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, September 25, 2011

The sky is falling

Sep distance: 449 km

Woodlands, 64 km. Last week, as I was taking part in a mass run, I heard a cracking sound and a tree fell barely 50m ahead of me. Ok, it wasn't a tree, it was a branch as big as a tree (it blocked the entire lane).

Today, I hear a crack above my head. It's not thunder, it's a branch. I'm not going to look up to see whether it's a piece of US space junk falling on me. I sprint to get out of the way. A branch falls one bicycle length ahead of me. Some dry twigs smack into me; it's like being caned. Did it make sense, to sprint away without knowing where the branch is? Is getting hit on the helmet or my neck (I stick it out like a tortoise when I lean forward to sprint) better than getting smashed in the face? All I know is, I'm unfortunate enough to be there when the branch falls, but fortunate enough just to get a whipping.

Two weeks ago was the 10th anniversary of September 11. There were people who were there for just one day (for a meeting) or for the last day (of work after resignation). There were people who missed death by seconds, because they were delayed by something or other. There were people who died in an instant. There were others who fell from the sky.

Clearly, life is unfair. Stuff happens. Things fall out of the sky. I read about the cancer survivor who dies when someone jumps off a building and lands on the one who beat cancer. I also read the sign on the door of someone in a documentary who has an artificial heart (he carries his life support system around in a backpack). The sign says: "There's always, always something to be thankful for."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Windswept, rainswept and wet

Pulau Punggol, 39 km. Yesterday was a cloudy day. All day. I didn't cycle as I thought that would precipitate precipitation. But there was no rain. Today looks like yesterday, so out I go. The wind blows, and I huff and puff as I ride against the wind. Big drops of rain pelt down, taking their time to hit the ground. That's the warm up. Then sheets of rain fall. I spy a little hut, park my bicycle beside it and hurl open the door. A man inside jumps out of his seat as if I'm lightning. I mumble "sorry" and stand outside to chill out in the wind and rain. No point cursing. No point worrying. Think about what to do and if the time to do it hasn't come, just chill out.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Against the wind

Sat 3 Sep - Sun 4 Sep
Singapore to Desaru (Johore, Malaysia) to Singapore, 346 km.

Journey before the journey
Day 1: Sat 3 Sep, Singapore - Desaru, 165 km
My 10th charity ride is Charity Bike n Blade #6. Today is not work so I break a cardinal rule: don't try anything new on a big ride. I break this rule six times.
1. Use a new route to the start point, past filter lanes to expressways and a series of wheel-eating drain covers.
2. No valve caps, to reduce rotational mass.
3. Fill up with a never-tasted-before energy powdered drink.
4. Use only one squeeze bottle; the other has a screw top and needs two hands to get at the contents inside.
5. Use thin instead of thick expedition gloves.
6. No sit-down lunch break. Instead, nibble every hour on dry rations and energy gel, just like Tour de Timor.

This year, there are two foldies, one MTB (mine), a hybrid and the rest are road / tri bikes. That's a whole lot of bicycle and bling; if each machine is conservatively valued at $1,000, there's $100,000 of bicycle on the road. Someone shows me his carbon bicycle; even the spokes, crank and caliper brakes are carbon. The only thing carbon on my bicycle is me, carbon-based life form.

In the past, I tend to surge ahead with the first wave then blow up. This time, I rein myself back and find myself at the end of the peloton. Great, just what I planned. Until a second wave passes me and I realise I was at the end - of the first wave! Still too fast eh?

My first rest break is almost three hours later. The infrequent and short stops take their toll. Both foldies overtake me when I stop and stand to eat some snacks. As I'm going too slowly to draft anyone now, I go solo and look at road kill to break the monotony of going uphill. Besides the usual cats, monkeys, snakes, monitor lizards and birds, I see, for the first time, a porcupine.

My bicycle purrs with pleasure. The chain whirrs effortlessly through the drive train. The slick tyres give silent service. The only thing that isn't working is me. Lack of training, sleep and proper food, plus a rumbly in my tummy from the strange powdered drink are my ball and chain. I want to give up and take the short, 100 km route, but somehow press on. The energy comes from tradition: never give up, keep going.

By the time I get to the hotel, it's as if I'm the last man in. People clap. Members of the search party I guess. I hear half the cyclists had taken the 100 km route. While I get bonus mileage from the ride to the start point this morning.

Hot and windy
Day 2: Sun 4 Sep, Desaru - Singapore, 181 km.

As if I'm still and asleep, waves pass over me. Actually, they pass beside me, these lighter-than-mine bicycles. When another peloton passes by, I feel like a stray dog and latch on. One cyclist goes over a pothole and his tyre is holed. Air hisses like an angry snake. Everything stops except the air.

I wonder about some of these triathletes; some cycle with neither saddle bag nor tyre pump. Who needs inner tube or pump?! Whip out mobile phone, speak and a car appears with tools and spares.

It is hotter today than yesterday. Those guys who have crew cuts or even shaved heads are now the coolest dudes in the pelotons. I wonder how long-haired girls do it. Well, it's a fact, women live longer than men; they are made of sterner stuff.

Salt pours through my pores and stains my arm warmers like mould. I am thankful for the ice cold, sponsored 100Plus isotonic drink. I meet the legendary founder of Joyriders. She cycles six days a week. Her sole rest day is my sole cycling day ...

The song "Against the wind" plays in my head. The speedy cyclists are way ahead, and many others have taken the short route. Heat didn't quite bother me in the last Bike n Blade but then, my solar-powered, air- and liquid-cooled body wasn't getting older by the day. I pull up beside a stationary support car. The crew helpfully suggest I pour cold water on myself besides drinking it. "See the steam rise?" I ask. I protest in shame as someone holds an umbrella over me.

Why should the safety vehicle be behind me and draft me? We turn the tables and put some zing into things. We pass a sole roadie. "Come on!" I yell. He pulls beside me then sanity takes over him and he drops back. The car and I move as if there's an invisible bungee cord between us and we move like this until I'm on the outskirts of town. We pack, wrap our bicycles in cling wrap for the bus ride back to Singapore. We debus, and I cycle home.

Will I be back here next year? Will I be on a mountain bike or, as M asks, will I "downgrade to a road bike"?