Adventures on Two Wheels

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Rusty but still trusty

My 7-month old bike is looking quite sorry for its age. Rust has formed on the chain, derailleurs and screws; the handlebars are dull and tarnished and the markings on the gear lever are faded and worn. Spiders spin webs overnight even as i clear them away (annoying sticky stuff) everyday. I suppose this is inevitable when i leave my bike in the open, exposed to the sun and rain. Such are the limitations of living in a "small and cosy" apartment block. The upside? I take comfort in the fact that my bike is probably no longer appealing to thieves and vandals.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Back on my bike

Reunited and it feels so good... I didn't expect to miss riding my bike but i did; a testament to the enjoyment the activity provides. When I first mounted my bike after an absence of four weeks, there was an nice familiarity about the motion, even though I'm still not the most confident rider in the world. A sense of exhilaration and freedom filled me as i zipped along the road, my hands gripping the handlebars and thighs hugging the saddle like long-lost friends. In time i shall learn to stick my butt up in the air, body suspended and away from the saddle like many an impressive-looking cyclist but the 'seated' posture will have to do for the moment.

It's good to be back in Melbourne with its strong cycling culture. The weather in the past week had been perfect for riding - sunny blue skies, chirping birds and mild cool winds. I have been working my legs and lungs, despite being a wheezy phlegmy asthmatic. Thank goodness for inhalers.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cycling and public transport: a tale of two cities

Melbourne's got this wonderful cycling culture - so many people are on the roads with their pushies, motorists are aware of cyclists and there is an extensive network of cycling paths/tracks and amenities - which is quite absent in Singapore (and other cities across Asia). The demographics of cyclists are also different. In Melbourne, it's mainly the young and sporty ones on the road while in Singapore, the rare cyclist on the road is usually a foreign worker or elderly man, without a helmet. Just read in a local Chinese newspaper that 80% of cyclists involved in accidents had head injuries because they were not wearing a helmet. Perhaps the Singapore authorities should make it mandatory.
You won't find me cycling on the road in Singapore anytime, not just because it's probably suicidal, but because the public transport system is so well-run (integrated, clean, safe and punctual) and affordable that there is much incentive to use it. Unlike public transport in Melbourne.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A month later

It's been a month since i bought my bike and became a cyclist (albeit a shaky one). Some positive changes have occurred. The expansion of the midriff has been arrested, i'm now noticing traffic lights, and my heart no longer pounds as violently when i get onto the road.
In a somewhat unprecedented developement, my (only) pair of trusty jeans have also thinned out considerably at two 'strategic' spots near the groin. Will holes develop? I'll keep you informed...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A capital bike ride

The sun was out. Clouds resembling fish scales (cirrocumulus) fanned out across the blue sky. A ‘mackerel sky’- according to The Backpacker’s Handbook by Hugh McManners. A good day as any to hit one of Melbourne’s many bicycle trails, on my ‘sweet little bike’ with its newly raised seat.

“Let’s do the Capital City Trail,” I suggested brightly to Brett, having only recently heard of it, and with only a vague idea of its route and absolutely no idea of its distance. I wasn’t the least bit fazed by bike trails – practically all the cycling I’d done was on the bike track that hugged the east coast of S’pore. Easy peasy I thought.

The good man obligingly fixed his flat back tyre and we were off, zipping down Sydney Road into Royal Parade. We hit the Trail at Princes Park, leaving behind the footy traffic jam and crowds and heading west towards North Melbourne and Moonee Ponds.

The track was smooth and gently undulating – a pleasant and easy ride. We soon reached the Docklands, with its waterfront ‘modernist’/abstract sculptures and high-rise developments. The place was quite dead, except for the occasional cyclist, strolling couple or straying tourist. We pedalled past rows of expensive-looking restaurants – all closed (perhaps business takes place only at night?) and soon found ourselves in Southbank.

It was a comparatively healthy crowd that thronged the area around the Melbourne Exhibition Hall (a.k.a. Jeff’s Shed) and the Crown complex. Most of the pedestrians were blissfully oblivious to cyclists – it took a bit of manoeuvring and lots of second-guessing to avoid hitting someone. I made a mental note to be more aware of cyclists when I was on foot.

We passed the Botanic Gardens and continued to South Yarra with its whiff of wealth -huge houses perched high overlooking the river and private piers. It was 3.00pm; we’d been pedalling for over 2 hours. After a brief stop to munch down a banana and muesli bar each, we were on our bikes again.

We stopped again at Victoria Gardens in Richmond to ‘refuel’ on chips, Swedish meatballs and sugary carbonated drinks at Ikea. The fatigue hit us then and it was close to 5.30pm by the time we managed to drag ourselves away from the ‘amenities’.

The weather had turned – dramatic flashes of lightning zapped across the darkening sky. Have cyclists ever been hit by lightning? It was a fleeting thought as I concentrated on pushing on despite the fatigue, tortured breathing and sore back and legs. The narrow track had become very steep and winding. It was a major battle to negotiate every uphill section and in the deepening gloom too. At the mouth of a particularly narrow bridge, a Husky dog charged excitedly at me, causing me to lose my balance and careen onto the side of the bridge. No damage there except a bruised ego, which seemed to be a hallmark of this trip, given the frequency with which I’d been losing my balance, tripping or falling off.

To cut to the end of the story, the skies opened up just as we fortuitously reached shelter under a bridge (at Rushall train station). And again fortuitously, the rain dropped to a drizzle after a few minutes so we were able to resume riding without having to wait it out. It was almost 7.00pm when we reached home – stuffed – as Brett so eloquently described it. We had covered the 32km of Melbourne's Capital City Trail.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Taking to the roads

Trying to keep my balance on a bike, with cars/trucks/buses/trams whizzing by on the right, while trying to avoid being 'car-doored' on the left, is one of the most terrifying things in life I reckon. Constant thoughts and images of becoming mincemeat are no help. During my first few forays onto the road, my heart was racing more from the adrenaline than any actual physical exertion. But at least it got some sort of workout.
Now that my heart is better conditioned to the stresses of road cycling, I have taken the next step of raising my seat, because a low seat purportedly is one of the seven serious mistakes committed by newbie cyclists. So although I may never look as cool as the ‘pros’, I will hopefully not look too much like a 10-year-old on a BMX or a frog with unextended legs.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A pair of wheels to call my own

Today, I became the proud owner of a ProGear Cruiser – an ‘entry-level’ ladies mountain bike with Shimano parts and a powder-blue frame. It's excitement city, not just because it’s the first bike I’ve ever owned (pathetic but true), but also because it opens up a myriad of possibilities. I will be able to get to places within a 2-10 km radius, without being held ransom by trams/buses/trains that don't arrive on time, long intervals in between and high i.e. poorly structured fares.
I can also get some much-needed cardiovascular exercise and conditioning of the body. On a more esoteric level, I’d be walking the talk, since cycling is so environmentally friendly. I will also be a part of an active and socially progressive movement, a force to be reckoned with by policy-makers.
Before anything can happen though, I will first have to overcome my entrenched fear of road traffic.