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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Sunday, June 17, 2012

All in the head

16-17 Jun, Batu Pahat, Johore, Malaysia, 354 km

Sluggish headset
Waiting till the cows come home
Day 1: 16 Jun, Batu Pahat, 169 km. I have a feeling of deja vu. Two weeks ago, I headed towards the causeway: same time, same place, same feelings. Again, someone (S) is late, but this time it's for almost two hours. As I wait, I tell myself I've to remind myself, until I am unconsciously able, to look on the bright side. The two things that happened this year are bad, but there is also some good. Rinse and repeat, that's how to wash away sad thoughts.

What's the point of a journey if you return to where you started and feel the same? At least, have fun on the trip. And when the trip is over, don't lament that it's over. So, when an era ends, remember how good it was, not just that it's over. There's nothing I can do about the latter anyway. Which is not to say, I didn't try my best. For hundreds and hundreds of km, I've thought about it and I know there wasn't much else I could do. "Everything has a beginning and an end ..."

On the road, I am disorientated. Old roads and villages, so picturesque then, are gone. It's like a different world now. My headset feels pitted and sluggish. And I've got over 100 km to go.

Seeing double: two Simple Ones

At Pekan Nanas, I buy a new headset. This is the first time I buy a major component while on a trip. Bikeshop man says my steerer tube has been cut dangerously short (uh, I did two double black diamonds, and cycled 30,000 km with that). He fits a different spacer and adjusts my brakes too. He charges me just for the headset. I pay with a mixture of local and foreign currency, and he gives me a discount without me even asking. This is Malaysia, where even in the state capital of Johore, drivers slow down so I can filter across two lanes, without even waiting for my hand signal.

The sun and temperature peak. At a junction, I holler. My friend nods and goes on, missing the turn. He doesn't come back, so I chase him down. Besides a bad headset, my head is faulty too. For some reason, I order a 1.5 litre bottle of Pepsi at a rest stop. For many km after that I drink it, even when warm. Because of our late start, we reach our hotel past 8 pm, and have dinner after 10.

Nightstop: Pinetree Hotel

Lost in the dark
Not what it's cracked up to be
Day 2: 17 Jun, Singapore, 185 km. I'm awake just after 5 am, when the call to prayer wakes up the predawn sky. I watch snatches of a documentary on US Marines Recon training. "Recon: not for the weak or faint-hearted". Today, we are on recon too, for a charity ride next month. Some of us track km, others photograph key junctions. We start late, because we got in late. We still blame S for the mess.

Someone dear to me once talked about being a useful person. So I pull the peloton along for what feels like an hour, against the wind. I slow down whenever I am ahead so they can catch up. This means keeping an eye on the road, on the speedometer and whether they are near enough to my tail. I'm asking for trouble as I haven't cycled for two weeks. And now I am on a fully-loaded, double century ride over hill and against the wind.

I hear repeated clicking. At first, I think it's just my knee. Then realise what's worse than a screw loose; several loose chainring bolts. Roadside repair is makeshift; I don't have the right tools. I rush for Pekan Nanas, but all bicycle shops are closed.

Please, light up my life
I see a monitor lizard tentatively crossing the road. A car runs over it. It's as if a tyre bursts, bang. M and I too are in trouble. We're separate from the rest. We wait, thinking they're behind us, when they're ahead of us. By the time the situation is clear. It is dark. Being lost in the dark is no fun.

M has a GPS, I have a compass. GPS is not foolproof if the map is out of date. And, in a city, knowing where you are doesn't necessarily mean you easily know the series of turns to make, in the right order, in the maze of twists and turns.

I have a feeling of deja vu: a long way from home, in the dark, low on lights and fuel, high anxiety that I'll be hit from behind and scattered over the road.

Sometimes, the way out isn't clear. There's too much detail: too many twists and turns, too many choices. You know you are here, but how do you get there? A compass has no map, but it tells you if you're directionally right. I track progress with the compass; so long as we head south and east, we get closer to home. If we go north, we'll end up in the wrong place, no matter how nice and tempting that road is.

By the time I get home, I've been on the road for 14 hours, and zero rest stops for 3.5 hours.


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