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, August 26, 2012

Messages on the road

Aug distance: 667 km

24-26 Aug, Kuantan, Malaysia, 327 km

View from inside the peloton
Bike n Blade #7, Singapore-Kuantan-Lanjut. The seventh in the fundraising series, this is furthest we travel to start the charity ride and the highest fundraising target per cyclist. This year, we raise over SGD460,000. Total funds raised in the series since #1 in 2005 is over SGD2m. 

The omens 
Day 1, Fri 24 Aug, Singapore-Kuantan, non-cycling day. I'm trying to do a good thing, burning calories to raise funds for a hospital and eldercare centre. That's no guarantee that good things will happen. I checked my tyres a few days ago and decide to discard one. A big bicycle shop I go to doesn't have 1.25" tyres. As there's no assurance other shops would have them (not that I have time to shop), I go with 1.5" ie mismatched tyres. I pump it up, only to find the front tyre deflated overnight. Old tube. I replace it with a new tube. The tyre deflates again overnight. How can new tube be punctured indoors? I check the tyre, it seems to be in order, no debris found. I put in another tube, sprint the 10 km in the dark to the rendezvous point and am among the last to arrive. 

DHL volunteers cheerily and quickly cling-wrap my frame. The bus cargo hold is full of bicycles. The president of the organising committee kindly shifts some bicycles for me. Somehow, I board the wrong bus. On the bus, I see the zip of my pouch has failed and my keys almost fall out. I endure the 8-hour journey to Kuantan. As I help unload the bicycles at the hotel, I see a name tag: a name similar to someone I massively miss. What are the odds of that, this name on this bicycle on my bus, with me unloading it? 
Attention to detail; lots marked out according to bus numbers

In need of cheer, I turn on the TV in my hotel room. Spongebob Squarepants is on, but it isn't in English. What's going on? Perhaps, the events of today and reminder of someone aren't meant to taunt. Perhaps it's God's way of saying, "Bad things happened, but you didn't miss the bus, you didn't lose your keys and you're still functioning."

And it is a nice hotel room, the best ever to date in the Bike n Blade series. The hotel is so fancy, bicycles are not allowed in the rooms. We park them in the exhibition hall instead. It is so big, we cycle in it to test our machines.

Night stop: Zenith Hotel 

Seconds from disaster 
Day 2, Sat 25 Aug, Kuantan to Lanjut, 134 km. I have a big breakfast, not the McDonalds kind. Judging from their t-shirts, some cyclists are marathoners and there's an ultramarathoner.

Lanjut Beach
When we flag off, I hold back (unlike past years) and join Group 3 - which turns out to be a group of  triathletes. All is well, at just over 30 km/h until we spy another group ahead. Some breakaway. I follow. Mistake. The group ahead goes about 10 km/h faster. I drop out and cycle solo the rest of the way. At one water point, I quaff 100 plus, Red Bull and eat some bananas to see what happens. I have a gut feeling: bad idea.

Some super bikes overtake me. Their throaty roar spooks some cows, which charge cross the road - just seconds ahead of me. One cow tries to jump over a bike, which veers off the road in a cloud of brown dust, hits a metal pole and falls to bits on the grass. The pillion rider is able to sit up but the rider lies still. One of our support crew, a family, springs into action. I cycle to a fire station and ask for help.

I was just seconds away, perhaps 50m away, from the mad cows. I've had nine pieces of bad news in eight months. Being tenderized by cows isn't the 10th piece of bad news. I've been spared this time. I'm grateful. If I didn't see the crash, I would've taken for granted my road safety. As for those in my life who have moved on, the pain of saying goodbye is directly proportional to how precious they are. Better to have known and lament, than to not know them - or worse, to know them and not care.

So I had a painless ride on the road. At the hotel, staff serve cold drinks with cold towels. Posh eh? Little did I know that's to prepare me for the three-storey climb with bicycle up to my room.

Night stop: Lanjut Beach Resort

Double blessings
Day 3, 26 Aug, Lanjut-Kota Tinggi, 173 km. Flag off at 6 am. The road is dark, with potholes aplenty. Bicycle lights front and rear are ablaze. We move off in batches. I start with Group 3, who ride cautiously in the dark. Carbon wheelsets perhaps? On my mountain bike, I cycle ahead. When I look back, the lights are far behind, twinkling like distant stars.

Cardboard care, bubble wrap 
I end up behind the the safety vehicle of the group in front. I draft them but eventually I'm solo again. When more roadies pass me, I try to keep up as long as I can. Once, I even pull them along but  by the time someone takes over, I am spent. At 1.30 pm, the sweeper bus at the 160 km mark will start to sweep up cyclists. I've done the maths; if I stop to have a proper lunch, I might not make it.

So I press on. For the first time ever, I skip a proper lunch. Instead, I subsist on bananas, 100plus, energy powder (which I've not tried before) and gels. Thank you, guts, for putting up with the abuse. The stuff works; despite the calories burnt, I don't feel hungry. A few km from the end point, it starts to pour. It's the first time in Bike n Blade that it's poured like this. I later hear that cyclists are picked by safety cars.up as it's not safe to ride. So I'm doubly-blessed; I avoid the sweeper bus and the safety cars. I've been on the road almost eight hours. By the time I get in, the lead riders have showered and lunched. As before at the start of the ride, DHL clingwraps our wheels and frames for the trip home by bus (and unloads them at our destination).

It's anti-climactic as our buses arrive and we head home separately: some by taxi, some by personal transport. I cycle home.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tearing about

Woodlands, 86 km. I help a friend with a park connector ride in the north, this time with no rental bicycles. But some bikes need care, no thanks to cheap, poorly-designed cyclocomputer attachments. At the end of the group ride, I recce the rendezvous point in the south for next week's charity ride. Then, as the day is young, I cycle down memory lane, to where I'd spent my early childhood.

Everything looks new. I ask an old man how old the apartments are. They are decades old. I cycle around; the apartment block where I used to live seems to have disappeared but there are vestigial traces of what used to be. I tell the old man I grew up here and he perks up. I wave goodbye to him, he nods. I also pass the block of someone I used to see year in year out, but no more. By this time, I'm tired and my speed has dropped by 10 km/h.

Back home, I shower and prepare to vegetate, then find out that a visit to a cancer patient - her misfortune is one of the nine bad things that happen in my life this year - has been arranged. And off I go, this time by public transport.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A little sunshine

File photo
Lim Chu Kang, 75 km. This year has been bad. One piece of bad news each month? There are nine pieces so far, and it's only August. Still, there's a tough charity ride next week and training to do.

I wipe on sun block, put on sunglasses and head out. I hear thunder. Lightning flashes. You got to be kidding, right?

Water from the road sprays up. I realise the rain clouds have passed me by as I head north. I avoid a fist-sized rock that could've thrown me into passing traffic. There's broken glass on two parts of the road, but no puncture. I evade a nail sticking up from a piece of wood on the road. Some drivers cut it fine as they pass me. Instead of being upset, I see the hand of God. Something cracks against my helmet; I look behind, and see part of a branch that fell on my head.

And, as the sun goes down, some sunshine warms the road.

I drink the fuel that a sponsor gave us for the ride, to test how my body reacts to it. It tastes good. But since I didn't have breakfast or an adequate lunch, hunger pangs hit me. No easy way out, no stopping till the end is near. I end the ride with dinner at a shop I've never dined in before. It is bicycle-parking friendly. With the bicycle beside me, I don't even have to place my order; someone comes up and takes it from me.

At home, I shower, feel clean and comfy on the sofa. Small blessings are a big deal.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stay balanced

Woodlands, 53 km. This country is a small island. Traffic lanes are usually wide enough for cars, but when there are trucks, their waist-high wheels tend to roll near the kerb. Add gravel, drainage holes and the fall-off where inch-high asphalt meets concrete, and you have mountain-bike territory in urban landscape.

Rather than wind my way into traffic, I plunge into the gap between big truck tyres and the kerb. If I fall, I hope I fall on away from the big tyres. My fat tyres grip into the assortment of things on the surface. So long as I keep pedaling, I keep upright, alive and unhurt.

No matter what life throws, keep looking forward, keep pedaling. And, like C says, suck it up!

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Kranji, 78 km. Three things happen today on my bicycle.

1. Tour guide - ask for opinions about where to go, explain the route and traffic hazards, lead the way, show the sites. What's that? You didn't fix the wheel like I told you to last time? OK, add repairman to the mix. My heart sinks when I see "mineral oil". I know caliper, cantilever and V-brakes. I've not had to adjust hydraulic brakes before, but I manage to.

2. Train - well, kind of. I do a few sprints upslope. With my fat, low pressure tyres, I can feel the burn.

3. Fix bicycle (mine) - the usual shop I go to is closed, so I go another one nearby. We argue; he first says my shifter is broken, because I hardly ride(?!). Then he says it's the tension. OK i suspected that, though my earlier fiddling didn't make much difference. Then I borrow a tool, and he raises his voice. He grabs another tool and tries, then exclaims, "oh, yours is different". Yeah, I know. Different. Well, at least I'm satisfied my chainring bolts are secure, though they seem to be freewheeling.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Blowing in the wind

File photo. Now, a spanking new bridge stands here

Seletar, 48 km. Waiting for the blues to go away doesn't happen. Eager to try something different - note I didn't use the word "new" - I cycle to Seletar, one of my old haunts years ago.

Others too have poignant memories of this place. They used to live here, grew up here, made their lives here. But they were forced to move. What used to count here, now counts for naught. It's time to go. The bulldozers have come and gone, the landscape obliterated. Bits of the past remain, but it's not the same anymore.

Sand blows into my eyes, the closest I come to tears. I see two cyclists on the windswept road. And two Apaches, throbbing olive-green platforms of death (or life, depending on which side of the weapons you are on). And a Chinook too.