Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lee Kuan Yew and Cycling

I was delighted to read that the founding father of Singapore, was supportive of cycling in his younger days while an undergraduate at Cambridge University. He is known to be very serious in his fitness regime and cycles around the Istana grounds daily while he was still able. No wonder at 90 years old, Minister Mentor Lee is still able to live a very fruitful life.

I hope the Singapore government pays heed to his wise words - to consider special tracks for cyclists!

“For three years I cycled (at Cambridge). Of course it’s cooler there, so you don’t sweat. Kept me fit. I used to have to cycle about five miles uphill to go to Girton to see my girlfriend.”

“I think we should really consider special tracks for cyclists. Encourage it, then instead of this LRT (Light Rail Transit) and so on you have bicycle racks at MRT stations. It’s better for everybody’s health, it’s better for the environment and it’s certainly better than having the place or having the roads overcrowded with cars, taxis, buses. Doesn’t make sense to me.

But, you know, the modern generation: even to go to the bus stop, they want shelter. I think girls may not like it, they’ll be sweaty. The boys will say, ‘No, I’m doing my national service later, why you make me do national service now? We are rearing a generation that wants to be in comfort but I think cycling is good for them. It did me good, anyway.”

*Thanks Ben Alex Cai for sharing this on LCSG.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bromptons flooding Asia!

It was good to read in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, how popular the Brompton has been in the East in its article "The Freewheeling success of a British bike brand in Asia." Sales 11 years ago was only 2 mil pounds, and now it has grown amazingly to 21 mil. What accounts for the phenomenal growth?

I reckon its got to do with growing affluence in Asia and a need for recreational mobility. What makes Brompton succeed in my books is chiefly its amazing compact design. So small it fits into any nooks and corners of a small apartment. Where space is always a premium in congested Asian cities, the Brompton rules, folded or unfolded.

Pic fm FB I love my Brompton Group

Credit must be given to its marketing where it is cleverly offered with lots of custom colors and accessories such that no 2 Bromptons will be the same. Also with social media, the mushrooming of Brompton Clubs all over Asia has filled the need for people to get together and enjoy their Bromptons over food, day rides. and even touring holidays. A quick search on Facebook will reveal a string of Brompton clubs all over the world including the Brompton Riders ASEAN Group as well as the Brompton Riders @ SG (Spore).

My personal love affair with the Brompton and foldies started in 2006 when I saw one in Hanoi, Vietnam. After a long and hot walk to pay respects to President Ho Chih Min, I was cooling down in a cafe sipping my drink when a European bloke whizzed in on a Brompton. He folded it and entered the cafe, chucked the folded package under the table. Moments later after downing his cappuccino, he unfurled it and disappeared into the streets. I knew I found my salvation for transport.

Glad more people are getting to love the fold!

*Thanks Diane for sharing this with us on LCSG and yr great pic of your friends in a cafe in Manila, Phillipines. Her excellent blog Unfold and Cycle is worth a peek.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A scooter made for foldies - Sym Joyride Evo 200i

Although most countries in the world allow folding bikes into their trains at any time, especially when they are bagged, the MRT in Singapore allows foldies only from 930am - 4pm, and after 8pm on weekdays. This has been a source of much unhappiness as some foldies take less space than a baby stroller (which has no restrictions).

I believe in looking for alternative solutions to transporting my foldies around and not just gripe. Thus, I was absolutely delighted when I came across a most unique scooter from Taiwan, the land of bicycles. The Sym Joyride Evo 200i scooter! Trust them to design a scooter with a flat floor so that big bags or foldies can be carried safely on the floor board. Apparently, many airline crew ride this scooter because it can put a cabin size bag easily, and parking for scooters at Changi airport is only US$1 a day! I measured the footwell and confirm it will swallow a folded Brompton with no problems and was thrilled!

It comes with all the modern technology offered today including EFI system, ceramic coated piston, 4 valve head, CVT transmission, halogen headlights and a huge under-seat storage that can take a full size helmet plus a half style helmet. With a top speed of 125km/h, it will handle the expressways safely and offers 34km/l fuel economy.

I'm very close to taking the plunge now....

Update 16 Apr 2013 - Sym Combiz

Further research shows that Sym has a particular model to carry loads and it is the Combiz. Its a 125cc workhorse and its unique feature is even bigger floorspace and a rear seat that can fold up to become a huge load carrier. This means it can carry 2 foldies! Amazing. Unfortunately, its design is rather utilitarian and won't make for an exciting ride.

Kundur Goondus no more...

Goondu - Singlish word that means silly & inexperienced person.

One of the things I enjoy doing is to share the joy of touring with the friends I meet. A few months ago, I met up with Rich and Clarence and a few other blokes who do a usual Friday morning ride to Changi Village. While cycling in Singapore at the Park Connectors is beautiful, it is good to break the routine and cycle somewhere new. I find it sad that there are some people who are happy with routine and do the same thing over and over again, especially when it comes to cycling. This is quite silly as there are so many lovely places around Singapore to explore. Thus, I organised a Kundur Island ride just 2 hrs ferry away from Singapore in quiet Riau, Indonesia on Apr 11.

Although there were quite a few folks who expressed interest initially, only Rich and Clarence showed up which is not a bad thing. We met at 730am with our 3 Dahons at Batam Fast counter at Harbourfront and got our one way ticket to Sekupang, Batam where we hopped on to our connecting ferry to Tg Batu, Kundur. Prices have gone up quite a fair bit - S$29 for ferry, S$10 for bicycle tax and in Indonesia S$15 (100,000 rp + 30,000rp port tax) for local ferry.

We arrived in Tg Batu at about 11am and headed straight to Gembira Hotel, the Hyatt equivalent in that quiet town where 2 stars = luxury. Our suite which had one king bed and a single costs only S$38 (300,000rp) was very spacious and offered clean sheets and a lovely balcony.

Lunch was at the best Wanton Mee stall in town which was truly delightful. The wait was long but worth it. We took our time to enjoy our huge bowl of noodles. With a very full stomach, we explored the town on foot.

Our first stop was the Vihara Dharma Shanti Chinese Temple where I recognised that friendly temple keeper. Mr Tan was very happy to see us and welcome us to have a look see. The camera was kept busy with many interesting subjects to photograph. It was very nostalgic walking through the many mom and pop shops too, but the afternoon heat got oppressive and there were no aircon cafes at all!

A quick nap in our cool suite revived us and we did an evening ride to Kundur Beach. I had always wanted to explore this and was so pleased that I finally got to do it. The ride there is easy, head north for about 5.5km and take a left at the fork. Another 1km or so, there is another fork, take left again and proceed on 5km. The beach did not disappoint and we just soaked in the view.

There are a few huts at the end of the road which offer fresh coconuts and local food/snacks. The sandy beach and waters looked really inviting and I regretted not jumping into the waters. This is a must do next time. Watching the sunset here would also be very special but that meant riding in the dark, something I would not recommend especially with new folks on board.

Dinner was at a Teochew Che Char stall where the Chef had a flaming wok. We enjoyed home cooked dishes of ginger chicken, fish head in soya sauce, stir fried pak choy and a lovely salted veggie soup with rice and washed down with cold Heineken.

The feast was a very reasonable 190,000rp (S$25). Rich retired back to the hotel but Clarence and I went to try the local delicacies at the night carpark which became a food paradise. We had satay and Kundur's version of KFC, which was remarkably crispy and not oily.

The great plus of cycling holidays is we sleep really well and that night was no exception. We all woke up bright and early and I took Rich for an early morning ride around town. I always enjoy seeing the quiet start of a brand new day and took lots of pics. We linked up with Clarence and had breakfast along Jalan Usman Harun.

Here, many local Chinese goodies were offered and there was just this old time friendly atmosphere that is priceless. On offer were Kway Chap, Chai Tow Kuey, Bak Koot Teh, Wanton Mee, Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Bee Hoon and many other types of goodies.

I was intrigued when an old 76 Datsun Cedric pulled up and the driver came here to hang out with his mates over coffee. It would be so interesting to find out what the early days were like in this sleepy hollow.

Before we set off north to Urung, we dropped in a bike shop to buy 3 bells as souvenirs. We saw this on an old bike and this bell makes the most beautiful 2 tone sound. At S$6.50, it was a steal and I want to use this as a doorbell for my home. The 8am ride to Urung was an easy 20km through quiet and well paved roads. Riding through small villages with friendly folks was therapeutic. We took just over an hour to do this and the familiar huge pineapple icon welcomed us to Urung.

As usual, we hung around the jetty area and had lovely refreshments there. Clarence who was then feeling unwell had enough of cycling, and that was unfortunate. I respected him for his honesty and for his adventurous spirit. He had just taken up cycling recently. Clarence kindly said to go ahead without him but like Marines, we do not leave anyone behind. Our original plan was to ride another 30km to Selat Belia however it was providence that there was actually an Urung -Tg Balai ferry that was leaving in 45 mins time (10am). I'm always amazed at how God walks in front of us!

Such is the fun in bicycle touring - when we change plans and just go with the flow! I was excited to do so as that would be my first time on this ferry. Local ferries are usually cheap and at 25,000rp (US$2.50), it was a steal. Problem was that it was rather overloaded and with nearly 50 people in a small boat, it was a tight squeeze. I asked Clarence if he could swim should the boat sink, and he said, "No". Gulp! However, our 3 foldies rode first class on top of the roof, hand holded by the very kind deck hand.

We arrived at Tg Balai with plenty of time to spare as our return ferry to Spore was not till 2pm. This gave us amble opportunity to see the town. First things first was to book our tickets home and this was 170,000rp and a further 60,000rp for tax (US$24). Then, it was a ride up to the new Esplanade which has the distinguish 9 yellow pillars which I think represent the 9 pillars of Islam.

We also went to see the old Dutch Naval Officer quarters which was perched strategically up a hill, offering commanding views. It was a ride through the busy town of Tg Balai next before we ended up at my favorite Nasi Padang restaurant. Simpang Raya.

The plumb owner, a jovial and warm hearted Mak Chik (Auntie) welcomed us and brought a whole lot of fiery dishes on our table. We took our time to eat and drank buckets as we were sweltering from the heat. Her food did not disappoint and we ate like piranhas. The bill came to be only 190,000 rp and we left stuffed to the gills.

Our return trip was uneventful but what caught us by surprise was being welcomed by George when we exited Harbourfront. He was supposed to come along with us but had to pull out due to a medical appointment. We had drinks with George and he sent us home. Such amazing generosity and friendship! If anything, I'm really grateful for all the wonderful friends, old and new I get to make in my cycling adventures.

It looks like I have to re-do this trip again, at least for George as he still remains a Kundur Goondu.


It was a privilege to meet Clarence. He was a keyboardist of the rock band Speedway in the 1980s. They were a very popular group and their song Come Sail Away captures the spirit of freedom we enjoy on ships or bikes...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Its about freedom...

Pic - Transport for London

Much has been said about the joys of cycling and in fact, University of British Columbia Professor John Halwell, happiness expert & economics scholar, states that the happiest cities all have a high number of cyclists. The Nordic countries for instance - Denmark, Holland etc

Perhaps it is the rhythm of cycling that gets us the high and Robert Penn, author of "Its all about the Bike - the pursuit of happiness on 2 wheels", writes:

“What’s important is the rhythm of riding a bike. That rhythm is happiness. It’s meditative.”

"Within 10 minutes of being on a bike, things that are immediately worrying you – that piece of work you haven’t finished – have been dismissed. Ride for 45 minutes and you hardly know what you were thinking about and then something else drops in – a line from a poem or something your child said.”

I don't know what the actual reason is but for me, its about freedom.  This short movie clip expresses my heart beat on what its all about. Check out the music too, its really special.

“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Cycling on Spore roads - Do you dare?

Pic by King H

Singapore has seen its population increasing at a steady rate. In 2000, the population was just 4 million, now in 2013, its 5.3 million and come 2030, the authorities are aiming to grow it to 6.9 million. One of the bad consequences is that traffic is getting worse and will continue to do so.

This makes for more drivers who are impatient and has resulted in higher risks for the commuter cyclist here in Singapore. Just in the first 6 months of 2012, there were 182 accidents involving cyclists and from 2008 to 2011, 70 cyclists have been killed.

This is a pity as Singapore is such a beautiful country with so much to offer. There are numerous bike paths that have been created and for the leisure cyclists, it is almost bike heaven especially in the cool early mornings and evenings. However, for the commuter, it is a different story as its a dog eat dog world on the road, and bicycles are vulnerable tiny Chihuahuas among the big doggies like Rottweilers and German Shepherds.

There has been much ground support to create bike lanes as with many other developed countries and I hope this will happen sooner rather than later. With car prices highest in the world (Toyota Corolla = US$100k) and public transport getting more congested, more people are finding cycling a viable form of transport. Calvin Boo, a commuter cyclist wrote an intriguing article , Let's Bike to Work, on how to commute safely in Singapore which is worth a read. He rides a 20yr old Bridgestone XO-5 so if anything, he has good taste in bicycles.

How a bike lane could look like in Spore thanks to photoshop - Pic LCSG

Commuting is not new as in the early days of Singapore, my grandfather used his Raleigh as his main form of transport and cycled 15km daily to work. The benefits of cycling are well known and I hope the Singapore Government will address this dangerous situation before more people lose their lives.

Meanwhile, the question before us is do you dare to cycle on Singapore roads these days?


The good old days in Singapore - 1930s..