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, May 22, 2011

Epochal change

May distance: 471

Punggol, 35 km. There used to be a village here. I know someone who saw the sun rise while brushing her teeth. There were seafood restaurants too. Then, they were all cleared, and the land lay fallow for perhaps two decades. Wide open space, with nothing but beige sand, blue sky and green vegetation. Then, it got boarded up, no entry except for orange bulldozers and other big construction machines. Now, it's a park.

Why were the villagers chased away and the restaurants cleared? Pollution control, progress? Why did the land lie fallow for decades? Now it is going to be a scenic park, to be enjoyed by many. Somehow, I prefer it the way it was, rustic and scenic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where do we go from here?

Lorong Halus, 38 km. Public holiday. "Shake legs" at home, then pedal. Ah, a river without concrete banks, a trail without asphalt. My fat tyres roll with little effort. Then, the trail narrows. Tall grass, soggy ground, pools of black water that swallow my rims and dirt that goes "scrape scrape" between brake pads and rims. Vegetation blocks what's left of the path. But people have been here before me. I walk around the obstacle, the undergrowth wrapping itself around pedals.

Can I tell where the river begins and where the bank ends when I'm off the path? I reach what seems to be a dead end, underneath a bridge. There are two fishermen there, dressed in business casual. I guess they're workers from China. I ask one of them for directions. He certainly didn't cycle to this spot! I backtrack, and meet another mountain biker. He's going past the "dead end" and claims it's passable. He's heading towards storm clouds. Well, I've had enough of water beneath my feet, no thanks to more water from the sky.

As I backtrack, I come across a make-shift bridge and wonder if I should cross to the other bank. I decide to stick to the tried and tested. Good thing I did. Though the grass looked greener on the other bank, it turns out, from a proper vantage point, that there's no trail over there.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Lorong Halus, 51 km. This new decade of this century is so eventful. The Jasmine Revolution takes place in the Middle East. Osama is killed a decade after 9/11. Japan is hit by a triple whammy. In Singapore, the ruling party gets its lowest share of the popular vote ever, which reflects voter disatisfaction.

Things happen to me too, at work and outside work. The year isn't even half-way through. I desperately start looking for the bright side. And go on a bicycle ride. When drowning, light means air. And cycling makes heart light.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Paler shade of white

Tampines, 65 km. Outside, things look the same except for election posters. But there are invisible changes. My bicycle and I are in red and blue, which is the colour of the political landscape, either on party logos or shirt colour. Yesterday's general election is a watershed: the most number of seats contested since independence in 1965.

I cycle through Hougang, which hammered the incumbent in more ways than one. When the results were announced that it remains in the opposition hands of the Worker's Party, the neighbourhood erupted in cheers - this was past 2am.

My outfit has some black too, for the (ex) general who took the bullet for political reform. Collateral damage; many wish it didn't happen, but it did. "It's not personal, it's just politics," they say. When it was announced that the Workers' Party had taken the ex general's district, the neighbourhood roared and tooted car horns.

According to the BBC, "the opposition wins represent their best performance since Singapore became independent from the Malaysian federation in 1965".

I cycle along park connectors which I never knew existed; good roads wind alongside rivers. I recall the votes pulled by the various ministers. The better ones seem to have higher portion of the votes, the Prime Minister has done particularly well. The opposition party that Won Plenty is the most credible. Let's work together now, at least, better than cyclist vs driver, biker vs hiker!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Peak performance vs crestfallen

Thu 28 Apr -  Sun 1 May
Cameron Highlands, 282 km.

I've cycled up Cameron Highlands before but this is the first time I'm: taking a train with my bicycle to Malaysia; cycling from Gua Musang to Cameron ie going up Cameron from the hard side; and sitting on my Brooks saddle abroad.

Day 1 and 2, Thu 28 Apr-Fri 29 Apr, Singapore-Gua Musang-Cameron Highlands (Kelantan), 137 km. I cycle to Tanjong Pagar Station to board the overnight sleeper train. I spend the night half asleep, but there's no half fare. Bicycle stands in the aisle, strapped in the hope that it will not sidle down or be molested. We arrive at Gua Musang before dawn, where I breakfast on cold rice and chicken. And carry as much water as there is space for: 2.5 litres. There's no food or water for about 90 km before we reach the outskirts of Cameron Highlands; streams and road kill don't count.

Dry rations don't serve me well. I cycle so slowly, houseflies fly circles around me like I'm a carcass. I wave them away when they land; carry your own weight! Google Maps shows the terrain to be like crumpled paper initially, then the road keeps going up and up. The long climbs are tough, as I cycle only 50 km per week, plus training for a marathon in four weeks' time.

VC surges ahead on his Surly, complete with racks, fenders, fat tyres and a 10-litre water bag.  I bake in the sun, sweat drips like rain. Then it rains. At that altitude, the rain is piercing cold. Cold, wet and hungry. What more can a cyclo-tourist ask for? A fly-infested shack, where I eat nine fried bananas.

At the hotel, we're told to put the bicycles outside, and to bring it in at night. It is already evening. I say aloud, let's go somewhere else, and the proprietress allows us to put them indoors. Our last climb of the day is up steep steps, four stories high.

Day 3 and 4, Sat 30 Apr-Sun 1 May, Cameron Highlands-Gua Musang-Singapore, 145 km. It's downhill all the way and I like it. I don't realise until today how long the climbs really are. At one point, I hit 64.9 km/h. We reach the outskirts of Gua Musang in early afternoon, where I quaff a litre of Coke. At Gua Musang itself, we check into Fully Inn, the biggest hotel in town, where we'd last stayed in 2005. Today, we're here to shower, chill and wait for our midnight train. It is Kiddy Express, with tots crying and a university undergrad who protests that my bicycle is at the ladder to his bunk. He'd rather I move the bicycle elsewhere so that two bicycles side-by-side will clog up the passageway. I tell him to wake me if he needs help to take down his luggage from his bunk. When teenagers chatter and announce their departure at 5am, I park my bicycle beside an empty bunk.

Epilogue: when I near the crest of hill, my spirit may rise, until I see another long climb beyond the crest, and I know there's more to come, just out of sight. What keeps me going? A "no quit" policy, no ignominy of going up a broom wagon or hitching a ride. VC says we climbed 3,250m (Cameron Highlands itself is 1,500m). I'm glad I didn't know this earlier. If I'd known the future, I wouldn't have started and I wouldn't have lasted till the end. A heavy heart is a heavy load. The other thing that kept me going: songs in my head, specifically Puffy Ami Yumi. I don't know what the Japanese duo sing, but I've not heard a sad melody from them.