NTU Bike Rally 2016

Bike Rally History

I took part in my fifth bike rally on Sunday 6 March.

This year was different. I took the shorter option, 98km. I also had more kakis, despite registration being filled in less than half an hour.

Two days to the event, I felt my semi-regular runny nose and sore throat coming around. Lots of hot honey lemon didn’t prevent it from getting worse on Saturday.

I went to bed quite early, just after 9 pm. The plan was to wake up at 4.30 am, and see how I felt then.

These things rarely go according to plan.

I woke up at 2 am and spent an hour blowing my nose. I thought there was an 80% chance I wouldn’t be riding.

I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Between 3 am and 4 am, I hardly blew my nose. Half an hour before I was supposed to wake up, I felt that I might actually be up for this.

So, change of plans.

Cycle down to the start point – F1 pit, about 10km from home – and see how I felt. If I was ok, I’d stay and ride. If not, I’d ride or fold up to head home.

It was a cool morning.

I reached the F1 pit feeling fine. I’d forgotten to pack tissue paper, but I didn’t need it at the moment.

Some sort of miracle.

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My Bike Friday Silk.

The Zendogs started arriving: Airani, Joelle, Siva, Kevin, Say Lin, Kok Min Yee, Aaron and my brother-in-law, Edward.

The morning continued to be cool.

The first wave flagged off at 7am. We were in the second wave, and we started at 7.05am.

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Edward, Say Lin (partly obscured), Joelle (facing away) & me.

We started fast, but the traffic lights didn’t seem in our favour during the first leg. It was quite start-stop.

The first pit stop was the usual West Coast Park. I arrived there with Kevin and Say Lin.

The good weather was holding, so no sense hanging around. We wanted to get as much distance in as we could while it was cloudy.

From there, the differences in the round-island route began. Instead of a left turn to Jalan Buroh, we took Jurong Town Hall Road, through Choa Chu Kang.

No NTU climb!

Kevin, Say Lin and I cycled the unfamiliar route. The unfamiliarity cost us the second pit stop. We saw the 500m to checkpoint sign, but didn’t see any indication when to turn.

We had gone past it!

We had ample water on us and weren’t feeling too tired, so no issue. We just took it that we were taking advantage of the cool weather. At least, I did.

At Sungei Kadut, we merged back with the longer route. Kevin stopped at a bus stop along Kranji (Road) for a drink.

Where to next? A safety cyclist told us – Yishun Stadium.

Via Mandai Road.


Under normal circumstances, I’d think, difficult but doable. With my nose and throat on protest, Mandai Road was another prospect.

Thankfully, it was still cloudy.

After some huffing and puffing, the same trio reached Yishun Stadium. Looking back, the Mandai Road stretch was easier than the final 20+ km.

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Say Lin, Kevin and me.

Meanwhile, Airani, Joelle, Siva, Aaron, KMY and Edward were one checkpoint behind, at the stop we missed.

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Joelle, Aaron, Edward, KMY, Airani & Siva. Photo by Joelle.

At Yishun Stadium, I bumped into Jacinta. She was solo after getting split from her kakis.

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Jacinta & me.

The sun began peeking through breaks in the clouds, but it was still cloudy.

That would change in the cruellest manner.

Kevin, Say Lin and I pressed on. On leaving Yishun Stadium, I heard a familiar voice – Cheryl. She was just turning into the stadium.

In a slight change to the route we were familiar with, the next stop was Punggol Waterway instead of Punggol Promenade.

The Yishun to Punggol leg was nondescript.

The calm before the storm.

At Punggol Waterway, I ran into Ja again. When Kevin, Say Lin and I were about to leave…

Drizzle, I reported on the Zendogs Whatsapp group.

Quickly followed by: Correction, rain!

I took out a ziploc bag and waterproofed my phone.

Lots of good that did because in what seemed like less than a minute, the deluge ended.

Once again, Kevin, Say Lin and I set off. Ja followed behind, and we bumped into Cheryl on our way out.

I lost sight of Ja quite soon. Instead, a new companion, the bright scorching sun.

Cruel, relentless, merciless sun.

The freshly applied Ebene (deep heat) burned even hotter than usual.

I found myself pulling away from Kevin. Just after reaching Pasir Ris, I noticed RunKeeper had stopped. The first victim of the heat.

I stopped at a bus stop to wait for Kevin and Say Lin. Once regrouped, we took the opportunity to have a breather in the shade.

Then I spotted Edward.

He was alone and said that he thought the rest of the Zendogs were ahead of him. Not possible, since we would have seen them. Our WhatsApp group showed they were at Punggol Waterway.

The sun was out in full force. Siva and KMY were cramping.

The newly-formed quartet pressed on towards Changi. The plan was to have lunch together at Changi Village.

The rest took a long while to catch up, so, one by one, cooling sugarcane drinks gave way to meals. We were thirsty and hungry.

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We couldn’t wait. Refreshment.

One by one, the other group came in. Last was KMY, more than an hour after I reached CV.

He fell twice and suffered a couple of scrapes. Time for the first aid supplies!

I got to work, eager to try my recently-purchased antiseptic wash and antiseptic powder.

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Finally managed to catch Cheryl, after brief encounters at the previous stops.

After a two-hour break, Kevin, Say Lin, Edward, Joelle and I set off.

The sun continued to beat down on us.

There was a penultimate checkpoint at Changi Beach Park. We stopped for a short pee break.

The last 20+ km was going to be tough.

By the end of Changi Coastal Road, I was the last of the front pack. The heat had taken its toll, and I was flagging. Meanwhile, Runkeeper crashed again, near the former cable ski facility.

Slow and steady is easy to say.

I was losing concentration. Navigating through the East Coast Park crowd safely was proving to be a challenge.

I stopped at Cheers near the Red Cross First Aid post to get started some coconut water.

My head hurt.

I got back on the bike and pedalled my way towards the finish.

There was one more checkpoint, under Benjamin Sheares Bridge near Tanjong Rhu. I found Say Lin and Joelle having a rest there.

Kevin and Edward had gone ahead.

In the mean time, Airani, Siva, KMY and Aaron were making their way through the coastal road and East Coast Park.

The last stretch seemed to take forever. Negotiating roundabouts at Sports Hub isn’t something I’d recommend when you’ve spent hours cycling, and you’re tired and ill. I also had to make sure I was concentrating on Nicoll Highway.

After 110-ish km, the finish.

Joelle asked me to go ahead, and she got a nice shot. The sky was amazing. Not that I noticed at the time.

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Finally. Photo by Joelle.

I was more relieved than anything that I had completed the ride.

Yes, it was a slog, but it was an enjoyable slog.

P.S. Strange that I was smiling so widely even though I was ill. Notice there are no photos of me on the last leg between Changi and the F1 pit building.

P.P.S. I love cycling!