. I've read about running nutrition and apply it to cycling. It's not so good to drink plain water after all, I read. When my stomach feels odd after some bananas, only then do I drink water to dilute my stomach contents. Placebo or not, it works. I don't need to take long breaks; at a rest stop, I'm off after a few minutes.

When I run out, I refill with 100Plus. It's 6% concentration: within the recommended range. The escaping carbonation pops my bidon top. Twice. Tip:  don't top up to the brim.

Lunch is a half hour break, then I'm off. When I pass support car #1, I know I should stop at some point. I do when I see a 7-Eleven. I get a slurpee: sugar, slush, artificial colour and flavour, real nice. "Brain freeze!" I sit on the cool tiled floor then the shop staff passes me a stool. I need the break; with the headwind, I've laboured along at 20 km/h at some parts. I enjoy the aircon and move off when I see the first group pass by, then another.

I lead some cyclists to the hotel, abou 20 of us are there by 1.30 pm. I wait two hours for my bag. Well, at least we beat the rain that poured down later.

Nightstop: Katerina Hotel

Exclusion order
24 Aug Batu Pahat to Singapore, 170 km.
I draft a couple of roadies. It's a long straight road to boredom, and against the wind. One of them, with a BMX helmet, asks: "Why  am I doing this?" I wonder aloud: "Why am I doing this three times?" then talk him. He's a mountain biker who's on a road bike. He tells me that when he grows up, he wants go be like me, because I keep up with roadies while on fat tyres. He asks me why I'm not using slick tyres. I tell him about my downhill rims. He tells me he once bought 2.3" tyres and found it tough going.

And this is getting old. My third Ride for Rations. And, this year, my eighth Bike n Blade.

After lunch, we're grouped together. We're to stick to assigned groups as we near the border. The slower group I prefer to be with stop. They've had enough. I'm told to join the faster group. By this time, after 150 km, I'm knackered. I cycle and struggle hard to keep up. The sweeper slows to keep me company. I know some of the rest resent the slowdown. One yells at a man old enough to be her dad. It's not that he's unable to keep up.

What is this ride about anyway? I thought it's to raise funds for those who've been left behind in society. And if some cyclists fail to keep up, that's out of place (pun intended)? This is the first time on a charity ride where I struggle.

At the traffic lights, I catch up, then wait. One of them has a broken handlebar. Carbon. And yesterday, two cyclists break bones.

At the end of the ride, I thank an organiser for taking on this challenge of organising a charity ride, then put myself on a "exclusion" order: if I forget what I feel now and sign up for another Ride for Rations as a cyclist, exclude my participation.

I might sign up as a crew member though. It's no longer fun to cycle, but it's still a good cause. We'll see.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Take it easy

Thomson Road, 24 km. After four hours on foot on the road yesterday, I take it easy today. Not that it's easy to take things easy.

What's easy is, for things that are worked on painstakingly over the years, to unravel suddenly, it seems. But in truth, damage is happening, just that it's not necessarily visible. Then, catastrophic failure.

But then, what's destroyed can be rebuilt, yes?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Amazing grace?

Thomson Road, 24 km. How do I tag this ride? It is training, for a charity ride. It's also a recovery ride, to recover from yesterday's three hour run. And I need to clear my head, forget my woe, for a while anyway.

Amazing but true: what I thought was worse was merely bad. Now, things have got from bad to worse.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Easy rider

Thomson Road, 20 km. After running hard for two hours yesterday, I take it easy today. I want to keep the ride so short that I don't even bring a water bottle.

Part of the route is my Inner Mongolia training route, but I go slowly so I don't get drenched in sweat. And that's the way it is, the same route, but easier than before.

And so, I can see hardship in a different way. The same terrain, just approach it differently.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mountain biking

Jul distance: 327 km

Sembawang, 42 km. Road biking suggests cycling on a road. Mountain biking, taken literally, means cycling up and down mountains. Which may or may not have roads. Trails perhaps, definitely off road. Gravel, dirt, grass, river crossings … rough, certainly.

Work's been rough too. Just as off road can be tough, it can also be fun. What's happened is unprecedented, but there are good possibilities too.

My knee hurts. Perhaps it's the ultra marathon training. But there could be a simpler reason - the dirt in my pedals from the Inner Mongolia ride that makes clipping out harder and more painful.

Well, there's a simple solution to work problems; it just takes effort and time. And a certain way of thinking. When I was cycling in Inner Mongolia, the route was long, the hills interminable. But I didn't rue the hills, they're literally part of the territory.