Friday, 25 October 2013

the hill

…the only hill I’ve found in Hong Kong where I have to get off and push, although it might be feasible if it were possible to take a run at it.
When we moved to Fanling in 2008, we quickly discovered that the only place north of Sheung Shui—the last station before the border—where it was possible to cross the main railway line safely on a bike came with a vicious little hill on the far side of the tunnel under the tracks that wasn’t visible until the last minute. On my first attempt, I came out of the tunnel, turned the right-angle corner and probably didn’t even get my back wheel onto the slope before grinding to a premature halt. I therefore concluded that it was impossible, although at the time we weren’t doing any cycling in that direction, and it was only in the autumn of 2012 that I started exploring ‘across the tracks’.

On these explorations, I dismounted while still in the tunnel and pushed my bike up the ramp, which although short is very steep. However, earlier this year, I was with Paula, and as I reached the top of the ramp I turned round to see her hit the bottom and keep on going. This won’t do, I thought. My wife can do something that I can’t, and I need to do something about that.

Well, it took seven attempts before I finally succeeded, although I did make it halfway on one occasion, and one failure was occasioned by the appearance of a cyclist at the top of the ramp, who hadn’t checked that the ramp was clear before starting down. Another couple of failures, then I not only succeeded for the second time but also found it easy!

The obvious next step seemed to be to go there with the express intention of practising, which I did (it’s only about 4km from our house). I immediately registered my third success, again finding it easy. However, I should have remembered that the gods punish hubris. I succeeded only in making a complete pig’s ear of my next two attempts and went home thoroughly demoralized.

Shortly thereafter, the rainy season started, and a semi-permanent pool of water on the floor of the tunnel that is impossible to avoid meant that I couldn’t get any traction on the slope with wet tyres. The state of play when I left for the UK in May was thus three for sixteen, an 18.75 percent success rate, which is fairly dismal, I think everyone will agree.

The incline starts immediately and requires precise control for there to be any chance of success.

When I came back to Hong Kong earlier this month, I expected the tunnel to still be wet, so perhaps I wasn’t properly psyched up, but whatever excuses I might put forward cannot disguise the fact that both my first two attempts were utterly pathetic. However, I’ve since been successful in four out of five attempts, and I think I now have a method. It’s a method that probably won’t guarantee success on every occasion, but if I can maintain a success rate of 70–80 percent then I will consider that satisfactory.

I would expect even so redoubtable a cyclist as Sir Bradley Wiggins to fail on this from time to time, given that the margin for error is extremely small, although I would expect him to better my success ratio. Mind you, I wouldn’t allow him one of those multi-thousand-dollar lightweight bikes that most of the recreational cyclists in Hong Kong ride. He can borrow mine, which is built like a tank and is almost as heavy.

7 comments:

  1. Still very much enjoying your blog Dennis, from the cold, wet and dark environs of Carlisle, as it is today. Still reminds me of my days living there. Keep it up!

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  2. I'm still very much enjoying your blog Dennis. It reminds me so much of my years in Hong Kong, some of which were spent near (a much changed) Fanling. Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I left both of your comments, because although similar they included different bits of information. Carlisle in winter is not a pleasant place, but Fanling in winter is.

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  3. Dennis, looks like you're not one to avoid a challenge. Your perseverance seems to be paying off.

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    1. Absolutely correct Marty. But I do have to say that every time I hit the corner at the bottom, I cannot be sure what will happen next. I got past halfway today before crashing into the grass on the left!

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  4. Looks like quite a challenging little hill, Dennis. What's the purpose of those mounds or stones off to either side? Are they for people to use as traction or a foot hold?

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    1. They’re lumps of concrete Kris, integrated into the rest of the slope, and they’re there to provide some purchase on the incline for people pulling small carts, which I imagine would be a lot harder than riding a bike up. Incidentally, I’m now six for eight, which represents a slight decrease in my success rate.

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