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Have Bike, Will Travel

By David Demres | June 20, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)

bikeWorking full-time and training at an elite level don’t always mesh. This is particularly true of the travel aspect of my job – working at Yale University to establish a college in Singapore.

But the truth is that these trips, while throwing me out of my training schedule and into a devastating jet-lag catch-up game, ignite the sense of adventure that accounts for my love of endurance sports.

When I last traveled to Singapore for work in April, it took 27 hours of flying (and half a dozen romcoms) to get to there. The very first thing I did was rent a Cervelo Aeroist from a guy named Mervyn. I found his bike fitting business online, and after a few email exchanges he delivered it to me in an unmarked van with the works – helmet, bike pump, extra tubes and a tire, an extra stem, etc. I handed him a couple hundred Singaporean dollars, exchanged absolutely no paperwork or contact info, and we said we'd meet in a few weeks. I wish everything were that simple.

The next morning, I started exploring. A college rider offered to take me on a ride around Singapore, and we rode for hours. After that, I was hooked on seeing Singapore via my bike. It was the first time in a while I rode purely for enjoyment and to see where I was going. It’s a privilege to be in good enough shape that you can bike literally anywhere in the country.

The Singapore cycling scene is wild: rides leave at 5 a.m. sharp because of the heat and traffic that kicks up by 7:30, which dampens any effort to exceed 10 mph. So you ride in the cool dark before sunrise, completely safe because every corner of Singapore is lit with streetlights. They drive on the left side of the road in Singapore, so even after a couple of weeks I could only go around turns at about 2.5 mph before freaking out. Also they don't use mph.

On weekends, over 100 expat riders (mostly from Australia and New Zealand) will meet in the middle of the island and split off into groups for longer rides. There aren’t many routes (two or three 50-70 mile rides maybe), but the ones they have are actually spectacular, passing through jungle-like reserves and circling large reservoirs minutes after crossing through busy city streets. The bike community is charmingly close-knit and surprisingly large, since Singapore is small enough that everyone in the entire country can bike to a central meeting spot.


The day I left, Mervyn, my bike guy, came back to my apartment to pick up the bike. Without inspecting it at all, or looking through the bag of stuff I was returning, he tossed it all into his van, wished me a good flight, and headed off.

For all the missed workouts and sore hamstrings I have collected on planes while traveling for work, I like to think that it has helped keep alive what I like about this sport – the optimistic sense of adventure that we sometimes lose sight of in our normal routine.

Where has been your favorite place to train while traveling?