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The R@SKLs Ride to Cameron Highlands

The romantic view of Cameron Highlands consists of rolling tea plantations and Tudor-style bungalows.

The R@SKLs dispensed with romanticism, opting instead for athleticism.

Banner

Graphic courtesy of Darul Ridzuan Cycling Club

Most of us had left it too late to register for this event.  Only Tomoe and Danial had signed up before registration was closed.  Eight of us decided to ride “with” Tomoe and Danial.  I say “with” because we would be with them in spirit only.  We would see them once as they raced past us, and not again until after the finish.

There are four ways to get to Cameron Highlands.  From the south via Tapah, from the south-east via a newer road from Raub, from the east coast via Gua Musang, and from the west via Simpang Pulai, on the outskirts of Ipoh.

My only previous ride to Cameron Highlands was in 2013.  I rode along the older road from Tapah through Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang.

This event started in Simpang Pulai.  We convoyed to the Hotel Pulai on Saturday evening.  The weather enroute did not look promising.

Rain to Ipoh Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We all hoped that we would not have a repeat of our rain-filled Southern Thailand experience.

One doesn’t visit Ipoh without eating.  Nga choy kai (beansprout chicken) is at the top of many foodie lists of must-eats in Ipoh.  Restoran Ayam Tauke on Jalan Guntong has a deserved reputation for excellent nga choy kai and sar hor fun (flat rice noodles).

Waiting for our food.

Dinner Group 3 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

While we were waiting, Simon went to a restaurant a few doors away and brought back appetizers.  Chicken lor bak (chicken and vegetables rolled in thin bean curd skins and deep-fried), fried wantan (dumplings), and boiled and fried yong tau foo (stuffed bean curd).

Simon had to leave a deposit to ensure that he brought the empty dishes back to the other restaurant.

The main attractions.

Ipoh’s taugeh (bean sprouts) are the king of bean sprouts in Malaysia. Thanks to the abundance of hard water from the limestone hills surrounding the Kinta Valley, bean sprouts that grow here are crunchy and succulent.

Not sated by the nga choy kai, we then sat down at the restaurant where Simon had procured our appetizers.  The wan tan and lor bak were finished, so we had wing beans fried in chilli garlic oil, pork noodles, and beef soup.

Surprisingly, after that huge dinner – wait, I take that back.  I am talking about the R@SKLs here.

Unsurprisingly, despite the huge dinner, we wanted breakfast at 6.00am.  Which was delayed slightly, because as we waited outside the hotel for everyone to gather, one of CK’s inner tubes exploded.

Repairs made, we rode across Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah to Restoran Sun Kee Hin.

Breakfast Sulaiman

Photograph courtesy of Muhammad Sulaiman Jamaluddin

After noodles, coffee and tea, Tomoe and Danial rode the 4km / 2.5mi to the race start at the Symphony Suites Hotel.  They would start racing at 7.30am.

The eight of us ghost riders headed back across Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah to the A181, and upward to Cameron Highlands.

Upwards Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

The Simpang Pulai route is preferred by cyclists over the Tapah route because the road surface is better, and the shoulders are wider.

Simpang Pulai Road

As I said earlier, we didn’t actually ride with Tomoe and Danial.  We were on the road at 6.50am.  I think we perplexed a woman standing expectantly by the roadside, waiting to cheer on a boyfriend or husband.  A pair of police motorcycle had roared past her a minute or two earlier.  That is the usual signal that the race leaders are approaching.  But instead of next seeing a fast-moving peloton sweeping by, she was confronted with the sight of a group of shall we say mature men, riding at less than race pace.

Despite the forty minute headstart, the leading riders, and then Tomoe and Danial caught up with us after 20km / 12.5mi.  This was all we saw of them until the finish.

Tomoe and Danial Sulaiman

Photograph courtesy of Muhammad Sulaiman Jamaluddin

The rest of us santai-ed (relaxed) our way up the road.

Riding Pai Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding Meng Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding Mark Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding Chew Sulaiman

Photograph courtesy of Muhammad Sulaiman Jamaluddin

Riding Simon Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding CK Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding Arthur 2 Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Riding JM Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

We had a pair of support vehicles stocked with water, 100-Plus, bananas and biscuits.  Shelby took excellent photographs.

Official Photographer Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

She was in a car driven by Chew’s wife Alicia

Alicia & Chew Sulaiman

Photograph courtesy of Muhammad Sulaiman Janmaluddin

Man provided sterling roadside repair support from the other vehicle tracking us.

Support Car Sulaiman Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

We stopped a number of times to regroup.  At 30km / 19mi we had a longer stop to get drinks and bananas.

Rest Stop

That Basso Diamante is a sweet-looking bike.

Basso Sulaiman.png

Not long after we got going again we had the second, and last, flat of the day.

2nd Flat Tire Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

At 45km / 30mi we came to the second water stop for the race participants.  There was a nice view over the valley, and the road we had just ridden up.

I think the road branching up and curving to the left goes to a large farm.  The road looks rideable, but we weren’t about to try it on this day.

IMG_4584

2.5km / 1.5mi later we crossed the border from the state of Perak into the state of Pahang.  Along the way we rode through a 355 meter / 1,130 foot rock shed, built to shield the road from mud and rock slides.

Rock Shed

The border is marked by a large sign on the side of the hill.  Tomoe and Danial had ridden to the finish 7km / 4mi further up the road, and come back down to this point well before the rest of us go there.

The Only Competitors Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

We rolled over the undulating terrain to the finish, which ended with a 75 meter / 246 foot kick over the final 2km / 1mi.  Simon’s brand-new bike had been christened with a major climb.

Finish Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The weather had occasionally looked threatening, but the rain never came.  The cloud cover kept things cool during our ascent.

View Shelby Lim

Photograph courtesy of Shelby Lim

Everyone made it up the climb.  Arthur had a message for the R@SKLs who didn’t ride with us.

“I’m here.  Where are you?”

What is the problem? CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of Muhammad Sulaiman Jamaluddin

The rain did catch some of us on the way down.  By mid-descent the sun had come out again, and it was hot for the last 15km / 10mi.  It was 21° C / 70° F at the summit, and 36° C / 97° F at the hotel when we got back there.

A cold shower was just the ticket.  The receptionist at the Hotel Pulai was very nice, and she let us check out after 3.00pm without extra charge.  At RM80 / USD20 per night for a double room, basic but clean and comfortable, and bicycle friendly, the Hotel Pulai was an excellent choice.

Everyone was starving.  Nasi kandar is another Ipoh favourite.  It is so named from the time when nasi (rice) hawkers would move from place to place with a kandar pole on one shoulder, balancing large containers of rice meals hanging from either end of the pole.

Kedai Kopi Yong Suan is famous for their nasi kandar.  Nicknamed nasi ganja.  It is said that the rice is so delicious that it is as addictive as ganja (cannabis or marijuana).

We went there.  It was a somewhat underwhelming meal.  Admittedly we were late, so most of the food was finished.  The usual selection of side dishes had been reduced to just two:  fried chicken and salted egg.

As the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.  The final blow was that by the time we had finished our meal, the chendol man, who was outside when we got to the restaurant, had sold out, packed up and gone home.

Some of us went looking for more food.  Some of us hit the highway back to KL.  Arthur and Simon opted for some pampering before heading home.

Post Ride Pampering Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The wisest choice!

R@SKLS IN SOUTHERN THAILAND: DAY 4

Day 4 Clouds Photo by Anandu Vinod on Unsplash

Photograph courtesy of Anandu Vinod on Unsplash

Day 4 dawned in the same way as Days 1, 2, and 3 did.  I was beginning to wonder if Songkran, the Thai New Year’s festival, had arrived early.  That holiday is known for its water festival, which the Thais celebrate like this.

 

Day 4 Banner 2

We had spent three days being constantly doused with water.  Day 4 would be no different.

13 of us rode to Padang Besar.  Heng Keng took over the duties of the Chief Support Officer in the van accompanying us.

Day 4 Hat Yai Hotel Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Our train to KL was scheduled to depart Padang Besar at 3.43pm.  We figured we needed about 2.5 hours to clear Immigration and Customs, get cleaned up, pack our bikes in the van, and get something to eat.

We left the hotel, in torrential rain, at about 8.15am.  That gave us about 4 hours of riding time to cover 58km / 38mi if we were going to get to Padang Besar in time to catch our train.

Day 4 Route

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

The first flat tire of the day came within 4km / 2.5mi.  It wasn’t going to be a good day for Danial.

Day 4 1st Flat Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The rain had eased off a bit by the time we got going again.

Day 4 Leaving Hat Yai Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Our next unplanned stop came after 8.5km / 5mi.  A railway line cuts diagonally across Kanjanavanich Road, at about a 45° angle.  Railway lines always pose a hazard to cyclists.

The ideal approach is to cross the tracks as close as possible to a 90° angle, thus minimizing the possibility of getting a tire stuck in the grooves between rails and tarmac.  Wet rails are slippery, so it is important to roll straight over them, without braking or turning as you are doing so.

I was the first to get to the tracks, followed by Danial and Johan S.  I was lined up to cross the tracks at an angle less than 90°, but offset enough from the rails to roll over safely.

Then I saw the potholes in the tarmac just before the rails.  I swerved to avoid the potholes, and skidded on the rails.  I don’t know how I stayed upright, but I did.

Danial and Johan S. were not so lucky.  Johan S. was unscathed, but Danial scraped an elbow, ripping his rain jacket sleeve in the process.  He also snapped the Boa cable on his right shoe.  Fortunately for both guys, the vehicles behind avoided them as they lay on the road.

As we were attending to Danial’s elbow, and jury-rigging a repair for his shoe, a motorcyclist skidded on the tracks and fell.  I suspect those tracks claimed many more victims.

The same railway line cut back across Kanjanavanich Road again 19km / 12mi later.  Having learnt from experience, we crossed very carefully, and without incident.

Day 4 2nd Railway Crossing Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

When we crossed the second set of tracks, we had been out in the elements for about two hours.  It was time to look for a bathroom and some nourishment.  Our support van driver told us that there was a 7 Eleven a few kilometers up the road.  That would do nicely.

Day 4 7 Eleven TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We ended up not getting much from the 7 Eleven.  Alfred found a banana fritter stall on the side street beside the 7-Eleven.  That is what is in the bag I am holding.  Hot, crispy, sesame seed-coated, and delicious.

TH found a chicken rice shop a few doors down from the 7-Eleven.

Day 4 Chicken Rice Lady TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Tasty chicken rice and hot chicken soup was just the ticket.

Day 4 Chicken Rice TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The 7-Eleven did come in useful.  There was a standpipe outside.  We rinsed a lot of sand and grit off our bikes and ourselves at that standpipe.

Day 4 7 Eleven Bike Wash Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Strike three for Danial happened just before the right turn toward Padang Besar.  Flat tire number two for him.

Day 4 Flat Tire Stop 2 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

This is our support van driver, sensibly sheltering from the rain under the rear door of the van.

Day 4 Flat Tire Stop Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

It was 13km / 8mi from the junction toward Padang Besar to the border crossing.

Day 4 At The Border 8 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Day 4 At The Border 7 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Day 4 At The Border 6 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Day 4 At The Border 5 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Day 4 At The Border 4 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

We were back in Malaysia.

Day 4 At The Border 3 Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Day 4 At The Border 2 AiLin Lim

Photograph courtesy of AiLin Lim

We had come full circle over four wet, but fun-filled, days.  About 375km / 233mi in all.

Day 4 Overall Route

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

When I mapped the ride to Padang Besar, it looked like we would have a 5km / 3mi ride from the border crossing to the train station.  I asked an Immigration officer if there was a shorter way to the station.

“Yes” he said.  “Across the pedestrian bridge that runs from behind the cafe over there.”

The cafe had bathrooms, and perhaps more importantly, a hose.  We had picked up yet more sand and grit since we rinsed ourselves off at the 7-Eleven.  Another rinse was mandatory.

The pedestrian bridge took us over the railway tracks and straight into the station.  Our bike transport van was waiting for us in the car park, as was our support van.  The support van had been detained at Malaysian Customs.  They wanted to scan all our bags.  Arthur persuaded them to let the van through without us all having to backtrack to Customs to claim our bags and feed them through the scanner.

It had taken us 4 hours to ride to Padang Besar, despite the unanticipated stops.  We had plenty of time to change out of our soaking cycling kit, pack our bikes into the van which would haul them back to KL, and get something to eat at the station’s self-service restaurant.

Day 4 Loading the Van Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

There was one last bit of drama at the station.  TH had lost his ticket.  And the ticket office computer system was down.  Our train was also fully-booked, which added another complication to the mix.  It took a while to sort out, with tension levels rising as our departure time approached.

TH eventually got his replacement ticket, and we were able to relax on the platform while our train was being cleaned prior to departure.

Day 4 Waiting for the ETS TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We were somewhat quieter on the return journey that we had been four days earlier on the way to Padang Besar.

Day 4 ETS Home Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

I think this sums up the situation . . .

Day 4 Low Battery

The damage to the track in KL was supposed to be rectified by the day of our return.  KL must have had the same weather we encountered in Thailand, because the repairs would not be completed until the coming Sunday.

So we had another MRT ride to end our 4 day jaunt through Southern Thailand.

Day 4 Warga Mas MRT Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Day 4 Thanks

Graphic courtesy of bitmoji

to everyone for their team spirit team and camaraderie.  We rode through some lovely countryside, had a lot of laughs, ate well, and had a very enjoyable time overall.

Khun Metharin is moving her century ride to Hat Yai in 2018.  Mark your calendars!

Postscript

Our bicycles arrived bang on time on Wednesday at Pegasus Cycles.  That is the good news.

The bad news is that four days of consistently wet and gritty conditions wreaked havoc on bottom bracket bearings.  So many of us had rough or seized BBs that Pegasus Cycles ran out of replacement bearings.

A valid excuse to buy some new bicycle stuff!

R@SKLS IN SOUTHERN THAILAND: DAY 3

 

Day 3 Hat Yai

14 of us would be riding to Hat Yai on Day 3.

Tomoe and Tommy were already back in KL.  TH had hopped into a taxi to Hat Yai after the SICR on Day 2.  Luanne, Leonard, and Kiam Woon would be driving back to KL.  Ralf and Voon Kiat would be riding back to Padang Besar, and then driving to Penang to catch their flight to Hong Kong.

Some of the Hat Yai bound R@SKLs were awake when it stopped raining at 6.30am.  WhatsApp messages started pinging around the group.  There was a common thought.  It would be nice to ride for as long as possible before it started raining again.

Those who were awake came down early to breakfast.  We decided to start cycling to Hat Yai at 8.00am, instead of the previously agreed 9.30am.  We then had to wake up the rest, so that they could get ready in time.  We got hold everyone but Arthur, who was not answering his mobile.

Day 3 Banner

Arthur appeared at breakfast at about 7.45am.  It had started raining again by then.  We eventually got going at 8.30am.  We left Arthur to take his time over his coffee, and to ride in the support van to Hat Yai.

We had our first flat tire of the day within 12km / 7.5mi of heading out into the rain.  It wouldn’t be the last.

Day 3 1st Flat Tire Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

The clouds teased us by looking like they would blow away and leave us riding under clear skies, only for more rain clouds to appear above us.

Day 3 Singing In The Rain Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 To Hat Yai Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Another stop to attend to a flat tire meant that it took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to cover 28km / 17mi.  All that stopping and starting wore us out.  We needed a rest and a snack.

Day 3 Pit Stop 4 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Day 3 Pit Stop 2 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 Pit Stop 1 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

The weather showed no sign of improving.  If anything, it looked like we would ride into heavier rain as we left the Krua Chaiyasit restaurant.

Day 3 Still Raining Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Flat tire number 3 came after 40km / 25mi of wet riding.  That presented an opportunity to grab a 100 Plus out of the support van.

Day 3 3rd Flat Tire Stop Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

While we were dealing with punctures, Ralf and Voon Kiat were riding through the border crossing on their way back to Padang Besar.

Day 3 Wang Kelian 2 Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Day 3 Wang Kelian 1 Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

With Luanne, Leonard and Kiam Woon following along in Kiam Woon’s van.

Day 3 Wang Kelian Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Ralf and Voon Kiat had the harder ride on this day.  They had to get over the Wang Kelian climb.

Our ride to Hat Yai was a leisurely one.  By 12.30pm we had covered 60km / 37mi.  That is about 15km / 9mi per hour.

So we didn’t need a rest, but we did need lunch and a bathroom.

The Transformer restaurant was a quirky place, decorated with vintage scooters, motorcycles, licence plates, etc.

Day 3 Conlax Lunch 4 Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Day 3 Conlax Lunch 5 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The restaurant obviously gets its name from this sculpture at the entrance.

Day 3 Conlax Lunch 1 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

After lunch we decided to skip a visit to Songkhla Lake, and to take the shorter, more direct route into Hat Yai.  In case you are wondering, it was still drizzling.

Day 3 On The Road 5 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 On The Road 4 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 On The Road 3 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 On The Road 2 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Day 3 On The Road 1 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

The rain got heavier as we rode along Phet Kasem Road for 35km / 22mi.  The road surface was poor in places, so we were all glad to hit the outskirts of Hat Yai.

Day 3 Entering Hat Yai 2 Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

At that point we needed help negotiating the last few kilometers to The Bed Hotel in Hat Yai.  Arthur was doing sterling service as our Chief Support Officer, working with the driver to guide us along the busy city streets.

Day 3 Chief Support Officer Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Day 3 Rolling Into Hat Yai Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Despite the best efforts of the van driver, in admittedly chaotic traffic, we had a mixup in directions.  I am embarrassed that I lost my cool at that point.

While I thought we were lost, we were in fact meters away from our hotel,  So all ended well.

Day 3 The Bed

The first thing we had to do upon arriving at the hotel was to rinse ourselves and our bikes off.  We had ridden every kilometer over the three days in the rain, but the roads on Day 3 were particularly sandy.  We were covered in grit.

Day 3 Washing Down 2 Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Day 3 Washing Down Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

While everyone else was playing with the hose, Pai and I dripped all over the lobby floor as we checked the group into the hotel.  The staff were unfazed.  Someone got a mop and cleaned up behind us.  No fuss at all.

Day 3 Dripping at Hotel Reception Johan S

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

We had some time to burn before dinner.  It was still raining, so we got the staff to open the hotel bar for us.  TH supplied the drinks, and tunes via his Bluetooth speaker, and the group provided the high spirits and laughter.

Day 3 Drinks TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The rain was still coming down at dinner time.  So plans to go farther afield for food were shelved in favour of going to the food court across the road from the hotel.  It was a good choice.  The fried chicken was excellent, as were the oyster omelettes, grilled vegetables, steamed fish, and multiple packs of mango sticky rice.

Day 3 Dinner TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

At the end of Day 3 we had another 97km / 60mi in the bag.

Day 3 Route

Map courtesy of Ride with GPS

It had been a relaxed ride, which is what we needed after the century ride the previous day.  We didn’t have a deadline to meet, so we could take our time.

That wouldn’t be the case on Day 4.  We would have a train to catch.

 

But first . . .

Day 3 Time to Sleep

Graphic courtesy of superlife.com

R@SKLs in Southern Thailand: Day 2

SICR Banner 2

Graphic courtesy of Satun International Century Ride 2017

Some of us were awake very early in the morning, and listening to the rain falling outside.  It had rained all night.

The weather forecast gave us little comfort.

Day 2 Weather Mark Lim

Another reason for being awake so early was so that I could have breakfast.  When I was checking in, I asked the receptionist what time breakfast would be served.

“6.30am” was the answer.

I told her that we wouldn’t be eating breakfast because the SICR was starting at 6.30am.

“What time would you like breakfast?” she asked.

I said “5.30am.”

“We’ll have it ready at 5.00am” she replied.

I love the Thai service ethic.

I expected to get a Continental breakfast at best.  Pastries and coffee.  What we got was more than a Continental breakfast.

A most excellent start to the day.

 

Day 2 Breakfast 5

We were all dressed and sorting out our bicycles at just after 6.00am.  Chain lube was in high demand.  The very wet conditions the day before had flushed all traces of lubricant from everyone’s drive trains.

Day 2 Seting Up to Start Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Ralf won the prize for the best jersey design with his lederhosen look.

Day 2 Hotel Leonard Yee

Photograph courtesy of Leonard Yee

There was more food and drink available at the SICR start.  And, of course, the opportunity for more photographs.

Day 2 Start 1 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

I was asked to share the English version of Khun Metharin’s request for us to ride safely in the wet conditions.

Day 2 Announcements TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

As forecast, the rain was still falling when we started riding, and, if anything, it got heavier over the next few hours.

While we were out in the rain, Danial and Jeff enjoyed a relaxed, and dry, morning.  We would see them both back on their bikes on Monday.

Day 2 Non-Riders Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

By the 40km / 25mi point we were all keen for a rest stop that was dry.  We were on a rural road, with not much around us but rubber trees.  We came upon a petrol station after 50km / 31mi, and grabbed the chance to visit a bathroom, and buy some fresh pineapple and other munchies.

Day 2 Pit Stop 1 AiLin Lim

Photograph courtesy of AiLin Lim

We waited at the petrol station for those behind us to catch up.  We stopped waiting when one of us was sent this photograph of Luanne enjoying a bowl of hot noodles.

Day 2 Hot Noodles Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Some others had been held up before they had left the Satun city limits.  Something about retrieving a bottle which had been left on the roadside the evening before.

The wet and cool weather was actually a help, rather than a hindrance.  Riding in overcast and 20°C / 68°F conditions is definitely preferable to riding in sunny and 35°C / 95°F heat.  Lay and I were commenting about how much easier it was to ride in this year’s SICR as compared to last year’s, when it was sunny and 35°C / 95°F.

We needed another stop as we approached 80km / 50mi.  We were still out in the countryside.  A small petrol station again came to our rescue.

4km / 2.5mi later we saw Tomoe.  She had been the fastest of the R@SKLs, but had just suffered her second flat tire of the day.  There was already someone helping her change her tire, so we rode on.

By this time we had lost Marvin and Ridzuwan from our group.  They had lingered a bit longer at the 80km / 50mi stop.  We didn’t see them again until the finish.  I wish we had stuck with them.  They found a Cafe Amazon for their next food stop.  Those brownies look good!

Day 2 Lattes and Brownies Break Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

At 115km / 71.4mi we stopped at yet another petrol station.  By this time we were on a multi-lane highway.  Which is not as bad as it sounds.  Roads in Thailand are for the most part very-well maintained.  The road surfaces are smooth, and the road shoulders are wide and free of debris.

Because we were on a highway, the petrol station was bigger, and it had a 5 Time convenient store and an outdoor food stall.  Fortunately the food stall was under large umbrellas, so we stayed dry while we ate.

Day 2 Food Stop

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps

Tomoe caught up with us while we were eating.  That second puncture put paid to her hope of finishing by noon.  Both she and Tommy had to be back in KL that nght.  Their train from Padang Besar to KL was leaving at 4.55pm.  Given the one hour time difference between Thailand and Malaysia, they needed to be on their way to Padang Besar from Satun at 1.00pm Thai time.

I telephoned three R@SKLs whom I knew were behind us.  I assumed that our support van would be near them.

None of them answered their mobiles.

Then I dialled Tommy’s number.  I should have called him first.  He was already in our support van, which had just driven past the food stall where we were.  Tommy had seen all our bikes parked there.  He got the van to turn around and go back to pick up Tomoe.

They got back to Satun in time to clean up, and leave for Padang Besar as planned.

Day 2 Tomoe and Tommy to Padang Besar Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Our stop lasted 40 minutes.  The food was good, and it was nice to be out of the rain for a while.

We had a further 11km / 7mi on the 416 highway before we turned right onto the quieter 3001.  Most of us shot past that turn, because it was at the bottom of a short but straight descent.  By the time we noticed the marshall signalling for us to turn right, we were going too fast for our wet brakes to slow us down in time.

The group I was in was now down to 6.  The last 26km / 16mi were through more rubber plantations.   It was nice to see so many rubber trees.  That is a sight from my childhood.  Almost all the rubber in Malaysia has since been replanted with oil palm.

There were a lot of big earthworms on the road.  As thick as my little finger, and up to 30cm / 12in long.  The wet conditions make it safe for earthworms to move to new places, as their skins can stay moist so that oxygen can pass through.

We made one last stop to regroup where we turned off the 3001 onto the 4051.  From there we had 10km / 6mi to cover to get back to the Satun Boutique Resort.  The marshall at that junction said that we were the leaders of the second group on the road.  That sounded odd to us.  6 hours and 15 minutes had elapsed since we left the start.  Only 68 riders were participating, but it seemed very unlikely that we were amongst the leaders.

Imagine our surprise when we were told at the finish that I, Voon Kiat, Ralf and Lay had finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in our age group, and that AiLin had finished 4th in her age group.

As I have come to expect from events organized by Khun Metharin, there was a tasty buffet lunch at the finish.  We ate while waiting for the rest of the R@SKLs to finish.

Day 2 Finish 2 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Once everyone had finished, there was a little prize-giving ceremony.  I made sure to savour the moment.  Lightning isn’t going to strike twice.  I can’t see any more podium finishes in my future.

Day 2 Podium Finishers Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Day 2 Podium Finishers 2 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Then it was time for the lucky draw.  There weren’t many riders still at the finish, so our chances of winning a prize were good.  And win prizes we did.  Three of us won back packs, and a case of milk went to Heng Keng.

Day 2 Lucky Draw 3 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Day 2 Lucky Draw 1 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Day 2 Lucky Draw 2 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We had podium finishers, lucky draw winners, and 1st time century ride finishers in Alfred and Voon Kiat.  A very successful day out for the R@SKLs.

Day 2 Finish TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Day 2 Route

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

I was pleased to hear later that Tomoe and Tommy made it to Padang Besar in time for Tomoe to pack up her bike to be loaded into the bike transport van, and to catch their train to KL.

Day 2 Tomoe Packing Bike Thomas Tan

Photograph courtesy of Thomas Tan

Our fun didn’t end at the conclusion of the SICR festivities.  It had been Voon Kiat’s birthday a few days earlier.  To celebrate, he bought us dinner at an excellent beef and chicken noodle shop.

Day 2 Dinner Noodles Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had made a new friend in Satun the evening before.  Gini had arrived at the Satun Boutique Resort at about the same time we did, after our ride from Padang Besar.  She is from Penang, and had taken ferries from Penang to Langkawi, and from Langkawi to Satun.

Gini joined us for dinner.

Day 2 Gini AiLin Lim

Photograph courtesy of AiLin Lim

The birthday boy got a cake.

Day 2 Birthday Boy Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Everybody had a great time.  Thank you Voon Kiat for dinner and drinks.  Very best wishes for many more birthdays to come.

Day 2 Birthday Party Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Given the flow of gin and whiskey before and during dinner, we agreed on a 9.00am start for our ride to Hat Yai.

“Yes” it was still raining as we walked back to our hotel.

Day 2 Rain Photo by reza shayestehpour on Unsplash

Photograph courtesy of reza shayestehpour on Unsplash

R@SKLs in Southern Thailand: Day 1

Day 1 Banner

The chatter about a R@SKLs road trip to Southern Thailand started in August.  The announcement for the Satun International Century Ride 2017 had just come out.  A small group of us did a bike tour around the 2016 edition of the SICR.  That was a lot of fun, and I was keen to do it again.

Day 1 Intro Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Photograph courtesy of chuttersnap on Unsplash

By the end of August, the planning for a four-day / three-night excursion was in full swing.  By the end of October, 22 R@SKLs had signed up.  Including Ralf and Voon Kiat from Hong Kong.  They flew into Penang, rented a car, and met us at the Malaysia / Thai border.

Day 0 Penang Arrival Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

The trip started in earnest on Friday, with the loading of bikes into the van which would transport them to Padang Besar.  It was a tight fit, but we got 17 bicycles, some in hard cases, into the van.

Day 0 Bikes Packed Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

For those who worked out that 2 + 17 bikes are not enough for 22 riders:  well done!  The remaining 3 bikes were in Kiam Woon’s van.  3 R@SKLs drove to Padang Besar on Saturday morning.

Day 1 Driving to Padang Besar Lee Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

15 of us met before 8.00am on Saturday at KL Sentral station to catch an MRT train to Sungai Buloh station.

Day 1 Sentral Station Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

A derailment near the Bank Negara station earlier in the week meant that the ETS service to Padang Besar couldn’t depart from KL Sentral, and would instead leave from Sungai Buloh.  Hence the ride on the very new MRT line to Sungai Buloh.

Day 1 MRT to Sungai Buloh TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The numerate amongst you have realised that 2 + 3 + 15 does not equal 22.  Alfred and Pai went by car to Sungai Buloh.  17 of us boarded the ETS train to Padang Besar.

Day 1 ETS 1 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The ETS service is pretty good.  The trains run at up to 140kph / 87mph.  The scheduled travel time for the Platinum service, which makes fewer stops enroute than the Gold service, is 5 hours 15 minutes.  KL to Padang Besar by road is about 505km / 314m.

The onboard Bistro makes food stops unnecessary!

Day 1 ETS Hit the Bistro Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

You could tell that we were excited to start riding.  The train was still 30 minutes from Padang Besar, and most of us had already changed into our cycling kit.

Day 1 ETS 2 Changed Into Kit Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The need to transfer to Sungai Buloh did mean that we arrived in Padang Besar later than scheduled.  What concerned us more was that it was raining as we pulled into Padang Besar.

It was a relief to see that the van with our bikes was waiting for us at the station.  The driver had been stopped enroute by the police, who wanted to know why he had a van full of bicycles.  Simon had to write an authorization letter for the van driver to carry with him on the return journey on Tuesday.

The 5 travelling by road had also arrived safely, so we were finally a complete group of 22.

Day 1 Unpacking Bikes AiLin Lim

Photograph courtesy of AiLin Lim

Bikes were unloaded, bike cases were unpacked, and bikes were reassembled.  We had arranged for a Thai van and driver to act as a support vehicle during our four days in Thailand.  We loaded our luggage into the support van, and gathered for a photograph.

Day 1 Padang Besar Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Then we rode out into the rain to start KM1 of the 375km / 233mi we would cover over the entire trip.

Day 1 On Our Way TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The challenge for the day came 16km / 10mi after we started.  The climb to Kampung Wang Kelian.  240 meters / 787 feet of elevation over 3km / 1.9mi.

Day 1 Wang Kelian Climb 2 Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Happy riders at the crest of the hill, with a few more making it up the final meters.

Day 1 Wang Kelian Climb 1 Marvin Tan

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Johan S. went exploring up the road you see branching off the the right behind the group in the photograph above.  He came back down and told us it that the view was worth the extra climbing.

He was right.  The panoramic view was stunning.

Day 1 View 4

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

We were glad we came up here.

Day 1 Wang Kelian View Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The equally steep descent on wet roads got the adrenaline flowing.  Everyone negotiated the hairpin bends successfully, and we all got safely to our next stop at the 25km / 15.5mi mark.  The Wang Prachan border crossing.

We rode right up to the Malaysian Immigration office window.

Day 1 Immigration Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

After we cleared Malaysian Immigration we filled in our arrival forms and presented our passports at the Thai Immigration office window.

Day 1 Immigration Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Border formalities were completed in a matter of minutes, and we were at the Thai-Malaysia Border Weekend Market, which, despite its name, operates on all seven days of the week.

Reliant as we are on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other mobile apps, most of us bought Thai SIM cards at the market.  THB250 / USD7.65 for a week’s worth of unlimited data.

Day 1 SIM Card Shopping Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

It hadn’t stopped raining or drizzling since we left Padang Besar.  We were soaked, and the 21°C / 70°F air temperature meant that we were chilled as we restarted and picked up speed after our stop at the border crossing.  We are thin-blooded in the Tropics!

We had a couple of short stops at major road junctions to regroup, and to make sure no one went off-course.  Each time it took a while to get my core temperature up again.  We stopped another time for a flat tire with 10km / 6mi to go.  It was approaching 6.00pm by then, and it was getting dark.  Thailand is on GMT +9, whilst Malaysia is on GMT +8.

That last 10km was ridden in the rain and the dark.  Unbeknownst to me, there was another flat tire just after we restarted.  When I got to the final turn to the Satun Boutique Resort (which I managed to miss initially, forcing a u-turn across a busy Satun Thani Road), I had lost a number of the group who had stopped to help with the latest flat tire.

Fortunately our accommodation, The One Boutique Hotel, was on Satun Thani Road, about 400 meters before the turning to the Satun Boutique Resort.  Those who got detached from the rest of us were able to find the hotel and check in.

The rest of us were greeted at the Satun Boutique Resort by Khun Metharin Pongratchatakaran and her team from WeSee, the organisers of the SICR 2017.

We had gone to the resort to collect our ride packs.  To my dismay, I discovered that I had somehow missed Kiam Woon when I registered the group for the SICR.  To my relief, Khun Metharin was able to add Kiam Woon to the list of participants, and to give him a race pack.

The highlight of our stop at the resort was the large pot of hot kai chok (chicken congee).  Just what the doctor ordered after a wet and cold ride.  We all knocked back at least two bowls of kai chok each.  Hot coffee and cakes were on offer as well.  You can tell from our faces that we felt better, having eaten, by the time this photograph was taken.

Day 1 Arrival TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We all rinsed the sand and mud off our bikes, and ourselves, with the hose at the rear of the Satun Boutique Hotel.  We needed a good clean.

Day 1 Splattered Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

We had 67km / 42mi in the bag.

Day 1 Route

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

The support van was at the hotel with our luggage.  Our rooms were ready.  I took a shower in my cycling kit in an attempt to get it relatively clean.  I didn’t need any more food.  The SICR 2017 would flag off at 6.30am.

It was my bedtime.

Day 1 Bedtime

Graphic courtesy of Bitmoji

R@SKLs in the Rain

Rain Banner Photo by reza shayestehpour on Unsplash.png

It is that time of the year in Malaysia.  The northeast monsoon is here.  Enough rain will fall in the next few months to cause flooding in parts of the country.

Both our rides last weekend were interrupted by heavy rain.  On Saturday we got as far as Jenjarom, from Kota Kemuning, before the heavens opened.  We ducked into a coffee shop on Lorong 3.  Some of us had stopped here a week before.  The nasi lemak and the chee cheong fun were good.

R@SKL Rain Jenjarom 1 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The chee cheong fun stall had moved to parts unknown, but the nasi lemak lady was there.  With her chicken curry and sambal petai.

R@SKL Rain Jenjarom 8 Pai Hsing C

Photograph courtesy of Hsing Chou Pai

We were still at that coffee shop an hour later.  The rain had not stopped.  Some of us had a second breakfast.  Others watched movies in their mobile phones.

R@SKL Rain Jenjarom 5 Pai Hsing C

Photograph courtesy of Hsing Chou Pai

Eventually we gave up waiting, and headed out into the rain.

This is known as taking advantage!

R@SKL Rain Jenjarom 2 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The rain had become a drizzle by the time we got back to Kota Kemuning.  Some of us decided to continue on to Bandar Botanik, for some extra kilometers.

 

We stopped at a coffee shop in Bandar Botanik, ostensibly for a short rest.

You would have thought that everyone was still full from the double breakfasts at Jenjarom.

But no!

Some of the guys couldn’t resist the Sup Tulang, a Malay style bone marrow soup, usually made out of beef bone marrow.

The rain had stopped.  Happy faces all around!

R@SKL Rain Jenjarom 3 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

There was a trace of sunshine as we rode back to our cars.

nicolas-brown-233011

Photo by Nicolas Brown on Unsplash

It was more of the same on Sunday.  It had rained hard overnight, so the roads were wet as we made our way from Bukit Jelutong and over the humps along Persiaran Mokhtar Dahari.  The Dragon’s Back.

R@SKL Rain Ijok 6 Danial Shaz

Photograph courtesy of Danial Shaz

There were more very wet roads as we continued towards Ijok.

R@SKL Rain Ijok 5 Danial Shaz

Photograph courtesy of Danial Shaz

The rain started again just as we got to Ijok.  What to do but to duck into our regular Ijok coffee shop for breakfast, while waiting for the rain to stop?

R@SKL Rain Ijok 7 Alex Wong

Photograph courtesy of Alex Wong

Forty five minutes later, it was clear that the rain was not going to let up.  If anything, it was getting heavier.  So we all got thoroughly soaked, both from the rain and the spray from the wheels in front of us, as we rode along the LATAR Highway to the Kundang Timur R&R.

R@SKL Rain Ijok 4 Alex Wong

Photograph courtesy of Alex Wong

More riding in the rain to the Elmina R&R on the Guthrie Corridor Expressway.  And some singing and dancing in the rain when we got there.

R@SKL Rain Ijok 3 WK Woo

Photograph courtesy of WK Woo

We rode in the rain all the way back to Bukit Jelutong.  Fortunately the volume of rain had lessened by the time we got to the d’Bayu carpark.  We were able to load bicycles into vehicles without the interiors getting soaked.

rubens-mittag-351429

Photo by Rubens Mittag on Unsplash

It is raining, and thunder is rumbling, as I type this.  We have rides planned for this weekend.  The odds are not good for dry rides.

But hope springs eternal!

chelsea-aaron-313416

Photo by Chelsea Aaron on Unsplash

Happy Birthday To Me!

eTap Logo

Graphic courtesy of SRAM LLC

I have been a SRAM user since I started riding a road bike in January 2010.

I watched with envy as Shimano launched an electronic groupset, the Dura-Ace Di2, in 2009.  This was followed by the Ultegra Di2 in 2011.  The other of the big-three groupset manufacturers, Campagnolo, launched their first electronic groupsets, Record EPS and Super Record EPS, in 2011 as well.

SRAM finally launched an electronic version of its Red groupset, known as eTap, in August 2015.  So SRAM was late to the party.  But they brought one trick to the party that Shimano and Campagnolo could not match.  SRAM’s electronic groupset was wireless.  No need for shifter cables.

eTap Wireless

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

The geek in me was instantly intrigued.  Wireless shifting.  How cool was that?  I wanted it.  My enthusiasm was doused however, when I discovered that eTap was available with a short cage rear derailleur (RD) only.  The maximum sized cog that the short cage RD can accomodate is one with 28 teeth.  I run a cassette with a 32 tooth rear cog.

It wasn’t until October 2016 that SRAM announced a Red eTap WiFli RD, which fits up to a 32 tooth rear cog.  It then took a while for the eTap WiFli RD to become available in Malaysia.

eTap RDs

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

Fast-forward to October 2017.  eTap WiFli RDs had hit Malaysian shores.  And I had a milestone birthday coming up.  A perfect excuse to treat myself to a present.

I bought the upgrade kit, which includes left and right shifters, a WiFli RD and an FD, a charger, brake cables, and a firmware update dongle.

eTap Group

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

I’ve put about 1,300km on my eTap groupset so far.  Enough to need to recharge the RD battery, which is rated at 60 hours of use per charge.  The front derailleur (FD) uses an identical battery.  Battery life on the FD is 90 hours.  The RD and FD batteries are interchangeable.  Which would be very convenient in the event one battery, most likely the RD one, dies mid-ride.  The batteries clip into a standalone USB charger, which takes about one hour to fully charge a battery.

eTap Charger

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

Each of the eTap shifters use standard CR2032 coin batteries, which are expected to last for 24 months.  Lights on each of the components indicate remaining battery life.  Green, changing to red, and then flashing red as the batteries are depleted.

eTap Battery Light

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

I have been delighted with the Red eTap shifting performance.  The shifting logic is very simple.  One tap on the right shifter moves the chain one cog down the cassette.  One tap on the left shifter moves the chain on cog up the cassette.  Holding either shifter down moves the chain across multiple cogs.

Tapping both shifters simultaneously toggles the FD between big and small chainrings.  The most noticeable difference between the Red eTap and the Red mechanical groupsets is in FD shifting.  The eTap FD shifts faster than the mechanical version, and it seems impossible to drop the chain while shifting the eTap FD.

eTap RD shifting is said to be marginally slower than it is on the Red mechanical groupset.  I can’t tell the difference.

Where I do notice a difference is at the shifters.  The eTap shifters are quieter than their mechanical counterparts. With the eTap levers, light pressure on either paddle generates a barely audible but tactile click, and a shift takes place.  All the work is done by the derailleur motors.  The rider does not have to generate the force needed to move the derailleurs.

The eTap shifters are aso easier to use for multiple shifts.  On SRAM mechanical shifters, the right lever has to be pushed quite far inboard to execute a multiple shift up the cassette.  Depending upon your hand position, this can be quite a strain on the wrist.

eTap DoubleTap Shift

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

You do not need to sweep the eTap levers inward to move the chain across multiple cogs on the cassette.  The RD will keep shifting the chain for as long as you press on the shifter paddle.

Still on the shifting front, a feature which eTap shares with Di2 and EPs is remote shift buttons.  In SRAM’s world these are called Blips.

eTap Blips

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

Each shift lever can accomodate two Blips, so you can install a set of so-called ‘sprint’ shifters on the inside curve of the drops, and have two more Blips on the top of the bar, working as ‘climbing’ shifters.

I put a set of Blips on the top of the bar, near the stem.  I am still fiddling with the positioning of those Blips, but they work well as thumb-activated shifters when I have my hands on the top of the bar.

A drawback of the Blip design is that the underside of each switch is shaped to fit a round bar.  Blip clamps are available, but they too are shaped for a round bar.  Users of bars with flattened tops have to either install the Blips underneath bar tape, or use double-sided tape to stick the Blips to the bar.

Another difference between eTap and mechanical groupsets is that eTap uses ANT+ to communicate with Garmin and Wahoo bike computers.  This means that you can display a data screen which shows, for example, battery charge levels, and the gear combination that you are in.

eTap Garmin Display

Photograph courtesy of SRAM LLC

Note the Blips installed on the round bar using Blip clamps.

I am very happy with my birthday present.  Shifting has been flawless, even during very wet rides.  The Blips are a great addition too.

My equipment now probably exceeds my dedication.  But as my friends tell me, you only live once!

eTap Tagline

Graphic courtesy of SRAM LLC