Riding Rants

Too much to bear

I'm going to paste this notice at my carpark:

Please do not feed the cats in the carpark.

Unless you clear their shit as well!

I'm still working on the second sentence. I need to translate this to Chinese too.

I don't mind cats in the carpark otherwise. I don't even care that they sleep on top of my car and leave their fur behind. (So long it's only their fur and nothing else!)

Some drivers dislike cats because they think the cat's paws will scratch the car. However, I don't see any evidence of that.

Too many keys

The CB400F has 4 keys: one for the ignition, one for the fuel tank and side panel, one for the side hook and one for the 2nd helmet lock. (I use a numeric lock for the first helmet lock.)

I'm going to remove the side hook and helmet lock keys, as I almost never use them.

The YBR requires 3 keys: one for the ignition, one for the box and one for the helmet lock. I can't get rid of any of them.

The MX-5 only has one key.

What's the correct tyre pressure?

When I changed the tyres for the CB400F, the workshop's technician said the bike was very heavy and proceeded to pump 270 kpascal (39 psi) to the rear tyre!

I thought the manual specified 185 kpascal for front and 195 kpascal for rear. However, a check shows that I'm wrong! The manual stated 200 kpascal for front (29 psi) and 225 kpascal (32 psi) for rear.

I must have been confused with the YBR.

Why you should pump air to cold tyres

Not just because the tyre pressure is specified for cold tyres.

YBR exhaust burn

I accidentially scalded myself when I brushed against the exhaust pipe. It's painful, I tell you.

Update: the mark is still there after two weeks.

Stop at road shoulder? Think again

News: Lorry hits traffic cop on BKE

Date: 17 March 2009. Source: ST.

A TRAFFIC police officer, who stopped to help the driver of a broken-down van, was knocked down by a lorry along the Bukit Timah Expressway yesterday afternoon.

The 23-year-old corporal had pulled up on the road shoulder behind the van, near the Dairy Farm exit, to help the 52-year-old van driver, when they were struck by an out-of-control lorry. Both men were standing behind the van when they were hit by the lorry.

It's not safe to stop on the road shoulder. I don't see how anyone can miss a stopped vehicle, but there are some dumb drivers out there.

If you really need to stop, go past the barrier before you do anything else. Never stand beside or behind your vehicle.

I must admit that if I were caught in the rain, I would stop and put on my raincoat without observing the proper procedures. Maybe I should.

Accidentally honest

After I pumped petrol today, I was unable to get the receipt from the machine. (I use speedpass, so I pay by GIRO monthly.) I thought it was out of paper, so I asked a kiosk personnel for help. After trying it, he then told me my transaction wasn't registered properly and asked me to pay inside.

I then went in to pay at the counter. Both of them praised me for being honest.

Well, sometimes you can be accidentally honest.

Jaywalking alert

News: Highway chaos, death

Date: 16 March 2009. Source: ST.

A MAN who dashed across the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) yesterday evening created chaos which led to five vehicles crashing near the Toh Guan exit.

The aftermath of the series of collisions across the three-lane expressway left one motorcyclist pinned under a lorry. The 53-year-old man died soon after.

Now you must watch out for jaywalkers on expressways too.

Ang Mo Kio hub parking, never again

I went to AMK Hub to buy something. I wasn't sure if the parking was free for motorcycle, so I decided to try my luck. I didn't want to park at the open air HDB carpark as it was drizzling.

Bad choice. It wasn't free. What's more, I was charged the same as a car: $1.10 for the first hour. (I left within an hour.)

Never again.

Three things that irritate me to no end

YBR tachometer

YBR tachometer with fungus

My YBR's tachometer has fungus growth. It has been that way a year after I bought the bike. I finally decided to do something about it today.

I tried to get the cover open. I couldn't. It doesn't look like it can be opened.

Then, I happened to pull the speedometer cover and it gave way partially — one side of it was broken! It was starting to have some fungus growth, so I wanted to clean it too. After considering that I had to super-glue the cover back anyway, I pulled it open.

I got a surprise when I tried to wipe the fungus away. I smeared the whole cover instead. It wasn't fungus, it was glue! So it was glue leaking from the seals, not fungus!

In the end, I had to rinse the cover with water and scrubbed the glue away lightly. I then super-glued the cover back. I hope it sticks.

I'm not going to touch the tachometer for now.

Leaky boot

Leaky boot

This side of my boot leaks in prolonged heavy rain. I put newspaper in the boot (angled) as a precaution and that pin-pointed the source of the leak.

Today, I poured 1.5L of water down the side and not a single drop ended in the boot. I was puzzled. Was 1.5L too little? Or perhaps it didn't leak the way I expected it to?

Two observations:

  • It only leaked in prolonged heavy rain. Doesn't leak otherwise.
  • It doesn't leak if the car is parked on a slope. Perhaps the water drained away too quickly?

Perhaps the water didn't leak under the rubber, as I thought, but splashed over it. I don't find that likely, though.

Stubborn water stains on the windscreen

Stubborn water stains on windscreen

My windscreen has very stubborn water stains. I have tried several methods to remove them, all to no avail:

  • Glass cleaner + newspaper
  • Car shampoo + sponge
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Hot water

The last one did help to reduce some of the water stains.

I don't believe that the water stains are etched onto the windscreen.

Washing two bikes at the same time

For a long time, I just take a small pail of water from my home and rinsed the dirt off my bikes. They are seldom so dirty that I need to use soap.

One reason I don't use the 20-cents water outlet at the carpark is because it gives way too much water for washing one bike.

So yesterday, I used a different approach. I decided to wash both bikes together. Both bikes were very dusty. (I usually wash bikes alternately, every 2 weeks or so.)

There was just sufficient water to give both bikes a good rinse. I didn't use soap, as there wasn't enough water to do so. In the future, I may use soap, but sparingly.

I may need to get a bigger pail too. I lost a bit of water because my 2 containers were too small.

Losing a bit of water when I wash one bike is not a big deal. I have too much water anyway. But when it is just enough for two bikes, every drop counts.

Keep the car clean, $1 a day

A colleague remarked to me that she paid an indian cleaner to clean her car everyday, at the cost of $30+ per month.

$30+/month works out to be $1.10/day! I'm too cheapo to pay for such a service. I'll rather do the job myself. I just bought a feather duster so that I could dust off the dust every 2 to 3 days. (I seldom drive my car.)

On the other hand, I think the cleaning service is a good side-business. $1 per car is very good money! We are talking about just wiping the car here, not any fancy shampoo and polish.

Suppose you clean 10 cars per carpark (I expect the takeup rate to be pretty low), you just need to do 3 carparks and you'll earn an additional $30 per day, or $900 per month! This should take you just 2 to 3 hours daily.

Time for insurance hike again

News: Motor insurers suffer record S$214m losses in 2008

Date: 12 March 2009. Source: CNA.

Motorists in Singapore are set to pay higher insurance premiums soon, with insurers suffering record losses in 2008.

Numbers from the General Insurance Association showed that the motor sector booked record losses of S$214 million last year. That brought down overall underwriting profits for the insurance industry by more than half to just S$50.8 million.

Lose money every year, yah, I believe.

Motor insurance is easy money. Just raise the premiums. The insurance companies have no incentive to contain their costs.

A simple solution is to allow NCD to go up to 70% or more so that safe drivers are not penalized. Let the inexperienced and the accident-prone bear the costs, as they should be.

Also, I don't think NCD is working in terms of getting drivers to drive safely. We need better incentives:

One, give some premium back after 3 years of non-claim.

Two, instead of 10% NCD increase every year, make it 5% for the first 3 years and then 50% straightaway.

Forced off the road!

I was in the middle of the leftmost lane of KPE, about to exit to PIE. I noticed a car approaching me from my right just as he was overtaking me.

What he did next was unbelievable.

He glided into my lane as if I weren't there, forcing me onto the road shoulder!

Did he expect me to brake to let him in? (I was maintaining a constant speed.)

There was ample space to overtake me, as there was a considerable gap to the vehicle in front.

It is times like this that I wished I have video recording. Very soon...

Get a BMW for $333/month!

I saw a BMW ad on the local papers: BMW 3 series at $333/month for 12 months, or BMW 5 series at $555/month for 18 months. Of course, they neglected to mention the installment amount after that, so I called up to ask.

For the BMW 3 series, you need a downpayment of $12,000 and installments of $1,100/month for the next 9 years. You'll pay a total of $134,796. For the BMW 5 series, you need a downpayment of $16,000 and installments of $1,400/month for the next 8.5 years. You'll pay a total of $168,790.

I was told it's possible to "overtrade" the downpayment even if I don't own a car, meaning no downpayment!

Both prices seem to be on the low side, because the BMW 320i lists for $131.8k and that's before interest! (The BMW 520i lists for $170.8k.)

I suspect I was given the wrong installment amount. The installment should revert to $1,303/month for the BMW 3 and $1,688/month for the BMW 5. (Interest rate of 3% pa.)

Paying 10-year installments for a car is just like renting it, except that you can't choose to end it easily. Due to the rule of 78, it s not very cost-effective to redeem a car loan after 1/3 into the loan period. (You have paid 50% of the interests by then.)

To learn riding or not

A poster asked whether she should take up riding on a car forum. Her husband disagreed, so she's out to get other people's views. Not surprisingly, most posters were against it.

I wrote this:

It's best to take motorcycle lessons in the evening or at night. I took only one lesson in the morning to familiarize myself with the weather/lighting — TP test is in the morning — and it was terrible. It's okay when you're on the move, but it's very hot when you are queuing up. (And you need to queue up a lot.)

I feel it is useful to learn to ride a motorcycle even though you have no intention to ride outside. As a poster said, it'll make you a better driver. Another thing is, you'll never know when you'll need to ride a bike. It's not like you can get your license in one month or so. You need 3 to 6 months, and it's not like you will finish your lessons — it is depressing in the middle when you keep failing and failing the same lesson. I took 3 times to pass the lane changing lesson. Can you imagine that?

A casual friend remarked to me once that he took only one lesson and found that it was easy to ride a bike, so he didn't continue. He is wrong. The bike school doesn't merely teach you how to ride. It teaches you SAFETY. It's not the school's fault that most riders forget this once they leave the school.

Daily jam at Toa Payoh North flyover

Toa Payoh North flyover

The Toa Payoh North flyover never fails to jam in the evening. Many cars try to turn into it from Lorong 1, from both directions.

I haven't figured out why so many cars try to turn into the flyover. Where are they going? Thomson road? Or CTE?

CTE is more likely because the drivers would have avoided the two north-bound ERP gantries on CTE if they enter at Braddell road.

According to my brother, Thomson road also jams badly in the evening, so many cars use that stretch too.

I'm in favour of putting a northbound ERP gantry before the flyover. There is already one, but it is meant for drivers who enter Toa Payoh in the morning.

Cooler now

I'm happy to report that the CB400F is now much cooler after I topped up the oil.

Previously, the engine emitted so much heat that it was uncomfortablely hot after, say, 10 minutes of riding. Now, I can ride for over 20 minutes and I still don't feel the heat from the engine.

This is the case even when I'm wearing shorts. I can't really feel the heat when I'm wearing jeans.

Cashcard vs coupon parking

The two carparks side-by-side the temporary market at Bugis shows a very interesting phenomenon.

The temporary market uses cashcard parking, but is free for motorbikes. Car lots are only 60% in use, but bike lots are full (and overflowing).

The URA carpark is coupon based. Car lots are always full with waiting cars, but bike lots are just 80% full.

The only reason I can think of is that you can fudge the time using coupons.

Parking situation just outside CBD

When I go to SLS, I try not to enter the CBD because the charges are too expensive — $1.50 for bikes. I try to park just outside it. There are two main places to park: free parking at the temporary market and coupon parking at the adjacent URA carpark.

The bike lots at the temporary market are now always full. It wasn't the case previously, but now people are more familiar with the place and now everyone tries to park there.

I don't dare to park illegally there ($25 fine) and always choose to park at the URA carpark for 65 cents instead. So far, I've been able to find a lot, but the URA carpark is close to full too. It looks like I need to find alternative parking places.

The situation at Orchard road is the same. There is a URA carpark behind Wheelock place. It is just outside the restricted zone and is perpetually full.

The last time I went there, I saw that it was usual for 3 bikes to share 2 lots. Despite that, the carpark was still full!

Bikers will try their best not to pay the ERP if possible. I'm willing to walk from Wheelock to Kino, but no further.

I forgot what?

I was surprised to receive a letter from LTA. What could it be?

A notice of late payment of road tax!

Oh no, I forgot to pay my road tax for my CB400F!

Worse, I even forgot to go for inspection, so I couldn't renew online.

Luckily, it was still insured, so I could still ride to an inspection centre. If I get caught, it's just a regular fine, not a suspension.

I usually go for inspection at the end of January, but because it was the Chinese New Year this year, I forgot about it and then it slipped my mind totally.

Unlicensed instructor

News: 10m drive, one-year ban

Date: 21 Feburary 2009. Source: TNP.

Man fined, banned for letting friend drive his car with no insurance cover

THE car moved at a walking pace for no more than two car lengths. That short trip cost a man $500 and a one-year disqualification from driving.

Car owner Leo Chin Hao, 38, had let his friend try her hand at driving his car at the National Stadium carpark.

Never do this on public roads.

Too much oil now!

I bought a bottle of 10W-50 engine oil for my CB400F.

I poured in 250ml and used the dipstick to measure. It was still dry, so I poured in another 250ml. Still dry. Hmm... so I poured in yet another 250ml. The dipstick still remained dry. Perplexed, I poured in everything and... the dipstick was still dry. I couldn't believe it!

CB400F dipstick

It then struck me that I should check the engine oil with the bike level. (The bike was on side stand; no main stand.) I did so and the engine oil went way above the high mark on the dipstick. Now I've overfilled.

I wanted to confirm the correct method to check the engine oil, so I went to look at the bike's manual. It was of no help — it was in Japanese. I then searched online. Yup, it's a usual procedure to make sure the bike is level.

What should I do now?

Ride the bike as usual? Not advisable. Too much engine oil can blow seals, then the oil ends up where it shouldn't.

So I should drain the excess oil. I thought the new and old oil shouldn't have mixed (I haven't even move the bike, much less start the engine), so I should try to drain off the old oil using the drain plug.

I prepared my tools, a 17mm spanner with extension and a drain pan, and tried to turn the drain plug. Again. And again. I couldn't turn it, it was too tight! If I really want to open it, I need to spray some WD-40 first.

I had second thoughts because I only wanted to drain a little oil. I wasn't sure I could control it. Back to the drawing board.

Another way is to suck the oil out from the fill hole. I just got the syringe for it — a 10ml syringe that I used to suck oil out from my car's shift stick turret.

Thankfully, the syringe fitted. I measured after drawing 50ml. Still too much oil left. Another 50ml. Still too much. In the end, I drew 300ml and it was right at the high mark.

I finally accomplished the simple act of topping up the oil.

The Old Upper Thomson road

I had a chance to go the old Upper Thomson road last week. Much to my disappointment, there were three speed bumps along the route. Too many accidents there.

The case of the missing oil

I decided to check the engine oil for my CB400F and I was surprised that the entire dipstick was dry. If I upright the bike, then the oil just touches the low mark.

This is serious. Where did the oil go to? There must be 1 to 1.5 litres of oil gone. There's no leak, even after I leave the bike at the same spot for days.

Perhaps this is why the engine has a (low) ticking sound? A friend said the engine needs valve tuning, but my car makes the same sound when it is low on engine oil.

I will top up the oil and monitor.

No demand for cars

News: BMW fires 850 workers with only hour's notice

Date: 19 Feburary 2009. Source: The New Paper.

THEY only knew it was their last day on the job an hour before they knocked off.

And when they were told they would be laid off, the 850 workers at the Mini car factory started throwing fruit at their union leaders, reported The Scotsman.

The angry workers at the huge plant in Cowley, near Oxford in the UK, then stormed out of the plant, saying they felt 'betrayed'.

This is very shocking...

OPC news

News: Off-peak cars get more luxurious

Date: 16 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

Trend towards public transport for weekdays, fancy cars for leisure

IN THE last two years, higher-end cars like Audis, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Volvos and Lexuses have been seen sporting the red number plates of off-peak cars.

A Lotus Exige S and a Porsche 911 Carrera were among the 50-odd more-expensive cars registered as off-peak ones last year, with the $400,000 Carrera the most expensive among them.

Off-peak cars, which come with a one-off flat rebate of $17,000 upon registration, have typically been bought by those eyeing budget brands such as Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia plus Chinese brands Chery and Geely.

Industry observers say the trend towards higher-end off-peak cars could be a result of more motorists opting to use public transport on weekdays.

This article is very pro-weekend use. I suspect the OPC scheme will go back to the weekend car scheme. This can be done by restricting the weekday usage from 8 pm to 6:30 am. Just take the 7.5 hours and apply it on Saturday to get the full day off.

Can I apply for a weekday car scheme then? I have no wish to drive with all the OPCs around. It's hard enough to find parking on weekends.

The eastern loop, revisited

The Eastern Loop

I had nothing to do in the late afternoon, so I decided to go out for a purposeless spin. This is the first time I have done so.

It was only until I reached the carpark that I realized I needed to wash my car. Argh, I have something to do after all! However, I decided that a spin beats washing the car, especially on this day.

Start at Toa Payoh 0 km
Reached KPE 4 km
Exit KPE tunnel 10 km
Reached TPE 14 km
Exit Loyang ave 19 km
Reached Changi Village 24 km
Reached Changi Coast Road 29 km
Reached ECP 37 km
Reached KPE 51 km
Reached PIE 54 km
Reached Toa Payoh 56 km

Distance is estimated on my CB400F.

I started at 4:50 pm, reached Changi Village at 5:20 pm and reached Toa Payoh at 5:50 pm.

The journey was mostly uneventful. I had to brake hard at a traffic light junction at Loyang ave because the traffic light turned yellow at the "critical" distance. I decided to brake instead of dashing through the junction, because I wasn't sure if there was a red-light camera. (There wasn't.) The bike took longer to slow down than expected because I clutched in. The driving school teaches us to not clutch in a hard stop, but it is hard to break this habit.

I finally came to a stop in the middle of the pedestrain crossing. I was so afraid that I may overshoot and stop in the middle of the junction! My heart was beating hard for a while. The car beside me dashed through the yellow/red light.

There were many people — and tents — at the Changi beach. The carparks were 80% filled up! I rode slowly to take in the scenery and saw joggers and cyclists. One female cyclist was even wearing a bikini top! (Okay, maybe it's a skimpy sports top, but it looks like a bikini top.)

Right at the start of the straight stretch of Changi Coast road is the side road to Changi Exhibition Centre. It took me quite a while to find it the last time. I glanced into the side road and saw that the road was blocked. So they don't allow people to go in normally? Hmm.

There were three things of interest when I went past the Changi Coast road. First, I saw one man walking on the bicycle track! There were quite a number of cyclists, but a walker? That's the first time I saw one. He doesn't look like a jogger too.

Second, I hardly felt the speed strips at 60 km/h.

Third, a plane took off parallel to me. Now I know a plane takes off at faster than 60 km/h! :-D Initially I wanted to chase it, but then I realized almost immediately that the speed limit was only 70 km/h!

At the end of the Changi Coast road, at the junction to Tanah Merah Coast road, was a small hill. It has been fenced up for a long time. Too bad, it was the ideal spot to look at planes taking off, if that's your kind of thing. Now, the hill is half gone! The whole place is a construction zone.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. I have nothing to say except that the ECP is a speeding zone: I was at 90+ km/h and was still among the slowest vehicles! Because of the speed, I forgot about KPE's speed limit and entered KPE at 80 km/h!

Not withstanding any possible fines, the whole ride costed me just $3.56.

What would the OPC electronic system be like?

I think the easiest is to use the 2nd generation IU. Some people suggested SMS, but I think LTA would prefer to have more direct control.

If the 2G IU has a real-time clock, it can deduct $20 from the cashcard during peak hours. If the cashcard is not inserted, the IU will emit a flashing light so that people can tell from a distance.

Or maybe it should be the other way round: flash if the payment is made. This is because a cheat could fit in a regular IU that does not flash.

This requires the IU to have some logic inside too. It must know that the payment has been made for this peak period. This can be done in two ways: either it goes through the cashcard's transaction log, or it remembers it internally.

For the first method, the same cashcard must be used. And the driver must not use the cashcard more than 20 times within that peak period, or the history will be lost.

The second method is actually quite simple. The IU just needs a 1-bit flag to remember if the payment is made. The flag is simply reset after the peak period is over. It doesn't even need NVRAM (Non-Volative RAM) because the IU is powered even when the car is off.

However, NVRAM is still needed if LTA wants to retrieve the log in the future. Surely its scheme cannot be defeated so easily by disconnecting the car's battery?

If the IU is used, LTA will also know when the driver goes past a ERP gantry. This reduces the policing required to non-ERP area.

IU is pretty tamper proof. It has been ten years and there are no signs of one so far.

A cheat can put in a fake IU that flashes. But that means he doesn't have an IU. That's almost unthinkable today in Singapore.

To office using KPE/ECP

I have used the KPE/ECP route to office several times. Needless to say, I try to make it past the KPE gantry before 7:30 am so that I don't have to pay!

I find this route dangerous because of lane changing.

First, after I enter PIE, I only have around 400m to lane change two lanes to get to the third lane. (The fourth and fifth lanes are exits.) So far it hasn't been a problem, but it could be in heavy traffic.

The main danger here is that I have to watch for cars that are lane changing to exit. I'm afraid they may not see my bike.

After that, I prefer to stay in the third lane because I can stay on it all the way until KPE. I still need to lane change once to enter KPE, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

I enter KPE on the leftmost lane and need to lane change twice again to the first lane. This is necessary to position myself after I join ECP. So far it's not a problem, because KPE isn't very crowded. But it could be difficult to do so in heavy traffic.

The rightmost two lanes of KPE joins ECP to become the fourth and fifth lanes. Both of them are exits. That's why I want to be on KPE's lane one, so that I end up on ECP's fourth lane. I just need to lane change once to get to the third lane.

Boy, this one is tough! Many vehicles are trying to exit, and because the third lane is a slow lane and it's uphill, there is often a "wall" of vehicles that prevents you from entering the lane. So far it's still fine, but the traffic gets much worse later in the morning. I've noticed a big difference between 7 am and 7:30 am.

I observed that it seemed much easier to cut in further up the bridge, as most vehicles lose their speed and the gap between vehicles increase. Maybe I should use the fifth lane, accelerate and cut in further up.

After this, I either stick to the third lane all the way or switch to the second lane and only switch back to the third lane before my exit. If the speed is not too slow (60 km/h), I would stay on the third lane, because it leads right up to my exit! There is always a jam before the AYE exit to West Coast Highway. I don't understand why; it's a downslope exit!

Because of the jam, I need to enter lane three very early, usually around the Keppel road exit. An alternative is to cut in very late — there are always opportunities in start-stop traffic — but I guess that's why there's a jam: because everyone is cutting in.

My troubles are not over yet. When I exit the West Coast Highway, I need to lane change twice within 100m so that I can make a right turn at the traffic light junction. So far it's not a problem because the traffic was very light — I was rather surprised by the lack of traffic. Perhaps it's too early. I foresee it'll be difficult to lane change even in moderately heavy traffic. Anyway, it's no big deal if I can't do so. I'll just go straight and u-turn back.

So dusty!

Two new buildings are being constructed beside my workplace. They make the whole place so dusty. My car was coated with a layer of dust at the end of the day, even though I parked at the other end.

On the other hand, could it be the haze? It was exceptionally hazy today.

Surprise, changes to OPC scheme!

News: Incentives to drive off-peak

Date: 12 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

IT COULD soon become more attractive for motorists to switch to off-peak cars (OPC).

Transport Minister Raymond Lim said in Parliament on Thursday that the Government will look into enhancing the OPC scheme in three areas.

I am absolutely amazed that LTA will change the OPC scheme. It always said it's not possible.

I like the electronic (monitoring?) system. Now we'll see how many people can really afford to drive an OPC during weekdays.

The full-day Saturday usage will be a tradeoff. If the rebate is reduced to $12,000, that means the users are paying $500/year for it, or $9.62 per Saturday.

It's still good because as car prices get lower, it gets more and more difficult to use up the $17,000 rebate. A cheap car and COE may only be $15,000 altogether.

I believe the road tax rebate will be reduced as well. The $800 rebate was for a 1.5L to 1.6L car. It could be reduced to $600 because road tax has been reduced.

Not so clear cut after all

News: Who pays off loan if car is wrecked?

Date: 4 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

Judge makes ruling but allows case to go to higher court

WHEN a car involved in an accident has to be scrapped because it is too badly damaged to be repaired, should the person who caused the crash be made to pay the outstanding hire-purchase sum owed on the car?

A district judge's answer to this is yes, in a case where the victim has claimed the expense as part of the damages the defendant has to pay.

So much for comprehensive insurance.

5-speed vs 4-speed AT

Is a 5-speed AT smoother compared to a 4-speed AT? Let's find out.

Gear Civic 1.8 Impreza 1.5
1st 2.666 2.785
2nd 1.534 1.545
3rd 1.022 1.000
4th 0.721 0.694
5th 0.525 n/a
Reverse 1.957 2.727
Final 4.437 4.444

Gear ratios of less than one are used at highway speeds. In a manual transmission car, the 4th gear is usually 1:1 and the 5th gear less than one.

In other words, we see that the 5th gear for the Civic 1.8 is used only when the car is cruising at very high speeds (say, 100 km/h). The car will be very fuel efficient then. The 5th gear has no impact on city driving.

Hence, it is not true that the Civic 1.8 will accelerate more smoothly because of its 5-speed AT. (It may be true of other 5-speed AT, depending on the gear ratios.)

Is basic cost the true cost?

The basic cost indicates the cost of the car to the car dealer. Is everything else markup? No. Some agents bring in the basic model/configuration, then fit in accessories locally. This is cost-effective because all the taxes are based on OMV. Hence, agents try to lower the OMV as much as possible.

A test of speed

I went to my usual McDonalds joint to ta-bao my dinner. I didn't go to the Central even though there were three outlets there — because I was a cheapo and I didn't want to pay for parking. The Central uses cashcard parking, so there's no escape from parking charges.

When I reached there, I saw a parking warden looking over an entire row of illegally parked cars. She was preparing to book the first car.

At first I thought of parking at a nearby carpark to avoid the parking warden, but then, I was going parking at the end of the stretch. She would take some time to walk over, given the number of cars. I glanced into the McDonalds. No queue. Good!

I quickly parked (legally) and went into McDonalds to order my dinner. I didn't even locked my helmet, but chose to carry it with me. Seconds count.

Car population 2008

Car population 1998 to 2008

I just realized there are fewer new cars in 2007 and 2008. The peak was 116.7k new cars in 2006. Since then, there has been 10k fewer cars every year. I won't be surprised if there are just 85k new cars this year.

Still very few people choose to renew their COE last year. Perhaps it'll be different this year.

Is the dry season over?

It rained twice in the past week. Oh dear, is the dry season over? I was caught in the rain when I went home. I had to find a suitable place to stop to put the top up.

(It looks incredibly stupid to get drenched in a car, I tell you. On a bike, still not so bad.)

It is difficult to judge whether it would rain on the way home. I'm usually conservative and assume that it would rain as long as there are dark clouds. However, this is the dry season and the rain stopped at my workplace an hour ago, hence I thought it wouldn't rain.

HDB season parking — non-guaranteed?

I applied to pay my CB400F season parking by GIRO and it wasn't as smooth sailing as I expected.

First, the HDB required the "log card". I forgot that it was necessary. I asked how come I was able to apply for the season parking then? The person replied that they gave me the non-tenant season parking.

So I had to go home to get it. After that, they have to do some background check. The GIRO application is not guaranteed to go through because a GIRO season parking is guaranteed, whereas a normal season parking is not! I didn't know that. Now, 6-months season parking makes sense to me.

I received a call a few weeks later from HDB to enquire on my residential status. The person even asked me if I have difficulty finding a place to park! I'm not going to answer no, right? How am I going to get my season parking if I do so? I asked her why she asked this question. She said there were some complaints that it was difficult to find parking lots. I said it is true, but there are still around 5 (unsheltered) lots left.

Future of off-peak cars?

The top two request from OPC owners must be the half-day $10 coupon and shifting the off-peak timing from 3 pm to 1 pm on Saturday. The greedier even ask for the whole Saturday!

Half-day coupon will never fly with LTA. Right now, the 7 pm to 7 am timing deters people from using the OPC car as a daily transport. Not many people are willing to spend 12 hours in office every day. With half-day coupons, people can now work, say, 9 am to 7 pm. There will be more cars on the road, defeating the purpose of OPC scheme.

(Note that 9 am to 7 pm may seem long, but it's usual to work 9 am to 6 pm. The worker can use the last hour for his dinner.)

LTA is slowly reducing the ARF and road tax. With COE coming (and possibly staying) at a all-time low, there are fewer and fewer reasons to opt for OPC cars.

Student transportation fares

Right now, there is an online Petition for Fairer Transportation Fares for Polytechnic/Tertiary Students.

Tertiary students have asked for the same fares as JC students (being roughly the same age group) even when I was a tertiary student.

I went to take a look and it wasn't what I expected. It's not that tertiary students are not subsidized. They have concession stamps too. It's just that they are more expensive than JC ones.

There are two monthly concession passes: an unlimited bus one ($52), and a 4-ride daily train one ($45). There's no discount if you get both. JC/ITE students pay just $27.50 and $25, hence the discontent.

Assuming 22.5 days/month (5-day week), it means you pay $1.15 per trip for bus and $1 per trip for MRT. Not much savings compared to normal fares — maybe 25% to 50%.

However, if you take more than one trip, you would have earned. Looks like they are encouraging the youngsters to go out!

YBR battery blues (again)

My YBR battery was too weak to start the bike after five days of not using it. It cranked the first time, but didn't start the bike, so I tried it again. The battery was too weak by then.

In contrast, the battery for the CB400F remained strong even after 1.5 weeks. I started the bike on the first try — much to my surprise. It could be because I remembered to turn on the choke.

Either the YBR is not charging the battery properly, or the battery is really that lousy.

Disc vs drum brakes

There are some people who look out for cars with four disc brakes. They won't consider cars with 2 front disc brakes and 2 rear drum brakes.

Guys delude themselves by saying that disc brakes have better stopping power. Perhaps they do, but all cars have sufficient stopping power, or they won't be on the road. Girls just say that disc brakes look nicer. They are right: disc brakes do look nicer.

Thus, if I were the car designer and it doesn't cost me much more to use disc brakes instead of drum brakes, I would do so. I've never met anyone who looks for drum brakes.

Looking for a video capture device

I am still looking for a video capture device to use on my vehicles. My digital camera already works on my car, but it's a hassle to set it up. Also, it fills up the MS (memory stick) and drains the battery pretty quickly.

I don't need a real video camera for this purpose. I don't mind using a digital camera, provided it can do the following:

  • Set to infinity focus
  • 640 x 480 or higher video resolution
  • MPEG-4 or Xvid video encoding
  • Support >4 GB memory card (biggest today is 32 GB)
  • Long battery life
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Allow LCD to be turned off
  • Allows cutting videos

As for my bikes, I will look for a clamp that will hold the camera securely to the handlebar. This should cost $50 to $100. (Camera accessories are overpriced.)

Does it work?

Entry only!

I saw one bike exit through the entrance today. So the signs didn't work at all.

Why wasn't the rider afraid?

Two guesses:

  • The signs are making empty threats. This is a private road and the TP can only issue warnings at the most. (I don't know if this is true.)
  • The CCTV will not be able to capture a motorcycle's plate because the headlight blinds it. This is sometimes true, but not always.

What time to enter JB?

I took two hours to clear the Checkpoints on Saturday. My brother reached the Tuas Checkpoint at 7:15 am and took four hours to clear the Singapore Checkpoint.

The radio reported that the causeway was clear in the afternoon. Also, it was clear on Sunday morning, around 7+ am.

Why should people go back on Saturday morning? I expected people to choose either Friday evening (after work), or Sunday morning. Why Saturday morning?

It seems everyone thought it was a good time to go back, hence it became a bad time.

Parking demerit points

A friend suggested that parking should have a set of demerit points too. This will discourage people from parking illegally.

More on the Checkpoints

The Malaysia Entry Checkpoint: some of the two-lane lanes are two-toned, meaing one lane is of one color and the other lane is of another color. I didn't use one of the lanes because it looked like parking lots!

The Malaysia Exit Checkpoint: is this the new go-kart circuit? I foresee frequent accidents, especially when raining. With just two lanes, an accident will easily block traffic for hours.

No way to walk across the causeway? How on earth did they design the Checkpoint?

Avoiding the causeway jam

Woke up at 4:25 am. Left home at 4:45 am. Crossed the Singapore Checkpoint at 5:05 am (10 km). Reached office at 5:35 am (32 km; slow drive).

There was very few cars on the road. There were very few motorcycles on the road too. Either the workers weren't so early or they were still having their New Year break. However, the buses — mostly giant touring buses — had started jamming up the causeway already.

Two police officers were on hand to direct the cars to use the motorcycle lane. Cars that had already queued up had to reverse.

A foldable bicycle

An idea just came to me: I can fit a foldable bicycle into my car's puny boot. What for? Good question.

It would make much more sense if I drive my car to parks more often.

Wasted petrol in the jam

I observed that the fuel needle points to the 'F' mark after 30 km. It usually does so after 50 km. This means that being stuck at the Causeway for almost 2 hours was equivalent to a 20 km trip, or 2 litres of petrol. That costed me about $3.40 as I pumped RON98!

The mother of all jams

I reached the Singapore Checkpoint at 5:40 am. I could have been 10 to 15 minutes earlier, but I had problems pumping air into one of my tyres and I had to go to two other petrol stations (the pump was out of operation in the second petrol station).

Even when I was on PIE, the EMAS display already showed "Jam on BKE after SLE". Oh dear.

The jam started at the "500m to end of BKE" signboard. It took me around 40 minutes to reach the base of the bridge, but it was somewhat faster after that. When I reached the top, I found out why — two policemen were copying down the car numbers of those who "cut queue", including me, and then allowing them to join the car queue.

You see, the bridge has two lanes, one for cars and one for motorcycles. I was on the second lane on BKE when I joined the queue; I was on the second lane all the time. The second lane joins the motorcycle lane on the bridge. Normally, you can filter to the car lane easily. Not so in a jam.

I'm definitely going to appeal this case.

It was even faster after I joined the single car queue. I reached the Checkpoint after 20 minutes.

After I cleared the Singapore Checkpoint, I could see a queue of 7 to 8 people in front of a portable toilet. Several cars were parked just beside it. Moral of the story: do your business before crossing the Checkpoint in case of jams.

The Malaysia Checkpoint also had a pretty long queue due to its two-lanes design leading to the complex, but it was fast moving. The lanes split into many smaller lanes inside the complex. I joined the rightmost one that had two lanes, but I joined the left lane that led to only one counter whereas the right lane led to four counters. This is a piss-poor design.

(The Singapore Checkpoint also had such poor design in the past.)

I joined the queue at the Malaysia Checkpoint at 7:00 am and cleared the Checkpoint after 25 minutes.

Reminder to self: look out for two lanes that lead to multiple shared counters. It is very easy for one of the lanes to lead to just one or two counters, whereas the other lane leads to the remaining counters. The designers never consider the jam scenario?

Buying a car?

A colleague expressed his desire to buy a car. I couldn't help but overhear him in our shared working environment.

Mid-twenties, not much savings (my guess), first criteria is a sporty car, preferably a convertible!

Purpose? To drive his girlfriend around.

Of course, a convertible is not very practical, but there are cheap ones around, like the first generation MX-5, which is listed at $17k. (Good luck actually buying at this price, though.)

The twenties is a conflicting time. Save, and miss out on all the fun. Spend, and then wonder why you're so stretched in your thirties — and perhaps the rest of your life.

And when you are in your twenties, you desire presentation over practicality. Thus, I can understand why my colleague wants to buy a car. And a convertible at that.

But can he afford it? Is it prudent? Is it worth it? That's something he needs to answer himself.

My advice to him would be to buy a boring sedan, first hand, and keep it as long as possible.

However, my actual advice to him was to keep a lookout for auction cars. Good bargains pop up from time to time. And if things go well, it is the cheapest way to own a car in Singapore.

Worth renewing COE now?

My current COE is $18,444, now left $4,611. The current PQP is $5,346, so if I renew the COE now, it means I'm effectively paying $9,957.

Is value for money important?

Some people don't like the term "value-for-money". It implies low-end products and a certain degree of cheapness.

It all depends what you are buying.

If you are buying a high end product, yes, a high degree of markup is expected. If the dealer has a monopoly over the market and the product holds its value over time, yes, it may be worth paying the markup.

Not so when it comes to bread-and-butter cars.

First, 30% markup is daylight robbery. And, the car dealer will lower the markup back to 15% to 20% over time, thus lowering your car value in the process.

Conti- cars usually have a markup of 30%. This is needed due to their much lower sales volume. The first buyer takes most of the hit because second hand car dealers only value the car at its paper value. (Which they then sell at depreciation.)

For the higher end conti- cars, some people prefer to self-import. This is because the 30% can mount to $100k or more! The authorized car dealer is required to honour the warranty. (This is part of their contract of being the AD.)

Heavy traffic

When I went home, it was again heavy traffic on the PIE, but it was nothing like in the morning. The traffic was still pretty smooth, just very slow. I didn't have to stop. I know because I didn't have to put my leg down (I was riding).

The EMAS display showed heavy traffic, so at least now I have a reference point for heavy traffic and massive jam!

Massive jam!

I saw the "Massive jam after Stevens road" warning on the EMAS display even before I went up PIE.

As far as I know, the EMAS display shows three warnings: slow traffic, heavy traffic and massive jam. Massive jam is the only one that I pay any attention to, especially when I'm using a short stretch of the expressway only.

The traffic on PIE was bumper-to-bumper. It was start-stop traffic. It was indeed a massive jam.

The first EMAS display I went past showed "Massive jam after Steven road to Clementi"! I decided to exit at Stevens road.

It wasn't all smooth sailing after that, but it was much better. It took me almost an hour to reach office! (Usually 25 to 30 minutes.)

I checked the PIE traffic cameras and the jam extended from Mount Pleasant (the second camera) all the way to Bedok North (the last camera).

You can imagine the number of people doing cross-country trips every morning.

Ample warnings

Entry only!

The industrial park that my office is in has only one exit. Needless to say, it is inconvenient for some people, and they choose to use another exit — through one of the entrances.

People — including me — have abused this entrance for a long time. It was a convenient exit to a major road. Everything went well for years until the park had more tenants a year back. Suddenly, effort was put in to make it harder to use as an exit.

The efforts failed. They finally put in a CCD camera. It also failed because no one saw it! Now, they put up two signs pointing out the CCD camera. I think it'll work. Driving against traffic has a penalty of 6 demerit points and a $150 fine.

I asked my company's admin if the access road can be changed. The landlord replied that it would be changed in 2010 after the new buildings go up.

Shortcut to car affordability

It is extremely unadvisable to look at the monthly installment to see if you can afford a car (or anything else), but it can be a shortcut to see where you stands.

A $50k loan for 7 years at 2.5% means $700/mth. This allows you to buy a $50k car (full loan) or a $60k car (with $10k downpayment). $50k to $60k allows you to buy entry-level Japansese cars, such as the Impreza, Jazz and Vios.

A $50k loan for 10 years at 3% means $542/mth. While the installment amount is lesser, the total amount is more.

$542/mth is a very important number. If you can't afford it, you need to look for a cheaper car, or put down more downpayment. Note that the running costs can easily be another $500 to $750 per month (including annual costs).

An important thing to note is that a car is a long term committment. It is not easy to get rid of it — without additional costs. The reason is that your car is worth less than your outstanding loan for the first few years, so you still need to pay the difference after selling your car.

Cyclist holding up traffic

I was in the second lane of a three lane road and I saw several cars moving very slowly in the third lane ahead. Some of them were signalling to turn out.

The answer was apparent when I went past them — a cyclist was on the road! He was pedalling as hard as he could, but he couldn't be faster than 30 km/h.

It was dangerous for me too because I was afraid some drivers may just turn out without checking their blind spot!

The law should be changed to disallow cycling on the road until the leftmost lane is widened.

At the same time, a BMW turned on its hazard lights and stopped on lane one! A truck was right behind him. I saw the driver alight. I think they had a minor collision.

YBR battery is working

After kick starting the YBR for many months, I finally found time to recharge its battery.

This time, I disconnected the IU and used the electric start every time. Surprisingly, the battery has lasted a few days without any problems.

Let's see if the battery lasts through the weekend unused.

If the battery is working, then I suspect the wiring is causing the drainage.

Is this car worth it?

A friend asked me if a car with OMV of $13,153 and COE of $5,000 is worth its asking price of $50,500.

Well, the basic cost is $35,182, so the markup is 30.0%. Is it worth it? Not to me.

I feel this car should be priced $45k to $47k for it to be attractive (markup of around 20%).

Car markup

Make Basic cost Selling price % markup
BMW 320i 100,130 139,800 28.4%
Chery QQ 20,951 26,999 22.4%
Honda City 53,201 63,300 16.0%
Mazda 3 SP 43,327 68,188 36.5%
Mini Cooper 72,012 103,800 30.6%
Nissan Latio 45,890 60,000 23.5%
Toyota Altis 1.6 44,652 61,488 27.4%
Toyota Vios G 38,021 54,488 30.2%
Volk Beetle 48,918 69,800 29.9%

Taken from LTA's PDF of cars registered in December 2008.

Of the cars here, the Honda City gives the best value-for-money. Note that as the basic cost gets lower, the markup %age will often go up as the dealers still need to earn at least a few thousand dollars. This is the case for the Cherry QQ. The markup is only $6,048, but it translates to 22.4%.

Personally, I think markup over 20% is unacceptable. I'm surprised that the run-of-the-mill Japanese cars exceed 25%; they used to be around 20%. The only explanation is that the car dealers have not fully cut their car prices to reflect the basic cost.

And one reason why the car dealers are "holding" up the prices is that they want to prop up the 2nd hand car market. There is basically no market for 2nd hand cars if the new cars are 120% of their basic cost.

For cars whose basic cost is over $70k, the markup %age should be less, not more. No wonder conti cars don't hold their values — they are way overpriced to begin with!

A close look at the Honda Civics. Which is more worth it?

Civic 1.6 56,257 71,600 21.4%
Civic 1.8 64,520 75,000 14.0%
Civic 2.0 68,759 79,300 13.3%

It is clear that the Civic 1.6 is overpriced.

Value for money

When we buy a car, we need to make sure it is value-for-money.

LTA provides the so-called basic cost of a car on its one.motoring website. Look for "Cost For New Cars Registered in the previous month". It's a PDF of the car prices in the previous month.

The basic cost of a car is, well, the cost of the car to the dealer. Together with it, LTA also gives the selling price. Just subtract the two and you have an idea of the car dealer's markup.

A sample entry: the Audi A4 1.8T FSI MU CVT ABS D/AB 2WD 4DR; basic cost $88,550, selling price $139,000. Markup = $50,450 or 36.4%! And people wonder why some cars don't keep their value over time? Because their price was inflated to begin with!

Let's take a look at another entry: the Honda Jazz 1.3L AT; basic cost $50,951, price $58,700. Markup = $7,749 or 13.2%. See the difference?

Now, not the entire markup is profit, since the dealer has operating costs as well. However, from your point of view, you'll want the markup to be as little as possible, as it doesn't contribute (much) to the car's value, and cars tend to sell closer to their paper value the older they get.

(Paper value is a proportion of the basic cost.)

Note that this does restrict you to run-of-the-mill cars.

Top 5 bike makes for 2008

Make Sales %age
Yamaha 4,066 39.1%
Honda 2,776 26.7%
Suzuki 961 9.2%
Piaggio 719 6.9%
Bajaj 491 4.7%
Others 1,395 13.4%
Total 10,408 100.0%

In Singapore, of course.

In a separate statistics, 34,078 bikes were transferred — this is the 2nd hand market. People prefer to buy old bikes.

Top 5 car makes for 2008

Make Sales %age
Toyota 24,818 25.5%
Honda 24,591 25.3%
Mitsubishi 6,862 7.0%
Nissan 6,229 6.4%
Mercedes Benz 4,122 4.2%
Others 30,726 31.6%
Total 97,348 100.0%

In Singapore, of course.

In a separate statistics, 29,459 cars were transferred — this is the 2nd hand market. People prefer to buy new cars.

Good weather!

When I went home yesterday evening, the sky was very clear and blue, and the sun was very bright. Normally it would be unbearably hot, but the air was very cool. It felt like spring time in temperate countries.

It's a wonderful time to be riding.

ERP gantry in operation before it lights up?

I went past an ERP gantry just around the time it was supposed to start operation. I saw the display was off and I was very happy. Unfortunately, the toll was still deducted from my cashcard. :-(

Green bikes

News: Coming: Electric scooter

Date: 14 January 2009. Source: ST.

LTA gives initial nod to new E-Max bike, which importer says will bring big fuel savings

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) has given initial approval for a new electric scooter to be brought to Singapore by five-month-old local company Zeco Scooters, The Straits Times understands.

The scooter costs nearly twice as much as regular machines available here, but promises fuel savings of up to $1,300 a year because its 50cc-equivalent engine runs on electricity.

$7k for a 50cc bike that can only go up to 60km/h? No way!

What is it like to spend $1.3k/year on fuel on a motorcycle? Assuming FC of 45km/l and $1.60/l, that's over 36,500 km. You won't save so much because recharging is not free.

It would be extremely tough to recharge the battery in Singapore, unless it is removable.

Would the bike be allowed on expressways? Perhaps only on the third lane.

I'll wait until there's an electric bike that can match my YBR:

  • At most $5,000 (already 15% premium)
  • max speed 110 km/h (implies at least 125cc)
  • range at least 400 km (YBR = 430 km; 450 km to last drop)
  • FC equivalent of 40 km/l (YBR = 38 km/l)

It is extremely difficult for the YBR to reach its max speed of 110 km/h — don't expect too much out of a 4-stroke 125cc bike. I have only attained 100 km/h myself. Even then, the bike is already shaking violently and the engine makes more noise than power.

(I seldom go faster than 90 km/h because it is even harder to stop. If you ever need to brake quickly, it's time to be Superman.)


I was a little annoyed when a lorry overtook me and stayed in front of me.

Then, I realized I was not hit by the wind anymore!

So I stayed behind the lorry merrily.

The new generation

News: Japan auto sales plunge as young lose interest

Date: 30 December 2008. Source: Detroit News.

TOKYO -- To get around the city, Yutaka Makino hops on his skateboard or rides commuter trains. Does he dream of the day when he has his own car? Not a chance.

Like many Japanese of his generation, the 28-year-old musician and part-time maintenance worker says owning a car is more trouble than it's worth, especially in a congested city where monthly parking runs as much as 30,000 yen ($330), and gas costs $3.50 a gallon (about 100 yen a liter).

That kind of thinking -- which automakers here have dubbed "kuruma banare," or "demotorization" -- is a U-turn from earlier generations of Japanese who viewed car ownership as a status symbol. The trend is worrying Japan's auto executives, who fear the nation's love affair with the auto may be coming to an end.

Will it come to this stage in Singapore?

World's 10 Best Commutes

News: World's 10 Best Commutes

Date: 10 October 2008. Source: Forbes.

10. Berlin, Germany

Berlin's compact layout and commitment to bicycle lanes have made riding to work a popular option. According to the city government, 13% of all traffic is by bicycle, which keeps transit costs low for residents on the whole, and alleviates road traffic for drivers because there are fewer cars on the road.

Singapore is not on the list. For such a small and organized city with its "world-class" public transport, you expect it to be.

However, I suspect Singapore will be on the list in a few years time, with more bus lanes and new MRT lines.

IU on the front fork!

I thought this was rather unique:

IU on front fork

$5,000 COE

The most recent cat A COE was $5,001, driving the PQP to $8,195. The COE is expected to hover around $5k for this year.

I doubt it will stay low for long. I expect it to go to $10k once the worst is over, so I expect to pay around that figure in 2.5 years time (August 2011).

New route to office

Route to office

I took the cyan route to office today. Going east to go to my office in the west seems counter-inituitive, just like steering left to turn right.

I exited KPE after 6.7 km and the whole route was 17.4 km. It was a very smooth trip, with just 5 traffic lights — 3 of them in Toa Payoh alone. In contrast, the Farrer road route has 14 traffic lights, 6 of them in Toa Payoh.

Some places have potential for congestion, especially the expressway entrances and exits. I did not have to pay ERP because it was before 7:30 am.

I find this route to be more dangerous than the Farrer road route. I need to lane change a few times and merge in and out on several expressways. The cars are all travelling at very high speeds and worse, some bikes just zoom pass you at lighting speed.

I also took the same route home. It was 10.8 km before I reached KPE. I exited to PIE after 2.8 km (est). The whole route was 18.1 km.

Riding is dangerous

News: It's experience that matters

Date: 3 January 2009. Source: The Electric New Paper.

Despite better and safer bikes, death toll still high for younger riders

BARELY 30 years old, and they're dead - most of them in the blink of an eye.

It could be a lapse in concentration or an error in judgment on the road, but the loved ones of so many young motorcyclists end up asking in anguish: How could it happen?

I posted this in an online forum:

There are only 12 years from 18y.o. to 30y.o, but it makes up 50% of the fatalities. The other 50% is spread across 40 years from 31y.o. to 70y.o. .

Every rider must have the attitude that he — alone — is responsible for his own safety. Depending on others to drive/ride safely to avoid an accident? That's wishful thinking.

For example, if you encounter a risky situation, try to get out of it asap. That minimizes your exposure.

An example of a risky situation: you're in the third lane of an expressway and you approach an expressway entrance. Do you check for vehicles that may potentially merge into your lane? Do you expect the driver to give way?

I have encountered on a few occasions drivers who turned out without checking. Once is enough to kill you.

Another example. You're on the first lane of an expressway and you are about to overtake two cars on the second lane. The second car is pretty close to the first car. Do you overtake or not? If you don't think this is a dangerous situation, just remember that once is enough to kill you.

I always thought of riding as a mission-critical operation. Not even a mistake is allowed, because it can be fatal. That's why I rather err on the safe side. It's too bad many people think that I'm "prudish" to signal diligently, check blindspots religiously, follow the speed limit (most of the time) and never split lane.

Riding safely is a matter of life and death.

Right now, my biggest risk is that I'm starting to have lapse in concentration. This is perhaps I'm too familiar with my usual routes.

SBV in the news

News: SBV road is an accident waiting to happen

Date: 3 January 2009. Source: ST.

The South Buona Vista road is an accident waiting to happen, say two drivers. LTA has taken remedial action but more needs to be done.

I REFER to Dr William Julius Patin's feedback last Wednesday, "Danger lurks at South Buona Vista Road".

I could not agree more with him that this road is indeed dangerous. In fact, a serious accident occurred there on Dec 12, resulting in its temporary closure. The Traffic Police are now appealing for witnesses via a displayed notice.

I wondered what happened there on 12 December?

The GF Run

Every guy, as long as he is in a relationship, will encounter the situation that he needs to ferry his girlfriend home regularly from another place, usually her workplace or his home.

(There is no way out. The trick is to find a girlfriend who works or lives close to you.)

This is one of my brother's "GF Run":

NHS's GF Run

It's slightly over 20 km per direction. Unfortunately, there is only one feasible route.

Route to office

Route to office

The blue route is the shortest route to my office. It is just slightly over 13 km and has no ERP. However, the Farrer road jam is a daily affair. Sometimes, I detour and take the magenta route. It's 3 km longer, but it also takes me through SBV road.

After looking at the map, I realized the cyan route is also feasible. I only go this route if I am going to Kallang Leisure Park from office; it never dawned to me I could go to office this way. I estimate this route to be around 16 to 18 km. I always thought it was much longer. Apparently not. However, this route has one operating ERP gantry and ECP may be jammed as well. If ECP is jammed, I will be stuck in KPE and that would be horrible.

Update: my brother's handphone GPS indicate that the red route is the shortest route. I may try it, but I doubt I will use it often as there are many traffic lights and I expect this route to be even more jammed.

The optimal eastern loop

After looking at the overall map of Singapore once more, I realized I had not taken the most efficient "eastern loop" route after all. This is how the loop should look like:

The Eastern Loop

Green is from Toa Payoh to Changi Convention Centre. It is exactly 30 km on my CB400F. Blue is from the Centre to Toa Payoh. This route is also around 30 km. It is shorter than if I go to TPE via Changi Coast road (36 km).

The shortest route should be PIE, TPE, Loyang Avenue and then Changi Coast road. It should be around 25 km. However, I've been on this route too often, that's why I avoided it this time.

This episode shows why it is important to look at the overall map from time to time. It shows you the big picture, literally.

A new street directory

I bought a new street directory to replace my old one. I buy one every alternate year, so I have the 2005 edition, the 2007 edition and now the 2009 edition.

The street directory includes a CD and the timestamp of the maps are September 2008, so the maps are at least three months old already.

The fold-out map isn't as detailed as before. Now, it only contains the expressways; it doesn't include even the major roads. This makes it quite useless. The map is now called the "Park Connectors Map". Well, at least the whole Singapore map is still on the CD as a 2925 x 1843 GIF file (1.35MB), so we can still print it out if we want.

Carrerista Jamboree

Changi Exhibition Centre was so hard to find! Maybe it's just me because of my out-dated 2005 street directory. (I bought a new one.)

Parking costs $5?! Heng, I didn't drive there. I would have never guessed — it was so out of the way — but I should have known better. Where got free parking in Singapore? When I knew about the parking charges, it all made sense: no wonder there were security guards at several points along the access road.

(Note: someone posted that parking was free on the last day after 7 pm.)

The ticket price was pretty high too: $20. I would never pay so much to enter a car exhibition, especially with just local "race queens". However, there were drifting and drag race events, so it was marginally worth it.

I was surprised that the event lasted from 11 am to 10 pm for five days — an 11-hours event each day! The last day was even longer, from 11 am to 1 am, due to the New Year countdown.

The schedule was pasted on the ticketing booth and some of the "one-off" events were stretched throughout the day. The problem is that you got to stay in the venue; the tickets are single entry. Other events, such as the drifting events, were repeated throughout the day.

There was a 1-for-1 promotion on the last day. Just when I entered the ticketing premise, a person approached me to "share" the tickets. "Sure", I said, and we went straight up to buy the tickets. I didn't even break my stride. I bet almost no one knew about the promotion until they went there.

I got the impression that the event was poorly advertised. There was simply no crowd! When I reached the Centre on the 30th at around 12:30 pm, there were only around 10 cars. 10! On the 31th, I reached the Centre at around 4 pm and there were more cars, perhaps 40.

There are no motorcycle parking lots. Instead, 3 to 4 bikes share one car lot.

It is not easy to organize such an event. On one hand, it's hard to attract exhibitors, due to lack of crowd (and high cost?). On the other hand, the crowd simply refuses to come due to the "boring" exhibitors, and perhaps the entrance fee.

The Changi Exhibition Centre is the best place to hold this event. When the last car exhibition (Super Import Night) was held at Expo, the public got to see the drifting event for free. Now, you got to pay to see anything. It was a long walk from the carpark to the exhibition hall. The outdoor events were held behind the hall, so they required even more walking.

Of course, the problem is the Centre's inaccessibility. I saw some shuttle buses, but I don't know if you need to pay. At least the Expo was beside an MRT station. That alone guarantees traffic.

The amenities were pretty good. The walkways and outdoor seating platforms were all sheltered, so you'll never get wet when it rains. (The rain stopped just moments before I reached the Centre.) There were also sufficient toilets, including portable ones. There was even one in the carpark! That's for the carpark attendants, I believe.

There were two eateries, one indoor and one outdoor. Both sold the same stuff, though. It's just a matter of convenience.

At first I was skeptical that it was possible to spend an entire day inside. But after looking at the amenities, I think it is. There were ample places to rest. There weren't many chairs indoor, but the floor looked clean enough to sit.

The car exhibition is quite standard. Once you see one, you've seen them all — there's very little variety in Singapore. That's the limitation of such a small island. Super cars? Same ones. Classic cars? Seen them before. Dressed up cars? The better ones are (usually) show-cased before. Even the "race queens" are mostly familiar faces.

I feel most of the "race queens" look too young to be race queens. They look like they weren't even 20! They should be called race princesses. However, looks can be deceiving. When they were on stage, some said they were 23. The MC also teased out the fact that some of them were unattached. He then said it's because Singapore guys are too shy to approach beautiful girls when no one wanted to go up the stage to take photos with the race queens! Well, I wished I was 23 again. :-)

Some race queens looked really good. I did not take many photos because my camera could not do them justice. They look much better than they sound, unless you like the ah-lian accent.

The new stuff are go-karting and a remote control car course. You have to pay to go-kart (obviously). I think it's the same for the remote control cars.

How about the drifting and drag race events? Well, drifting looks cool, but the cars seem to drift randomly. They don't have synchronized performance. There seems to be only one drifting style, so it looks boring after a while.

The drag race was supposed to be the first (legal) quarter-mile drag race in Singapore. However, the drag race had no commentary, so I had no idea what cars were racing. There was also no score board, so I didn't know their timing. How to get excited like that?

All in all, I think the exhibition was worth the $10 admission I paid. However, it is definitely not worth $20 and the $5 parking fee is totally unexpected.

Thoughts on the KPE

I finally travelled the full length of KPE two days ago. Some thoughts:

  • Bumpy
  • Quite hot at some stretches
  • Seems possible to speed (80km/h) in lane 3

Many bikers complained about the stuffiness in the tunnel. It is still bearable if you manage to maintain 70 km/h all the way!

A taxi maintained his speed at 80 km/h (my guess) even in the speed camera zones. He was on the third lane. I was in the second lane and was maintaining a steady 70 km/h (after adjusting for my speedometer). He overtook me quite effortlessly.

Looping the east

I went to the Changi Exhibition Centre once more yesterday. This time, I decided to take the opposite direction.

From Toa Payoh, I took PIE, KPE, ECP and finally Changi Coast road. It was exactly 30 km to the Exhibition Centre. I rode my CB400F. It means two things. First, the speedometer is faster by 6%. Second, Changi Coast road was very wet, meaning the rain just ended. The air was cold and wet, meaning it may still rain some more. I was afraid it might rain before I reached the venue — I had no raincoat with me. Luckily, the sky remained bright for the rest of the day.

When I went home, I took the opposite direction to complete the loop. I realized that I had unnecessarily taken a much bigger circle the day before after looking at the map. This time, I just take the shortest route back.

I went down Changi Coast road again. This road always seemed never-ending to me. No wonder — it was 9 km to ECP. I went towards Changi Airport, exiting to PIE and then TPE. I reached KPE after 16 km. I then traveled 7 km in KPE. After exiting to PIE, I reached Toa Payoh after just 4 km. My return journey was 36 km in all.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I may do this more often this year. Maybe I should try to loop the west or even the whole island! However, I don't like to ride for the sake of riding. I like to have a destination or purpose in mind.