It was 7.45 am. We folded the two bikes, one a Tern Link, the other a Cronus Earl 3.0 onto the Daihatsu. The back seat had to be folded to put the two foldies in. My neighbour drove to Marina Barrage. From there we rode off all around the Marina Barrage and the reservoir in front of the city skyline. It was a stunning, beautiful and pleasant ride. It was a sunny day but a light breeze made it pleasant and I got so caught up with the panoramic views and ease of biking around that I forgot about the sun. At the end of it all we ate roti prata at the hawker center near the barrage. It had been a good three hours and a half. What a stimulating day! For this reason, I bought foldable bicycles.
Running effortlessly in the air – that is what cycling feels like to me. I used to run a lot. I mean when you play basketball for school and community centre, you have to run, run and run. That was long ago. Since I hit the late 40s I have stopped running. Getting motivated to run required such a gigantic effort. There were many false dawns as I tried to get into a habit of running for health. None lasted more than two months. There was that bright period in Chiangmai when I ran almost every other day for a month. When I returned to Singapore I tried to continue but it evaporated in hot air. Several months ago I bought a new pair of running shoes with fresh resolve to run again. I have used it less than ten times for running. Running seems to do violence to my rigid body. My knees take the brunt of the steady banging as my feet lands on solid ground. My breathing becomes heavy and laboured. It becomes a stupendous effort to jog round the Japanese and Chinese Garden.
Instead of running I found hiking or trekking a gentler more humane form of exercise. The Bukit Timah Hill became my haunt. Out there on the slopes of hills with different gradients, one gets to warm up and build up a sweat gradually, gently and without violating the body. Breath control is needed but the air is fresh and a rhythm evolves. So this has been my happy place for my recreational, meditative, sermon tuning activities. Now it has been closed for a year or more. The Hill needed a sabbatical. The visitors centre
needed a reconstruction. My good trekking friends still meet to trek different places in Singapore. They are quite adventurous and have travelled far and wide (including Gunong Datuk) since Bukit Timah Hill’s closure, but I have not been able to join them on most occasions.
I stumbled into recreational biking. A pastor talked to me about his folding Brompton bike. I was almost persuaded to buy one. Another pastor offered to sell me his few months old folding bike, a Cronus Earl 2.0, at a generous giveaway price. I took it. So I biked around the Jurong Lake since I lived so near to it. I found that I enjoyed it greatly. The feeling of movement, the gentle breeze against my face and cooling my whole body, the serenity of water and trees, fountain and pagoda and golf course, all combined to refresh me while I cycled for close to an hour, and sometimes more. It felt like running in the air. My feet never pounded the ground. I never gasped for air like a dying man. I felt I was running on a cushion of air aided by a machine that is beautiful and smooth and effortless in motion.
Change of heart
Now I understood what my friend Eric Ng was into. He was into this cycling business with serious intent. He trained for riding trips in Taiwan and the Annapura range. He invited me but I was not interested. My conversion shows that timing and change of circumstances can change a man’s heart quickly. Now it was I who asked him to introduce me to some of the park connectors he was familiar with. So off we went to the Ulu Pandan Park Connector last Sunday evening. It was a hot 6pm but even as we rode, the route was pleasantly shaded for the most part. There was the canal beside it. There were many joggers and other recreational cyclists. You occasionally catch sight of serious bikers in their expensive machines, the occasional Brompton, and many other entry level bikers like me. I was surprised by the effort put in by national parks to make the park connectors such pleasant routes for cycling, walking and jogging. God bless the Singapore civil servants for this great idea that is a gift for the public to use. One day I will write more about this park connector but for the time being here are a few photos I took during last Sunday’s ride.
Analogy to spiritual life
As an aside, cycling is like living by grace. You are aided by grace. Your motion and momentum is augmented by the bicycle the way God’s Holy Spirit powers the walk of grace. Its a gentle running in the sphere of the Spirit.
Its enjoyable. Cycling by the Jurong Lake (Tasik Jurong) is so pleasurable and delightful. The Jurong Lake is about 4.3 km from end to end along broad bitumen and cement paths. About 10 years ago they developed a promenade along 2 km of the stretch. Really nice. Its a reservoir cum leisure stretch. I love the views. I never tire of them. It looks different at different times of the day and of the year. Different stretches have different highlights and features. This time of the year the breeze is cool and ever present. I will cycle but the perspiration does not show because it is blow dried, and I do not feel it because of the cool air. There are some stretches though where I feel the sun direct on my skin in late morning rides. Other than that I have no complaints. Even the benches overlooking panoramic views keep tempting me to take a break and soak in the sight.
Its accessible too. I live so near to one end of the Jurong Lake Park. To ride to the other end (about 4.3 km) takes me about 20-30 minutes. 8.6 km may be hardly much but if I do it twice it would be almost 20 km of pleasant riding. If I were to ride the roads the intimidation of large buses, lorries and vans rambling by and too close for comfort would stress me no end.
Today I talked to someone who rode there everyday and he suggested I do night riding. He said it is a different experience. The darkness and silence of some stretches where there are no street lamps. Things look different at night. He also suggested early morning rides like 5.30 am to catch the sunrise. Hmmm…great ideas I want to take on. Now that my regular hikes at Bukit Timah has ceased with its closure, I am surprised that I stumbled on this new leisure activity instead of brisk walking or jogging the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. Maybe it is a more gentle on my body and suitable for my age. It can be a pretty good exercise. I have also found a neighbour who wants to explore the park connectors with me. Wonderful.
Thank you Lord for new ways to enjoy creation and companionship. Wish I was into this earlier, but Your timing is ever the best. Amen.