That 130km bicycle ride with NTU Bike Rally 2011

I rode my 7th NTU Bike Rally yesterday, with a whole bunch of NTU undergrads and members of the public. An undergrad I chatted with under a scorching sun some 80km into the ride, learnt it was not my first rally. She asked me painfully, “why did you come back?”

I felt your pain, sistah!

A quick dump of my Runkeeper graphic (click to see route details) was plotted with an iPhone I carried and left on the entire journey – powered with spare battery chargers. Twitter posts were done via using my text-only handphone, so the tweets were composed old school SMS-style.

sivasothi_s Activities | RunKeeper
Sunday, 27th February 2011

Night before
11:40 PM Feb 26th – Portable charger for the iPhone allows Runkeeper plots of long rides
11:49 PM Feb 26th – NTU Bike Rally 2011 jersey

The joy of the early morning
5:31 AM Feb 27th – Lit up like a Christmas tree and tyres pumped. Off to the F1 pit stop for the NTU Bike Rally. [It was 8+ km from HV to the F1 Pit Stop, which I why I clocked 130km]
6:08 AM – Reached F1 pit, registered. Met @acroamatic Erm legs shaky after ride down!
6:56 AM – About to head off. Met Daryl, Athena and Kai Meng.
{We were chatting so left with the 3rd wave}
7:50 AM – HV to F1 8.8km, avs17.8. 1st stop. West Coast Park 23.37km, avs18.7, 1.14.47.

It begins to heat up
9:11 AM – Reached NTU, 37.73km, avs18.6kmh, 2.01.27. Sun’s up. Knee hurts a bit. They have bananas.
10:27 AM – What a head wind! Kranji Rsvr 53.16km, avs18.3kmh, 2.53.43. Heat and cramps.
10:31 AM – NTU undergrads tackling the ride in shorts, t-shirt and rented bikes, champion!
10:57 AM – Fighting off massive cramps on Mandai Road. Every muscle taking its turn!
11:26 AM – Twisted and turned in saddle, imbibed water, shifted pedaling leg. Fought off cramps, Yaaay!

Trouble begins
11:33 AM – Yishun Stadium, 66.89km, avs18.0kmh, 3.42.55. So when is that rain coming?
11:37 AM – Looks like the virus community gave me the day off. No trouble from them today.
11:49 AM – Hmmm, have they run out of water? Am down to 0.8L so a stop needed.
12:22 PM – Heat takes out a number of cyclists including my kaki. Safe than sorry, a good call.
12:32 PM – Took awhile for cab to come for kaki. The log rest did not shake off cramps. Twist and turn!

We head into Punggol
1:15 PM – Oooh, rural Punggol is quite lovely. Degraded but nice!
1:24 PM – Horizon Primary School, Punggol. 81.60km, avs17.8kmh, 4.33.27. Second wind and clouds.
1:32 PM – Alvin from Punggol spots me from his window!
2:09 PM – Lunch was served from a roadside mobile canteen! [Ladybug and Alvin] NTU safety car checked to see if I was okay!
2:36 PM – The clouds are very nice, but what is it, with these headwinds? C’mon!
2:46 PM – Pasir Ris park car park B. 96.28km, avs17.8kmh, 5.23.51
2:52 PM – Heading to Changi now!
3:59 PM – East Coast Park edge. 113.46km, avs17.6kmh, 6.25.53. Winds blew my front wheel off course!

[missing somewhere here – “now it is all about pain management”]

I am completely drained
4:09 PM – Ladybug having a picnic under a tree at NSRCC. I watch in a stupor. One leg left of about 15km. Yes, I should have used slicks for this ride.
4:12 PM – [earlier] Chatted with undergrads about places we were passing and handed out Salon Pas. Riding with slower cyclists is about the journey.
5:30 PM – At the F1 pit. 130.12km, avs17.6kmh, 7.23.13 A good way to start the year!
5:31 PM – Congratulated the organiser. They did a great job.
5:37 PM – NTU Earthlink was involved hence the recycling msg at all check points today.
8:06 PM – I’m radiating so much heat, Mr Bats the cat curls up next to me purring.

The day after
~9.30 AM Feb 26th – After yesterday’s 130km ride, I declare: a well-maintained bicycle is a joy to ride and Brook’s saddle = no butt pain!

Photo by Alvin Wong


Previous NTU Bike Rally rides

  1. 2010 – photos
  2. 2009 – pre-ride blog post
  3. 2008 – blog post
  4. 2007 – blog post
  5. 2004 – photos
  6. 2003 – annotated photos

Double-decker SBS 95 spotted in campus today!

Coming out of Science Drive 4 at 11.20am this morning, I was surprised by the sight of a double-decker SBS no 95! I twittered the observation, drawing responses from Gaurav, Keropokman and Kenneth. From those responses I surmised that this was its first day out – Kenneth was quite sure and this was pretty much confirmed when Joelle posted a photo on her Facebook page.

So, welcome double-decker, I shall look forward to enjoying your space soon! Hopefully this means that when NUS staff and students pack the bus during the peak hour for the crawl out to Buona Vista MRT station, the NUH community has a better chance of not seeing a fully laden bus roar past in dismay.

Joelle Lai - double-decker 95!
Opposite University Hall, NUS (Photo by Joelle Lai)

Double-decker 95!
Holland Avenue

Posters on Buddhism SG Forums suggest that the SBS Transit bus model is the Volvo B9TL (Wright Eclipse Gemini 2).

NTU Bike Rally 2011 jersey

We took a gamble of $35 for a bicycle jersey design we had not seen before. But I trusted that the students would be more picky than I was and it turned out very nicely indeed. In about five hours, we’ll find out how this jersey performs in the heat and rain we should expect over the 120km+.

This year I hope to last at least half the ride and to remember to take it really easy so as not to strain myself. So to Kranji at least, then I can alert the ladybug ambulance for recovery if I feel as awful as I have felt the past few days. Alternatively, I hope the fresh morning air revives me.

Well, we’ll see.

Portable charger for the iPhone allows Runkeeper plots of long rides

Runkeeper makes greats plots of bicycle rides or other journeys but uses up lots of power. I discovered this when I borrowed Ladybug’s iPhone so that I could plot my Changi breakfast ride one Sunday. The phone lasted about 3.5 hours (we took long breaks that morning) before giving up its ghost. So there was no power for the plot of my ride back via Pasir Panjang.

I wondered aloud at how to manage the long ride that beckoned in February and one of the Zendogs, Aaron Chia, sent me this ebay link – it reads “Portable Mobile Charger 1900mAh” sold by togytech. At US$9./unit, I decide to go ahead and buy three – if it worked, the iPhone would be powered for the entire NTU Bike Rally – even at my speed.

I checked my Paypal record and this had cost me SG$31.87 in total.

Portable Mobile Charger 1900mAh for iPhone 4 Gen 4G 4th on eBay (end time 08-Mar-11 10:23:02 GMT)
Aaron Chia’s recommendation

The portable charger was delivered to my doorstep

I charged one of the portable chargers for the LSM2251 Ecology class’ trip to Pulau Ubin. I activated the Runkeeper app on the bumboat as I headed over and it worked like a charm! Admittedly the iPhone was somewhat ungaily with the charger attached, but I no longer had to worry about battery life anymore.

When I got back home that Saturday, I gleefully shared the map of my morning’s roving between all the module’s groups over the four hours (they were on foot, I had been on a bicycle).

The map certainly helped demonstrate the utility of simple mapping tools which are available on smart phones.

Ubin today
Pulau Ubin on 12 Feb 2011

If you have laboured over manual plots, you appreciate this convenience, surely. However, I still do manual plots, especially in unfamiliar territory. For how else would I really know where I went or will be going to?

Well, the iPhone I have borrowed will last the ride easily. Since the recent flu left me in a weakened state and also put to bed any thought of a preparatory ride, the question now really is will I last the ride?!

Probable route (2008 route plotted by leews on bikely)

Auto-connect to Wireless@SGx – in just four steps

I watched in fascination last week as a student struggled to find the Wireless@SG signal and login as we sat in Starbucks, Holland Village. I’ve not had to suffer this acquisition process for some months now and forgot how tiresome it could be. These days, I simply open the lid of my MacBook Pro in a hotspot and I’m online seconds later – the only other place I get that sort of treatment is at home! Lovely, isn’t it?

We were in the middle of a discussion but I figured we could spare the minute to introduce her (and eventually I hope, her friends) to Seamless and Secure Access (SSA) – I pointed to the prompt on the Singtel Wireless@SG welcome screen which suggested just that which she clicked:

  1. The WSG Connect package was downloaded and she was prompted for her mac’s password to allow the installation.
  2. A short while later, the tricky bit – I showed her that the installed WSG Connect application was present in the folder “WSG Connect” within her Applications Folder – the window was actually already open on the desktop.
  3. She ran that “Wireless@SG-Singtel” app which displayed a screen – I pointed to the menu bar tab which said “Configure SSA”.
  4. She selected that menu and drop down which said “Configure” – and followed instructions which eventually prompted for her Wireless@SG userid and password, which she keyed in.

That was it, she was done! I told her she could delete the files and folders in the Downloads and Application folders from the installation. And we carried on with our discussion.

The next time she is in a hotspot and slides her mac out of her bag, it’ll login automatically once she wakes it up.

I wrote a longer story almost exactly a year ago but this is really all there is to it – I’ve showed this to a few friends recently with great glee. It had not actually worked on my mac last year for some strange reason but since the re-installation of my OS last November, Wireless@SGX has been a boon!

Hope it’ll work for you too.

P.s. works with mobile devices too.

When to trim the nails of the finicky Mr Bats

I play swipe and pounce games with Mr Bats so I know his nails are too sharp. Otherwise, mild injuries on his fellow brethren Xylo and Tiger signal its for trimming. Mr Bats is the most temperamental of the three and is most likely to explode in your arms. While his excitable swipes and nips are more psychologically cautioning than damaging, our reflexes are a healthy response to maintain.

So when to take on tasks like nail trims and ear cleansing? Well, cats have moods like the best of us, so approach when docile, affectionate or, well, best said, “manja”! Like he looks in this photo below. Nice and malleable – but always monitor for change!

Was the tree damage at Mandai Forest really a carnage?

Lekowala, Ladybug and myself went down to take look at the damage inflicted by the 11th February 2011 storm on Mandai forest and were awed. It is with good reason that my students aren’t allowed to stay in the forest during a storm. And to think Ladybug had been complaining about her sunflower seeds being decapitated by Xylo the cat.

Here, windstorms had twisted and decapitated 15-25-metre trees. Everyone’s sad as our forest can’t take too much of a beating, really, they’re already such itsy-bitsy fragments. So it was “carnage”, as The Ubinator described!

To put it in perspective, I used one of Adrian’s photos from today and a Google Map Street View photo from ?some years ago. Click the images for the larger views and you’ll realise why the naturalists are all sighing.

Pre-storm image from Google Maps
Mandai forest prestorm damage.png

The carnage this afternoon, 19 Feb 2011
20110219-04mandai_road-treefall-19feb2011[adrian_loo].jpg 2,000×1,331 pixels

Eventually we’ll post more photos up in Habitatnews and I’ll say lucky Lekowala brought his camera along. For now, just so you know the damage is viewable from the road and an area with canopy cover is larger than a gap, it’s a clearing.

See “Storm flattens section of Mandai forest,” by Grace Chua. The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2011.