Bin Soo joined us for the Taiping to Penang leg. She and Ai Lei had driven to Taiping. Mark told Bin Soo that we would all meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30 am.
I am sure we were all still asleep when Bin Soo and Ai Lei got to our hotel at 5:11 am 😲. They were there early to take us to breakfast. Ham chim peng (Chinese fried doughnuts) and coffee.
Amy and I didn’t make it to breakfast. I for one was nowhere near ready to head out of my room before 6:15 am.
We rolled out of Taiping at 6:30 am. I used Ride With GPS to plot the shortest route from our hotel to Federal Route 1. We would spend most of the day on that road.
All went well until 7km from the hotel. We came to a right turn where the paved road became a narrow gravel track. Too narrow for the truck.
So Marvin had to find a driveable way to get to Federal Route 1. We forged ahead into the unknown. I had no idea how long we would be riding off-road.
All credit to Bin Soo for being willing to ride over gravel and through puddles on her brand-new bike.
No one dared to ride across this bridge.
The track was luckily rideable enough to get us to Federal Route 1. Except that we were on the wrong side of a divided highway. That required a dismount and quick sprint over the highway divider.
We came to another interesting bridge across the Sungai Sepetang 14km into the day.
We made our first restroom stop at the PETRONAS station in Bagan Serai after ninety minutes of cycling. The ride itself was unremarkable. So much so that trailing a tractor for a short time was exciting.
The reason we didn’t draft behind the tractor for longer was that it was moving too slowly.
We took a short detour off Federal Route 1 for a pit stop at Bandar Baharu. Marvin guided us to this place on the Sungai Kerian. The food here was excellent and cheap.
We were back on our bikes at about 10:00 am. One hour later we were sitting in Nasi Kandar Rizq in Simpang Ampat. It was already 35º C / 95º F. Significantly warmer than it had been at the same time the day before. We all needed cold liquids and some shade.
There were 22km to go to the Penang Sentral ferry terminal. The run from Simpang Ampat was in the most traffic we had encountered on the entire trip. There is a lot of commercial traffic on the roads to Butterworth. For the most part, we had no other route option to take. We did a detour to avoid riding on the Butterworth Outer Ring Road over the last 5km to the ferry terminal.
We were on a ferry at 12:50 pm, having paid the princely sum of RM1.40 / USD0.34 each for the privilege. Which is incredibly cheap because no ticket is needed for the return trip from the island.
The ferry ride takes fifteen minutes. There is a nice view of the Penang Bridge during the crossing.
It is just over 1km from the Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal on Penang island to our respective hotels on Lebuh Chulia.
After getting cleaned up we wasted no time getting to one of the main reasons to come to Penang.
Food glorious food! Both on the streets and in the cafés.
Lots of Penang food was a very nice way to celebrate riding about 330km / 205mi over three days. Without a single puncture amongst us.
We are already talking about where to ride to next.
It was 5:59 am. We had checked out of the hotel, loaded the truck and posed for a photograph.
All that was left to do was to ride 126km / 78mi to Taiping. It had rained some more during the night. The roads were wet as we rode toward Jalan Batu Sinar through neighbourhoods which were just coming to life.
Our route west and then north would be mostly on secondary roads which are smooth and relatively vehicle-free.
Kampar sits in the Kinta Valley. Once an area with rich tin ore reserves. Most of the tin mines closed down following the collapse of the industry, especially in the late 20th century.
The mining pools remain. The first 17km of the morning took us through an area studded with pools. Sadly it was too dark to see them properly.
By the time it was light enough to see our surroundings we were on the A112 Jalan Kampung Bali and already through the main concentration of pools. The road was still quiet.
Very quiet at times.
No one had eaten breakfast before we left Kampar. Once we had ridden for an hour it was time to look for a place to eat. We chanced upon D’Anjung Bali about 25km / 16mi into the ride.
I say ‘chanced upon’ because we probably would have ridden right past this place if not for one of us being desperately in need of a pee break. As we slowed down to see if there was a bathroom available I noticed someone “throwing” a roti canai. Not only was there roti, but there was also puri and nasi lemak. There was a bathroom too. What a find in the middle of nowhere. Well, technically D’Anjung Bali is in Kampung Melayu Bali, but there are uninhabited kilometres on either side.
Over coffee and Milo Pai tried to convince us to choose the driver for Day 3. We all declined and said we would wait until dinner time to draw lots. None of us wanted to have our day spoiled by the knowledge that we would be driving the next day.
After a very pleasant breakfast, we were on the road again. In 3km we turned left onto busy Federal Route 5. Fortunately we would be on that road for only 22km / 14mi. Pai was doing what Mark did the day before. Driving ahead of us and then stopping and waiting until we rode past.
Somewhere around Bota, we came upon the truck parked on the road shoulder. It looked like Pai was checking his phone as we went past him. Twenty minutes later Pai called me and asked, “Are you lost?”
That surprised me because we were still on Federal Route 5. Pai hadn’t seen us ride by and assumed that we were still behind him. He might deny it but I think he was asleep when we went past him. He had turned around and gone back to look for us, thinking that we had taken a shortcut somewhere.
When Pai called me we were about 4km from the right turn onto A127 Jalan Gelang Pepuyu. After we made that turn we stopped at the first roadside restaurant for a drink and to wait for Pai to find us.
I had sent Pai our location via WhatsApp. WhatsApp locations are not always accurate to the metre. Pai didn’t see us where WhatsApp said we were and sped right by.
I must admit that we were not easy to spot behind those clumps of bamboo. Another phone call got Pai back to where we were.
We had lots of time before we could check-in at our hotel in Taiping. So we spent forty-five minutes over our drinks before getting back on the road.
Once again we had blue skies and rising temperatures. It was 10:30 am and 30º C / 86º F when we arrived in Beruas. Time for another drink at Restoran Padi Emas.
We stopped at Beruas for forty minutes. In that time the temperature went up to 34º C / 93º F.
23km / 14mi later we stopped at a small restaurant in Padang Gajah. Where the majority of customers looked like nurses in their white uniforms. More cold drinks were ordered. There was also an unusual treat on sale. Coconut jelly. Tasty and more importantly, cold.
We rolled out of Padang Gajah at about 12:30 pm. There were 30km to go to Taiping.
Though you don’t see it in this photograph, the roads through Terong and Changkat Jering and on to Taiping were fairly busy. The road shoulder was also badly rutted in places, which made it uncomfortable to ride at the edge of the road.
Pai did an excellent job of following right behind us. In doing so he blocked traffic from squeezing past us. Vehicles had to move into the opposite lane to overtake Pai and us. Which gave us room to ride on the smoother part of the road toward the centre of our lane.
Pai would toot his horn whenever a vehicle overtook him so we knew to move to the road shoulder. Thank you, Pai.
We got to the Taiping Panorama Hotel at 1:40 pm. Surprisingly, our rooms were ready. Some of the others wanted to get lunch before showering. Not me. It had been 38º C / 100º F during the ten minutes it took us to negotiate the city streets and traffic lights to get to the hotel. I needed a cold shower more than lunch.
The photographs of lunch did look good though.
I had a short lie down after my shower. At 3:45 pm Mark and I walked to Ansari Famous Cendol. That place has been there for at least forty years. Their cendol is deservedly famous. Two bowls worth of delicious.
Lay and Marvin joined us after dropping off their cycling kit at a nearby laundromat. On the way to Ansari Famous Cendol Marvin bought pisang goreng and keledek goreng (banana fritters and sweet potato fritters) and fried popiah (spring rolls). We had quite a snack fest.
Amy, Marvin, Martin and Pai watched Joker that evening. The rest of us met up with them for dinner after the film. We sat at a table in the street and ordered food from the shops and stalls all around us.
Martin was prepared to do some slurping.
It was time to see who would be driving on Day 3. Marvin was confident that it would not be him. “I am always lucky,” he said. Amy thought that Marvin would be the driver.
Mark held some RM1 notes serial number side down and we each chose one.
Amy must be clairvoyant. Marvin drew the low last digit 😆.
The rest of us ordered more food to celebrate not having to drive on Day 3. Stuffed to the gills, we strolled back to the hotel and our beds. It would be an early start again in the morning.
Planning for a three-day ride from KL to Penang started in August. Culminating with a last meeting over roti canai and thosai. And a loaf of home-baked sourdough bread courtesy of AiLin.
Lay, Marvin, Amy, Pai and I were ready to go at 5:15. Mark isn’t in this photograph because he was the cameraman. Martin isn’t in the photo either because he was slightly late (he had to finish the breakfast his wife made for him before he was allowed out of the house).
The first leg for the day was from Taman Tun Dr Ismail to the KTM station in Kuang. It had rained during the night so the roads were wet. Our freshly-washed bicycles didn’t stay clean for long.
Staying true to the R@SKL raison d’etre there were two themes to this adventure. Riding and eating. Our first food stop was at a coffee shop across the road from Kuang station. Three of us fuelled up with plates of noodles for the train ride to Tanjung Malim.
The 7:27 am train was on time so we didn’t spend much time striking poses on the platform.
We had most of the carriage to ourselves. Once settled in our seats the first order of business was checking mobile phones. We did speak to each other during the one hour journey to Tanjung Malim. And one not-to-be-named person took a nap.
Amy provided her truck as a support vehicle. That was very helpful because we could put bags in the truck instead of riding with saddle packs. Mark was the driver on the first day because Daddy duties prevented him from riding with us at 5:15 am.
We met Mark at a roadside stall about a kilometre from Tanjung Malim station. We had only ridden 30km / 19mi but were already into our second meal of the day. Roti canai for those who hadn’t eaten in Kuang. If you ever find yourself on Jalan Ketoyang, north of Tanjung Malim station, stop at Restoran Al Kassim Maju. Their roti is the bomb.
The riding then started in earnest. Our final destination for Day 1 was Kampar. 88km / 55mi north on Federal Route 1. Mark would drive ahead of us and park on the side of the road. After we went past him he would leapfrog us again.
After ninety minutes we stopped for a break at Kampung Gajah, which is just south of Sungkai. Drinks only for all of us except for Martin, who had burned through his home-cooked breakfast and was hungry.
We were riding under clear blue skies. The temperature was rising steadily. It was 25º C / 77º F when we left Taman Tun. It was 38º C / 97º F when we rolled into Bidor at noon.
We had plenty of time to cover the 30km to Kampar. There was no point getting there before we could check in to the hotel. We spent ninety minutes consuming cold drinks and kai chai pang (chicken biscuits) under a fan at Restoran Mee Wah. Why the name “chicken biscuits” is a mystery because they do not contain any chicken.
Soon after we got going again clouds rolled in and we got drizzled on for a while. No one complained because the cooler temperature was appreciated by all.
10km / 6mi from Kampar the sky to the east got dark and the wind started to blow. A thunderstorm was on the way. We picked up the pace and got to the Kampar Boutique Hotel just ahead of a burst of rain.
After a shower and a short nap, we headed out to look for snacks. We found cendol, ais kacang and noodles.
It started to rain again, this time heavily, as we sat drinking and eating. We were trapped on the wrong side of the road from our hotel. After twenty minutes we gave up waiting for the deluge to stop and ran across the road through the rain.
Mark, Marvin and Pai were stuck on the hotel side of the road because of the rain, and couldn’t join us for cendol. Instead they went to Restoran Yin Phun Low, which is next door to the hotel. The rest of us joined them for dinner and beers. The food was so-so. I don’t recommend this restaurant.
The highlight of our time in that restaurant was deciding who would drive the truck the next day. In the week before the ride, everyone expressed a desire to drive. There was the talk of taking turns through the day as a way of getting some time off the saddle.
By the end of Day 1, that sentiment had changed. We had ridden at a relaxed pace. No one needed a break from riding. And Mark made it clear that the stop and start driving was no fun. There were no volunteers to drive the next day.
So Mark held out a fan of one ringgit notes and we each took one. Pai drew the note with the lowest last digit in the serial number. To the relief of the rest of us!
You would have thought that dinner would be the end of eating for the day. You would have been wrong. Kampar is noted for its Claypot Chicken Rice. A couple of the guys ventured out later that night for some.
The rest of us called it a night. We had another early start planned for Day 2.
Repsol Oil & Gas Malaysia organised a Fellowship Ride in conjunction with the Malaysia Day celebration. The objective of the ride and the associated activities was to bring together Malaysians of all ages and from all walks of life in the spirit of unity.
Two weeks before the ride was to take place Malaysia was blanketed by a persistent haze coming from multiple fires in Indonesia.
The haze got so bad in the days before the ride that several outdoor events planned for the weekend in Kuala Lumpur were cancelled.
The health and safety of participants was of course a concern for Repsol Malaysia. After careful consideration Repsol announced that the event would continue in one of three ways, depending upon the Air Pollution Index along the route at 7.00am on the day of the ride. The options were:
If the Air Pollution Index (API) for Seremban and the areas along the ride route was below 100 the 125km long ride would go ahead.
If the API was between 101 and 130 the ride distance would be halved.
If the API was above 131 the ride would be cancelled but the associated events: the various contests, the lucky dip and the lucky draw would proceed.
This ride would start and end at the Kompleks Belia dan Sukan Paroi (Paroi Youth and Sports Complex) in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. Seremban is about 70km from Kuala Lumpur. My KL friends and I had to decide whether it was worth driving to Paroi and back on Saturday to collect our ride packs and then again to Paroi early on Sunday morning for a ride that might not happen.
We all kept the faith. Some of us booked accommodation in Seremban for the night before the ride. Ride pack pickup was a breeze, thanks to this cheerful crew from Cyclomotion Sdn. Bhd, who managed the ride. They stayed smiling while attending to a steady stream of participants throughout the day and into the night.
The packs contained a ride number, a jersey, a keychain and a disposable particulate respirator mask. Which was a nice touch considering the prevailing air quality.
The haze had lifted a bit on Sunday morning. About a dozen of us joined over one thousand other cyclists at the start line, all waiting to hear what the organizers had decided about the length of the ride.
The decision was to shorten the ride to 80km. The API reading issued by the Department of the Environment at 7.00am for Seremban was below 100. However, the original route would have taken us toward Port Dickson and further south to the border with Melaka. The reading for Port Dickson was already 159.
The ride was flagged off by the Negeri Sembilan State Assembly Speaker YB Dato’ Zulkefly Mohamad bin Omar. He was accompanied by the Youth and Sports Development Action Committee Chairman YB Tuan Haji Mohamad Taufek bin Abdul Ghani and Repsol Malaysia Business Unit Director Jorge Milathianakis.
The revised route would take us southward only as far as Siliau and Rantau before returning to Paroi.
It was a prescient decision to shorten the ride. As you can see from the readings below the API for Port Dickson and cities in Melaka got worse and worse as the morning progressed. The API for Seremban nudged up at a slower rate but still was above 100 at 11.00am. The shortened route got us back to Paroi at 11.15am so we were done riding before the haze got bad.
In keeping with the fellowship nature of this ride, the pace was controlled by a lead vehicle that averaged between 30kph and 35kph. Those of use who started right at the rear of the group found ourselves a long way behind the pace vehicle by the time we had covered the hilly 5km to Senawang. Which meant riding at an average speed of 33kph for the next 35km to catch up.
One benefit of keeping all the participants together was that the police could close the roads completely for the relatively short time it took for all of us to ride through. Having the entire road to ourselves was a unique experience. The marshalling of the route by the Polis Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysia Police) and Cyclomotion volunteers was excellent.
There was a twenty-minute stop for water and bananas after 40km. Once again the high-quality management of this event by Cyclomotion was evident. There was plenty of drinking water available. Some of it was iced. And enough bananas to go around too.
While we were riding there were activities at the Youth and Sports Complex to keep the waiting families and friends busy. There was a batik painting competition for children. This was one of the prize-winning efforts from the batik-painting competition.
The adults could try to win prizes for a high score on the Moto GP simulators. This was the first time a motorbike simulation challenge has ever been offered at a cycling event.
The ride back to Paroi after the water stop was slower for my group because we were closer to the pace vehicle. We were able to practice riding within a large group, being constantly aware of the cyclists all around and alert to sudden decreases in speed. Controlled pace rides are not for those who want to ride as fast as they can.
In order to help riders stay properly hydrated in the haze, Cyclomotion added a second water stop at the 60km point. Two water stops would not normally be required for a 80km plus ride but Cyclomotion responded admirably to the unusual conditions on the day.
Riders started rolling under the finishing arch at about 11.15am. Medals were handed out and cold drinks and food were collected. Individuals who were very hungry could choose snacks and meals from the five food trucks parked around the finishing area.
The lucky dip winning numbers had been drawn while we were out on the course. Fifty people came away from the finish area happy at having won one of the lucky dip prizes. Most of the rest of us headed into the hall to wait for the lucky draw for the big prizes.
This lucky draw was worth waiting for. The list of prizes was impressive.
11th. Official Negeri Sembilan team football jersey, courtesy of the State Secretary 10th 40 inch LED television 9th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets 8th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets 7th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets 6th Rudy Project sunglasses 5th GoPro Hero 7 Black camera 4th Shimano Ultegra R8020 groupset 3rd KTM Road Bicycle 2nd Giant Propel SLR Bicycle 1st Repsol Honda RS150R Motorcycle
Not only did the Negeri Sembilan State Secretary Dato Dr Razali Ab. Malik donate one of the lucky draw prizes, he also completed the ride and kindly presented prizes to the lucky winners.
Suffice it to say that ten people left the hall very happy, but none of those ten people was my friends or me.
This was a very enjoyable event. Despite the haze, the teams from Repsol Malaysia and Cyclomotion did an outstanding job of organizing and managing this Fellowship Ride. I hope this becomes an annual event. I would sign up for the 2020 edition today.
In 2017 I wrote a review of the grandparent of the Aftershokz Aeropex headphones, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium. In that review I commented on the durability of the Trekz Titaniums, noting that sweat and rain had not had an adverse effect.
Two years of regular use have proved me wrong. In that time I have made two warranty claims because transducers came loose. I suspect because of corrosion caused by the ingress of sweat into the transducer casings. To their credit, Aftershokz replaced both units via Distexpress Malaysia, which is their local distributor.
The successor to the Trekz Titanium is the Trekz Air which was introduced in 2018. The Trekz Air is 20% lighter than the Trekz Titanium. However, it has the same IP55 rating as its older sibling so I didn’t trade in my Trekz Titanium.
Aftershokz has just released its latest iteration of bone-conduction headphones. The Aeropex.
The Aeropex is IP67 rated which means it can be immersed in on metre of water for thirty minutes. That specification alone was enough for me to buy a pair.
The Aeropex (pictured lower left) is 30% smaller overall and 15% lighter than the Trekz Air (pictured upper right). Which makes it significantly smaller and lighter than the Trekz Titanium (pictured upper left).
At lower left is the Trekz Trainerz designed for swimmers. It is IP68 rated and uses 4GB of internal storage rather than Bluetooth connectivity to play music.
I have used my Aeropex headphones for a month now. They weigh 26g and have a smaller neckband than the Titanium. Which makes the Aeropex very comfortable and fit better under my cycling helmet. Sound quality is more dynamic with enhanced bass. Sound leakage is decreased and the transducers vibrate less against the skin.
Another difference between the Aeropex and the Titanium is the use of a magnetic charging port rather than a micro USB port. The magnetic charging port features a moisture detector which alerts you if there is sweat or other liquid on the port. Charging the headphones while the port is wet can damage the circuitry.
Included accessories are a rubber case with a magnetic clasp and two charging cables.
I bought the Cosmic Black version. The Aeropex comes in three other colours.
At current prices, the Aeropex costs twice as much as the now discounted Titanium. Is the Aeropex worth the money? Definitely. The Aeropex boasts improved comfort, sound quality and an IP67 waterproof rating. An important plus is that Aftershokz is the only bone conduction headphones brand offering a two-year warranty.
I gave the Trekz Titanium headphones a five-star rating. The Aeropex deserves six stars.
Road cyclists dream of riding on smooth tarmac. The reality is bumps, ruts and potholes. The longer the ride the more shocks are transmitted through the handlebar to the hands, arms and shoulders. Which naturally leads to fatigue and discomfort.
Some manufacturers are building shock-absorbing features into the front ends of their frames, such as Specialized’s Future Shock and Trek’s Top Tube Isospeed.
But what are the options for the road cyclist who wants a more comfortable ride from their existing frame? Using thicker bar tape and/or padded gloves are one option. Switching from 23mm wide tires to softer-riding 25mm or even 28mm tires is another option.
What to do if you want more comfort but don’t like riding with thick bar tape and thickly padded gloves, or can only fit 23mm or 25mm tires on your bike? The Redshift Shockstop stem may be your answer.
The Redshift Shockstop stem pivots at the steerer tube clamp to provide shock absorption at the bar.
The Shockstop has a 20mm range of travel for drop bar bikes and 10mm of travel for flat bar bikes. The degree of travel can be customised to suit your body weight and riding style by installing the appropriate elastomer blocks inside the stem. The stem uses two elastomer blocks.
The Shockstop comes with five different elastomer blocks, each with a different durometer or hardness rating. This allows the Shockstop stem to cater for a range of rider weights from less than 52kg / 115lbs up to more than 93kg / 205lbs.
Does the Shockstop stem work? Absolutely.
With my hands in any position, the ShockStop does an admirable job of removing road buzz and smaller shocks from potholes and broken tarmac.
Handling is not compromised by the addition of travel in the bar, even under braking and hard cornering. The Shockstop smooths out the road surface without being obtrusive.
The Shockstop stem is available with a +-6º tilt in 90mm (264g) , 100mm, 110mm and 120mm (298g) lengths. It is also available in a 100mm length with a +30º tilt.
This is not the lightest stem around but it is by far the most comfortable stem.
This stems fit a standard 1 1/8″ steerer clamp diameter and 31.8mm handlebar clamp diameter. Shims are available for 25.4mm and 26.0mm steerer tubes.
Redshift also makes computer and utility mounts that attach to the stem faceplate. The computer mounts cater for Garmin, Wahoo, Cateye, Joule, Mio, Magellan, and Polar units.
The current price for a Shockstop stem on the Redshift Sports website is USD149.99. This stem is definitely worth every cent.
I bought one and I like it so much that I bought a second one to put on bike number two. The Shockstop stem is that good.
Restoran Al-Arefin Bistro in the Sanctuary Mall, Bandar Rimbayu, is fast becoming a popular meeting spot for cyclists riding to Jenjarom, Jugra, Morib and beyond. There is lots of free parking in front of the restaurant. It opens very early in the morning. Service is quick. And it has clean restrooms.
Nine of us set off from there for a scenic ride to Morib.
Photographs courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon (top left) and Johan Sopiee
“Scenic” as in avoiding main roads as far as possible in favour of a more roundabout route through kampungs and countryside.
The secondary roads have far less traffic on them and there is often more to see. One off-the-beaten-track section just north of Morib runs right along the seashore, with waves at high tide lapping against the edge of the road.
Photographs courtesy of Johan Sopiee
We hit our usual nasi lemak stall at Morib beach.
We retraced our path back to the Sanctuary Mall. The only flat tire of the ride occurred during our return trip.
Note that the rider who had the puncture is not in this photograph!
The only downside to the morning was that it got very hot. It was 35ºC / 95ºF at 11.00am and it got a few degrees hotter before we got back to Restoran Al-Arefin Bistro.