It is around 8am in the morning and the air outside is cool, almost cold. I grab my helmet and head down to the Barclays cycle hire just behind the flat and inserted my key into the slot. I lifted the heavy bicycle out from its docking station, adjust the seatpost, dump my bag in front, and then I’m off, braving London’s roads from Bloomsbury area to Imperial College London.
That was in 2012.
I was never a regular cyclist. The roads in London were too confusing and scary for me to handle. Not having a smart phone at that time, I printed cycling routes on paper maps and held them in my hand as I cycled, taking care not to miss any turn. My first foray out of zone 1 scared me so much (traffic speeds where much higher than in central London) I almost gave up cycling altogether.
But there were parts of the journey and experience which I absolutely loved. Crossing Hyde Park in the morning, especially late autumn, when the sun rises late and you can spy it peeking through when you cycle through. The convenience of getting from ‘home’ to Chinatown in record time, when taking the bus or tube would mean a longer journey, not to mention more money paid.
So I was dismayed when I returned to Singapore and found that I couldn’t cycle anymore. Or to be precise, I chose not to cycle anymore. The roads in Singapore were just to hazardous to navigate. Furthermore, our public transport was good enough that I could get to where I wanted (mostly) by bus or train. If not, the distance was too far to cycle (and too dangerous) and I’ll cab.
I remember plotting the distance from home to work. It came up to around 16km.
I cycle about 30km in an hour forty minutes, so technically at 16km ride would take less than an hour. That’s less than my commute time before the Downtown Line. The problem was that the route would take me along Bukit Timah Road which is just insane.
And so I despaired that cycling would ever be part of my commute to work. That is, until the DTL2 came about.
Before 27th December 2015, I went around telling people how I would cycle to DTL2 when it opened and take the train down to office. I was utterly convinced that that would be the optimal way to travel. In a way, I was over-confident with my cycling abilities. I’d clearly forgotten the sore legs I suffered as I struggled to get to class after a 20 min cycle from home to uni. I’d clearly forgotten the frustration and fear I felt from being on the roads/nearly banging down pedestrians and so on.
Such short-term memory.
And so the first few weeks were a struggle. It didn’t help that I was cycling with sub-quality bicycles most of the time. The short 15-20 minute bicycle ride sometimes felt like forever. My thighs would start to burn, I’ll be panting and horrors of horrors I’ll start sweating.
There were things I had to learn along the way and adapt to as well. I had to learn abit more about fixing my bike, how to adjust the seatpost and handlebars. I had to learn how to cycle in a skirt and or dress. I picked up some tips from ‘penny in your pants’ but also found one of the best solution is just to keep a pair of fbt shorts in the bag to slip over when necessary.
But oh how I love the experience sometimes! There are days when I think about the commute back and my heart actually lifts. Cycling along the park connector in the evening and night, the air is cool, a soft breeze blows… It is a time of day which I really treasure. And already, I can feel my thighs adapting and getting stronger.
Cycling 5 days a week, twice a day is still pretty strenuous and difficult to achieve at the moment, but I think eventually I would get to that lifestyle!