To Mount Faber, 42 km. Cars and taxis that cut in front of you. Buses that swerve into your path from the right or from bus bays on the left. It can be deadly on the roads for cyclists. Tonight, I have a few close calls. It doesn't help that at one junction, there is a "fatal accident" police notice. Tonight, I also cycle on Sime Road, with tombstones on either side. Ironically, this route is to escape the deadly road that is Lornie / Adam Road, with its slip roads leading to the expressway. LSL and his pal W lead the way for me to Adam Road Hawker Centre. This is my first Friday West Night Ride (FWNR). The Togoparts cyclists on this ride have different psychographics compared to the FENR riders. What's common to both however is the high end bicycles, eg Canondale and Klein. And, of course, the only Iron Horse - mine.
Tech note Managed to get my front d to shift to #1 this time, by pedalling slow. Of course, there's a risk that if the chain doesn't shift, I'll stall in #2. My new wheelset performs beautifully. It's quieter, smoother. I hit 42 km/h easily. One of my brake pads has a tiny speck of metal on it. Hope it's a leftover from the old rim. Bikeshop man has adjusted the pads well - no squealing at all despite having old pads on new rims.
Tue 27 May: New toys
Ang Mo Kio, 5 km Tech note To find a solution to my rim problem, I go to two bicycle shops today. One of them, in town, quotes me $250 to upgrade my wheelset to Deore, plus derailleurs, shifters and 8-speed casette. So cheap - calculation error or misunderstanding? After work, I cycle to my regular shop, which quotes "at least $300". The shop has another pair of wheels - Alex rims, just like my old ones. For freewheel too. The difference: new wheels are double walled (instead of single walled), 32 spokes (instead of 36) and aluminium hubs (instead of steel). The new ones are broader too. All of which mean I don't save any weight - bicycle is still 13 kg. To change or not to change? I decide that changing to eight speed plus other parts introduces too many unknown variables. So I go for the Alex wheelset. Clearly, my old front hub is wonky - must be all that pounding on the trails. The old rear hub seems OK. Anyway, with my new set of wheels, I can feel the difference. Can't wait to road test it. Cost me $150. Looks better too.
Afternote: I go back to the shop in town to check the price again. He assures me I didn't misunderstand. I go to another shop and am quoted $350 for Deore parts. Well, it looks like there's hope for the horse yet, except perhaps if the fork goes.
Fri 23 May: Five firsts
To Mount Faber and Telok Blangah hill, 48 km. What an eventful night. First time cycling with Togoparts. First time cycling up Mount Faber. First time up Telok Blangah. First time cycling down Orchard Rd. And first time cycling three abreast on the road. We thirty riders take up an entire lane. At times, motorists get nervous, instead of the other way round. There's safety in numbers. Well, sort of. Got to watch out for unexpected movements within the pack when other cyclists get too close; like when someone cycling on the pavement jumps out beside you. Or, when going up the hills, riders stall suddenly in front of you. Worse, one cyclist to my right stalled and fell, still clipped to his pedals. Good thing his limbs didn't flail under my wheels. I meet some pals K, H and LSH, and make some new friends: A and generous J who buys drinks for five of us. I also introduce myself to bikeleader N, who has a cyclist's physique: long wiry limbs and aerodynamic torso.
Tech note Front d as usual gives me problems. It's no joke trying to get up Mount Faber on a heavy Horse without chainring #1; fortunately, I don't stall. It's also no joke getting down Mount Faber without front brakes - some metallic debris as usual gets stuck on the pads and I don't want to shred my rims.
Wed 21 May: Two by two, near the zoo
To Seletar and Mandai, 33 km. Just as the animals went into Noah's ark two by two, we cycle two by two for self-preservation at times. There's safety in numbers and from the back, hopefully drivers will think there are road works ahead when they see multiple red blinkers. But as we cycle on busier roads, the feeling of vehicles whizzing too close for comfort makes me stick close to the kerb and it's single file again. Tonight, I ride with roadies "Padre" and "R". Actually, it's more like trying to chase after their blinkers, which wink teasingly at me in the night. I almost catch up with R along Upper Seletar Reservoir. Then, he stands on his pedals and leaves me way behind again. Anyway, cycling on my semi-slicks is exhilarating. It's a kind of magic, to balance on two wheels at up to 41 km/h on flat roads, with the wind in my face. Plus the companionship of nine other cyclists tonight, including M, whom I've not seen since 16 Feb. We stop by Casuarina Rd for supper as usual.
Tech note My front d seems to have two modes: on road and off road. On road means the chain shifts only from #3 to #2 or vice versa, but not from #2 to #1. Off road means the chain shifts from #2 to #1 or vice versa, but not from #2 t #3. What a joke! And my white watch, which has been with me for hundreds of km, conks out too. It's corroded with all that sweat and is beyond repair. What a pity. White watches are rare and mine matches my home-made sweat-absorbing "turban", t-shirt and socks. Sigh. Wonder what I'll feel if my Horse is beyond repair too.
11 May: Mission accomplished!
To Seletar and Sembawang, 55 km. This is the last ride I'm organising on behalf of Bikerboey before she returns from South America on 25 May. Today's ride (the fourth in as many months) comes full circle - the first ride I'd ever led was to Sembawang too, on 3 Feb. This ride is also the most fun ride I've ever led. It's the slowest ride ever, with no need to cycle fast and no pain from lactic acid buildup. I ride at average 18 km/h, sometimes just coasting along without pedalling and sometimes going at around 10 km/h, which is like stalling speed. We cycle on the road and do some off-road. We see wide open spaces, birds and butterflies, streams, the sea and the sun filters through the cloudy sky, shedding light without scorching skin. The ride is also memorable because of the riders:
- G, on an A-frame Trek, knows Yishun and the places to eat
- G, on a hardtail purple Trek, gets the helpful rider award for "back marker", looking after newbie H
- H has Unlimited generosity; she buys satay for all of us
- The two Giants, for sheer good-natured entertainment. I'm pleasantly surprised to see Carbon Giant join a slack ride like this - he usually goes above 35 km/h. And Gentle Giant is "fined" for being late - she buys drinks all round.
- Gentle Giant tells me she should go on more rides with me, because she's regained her joy of cycling today instead of racing. Sure, we cycled about three hours, but we stopped to take in the sights and to talk to each other too. Which is part of the fun of cycling in a group.
Tech note Another first - today is the first time I'm wearing a branded jersey. Supposed to be cool. Maybe it looks cool, but cotton feels better ... and it's way cheaper.
Thu 8 May: "Church of the Knobby Tyre"
To Admiralty Rd West, 47 km. Office meeting ends and I flee like the wind so I can ride like the wind. I meet more people, including "the padre" of the "Church of the Knobby Tyre". His jersey shows a medieval monk, with a halo, on a mountain bike. All with a stained glass effect. Well, the monk may be on a mountain bike, but the padre is on a Trek OCLV. He leads the ride. At first, he goes at about 16 km/h. Hmmm, that's slack. But as it turns out, that's to warm up. Soon, we're tearing up the hills of Sembawang Rd at 30, then 40 km/h. Soon, he pulls away, a little blinking red dot on the little red dot that's Singapore. We reach Admiralty Road West. It's beautiful by day and more so at night, as the lights of Johore reflect off the black waters of the Straits of Johore. Too bad about the dogs though. While they ignore the other bikers, one of them barks at me. And on the roads, we pass by a few BMX bikers. One of them shoots out and cuts in front of me, with less than an elbow length to spare, then laughs maniacally.
Tech note My XTR brakes seem to keep picking up bits and pieces from my alloy rims. I find these itsy bitsy shiny bits embedded in the pads, which make an awful sound whenever I brake. Are they braking or breaking?
Sun 4 May: Alone again, naturally
To Pasir Ris and Tampines, 50 km. I don't know if my pals are organising any rides, so today is solo day. Group cycling can be fun, but going solo has its advantages too. I cycle as hard and fast as I want, or not. I stop to explore, sometimes on foot eg Tampines Ind Ave 2. It's a road with barely any traffic. When I'm solo, I can soak in the atmosphere as long as I want. Hills, trees and the lullaby of trickling water. A toad looks at my bike. I ride on, then stop to check out interesting scenery. What lies beyond that hill? I tread carefully on the soggy ground. Up the hill, I spy a road. But it's gonna be tough getting my bike up there. Silence. Any dogs lying in wait? Near Lor Halus, signage indicates pet farms in the area. I hear barking but somehow, it doesn't sound threatening - maybe it's because I know the dogs are locked up. Or maybe I've heard enough dogs baying for blood to know when it's time to flee.
I meet H, LCT and his friend K at Tay Cycle. LCT shows me a Kona chromoly. After lunch, we cycle to SCH but ... it's closed! H asks me when I'm getting a new bike. I say, when a critical component fails and I can't find spares.
Tech note Just out of Ang Mo Kio, while I'm still fresh, I hit 44.6 km/h. Could I have gone faster? Maybe, but for the red lights ahead. Today is also the first time in my life I cycle with arm warmers. Actually, they feel cool :-) except when I stop and the sun beats down.
Sat 3 May: Mutually scared
To Seletar and Sembawang, 46 km. It rained buckets today. So when the sky clears in the evening, I hop on my horse and recce for May's BOAC ride. At Seletar West Farmway, I turn ... and see a couple of dogs ... and a dead end ahead of me. Gulp. I turn and pedal oh so slowly, so gingerly past the dogs. One of them actually jumps when it sees me, but they all leave me alone. I guess it isn't werewolf time or not there isn't enough dogs for critical mass. The area is really a maze, and amazing too. Down to the airbase, past the beauty of Yishun Ave 1, then to Sembawang. I've been cycling non-stop for two hours, then stop by Cheap John's and hey, they have a pair of arm warmers. Goodbye sunburn pains - I apply sun block but I guess the noon day sun is too strong even for SPF30? I admire the bikes there - a Marin for only $650?
Thu (Labour Day) 1 May: Off-road on slicks
To Ubin, 69 km. I take a chance of road rash and face plants by going off-road with my slick tyres, because I'm too lazy to change tyres after last night's ride to Changi. I only have about five hours sleep, then back to Changi again. At Changi, I meet Gentle Giant's colleagues, most of whom ride fierce-looking bicycles. And me on my rigid, ancient horse. For the first time ever, I ride a trail with slick tyres. I take a pounding on the trail, especially downhill. Worse, my front d isn't working well - it refuses to shift from #2 to #1. My right knee hurts after last night's race with G. Anyway, I have some thrills without spills. Back home, I snatch some sleep, then clean my chain with "Chain Gang". Wow, my chain looks like new now but all that muck is all over the floor. And as I dispose of the muck, I end up having to clean the toilet too ... The ride doesn't quite make up for the ride to Malacca, which is supposed to start today, led by P. But my leave isn't approved. There goes another record-breaker - I could've cycled 400 km.