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, February 25, 2012

Hemmed in, in the dark

Feb distance: 234 km

Buona Vista, 55km. I pick up where I left off last week along the railway that (mostly) no longer has rails. I carry my bicycle onto the grass as I look for a way to rejoin the railroad, which has been "cut" after a bridge was torn from its foundation.

A metal rod stuck horizontally into the grass whips my shin as I blunder past in the grass. I clamber up a steep 60-degree slope, pushing my bicycle ahead of me. Some dirt slide downs. I abandon the attempt, wary of breaking bone and neck on the pavement one storey below. I pause to clear a fallen branch from the pavement, and finally find a somewhat safer route where the fall wouldn't be as precipitous.

Push bicycle up and place it down, chain-side up. Clamber above bicycle. Hold onto tree. Haul bicycle up to my feet. Clamber on all limbs like a lizard up the embankment. Haul bicycle up. Pause for breath. At the top, a couple is being photographed in their wedding finery. As I near her, I stop to walk in case I lose traction on the gravel and tear her train. "Sorry", she says, "I can't move." I congratulate her, not for being immobile, but for her marriage.

My chain skips. At first, I think it's worn cogs, something I can do nothing about now. Rather than accept fate, I mull over the problem then I turn the barrel adjuster. Problem solved; after thousands of km, it's still cable stretch. My rear derailleur shudders. At first, I think it's broken. Rather than accept fate, I look at my shifter indicator and realise I've cross chained. I shift gear and presto, problem solved.

It gets dark. Real dark. My toe-sized blinker leads the way. The grass at Bukit Timah Railway Station is so long, in some places it's hard to tell in the dark where the platform ends and the grass begins. I dismount to walk.

I see a pin prick of light ahead of me. As it nears, it turns out to be two lights, bobbing about. Two hikers. "Hi," one of them says. I can't even see their faces. I shield my eyes from the glare. My night sight is gone for a while. In the dark, I miss a crucial turn and I find out only with hindsight. I'm hemmed in. On either side is vegetation, drains and fences that kept people out when the trains were running. The trains and railways are gone, but the barriers are still there. I'm hemmed in, in the dark.

There's only forwards or backwards. Given the choice of backtracking to the tall grass and hunger (fortunately, I still have water), I push on. I can't change the past (though I can change how I look at it). In front, there's uncertainty - and also hope. As I struggle on in the dark, it gets harder and harder. Ominous sounds come from the rear. Scrape, scrape, scrape.

When clods of cold wet earth hit my calf, reality hits me. I stop to look at the muddy mess that's clogged my rear brakes. Like a caveman, I use a stone to scrape away the mess. It's not really effective. I grope for my allen keys. In the dim light, it's good to know V-brake components.

I see a parking lot above me. I clamber up the embankment and take my bearings. Thank you street signs and compass!

At the lunacy that's Lornie Road, a driver holds back instead of doing what drivers here are wont to do: overtake cyclist then veer across cyclist's path onto expressway. Later on, a driver shoots from a side road, cuts into my right of way and makes his way across six lanes. I make it home in one piece, muddy but not bloody.

This post is dedicated to B, protector of the peace, wearing blue and feeling blue.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gone to the dogs

Bukit Timah, 59 km. The pack of five dogs in the distance keeps me a safe distance away. They look at me and leave me alone instead of lunging at me. They don't even bark menacingly. But I don't dare cycle into their territory though there's only one way to get to where I want to go - and that's through the pack.

I'm not into chunks of torn flesh from my legs or a torn throat so I head south instead. In broad daylight, I see I've somehow avoided various rods and sticks stuck into the ground when I cycled in the night last week. Just as well I didn't go far in the night: major bridges have been taken out. I suppose it costs less to dismantle them than to maintain them. The "through train" is no longer possible; detours needed to stay on track. No wonder there's only 1 soul around besides me. It's not so fun anymore.

On the bumpy and sometimes muddy ground, I barely make 17 km/h, whereas, on hard packed dirt, 25 km/h is just a cheerful spin.

Tech note: it has been thousands of km since it last happened, but my chain is skipping like a hyperactive kid.  And it has been tens of thousands of km since I've heard "thunk" with crank coming to a sudden halt. Chain suck, that sucks! All these are warning sounds that transmission is winding down and expenditure will rise ...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Into the night

Kranji, 49 km. Two reflectors, two blinkers (one front, one rear), two wheels and one pounding heart. On a whim, I turn into what was formerly Malaysian land that cut the island into half from north to south. It is dark.

There's not a single lamp post nor moon in sight. There are stars in the sky, but with the pin pricks of light they shed, they might as well be white pepper on black tablecloth.

My front blinker, the size of my big toe, makes a pool of light big enough for me to bounce along the former raliway track. The rails, sleepers and gravel are gone. In their place is grass. Trust the government to have arranged to cut the grass.

I bounce along, keeping my eyes peeled as best i can for construction debris - especially metal bars or other things that can poke air out of my tyres and life out of me. Along the way, I pass several streams - all without concrete banks. Natural. I like.

I'll be back.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Bits of conversation

Bukit Timah, 71 km. Three roadies overtake me. I decide to keep up. One of them says: "You're pedaling too hard, get skinny tyres."

While waiting in a park for the ride to start, I see a lady walk two dogs towards parked bikes. "Don't piss on my bike!" I yell. The dog pisses on another bicycle while the lady smiles sheepishly.

During the ride at Tampines trail, a girl crashes. She sits down, puts band-aid on one of several cuts, then asks: "Does anyone have chocolate? I think I'm going into shock." Later on, I see her cycling on the trail. The trail, the mud, the tree roots - everyone has to face them. A few hate it. Others choose to go a second round. Same physical setting, different attitude, different internal conversation, different results.

During lunch at Bukit Timah, some cyclists talk about cycling at 6.20 am (which means they get up earlier to breakfast, dress and ride to the start point). They say: "You think that's early? Some people cycle at 4 or 5." I say: "I cycle at 4 or 5 too, but that's pm not am."

Back home, I struggle to remove one of my shoes. I rip off the velcro straps, but the ankle deep mud has dried up and messed up my micro-adjust buckle. I pour water on it from various angles as if it is severely dehydrated before it releases. Hilarious ...