One year on

It has been a year since I started commuting by bicycle, and I enjoyed it very much.  The Mapmyride screen shows a summary of the cycling.  Over the year, I cycled 5,440 km at an average speed of 26 km/h. I burned the equivalent of 436  Big-Macs. map_my_ride_statistics

Unfortunately I have now moved house, and live too far to commute from home to NTU. So my cycling will take a rest. I shall try to keep fit by running in my neighbourhood.

It had to happen

Bike_accident_6Sep2013IMG_0154cropWell it did, I got knocked off my bike on 6th September. There was not much traffic, and yet, someone in a BMW came in from my left at the junction above and ran into my back wheel. I was riding along Jalan Boon Lay at perhaps 25 km/h, with front and rear lights flashing, and with my helmet on, as usual. I was on my way to NTU after a meeting in town. It was about 2  pm. The car came in from Jurong West Central 3. I got thrown over the handle bars and ended up with scraped knees and elbows, and quite a few bruises, but luckily, nothing more serious.

The driver was apologetic, but this does not make up for the fact that I could have been seriously hurt. My back wheel was quite smashed, and the rack was bent, but luckily the bicycle frame was OK, so just minor damage.

OCBC SuperChallenge ride

OCBC3:30 in the morning – Sunday – and the alarm clock rings. Time to get ready for the Super Challenge. I collected my bib number, shirt, helmet stickers and bicycle tag on Friday at the F1 pit building, so I know were to go. I was asked to contribute to the fundraising effort for the Dover Park Hospice and join their Sunflower Riders, which I was pleased to do. I decorated my bike with Sunflowers on Saturday, and checked the brakes, tyre pressure, lights etc, so I was ready.

The roads were empty, and dry, and the temperature a pleasant 26 degrees. As I cycled towards town, I came across a mixture of loud party people leaving the nightspots and eager cyclists heading for the Marina Bay area. Quite a few of the cars heading towards the city had bicycles on their racks. I arrived at 4:30 and joined the SuperChallenge crowd. Tien Sien from Dover Park Hospice was soon there to cheer me along. There were already lots of riders queueing up for the ride. What a well equipped bunch of people, with very fancy, shiny bikes that looked brand new, and made mine look like an antique! The Sunflowers got quite a few friendly remarks.Teams of cyclists, with matching jerseys, were taking it very seriously, talking tactics. But it was a friendly, carnival atmosphere, with music, a master of ceremonies and instructions blaring out. The energy drink I had prepared at home was really too sweet, so I was pleased to get some water from attendants. Soon after 05:15 we were off, at quite a good pace. The cycling teams quickly got into their slip-streams, and were moving quickly. It was not easy to fit in, but I realised what an advantage drafting can be. Anyway, I got into my rythm, and cycled up to the expressway, and down the road towards Changi. I was overtaking quite a few cyclists, but was also overtaken by many. I was pleased to reach the U-turn at the end of the first leg, and again  the second U-turn that sent us back towards Changi. At that point, I was getting tired, and I was alone on the road. I had no idea where I was in the pack. I could smell the East Coast Park food stalls getting their fryers ready. It got a bit boring, and I was getting worried I was going to get cramps in my legs, so I slowed down a bit. Energy bars seemed to help and I was now heading back towards Marina Bay. I was not pleased to see that we had to ride to the top of the expressway bridge again. This seemed cruel. By now, there were lots of cyclists stopped by the roadside, having a rest, nursing their cramps and pumping up their flats. I kept going, and even had some energy to accelerate – the thought of the finishing line approaching is a great incentive.  Daylight was rising and I could see the ships beyond the beach. The view of the city from the top of the expressway was spectacular. And then, it was downhill to the finishing line. After a little while, I met with the friendly DPH crowd, Tien Sien, Stella Wee and the other Sunflower riders, Dr Angel Lee (MD), Daryl Tan (Corp Comms Exec), Joyce Chan (Volunteer), Ian Chiang (Son of former DPH patient) for photographs in the VIP area. And then, it was the 10km ride home. It had been a lovely experience. Next year, I should get a LKCMedicine team together.

The OCBC results came out the day after. I was 217th out  of 1309, in a time of 1h47min for 62.2 km, or an average speed of 34km/h. I was quite pleased with this result.

OCBC_results OCBC

VO2max

VO2max is a measure of the maximal amount of oxygen that a person is able to breathe in, and utilise, during periods of maximal exercise, normalised for the person’s body weight. It is a measure of endurance fitness, and it is expressed in terms of millilitres of oxygen used up per minute, divided by the body weight, in kg. Rather compact machines are available in specialist laboratories or hospitals that measure O2 and CO2 flow in and out of the lungs. The instruments require wearing a mask over the mouth and nose, connected to the recorder. The exercise is usually carried out on a bicycle ergometer, or on a tread mill, and lasts about 15 minutes, during which one is asked to exercise in a graded way (eg extra friction added to the cycle ergometer), until one feels one cannot carry on any more. The instrument continuously reports heart rate, O2 consumption and CO2 expiration, and computes VO2max. It is a good measure of aerobic fitness, and a test of the cardiorespiratory system.

It turns out that NTU had its Open Day yesterday, and in the LKC School of Medicine we prepared quite a range of interactive displays and exhibits. With the help from our DSO colleague Dr. Jason Lee, my colleague Darren Lim organised a cycle ergometer for measurements of VO2max for any student or parent who wished to undergo the test. During the day, 20 people had their VO2max measured, and although it is hard work, all seemed to enjoy the experience, and enjoyed learning about their endurance fitness. In the week prior to the Open Day I had a go on the machine. My VO2max came out at 49 ml/kg/min, with a maximal heart rate of 153 beats/min. This VO2max value really surprised me, as it is quite high for someone my age as can be seen from VO2max tables. This site gives VO2max values for women.

Obvioulsy my regular, and intense cycling has a profound effect on my cardiovascular system.

NTU to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Yishun

Yesterday I had a meeting at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). It’s a bit far, but I thought I would cycle there. I left NTU at around noon, with my pockets filled with google maps to make sure I would not get lost. I did need to check the maps on a few occasions, but it was relatively easy to find my way. The beginning of the ride is particularly lovely because it is through open countryside – actually, it is more cemeteries and army camps than open countryside, but at least I felt I was riding through countryside, and could see an open sky.  It is quite difficult to get the sense of the open road in Singapore – the distant view is blocked by trees (good) or buildings (not so good). Finding my way through Choa Chu Kang was the trickiest. Mandai Road and Mandai Avenue are the longest stretches (even went past the Zoo entrance!). What was surprising was how little traffic there was – admittedly it was not rush hour, so I found the ride very enjoyable.

Anyway, my route is shown below:

NTU_to_KPTH

It took just over an hour for the 27 km. KPTH is really beautiful. I have not seen many hospitals, but KPTH is certainly the most magnificient I have ever seen, with lovely open public areas and a sense of space. I liked the wood flooring in the central garden. It was a good place to eat my picnic lunch and to cool down. Of course on the day I also cycled from home to NTU (19.5 km) and from KPTH back to home (another 19km) so I cycled more than 60km yesterday. The ride home from KPTH was in the dark, and in heavy traffic, so not so pleasant.

Overall, It is a great feeling to know that this ride is quite feasible on a working day – I will probably do it again sometimes.

Front derailleur problem

My front derailleur is giving me grief. According to tne bike manufacturers it is a Shimano 105 FD-5700. It started rubbing a few days ago. I tried to fix it, but now I can’t get the chain on the large chain ring at all. I’ve ridden bikes all my life, but I never learned to fix derailleur problems. Anyone has a good book on how to fix these?

I fixed it! After reading a few web sites, it all became clear. This site was particularly helpful: http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/front-derailleur-adjustments. As expected, I had to play with the height of the cage, and adjust the Low and High screws. Better lighting allowed me to understand what these screws did. That was really helpful. The cage adjustment for the middle chain ring just needed a tweak on the cable tensioning lug.

What about these birds! I just spotted them on a lamp-post in our street yesterday at about 07:30. They are hornbills, and on the Singapore critically endangered species list: http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/vertebrates/birds/albirostris.htm.

Hornbills_P1080598n

I just had time to grab the camera before they flew off. It was very exciting.

A Singaporean view?

Before Christmas last year, as I was cycling to NTU on my way to work at about 08:00 in the morning, I stopped at a traffic light at the junction between Jurong West Ave 2 and Jalan Boon Lay. A pedestrian came up to me and said: “Don’t you know that Thursdays are working days in Singapore?”

I was too surprised to come up with an appropriate response, but it illustrates how foreign the concept of using bicycles for commuting is. It is also an indication of the impressive work ethics in Singapore. I regret not to see more who use bicycles for commuting. In spite of the climate, it is quite an attractive method for combining the practical with exercise.That being said, it is dangerous. The news of two young brothers killed on their bicycles in Tampines last Monday bring home the dangers of Singapore traffic. I am so sad for these children and their families. I cannot imagine greater suffering. My heart goes out to them.

Mapmyride

Link

It has been a long time since I commented on this blog, but this does not mean that I stopped cycling. In  fact, I have continued cycling to NTU and back home about 4 times per week. I have been religiously using the mapmyride.com app  on my iphone to record all my commutes, and found it rather addictive. Apart from mapping my route everyday and giving me information about duration, speed, calories burned etc, the web application compares my performance with other cyclists with whom I share some of the road segments. Some of the ride segments can be defined as climbs or routes, and points and awards are gained depending on one’s performance. The problem of course is that I am continually under pressure to improve my times. This is quite exhausting.

mapmyride_screenshot

I discovered that in my cycling, I use about 1600 calories per day! as a result I realised that I needed to eat more to avoid feeling exhausted all the time.

I have also used cycling to get to meetings in Singapore. I cycled to TTSH in Novena from NTU (57 minutes), and from NTU to Biopolis (45 minutes). These rides were done around lunch time and did feel quite hot, but I took advantage of the swimming pool and showers at the NTU Alumni Club before my afternoon meeting. Very pleasant indeed.

 

Have I been unfaithful to my old bike?

I put up a picture of the new bike, but never put up a picture of my old one, and yet it served me well, and my son Toby as well, over many years. I owe it many hours of safe riding. So this is now remedied.

It weighs 12.4 Kg as shown, wherease the new one weighs only 9.2 Kg, as shown in the picture in my previous post. Such a big weight difference is really surprising, with the steel bike 25% lighter than the alu one. Surely this is in part because of the higher quality components, but it shows that steel bikes are not necessarily heavy.

By the way, I found this useful blog about Singapore cycling (cyclinginsingapore).

 

 

The new bike arrived, and I rode it today.

genesis_equilibriumIt is a steel road bike, something which is hard to find in Singapore, so I bought mine in London, in the great shop near where I used to live: Bike and Run. But it was not cheap! It is a Genesis Equilibrium frame, built up in the shop with strong 36-spoke wheels and high specification components.The advantage of steel is that it flexes more than aluminium, which means the ride is much more comfortable. The steel absorbs the vibrations of the road surface, and gives me a smoother ride. Besides, the components are much higher grade than on my previous bike. Gears change smoothly, which is useful when stopping at or starting from traffic lights, and when climbing hills.

I really enjoyed the ride.