Fri 7 Sep - Sun 9 Sep
To Mersing, Johore, Malaysia, 436 km. Before this year's Charity Bike n Blade (in aid of Ling Kwang Youth Centre, Pertapis and The Salvation Army), I thought that having cycled this route twice in as many years, the hardest part would be the fundraising, while the ride would be a walk in the park. How wrong I am, as it is hard to walk after each day's ride.
Ahead of myself, behind others
Day 1: Fri 7 Sep, Singapore - Mersing (Johore), 184 km. Lack of sleep and training takes its toll eventually. I have a good start, riding in a pack of seven among 48 cyclists (and 15 bladers). Trying to do my part to pull instead of drafting all the time, I surge ahead too fast several times and am spent soon enough. "Mr Dahon" on a folding bike going at roadie speed drops me. I ride alone thereafter, my legs hurting unusually. My butt hurts too. I coast along, sitting to one side of the saddle. The last 20 km is the hardest. The road mocks me with its interminable hills. When the milestones bear a single digit, I seem to be moving but going nowhere in the 38-degree heat. I perk up only in the last 3 km. When I reach the hotel, I am numb and dumb; I can't even say a word. I go for a massage. The volunteers are hard at work, some even skipping dinner till past 11 pm. Feeling how stressed my body is, one of them insists on giving me a near full-body massage.
"Radio" for help
Day 2: Sat 8 Sep, Mersing - Desaru (Johore), 143 km. In the past two days, I've not had more than six hours' sleep each night. Still, I draft some roadies and Mr Dahon for about 50 km, then drop back. By the time I reach the rest stop about 80 km from Mersing, I've clocked my personal best: 3.5 hours in the saddle. My butt is bruised. I continue my solo ride after lunch, then draft the bladers' van. But the relief is short-lived as the van stops. I play with my cyclocomputer as if it is a radio. The station I hate most is "distance travelled". "Max speed" and "average speed" are boring, as the numbers hardly change. So I tune in to "time elapsed". If only the km moves as fast as the seconds over the hills. A support car draws near a few times to see if I'm ok. Five cows cross the road, fortunately they are not cross with me. A speeding car passes barely 1 m from me; it goes against traffic flow as it overtakes a stream of traffic. At the hotel, a volunteer doctor puts a drip into a cyclist.
This is my first expedition with multi-day contact lenses. At least, I don't have to poke my eyes two times a day.
The Singapore leg, I'm told, is the hardest to organise. It's also the scariest to ride, as we pass through East Coast Park - Easy Collision Possible. Too bad the auxilliary police don't follow us in the park to clear the way. We cycle in a pack, shouting warnings and "thank you" to those who make way. But the inevitable happens when a kid panics looking for the parents and veers into a bicycle.
At Sentosa, some road marshalls miss their cue or point vaguely where we're supposed to go. When there are several routes and the way is unclear, decisive direction is what's needed, not wish-washy thinking or action. We wait for about two hours, with some VIPS including a minister and members of parliament. We cycle to the end point - Harbourfront - in a GRC (Group Representation Cycling, with majority roadies, two folding bikes and a few mountain bikes). At the end of the road, beneficiaries from the charities put up a show for us.