My full day of cycling did not exactly start out as planned. I woke up witnessing heavy rain outside my window, with puddles accumulating around the sidewalks. The weather may have been a perfect excuse to just stay indoors but rather than canceling my plans altogether, I brought out the Brompton bicycle that I had loaned and proceeded to hail a cab. The bike’s manageable size and weight as well as its foldability makes it rather suited to situations like these when I can choose to bring it inside a car and head to a part of town I’d like to explore for leisure.
Specifically, I was using Brompton’s Raw Lacquer M6R bike. Each of the brand’s bike models is easily identified through its handlebar type, gear ratio and the presence of a mudguard and rack. There are also models lighter than the one I am using including the Superlight which comes with titanium parts and is up to 0.74kg lighter. The M6R bike comes with M-type handlebars, six gears plus mudguard and a rack to make way for possible storage space. With the rain starting to wear off, I asked the cab to drop me off at Knots Cafe and Living (160 Paya Lebar Road, #01-07), a lush brunch venue in a nondescript location surrounded by industrial buildings. One of the most instagrammable cafes in the east, there’s an eclectic mix here of wooden furniture, sculptures and plants of all shapes and sizes. It’s like a garden inside.
With one of the most compelling foldable bikes in Singapore tucked underneath my table, I ordered some of the specialties of the house. Carbonara, smoked salmon sandwich and of course, a nice cup of cafe latte that were apt for a rainy and pleasantly cool morning.
Having had my fill and with the rain dissipating, I unfolded the bike and made my way down south. It was a smooth ride down Paya Lebar Road to Katong, one of my favorite areas in Singapore. The lack of an MRT station here has allowed the district to retain its age-old charms. Locals come here for a sense of nostalgia while tourists come to oggle at the colorful shophouses. By the time I reached Katong, I could already see several cyclists going about their morning business on two wheels. It was not too difficult to notice how the wheels of my bike are markedly smaller than conventional ones. The Brompton is deliberately made for navigating cities, where a smaller tire makes for a unique riding experience and easier storage in compact living spaces – my one-bedroom apartment included.
One of the most striking things to see in Katong are the rows of shophouses in Koon Seng Road. The area was known as an enclave for Peranakans (Straits-born people with a mixed Chinese and Malay heritage) and their culture shows through the pastel colors and ornate facade of the residences here. For those with an interest to explore or go around the area, the bike is the preferred mode of transport.
Cycling down Joo Chiat Road, I encountered plenty of small shops and independent restaurants that are fast disappearing in ultra modern Singapore. One of the more famous venues for Peranakan cuisine is Guan Hoe Soon. It is said that the late Lee Kuan Yew used get takeaways from here. The area is also getting increasingly gentrified. One of the more interesting cafes to open recently is Homeground Coffee Roasters. Its interiors look similar to an art museum with gallery-like seating spaces. I stop here and park the Brompton by the door while I grab another cup of coffee to keep me energized for the rest of the day.
The stretch of East Coast Road offers plenty for the weekend warrior. Rakuya (89 East Coast Road), a unique omakase restaurant serving a blend of Japanese and Singaporean cuisine offers some compelling sets while Birds of Paradise (63 East Coast Road) just a few steps away always has a long queue for the spiced pear ice cream on its trademark fragrant thyme cones. With the Brompton, I don’t have to worry about finding a place to park the bike. I can simply fold, roll the folded bike through its smaller wheels and tuck it somewhere inside the restaurant within my view.
For a taste of old Singapore, Rumah Bebe (113 East Coast Road) offers a glimpse into the age-old artistic tradition of beading practiced by Peranakans. The tilework and gilded doors outside also fascinate.
After resting for a bit, I then head out to East Coast Park, perhaps the #1 spot in Singapore for cycling. While there is a dedicated cycling path in the park, those wishing to have closer views of the sea would need the endure the occasional sandy pathways. This was a good opportunity to check out how the Brompton – a bike that is usually positioned for urban settings – would fare during such circumstances.
The bike is tough and agile. Despite being light enough to be carried with one arm, it carries a steel frame and puncture-resistant tires. The bike went through the sandy path and into the jetty with little stress to its parts. Several components of the bike can actually be customized including the color, gearing, handlebar and mudguard options . Despite the lure of manufacturing in cheaper countries, Brompton still makes its bikes in London. Brazers who work on the bikes undergo 18 months of training.
By this time, I have had folded the bike more than ten times. While I’m able to do it slightly faster after each time, the company states that the bike can be folded in around twelve seconds . There are even folding contests being organized in various places around the world just to see who can do it the quickest. A quick check in Youtube leads me to Brompton owners who can even fold the bike in less than six seconds!
After an hour or so of cycling, I found myself quite close to Changi Airport. I was also getting tired by this time. This was a clear signal to head back. Fortunately, I could again fold the bike like I did this morning when it rained. And with that, I hailed a cab from there to bring me (and the bike) home. Feeling totally exhausted, I was so relieved that I did not have to cycle back from where I started.
Bromptons are available in Singapore online or via authorized distributors. Check sg.brompton.com for more information.
This post is written in partnership with Brompton Bicycle