Sunday, March 27, 2016

NTU Bike Rally 2016 98km

After taking a break from the NTU Bike Rally last year, I decided to join the NTU bike rally this year! For this year, they had two different distances, the 98km route and the 168km route. For me, the 98km route is a good distance as it is not too long to be torturous, and yet long enough to be a challenge.

Bike Rally 2014
Bike Rally 2012

This year, I decided to ride along with my friend who is taking part in the NTU bike rally for the first time. For a first timer, the 98km route should be a good distance that is doable, although it will still not be easy. It was held on 06 March 2016, starting at the F1 Pit.

For this year, the registration and the flag off timing for the 98km and the 168km are separate. This is good as it prevents riders going onto the wrong route like previous years. The 168km riders started off earlier at 6am, while the rest of the 98km riders will move off at 7am. I had prepared and packed breakfast to eat while waiting for the 98km flag off at 7am.

Both of us took our Wheelsport Fantasy mini velos for this ride. This mini velo rides very well and is a good choice for round island rides. Of course, if you want to go faster, a road bike is a better choice, although it can be less comfortable due to the more sporty riding posture.

Wheelsport Fantasy mini velos ready to go! Beautiful scenery too.

My friend's mini velo front wheel felt a bit under-pressured, and so I decided to pump it up using the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive. This hand pump is able to reach 100 PSI quite easily, so no issue there. However, when I was unscrewing the pump head from the valve, the removable Presta core of the valve came out! Seems that it was not tight enough, and it unscrewed together with the pump head.

Valve core of the Presta tube came out with the pump head.

This was a big issue as I can't pump up the tire without putting back the valve core. The last resort would be to change out the inner tube of course. I tried looking for an adjustable wrench to screw back the core properly, but could not find one even at the tool area of the organiser. In the end I had to use two Allen keys like a pair of chopsticks to screw back the core. Not sure if it is tight enough, but I think it will work OK.

After fixing the inner tube issue, it was almost time to go! We lined up at the start point just before 7am, and I was glad to see that the flag off timing was at 7am sharp! Great work by the organisers to be able to stick to the scheduled timing. At this time the sky was still dark and so our front and rear lights were on. This time, I am using the Garmin Edge 510 to track the route, so I will not need to plot the route manually.

7am, Set off from F1 Pit, 0 km
From start point to West Coast Highway

Since I have done the NTU Bike Rally a few times, the route would be pretty straightforward and predictable, even though the route is not disclosed before the ride. From the F1 Pits, we turned towards Shenton Way and went all the way to Keppel Road. After that, we carried on to West Coast Highway. From the start till this point, everyone was very energetic and rode rather fast. We were at 30km/h all the way along this stretch.

The danger area is near the Sentosa entrance, where there is a need to filter two lanes to the right to go straight, past Vivocity. There were a few Cisco outriders with us at this time and so it was not too chaotic.

As always, the first water point is at West Coast Park. We did not go in to rest as it was still early in the ride and we did not need to stop. Besides, it is a good idea to cover more distance early in the morning while it is still cool.

740am, Jalan Buroh Roundabout, 15.5km
Passing by Jalan Buroh roundabout

After West Coast Park, we went towards the Jalan Buroh roundabout (shown by the black dot). This is the point where the 168km and 98km route splits. Although the 168km riders are supposed to have left at 6am, there are still quite a large number of 168km riders at this point. It is easy to differentiate them from the 98km riders from the colour of the number tags.

The 168km riders went left towards Tuas, while 98km riders went straight towards Jurong Town Hall road. I was a bit surprised at this point as I thought everyone will turn left, and 98km route will turn turn at Pioneer Road North towards NTU.

As we went along Jurong Town Hall road, and passed Boon Lay Way onto Bukit Batok road, I realised that the 98km route will not be going to NTU! That was a surprise for me as I thought the NTU Bike Rally will always go through NTU...

805am, Choa Chu Kang Way, 26km
2nd water point on the 98km route

We we planning to go for the second water point, which would be a good time to refill our bottles and grab some bananas. As we went past ITE College West, there were some marshals indicating that the water point is nearby. However, as we turned left onto Choa Chu Kang Way, there were no signs or marshals indicating where the water point is. We thought it was further down the road, and so we went straight. It was only after some time that we realised we must have missed it as it was too far down the road. Later on, we found out from other riders that we had to turn in (at the black dot on the map) for the water point.

Now we had already missed two water points, but luckily we still had water and still felt fit enough to continue without resting. I wonder where the next water point will be...

845am, Start of Mandai Road, 38km
Going up Sungei Kadut Drive to Kranji Way, before coming down to Mandai Road

After passing through Choa Chu Kang, the route brought us northwards towards Kranji Way, before coming back down along Woodlands Road. From there, we turned left to travel along Mandai Road.

At this point, we still had not stopped for a water break or snacks, as we had skipped the previous two stop points. Luckily it was still early in the day and it was not too hot. Mandai road had some up and down slopes, but it was not a big issue for us as we still had energy. The key is to spin slowly and not to mash hard, as it is important to avoid getting leg cramps.

930am, Yishun Stadium, 47km
Stop point at Yishun Stadium

Finally, our first rest stop! This is the third stop point on the 98km route and we finally stopped for a break. We refilled our water bottles and had some bananas for energy. After about 2.5 hours, we covered about half the distance of 98km, which is a good timing. At this rate, we will finish just past noon!

After leaving Yishun Stadium, we continued eastwards towards the Yishun Dam, and onto the two islands named Punggol Barat and Punggol Timor. The sun was getting strong at this time and so I wore my armsleeves and put on some sunblock to protect against the hot sun.

Crossing the two islands towards Punggol

The next stop point was along Punggol Waterway (shown by black dot above), and it was rather well hidden and cannot be seen from the main road. Again, more water and bananas.

The official route would be to continue southwards towards Sengkang, and cross over to Tampines before going to Pasir Ris Drive 3. We decided to take the more scenic (and slightly shorter) route from Punggol to Pasir Ris, which is to go along the Punggol waterway PCN, cross the Lorong Halus bridge before appearing at Pasir Ris.

The more scenic route along the Punggol waterway, and crossing over to Pasir Ris to rejoin the route.

Stop point at Changi Beach, shown by the black dot

Next stop point is at Changi Beach, just after the SAF Ferry Terminal. By now the weather was getting really hot, although it did rain for a few minutes while we were passing by Changi Village. We had lots of water and also kept a couple of bananas for later use.

Route along Changi Coast Road

It was getting pretty tough for my friend as we had clocked plenty of distance by now, and the sun was really beating down on us. After what seemed like a really long time pedaling mindlessly along Changi Coast Road, we finally turned into East Coast Park. We had our own rest stop and had the banana, as there is no stop point from Changi Beach all the way to Tanjong Rhu.

Final stop point is under the Benjamin Sheares Flyover

After successfully navigating the crowded East Coast Park, we finally reached the final water point, which is located under the Benjamin Sheares Flyover. By this time we had already clocked over 98km! Bonus distance as usual...

At this time it was already past 12pm, as our pace slowed down significantly for the second half of this ride. Nevertheless, we were close to the finish point, with just a few more kilometres to go. I was still feeling pretty good even after clocking almost 100km.

1245pm, F1 Pit Finish, 102km
Overall route of 102km!

Final distance clocked is 102km! This was despite us saving a few kilometres at Punggol waterway. It was a really good ride for me, with a decent average speed.
Ride statistics. Average speed of 22.4 km/h, not fast or slow, but a good pace.

In summary, this was a good ride with a distance that I can handle. There was no confusion between those attempting the 168km route and the 98km route, as the flag off timings are different and the signs were clear at the splitting points (Jalan Buroh roundabout and Yishun area). Many thanks to the route marshals who braved the hot sun to direct the participants onto the correct route!


  1. Hi, it'll be my 1st bike rally this year. You said u sometimes rode a scenic route instead of official route. On the event day, how are riders informed of the official route & checkpoints so we can plan our own route? Did they give a map?

    1. Sometimes I will go on a detour on an alternative route, but only if I know the place and route well. The official route is given along the way at the checkpoints. At each checkpoint, there will be a big map on a whiteboard showing where is the next checkpoint and how to get there.

    2. Thanks for your useful info!

  2. hi, I will be doing the NTU bike rally first time this year.
    Want to check, are there many stops at traffic signals along the way? also are there sufficient road marshals and sweepers to direct us?
    thanks in advance

    1. At the start, for maybe the first 10km, when the cyclists are still grouped together in big bunches, there will be auxiliary police blocking the traffic junctions and you may not need to stop at the junctions. After that, the cyclists will spread out along the whole route, and you will have to obey all traffic rules.