One of those days

We all have days that test us. Friday April 15th, 2016, was one of those days for me. Like any Friday it started with the Singapore Rapha ride. A brisk meander through Singapore’s unique landscape in pursuit of the wind. When almost complete with the morning’s pedal, the group was welcomed by a tropical downpour. Heavy enough to send a few souls dashing for cover.

Friday’s are great. I love Rapha rides. Not only do we throw ourselves into new routes regularly, the weekly banter of the crew over coffee brings a laugh to the morning. Today was no exception.

I was on my coast home to see the wife and kids when I felt a ‘snap’ in the bars, followed by an immediate drop of the hoods. WTF? Did I just break my beloved Tarmac? Sound instincts told me to stay off the hoods and coast home. Not before I dropped a message to my diligent mechanic, Stephen Ames. Telling him to expect me in, broken bike in hand, in the coming hour.

After showering and preparing for the day, I went to load the bike into the car when the real cause of the problem showed its ugly head – the right side drop gave way, and snapped off. Now dangling, held on only by the bar tape, I could see the issue. On the bar (Zipp SL70 Alu) was a build up of a white creamy substance, and the bar break was jagged. When I messaged Stephen, he let me know the substance was likely a build up of sweat. Being a sweaty Ang Moh in Asia Town, I instantly knew, I hadn’t been cleaning under my rubbers.

The build up on the bar was in fact my sweat getting under the hood rubbers and corroding the aluminium bar. Ouch, the realisation that damage to my beloved bike was in fact my fault. Lesson learned. Now I had to fix it in time for the start of the National Geographic Earth Day ride that I’d be doing at midnight on Saturday.

I messaged Hussein at T3 Bicycles, who has been looking after my bikes since 2014. I needed a replacement bar, fast. Which upon first check, T3 didn’t have in stock. Then came a Facebook message I’ll never forget. Alan Soh from Specialized Asia had heard of my fateful morning, and offered me a replacement bar. I just had to go meet Jace at Tay Junction Vertex.


Squeezed in amongst a media event for the OCBC Cycle launch event in Orchard and several work meetings for my new book, I made my way out to Tay Junction in Ubi. Jace was expecting me, I was saved. I left my bike in the hands of the Tay Junction mechanics. But my mission wasn’t done yet. Over time, cyclists learn preferences on their setup. My vice is I don’t wear gloves, which is rare for someone that sweats. So my logical options for bar tape are limited to silicon. Hussein introduced me to Silic 1, and today I only run Silic 1 on all my bikes.

While my Tarmac awaited attention at Tay Junction, I headed over to T3 in Siglap in search of the bar tape. Faced only with the availability of red or pink, I opted to grab Zipp’s Road Bar tape, just because it’s white. I plan to replace it with Silic 1, once the white comes back in stock.

Upon dropping the tape back to Taj Junction, I was welcomed by saviour of the day Alan, who happened to be in the store at the time. The prior week I had been admiring Alan’s new Sagan Sworks Tarmac, today he was saving my Tarmac.

All in all, the day was full of twists in the narrative that could have easily caused one to blow a fuse. I can’t tell you why, but the day seemed to flow. It was a Friday on which I had time with some of Singapore’s most amazing people in cycling. It made me grateful for the community we have here, as it grows in the face challenges unique to this tiny island nation. The kindness of Alan to voluntarily reach out made my day. And deepened my already passionate relationship with the Specialized brand.

Cycling as a culture faces challenges everyday. Today was a day that reminded me of the strong unity cyclists have amongst each other. So next time you ride past another cyclist, do say hello. Chances are, we all have the same passion.

What did I learn from the day?

I am meticulous when it comes to cleaning and maintaining my bike. But I need to clean a few parts that aren’t as visible, mainly under the hood rubbers. The tip from super mechanic Stephen Ames at Valley Cycles:

“Hose down with fresh water after every ride. Once a month peel back the hoods. Fully wash and dry, before spraying WD40 around the metal clamps” – S. Ames

Saturday April 16th

Nothing better than getting a call from Tay Junction Saturday morning to say my bike is ready for collection. In the space of 24 hours, I’d gone through a round about of twists and turns. But in the end my Tarmac was ready for the big tide. At Midnight, I’ll start a six hour stint at the National Geographic Earth Day challenge, where we aim to break the world record by producing 33,000 watts of power simply by pedalling.


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