Thursday, March 1, 2012

NTU Bike Rally 2012: A Detailed Account of the Ride

With the experience gained from the 2011 version of the NTU Bike Rally, I started the 2012 NTU Bike Rally with confidence! Although the detailed route was not released, the checkpoints were given. The main thing here is to get from checkpoint to checkpoint, the actual route does not matter too much. You can choose a different route other than the official one with guides along the way.


The flag off was in darkness, at 645am sharp. Good to see that the flag off timing is accurate and adhered to! Me and my group was not attempting 168km, thus we did not make our way to the front for the first wave. By the time we set off, it was 7am sharp. Exactly the same time as last year.


7am: Set off from F1 Pit Building - 0 km
After the first bend, we encounter the first slope! The Bayfront Ave bridge. Since it was so early, I could see that most people just power up the slopes, full of energy and enthusiasm. For me and Bernice, our strategy this year is "slow & steady". This means that we will spin up slopes instead of powering up the slopes. I learnt my lesson last year, when I pushed too hard too early, causing cramps for the later half of the rally.

Also, we will try not to stop too long at each rest point. Probably for 10-15mins. Just refill water, eat some snacks and move off. Aim is not to wait too long till the muscles cool down, else it will be hard to get going again.

After Bayfront Ave, we turned into Shenton Way. As expected, some riders just went through red lights, as if being in a bike event exempts the participants from traffic rules. I guess there was not much the organisers can do about this. It is nice to have some outriders on motorbikes clearing the way ahead and allowing us to pass through some junctions without stopping.

Traffic was quite confusing near Vivocity, with cars and bikes moving all over the road. After that, it was quite uneventful all the way till West Coast Park.

Route from Start Point to West Coast Park

745am: West Coast Park - 16km
We entered West Coast Park, circled around the park and exited the other end, without seeing any waterpoints! Only saw a lot of people stop around the toilets, other than that most people were just cycling along. It was only much later, after I asked around that I realised that there was a waterpoint near the stage area in the middle. Unfortunately it was too well hidden and we did not notice it at that time. In any case, we did not really need to top up water so early in the rally.

At Jalan Buroh, it is the 3 slopes again! For us, we cycle along this route quite often on Westie Warriors night rides, so we are familiar with the road and the slopes. Once again, slow and steady up the slopes.

From West Coast Park to Jalan Buroh - Pioneer Rd, along the 3 slopes.

830am: NTU SRC - 30km
This time, I did not make the same mistake and follow blindly all the way to the Raffles Marina Checkpoint! That is needed only if you intend to complete 168km. If not, you should turn right at Pioneer Road North, towards NTU.

Again, just like last year, I heard that quite a lot of people did not realise that and went on to Raffles Marina. That is an extra 15-20km. Apparently, there wasn't anyone directing the riders onto the 128km route, everyone just followed and went for the 168km route. I thought that with the feedback we gave last year, they would have improved on this point.

In any case, we took a slightly different route to NTU. Instead of passing through 2 roundabouts, we turned off early to Corporation Road, and then down along International Road. From there we carry on along Pioneer Road North, as shown in the blue line below. Although this route is slightly longer, it is much quieter and safer as there is less traffic.

The actual route is shown in red. The 168km route is shown in black.

At NTU, we were one of the first to arrive! This was because practically all the cyclists in front of us went to the extension at Raffles Marina. We were one of the first of the 128km riders.

Slightly different route to NTU

930am: Puncture along Neo Tiew Road! - 45km
While cycling through the trail at Neo Tiew Ave, I noticed that the rear tire on Bernice's Vitesse P18-TT seems to be flatter than usual. 10 mins later, it looked almost completely flat! Seems that there is a slow puncture, so we found a little clearing with some shade to check on the tire.

Discovered a small puncture in the tube, caused by a metal pin that poked through the tire. No worries, with spare tubes and the proper tools, we were on our way 20mins later! The tire changing took quite long as I took my time to find the cause of the puncture. Also, it was my first time changing a tube out in the field. Seems that the Schwalbe tires have protected us from punctures for quite a while!

Puncture along Neo Tiew road in the middle of nowhere, around the 45km mark

1020am: Turf Club - 51km
Saw some familiar faces here, including those who went the extra distance to Raffles Marina! They caught up with us after we got delayed by the puncture.

After a brief rest, we were on our way again! The Mandai slopes lay in wait for us! With our slow and steady strategy, we kept on moving, without stopping along the way. This is where some of the riders started to suffer from cramps, we could see people resting along the road or sitting at the bus stops taking a break and rubbing their leg muscles.

For us, with our double chainrings and crank spinning technique, we made it up the slopes with no big issues. We were slow, but we were moving steadily without expending too much energy. Still 70+ km to go from here!

Enjoying the slopes at Mandai, on the way to Yishun Stadium restpoint

1115am: Yishun Stadium - 62km

After surviving Mandai Road, everyone was glad to take a break at Yishun Stadium. There was a small crowd there, probably some of those who went on the 168km route and some 128km riders too. Stopped for only a short while before moving off.

After Yishun Dam, we took a little shortcut across to the Pulau Punggol Barat bridge, instead of following road all the way down and coming back up again. I think this saved us probably 1 to 2 km only. Most people just went across there instead of following the road down.

It was extremely dusty at the Pulau Punggol Barat, with the strong winds blowing a lot of sand into the air. From far, I could see a cloud of dust in the distance, like a sandstorm!

Made it to the other end of the island, and I was pleasantly surprised to be directed into the new Punggol PCN! It was a really relaxing ride along the coast of Punggol to the next checkpoint.

Route from Yishun Stadium to Punggol Point checkpoint

1215pm: Punggol Point restpoint - 75km
The weather was really really hot at this point! And there was hardly any shelter at Punggol Point. Only had a few sparse trees for shelter. Had some water and bread before moving off. I'm glad that we are always one of the earlier ones to reach the checkpoints, this means that there is always an ample supply of food and drinks for us.

It was a really long and hot ride from Punggol Point to Pasir Park restpoint. Along the way, we had to navigate the slopes along Punggol Rd and along Tampines Rd. We saw that some riders lost their way in Punggol, as they did not notice the signs and there was no one directing the riders at critical junctions. They were too far ahead for us to call out to them.

And just before the Pasir Ris park checkpoint, we had to climb up Elias Rd. At that point, slopes were getting really challenging, and we could not have climbed the slopes any slower or we would have fallen off our bikes!

Route from Punggol Point to Pasir Ris Park

135pm: Pasir Ris Park - 93km
It was quite uneventful at Pasir Ris park, other than seeing a lot of tired faces and bikes strewn all over the place. Seemed that many people got really tired by this point!

Went off towards Changi Village. Along the way, there were big slopes at Loyang, sapping us of our precious energy. Although Changi Village is not an official restpoint, it is a good place to rest as you can get drinks or food there. Saw a whole group of LCSG people eating "zi char" at the coffeeshop, shiok la! But if we had eaten, we would find it really difficult to get going after that.

220pm: Changi Village - 101km
Next up, Changi Coastal Road! This is where I felt that our slow and steady efforts really paid off. We were not moving fast, but we cruised along at a steady 20km/h along the whole of Changi Coastal Road. This was a really nice speed that we could maintain at that point in time.

Towards the end of Changi Coastal Road, it started raining! There was no shelter, so we could only keep moving. I was so glad that I had my waterproof Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers with me! With those, I just put everything inside and will not have to worry about rain.

Route from Changi Village to NSRCC. Started raining near the 110km mark!

Estimated time at NSRCC: 305pm - 112km
Reached NSRCC, but hardly stopped to rest. Only stopped to drink some water and got going. We cycled along part of the ECP service road, and some portions on the cycling track inside the park. It was still raining at this point. Slow and steady!

Route from NSRCC to end point at F1 Pit Building

Finish Time: 405pm - 129km
The ECP portion was really long, and it seemed so long partly because we were tired and moving slowly. At Mountbatten Road, we passed so close to Lao Ban that I was so tempted to go and get some! Haha but cannot get distracted. Nicoll Highway was the last hurdle for us.

We completed the Bike Rally just a little past 4pm! Not a fast timing, but definitely a good timing. I believe that there were probably less than 5 mini velos that finished before us. Slow and steady strategy worked well!

This year, the finisher tee is much nicer as the distance 128km/168km is splashed across the whole front of the shirt. Allows other people to see very easily! However, because it is black, it is unlikely that I will wear it for cycling.

Overall, it was a tough but fun bike rally! It really makes you push hard to achieve your targets and do better than what you believe you can do. I would participate again next year!

10 comments:

  1. Came to your site when I tried to search Endomondo for cycling activities in Singapore, very glad to see NTU's 129km Rally 2012!

    Just wonder how many people participated? Age distribution, youngest to oldest? No. of non-NTU ?

    I missed the fun, will try next year!

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  2. thanks! as for the stats, I'm not sure. but it involves people of all ages!

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  3. Thanks. Great detail hope to join next year.

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  4. Stumble upon this blog while looking for details on NTU bike rally. Always wanted to do it but never have the courage and companions.

    Good work here. Help to shed some lights on this event.

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  5. Very nice article. I am doing it this year and was searching ntu bike rally and reached here.

    In case of a flat tyre, will the organizers provide some help? ( I have no experience changing the tubes myself)

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    1. I don't think they will be able to help out. Best to prepare your own tire lever, pump and spare tube. Learn to change the tube or ride with someone who knows.

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    2. Thank you..

      Should experiment with my old cycle on changing the tubes then.. :)

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  6. Hi steve what bike did you use for this?

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    1. I used my Dahon Boardwalk for this.

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