Monday, September 24, 2007

Pulau Ubin Group Ride

'Decided to join the "old boys" for a ride (although that meant getting up at 5 AM and riding to Changi Village from Dairy Farm on off-road tires. Ugh!).

Pulau Ubin Jetty. The last time I stepped on this island was in 1992. It is no longer as rustic as I remember it; many of the locals have switched from farming and prawn-rearing to earning tourist dollars.

After being turned away at the entrance to Tanjong Chek Jawa, we went up and down some nice rolling hardpack roads before taking a break at a rural drink kiosk.

The owner keeps a pet wild boar. Despite its fearsome appearance, it is actually very friendly and is as curious as a puppy. Pity about its scent though...

The kiosk owner warned us that it would rain shortly. We expected that, but we didn't know that the deluge would be so heavy and last so long. The moment it started pouring, I instantly lost 50% of my braking power — the other 4 riders, using disc brakes, remained unaffected. Later, all of Freddy's chain grease got washed away and his Specialized repeatedly suffered chain suck. After unsuccessfully looking for the BMX track, we entered an uncompleted track (managed by DirTraction, I believe).

In there, it quickly became apparent that narrow singletrack with tight switchbacks is not Cloe's forte. Due to Cloe's long top tube, I could not turn quick enough and repeatedly toppled over. Freddy was the perfect gentleman, patiently waiting for me each time and always encouraging.

So, it was raining cats and dogs (and perhaps, a few elephants as well). Although my clear Oakley M-frames were fogged up, I kept them on to shield me from mud sprays. As a result, I could only see 1 meter (3.3 feet) ahead. It didn't seem to be a problem as we were climbing slowly. Then, the trail crested and we started descending, turning and twisting through the cool, rain-soaked, tropical forest...

One moment, I could see the bluish blur of Freddy 1 meter ahead...

Then... suddenly, Treebeard this tree suddenly appeared out of nowhere.



After the stars cleared from my head , I discovered that my left foot had unclipped from the pedal, but not the right. My right hand was hanging on to the tree. My left foot and rear wheel was in the air, hanging over a 70-degree slope studded with boulders. Only the front wheel was touching the side of the trail.

I dangled there for sometime. Those tree-hugging idiots at UC Berkeley would have been proud of me.

15 minutes later, Freddy got tired of waiting and backtracked. He sees this guy dangling from a tree, with a bike hanging from his right foot, all suspended over a steep, rocky slope.

He stands there and laughs.

BEN:  WTF! Dude, either take the camera from my bag and take a picture or help me!

FREDDY:  Pull yourself up!

BEN:  Very funny! You are asking me to do a 1-arm pull up with a 10 kg bike attached to my foot! [Muttering] I think you watched too many reruns of Cliffhanger!

Freddy laughs again, walks over, grabs and unclips Cloe from my right foot so that I can shimmy up the tree to get back on the trail.

Much, much later, we found the rest of the guys at the seafood restaurant beside the jetty. From left, clockwise: Yew Tiam (Dude, I still owe you the ferry fare x2!), Ahmad, Peter, and Freddy.

Cloe didn't shine in today's ride because her geometry wasn't designed for tight, narrow, singletrack. She was built for the wide open, hyper-fast fire roads in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Deer Flat Road, Mount Diablo.

Bobcat Trail, Marin Headlands.

On trails such as these, it is not unusual to hit 48 mph (76.8 km/h) whilst descending. I also learned that Ritchey Logic V-brake pads melt when stopping from such speeds. Here, rather than being a handicap, a long top tube is advantageous as it enhances stability while carving high-speed turns.

Next trip to Pulau Ubin, it would be Ivy's turn  :-D

Total distance:  cyclo-computer 66.1 miles (105.6 km) / GPS dead
Total elevation climbed:  Altimeter 2230 ft (680 m)

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