Filtering peak hour air (on a bicycle)

I am not a cycle-to-work cyclist but a leisure cyclist who avoids cycling at peak hours. There is simply too much dust and smoke generated by the heavy traffic. I also choose side lanes with sufficient greenery to filter out the heat, dust and smoke for a more pleasant ride.

During the last Cycling in Singapore meetup in May, Chu Wa passed me his ‘designed and made in Singapore’ totobobo mask to try out while cycling. In early July, I finally made a peak hour ride when I headed down to the FOYers gathering in Sengkang after work.

The totobobo mask is soft, light, has mainly reuseable parts, covers a variety of face-sizes and can be modified to custom-fit a person’s face. Also cheap! It is not primarily meant for cycling though. Chu Wa had suggested I try it out to see if it was viable. Since my ride to Sengkang was a peak-hour ride, it was the best time to see if the mask would make a difference.

I had been wondering how it would cope with heavy breathing and true enough, before I even set off, the moisture in my initial puffs started condensing in the mask and also fogging up my goggles! I realised it was little like snorkeling – some adjustment to breathing patterns was necessary. After some quick experimenting, I had reduced the fogging enough to start on my ride.


Take me to your leader…

As I rode, things did improve further but being my first ride with a mask, I was uncomfortable. Despite traveling quite fast, I wrenched the mask off when I reached traffic-light lanes with lots of greenery and relatively fresh air. I tugged the mask back on when I hit busy roads. The straps were cooperative but I made one too many vigorous tugs and my helmet strap confounded things, eventually one disengaging of the filters which fell off!

So I had to stow the remains at Bishan Road amidst heavy traffic and start sucking in the now very noticeable fumes! Well at least it demonstrated just how bad peak hour air was – extremely unpleasant! It was enough to make me hit the park connector to Sengkanfg instead of the shorter route through Upper Serangoon Road as planned.

I do cycle down to some of my field sites and meetings every now and then. The air quality on even some late morning rides (e.g. Lim Chu Kang, 7.30am) have become intolerable and there is also the talk of haze returning more recently. Now that I have experienced the difference in the quality of air I am sucking in through the mask, it’ll be a standard part of my saddle bag. I think the cycle-to-work folk should check it out – no wonder Theodore sports a mean-looking mask during his daily rides!

In a more extreme example, two cyclists who rode through China and other parts of Asia used the TOTOBOBO mask through polluted areas and changed the filter every six hours – check out their results.

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3 thoughts on “Filtering peak hour air (on a bicycle)

  1. Hi Siva, thanks for the post and sorry for the incident (the filter drop off). You’ll get an replacement soon : )

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