Sunday, May 20, 2012

My journey towards bicycling zen (or, "How I am overcoming my fear of riding on the roads")

I've been hitting the roads and Park Connectors on a foldable bike the past four Sundays, thanks to the cycling friends at ZenDogs 2.0.

My initiation ride was 57km.

Prior to that, I had stopped cycling for about two years. After that 57km ride, I got such a kick I continued for another three straight weeks thereafter.

Recently I've even taken time off from work to cycle and explore my neighbourhood. Or just cycle down to visit my parents (they live about 10km away).

It's been a blast so far, to say the least. I'm seeing familiar places with new perspectives. And discovering new vistas of Singapore that I would not have seen on my own.

Heartland. Little Hill in my Backyard #sgmemory Heartland. Sunrise Ships #sgmemory Cityscape. Under The Bridge #sgmemory #archivingsg Lifescape. Jade Tree. #sgmemory #zd2

I get to meet people, new and old (talk about community-bonding). I see my aging parents a lot more often, as I make it a point to drop by their place on most rides. I'm not surprised that my recent blood pressure reading has gone down from borderline-high to normal.

Two years ago I rode on my neighbourhood PCN quite regularly. But quickly got bored of that. The PCN near my home wasn't (and still isn't) fully connected with other PCNs. After some months, each ride on my neighbourhood PCN felt like I was a hamster powering a wheel that turned but got nowhere. I could ride on pavements but pavements are for pedestrians after all.

In short, I craved to see outside my neighborhood.

Before I joined my cycling friends, I had to overcome my fear of riding on roads.

Even though I was assured that the Sunday morning traffic would be light and the group would avoid busy roads, I still had concerns. "Fear" might be too strong a word. I am not paralysed into inaction. Just that there was a nagging sense of self-doubt and uncertainty about riding on roads with traffic. I've ridden on roads when I was younger. But I was never properly educated on the Dos and Don'ts. Now that I'm much older, I'm less reckless or perhaps more risk adverse.

The root cause for me was not being 100% sure how I should behave as a cyclist on the road. That uncertainty translated into being a danger to myself and to others. It was that sense of 'danger' that made me hesitant.

One step towards joining my cycling friends (I knew their routes took them on roads) was when Kevin assured me they had road safety in mind at all times. That much I was convinced, as the core group of riders were my friends. It also helped that I knew them as friends first, rather than cyclists. They were a thoughtful and considered bunch.

I've also read their cycling adventures and escapades from time to time -- dutifully documented by Siva.

Actually, those two posts with the "thrills and spills" should have discouraged me from joining them! But they made me think of why cycling accidents might have happened. Probably because of:
  • Insufficient physical preparation and/ or fitness of the cyclist (fatigue)
  • Insufficient practice on handling the bicycle (the senses can't cope with too many new variables)

That helped me identify areas that I needed to work on.

From that first 57km initiation ride to the last one (fourth ride), I've distilled the learning points into what I'd pretentiously call a 'FRAMEWORK FOR CYCLING ZEN', roughly in accordance to the ease of preparing for them:

  1. Equipment readiness (including road safety gear, cycling gear)
  2. Physical conditioning (fitness and balance)
  3. Mental conditioning (including road safety)

In the next few posts, I'll blog about my preparation in tackling the roads, and to be able to join the ZenDogs for their 60-plus km rides.

p.s. If you've been following my blog regularly (I know there's maybe one or two of you), you'll be asking why I seem to have shifted from blogging about librarianship to cycling. Why not? There's much to read and learn about cycling. And this blog is about how I'm educating myself, and sharing in the process. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dear Tern Bicycles: I love your Link P9 but...

Bought a Tern Link P9 foldable bicycle about four weeks ago. Just posted to the Tern Bicycles forum:

[thread starts here]
Link P9 chain falls constantly
Same problem here. Got my P9 about 4 weeks ago. Rode it slow first week and never went on gear 9. Then second, third and fourth week, I rode with my friends on the roads and park connectors. Each ride, the chain would drop at the front. Each ride, at least once. What's consistent is the drop occurring when I engage 8th to 9th gear.

I took the P9 to the retailer for a check. The bike tech spent an hour trying to fix the problem. I have no reason to doubt his skills. In the end, it was a compromise. The chain tended to pop out but he lowered the top plastic piece near enough to make sure it guides the chain back. Is the P9 designed like this? I'm not sure.

I asked if I could trade the P9 back to offset and get a P18 (I'm still a Tern fan!) but was told not possible. Which disappointed me. A lot. I now ride with a sense of uncertainty with my P9, which I really adore if not for the chain drop problem. And frankly I don't feel safe riding on the roads now.

Tern Bicycles please do something about this. I wanted to sell my P9 even taking a loss but cannot do so without feeling guilty. Feel like I'm passing on a defective bike. And could you make my Christmas come early? Please convince my dealer to accept my P9 as a trade-in so that I can buy the P18. As I mentioned, I'm still your fan. But right now I'm also telling people not to get the P9 at all. Until Tern manages to address the problem.

I'm still a fan of Tern foldies. But less so of the P9 now. If they can help me with my P9 and/ or help me get a trade-in, I'd be their raving fan.