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 :)

Blogging since 2003. Thank you for reading :))

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ride the waves

May distance: 560

Kluang, Johor, Malaysia
Day 1, Vesak Day, 156 km. The last time the three of us had cycled together was in 2005, on the long ride straight up the middle of Peninsula Malaysia. Since then, the other two have cycled together the length of UK. Why did I get up before the crack of dawn to cycle with them today? Things are inverse; the small Asian dude has fat tyres, the big guys have thin road tyres. We stop by a little village to refuel. Like a tiny hamster, I have to keep eating. Big guys don't have to eat a lot. I hear that bears, unlike hamsters, can go without food for a long time :o The village is so small, there's only lontong to eat but the lack of variety is made up by the friendliness. Two villagers offer, unasked, directions to where we're going. Another takes a photo of us.

My front wheel springs a leak. It's not that I'm overweight! As the wheel sags, my spirit flags - the cumulative effect of sleep deficit and work excitement. Now, I have the added excitement of stopping every half hour to pump up my tyre. I cycle ahead; the longer I'm on the road, the more I'll have to pump my tyre. Once in a while, there are trees by the road. Where there are many trees, the air is discernably cooler. The weather blows hot and cold; the burning sun gives way to rain clouds. I ride at the edge of the clouds and soon I'm back in the sunlight. My pals, in the rear, stop and shelter from the lighting. At our destination, my room mate might be the sole American in Kluang, putting up at a hotel called the White House. But there's no shelter from the giggling girls who chatter and run along the corridor outside our room. The young and the restless ...

Day 2, Saturday, 149 km. Rolling on fat tyres takes far more physical energy than changing the tyres to slicks. But, the mental effort to change tyres exceeds the mental energy to ride on fat tyres. As I wonder on the oddness of it all, I notice the oddness of the things on the road. Sure, there's the usual roadkill: snakes, cats, birds. Then I see a chicken foot; it's a clean amputation. A few minutes later, I see another chicken foot. I don't stop to see if the chicken had two left feet, but it certainly left its feet behind. I also see two cushions and a pair of trousers.

As I cycle on, I so want to stop by a dentist and ask for novocain. For my butt. Would that numb my butt or would my legs go numb too? By now, the sun is burning and we stop almost every half hour to rehydrate. And, just like yesterday, the rains come in the afternoon. No need to rehydrate then, with water pouring from the sky and from below. Rain pours from above and rushes down the road. As cars pass, water roars from the right, wash over bicycle wheels, crash against the curb on the and meet the next surge of water from the right. As I ride the waves, I hope I won't sail over my handlebars.

Not that I have to worry for long, as the rain clouds don't seem to have an exit permit beyond Malaysia. They peter out near the border. Where a puncture awaits me. How do you fix a tyre when traffic is rushing past a metre away? A construction worker unchains the gate to a work site and lets me in. He barely speaks English but his kindness is eloquent enough. I can't find the source of the puncture but replace the inner tube anyway. I certainly don't want to cycle home in the dark. I make it home, whereupon the rear tyre deflates completely. I find a 1 cm wire embedded in the tyre.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When things go ride

Woodlands, 50 km. Part of the sky is cloudy but the rest is sunny. I decide to ride and go for a nice lunch at a certain shop. I dress up in my cycling togs, grab my bicycle. A few pedal strokes later, it rains. Grey clouds stretch as far as I can see. It's a dirty drizzle, wet enough to wet the road so that dirty water from the road sprays up, with the rain not heavy enough to wash the road grime away. As today is a working day for most people, I mistakenly think the traffic will be light. A truck honks me, it pulls so close to me I pull into a bus lane to let death pass. A puddle lies ahead of me, a car joyfully plunges through it and drenches me with spray. As for lunch, that certain spot is closed! Ugh, what a ride. Until I become grateful I make it home alive, without a scratch. My gears shift flawlessly and I wasn't floored when I ride gingerly on wet, slick metal plates on the road where some road work is going on. Many things in a day go right, right? Even a crummy ride has its good side.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Deficit financing

Gangsa, 51 km. I spent yesterday catching up on sleep. Sleep deficit that had built up due to work-related reasons. I want to sleep today, but somehow get up to ride. As I cycle past the nature reserve, the air is cool to the touch. With trees on either side of the road, shadows and a huge green lung mean there's less concrete to bake. Global warming is a form of deficit financing, going into debt using tomorrow's resources for today.

I see a sign-post and detour to check out a new trail. Without my asking for help, another cyclist in the area points the way in and tells me where to go. I end up on Gangsa, which I've not been to for years. I bounce along on my rigid bike and my semi-slick tyres slide about on the wet earth. Fortunately, I do not crash. Though it is noon, there are other bikers about, some resting, others going the other way. Somewhat dangerous, to have two-way traffic on what is sometimes single-track terrain. I ring my bell around blind corners and blind upslopes; sounds so incongruous in the jungle. I'll be back - with more water and with food next time. No calorie or other deficits for me ...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bikes, bites and a break

Bukit Timah, 43 km. While others are out cycling, I'm in bed catching up on sleep. As I head out, the sun is high but dark clouds loom ahead. So instead of heading as far north as one can go on this little island, I decide to drop by a new bike shop, which also sells things to eat ("bites").  I ogle at the gleaming carbon frames and other gleaming toys. There are bicycle jerseys too. I wonder why people wear white ones, like the one I wear today. It is tempting fate, it is tempting road grime and puddles to splatter all over it, to turn washed jerseys that smell nice but look unwashed. Yes, it rains today, but I have a break today. As I cycle, the rain falls ahead of me. By the time I get there, the road is wet but does not splash up. The rain has damped down the oppressive heat that beats down from the sky and wafts up from the ground. It is cool, it is nice. What a break!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Mentally-physically mentality

Tuas, 111 km. I didn't ride last week. Just didn't feel like it, so I kept my cycling gear. Burnout?

Today, I cycled till there's no more road. When there's a goal in mind, that's a goal in sight. When my speed drops by 30%, I stop to rest a few minutes. Headwinds blast against me, the sun beats down on me, but weather forecast says it'll rain here. I think it's another wrong forecast. Little do I know, the clouds are waiting till it's dark and I'm tired. I see mist ahead. I hope against hope that it's not pouring rain, but it is. I cycle the other way and promptly get lost. Mostly by compass bearing and some dead reckoning, I pass a cross on a distinctive steeple silhouetted against the sky. I follow it as if it's the star of Bethlehem and soon enough, I'm on the road home.