Looming El Niño and my bicycle

January 9, 2015

Last month, conditions in the tropical Pacific were looking increasingly El Niñoish. But right now, a better term for what’s happening might be “El Limbo.”

The odds of a full-blown El Niño occurring are now just 50 to 60 percent, down from 65 percent last month, according to the monthly report from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, released this morning. What’s more, if El Niño does finally emerge in the next few weeks, in all likelihood it won’t last long. Neutral conditions are most likely by March, according to the CPC.

But it’s hard to say….Mother Nature can turn 180 degrees in one blink of the eye.

I don’t know what to think any longer. There used to be a time not very long ago when I could read the weather by just smelling the air by sticking out my tongue like a lizard…to taste the faint smell of cloves when the winds would shift as they do just around June. But these days it’s hard to impossible to tell. At times, I feel like superman chained to a kryptonite bowling ball.

Farming is all about the weather – if one knows what Mother Nature is going to throw out next week, month or in a full Calendar year. Come what may lah. It’s easy to work around the constraints to maximize yield. Or if it’s going to be lose lose…..one can plan to lose less by blunting the assault or planing a counter attack. But when one doesn’t even have the slightest clue how the cards are going to fall – then it becomes a high blood pressure inducing game of Russian roulette. If one gets it wrong – then one loses money big time….do this consecutively enough times and I will be selling tissue paper in Bedok bus interchange very soon.

I am not like some landowners who have a unlimited war chest. If they don’t get it right….they have the luxury to try and try again. All I have is a few chances. I need to get it right the first time….no corrections…no safety nets….one shot, one kill!

Spent a full hour by the river to gauge the amount of rain that fell to the North the night beforin the hope of beaconing out the murk…..but none the wiser for it.

I seem to have lost my mojo. I need to get it back. Otherwise it’s no good. I can’t win…..There is no way.


‘On a separated note. I am seriously considering getting a new bike frame. I have my eye keenly trained on a 2012 Van Nicholas Titanium hard tail. My current frame is the legendary Klein attitude, had it for over ten years.

(I will write when I return back from the field. Meanwhile if any of you out there have actual riding experience on a Van Nicholas do provide me with an insight, it would be much appreciated.

This is my criteria. I need a bike that rides true (though it’s hard to tops a thoroughbred like a Klein attitude) or at least equal to what I have. I ride predominantly on plantation trails which requires me to use fatter than normal
tires – which I usually under inflate for increased trail traction.

I spend a lot of time on the saddle, it’s not uncommon for me to cover 70 to 80 miles a day predominantly on plantation roads.

I like to keep my set up as basic as possible. The philosophy. Less parts – less can go wrong – less preventive maintenance -overall less grief. Hence it can only be a hardtail. Full sus is no good.

Set up needs to be feather light. As certain sections of the plantation trail require me to carry my bike on either my shoulder or like a military backpack. This is key.

When I ride. I rarely put all my weight on my saddle. I find doing so tends to beat up my back leaving me wasted at the end of a hard ride. Weight displacement 20% butt / 80% pedals – I bend my knees slightly and use them as shock absorbers. On downhills I ride fast and clamp my inner tight to the saddle to keep the frame stable. I have no plans to change the way I ride. Using a ultra rigid allows me to do all this. My hope is when I switch from aluminium to Titanium. I can do the same without altering my ridding style. This is super key point.

My wheel set up is 26. I know 27 or 29 would offer better comfort and less roll resistance. But since I am accustomed to fat tires. I have no intentions of migrating from a 26 wheel set.

Don’t ride with cleats. This means I always run the risk of being thrown off the saddle or losing control when tearing down the downhills. But since my skill level is perfect 10 out of 10. Professional. I am good to go! Even then I feel my current rigid aluminium frame offers very little margin for error. This requires too much concerntration. Hence titanium which hopefully would be more more forgiving and less demanding.

This is the most important part. I don’t ride like a recreational weekend warrior. My bike is a mechanical horse. So I carry loads. Usually with surveying equipment when I out spying, the load is around 25 to 30 kg. On extended field trips with bedding, MRE etc etc, can be 70. I don’t use panniers. Carry it all in a sling bag set up low to the saddle for low center of gravity.

On my new titanium set up. I would need rear panniers. This is a significant change.

When you write your report – fun and form is strictly not relevant. Function. Performance. Durability. Ease of component interchangeability. Ridding characteristics is. Factor in weight bearing @ 30 kilos. Keep in mind I ride with size 26 wheels wide tracks which are usually under inflated. Drive train set up Doere XT. Brakes disc with -30 modulation on read and +5 upfront. Cassette 9 speed. Primaries 3.4 / ratio 16.5 – 17.3 – 19.1. Split report in wet and dry trail and road conditions.

Keep it factual. Your personal theories on bikology is irrelevant. Actual ridding field experience will be priority.

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