Friday, April 26, 2013

Night Cycling!!

Night Cycling!

This is an activity so niche, everyone has different ideas of it, each treating it in their own way. Some view it as simply cycling in the night, with all the bells and whistles so proper to cycling, but I regard it as a grand nocturnal adventure lasting till the next morning, with a loosely defined route you don't even have to follow and rules you don't even have to obey! It's about the journey, not the destination.

The first night cycling I ever attended, on the 23rd of December 2005, was a large affair, with 35 participants divided into two groups and travelling on a mixture of pavement and road (mostly pavement). There was no fancy traffic police or even a safety van tailing us ("Ain't nobody got time for that!") and as far as I know, the only administrative matter was the actual rental of bikes from the shop, which we got at the bulk price of $7, red lights included. We were extremely lucky that nothing serious happened. Travelling from East Coast Park to City Hall via Geylang, Kallang, and the Esplanade, with such a large number of participants (some of whom were not so experienced themselves), was no joke. The only mishap—namely, a broken handlebar—was treated with good ol’ duct tape and a dollop of confidence. By the end of it we felt like we had completed a marathon. Such adventure! It was a definitive experience by which all subsequent night cyclings were measured.

Myself, Nadiah, Nasyiba (binti Sahari ;), Yazid, Ira, Gabriel, Idham. And behind the camera is Hasyim =)

This time we were a smaller group of 8, still more than 4 (thankfully), but much more manageable than 35! (Previous night cyclings had averaged only 4 attendees out of more than 10 invited.) The unique thing was that each of us didn't know more than 3 other people in this group. We had decided to open up the activity to any friends as may be sporting enough to join in. Therefore the rest were unknown to us, being friends of friends. Socially awkward, yes, but the good nature and sportsmanship amongst ourselves mitigated the awkwardness somewhat. After settling the rental of bikes and a short supper at Burger King, we began at about 11.30 PM. We headed towards Fort Road at the beginning of East Coast Park.

Sudden roar of Malay kompangs by the sea—perhaps there was going to be a wedding tomorrow!

Just before Fort Road, we stole into an underpass and magically emerged near Jalan Daliah on the other side, in order to avoid the tiresome road crossings at the ECP/Fort Road exit. After inflating tyres & purchasing drinks at Esso we set off in the direction of Tanjong Rhu.

And so night cycling begins in earnest!

Ira nearly got knocked down by a taxi entering the carpark.

I executed a nearly flawless curb jump, much to the chagrin of the rest, who didn't have time to follow suit because I suddenly turned into the kerb.

We soon reached Gardens by the Bay East. Now this is a lesser-known sibling of the popular Gardens by the Bay South, the one with all the supertrees and whatnot. Gardens by the Bay East only contains undulating meadows and little lakes and 'natural' streams—a Botanic Gardens Part 3, if you will. And it is absolutely dark, too! We nearly fell into a lake crossing bridges without railings, my goodness.

That treacherous bridge without railings.
The bottom of Benjamin Sheares.

Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay South, the Helix Bridge and finally we were at the 'black' 7-Eleven at Marina Bay Sands opposite Avalon, so-called because the signage is back-lit, creating a silhouette effect. Quite classy.

We reached Sentosa at 2.00 AM (just as planned!) and sought to explore the island a bit. It was quite chaotic, though. Resorts World Sentosa was not built for cyclists (or for that matter, the wheelchair bound) and so we spent an inordinate amount of time circling the place, trying to get somewhere. Finally with advice from Gabriel we climbed ramps and slopes and ultimately went up in a lift, coming face-to-face with the Merlion.

Short break at a convenient 7-Eleven nearby; everybody couldn't tahan, super hungry. Then up a zig-zag ramp in complete darkness, aided only by our night-vision. We ended up behind Mount Imbiah, and from there an excruciating 10-minute climb up a gradual slope to the front of the building.

Then disaster struck!

Gabriel's gears broke! The metal piece attaching them to the rear dropouts gave way and simply split clean into two, leaving a tiny bit of metal still bolted to the dropout. We tried to fix it using cable ties taken from various parts of our bicycles (the girls' hairpins and needles were extremely useful in undoing them) but after barely a moment's cycling, they loosened. Gabriel had to propel himself with his legs all the way to Palawan Beach 7-Eleven, looking absolutely ridiculous seated on a bike with legs flailing.

There we purchased a dishcloth and borrowed a penknife from the cashier. A kind fisherman lent us whatever cable ties he had and two rolls of duct tape, and we managed to string everything together in a sustainable fashion, only needing Gabriel to adjust the derailleur every few minutes or so to keep the chain on the right track. The only drawback of it was that he was restricted to the 'granny' gear (read: lowest gear) behind. Well at least he'd have no trouble climbing slopes.

It was now 6 AM. Three hours wasted on this most unfortunate occurrence. Since it was already morning prayer time for the Muslims, we headed towards the mosque opposite Vivocity, using one "heck of a shortcut" back to the Merlion, as Hasyim would put it.

Nadiah's chain came off at the entrance of the bus park. Whilst fixing it a bus suddenly appeared out of nowhere and swerved into the bus park, nearly hitting us in the process! Crazy bus driver.

And there I was wondering what the name of the mosque was. Wak Tanjong lah, Wak Temenggong lah. Actually the full name, as written in Jawi script at the entrance was Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, Johor Darul Takzim. My Jawi was not so bad after all! #achievementunlocked

We rode back by the safest way, which was exactly the way we came. Gabriel's gears held up excellently. It could even correct itself if the chain came off, after lots of rattling and clicking. Thank God for the cable ties!

By the time we reached the end of Gardens by the Bay East, I could see signs of zombification. According to Arshak (an associate of mine from the DMIT Club), when you're suffering from lack of sleep, two things can happen: either you become super tired or you're super high. Both were apparent. Idham, having cycled his own bike from Pasir Ris the night before (and had to cycle back there later!), looked ghastly pale. Hasyim, on the other hand, was yelling at the top of his voice! His headphones lent little credence to the fact that he was singing along to an MP3 player.

Eventually we reached East Coast Park. We stopped at a shelter just before the bike shop to clean up the cable ties around the damaged derailleur and make it presentable. The plan was to simply return the bikes and not say a word. I mean, it wasn't our fault! Nothing was lost, only wear and tear caused by a lack of maintenance. I got back onto my bike to cycle to the shop. It was then I heard a curious squeaking sound.

My rear tyre was flat.


What the—? Of all things to happen at this time?! We resolved to walk the short distance to the bike shop. Lucky we were nearly there!

Hasyim went first, followed by myself. The bike shop man didn't notice the flat tyre. I handed him the red lights we detached from the bikes to get the cable ties, saying that they "came off". Gabriel rolled his bike in. The man glanced over the bike.

"This one, spoil ah?"

He eyed the derailleur, peacefully wrapped in its cocoon of duct tape. Our hearts froze.

"Yah, a bit, can fix one." I tried to be as calm as possible. Gave him the receipt. He took a look at it. The girls returned their bikes one by one.

"Okay," he waved us off.

We made our escape!

I half-expected all the shopkeepers to come running after us (brandishing pitchforks and knives), demanding some explanation, but nothing of the sort happened. A huge sigh of relief.

We bade goodbye and good luck to Idham who would continue the long arduous journey back to Pasir Ris where he came from. By now he was half-alive. Gabriel would take a straight bus home. As for the rest of us? A McDonald's breakfast!

It had been a night of highs (literally), and lows. We climbed Imbiah Hill, crossed treacherous bridges, tore down slopes at great speeds, and fixed the most unfixable of mishaps. Never mind! One learns from experience. We may've been caught unawares now, but we sure as hell will be ready in the future.

Next time, we shall come prepared!

38 KM!!


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