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, September 28, 2013

Broken? Fix it

Sep distance: 575 km

Woodlands, 53 km. The new freehub body unit makes my bicycle feel like new. A light touch and it works like a breeze, even surging upslope at 37 km/h somehow.

The creaks and clanks, which I'd blamed on the chainrings and crank arms, are gone. Poor things, I'm sorry I've wronged you.

The gritty sound from my headset is gone too, after I removed, cleaned, greased and put it back.

The ride is marred somewhat with near collisions: two "door gifts" (good thing I kept a safe distance from vehicles by the side of the road), two buses, two pedestrians.

On a secluded road, a traffic cop asks me to cycle on the pavement. There's a transporter; I count the tyres: 154.

My two tyres get me home. I've thought of getting a new bicycle as so much has failed: rims, free hub, chainrings. A shifter is going too. But, when something has gone through so much that it's worn out, fixing it and giving it a new lease of life is just like life. Some things are worth saving.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bling bling and a dirty job

Kovan, 12 km.


My rear wheel and I take the train to bikeshop#2. That is after bikeshopman#1 says my hub is dead. He wants to sell me a new wheel set, saying my rims are concave - notwithstanding that the wear line is visible and I put the rims on little over 2,000 km ago.

I tell bikeshopman#2 I'm glad he's around. No one wants to do his dirty job; they'd rather sell me bling bling, whereas he brings things back to life. For $50, including a new freehub body unit, he brings my rear wheel back to life. In fact, he brought the old unit back to life too, by bashing it on the ground after removing it. I tell him "no, I don't want it". He agrees not to reinstall it; like he said, it might fail again in the middle of nowhere. He removes the seal and tuts tuts. It is crud-encrusted. I tell him, it's the dirt of different countries.


Back to bikeshop#2, by bicycle. The rear wheel has the jitters so bad, the rear derailleur does not shift well. I cycle gingerly. Otherwise, the chain will skip like a schoolgirl skipping school.

Bikeshop man doesn't understand why this happens; he says the freehub body unit is the same dimensions as my old one. He moves a washer from one side to the other. Well, seems to work now. Oh, listen to the hub click and spin like a windmill in a breeze. How hard I've been labouring, without knowing it.

Today is the first time I'm using "new" pedals; they are old, but hardly used, from a relative. They're so new, they glow. I thought my old cleats were worn out. But no, it's the pedals - I know so as new cleats slosh about in them too.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Running into trouble

Pretty, but no taxis here

Punggol, 75 km. As a volunteer on bicycle patrol at Craze Ultramarathon, I look out for runners in trouble. Their distances range from 43 km to 160 km (100 miles). My patrol is a loop from checkpoints 4 to 5, then reverse. I bring along a water pistol but only one rider wants it to cool off. Most others appreciate a thumbs up; they wave, smile or return the gesture. Others thank me (or groan) when I tell them how far away is the next checkpoint; I don't say so when it's more than 5 km away.

There are two other cyclist on patrol at our route; we ride separately but sometimes meet at checkpoints. One of them has lost his bottle top after dousing heads with water to cool runners. I find it and return it to him.

Five hours into my nine hour shift, I run into trouble. My hub fails. I'm like a cartoon character now; I move my legs as much as I like, but I don't move an inch. Like when my wheel exploded last year, when I see what's happened, I know it is game over.

Crestfallen, I report my situation to the organizer then walk and walk my bicycle to where I can catch a taxi. The driver is reluctant when he sees my bicycle.

I place it tenderly in front of the rear seat, pad it with rags and wipe the floor mat before I disembark.

A bicycle that cannot be cycled is a dead weight that comes with a feeling of helplessness.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chain change

Kovan, 11 km. I get my chain changed, after perhaps 2,500 km and rear derailleur fixed (bikeshop man washes it in petrol, then oils it) so it doesn't get stuck whenever I remove my wheel.  Brakes adjusted too, though I was going to do it myself.

Odometer reading: 61,306 km

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bad things happen so that good will follow?

13-15 Sep, Malaysia (Malacca - Batu Pahat) - Singapore, 311 km

Where the rubber meets the road
Day 1: 13 Sep, Singapore to Malacca. This is my 14th charity ride. Or is that 15th? There are two rides this weekend: one in Malaysia, one in Indonesia. When I signed up for both, they were in separate months, but because of the haze, the earlier Malaysia one got postponed to the same weekend as the Indonesia one.

I apologise to the second organiser, hand over the cash and join the first organiser. Just over 90 cyclists take part (over a hundred signed up, but the postponement led to 10% attrition); there's support crew and cars too.

I cycle 19 km to the start point. I'm so early, i cycle to a McDonald drive-in for food. I help load up the bus to Malacca with bicycles then settle down for shuteye.

At the hotel, my wheel feels squishy. Puncture. A two-cm long piece of wire. When I feel the inside of the tyre, there's another 5 mm sticking out on the inside of the tyre. What's the point of knobby tyres if they go flat? But I guess the knobs are somewhat flat too!

Nightstop: Hatten Hotel

Solar powered
Peace and quiet
Day 2: 14 Sep, Malacca to Batu Pahat, 106 km. Overnight, my rear derailleur missed the rear wheel so much, it seizes up. I manhandle it to get it to work after gentle coaxing fails; no time for niceties now. At the start line, someone can't get her cyclocomputer to work. I give away my sole spare CR2032 battery and swap the battery for her. So, now my bicycle is lighter. Another cyclist loses his sole, which he fixes with duct tape.

Along the way, I see what is possibly the fastest man on this ride off his bike. A broken carbon spoke. Ok, I won't complain about by staight gauge steel spokes anymore. My inner tube holds up; first time I'm riding Presta valve in a rim made for Schrader.

On my fat tyres, I drop further behind. Yes, the world prefers thin people and thin tyres. I draft a roadie till she says her stomach hurt. So I pull her along. "Look at the houses, look for flowers, see that house, it's got three cars," I say, my feeble attempt to take her mind off things-

At the lunch point, I don't feel like eating much. I have four bananas, till the medic gives me her noodles. I do a good deed too; I return a guy's skullcap which  I found in the toilet. I say it wasn't in the cistern but he washes it anyway.

About 10 km out, I see a sign. Rest stop. Petrol kiosk. With Milo ice cream. Must stop.

Back on the road, I pass loads of roadies who've pulled over the roadside for cooling shade. It's a hot hot day. I trundle past them, pretending that I'm solar powered. I get to the hotel after 1 pm. And wait for my bag which is somewhere back there in a support vehicle.

Nightstop: Pinetree Hotel

Roadies ahead, MTBs sweep

Day 2, Batu Pahat-Singapore, 186 km. It rains, with thunder and lightning. We wait. Some support cars are ahead for an onsite weather report. It's still raining but without lightning. We get the all clear to cycle in the rain.

When the road is flooded. I plough through with my fat tyres. This is like a river crossing, without the gravel on the riverbed, just firm tarmac. When traffic passes on the other side, spray hits me full in the face. Hard. Just as well I'd managed to pop my sunglasses lens back; it'd popped out earlier.

M, the guy with the broken spoke, is back in the ride. Yesterday, he'd borrowed a car, gone home to another country to pick up a spare wheel. Today, he pulls a peloton of about ten along. W and I, on our mountain bikes, fall behind. My fat tyres sound like a flight of angry flies. But the buzz stops. Puncture.

Support crew, thank you
I find the hole and match it to the tyre. A 2 cm nail sticks out. My second puncture of the ride. I fix it with my spare tube and we press on. Separated from the rest, we decide to skip rest and lunch. W passes me an energy bar.

My speed falls and I'm losing steering control. I look down. Puncture, my third. I have no more spare tubes with me. I settle down for a long walk. Moments later, a support car appears beside me, driven by M, founder of this charity ride. Thanks to W, we're on the right route after all!

M drives me to town, where there are two bicycle shops. Both are closed. P, the tech support crew, manages to find a fat tube for me, amidst the stock of roadie tubes. He shines a torch but I can't find what caused the puncture. M tells me to wait for another group to finish lunch, so I eat too. "You may ride with us, but we cycle slow," V says.

We set off together. Whenever the support cars leave us, I lead. At a rest point, a roadie tyre bursts. Just like that. P replaces the tube, inflates it and it bursts again. He checks the tyre and finds a cut. I suggest he boots the tyre and he does with a tyre patch. It works and we go on.

Support car leaves us to wait for another group. "Just go straight," were the oral directions. We come to a fork in the road. After discussion, we decide to go straight. But it doesn't feel right. I ask everyone to U-turn. We see M again, who points out where to go. And so I lead, past immigration and customs. Where to next? The written instructions are congratulatory in nature.

"Do you trust me?" I ask V. "Would you cuss me?" The answers to both are "Yes". So I lead again, and we reach the end point - the charity we are raising funds for - to applause. Some people ask me: "Why are you so late?" I should've reached hours ago.

But what adventures I've had. Three punctures on knobby tyres, when I've cycled a thousand km on slicks without mishap. But if I wasn't here, would this group have had a harder time with a cut tyre and navigating?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Hungry to ride

Seletar, 40 km. It's dinner time. If I have dinner then ride, my ride will end late. So, I ingest sugar (Ribena and Dextro tablets), then train for next week's charity ride. Whenever I reach traffic lights, I detour, to keep up my pace instead of stopping.

I end up near an airport. Wide, empty roads where I race up and down. No wasteful ambling, just training, just below lactate threshold. With few traffic lights, there is little rest but much workout. Better use of time, which I'm running out of. Come to think of it, I'm not even running, other than running out of time :o

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Six surprises

Choa Chu Kang, 73 km
1. I get up early Sunday morning when it's still dark to cycle, instead of my usual dusk ride. This is training for this month's charity ride.
2. Some roadies pass me, I tail them one at 45 km/h. I think that's fast, until another peloton hurtles past.
3. W, the usual sweeper who said he isn't coming, shows up.
4. Minutes after we start the ride, we stop for breakfast. For almost an hour.
5. There is a 25% no show rate. We don't need me to sweep. I'm the sweeper with a sweeper! So, I break off and go home.
6. A monster passes me by. It is a dragon on wheels, perhaps over 30 tyres. Its speed limit decal declares 20 km/h. 35, 41, 48 … at 54 km/h, it still pulls ahead of me. I've never cycled so fast on fat tyres before, have I?

On the way home, I see two "pelotons" of grey warbirds roar low in the sky. I later find out it's the airforce's 45th anniversary.