Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A bashful six!

Lovethefold's sixth birthday has crept up quietly and it has been a rather neglected child this year unfortunately, if attention is measured by the number of postings. A paltry 46 against 102 in 2012. Blame it on me holding 2 jobs the first half of the year, one in Singapore and the other in Australia. That said, blogging is still a hard slog as it takes discipline and is time consuming. I really take my hat off to those who can do so consistently week after week. One very prominent Singaporean blogger I know has sort of given up as he prefers to spend more time on the saddle than on his bottom working the keyboard, and I fully understand. Another iconic bicycle blogger Vik of The Lazy Randonneur too has thrown in the towel.

The good news however is that I still enjoy sharing my adventures, lessons and experiences on and off the saddle and I take encouragement that there are people out there who follow the ramblings of LTF.  Just last weekend at a book launch of a bicycle adventurette in Singapore, someone came up to me and ask if I read LTF! There has also been requests for me to compile a book on my folding adventures next year, so that will certainly be on the cards among the many things I look forward to in 2014. 

Reflecting back, one of the best products I have gotten must be the Da Brim visor for bike helmets. Its effectiveness and popularity has spread like an Australian bush fire among the cycling community especially in Singapore and in my bike club in Perth. This is truly a must have as it provides wonderful protective shade in the sun, and gives clear visibility in the rain (with a shower cap attached to the helmet - a tip from Uncle KC). 

Additions to my already crowded stable is strictly limited to one per year, ok maybe two. Hence, my acquisition for 2013 is an interesting one - as it has 3 wheels and yes, it folds to a certain extend. It was a rather unexpected purchase as a friend needed to sell it off as his new recumbent trike was coming in, and kindly made me an offer I could not refuse. I have looked at getting a Greenspeed some years back but was put off at its $3k entry price so this "fastest wheelchair in the park" is truly God sent. It has an Alfine 8 internal gear hub, disk brakes, Big Apple Schwalbe tires and is bags of fun to ride. I learned very quickly and achingly that recumbents require a different set of muscles so I'm still on my L-plates when it comes to them.

I also resurrected my 20 year old Bridgestone MB3 with a a complete paint and frame job at the Rebound Centre under the hands of master craftsman Sulaiman and his team. New parts were carefully selected and ordered from the UK and put together in preparation for an epic mountain bike adventure to Bromo Volcano in Aug.

I have also serendipitously upgraded my Prodeco e-bike's battery from 9amp to 12amp. For some unexplained reason, the original battery could not hold its charge. A detailed diagnosis by my good cycling buddy Pete, a Master Electrician with 40 years experience, revealed that the circuit board was burnt and I am ever so grateful to Randy of Go Bikes, Prodeco's dealer in Nashville who went out of his way to get me a warranty replacement. The good news was that for a small fee, I could extend the range with a bigger battery and now, I have an e-bike that can run 100km. This lesson has taught me that when things go wrong, there are surprising endings when we have good friends and a great God who watches over us all, even our batteries. So if you are going through a rough patch, have faith.

Adventure wise, it was the year of Indonesia, particularly The Riaus where we went deep south across the equator to Sinkep/Lingga twice. This is a rather remote place to visit as it requires nearly the whole day of travel to reach there but it is well worth the effort.

The first one was a near death experience in our multi-Riau Island Indonesia ride in December. The Dream Team consisting of Matt, KC, Darren, Christoph and I decided at the very last minute to avoid Batam. Little did we know that there was a full blown Facliparum Malaria outbreak in the southern tip of Batam but a divine change of plans saw us bypass that and ended at neighboring Kundur/Karimun island instead. One of our bicycle club members nearly did not make it when he was infected and spent 3 weeks in ICU. Thank God he made a miraculous recovery and is back on his bike. A few were seriously ill too.

We kicked off 2013 with a bang in Cambodia with a short holiday in Siem Reap to explore the ruins of Angkor Wat and then starting our epic ride to Vietnam from Phnom Penh. 11 wonderful friends got together to ride through 400+km of roads, yes some very dusty and rough ones and enjoyed an incredible time of adventure and fellowship. It was a real test of our foldies and my Bike Friday Expedition proved its mettle once again.

Then in Apr, it was back to Kundur/Karimun again this time with Rich and Clarence. But this was the shortest tour ever (23km only) due to an "unexpected medical condition" from one of the guys but we had lots of fun too as always. I stumbled upon a new ferry from Ujung to Karimun and its great to always discover fresh routes. Just eating at the breakfast lane in Kundur is good enough reason for me to go so I didn't mind it at all.

Because one member of the Dream Team could not make the trip in Dec, we organized another one for Mike Khor of Wheelosopher fame in July. On this trip, we had 4 of us and we explored Lingga Island and went through some pretty bad roads.

One of the highlights was a meet up with the handsome Hardi and his princess Dewi, owners of the best (& only) bike shop in Dabo Singkep. They very kindly invited us to their wedding.

In Aug, I was asked to lead a team of 11 from LCSG to Kundur/Karimun and we had lots of fun doing it. This trip was planned much earlier but there was the yearly haze problem from a neighboring country that really choked up Singapore and grinded cycling and other outdoor activities to a grinding halt.

As though saving the best for last, our adventure ride to Bromo Volcano in Java organized by Chris Wee was one of those trips that we will tell our grandchildren years from now. This was the first MTB trip I've done in 20 years and I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the National Park. Although the tough terrain was truly physically demanding, it was worth every drop of sweat and some blood. I will always remember the long push through the sea of sand.

Of course, I continue to enjoy my weekly adventures in Perth with my ride buddies, Rod, Pat, Ken and Pete on Wednesdays and a new Friday newbie group has also started with beautiful friends, often ending with delightful coffees and cakes at the numerous cafes around Perth. 

What makes riding in Perth special is cruising along the world's best bike paths along the scenic rivers and coast overflowing with natural beauty. We see all sorts of flowers, birds, with the occasional dolphins popping out to say hello, in cool glorious weather.

3 trips have already been planned for the coming year. Next week I shall be off to Japan for a family holiday and I hope to pop into Tokyobike to check out their city bike offerings. There is the exciting Ride of 1000 hills in Northern Thailand in Jan from Mae Hong Son to Thaton, and I'm excited to lead a team of 8 folks through crazy climbs during the Thai winter. In Apr, a round island trip to Taiwan in Apr kindly led by Ying Chang has been planned and our tickets have already been booked.

If there is anything that has moved my heart this year, it is the destruction of Bukit Brown Cemetary  in Singapore where a highway will first cut through it. It will eventually be cleared for housing. What saddens is that it is the largest Chinese overseas cemetary outside of China and is the resting place of many early Singapore pioneers including my great great grandfather Chia Ann Siang.

So what better way to celebrate LTF's 6th anniversary then by riding through Bukit Brown Cemetary for perhaps the last time (if you are in Singapore)? We will do so to respect and honour our pioneers whose final resting place will soon be no more.

If you have been following LTF all these years, I hope that it has somehow ignited a passion in you. Not just a passion to ride bicycles (folding ones preferred) but a passion to explore new places, new food, meet new people and experience life as it unfolds before us. One great blessing I am always grateful for is all the wonderful friends, old and new, I have made through LTF. People are what makes life so meaningful.

Wherever you are, may you end this year well and may you begin the new year with God's love, protection and blessings for an exciting, fulfilling and fruitful 2014. Please write to me if you have any questions or simply want to say Hi. I welcome your comments and can be reach at lovethefold at gmail dot com too. 

Psalm 121:1-8 
I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you-the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

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