Singapore to Desaru (Johore, Malaysia) to Singapore, 346 km.
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
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"?