Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Riding Green

Singapore has 5 million people cramped into a small island. Yet, instead of a concrete environment of bricks, glass and mortar, it has earned itself the name, The Garden City. I was reminded of this in my recent Sunday morning ride.

It was great to catch up with my Bavarian friend Christoph on our 16" foldies, my Tikit and his Curve.

We started off on the Ghim Moh bike path and veered into Old Holland Road which is one of the quieter parts of the island. Here, we rode through a canopy of beautiful trees and gliding silently through the greenery in the cool air, was a very special experience.

By chance, we met up with a bunch of roadies coming out of a newly constructed road and we stopped for a chat. It seemed that this road was worth discovering and a real treat to ride on.

We had the whole road to ourselves and Christoph was relishing it. Rarely in Singapore do we have solitude in public places. This new road ran parallel along the railway track and we had had to do a sticky beak.

The governments of Singapore and Malaysia have recently concluded a deal of a land parcel swap. Thus sadly, the 100 year old railway will cease operations mid 2011.

We soaked in all the nostalgia we could and took a picture in the small rickety Bukit Timah Train Station, technically in Malaysian soil.

The need to climb hills led us to Rifle Range Road where Christoph trains regularly for his Tri. The greenery here is absolutely thriving and thick, and the healthy and active tribes of monkeys attest to this.

All in, a most satisfying Sunday morning 15km ride through the greener parts of the Garden City.

All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all...

Seat of our Fathers

In line with my newly discovered appreciation for all things old in the bicycle world, I was absolutely delighted when my dear friend Chris gave me a most fascinating saddle he bought in some boondock bikeshop in Thailand on his recent travels.

This sprung saddle probably came out from a trishaw and looks remarkably similar to the famous Brooks B130 saddle which retails for US$200, but with even longer spring frame. Just on looks alone, my trishaw saddle is a thing of art and beauty, at least in my eyes. Yes, it is not for weight weenies but its timeless and classic looks more than make up for its porkiness.

The famed Sheldon Brown seemed a fan of sprung saddles and wrote, "Generally, any cyclist who rides with the handlebar grips higher than the saddle would be better off with a saddle with springs."

I wasted no time to mount it on my Mamachari and was pleased that it enhanced the classic-ness of my traditional work bike. Thanks so much Chris for this special gift - the seat of our fathers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ditch the bus!

It is a well-researched fact that for trips less than 5km, the bicycle is the fastest way to go. I had the opportunity to prove this point to Peter, a Chinese student at Curtin this morning. In order to make it for the 8am lecture, he has to leave the shared house at 7am, walk to the bus stop on the main road to catch the 709am bus. If all goes well and the traffic is merciful, Peter will arrive at the Curtin Uni bus terminal at 730 and walk another 10 mins to get to the lecture theater at 740am thereabout. O yes, there is the pain of the daily commuter squeeze to battle as well.

As my finger is nicely recovering, I wanted to catch up on my cycling and pedaled to his home. We set off at 1005am and bike through the wonderful bike paths, crossing the Canning River and in no time, we were at the fringe of Curtin Campus, approximately 1020am, a mere 15 mins.

Navigating to his lecture theatre took only 5 mins for a very easy 20 min point to point travel time for the 4.8km journey. It could be shorter if we were not held up at the one traffic light which caught us for 2 mins.

Peter was amazed! We locked up the bikes at one of the numerous bike racks and I was shown the impressive campus, and had a glimpse of what a typical day at uni would be like for Peter. It was great to know how bike friendly Curtin is.

We cycled home with broad grins, especially for Peter, who just earned another 30 mins of sleep in the morning. We added up too the savings in bus fares which can be quite substantial over a year (US$500). With the bonus of improved health with daily exercise and increased fitness, biking to uni is a no brainer.

Transperth just lost another passenger but I think they are happy about that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Walking for a change

Ford Escort of the 70s

Since cycling is out temporarily due to my fractured finger, a good mate suggested hiking the Bibbulman Track. This is a 1000km bush walk that leads from Perth to Albany and takes a good 60 days to complete. It is well planned with sleeping huts, toilets and rain water tanks every 20km or so.

We drove 2 cars and parked one at Mundaring, our ending point. Then drove to our starting point some 9km away at Ashel Road. It was a bit tough to find the track but the giveaway sign was that of a triangle snake. It was definitely very different from cycling in that the pace was slow and to be moving with shoes instead of wheels.

However, it was really nice to be out in the bush, surrounded by trees and native plants, breathing fresh air with absolutely no one around but the birds.

M, who is a seasoned mountaineer, was a bit disappointed that the initial walk was rather flat but the other 3 of us were quite happy to stroll along enjoying the scenery without being too breathless.

We found a nice place by a small stream to have lunch and my friends M and Y surprised us with a huge picnic Korean lunch. No wonder they carried two back-backs while we only had one.

There was everything in there including the ubiquitous Kim Chi which we discovered was a great bird deterrent. We threw it at those pesky scavengers and they were no where to be seen! That got us laughing to no end.

There is a cycling equivalent of this cross-country into the bush here in WA called the Munda Biddi Track, which is a mountain-biker's paradise. I hope to try that out soon once I'm back to cycling again.