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 :))

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monkey business

Feb distance: 294km.

Woodlands, 58 km. It’s a winding single carriageway. One lane goes this way, the other lane goes the opposite direction. A driver stops his car, takes up an entire lane and opens a window. The monkeys troop out from the forest and open their mouths (to be fed by the driver’s kids) while standing in the other lane for oncoming traffic (and overtaking traffic) to run over them. Or for oncoming and overtaking traffic to crash into each other. So much for the “do not feed the monkeys” signs and fines. I guess some drivers won’t read or even drive properly ...

After I cycle out of the death trap, I come across a bike rally organised by a university. Road marshals, mostly female, some in pairs, some alone, dot the route which includes skirting through a nature reserve. Some marshals stand in the sun while others sit in the shade away from their posts. I marvel at how there is such variation among the marshalls and how safe this place is.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Distance travelled

Woodlands, 51 km. For centuries, the fastest (and furthest) a person could travel was by horse. Then came sail, ocean-going ships, the steam engine and railroads. It was the humble bicycle that led to winged flight, thanks to the Wright Brothers. I still marvel how one can board a plane and, for the price of a decent bicycle and less than 24 hours later, be on the other side of the world - a journey that used to take months. They didn’t have jet lag then, but they’d scurvy.

As I cycle today, trying to catch the sun to recover from jetting across 17 time zones, I see flashing light on a traffic police motorbike, a car by the side of the road at a Y junction, a mangled road bike on the kerbside grass. No sign of the cyclist. A sheepish-looking man, presumably the driver, stands there. Presumably, the cyclist was going straight but the driver wanted to turn into the slip road. If only he’d driven like a sheep instead of a rampaging bull that sent a cyclist to hospital. Good thing pilots don’t usually fly like that.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

From one extreme to another

Mandai, 47 km. First, the saddle seems to close to the stem, which marks the start of a backache. The further I shift the saddle away, the better I feel, until it’s a shift too far. Time to shift back a little, tilt a little, trial and error. Time will tell. With patience comes perseverance, or is it the other way round? Whatever, millimetre by millimetre, we’ll get there. The saddle rails are only so long.

I cut short the adjustment process by comparing Made in England with Made in Italy. Both saddles are similar in length and shape, even though the rails are of different length and angle. What counts is where the saddle is positioned in relation to the sit bones; it would be folly to look first at the bottom of the saddle (the rails) rather than the top. Once the top is roughly in place, then the bottom will be in place. I lower the seat post height too, since Mr Brooks has ‘higher’ rails.

However, if replacing an old saddle with a new one (same brand and model), mark the new saddle’s rails based on the old saddle’s position: put the saddles facing each other (like mirror image) then use a marker to mark the new rails according to the markings on the old rails.

Patience, perseverence and contextual knowledge. All of these take time. Sometimes, a lilttle means a lot. Sometimes, a lot of things mean little. Today, I cross the 50,000 km mark ...

Friday, February 04, 2011

Riding on empty

Kranji, 82 km. A cup of tea and a glass of glucose for good measure. And a cereal bar in my back pocket, just in case, which remains untouched at the end of the day. I've never cycled on such an empty stomach before. With an eye on the sky, I cycle. I hear voices. Turns out to be passengers in a passing car. I hear voices again. I pedal faster. The voices keep up. Turns out to be two roadies asking for directions, not my hallucinations on an empty stomach. The roadies are going totally the wrong way but they keep going. I tell them how they can get back the long way, then I break away. I forget there’re many twists and turns ahead so I give chase and point out the right lane to be in to avoid some scary filtering on a 4-lane road that goes downhill.

The sun still shines so I detour again. I reward myself with a Coke. Now and again, I stop to adjust my saddle. My back hurts, but it’s not the saddle per se, just the adjustment. Trial and error works but first, it’s got to be generally in the right place; major adjustments come first then fine adjustments. Major adjustments, without fine adjustments, don't help. Minor adjustments would take too long. Either way, one might give up too soon.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Italy vs England

Woodlands, 56 km. Leather boots, leather ball. But this age-old battle that involves me doesn’t have to do with football. It’s with saddles. I’ve worn out two Italian saddles - the classic Selle Italia (estd 1897) Flite (official website states the saddle is due for retirement past 15,000 km). It’s been hard looking for a non-gel version of Flite here. And I’m tired of replacing my saddle every few years. Tour de France cyclists ride thousands of km on handmade in Italy saddles, but legend has it that tourers cycle tens of thousands of km on the venerable handmade in England Brooks (estd 1886).

I get out of bed and rush, not to get to work, but to cycle while the sun shines. It’d been raining for 40 hours (whew, not 40 days). This is my first ride with Brooks. It’s like sitting on a plank if one wears padded shorts. Tap the seat, it sounds like knock on wood. Without padded shorts, it’d be like sitting on concrete. The inaugural ride is uncomfortable, but not painful.

Brooks started when the founder’s horse died and he couldn’t quite afford another one. Someone lent him a bicycle, which left him with a pain in the butt. So he made a leather saddle and the rest is history. The company almost rolled into oblivion but about a decade ago, a rescuer rode in and saved the company. The investor? An Italilan company, Selle Royal (estd 1956) ...