To Johore, 64 km. We see a couple of heavily-laden Fuji bikes and go over to talk to the Korean couple. They are on an epic journey covering Europe and Asia. They have cycled from China to Johore and are going to Thailand to buy air tickets. It's cheaper there, they say, compared to Singapore and Malaysia. We wish each other safe journey and ride on. Today's ride is a "welcome back" ride from AF; I hadn't cycled with him since 2 Feb, until he returned from abroad. So I don't miss this ride, though I have only four hours sleep after my 30 Aug ride. Joining the ride are some cyclists I've met before: W and LYL. Looks like I'm getting to know more and more serious riders; those who can ride for hours non-stop. Bike rides with them are a pain in the butt unless I wear bicycle shorts!
Tech note One of the cyclists on 1.25" tyres has a puncture. OK, I give up my idea of such tyres as they blow out more frequently. That's why I literally dumped my racer in the first place at the garbage dump in 1995 to get horsey.
Sat 30 Aug: Starry starry night
Photo courtesy of Gentle GiantWed 27 Aug: Mars, here we come
To Sembawang Park, 33 km. Mars is closer to Earth than it's ever been in the past 60,000 years. We cycle to Sembawang Park to check out the red planet. It's a bright dot in the night sky, like someone far away pointing a torch with a bright yellow beam. Besides Mars, we also see cyclists who gather on Saturday nights at Bishan Park 2, 7.30 pm. They're serious riders - just look at their gleaming, well-used bikes. Reminds me of me. Joining the ride for the second time is D, on a Titanium Merlin. He's 56 years old but I struggle to overtake him sometimes. Speed is relative. I go at 40 km/h. The roadies zip past me as usual. A Porsche appears and cruises past us; I don't even get to draft behind it for a micro-second.
Tech note I test drive a Trek 7500FX. Bikeshop man (Orchard Road ) says it's the bicycle for me, judging from the smile on my face. At $1,700, it sure rides better than the $900 Marin with lower end parts (my horse can beat the Marin anytime). On the Trek, I crest a steep little slope in my office clothes without breaking into a sweat. RN tells me this is the bike Koo Swee Cheow is riding to Beijing.
Sun 24 Aug: From soft light to strong sun
To Bukit Panjang and Lim Chu Kang, 82 km. It's 7 am. The soft dawn light caresses the still waters of Seletar Reservoir. The quiet waters mirrow the mood of the dawn sky - gloom. There isn't a cloud to be seen in the sky, just a vast expanse of grey. Somehow, there's beauty in melancholy. The joggers and cyclists are out on the streets. At Bukit Panjang, the hustle and bustle of Sunday market marks the start of the ride - it's just Bikerboey and me, with a handful of joggers. For the first time, I meet Tim of BOAC. We take to our wheels and part ways towards the biking trail, including a flooded track with tadpoles. What a mess. For the third week in a row, I've to clean my bicycle.
Tech note I feel tired today. Maybe I'm tired of my horse; I'd ridden it for 6,920 km. It's better equipped now than it has ever been, yet I can't ride with the roadies and have to forgo a ride to Batu Pahat next week. How can I go at 38-40 km/h constant speed?
Sat 23 Aug: Road rage
To Sims Ave, 32 km. It's midnight. The couple saunter across the road which belongs to their grandfather. Not knowing their ancestry, a motorist honks them. The couple scurries away - right into my path. I brake and shake my head. The guy yells at me and wants to fight. His girlfriend calls him back like one calls a runaway dog. I follow my standard procedure when meeting a rabid dog: pedal away. The guy has no road sense and is a road pizza candidate. I'd just come back from a durian supper with the 16 NPCC fellows and guests including Gentle Giant and LCT (the latter tells me about the Thailand ride I'd missed and the wonders of XTR components). This is the second ride I'm leading after the NPCC round island. On both occasions, I lead them astray. Somehow, I manage to find my way home in 30 minutes even though I'd no idea where I was when supping on durians.
Wed 20 Aug: ???
To Kranji, Lim Chu Kang, Bukit Timah, 61 km. It's sounds impossible. I see it with my own eyes but still find it hard to believe. J, on a Titus titanium bike and 2.1" knobbies, cruises past me while I'm going at 41 km/h. And this isn't just a flash in a pan. For most of the ride, he's out there in front with the roadies. I draft behind them but soon get left behind. I'm glad I can draft behind WH to catch my breath before zooming off again in search of the roadies. Four of the cyclists, including two guests "picked up" along the road, drop out at the end of Mandai Road. The rest of us go on to Kranji. Though there's seven of us left, it still feels spooky along the roads there. I'm almost glad to see the occasional truck go by! At Bukit Timah, a reckless driver turns and almost turns G into road pizza.
Tech note Menthol lip balm is mmmmm.
Sun 17 Aug: Bike fix
Ang Mo Kio, 5 km.
Tech note I drop by my regular bike shop man after an exhausting day of chores including cleaning and lubing my bicycle. He swaps a nut on my headset and waves away my offer of payment. I ask him if he has tyre patches and ask him how the should be fixed. As he doesn't sell loose tyre patches, I go to another shop and spend $1 for five patches and $1 for a large tube of glue.
Wed 13 Aug: Foreign talent
To Marina and Kallang, 38 km. His chain fell off and he stood on the left lane trying to fix it. I motion to him to move onto the grass verge so he doesn't get mown down by traffic. With my eloquent sign language, I help him to put the chain back on. "Thank you", he says in his accent (Bangladesh?). I cycle on. Along the way, I see his compatriot in slippers on a heavy steel bike. Despite his getup, he's going at 30 km/h. I wonder why they are cycling - did they just get off work at 11 pm while I ride for fun? Tonight, there's just three of us night riders as there was no e-mail notification. We turn up anyway and I lead them via Dyson Road to Evans Road. RN (on his carbon full-suspension Trek - no wonder he's so fast) takes us up the steps to the Marina viaduct. We then head towards the Indoor Stadium for a break. Doesn't really count - I'm supposed to be on my way today to Thailand with Bikerboey & Co for rides and durian. But duty calls - for the fourth time in a row, leave is canned.
National Day, Sat 9 Aug: Fireworks
I forget my helmet and go home to get it. I forget my water bottle and go home again to get it. I get lost in Bukit Panjang. Twice. I am 40 minutes late and 14 of them wait for me. After cycling 40 km, I don't even have a chance to empty my bladder and fill up my water bottle. Our first guide for the day, "Norman", takes us to some place around Bukit Timah. There are thorns and roots all over. Still, I get to see a butterfly landing on road queen's colourful watch. After lunch, I take over the ride. And get lost in Bukit Panjang - again - this time with everyone following me on an unmerry go round.
Though I am on slicks at 46 psi (first time), I don't't fall or shed any blood at Bukit Timah like some of my pals. LX has a bad time; she doesn't unclip in time and gets a few long scratches. She loses her $300 glasses too. Another rider doesn't unclip in time and breaks his XT rear d. And in the afternoon, Gentle Giant is so knackered she decides not to see the fireworks. Today, I lead them to Turut Track. Though I ride with trepidation, guess what - no dogs!
Tech note The trails is so bad, my headset is shaken loose. I go to the bike shop at 9 pm and it's still open. Bikeshop man sullenly lends me his spanner. It's only when I buy a floor pump and lizard skin that he opens up. I ask him what happens if the threads on my headset are stripped away. He agrees that'll be the end of my horse. I wonder if and when that will happen. At Bukit Timah, the Avianti rider shows me a crack on his headset - a candidate for catastrophic frame failure. Another cyclist, J, is on a 10-year-old Clark Kent titanium frame. Maybe I should get a titanium frame, if it lasts for such a long time.
$25 floor pump works like a breeze. When I attach the hose, the gauge tells me how many psi my tyre is right away. And the pump supposedly goes up to 160 psi. No problem going up to 50 psi, which is the highest I've ever gone. Wait till I ride with the "padre" again!
Wed 6 Aug: Keep pace or lose the race
To Changi, 62 km. The three roadies streak ahead. I gasp to stay on their tails at 38 km/h throughout all of East Coast. W stays on my tail. Somewhere along East Coast, W drops out but I respect her a lot for keeping up thus far - she'd done a triathlon over the weekend. The "padre" is surprised I'm still around. But soon after reaching Changi Coast Road, I too drop out - I suddenly think about a crummy meeting tomorrow and I just lost heart, dropped the pace and in seconds it was too late to catch up. Tonight, we dine at Changi Village instead of Casuarina Road.
Sat 2 Aug: Smiling in the wind
To Changi, 58 km. The wind roars past my ears and buffets my face, lifting it into a smile. Above the wind, I hear the hum of knobbies from my fellow riders. It is sheer joy to be on the road. Tonight, I cycle with a group of togoparts riders I've never met before. It'd rained, but it stops and the nine of us brave the red sky to roll on the roads. At Changi Village, they ply me with food and drink, and refuse to accept payment. They even ask if I've plastic bags for my phone in case it rains. Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes. At East Coast, fear of a squall overtakes me and I break away for home. I break my flat road speed record, from 42 to 46 km/h.
Tech note How did I break the speed record after months of trying? Perhaps because I lowered my bar ends and raised my seat past the knee pain point. I also pumped my tyres to 45 psi for the first time, thanks to advice from J, whom I met on 30 Jul.