Friday, June 27, 2008

Into the wind

The fighter jets are at it again. It's the time of the year again. They're flying really low and really fast over my estate in aerobatic formation, in practice for the National Day Parade.

First, you hear that eerie low whine reminiscent of air strikes in those World War II war movies. Then it gets louder and higher (Doppler effect, remember?) until it reaches a crescendo, and at that very split second, you see the F16s in formation zooming past. Then the decrescendo and the lowering in pitch again.

Still makes me wonder, is it worth the risk of crashing into a built-up city (unlikely though) and the cost of all that fuel that pours through those jet engines? Not to mention, the wear and tear on the engines and the airframes.

I guess they'd just have to do it, simply because most of the other countries with significant air forces have their own aerobatic teams. Peer pressure at an international level, eh?

And on the ground, with thousands of metres of air in between, there's me, manoeuvring my bicycle through crowded cycle path traffic, pretending I'm one of those pilots in Red Bull Air Race, dodging the joggers (what the effing hell are doing on the cycle path?) and slowpokes on creaky bikes with deft and quick (but yet, small and controlled) steering adjustments on the handlebars. Just like a fighter jet pilot with his control yoke, cleverly controlling all the many flight controls as though they are extensions of his own body.

I reach a clear straight, and put all my energy into the pedals, watching the numbers on my speedometer surge in multiples of 2. Maybe - just maybe - any faster, and I might possibly get airborne with a swift pull on my handlebars.

And it's 2 oncoming joggers side-by-side, oblivious to the speed at which I'm barrelling towards them, deaf to the frantic bell-ringing. I grip the brakes with all my fingers, right thumb thumbing down the gears to get ready for another quick launch.

The 2 oblivious joggers move aside, obviously either too apathetic/ignorant/stupid to realise that they're risking their lives on a cycle path. My legs spin up and the wind screams in my ears yet again, while I slice through the bend with just enough braking to get me by safely.

Then I coast to the end of the path. It's a pretty skillful trick to slow down with just your own air resistance. You gotta be familiar with the path, and be adept at knowing when to stop pedalling - depending on the wind conditions. It's a tailwind today - I stop pedalling a little earlier than usual. If you're going too fast, and you stand up high against the wind to increase drag. Too slow, and you crouch low and spin the pedals a couple of times. Just like an aircraft and how the pilot handles the spoilers and throttles to craft his perfect landing.

And I make it to the end of the path at just a little more than walking speed. Feather the brakes lightly, and I'm done. Brake pads last really, really long in my hands.

It's just another typical ride through the park for me.

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