Your dad has a regular go-to spot where he cycles to get some space and get away from the hustle and bustle of life.
This spot is a scant 10km away from our home and the thought of getting there is already putting a kind of peace in my mind. Cycling there is also quite a therapy as it is a place of space, solitude and the view is quite something.
So there is this spot on top of the knoll, and barring COVID, I can string up my hammock and just chill at the hut. The breeze is good, view is awesome and there isn’t a lot of people around. There I can be an anonymous nobody, and yet recharge by getting connected to nature.
It is open 24/7 and the vibe is so non-judgmental and welcoming. I can go there anytime and more often than not, the hut is empty, and if it isn’t, it is fine as well, because I can string my hammock around a tree and still chill.
That’s the connection my cycling has for me, and brings me regularly to this place for my own space. Doing this often helps me get my exercise (minimally) and also a sense of peace which is not too far away.
The view do help me relax and having the breeze blow through my hammock is an awesome experience, you can really fall asleep and lose yourself to the big beautiful nature.
You cannot imagine how pissed he was. What makes him more pissed was he remembered exactly where he lost it.
It was on a cycling trip where Andy and I were taking cover from a storm at some shophouses just in front of Commonwealth MRT, and it’s my usual practice to wear glove for wet weather conditions, and I’ll usually remove my ring when I wear my glove. So my practice was I took out my ring to wear around my neck using one of the sport necklace your dad often wears. What happened was along with the ring, I also hung my mask around the necklace. I remembered that we are about to move off after the rain receded slightly, I unclasped the necklace to keep my mask, the ring must have fallen off.
That was EXACTLY what happened, and I only realised that I lost it during our return leg, cycling somewhere near Kallang Way Park Connector (PCN) when I ran my hands around my necklace checking for my ring only to realised that it is no longer there. I’ll usually randomly do a pat-down equipment check but this time it was already too late.
I still got to give it a try, so once I got my bike home, I hailed a private hire ride to get to Commonwealth in a feeble attempt to find the ring. By then the spectacle shop whose space we occupied in the morning has already open shop, and put out their roll-out display counter. The nice Auntie helped me look around but, alas, it was gone.
Andy sent me the pictures he took and I confirmed my loss. It was still on my neck at Commonwealth MRT, and by the time to took the next picture at Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) at Clementi, the ring was no longer there.
Philosophical about loss
What the F can I do? Except to self console myself about the sheer stupidity of the loss. The self reproach, self berating and mentally beating myself for being so dumb and careless, losing an item which I’ve kept so carefully with me for the past 18 years.
Of course, I came up with the ‘nothing is permanent‘ statement to console myself, and justified the decision I made 18 years ago not to get a flashy (and expen$ive) bling bling as a wedding ring, after all it is ceremonial. It was a good call, because had I lost a ring that costs me thousands of dollars, the level of self hatred for me will be relative or many times more of that amount! While the ring is just an extrinsic material, it still makes me angry that I wasn’t able to keep it with me, due to my carelessness.
What Facebook said
I wasn’t ready to write about this, as I was still quite sore over the loss, until I saw this in Steven’s Facebook post, and what best way to live this experience that to really lose something you had for such a long time. What the hell, get over it, and get to greater things in life, and stop whining over the proverbial spilled milk.
The loss eats into me, because I am usually a very careful person, that said, I think generally the same can be said for most people, except that I really, really, really, do take care of things and I take a certain level of pride in that, and to lose my wedding ring, is a huge bruise to my ego. On top of that, I was half expecting your mum to lose hers before I lost mine. ha ha, jokes on me.
Your mum’s reaction
Part of the reason why I was super pissed was because the ring really symbolizes my marriage, and I was mostly expecting your mum to be pissed with me.
She treasured the marriage more than the ring, while the loss affected her, I’m sure, but she didn’t lose the husband, only the ring. And it matters to her that she still matters to me, and that’s all it mattered to her. There is no point having and wearing a wedding ring, if the love, commitment and marriage is no longer there. The ring would be just hypocritical lip service if we as a couple no longer find a meaning in being husband and wife.
It was a huge relief for me, but deep down inside while I loath my loss, I also knew that I can always get another ring, expensive as hell to get as a symbol, still bearing the same risk of losing it again, sooner or later.
Many years ago, I read somewhere that the actor kept a box full of his wedding rings, he had it made copies of it, because he was prone to losing them, taking them off to play a certain character in his acting career. While I am not as rich to buy a chestful of rings, I should learn from his attitude towards marriage, after all he stayed married to Kelly Preston from 1991 to 2020, where she died of breast cancer. Wedding rings can be lost and replaced, but he kept only one marriage, till death do they part.
As you both know by now from my previous post that your dad has been cycling for a long time, all terrain cycling (except water and air!), especially mountain biking!
Well, I guess when you put your feet to the pedal, it is one of the most liberating thing to do as an individual, there is no place you cannot go on a bicycle. Since I took this Marin back in 2018, I’ve been many places in Singapore, and still not bored of it.
In our tech and digital world, this is one of the things I consider to be analogue, humanistic. Sure you can run, but at that speed, you can’t go very far in a daylight, without getting too tired. On a bike, you get speed and you get the view. That relationship with your environment is spontaneous and real, it engages all your senses, and you cannot totally switch off while you’re riding without getting into serious hurt!
Freedom comes with Responsibilities
Whether you’re cycling alone or in a group, you take care of your own s**t, that’s one thing I learn Mountain Biking, because in the ‘swapah’ where you bash through the bushes, you have to fix your own problems, and issues. Chain break, fix it, puncture fix it, so I has taught me from a very young age to prepare and be ready for any and all situations that might arises during the trip. You really have to own that situation you get yourself into, dig your way out of it, cos no one is coming to rescue you.
So it has become a habit for me to pack well, balancing needs and wants on a 2 wheels, water, tool kit, first aid, and other little luxuries for wet weather. And whatever happened on the road, it is all you, your responsibilities. There’s often a lot of bad calls you have to make, and you just have to suck it up and do it.
Adulting The Adult Thing
Adulting is quite a new word, and it basically means:
“the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” (from Google)
I guess that would means a kind of a sarcasm perhaps, but I think that’s what cycling is to me, in a good way. It’s really not a big deal as a cyclist to anyone on the road, but to the cyclist, me, every place I explored gives me that life experience full on, and I can randomly go places and explore new roads, on an MTB, I can even spontaneously go off road and check out where the trail goes. It is an accomplishment that is quite mundane to others but very intrinsically satisfying for me. So while it might sound mundane, it adds to my world perspective and gives my life background and stories to tell, myself and you boys.
Zen and The Art of Cycling
A long time ago, your dad used to ride a motorbike and this was one of the book he read that is closest to the subject matter. Now that your dad is no longer on a motorcycle, cycling is the next best thing (and safest) for me to experience life on the road.
Unlike a motorbike, you need a level of fitness to cycle, since you are the engine, passenger and mule all rolled in one, you have to be fit to go the distance. It is not only about physical fitness but a level of mental resilience as well. Mental resilience on a bicycle don’t come from being tough, but knowing when to be tough, when to accept fatigue and when to enjoy the ride.
Enjoying the ride often means getting into a cruising speed, and listening to the sound made by the wheels rolling on the ground. Feeling that wind, or even sometimes the rain! Night time riding can bring about a different sensory experience as well!
Going the Distance
As I do the distance, my on-the-road experience evolve and takes a different relationship. I often have to take the same road but every time I roll past the same spot, the feeling is always different. It is as if the road is your old friend, patiently waiting for you to pass by again. If you have a specific memory, self conversation, incident or flashback on that same spot, it helps to trigger a familiar feeling in you, so that inconspicuous spot to others, is actually a special meeting spot for you.
As Singapore is constantly changing and evolving, some of the same old spots might not exist anymore, so by going on the road, you get your internal map ‘upgraded’ with new topographical details. New park connectors are being build all the time and there are new connectivity across the island that can bring us to more places on a bike. What better way to know this island home of ours?
Your dad has been riding a bike since his pre-NS days, where he learned how to ride at his dad’s warehouse in Eunos. It wasn’t a brand new bike I got but one of those hand-me-downs I got from my dad, and I learned to balance it rolling down a small ramp. It was a small bike so it was easy for me to learn how to cycle.
It was in my pre-NS days where I learned to cycle all around town. I used to stayed in Blk 168 Boon Lay Drive in a government rental flat and I cycled the west side, all the way to Clementi. I vividly remember ‘Sunset Way’ at Clementi because I failed to cycle up a steep slope, back in those days I was still to young and noob to learn how to use lower gears to tackle inclines. Till today I ‘swear’ to myself, I will return to that place to conquer the slope!
I cycled quite extensively during my NS days when I realised that it is faster going on pedal than bus from my Woodlands house to Dieppe Barracks. Thanks to modern technology, I now know that it is only a mere 6km from A to B. Which was easy for a 19-year-old to do. Oh back then, no helmets, lights or blinkers, those days in 1995.
It was in camp where I got my very first ‘serious’ MTB, the Marin Bobcat Trail, my Division Commander was retiring and he wanted to sell off his MTB which he basically use to cycle around camp, I happily paid $200 for it and this was the bike that started me seriously cycling.
I bashed trails in Bukit Timah, Ulu Sembawang, Ulu Pandan with it, all without helmets.
My first Century Ride
I did my first 100km with my camp mates, and it was on a Toys ‘R’ Us MTB which was heavy as hell but I had a lot of fun with it. I remembered cycling down Jurong where there is no cars and we occupied all the lanes like a boss. I still recalled one of my friends came along with a dinky MTB and he had problems with the gears and still managed to complete the ride with us.
Whenever we go cycling as a family, I’d depend on our neighbor’s Aleoca, while you boys have your new bikes, complement of your grandparents. Your mum will use our very old GT MTB. We did made a night trip to Yishun and I’m particularly proud of this moment as Wayne was just 6 years old and it was our first night cycling as a family. For a baby to do 30km to and fro, was quite an achievement.
The next Marin Bobcat Trail
I have Aik Kean to thank for reuniting me with the Marin Bobcat Trail, we were in a train one day and he told me he has transited from Road to MTB, and he has a Marin. It lit me up as not many people have Marins in Singapore. I ask him what model, lo and behold! “Bobcat trail.” he says, and he is selling it to upgrade! I jumped a chance to get it and this is it!
This happened because prior to this, I was at Bukit Timah hill wanting to hike, but spontaneously rented a MTB wanting to relive my trail biking days. It was a bad, bad experience, because I was so rusty with MTB-ing, I took a bike too big for me, and I went up the trail in the wrong direction!
Being a rental MTB, the gears were shit and so were the brakes, more importantly, I couldn’t trust the bike and I couldn’t trust my fitness. It was really a case of the mind is willing and the body says f**k you! The brain was transported back to my 19-year-old NS days but the body was firmly saying NOPE!
I told Aik Kean about my bad experiences and he was selling so I was sold! Since then I’ve gone places with my Marin and I tell you all about the adventures on the road!
Almost a year ago, you dad when on a cycling trip with Uncle Andy, and we visited Sentosa, which was a place Andy wanted to visit on a bike for a while. It was our first time cycling together, but it turned out to be a friendship sustained through the pedal.
Since then, we ended up doing a lot of fun things, and achieving a lot of personal firsts in our cycling journey.
Lamp Post 1
We did a night cycling together in our quest to pedal to the famed Lampost One. That was quite a night as we bumped into another cyclist and in a jest he, Mahen decided to join us on our quest to Lamp Post 1. We all made it! It certainly helped as buddying up allows us to lean on each other when we are tired and we can help each other look out for dangers or blindspot.
There is nothing in life that is as perfect as this bond Andy and I had, over time, we have build up that silent chemistry on the road that allows us to trust each other unreservedly. Usually I’ll cycle ahead and he’ll cover my back. While he is on a foldie, he certainly can cycle a heck faster than my MTB. Nonetheless, we have never split because one is faster that the other and his foldie also allows him to have the advantage of getting onto the MRT when he tires himself out on the road, but he has never done so and on every road trip, we all start and finish together.
Recently, we have to abort our ‘University Route’ (More about that in a later post), because we met with inclement weather, we reached NUS and there is an option for him to take the MRT at Kent Ridge home and me on my MTB will have to go home in the rain, which was fine. He decided to stick with me and we both pedaled hiome, from rain to no rain.
When we ride, there’s usually little conversation, we don’t cycle side by side, as most of the time we are on pavements, which don’t gives us the luxury of space to do so, more importantly we enjoy the cycling together and in our own personal space. It is the freedom we get at the same time having a buddy to look out for if there is trouble.
We are also respectful of each other’s safety and never take more than necessary risks. For me on my MTB, I will always make sure I look for pavements and even when there is a chance for me to take the dirt for a short route, my bike would certainly be more than capable to eat dirt, but I’d stick to pavement because I know Andy’s bike will not be able to take off road.
He on the other hand helps me watch our for my blind spot and cover the back, sometimes I might miss a car coming up and he’d sound a warning.
While cycling is a physical activity, we have never pushed each other to outdo each other, there is no bragging or bravado between us, we just enjoy cycling and pairing up helps us get to places where we would otherwise will not make it alone. We also never try to outdo each other with our equipment or show who has the better bling bling on our bike.
Our Own Safe Space
I guess the reason why we bonded so well is because I feel that this is our escapade, he’s a dad of four; me, two, and we have our challenges being a dad, and a husband, being on the road helps us find our own man-cave to chill. At the same time, we give our spouse the assurance that we can look out for each other.
It’s also great that while we do share our challenges in parenting, we never dispense advise to each other. I have never told him what he ‘should’ do, neither has he ever told me what I ‘could’ do. We have problems we need to deal with and while we do share some of those problems, we never offer solutions nor ask for answers. There’s just an unspoken rule between us that we will respect our own space, problems and never dispense life stories. We just put our problems aside and ride, and enjoying it.
It’s a good shared experience because the roads we take with each other adds context when we had some conversations a some specific spot on the journey. It helps build a very unique memories I hold and treasure knowing that the moment was share with a buddy I trust and respect.
Coney Island is Singapore’s latest island open to public. How ironic it sounds as Singapore by itself is an island too!
I made a visit myself on the second day of opening and found it a haven island, left rustic the way it is. The beach was the thing that took my breath away. Of course the beach is not white sandy beach, Maldives equivalent, but it was good enough for me, there is the sea, sand and shore. There is very minimal human presence such as a BBQ pit, signage (Singaporeans loves signage!) or lighting. It was kept this way by the NParks . Kudos to them for doing a great job!
So I had to bring you both there, and since the exams is over, and you boys are raring for a road trip, we borrowed our neighbor’s (its great to have great neighbors!) adult bikes and off we go!
Lorong Halus Way
We took the Lorong Halus way as it is the one closer to our house, we just have to cross the bridge linking Punggol to Lorong Halus wetland. From there is was a vehicular road and I took the lead, Ian following, Wayne the third and your mother covering the back. I can hear the constant yell from your mother to tell the both of you to ‘KEEP LEFT!!!’
We used the East entrance to enter and cycled the inner trail, the one closer to the beach, so that I can show you boys how the beach looked like.
There were threats and news of Sand-flies, and people falling victim to these insects, thankfully, we didn’t encounter any of those! We continue to take the trail and Ian you, having your mountain bike, surely finds no trouble handling the terrain, your little brother Wayne, with his little BMX, took the trail with gusto, falling innumerable times, getting up, and falling down and getting up again.
We cycled a little further to the heading towards the west side of the island and we could see clearly another larger island, Pulau Ubin. We can clearly see the jetty used by Outward Bound Singapore and was wondering to ourselves if the distance was actually swim-able. Which all of us agreed, it is!
We carried on with our cycling, and both Ian and I have to slow down and stop occasionally so that your gritty little brother could catch up. We found the sign for Coney Island and your mother asked a Malay couple cycling behind us to help us with the pictures, and we in turn helped them snapped theirs. It’s always nice to be nice to other people.
We left the Island via the West entrance and was feeling hungry, we didn’t settle for the usual palate at Punggol Settlement, and we decided to brave on and cycle further up, towards SengKang, and finally ended up at Seletar Mall to have our meal. thankfully, although the dark clouds loomed, rain didn’t happened as we cycled back, the same way we came, and by the end of everything we realized that we have clocked over 20km of cycling in total! The amazing things is, having being bitten by the cycling bug, you boys pounced on the idea of a night cycling, which your mum and I think, you both will be too tired to continue, so we told you both to sleep, when we reached home, which was about 6pm? and if you both can wake up by 10pm, we can go. And of course, without having to mention it, you both slept like a log! through the night!