Friday, October 17, 2008

Off roading with foldies - its possible!

Anyone who knows Singapore will agree that the pace of development here is fast and furious. Constructions everywhere, the old make way for the new and familiar landmarks disappear forever.

Disconcerting as it may be, its nice to know that places like Pulau Ubin have largely escaped the reach of modernisation. An island just 10 mins boat ride from Changi Ferry Point, 6 of us all on foldies, decided to check it out. It seemed like a great idea as I have not been to this idyllic island for over ten years, and a perfect respite from the turbulent global financial markets. The boatman was impressed that the bikes could fold and took half the space in his tight cabin. I asked him if he would consider halfing the bicycle fee of $2, and he laughed not quite sure how to respond!

Apart from the new jetty (that is welcome), paved roads and a brand new excellent world class mountain bike trail called the Ketam Trail, I'm glad to report Ubin still has enough familiarity for me. An easy pace of life, almost zero traffic and being a weekday, not many visitors made for a very pleasant day of riding. The quiet roads were wonderfully shaded by tall mature trees only to be broken by the sounds of a million crickets and cicadas. We knew instantly we were out of the concrete jungle and smack into God's glorious nature.

It may be foolhardy to attempt the Ketam Trail on 20" & 16" (Paul the hero) little wheels but surprisingly, it was quite manageable with some determination and grit. A big group of cyclists on rented MTBs took one look at the tough trail and decided to stick to the gravel road. The warning sign "Not for first time cyclists" may have scared them off and they were astonished to see us popping out of the bush on "clown" bikes further down the park.
Yes, the job would be much easier with the right tool but the thick, fat Big Apples on my Speed 8 soaked up the gravel roads easily and provided security on loose rocks and slippery grass. It helped too that I fitted a smaller 42t Biopace chain ring that allowed me to scale those hills easily. I think the others will be rushing off to fit this brilliant mod on their foldies after today. Even Keong, our newest rider, managed to complete the Blue Trail with a bit of pushing and we all felt extremely accomplished. Rich with a Helios on Marathon Runners road tires, expressed how amazed he was that foldies could tackle such rough terrain. The sturdiness of the frame joint was impressive.
Eager for more pain, we took the off beaten track to the north of the island. We had to traverse through big muddy puddles, soft, sandy paths and even some small rocks. The north of Ubin is all fenced up to prevent illegals swimming in from Johor. I did not appreciate that as it certainly spoilt the tranquility of the island with barb wire fences preventing us from going to the beach.

Lunch was at the First Stop Ubin Seafood restaurant. An ice cold fresh coconut with refreshing 100 Plus did the job of quenching our big thirst. Sambal kangkong, stewed chicken, ma po tofu, sweet & sour pork plus foo yong omelette with steam rice made for a delicious lunch at a reasonable S$55 for 6. Since it was my special day, my good buddies gave me a nice treat.

It rained just as were finishing our feast and what perfect timing it was. If we were stuck at the Ketam Mountain Bike Trail then, we would be in wet trouble. A glorious day indeed with a pleasant discovery of our foldie's extraordinary 4WD capabilities!

We will certainly be back soon to and enjoy more off road adventures in Ubin, where time thankfully stands a little more still.

Useful facts:
Nearest MRT Station - Pasir Ris. Its a 4km ride from there to Changi Ferry Point.
Bumboat ride is $2.50 for passengers, $2 for bicycles.
Bicycle rentals at Ubin village just by the jetty range from $6 to $12 for newer MTBs but bringing your own bike is still the best!

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