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 :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pedal for penance

Straight and narrow, peace and quiet
Pekan Nanas, Johor, Malaysia, 158 km. Still feeling regret at not doing a 1,000 km ride, I cycle north with A to welcome the magnificent seven who went the full distance.

Since we're early, I head off to explore Ulu Choh while A wants to meet a friend.

Ulu Choh: for years, I've passed the road sign pointing to this place. What's there? A map can only tell you so much.

Ulu Choh has a big school, a temple, a mosque and a quarry. Wow. Really quiet roads. It leads to some fenced off official-looking installation. Is there a short cut to Pekan Nanas? Let's ride and see.

I end up off road. Mosquitoes. Mud. A small stream, then a big one with a partially collapsed concrete bridge. I hear traffic. My compass tells me where to head. But where do the trails lead? Under time pressure, I ask a worker for the way out. He directs me towards a road beside a house. I bash through the foliage, then see the sign of danger.

Dogs. Rats, got to back track
I back track to where I came from to where the magnificent seven stop for lunch. They arrived about 20 minutes before I did.
After lunch, they celebrate their 1,000 km milestone by the roadside and toast themselves with 100-Plus from a support vehicle which was part of their charity ride.

On this ride, I found my answer to the question: should I have chosen the soft option of cycling 390 km instead of 1,000? The answer is "yes". I suffered on this ride, and it's only 158 km. I don't mean the off road part, which was so eventful I didn't think about pain.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Food for thought

15-18 Aug, Johor, Malaysia, 390 km

Clear blue skies, feel the heat blown away by breeze
Day 1: 15 Aug, Tanjong Sedili, 129 km. I was thrilled to ride in Pengarang a decade ago, with its quiet, winding rural roads sprinkled with gentle villages and villagers. Now, the place is ruined by development, with long straight roads and hurtling lorries (at least, the drivers give us a wide berth).

I don't recall going to Sedili was so no fun, with rolling hills, headwinds and searing sun. The ride is like eating a baguette: I start at one end and end up at the other. When W rumbles past me on his fat bike (29 niner with 3" tyres), I know I'm in a bad way: dead tired, dead last. Until G ends up at the end, worse off than I am. I wait for him in the shade, then pull him along.

Night stop: Jason Bay Beach Resort

Paleo diet
Day 2, 16 Aug, Mersing, 84 km. At breakfast, I listen to WK talk about his paleo/ketosis diet and marvel how he powers himself to ride his possibly 30 kg, fully loaded fat bike which includes a 1.5l bottle.

At lunch, there's no room at the inn. Inn Keepers, the riverside  coffee shop where we used to lunch and luxuriate after a day's hard ride, has moved. With ferry services gone, business dried up. All good things come to an end. And what goes up, must come down. That's true when it comes to cycling hills and mountains. How true is that for life?

Is going up good in life? But an "uphill climb" sounds like a bad thing. And "going downhill" also sounds like a bad thing too. In cycling, "up" is usually bad and "down" usually good - well, to some cyclists anyway.The famous wanton noodle store at Jemaluang is closed for business today. It's the first time I've seen it closed. Some customers direct us to another shop nearby, not visible from where we are. It is a nice place with good food. When one door closes, another opens. There, I take WK's fat bike for a joy ride. It has indexed, friction shifters!

Back on the road, I've an "extended discussion" with Matt Black, which is on its maiden expedition. Several times I stop to adjust the saddle.

At the end of the day, I sing a song to the tune of "We are the world":
"There was a time, when my butt didn't hurt so much, and the hills they weren't really so tough.
I was on my Tank, it blasted everything.
But now I'm on Merida."

I'm ambivalent about whether to go on with the rest of the 1,000 km ride. My room mate, M, says I could go on if I want to. True. But if I go on, it'll be because I push myself to. If it's for fun, I wouldn't. In the end, it's the reason that makes the difference. Why would I want to cycle 1,000 km? Is it to show (to whom anyway?) I can ride 1,000 km? Been there, done that, and then some. I ask J for help, she answers with a question: "What have you got to prove?

Night stop: Hotel Embassy

Long, quiet roads
Coffee and coconut
Day 3, 17 Aug, Kota Tinggi, 102 km. Regrets, I've had a few. For example, I could've joined an airborne
course but didn't, because I wanted to prepare for my exams. Years later, I still regret not jumping. But who knows what would've happened if I'd jumped? And what would've happened to my exam results?

It's been said that people "regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did". Reason: "we can’t console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience because… well, there wasn’t one". Yeah, right. Tell that to those who made seriously wrong choices and lived to regret them.

So, do I go the full 1,000 km or not? I decide by looking at what I'd regret less. Perhaps there's no right or wrong decision here. If there's no right or wrong, what's there to regret?

More clear cut is today's bitter, powdery coffee. Some people might like it. I certainly didn't. As for the MYR2 coconut (with ice), it was wonderful.

Night stop: Mayres Hotel

Birthday cake
Day 4, 18 Aug, home, 65 km. I feel relief and regret. Relief, because the five of us survived Johor Bahru rush hour. Near the border, we stop to rehydrate at a coffee shop. Two of them excused themselves then reappeared with rich chocolate cake to celebrate A's birthday. We gave a big slice to the coffee shop lady who let us use her crockery.

Thanks for the company and the ride
Regret, because we part company today. We've cycled together for a decade, through thick and thin, be it thick noodles in Taiwan or thin thosai in Malaysia. I also regret not cycling the full 1,000 km unlike the other seven who headed north from Mersing.

When I signed up for the ride, I didn't commit to doing the full distance; 400 km was an option too. I was going to wait and see and I decided to take the short cut. I've taken a risk with my ankle, which still hurts when I put my foot down. Yesterday, the pain short up when I banged mud off my cleats against the pedal.

There's a saying: "Quit while you're ahead." There's another saying: "Pain is temporary, surrender is forever."

So, did I do the right thing to quit?

I found the answer about whether it was the right thing to do on 23 Aug.

Saturday, August 08, 2015


Old Upper Thomson Road, 29 km. This post has an odd label: "training". I'm not training for a race. Or for a charity ride. I'm training for a long ride. It could be 400 km. Or 1,000 km.

I have a choice of distance. I know that if I don't train, it's going to harder. So, do I spread suffering over time, like instalments, or pay in one lump sum? Well, that lump sum will be spread over time too: during the multi-day ride. But, with training, instalments are spread out during the training period and the ride itself.

And why am I unsure whether it'll be 400 or 1,000 km? Because I don't know how my injured limbs will hold up. And it'll be Matt Black's maiden expedition too.

Today, for the first time, I remove her brake pads, which have been screeching complaints at me. I brush it with toothbrush and water (but no toothpaste) and the complaints stop.

If only I could brush away the misfortune that's befallen me again and again, at work and at play. But then, these are the vagaries of life.

Sunday, August 02, 2015


Sengkang, 19 km. I like ginger tea, ginger beer, ginger cats. Today, I ride ginger-ly.

In a right-hand drive world, the left leg is the landing gear. The one you twist to unclip and use for "take off and landing" when cycling. It is this left ankle I twisted last week in an ultra marathon.

Just a few minutes into the race.

Which means that I've get to cover the entire distance on a bad ankle. Make that two bad legs, when I stumble mid-way through the course.

X-rays show left ankle foot wasn't broken. "No running for two weeks," says the doctor, annoyed that I didn't pull out of the race immediately. He didn't say anything about not cycling! I go off-road, but dismount when on uneven ground. If I've to unclip suddenly and plunge my foot down, I'd be in a world of pain ...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rolling good times

File photo
Jul distance: 94 km

Lim Chu Kang Road, 83 km. Little Red Tank rolls silently and smoothly. It feels like new. Was it because I'd lubricated the chain two times, without cleaning it before the second time?

I revisit places I last went to in 2009. Some of these places now exist as map coordinates, but which no longer exist in time. That is, what used to be there, like farms and forest, are no longer there. They're just memories.

All the more reason to explore. With M.

The cycling "loosened" my legs too. My calves are tight from all that training in the past weeks. Well, this time next week, I'd be racing and missing my wheels.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The one thing

Around my home, 11 km. My bicycle creaks incessantly. It's not the seat post. Is it the chainring? Chain? Crank arm? Bottom bracket? To get rid of the noise, get rid of the bike? That's over the top.

On a whim, I change the pedals. I crank it up, no noise, no matter how hard I try.

I've neglected my pedals for so long. I brush off the dirt and oil it with tender loving care.

What's the one thing in your life you need to change?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Doing something worthwhile

Jun distance: 126 km

File photo
Kranji, 69 km. Working hard on the big chain ring, trading fewer revs for more effort, and ultimately not having much fun?

Here's the "theory", now practice. What are the results? Change cadence, change effort, how do the results compare?

Learning isn't not a waste of time, if the student is an earnest learner.

This applies to life too, doesn't it? Putting in so much effort, not really going anywhere. What's the "theory"? What to change? What do you want anyway?

Well, knowing what you don't want is a start.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Serangoon, 18km. I cycle to where I first learnt to cycle, on the road where I rounded a corner at high speed, crashed into a drain, and I limped hone while my dad pushed my bicycle. So, so much has changed. The area where I grew up looks essentially the same. But that was last century, people have grown up, moved away, moved on. What mattered then, doesn't matter now. And what matters now, didn't matter then.

And there are threads that connect the past to the present, and perhaps the future.

I learnt to cycle, to explore, to live with pain. That hasn't changed.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Soft pedal, hard fall

Mandai, 39 km. The blazing, sunny sky grows dark in the afternoon. Will it rain? I've cleaned and lubed Matt Black's chain for the first time. No matter, let's ride.

I'm more hurtling round the bend than cycling. This is dangerous, as the trail is two way. Some cyclists hurtle past me. I finally get to a quiet place. I see a tree root, attempt to roll over it, and crash with a bang.

The crash is so hard, my cyclocomputer dislodges. What happened?

If I was on my rigid Little Red Tank, I wouldn't have crashed. Still unfamiliar with the suspension fork, I wasn't rolling fast enough. The fork absorbs the impact from the root, I stall and crash.

My first crash on Matt Black!

Sunday, May 17, 2015


May distance: 121 km

Upper Thomson Road, 27 km. What a strange ride. From secondary forest, where there's no one in sight, just foliage, unseen biting insects and a spider web that sticks to my handlebars when I blunder into it. To an industrial estate where a pack of dogs goes into a frenzy and one slinks through the bars in the gate and lunges after me. Then to where the landed gentry live, tending gardens outside their compound.

I'd keep exploring, but thunder rumbles above, so I cycle home pronto. I marvel at how effortless this feels, even though I'm non "non-series" Shimano hubs.