By Kristal Ng (16S07C)
Photographs by Outdoor Adventure Club Batch 31
6 whole months before the Gear Up event would even begin, the Gear Up comm, consisting of Wani, Elena, Xiang Lin, Kai Sing, Matthias, and Mustafa would spend their saturdays cycling around different parts of Singapore, scouting out the best routes for Gear Up 2016.
What exactly is Gear Up, you ask? Gear Up is the annual night cycling event organised by Raffles Outdoor Adventure Club during the first weekend of June Holidays, covering the east Singapore before looping all the way around to the Kallang-Marina Area and finally back to ECP. Routes vary year to year from 60 to 68km.
Rather than stick to the same route as previous years’, Gear Up Comm 2016 was ambitious in trying out new paths and routes, all in an effort to enhance the Gear Up experience for their participants. However, as Mustafa recalls about one of earlier recces, “the first route was new but it was more suited for cars…[but] the teachers preferred that we follow park connectors as much as possible.”
Moreover, despite their earnest efforts in modifying the route, a wrench was thrown into their plans when they realised that the Sundown Marathon 2016 would be the same weekend, not only clashing with their planned date of the first weekend of June holidays, but also taking up almost 25% of the planned Gear Up route. The Gear Up Comm were thus forced to alter Gear Up to the 27th of May, the last Friday of term, unfortunately coinciding with RISB concert as well a RockOut. The Gear Up Comm was also concerned that the participants (and ICs) would not be able to have a good rest before the actual event.
Additionally, they realised that due to the marathon in the following night, certain roads would be blocked off and, with great dismay, had to settle on a route shorter and less scenic than the one they hoped for, forgoing the picturesque Gardens by the Bay for the National Stadium instead. Nevertheless, the view by the Marina Reservoir was equally beautiful, if not even more serene, and we did not miss out on getting a great shot of the SIngapore skyline.
Leading up to the actual event itself, Gear Up Comm also enlisted the help of the entire batch to conduct recces of the entire route, in order to ensure that the roads are able to accommodate a large volume of cyclists, as well as to test out average timing for completing the entire route. It was also important for the batch of ODACians to familiarise themselves with the whole route, in preparation to be group ICs leading the participants on the day itself.
Murphy’s Law was certainly at work during our recces, for they were full of mishaps. Bad weather managed to disrupt the first recce, not only cutting it short, but also incurring the extra cost of renting a truck to transport all the bicycles back to ECP. Furthermore, the following recces were also fraught with injuries, including major cramps, falls from hitting bumps (twigs) in the road – showing that even seasoned cyclists can get hurt. Night recces, all the more important especially to train up stamina to cycle through sleepiness, also suffered incidents like chain derailment and tyre punctures. One of the more light-hearted recces though, was the second night recce when it rained early in the evening, forcing the group ICs to trace the route backwards, enabling them to the sights in a whole new light.
While everything that could go wrong went wrong during recces, the actual event went thankfully well, with few injuries or incidents. But given that there had only been a grand total of three recces, one of the big concerns was whether or not the group ICs would be able to remember the entire 62km on the actual day.
According to Gear Up Comm, finding sponsors for this year’s event proved daunting. Despite trying to reach out the same sponsors we’d had for last year’s event, names such as Compressport and Decathalon, they came up empty. As Wani mentioned, “we emailed them super early in the year, but none of them replied, so we had to hurry [to] find some other sponsors at the last minute.” The group continued to persevere, contacting, calling and emailing companies like H20, Nike, Addidas, Botak Jones, Mizuno, Camelbak, Campers corner, finally managing to sign Pocari Sweat and Sunshine Bread on board.
A bike lorry was also employed to guarantee the smooth running of the entire event by supplying extra bicycles in the case of a breakdown or malfunction. Thankfully, Xiang Lin’s father, an ever devoted parent who had been helping out in Gear Up ever since last year was amenable to spend time cruising around the streets of Singapore overnight just to help us out. Mr Foon, whom Xiang Ling spoke fondly of, did us a huge favour by “being on call for recces and staying up all night for Gear Up”, to which he was “absolutely essential to the running of Gear Up and without him, the event would not have been possible”. The Gear Up Comm would also like to acknowledge all the teacher supervisors who willingly and enthusiastically spent their Friday night accompanying the groups.
Nearing the Gear Up even itself, the Gear Up Comm conducted the ever important proficiency test for the participants to gauge their ability level as well as issue important instructions for the day itself. Since safety was always at the forefront of the Gear Up Committee’s minds, a proper introduction of the aspects of the bike, as well as respectful cycling etiquette was also given on the day. Probably the most exciting part of the day itself was the proficiency test, composed of a series of obstacles and tight twists and turns so as to test the participants’ competency as well as confidence in cycling. It was imperative that they had good control of their bike and could cycle for extended periods without squirrelling in tight corners or shying away from sudden pedestrians and oncoming cyclists. While the Comm had hoped to advance everyone, they regretted to have to refund one participant as according to the ICs “he [was] really cmi”.
When asked what was the greatest challenge in the entire process, Elena remarked: “[the] biggest considerations for us this year were RAMS in my opinion. Last year, a careless participant flipped into the drain and even though it was nothing serious, the teachers were pretty concerned with safety. It was really difficult to come up with better safety protocols and SOPs to convince the teachers that we have the safety of participants in check … [because] of this issue, Gear Up almost didn’t happen this year.” Elena was speaking about writing the Risk Assesement Management document, definitely extensive for an event of such scale and (potential) danger. According to the Gear Up comm, their RAMs underwent over numerous revisions before the team and teachers were satisfied that all areas had been accounted for.
At the end of it all, Gear Up was a resounding success. Having faced the possibility that Gear Up this year might have been cancelled due to the huge safety hazards and risks, the Comm were thrilled that their attention to safety (even stationing ODACians along vehicle-heavy roads and even inside a drain(!) to direct participants safely) and their insistence of proper cycling etiquette had paid off – no one suffered major injuries this year. The Comm definitely considered planning the event a privilege, with Matthias succinctly remarking “[planning] Gear Up was very fulfilling, seeing that all the participants enjoyed themselves so much.” And enjoy themselves they did.