Night cyclists: Exploring Singapore when the sun goes down
"Halfway down, Froggie raised his fist to signal us to stop. We heard radio chatter, and decided to go into stealth mode. All phones and lights were switched off, and we were cloaked in a velvety blackness.
"The loose gravel seemed to make a deafening grating sound as we tried our best to pedal quietly. It was a group of soldiers on maneuvers. They ignored us and vice versa.
"We cut into another trail. Gasbag led here, giving us a heads up of the trail, and that we could speed downhill quite safely. It was a high-speed blast downhill. With MagicShine lighting the trail 20-feet ahead of us we took full advantage and let loose."
These are the words of Chris de Souza, founder of Five-O, an off-road cycling interest group in Singapore.
Over the last few years, groups like Five-O have quietly grown from sporadic meetings of friends to official hobby groups, evidence that cycling has become a way of life for many Singaporeans. Night cycling in particular has built a strong appeal -- the beauty and thrill of cycling through or alongside the jungle at night, the lack of traffic on the roads, the cool air and that irreplaceable free-wheeling feeling that you own the route you ride on.
For those interested, three groups in particular -- Five-O, Terra Outdoors and sgnitecycle -- are the most active. Here’s how to hook up with them.
Founded in Singapore in 2006, Five-O has grown from four members to 80 with chapters in countries such as New Zealand, the United States and Italy. Avid riders, Five-O members can be found on weekend mornings at Chestnut Avenue in Upper Bukit Timah (coincidentally near their regular route) or in a nearby coffeeshop refueling after an extended period of time pedaling.
In between these weekly day rides, they hold sporadic night rides (9pm-midnight) and dawn rides (4-8am) navigating in the jungly hills of the island – yes hills exist in Singapore.
"We start with our lights on,"says Chris of the dawn rides, "then turn them down and at 6:30 a.m. we turn them off and ride in semi-darkness. Watching the sky change with the yellow light of dawn is simply beautiful."
Reward for their exertion? Night scenery in the form or blue coral snakes, pythons and the odd pangolin, as well as an increasing number of wild boar tracks.
Find them at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/singapore_5-0. They meet Saturdays at 8 a.m. at Chestnut Avenue, Rifle Range Road carpark or Pulau Ubin and organize annual off-road cycling trips to Bali (April) and Chiang Mai (November). Call Chris de Souza at +65 9840 4938 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For some, their cycling hobby has grown into a business. Terra Outdoors, a predominantly road-cycling group, has been operating since 2005 and organizes paid-for group and individual cycling activities and night rides.
Director Suet Ling says, "Many of our rides are at night, and we hold an annual Round Island Challenge which is a 10-hour, 120-kilometer night ride. For this you need to have quite a bit of stamina and road-cycling experience. Other night rides are of a smaller scale, about three to four hours, and can accommodate both beginner and advanced riders. We take bookings and also hold public rides once a quarter that are free and open to all. These rides are posted on our website as well as on the National Parks Board’s website."
Terra Outdoors hold free public rides once a quarter, check their website for details. There is also a park ride (S$15 per person) organized the first weekend of every month that alternates between a Saturday night ride and a Sunday morning ride. Contact Chow Suet Ling at +65 9773 9539 or email email@example.com
Avid cyclist Eric Lim was so enamored with night cycling that he and a friend Alex Seah started sgnitecycle, a dedicated night-cycling road group. While the lengthy route from Seletar Dan to Mandai Road remains one of his favorites, there are other routes that hold his interest. “Kranji Reservoir towards Lim Chu Kang is a wooded area and is beautiful just before dawn, the air is so fresh you can smell the difference.” To experience what he describes, sgnitecycle meets weekly at either Eric’s or Alex’s home, or East Coast Park, depending on the size of the group, and welcomes both beginners and experienced riders.
Sgnitecycle have an active facebook page “Sg Nite Cycle.” Drop group leader Eric Lim a message on Facebook.