Everyday life

A Sunday morning bike ride

After the disastrous attempt of trying to cycle down Bukit Timah Road to Office over the Chinese New Year Holiday, I was left feeling very unsatisfied. Although I clocked around 20km that day, it didn’t feel like a proper bike ride. There were too many stops and starts, including a long rest at the bus stop where I sat waiting until I realized that I didn’t bring my travel card with me. Seeing that I couldn’t go climbing today (there simply isn’t enough time), I thought I’ll go do my usual trip to Lim Chu Kang this morning.

The sky still looked grey when I pushed my bike out at around 8am. I usually do the short park connector stretch beside the canal before hitting the road that goes up the Industrial Estate. But that requires doing a not-entirely-legal u-turn across 3-lanes, and I didn’t really feel up to that today. Thinking that it was still early and that there shouldn’t be too many vehicles along Woodlands Road, I skipped the park connector and immediately hit the road.

I saw so many cyclists. Cyclists in groups of over 10, cyclists in pairs and once or twice, a lone cyclist. Most cyclists were decked out in spandex wear, hunched over their fancy road bikes with their clipped-on shoes. I felt really shabby in my Marina Bay run t-shirt and sandals. At least my Brompton can compete in terms of price. I didn’t see anyone on a non-road bike until near the end of my ride. I was a little embarrassed (although I can’t think why I should be) but comforted myself that it’s not the image I’m after, but merely the pure joy of riding.

I’ve never gone up Kranji Road before, and I was a little surprised when the road twisted in a certain way. But then, I’ve never been very good at keeping my bearings when cycling. I always have to go back and anaylze the route I’ve taken and try to reconcile the twists and turns that I recall on the route.

On Kranji Road, I encountered my first unpleasant experience with cars. It was a one-way road and this car just sped so close past me. I really hate that. Vehicles passing close at high speed. Makes me want to curse at the driver. I hate the stretch across the reservoir as well, up till Neo Tiew Crescent. It is a dual-one carriageway and on the bridge the roads are really narrow. Some drivers are really impatient and will overtake you, cutting really close to avoid the oncoming traffic. So it is with great relief when I turned up into Neo Tiew Crescent.

This stretch is really lovely. Quiet, windlesss, green. I only encountered 1-car a long this entire stretch. But it is a short stretch and too soon I’ve reached Neo Tiew Road. I’ve been along this Road so many times now that I know what to expect at each turn. The cyclists’ sign, the farms along the way, the concealed exit, the last incline leading up to the freewheel down to Lim Chu Kang Road.

I’ve come to really enjoy the Lim Chu Kang Road bit, before it hits the pseudo-runway. The vehicles are generally very respectful, along a stretch the road becomes 2-lane and there are trees to shade. Also lots of nice downhill slopes–always makes for a more pleasant ride. But this portion is rather short and all too soon I’m along the run-way.

I always feel desperate when pedalling along this stretch. It’s a huge strip of unshaded tarmac–6 lanes in total–that is unforgivingly straight for over 3km. The sun beats down on you, draining your energy. Sometimes, there’s a headwind, that doubles the effort you need to just move forward. And the road just seems endless… When I see the last little climb after the traffic light, I know I’m near the end and I get a sudden burst of energy, wheeling down from the top to the slip-road, past all the other cyclist heading to Jalan Bahar and goodness knows where.

I’m on Old Choa Chu Kang Road. It’s been expanded over the half-year that I’ve been cycling. From a single-carriageway to a dual-lane carriageway with a centre median. I have a love-hate relationship with Old Choa Chu Kang Road. The cycling here is both fabulous and dreadful at the same time. It’s one of the quieter stretch, but I’ve also had cars who have passed dangerously close to me. There are lovely downhills around turns that you can speed down on, but there is this one terrible climb up to a traffic light that I absolutely abhor. It kills my legs every single time. And just when you think the worst is over, somehow I always struggle to complete the last few metres of this quiet stretch.

The last stretch, the ‘civilisation’ stretch is the dullest and, in Singaporean terms, sian part of the route. Traffic lights, neighbourhood cars, a slight incline, buses and pedestrians means that you can’t really go fast, not that your legs could anyway. Its the part that I’m doing just because it’s the only way to get home. And as I approach the last 200m uphill to my house, I always think, this time, maybe I’ll just get off and push my bike up the slope. But always, I just lower my gears, dug deep and make it all the way up.

And as I reach the lift, it is the first time I’m off my bike since I got on at the start of the journey. And the feeling of being on solid ground again, is a little queer.

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