by Tay Evon
I was running late for my first LCSG morning ride. I had my bike folded and tucked behind me in the MRT carriage, hoping to be as invisible as possible to the other passengers (which was actually not that difficult on a Sunday morning at this hour).
This secondhand folding bike was just bought a month ago from a seller I found on Togoparts* for less than $100. Sure, it’s a bit rusty and clunky with a quirky front brake. But I quite liked its uncommon baby blue colour, complementing the synthetic brown leather saddle. And the fact that it’s vintage, and the seller seemed to have no idea what brand it was; His wife apparently acquired it through a lucky draw years ago, made it even more appealing, in a weird way.
Oh no. I hope they don’t leave without me. I wonder if they take attendance… I pondered, checking my watch. It’s already 7.40am. The group was set to meet at 7.30am and I was already late.
Finally, the MRT door slided open at Kranji station. I dragged my bike off the train and wheeled it down the escalator, and towards the fare gate. After pushing the bike out through the wider gate for handicaps, I looked around.
Ah, there they are! Phew. And I thought I might have to try cycling home if they were gone already. I quickly pushed my bike towards a large group of cyclists gathered at the entrance of the station, their rear lights blinking red.
I hurried to unfold my bike, albeit clumsily. This was one of the few times I’ve had to fold my bike to get somewhere on the train and I hadn’t had much practice. I hope they are not judging my bike handling skills already. Suddenly self-conscious, i nervously clicked my bike frame in place.
As I straightened up and stood beside my bike, I saw that the 40-50 strong crowd was really quite diverse – from young adults, to folks older than her own parents. The diversity seemed to follow on to their bikes too – there were road bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes, fixed gears, cargo-bikes, recumbents etc.… of all sizes and colours. The cyclists, some dressed in cycling jerseys, some in just plain t-shirts and shorts, were standing around chatting with each other, greeting each other good morning and introducing each other to their new friends.
I’ve always been kind of a socially awkward person, and meeting with a large group of strangers makes me as comfortable as a ballet-dancing elephant in high heels. Too bad my friends aren’t really as enthusiastic about cycling so I resorted to joining a club to meet new people with common interests. I had to do this.
“Hello, good morning!” a woman standing with her friend next to me greeted. They started introducing themselves and I felt myself relax. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
After a few more rounds of introduction and small talk, it was time to set off. The plan of the day was to firstly, ride to the Kranji war memorial for a quick photo, and then off to visit some of the landmarks and farms in the Kranji countryside area.
I took my bike onto the road and mounted. This wasn’t the first time I’ve ridden on the road, but the idea of riding alongside the big scary motor vehicles still unnerves me. But off I went anyway, following the first few riders in front of me, traveling in a line along the left shoulder of the road.
After a couple of junctions, I noticed that people were overtaking me. Oh snap, am I too slow? So I pedaled harder. It was tough to be fast when you’re on a cranky old single-speed foldie.
And even tougher to go uphill, yikes. The turn towards the war memorial was gently steeping and I tried to pedal even harder, panting increasingly as I watched more cyclists overtaking me.
The gates to the war memorial were a welcomed sight when I finally conquered that slope. Gosh, I’m so embarrassingly weak, I despaired.
The group stopped at the carpark in front of the memorial to take a group photo. If there is anything you need to know about LCSG, it’s that they are really kind of an easy-going group that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. They have a signature group photo pose that roughly resembled that of a cross between Johnny Bravo and Action Kamen.
After the photo session, LCSG continued on their bike journey towards the next checkpoint. worried about lagging behind again, I joined the front group, but soon enough, fell behind as more cyclists overtook her snail-like pace midway. I figured They were probably just too polite to overtake right from the start.
When they finally stopped at a reservoir park for a water break, a couple of cyclists came up to her.
“Nice bike. Single speed? Wow you’re brave.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” I managed, fumbling with my water bottle for a drink.
“Hmm… Maybe you should try adjusting your seat post higher so you can straighten your legs during the downstroke. It’ll be easier and more effortless to pedal uphill this way.”
“Oh is it? How high should I adjust it? But I’m kind of afraid that I’d lose balance when I can’t touch the ground with my feet.”
“It’s like that when you’re a beginner. I was like that too when I first started cycling. But you’ll get used to it soon, la! don’t worry.”
And it worked. I hopped onto my adjusted bike and was surprised at how easy it pedaled. Although that did not really solve my speed problem. Some cyclists cheered “jiayou!” for me as they rode past effortlessly. I might as well be riding on a century old tortoise.
There were more upslopes along the journey and I struggled to keep up. Luckily there was a “sweeper” behind every group ride to ensure no slowpoke, such as this one, gets left behind.
The sweeper and some experienced cyclists rode behind me, dishing out encouraging pointers such as, “Okay, upslope ahead, pedal as fast as you can now to gain momentum!”
or “Lorry ahead, slow down and be careful!”
or “Switch to the right lane now and follow those ahead at the right turn!”
or “Keep your hands on the brakes while going downhill. Look out for potholes.”
It was like having my own personal trainers on the go.
We stopped at a few more places-of-interest before settling at a vegetable farm for a nice breakfast where I got to sit down and get to know a few more cyclists in the group. A couple even let me test ride their bikes.
By the time the ride ended, the sun was out full-blast and at its peak. The group departed Kranji Countryside back towards the MRT station on their bikes. I was worn out but satisfied at surviving my first LCSG ride as I folded her bike and went up the train.
Can’t wait to see where the next LCSG ride would bring me, I thought with a grin on my suntanned face. //