Sunday, January 30, 2011

Laughter in the rain

Pic from

Pic courtesy of KC

Pic courtesy of MC

Pic courtesy of KC

Wet, short, fun! 3 words to describe today’s City Ride with the Love Cycling SG Group. The weather these few days could very well resembled biblical times in Noah’s ordeal of 40 days and 40 nights of constant rain. There were even reports of flash floods occurring in the city state. So it was quite a surprise that early at 0730 on a drizzly morning, nearly 30 determined folks turned up at Lavendar MRT station.

It was great to meet TW again and make many new friends especially Matt C, who I've corresponded frequently with. They come from all walks of life and rode all types of different bicycles including a recumbent, a 14” wheeled foldie and a classic gentleman’s roadster. Quite a few Bromptons and Dahons too.

I don’t usually like to ride with such a big group but today, I made an exception because this bunch of cyclists are truly enthusiastic and zealous about enjoying great times on the saddle. As TW, one of the leaders, aptly put it, “Its not about speed or expensive carbon-fibre gizmos, this is about getting people together to enjoy a ride, to take lots of pics and eat plenty of good food.”

Pic courtesy fm TW

Despite the dark clouds and rain, the mood was not in the least dampened with lots of chuckles and smiles. We rode past the Kallang River, the impressive Marina Sands Bay as well as the Flyer. It was a bonus to chance upon the upcoming Lunar New Year’s huge props to be used in a few days time and it was pictures galore.

Sadly, I had to end the ride early at 0930 while the rest of the gang continued riding and laughing in the rain. We shall definitely meet again when I’m back in Singapore.


I want to dedicate this song by Neil Sedeka to all the good folks I met today. I love and admire your passionate spirit in all-weather cycling!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cyclometer - is it really necessary?

Unless I am touring, I'm not the type who enjoys measuring every single km I have covered. Cycling is about total freedom and many a time, having a cyclometer can be rather stifling. Instead of enjoying the easy pace and the wind in my face, I want to increase the average speed or set a new max speed. I find myself cycling one more round to get the target distance and all these really take the fun out of uninhibited cycling.

So why did I just fit one onto my Bike Friday Tikit after 3 years? Well, I managed to get a Louis Garneau cyclometer at an unbelievable price of US$18 a few months back. Some deals are too good to be true and this is one of them. A base model Cateye would cost easily US$35 so its a no brainer. One of my regular bike shops had this for sale in their clearance bin and my mates and I bought 3! Also, it matches my white paintwork perfectly. Its biggish display too is appreciated by us oldies.

It was a pretty easy job installing it but callibrating it took some work. I could not find the right measurements in the manual and ended up doing so by hand, rotating the wheel one full circle and then noting the distance. For Kojak 16 x 3/8 tire, it is 1830mm precisely.

So here I am with a cyclometer, still not sure if I did the right thing. The fact that I took so long to install it reflects my thoughts. Well, I guess I can always remove it if I feel the need for free-spirited riding.

All thru the night

The hot and humid weather in Singapore presents a constant challenge to cyclists here. All the moanings and groanings will not change the uncomfortable weather so we decided that the only way is to try night cycling and that we did. It was pouring the whole day and the ride was cancelled only to be revived at the eleventh hour as the dark skies finally cleared.

A last minute phone call activated 5 of us, all scrambling to meet at Yio Chu Kang MRT station at 830pm. It was a melange of 3 foldies - Dahon Curve SL, Brompton and Tikit (all 16" wheeled) and 2 renown touring bikes - Surly LHT and a brand new Raleigh Sojourner.

We were delayed a bit due to a headset problem with the Raleigh but soon were on our way to Changi Village, some 22km away. Traffic was still quite heavy but thankfully thinned out as we rode passed Sengkang, Pasir Ris and Loyang. They seemed to be giving us a wide berth thanks largely to our numerous blinking red lights which I reckoned blinded some drivers. The freshness and smell of the cool air after a storm was absolutely delightful.

At Changi Village, we were surprised to find the bike shop still opened at 10pm! Clement of Changi Cycling Services was just about to close when we invaded in, buying all sorts of stuff. He kindly sorted out the Raleigh's headset, much to Mike's utter relief.

Meanwhile, we feasted on the world famous Ayam Penyet (squashed fried chicken) and downed all sorts of cold and hot drinks at the food centre.

The food centre was bustling and Singapore really does not sleep. I spotted a really obese cat who obviously enjoys the good life and she was just happy to lay around lazily, digesting her unlimited buffet of Nasi Lemak fish.

We saddled up and rode the Changi Airport perimeter road. It was deafening to hear the never ending traffic of planes landing and taking off but that seemed to get us into the mood for some fast cycling. 31-32kmh was the norm until we realised what's the hurry? Cycling along the ECP was also intriguing as we spotted many parked cars with couples working hard in contributing to increase the dismal birth rates in Singapore. But Dr J had other more important concerns. His Curve SL broke a rear spoke and although it could still ride, it was a case of when the rear wheel would give way. He took a taxi home later on.

Despite it being midnight, we felt absolutely safe and found the underpass to Joo Chiat Road. There were great plans to ride past the notorious district of Geylang for some bird watching and beef noodles but alas, it was getting too late for us old birds. A quick turn to Paya Lebar Road, the heavens opened on us. Fortunately, mercy was extended and the downpour was over rather quickly. That really refreshed us. Mike turned off at Serangoon Rd while the 3 of us continued on to Braddell Rd. At Thomson, the Surly returned to base leaving Paul and myself to enjoy our early morning ride home to Bukit Timah.

We got back at 3am. Tired but feeling rather satisfied that our first 70km ride all through the night turned out to be such great fun.


I was in Uni back in the 80s when this song by Cyndi Lauper was a big hit. Its lyrics has nothing to do with cycling (more with moving forward through the night together and a stray cat!) but the song is magical. Please enjoy this great hit ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

North to Woodlands

It was a great joy to ride with my buddies the 2 Chris-es for an early Sunday morning ride in Singapore. The weather was perfect, cool and cloudy. We wanted to see the newly opened Woodlands Waterfront Park. I've read about this from another friend TW and this was one of the must-dos while I'm here in Spore.

CT and I rode to Thomson to meet up with CW and every Sunday, this part of Singapore transforms itself to roadie paradise. Hordes of roadie groups would take this route and for very good reason, its quiet, very green and skirts around the beautiful Seletar reservoir. Riding a Tikit and a Curve, the roadies were probably quite amused to see 2 kids' bikes on their race track.

What got even more bizzare was CW decided to ride his nearly 20 year old titanium racer so our group of 3 was indeed so counter-cultural to the men in colourful lycra brigade. CW is an expert on the backlanes of Singapore so it was great to be brought along Old Thomson Road where monkeys play freely along the road, mischievious as ever. We also rode past the Seletar Golf course and I was very pleased to see the look-out tower of Seletar Resevoir. The last time I was there must have been during a primary school excursion some 30 years ago!

Just 1km into Mandai road after the turn-off, CW led us to the start of a PCN (Park Connector) and this was an old road that used to be an army training ground. Parts of it was rough and I got a bit worried for my new Kojak road tires.

This led us through the thick of the rain forest which was absolutely breathtaking and we passed some flower orchards with their Chinese New Year colourful plants all ready to go.

This was a mere 2km road that ended too soon and we once again arrived to modern Singapore at Woodlands housing estate, via the Singapore Sports School.

We had a peek at the newly opened Republic Polytechnic and took a group pic on its mirrored wall.

The short-cut that led to the Woodlands Waterfront Park then became a big challenge as it was gravel and both CW and I had to ride carefully on our skinny tires. CT on Big Apple tires rode past us with a big grin on his face but there would be another opportunity to get our revenge. Though the path was rough, the views were magnificent.

Upon arriving at the WWP, there was a big welcome for us with music, crowds, food and police. Little did we know it was the official opening with even a Minister gracing the occasion. CT remarked to CW, "Heh, you don't have to go through such trouble for us lah!"

Being averse to crowds, we rode straight through and soaked in the views that the impressive L-shaped jetty offered. Here, the causeway to Johor could be seen clearly as well as the city skyline of JB across the Straits of Singapore. We spent too much time here just joking and enjoying ourselves with cool sea breezes and a cloudy sky.

CT had to rush back home as he had a 10am curfew and could hop on a bus thanks to the versatility of his Dahon Curve folding bike while CW and I made our way home. A most satisfying 46km ride all in on a Sunday morning.

Monday, January 17, 2011

So you want to ride the Bolaven Plateau?

Pic taken from En Route

I highly recommend the Bolaven Plateau ride and should you be interested to do the ride, here are some facts and figures that you may find useful.

Getting there

Pakse - This is the base city from which to start the ride.

1. By Air - Pakse has a small international airport with flights from the major cities of Laos like Vientiane and Luang Prabang. We flew in from Siem Reap but I know that Lao Aviation also flies in from Ho Chih Min.

Despite horror stories, I have flown Lao Aviation 4-5 times and found them very satisfactory. However, they are not cheap. Our flight from Siem Reap was about US$220 return. Their online booking system worked for us.

2. By Bus -The nearest Thai city near Pakse is Ubon Rachatani , which has a direct bus connection to Pakse that takes about 2 hours and crosses the border at Chong Mek. Buses also connect from Vientiane though this is a ardous journey of 10 hours.

How many days to loop the BP?

We took 5 days to do the 220km including one rest day. This pace averaged 50km a day and was moderately easy and relax. There are numerous excursions to extend the loop but we chose the Lonely Planet recommended loop.


Laos is still relatively quite cheap compared to western countries. For the 6 days, our expenses were as follows:

Hotels 6 nights - US$85 (could have been cheaper if we didnt splurge at Tad Lo resort.
Food - US$66 for 6 days (lunch, dinner and some breakfasts).
Drink stops - US$3-5 per day

US$30 per day is very generous, at least for our group of 4.

Road conditions

For the most part, the roads are excellent as proven by Wei who took a road bike with 700x23 tires. The part that will be challenging are the small dirt roads that lead to the falls. Usually 1-2km from main road.

Elevation peaks at 1300m at Paksong and doing the loop anti-clockwise is preferred. First day of 50km climbing may be challenging but once this is cleared, its easy all the way. Those who want to do the easy way could hop onto a bus to Paksong from Pakse then your ride will be really a walk in the park.

Please write and Im happy to answer any questions you may have. Certainly one of the best rides I've done.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Home run to Pakse

35km! That was all the distance to Pakse which made for our grand finale on our Bolaven Waterfalls adventure ride. After a breakfast of disappointingly lukewarm rice porridge at the resort's restaurant, we took a group pic before making our way back to Route 20.

The 2km downhills we enjoyed yesterday demanded payback. One part was so steep that a tour coach actually stalled halfway and had to reverse to gain back momentum for another attempt.

Once out to the main road, it was a slight uphill all the way to Banana Junction so plain sailing it was not. Celia did very well on the Bike Friday Expedition in being able to climb ALL the slopes without pushing thanks to its very low gearing. Knowing that the climbing will eventually end at 21km marker kept us going and soon, the big sign boards and numerous fruit stalls appeared.

Cold drinks and a huge watermelon (US$1.20) refreshed us. Disgustingly, it did not help that beside our drink shop was the local butcher. Seeing how a black pig got cut up into so many different pieces with blood everywhere will make anyone a vegetarian.

Setting off the last 21km downhill was a breeze and the familiar sights of 5 days ago passing quickly before our eyes told us that the home run was ending. We arrived before noon and aimed for Delta cafe which unfortunately was closed for a function. No worries as there were enough choices at Pakse and we ended up at Xuan Mai Restaurant that served delicious Vietnamese and Laotian fare.

We checked into Sang Aroun Hotel again and the staff immediately recognised these four oddball cyclists. After a clean up, we proceeded for a well-earned massage, feeling very pleased with ourselves.

8000 kips = US$1

The Bolaven Plateau was conquered, all 230km! Sharing such great times with great friends are priceless. Thank you so much Cil, Mike and Wei. Though the trip is over, the memories we share in traversing this beautiful country on small wheels will always stay with us, forever.

To all the readers of LTF, I hope you enjoyed sharing the Laos Waterfall trip with us online wherever you are. Grateful for your support and do ride safe!

Snowy - Tin Tin's adventurous dog.
A great mascot for bicycle touring!
This belongs to a little Australian girl I met at Delta Cafe,
Pakse who allowed me to take a pic of her Xmas present.