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 :)

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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.

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