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 :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Peace and quiet

Central Business District, 33 km. I head to town to get Matt Black tuned up. The shrieking front brake persists despite persistent washing. At the bakeshop, I explain the problem and the solution is not more solution (liquid) but replacement. Huh? The pad is barely wornout. Whereas, the solutions thrown up by Mr Google involve washing with various liquids / sprays to remove oil.

So how did oil get on my front brakes? Road spray? Do motorbikes don't seem to have this problem too?

On the way home, I look for a road to peace and quiet, and find it.

Back home, I do my sums and find, to my pleasant surprise, that Matt Black has covered about 1,800 km. How did that happen, since I was riding Little Red Tank too?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Suffer and hate it, or suffer and enjoy it

Not Jurong Town Hall Road, not Old Jurong Road, but Jurong Road
Jurong, 65 km. There've been times when I don't feel like cycling and when I do, I drag my feet.

Today, as in past weeks, I peer out the window, hoping for clear blue sky and clear air. Today seems like such a day. I'm off, in search of memory lane - a pretty road I saw years ago while on a bus, but never cycled on.

The sky turns grey, but not with haze. Water falls, visibility falls, temperature falls, danger rises. I was about to shelter in a bus stop till the rain stops, then remember Velominati rule #9: "If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass … you could suffer and hate it or suffer and enjoy it. Fixating on the unavoidable does little to make one feel better about the matter."

And then I find memory lane. The green open spaces are gone, but it's still a nice, quiet road. There's a busy expressway beside it, but the quiet road remains quiet, the way I like it.

In future, even if there're blue skies and clean air, even if I don't feel like cycling, at least, I can feel grateful.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Bukit Batok, 54 km. Years ago, I sat in a bus and saw a picturesque road. Beside it, there was green grass and open space. Is the road still there? How do you find a road when you don't know it's name or where it is? I set out nonetheless; have bike will travel. I wandered about, but didn't find it. Perhaps it's no longer there. Perhaps it's there but I missed it. Perhaps it's changed so much, I no longer recognise it.

As the song goes, "perhaps, perhaps, perhaps".

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blue skies!

Layers of colours
Oct distance: 107 km

Sembawang, 41 km Smell it! See it! That's right! Pollutant Standards Index is an almost good 56, and it remains so. Sunlight pours down from the clear blue sky through cotton ball white clouds, instead of being shrouded like a corpse in toxic grey ashes.

I cycle to the sea, well, the straits. And stop at a bar which hasn't opened yet (it is afternoon). She serves me a Coke anyway. I have the place all to myself, as staff arrive to start work.

After the ride, I find my tyre flat. What looks like the tip of a nail is stuck in the tyre, beside a knob. The metal didn't hit any knob, the knob didn't elevate the tyre over the tip. Somehow, the tip hit where the rubber meets the road, the point which would cause damage. In thousands of km riding on knobbies, I don't recall finding debris on knobs. Do knobs repel debris back onto the road or onto the tyre where it'd cause damage? Perhaps, it's more likely debris would miss knobs since a smaller surface area of a tyre is knobby?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


"Main road" on a little island north of main island
Coney Island, 66 km. I haven't cycled for almost two months, the longest break ever. Not that I
wanted it. It's the weather. Grey skies, grey with particulate matter and toxic fumes Made in Indonesia.

Today, after heavy rain, 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was 47. Then 57. Then 67. With 10-point increments, I could go somewhere worthwhile: the recently-opened Coney Island. It is mostly rustic. I hope they don't pave the roads. Leave it like dirt ok? But not dirty. The beach is almost litter free. I'm impressed. As for the crowd, I'm surprised. There''re people about on a weekday afternoon. The "main road" allows two cars to pass, but it's like a single track as people walk five abreast.

By the time I get home, PSI is 97. No wonder my throat feels funny in the last hours of the ride. I return home lighter. Not just because of fluid loss, bit because my rear light dropped off. I stopped in time to see it run over by a public bus.

Surprisingly, it's still recognisable as a rear light!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

PM, pm, pm

11-13 Sep, Johor, Malaysia, 197 km

Day 1: 11 Sep. Kong Kong, 63 km
Polling day. Another watershed election (just like in 2011, where percentage votes to the ruling party was the lowest ever). This year, all seats are contested for the first time since independence. What will be the vote share in the Prime Minister's constituency? As I leave the country after voting, will I return to a different kind of government and so a different kind of country?

Polling day is a public holiday over here, but near the border, it is rush hour traffic as we cross in the afternoon (post meridiem). Over here, I'm almost hit by a car passenger who opens her door and crosses the road without looking even once at traffic. and a motorbike wing mirror wings me at immigration.

My bicycle feels funny. Or at least, I feel that it feels funny. It's as if the rear tyre is flat. Phobia? Turns out to be my bag swaying, creating a flat tyre feel.

Night stop: Kong Kong Taison Seafood Resort

Day 2: 12 Sep Kota Tinggi, 70 km (approx). We're temporarily misplaced. Google Map says there's a road here? Then I get lost, separated from the group in mere moments amidst the foilage.

I call out. Blow my  whistle. Make ohone calls. No answer. I backtrack to the the tarred road and wait for a call. What a first...

More off-road. This is Matt Black's first fully-loaded off-road. Even my Little Red Tank hasn't experienced that. I wonder how the tourers, on their skinny three, handle so well: gravel, gullies, soft sand that decelerates tyres suddenly. I plunge downhill as my bike scrabbles downhill on the gravel at over 28 km/h.

At a fork in the road, we somehow split, some take the high road, others the low road. We meet and eat at Ulu Tiram. I've seen it on the map years ago. Now I know why we've not visited before: it's a dusty busy town.

Night stop: Mayres Hotel

Day 3: 13 Sep, Singapore, 64 km (approx). The air is bad, visibility is low. Sure, we can see the road, but not the blue sky. The clouds blend into the battleship grey of Made in Indonesia particulate matter. Around this time in the past few years, haze season would've ended. But the season seems to have shifted. Political mood has shifted too; landslide win for ruling party, with the "men in white" rolling back the "blue sky" party.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Private investigation, public interest

Upper Thomson, 39 km. Over two days (7-8 Sep), I use my bicycle to take photos (with a camera, not the bicycle haha). When facts are interpreted, they might be coloured by opinion not be based on facts. Since I'm the one most affected, it fell upon me to put things right as a matter of public interest: to go onsite, to take photos, stitch them together and ask tough questions, lest misfortune befall other members of the public.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Slow and steady

Good morning Mersing
4-6 Sep, Johor, Malaysia, 279 km

Day 1: 4 Sep. To commeorate Bike 'n' Blade's 10th event, we reprise the route of the 2005 inaugural ride. Instead of a ferry to Desaru, we bus up on 4 Sep. The only cycling I do on is ride 10 km to the bus pickup point. DHL volunteers wraps up our bicycles and loads them. "It's a mountain bike," one volunteer says. Instead of stuffing my machine with the other carbon road bikes in the bus hold, he carries my heavier bike into the bus.

It's great to catch up with some repeat charity riders; we meet once a year. E flew back home from Shanghai just for this. And I'm glad to have  a room mate who doesn't snore; room are assigned randomly.

Nightstop: Pulai Desaru Beach Resort

Rain and shine
Day 2: 5 Sep, Mersing, 135 km. We ride at 7 am. It rains. It's cold. I zip up and ride. The sun comes out. I'm glad, until warm becomes steaming hot.

Non-horizontal, to the horizon
I stop and talk to one volunteer support crew. When I cycle, I have wind to blow away heat, but they stand in the sun. One says cyclists riding in the heat inspire them.

Mersing. I was here two weeks ago. And here I am again. It doesn't get easier. And my butt still hurts. I stop and fiddle with my saddle several times.

So many people pass me by, including a roadie who says "Yay, mountain bike." Two volunteers are on motorbikes: a lady on Ducati and a guy on KTM. I wish I had one of those.

At the hotel, I use an ironing board to dry laundry in the sun, and improvise a plumb line  to adjust my saddle fore-aft position.

Nightstop: Hotel Seri Malaysia Mersing

Feeling at a loss
Day 3: 6 Sep, Desaru, 124 km. After breakfast, I notice my rear tyre is flat. It was ok when I sat on it yesterday afternoon to adjust my saddle.

I look for the hole in the inner tube: I can't see it, feel it, hear it. I fill the sink with water using a makeshift bung, but still fail. I feel the inside of the tyre with both hands but feel at a loss. I replace the inner tube, hoping that what's happened would be like in Inner Mongolia: replacing the tube would fix the problem.

Bad morning
A volunteer checks out of the hotel for me; he says the rest left 5-10 minutes ago. At 7 am, the official flag off time, I sprint to catch up. In the cool morning air, my sweat drips like rain drops on my top tube.

I catch up with riders at the first rest stop. At every stop, I pump up my tyres. It's a slow leak, and I ride slowly. For the first time ever, I see the sweeper, S. He's a regular at charity rides over the years and for the first time, I have a break with him.

Less than 15 km from the end, a sweeper vehicle stops. The crew gently talk me into boarding. This is the first time I'm swept up. I feel deflated like my tyre. Yesterday, "slow and steady wins the race," a roadie told me. Today, a slow and steady leak gets me.

What's the use of cycling on knobby tyres if they puncture like slicks on the road?

On the bus to Singapore, I examine a punctured inner tube. Back in Singapore, I turn the tyre inside out and study it. I just can't see it. I flip the tyre right side up and study it. There, clear as day, a wriggly piece of wire, 1 cm long. It looks like a staple. How did it penetrate the tyre where it hurt most, missing the big knob beside it?

Moral of the story: stick to the discipline of checking the outside of the tyre at the end of every ride, and check the tyre first thing in the morning.

Well, at least my saddle and butt are ok.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saddled with a problem

Aug distance: 648 km

Woodlands, 52 km. It's a pain in the butt to deal with a pain in the butt.

I ride with a different pair of shorts and find myself fiddling with the saddle, mm by mm. Then it hits me: when I cycle uphill, I feel better. Perhaps it's not the fore-aft saddle position that's the answer.

I raise the saddle. Have I found the sweet spot? In a few days' time, when I do a >300 km charity ride, I'll find out.

I also modify my sponsored helmet. The built-in visor dries out my contact lenses. And I need my sight to spot car drivers who veer across my lane to turn, and parents who let their kids play on the road then lose track of how many kids they have. They caution one kid that I'm coming. I jam my hydraulic brakes (my first emergency braking on this rig!), skid and see the dad reach out - not to steady me, but to grab his other kid.

Traffic. What a pain.

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.