Preparing for the 168km edition of the NTU Bike Rally

NTU Bike Rally is a magnificent round-island ride organised by the great undergrads of NTU Sports Club and I’m happy to have ridden in all ten rides.

This year they offered not the usual 128km but two versions – an 88km ride and a 168km ride. I chose the latter without hesitation but winced later when discussing the choice with Kenneth Pinto, my Zendogs 2.0 riding kaki. We realised the distance had to be taken seriously because it’s a longer ride than we are used to, it’s happening now in just five weeks (Sun 08 Mar 2015) and it will be hot and dry then!

NTU Bike Rally 2015

After a tough semester last Aug – Dec 2014, my cycling fitness is history once again. Last year I used the Brompton and ended up battling cramps for half the distance. I said then, that the pain was an appropriate way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the NTU Bike Rally!

This year, I have decided against heroics and am opting for an easier ride on my Norco mountain bike complete with slick tyres! And I began preparations with @acroamatic two Sundays ago. Predictably I experienced cramps on my first ride to Changi Village after just 30 km – and fell off my bike after 50km at Fort Road as my leg muscles locked up. Sigh, all the dramatics despite isotonics, salt tablets, good hydration and compression pants. It was bound to happen, though, and I had transport waiting courtesy of Ladybug!

After two more rides that week, I managed 85km without cramps second Sunday ride. And I was pleased with the average speed of 20+km/h during the first 30km (Holland Village to Changi Village).

Admittedly these were all relatively slow rides with journey average speeds below 20km/h. My climbs are weak and while urging myself on, I’m careful not to overstrain my injured knees. The rides were also relatively cool due to cloudy weather, breaking me in gently, thankfully.

Well, it’s ride number five in the morning and I’m hoping to be a little faster, even on the second leg back via Pasir Panjang. It will probably be an 80km+ ride – I will not break the metric century yet, but I am content to tackle that a week or two later. Tally-ho!

My Runkeeper plots of the rides

First 2015 ride to Changi Village for breakfast when I knew I’d have enough by Fort Road.
2015 01 Cycling Activity 53 90 km  RunKeeper

A slow recovery mid-day ride two days after my cramp-filled Sunday along my old, safe route to Serangoon Gardens and back
2015 02 Cycling Activity 30 49 km  RunKeeper

A night ride after an evening tutorial to Kranji Reservoir and back.
2015 03 Cycling Activity 52 24 km  RunKeeper 1

The second Sunday ride was faster and cramp-free, with a bit of touring thrown in!
2015 04 Cycling Activity 86 95 km  RunKeeper

Zendog rides are never full blown training rides. We meet friends for breakfast at Guru’s which is wonderful, chit chatting as we wind down while watching hornbills, parakeets and cockatoos. We take it easy along ECP which has been thronging with all sorts of PCN and beach users this January, which is really nice to see. During all those conversations and sight-seeing, we make observations and learn lots from each other – like how to nuke LINE adverts!

The necessary Avocado milkshake at Marina Bay beckons now that I am reaching that far. We look for otters and their signs there. During the rides, I eyeball the ever changing landscape, examine my field and teaching sites with care, get to know new neighbourhoods, send updates to relevant people and necessary feedback to agencies.

Last Sunday I got to try the Bishan-Kallang Obstacle Course and it lived up to its billing – four bridges and an increasing number of stairs peaking at my old school neighbourhood.

It’s certainly a great way to keep in touch with Singapore and friends.

Some photos from the rides
Early morning rides are sweet – if you can wake up! Here Kenneth increases the pace at Tampines as the sun rises.
2015 01 18 08 15 32 HDR

Prata at Guru’s Banana Leaf Cuisine Pte Ltd, comes with sambal chili, a must have!
2015 01 18 09 03 02

The barge is still in Changi River!
2015 01 18 09 51 51

I am supplied with coconut water to fight off cramps at the ECP pit stop at Area G.
2015 01 18 10 47 41

I love seeing people out on picnics at the beach on a sunny, windy day with ships in the distance and planes overhead.
2015 01 18 09 53 37

Rides can be grim – it always hurts to see loss of green spaces in Singapore, this at Bukit Brown.
2015 01 20 11 48 36

Road widening and other works have turned the Bishan-Marymount junction and the Thomson Road area into a furnace. It is worth examining at midday to realise how precious wayside trees are everywhere. Hopefully more greenery will be planted eventually, but the wide roads have no space in-between lanes for a treeline.
2015 01 20 15 05 19

On evening rides in the west, it’s tense when I get out the PCN into the hustle and bustle of traffic and the many heavy-vehicles. Until the Lim Chu Kang Road area adjacent to the western cemeteries. As I ride though the night, I think of the old villages which used to exist there, primped by remnant makers and sometimes empty buildings. The greenery outside NTU and SCDF along Jalan Bahar area is all ripped up now and is reduced to a miserable single lane in some parts. I would not like to have a truck breathing down my neck there.
2015 01 23 21 14 24

Young un’s Meryl & Gladys discover John Cougar Mellencamp (“Jack and Diane”) playing off Kenneth’s bluetooth speakers.
2015 01 25 11 06 56

Requisite Avocado milkshake at Marina Bay, and catching up with kakis.
2015 01 25 12 12 22 HDR

Looking for otter spraints; Meryl and I suggested a vegetation screen to replace the cut long grass so that otters are encouraged to return to the reservoir bank there. Adrian Loo & his GBB team will look into it.
2015 01 25 11 28 12

Kenneth & Gladys climb one of four overhead bridges along the Bishan-Kallang Obstacle Course. My neighbourhood roads of old are no more and these crossings are a lifeline in an area peppered by highways and fast roads.
2015 01 25 13 13 43

National Aerated Water Co. Ltd. – the building is still here!
2015 01 25 13 06 32

Almost miraculously, the old St. Andrew’s School building is still present, and thankfully it is a heritage building!
2015 01 25 13 15 20

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