I like bikes. I like riding. I like bikecamping.

    • The incredible story of my stolen Rivendell Road Standard

      This is a story about hopes and dreams.

      In 2022, I had the opportunity to buy a 1995 Rivendell Road Standard frame—that fit me!— and build it up. I decided to go all out. With the insurance money I got from having my previous gravel bike stolen, I put a plan together with Jay from Scenic Routes.

      the rivendell bike

      1995 Rivendell Road Standard taking me to taco trucks and beyond.

      Here was the build that we planned together:

      Part Model
      Handlebars randonneur 25.4 400mm
      Brake Levers Gran Compe 202 Non Aero Brake Levers, Drilled
      Downtube Shifters Dia-Compe ENE Down Tube Shifters
      Cranks Rene Herse Double Crank 46-30 - 171mm
      Pedals MKS Monarch
      front hub Velo Orange 32 hole silver
      rear hub Velo Orange 32 hole silver
      rims Velocity A32 32 hole polished
      spokes and calc spoke calc and spokes and nipples x 64
      brakes shimano 105
      cassette microshift 11-36
      tires 26″ x 1.25″ Elk Pass Tire
      cables two brake and 2 shifter
      front derailleur dura ace
      rear derailleur Shimano deore long cage
      chain 9 speed in stock

      After a few arduous months, it was finally done. I rode it, happily, for many months. I even went on a YouTube show with it.

      Then early last year, the bike—along with all the bikes in my building—disappeared. My Tesla-driving neighbor had apparently left the garage door wide open, which led to someone coming in and grabbing every bike within sight. I was inconsolable, of course.

      A few things gave me hope:

      A few friends who know a thing or two about used bikes told me they were certain the bike would find its way back to me some day, because my bike was so unique that it would be difficult for the thief to sell; and it would be difficult for anyone thinking about buying it to not know it was stolen.

      4 or 5 months passed, and I continued making sure my post about the bike was updated on Craigslist, Reddit and elsewhere.

      Randomly, I got a Reddit message from someone who said he had seen my bike at Laney Market in Oakland, and bought it. He told me that he worked in bike industry and that, when he saw it at the flea market, knew for sure it was stolen, so he decided he would try to find me. We met near a BART station and he returned the bike to me (I Venmo-ed him what he paid for it, and a bit more). I had also received a few calls from people who had spotted it at Laney Market, but by the time I made it out there I could not find it myself. I'm thankful to the community and to folks for looking out for this bike for me. I love it to bits.

      The bike was returned to me in a really good condition. It was almost as if no one had ridden it at all. Someone had tried to cover its distinctive lugs with ugly markers. That's mostly faded out on its own. I didn't need to do very much when I got the bike back, beyond the flat tires.

      I'm now determined to ride the hell out of this bike. Thank you, bicycle gods, for looking out for me!

    • Bikecamping in the Bay Area

      One of the things I love most about living in the Bay Area is the easy bikecamping we get 'round here.

      the blogger wearing outdoor clothes at a campsite

      Here are some of my usual rides and camps:

      Samuel P. Taylor State Park

      The very first place I went bikecamping. While you can and should make reservations, state park rangers are likely to find space for hikers and bikers without any.

      "You can camp among redwoods, bike along the creek, explore easy-to-moderate hiking trails, watch salmon spawn, relax in the shady picnic area, and learn the story of its namesake pioneer. When you’ve finished all that, more adventures await just next door at Point Reyes National Seashore." (from park website)

      State facilities here are very good: bring plenty of quarters for camp showers. Lots of water.

      Plenty of hiking opportunities as well: bring a lock, lock up your bike, and go on a walk.

      China Camp

      A very popular camp site near San Rafael. Tent camping in a fairly secluded area with 15 miles of trails. Bring quarters for showers. Definitely book, but they say they have two campsites for hikers and bikers. Firewood available for sale so cooking is relatively easy. Bring a wagon to ferry firewood if needed.

      the inside of a tent

      The ground here is 'hard pack' and I found it very difficult to pitch ultra-light tents (the kind you prop up with a hiking pole). I will bring a normal tent next time.

      Point Reyes

      The 'wildest' camping I did (until I did Yosemite in 2021): no water source, very basic facilities (just toilets, no shower; water from some spouts). But right by the ocean (at Wildcat campground).

      This is a much longer ride than the other two, so I would break it up unless you know you're a relatively strong rider.

      a bunch of tents on the ground

      If you haven't ridden long distance, or you're on an unfamiliar bike (like a rental), I would do shorter day trips across the Golden Gate Bridge and try to do 'credit card bike camping' first. These hills are no joke. If you're relatively confident and / or you're going with experienced bikecampers, then it's a super fun experience!

    • Touching Grass

      I was always a big city person. I liked nature, but not excessively. Now that I'm almost 5 years into being a Californian, that's starting to change. I don't just like the outdoors, I love it. I survived (and thrived) at a five day backcountry Yosemite backpacking trip with no toilets or showers. I scaled Half Dome. I go bikecamping a few times a year.

      a scan of a medium format photograph of some tents and bicycles in the woods

      Shot on Fuji GW690II on Portra 800, developed and scanned by Underdog Film Lab

      That's one of the joys of living in Northern California, and in being in San Francisco specifically. I can bike to the Golden Gate Bridge in 20 minutes or so, and cross it in the same time (I don't bike very fast). Across the bridge, I can go west to the Marin Headlands or straight into the small towns of Sausalito, Mill Valley, or as far as San Rafael or San Anselmo where I have some favorite spots for food and snacks; and in some areas, set up camp if I want.

      I'm thankful to have the opportunity to experience this, and to have found a bunch of folks who will come experience all of this with me.

    • The Road Less Ridden

      In my mother tongue we have a brilliant turn of phrase. Geh kiang. Separately, they mean fake clever. Together, it means some approximation of 'smart alec', but that's not quite good enough. It's hardly translatable at all. 'Smart alec' does not embody the degree of stupidity we are usually referring to when we say 'geh kiang'.

      My mother will tell you I embody geh kiang, every bit of me.

      I was especially geh kiang when I packed up my bags and bicycle, mostly under stressful circumstances, in order to take them somewhere.

      Why did I bring a bicycle to northern Europe? I found myself wondering that all throughout my Nordic escapade. I wondered the loudest and grumbled the most when it was time to pack up my bags and my bicycle all over again. Five times. I know, I counted.

      I packed up my bags and my bicycle when I had to move, when I had to get in a plane, when I had to jump into a train, when I had to do all of that entirely by public transport (cabs are totally out of the question in Europe!) and onto train platforms and then into trains.

      It was difficult, to say the least. Lucky for me — and my sanity — my love for cycling, and the relative benefits of having one's own bicycle in a foreign place, far outshone the logistical barriers. I will probably do it again.

      When you commit to having such a piece of equipment by your side of the entire duration of your trip, you're committing to a relationship that will be the primary relationship, one that will be far more important than the by-now boring concept of luggage. You have to look after it. Endure the glances. Fight for it at airport check-in desks. Hold it, dance with it, around the feet of heavily pregnant commuters and swerving around nervous people, trying your best not to jab anybody with your hulk of a piece of equipment.

      So what happened? In a nutshell,

      I broke my bike

      Finnair treated my bike brilliantly. I flew them three times: to Helsinki, to Stockholm, back from Copenhagen. All three times my bicycle more than survived, and the entire experience was very easy. I highly recommend Finnair for their quick, no-nonsense flights to Europe from Singapore. Helsinki Airport is also my new favourite airport.

      I, however, was very stupid. I tried to fix what I thought was a loose nut, myself. Being no bike mechanic, I promptly broke the weirdest little part I could break — the plastic doohickey in the stem of the folding post of my bike. Without it, my bicycle could not stay folded. Foldable bikes like mine haven't taken off in that part of the world at all. Even though the Finns speak amazing English, most people anywhere have never heard of a plastic doohickey. Not unless you are very familiar with foldable bikes of the Dahon make.

      Somehow, I managed to find an excellent bicycle shop where its owner and mechanics were super helpful. Since it's not even a part that my bicycle's manufacturer offers for sale, it seemed pretty dire. Thankfully, a quick-thinking mechanics with extraordinary ability in plastics (he had a degree in plastics engineering) took a look at the broken plastic bits, and he made a brand new doohickey for me. That entire process took a week so I had to go to Tallinn without my bicycle, but I was relieved that I wouldn't be travelling around with an unridable piece of junk for the next 3 weeks. More glad that it got fixed. I got lucky.

      I had to be rescued by Swedish police

      Not something I care to repeat ever again, but.. what an experience.

      I was cycling along the bike lanes from Kungsholmen to Stockholm Central, happily zipping along at 25km/h with an air of familiarity. I was starting to really get where things were in Stockholm, and I'd had some amazing city rides. Seems like Stockholm Central hates me for some inexplicable reason. The last time I was there in 2010, I got locked out of Stockholm Central for many hours while my luggage was locked in.

      This time, I guess I missed the sign that said "IF YOU ARE A BICYCLE, GO LEFT! NOT STRAIGHT!"

      I went straight.

      I realised something was amiss when I started descending down a steep flyover. I saw many heavy vehicles. I saw that I had no way to filter right (they ride on the right) without being in the middle of oncoming, converging traffic from another steep flyover. I jumped out. I saw that I could not go back up, and that there was no way I could walk off that bridge (water, water, everywhere).

      I jumped onto my bike and kept going.

      At some point it dawned upon me in my puny little brain that if I went any further, I would be bus chow in the middle of the underwater tunnel that crossed islands into Södermalm. I got out.

      I don't know what I was thinking — probably nothing — I remember I was extremely calm. I called a Swedish friend, who could not help; I texted the Swedish friend I was riding to meet and told her I'd be late, that I'd explain later when I saw her.

      Mostly I just stood by the side of the road and looked pathetic, I think.

      A Stockholm city police car came within ten minutes, bundled my bicycle and its stupid owner into the back of the car, and drove me to Stockholm Central. I figured motorists might have called in to tell them that an Asian tourist was dangerously obstructing the lives of motorists on the highway by looking pathetic and helpless.

      (They did confirm that they received calls about me, which is why they came; I didn't care to ask what had been reported!)

      Stockholm police's parting words to me: "you should take a photo and show it to your friends."

      Damn malu.

      I had to carry a ton of weight every step of the way

      Let's just say travelling with a bicycle, no matter how light, is not for the faint of heart. I only moved all my bags and the bicycle when I moved to a new city or went to the train station or airport, but when I moved, I moved.

      One of the last minute decisions before leaving for Helsinki was that I would bring a silly little trolley with me. The kind that aunties go to the wet market with: the flimsy, plastic ones that are given out free at computer fairs or promotions. I don't know how I managed without it. Although my Dahon D7HG is quite tiny when folded, and it was also in a soft bag, the overall package including the paddings, foam and bubble wrap made for an uncarry-able package. I also had my large backpack and camera backpack. Why didn't I just pack it in a Samsonite case? I've tried that many times, each time to devastating results. First, dismantling the bike is pretty easy. Getting it to fit isn't. Unlike most other 20″ Dahon bikes, the D7HG Vitesse that I have has a large rear fender. It is close to impossible to remove, and without removing it, the bicycle does not fit into any luggage. It also has a hub gear, which makes it difficult to remove the rear wheel. More importantly, because of the hub gear and the rear fender, I'm not able to confidently put it back. I decided to avoid that nightmare this time. mrbrown and Ryan helped me zhng a makeshift soft bag carry method. It served me well.

      Eventually, I gave up on the lousy trolley and went to a trolley superstore in Stockholm (yes, there is such a thing!) and purchased an amazing, sturdy, well-made Swedish trolley.

      Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely! That was my first time travelling with my bicycle. To be honest, I don't think I was ready for it. I'm lucky in that I didn't get flats, I didn't need to change tubes (though I brought them anyway), that I didn't need to remove my wheels or do any repairs of any sorts on my own (other than the plastic doohickey incident). I'm no bike mechanic. I'm a little stupid about those things, in fact. I will get better at it because I now know what and where are the gaps in my knowledge.

      I had an amazing time on the bike.

      The Nordic countries are light years ahead of us in terms of cycling as part of the urban landscape. It was such a joy to ride there, especially in Copenhagen. Real bike lanes, bike traffic lights, an entire culture and city where cycling was a real, and sometimes the only, way of life. It was liberating.

      Before going, I was quite shaky on the roads. I did not like the idea of riding on the roads in Singapore as I was not confident enough to do it. Because I got so much mileage on the roads of Copenhagen (breezy sweat-free 40km days were typical), I learned many things about what I needed to know from them. I now ride on the roads of Singapore regularly, and don't find it particularly difficult, although there are some challenges to be mindful of (car-dooring, for example).

      Since I got home to Singapore, there's been a lot of talk about how public transport has become absolutely terrible. I agree it has deteriorated substantially, but my own personal way of getting around that problem is to ride more and talk less. I would be quite happy to cycle-commute at least 40% of the time in Singapore. Next time I travel, I am taking the bike with me again. Anywhere. Everywhere.

      Super Geh Kiang Me.

    • Did you hear the one about the Swedish chocolate cake?

      I'm home now of course, whatever home means, and I've been retelling a couple of stories. The same ones, but many of them, just because I've had such a crazy time in the Nordics.

      This one isn't very much of a story. Just a little tale that, once again, shows you how crazy we Asians are about our food.

      I spent the first three weeks of my big Scandinavian/Finnish vacation on my own, and/or with friends from that region. In the last week, a friend from uni came to meet me in Copenhagen.

      We did stuff, mostly in this order:

      Eat. Drink. Eat. Drink. Eat. Cycle. Eat. Drink. Eat. Bring our bicycles to Sweden.

      To buy chocolate cake. From a supermarket. She'd been on student exchange in Sweden, now lived in Geneva, and missed Swedish supermarket chocolate cake terribly. I'm sure it's nice and all, but damn if I ever go to another country to buy chocolate cake again.