18-19 Apr. To Kluang, 278 km. It's a bad start. Although it's 6.15 am on a public holiday (Good Friday), I almost get clipped by a car - and I haven't even left Ang Mo Kio yet. Then, I'm supposed to cycle to Upp Thomson Rd, meet a friend then proceed to Woodlands. My friend isn't there. I call a couple of times, but phone is off (and this is after I tell my friend to be contactable). I wait, but get no notification that my friend is late. How long to wait - buffer time is all used up. No sight, no sound, so I SMS my friend goodbye and scoot off to Woodlands. Sure don't want to miss the ride. On the way there, I nearly got sandwiched between two vehicles. Oh God, please let all this be the worst part of the ride.
Indeed, that is the worst part of the ride. The good things that happen:
I make it to Woodlands just in time. The bike leader, FP, is already there. Other cyclists show up, including my missing in action friend. Off we go to the Causeway, where we are surrounded by a long trail of motorcyclists. I avoid burns from their exhaust pipes.
I see TSY riding a really classic bike: Bridgestone MB0; it is 12 years old. Chromoly frame, of course. She's upgraded it with all-Shimano parts including 9-speed casette and the upgrade cost about $500. Well, look at her go! She's really great to draft behind, as she signals road hazards ahead with her hands. (I draft behind another rider and "bang", my pedal hits a rock - yup, that's how big the rock was.
This is the first time I cycle with FP. It's discouraging, yet inspiring. So, this is real cycling. FP rides his bike (a Scott, carbon frame, with 1.25" tyres) so fast, he's out of sight. He cycles about 500 km each week. No wonder he briefs us: "If we get separated, just go straight. If you come to a fork in the road, turn right."
At times, I feel like giving up but I survive. We're cycling around two hours before each break. On Day 1, we cycle in the burning noonday sun, going up interminable hills that don't seem to go downhill. On Day 2, the sky taunts us as we apply sunblock but it keeps raining. As the Endurance Queen DC cruises past me, I just feel like yelling "ah, forget it, I give up" and throwing my bike down. Whenever I feel like giving up, it is time to stop. Seeing FP by the road side is a welcome sight because it means break time.
DC says I'm really stoned, just gazing into nothingness. Indeed, it's like concussion - on Day 1, I barely notice when a truck honked at me twice. When I look up, it's bearing down on me as it goes against traffic flow. But I'm too tired to care. On Day 2, I take some risks as I ride past on the uneven roads as I hurtle past roadworks and vehicles. Thank God I don't become like the "road pizza" of monitor lizards and snakes along the roads.
I'm the King of Pain. My leg almost cramps, and my right knee hurts - but it's not debilitating. My butt hurts - on Day 2, I'm desperate enough to stuff a t-shirt down my shorts. Though it doesn't work, thank God I cope with the pain in the butt just like I cope with the pain in my neck (caused by my glasses sliding down my face as if they were bifocals - which means I have to raise my head higher just to see the road)
I sometimes feel like I'm cycling solo in a strange land. Indeed, have never been on the road to Kluang before. Sometimes, I can't see any rider in front of me or behind me. Going at 30 kmh or more, a pause of 1 minute means a gap of 500m. But thank God, I didn't get lost.
We stay overnight in a luxurious hotel - it has aircon, carpet, tv, even a bath tub. Sure beats Pengarang.
Chain only skips once on the entire trip!
Tech note Back in Singapore, I drop by my favourite Ang Mo Kio bikeshop and change my new semi slicks (which are now "rain proven") into slick tyres. The following day, I visit Treknology Bikes at Holland Grove. I see two chromoly Marin bikes - the old one costs $1,000 but the front d doesn't quite work. The new bike is $1,600 after a $1,000 discount. Though it's "new", it's an old model and it does look old.