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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Your Country Very Hot

My biker chick ZAZ and I have moved a number of times from our tropical home to more temperate climes.  Each time we struggled initially with the cold but we did get used to it.  Almost without noticing our increasing tolerance for low temperatures.  Until we got home again.

We have a catchphrase that we use with each other a lot in the first few months back home.  “Your country very hot.”  I shouldn’t be surprised that we have to reacclimatize to the heat and humidity.   It does take a few months before I don’t feel the need to take four or five showers a day.

Yesterday’s ride confirmed that I am not yet used to being back in a hot and humid country.  I was invited to ride the Broga 116.  I had expected to be part of a group ride.  What I hadn’t expected was that I would be part of a highly organized group ride.  A group ride with two SAG support vehicles, three water stops, photographers along the route, lunch at the finish, a t-shirt, and in a first for me at any organized ride, a route ‘tulip‘ sticker for my top tube.

All put together by a cycling club, without commercial sponsorship, for anyone who was willing to pay RM 30 / USD 10 to participate.  At least fifty of us stumped up the cash and were ready to roll from the car park at the Sungai Tekala Recreation area at 7.30 am.
I had three 25 ounce bottles of Nuun-treated water, a layer of sunscreen on every bit of exposed skin, and a cap under my helmet to soak up sweat.  In other words I was unprepared for the heat and humidity.

On previous rides I had noticed that my average pulse rate was 10 to 15 bpm higher than it had been in the Netherlands.  I knew that was because of the higher ambient temperature in Kuala Lumpur.  It was about 28C / 82F with a relative humidity over 80% at the start.  It would get considerably warmer as the sun rose in the sky.  That fact should have been my first warning that I would have a tough day.

Graph courtesy of The National Weather Service at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/heat/index.shtml

The second warning came 35 km into the ride, in the form of the first climb of the day.  The Bukit Mandom 1 climb is only 1 km but it has grades of up to 10.2%.  By the time I had crested that climb sweat was dripping onto my top tube and I was already into my second bottle.  The descent at 60 kph plus cooled me off a little but that was scant respite.  After 1 km the road tipped upward again as Bukit Mandom 2 presented itself.  By the time I completed the 1.8 km to the crest of that hill I knew for certain that it would just get tougher as the ride progressed.

As indeed it did.  Bukit Tangga (literally Stairway Hill) was bigger and badder than the previous two hills.  I started cramping in both quadriceps on the lower slopes and had to stop 3 km into the climb to stretch.  If nothing else that gave me the opportunity to take this photo of my fellow cyclists grinding up the hill.

The spasms from heat cramps in my quadriceps were my constant and faithful companion for the rest of the ride.  Whenever the grade kicked up above 6% I had to slow down to below 10 kph.  I found that if I rode in my inner ring /  largest cog combination (why oh why didn’t I have my compact crank?) and maintained a very slow cadence I could continue to pedal without completely cramping up.  The observant among you, dear readers, will have noticed from the route tulip that the planners had saved the biggest climb of the day for the end.  13 km long and a total of 470 meters upwards.  I have never been so glad to to see the back side of a hill.

Nevertheless I took several positives from this ride.  The organisation was excellent.  Which was a very good thing.  The water stops saved me from becoming severely dehydrated.  I had 75 ounces / 2.2 liters of fluid in my bottles at the start of the ride, which turned out to be woefully insufficient.  I picked up at least another 2 liters of water at the stops, along with, pardon the pun, a bunch of bananas.

The views, when I wasn’t staring fixedly at my front wheel so that I wouldn’t have to look up at the never-ending slope ahead of me, were lush and verdant.

I learned that Aesop knew what he was talking about.  My slow and steady 6 to 8 kph up Genting Peres meant that I caught and passed a number of other riders who had started the climb at speed but then had to stop for a breather before the top.  And I finished the ride on my bike and not in a SAG support vehicle.  Not that I am competitive or anything!

Our sea freight had been delivered so I was able to do the ride in my Not Possibles jersey.

Best of all I made new friends, courtesy of Syihan Nik, who invited me to do the Broga 116.  By the way I still haven’t decided if I should thank him or thump him.  Here are Syihan and I early in the day, looking and feeling considerably better than we did at the end.  As you will soon see.

I finished the 114 km soaked in sweat but my cooling mechanism hadn’t coped very well with the conditions.
Despite cold showers and iced drinks my core temperature stayed elevated for the rest of the day.  So there is no doubt about it ZAZ.  Your country very hot.

Going Really Long

To go long or to go short.  That was the decision to be made before every Six Thirty evening ride.  The long route is about 32 km / 20 mi.  The short route is about 20 km / 12 mi.  I cycled to and from West End Bicycles for the rides, which added 13 km / 8 mi to the distance I covered.  Just as I was getting used to the demands of going long it was time for the 2010 Humble Lions Bike Ride.  The Humble Lions Club runs this ride every year as a fundraiser to benefit handicapped and diabetic children.

This was an 89 km / 55 mi ride.  Just a bit longer than I had covered in one ride before.  Ever.

I remember it being quite chilly at the 8:00 am start.  And thinking that the first rest stop came up very quickly at just 11 km / 7 mi into the ride.  I remember riding into a headwind every time the road turned southward between the 25 km / 15.5 mi and the 45 km / 28 mi points.  And being happy to see the rest stop at the end of a 5 km / 3 mi drag along Bohemian Hall Road to the intersection with Farm to Market Road 1942.

Here are some of the Six Thirty folk at that 45th km rest stop.  Tom B. is resplendent in his West End jersey.

Photo courtesy of Rick Ankrum at texbiker.net/blog/

I’m not sure what  Barbara L. and Laura J. are doing.  Pulling their gloves off perhaps, as the sun had taken the chill out of the air.

Photo courtesy of Rick Ankrum at texbiker.net/blog/

We were served hot breakfast tacos at the next rest stop.  I ate two.  It was a further 16 km / 10 mi to the stop at Alexander Deussen Park.  By that point I had ridden 70 km / 43.5 mi.  A new personal distance record.  More importantly, although I was a bit tired I still felt good about being able to finish the ride.  I remember being really thrilled about being able to pull the group along for 2 km right at the end of the ride.  We hit 39 kph / 24 mph before slowing for the final kilometer into the start / finish area in the Humble Civic Center Arena.

89 km / 55 mi.  With the help of my Six Thirty friends I had gone really long.  And I had the t-shirt to prove it.

Photo courtesy of Rick Ankrum at texbiker.org/blog/

Ride and Shine

I did an organized sightseeing ride around Shah Alam today with the Cyclistis.  “Ride and Shine” is the best translation of the Bahasa Malaysia name for this ride that I can come up with.

This was a family-oriented event.  There were 100 or so men, women and children on the start line at 7.30am, including the Cyclistis group.

Photo courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

The majority were on mountain bikes, with the rest on a mix of road bikes, fixies and foldies, including a few Moultons with their frames made up of a lattice of small-diameter tubes.  This Moulton TSR 30 has a Campagnolo Veloce groupset and a colour-matched Brooks B17 saddle to boot.

Photo courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

Full marks to the Shah Alam City Council for their excellent organization.  There was no entry fee to participate in this ride.  Despite this there were police personnel who ensured we had the right-of-way at all intersections, a lead vehicle with flashing lights to clear the lane for us, six motorcycle outriders to keep us separated from other traffic on the roads, a minibus and lorry to provide SAG support, and three rest stops with water and food.

I worked in Shah Alam from 1985 to 1990.  Apart from being the state capital of Selangor, Shah Alam was best known then for the main campus of the MARA Institute of Technology.  The campus was surrounded by homes and there was a small commercial centre.  Shah Alam has grown by leaps and bounds since I worked there.  It gained city status in 2000.  The 42 km route took us north of the Shah Alam city center into what was jungle twenty five years ago.  Now the wilderness has been replaced by a series of residential neighborhoods:  Bukit Jelutong, Sunway Kayangan, Kayangan Heights, Desa Subang Permai, Denai Alam and others.

The weather was thankfully overcast so we stayed as cool as is possible in the tropics.  The pace was gentle so there was no need to work too hard on the climbs.  There was plenty of time to enjoy the views and, in these connected times, to get caught up at the rest stops.

It was noon when we finished the ride.  Adzuan, Farid and I decided to have a nasi kandar lunch.  The name derives from the time when hawkers would carry rice (nasi) and a variety of curries and side dishes in two large containers hanging from opposite ends of a long pole or yoke (kandar).

Photo courtesy of Buruhanudeen at http://bdeen.blogspot.com/

Hawkers walking the streets balancing a pole on one shoulder have been replaced by nasi kandar restaurants.  There is a Nasi Kandar Pelita restaurant within a kilometer of where the ride ended.  My lunch was a plate of steaming rice, chicken, cabbage, green beans, curry gravy and, naturally, a teh tarik.  I think I replaced the calories I burned on this morning’s ride.

“The Hills Are Alive . . .” *

When I found out that I was moving back to Kuala Lumpur, Farid was one of the first people I contacted about riding.  He and I were colleagues at Hess Corporation.  At the time he rode motorbikes.  I assume he still has his motorbike.  These days he also hits the roads on his red and white Colnago Ace.

This morning was the first opportunity we had to ride together.  Farid rides with the Cyclistis.  A group afflicted with the love of cycling.  Early starts are essential if you want to avoid the midday heat.  I was in the car at 6.45am for the twenty eight kilometers to the meeting point.  Adzuan, Asyraf, Farid, Syihan and I met around the corner from the police station at Pekan Batu 18, a village at the 18th mile on the Hulu Langat road.

Kuala Lumpur sits in a basin and is surrounded by hills.  My compact crankset will get a lot of use here.  Our route took us steadily upward from the start.  We turned onto Jalan Sungai Lui and rode through rolling countryside for the first 10 kms.  The approach to Kampung Gemi marked the first true climb of the day.  60 meters / 200 ft in 1.4 km.

The payoff was the 2.5 km descent to Tasik Semenyih.  This is a man-made lake.   It is one of the reservoirs that provides fresh water to Kuala Lumpur and other towns and cities in the Klang Valley.  The dam holding back the lake is visible in the distance.

We rode through more rolling terrain along the western shore of the lake.  In the Netherlands you have to be alert for ducks, geese and rabbits crossing the bike paths.  Here we have to watch out for a different animal.

In the Netherlands all the water is horizontal; in canals and lakes.  The heavy rain we have had here over the past couple of weeks is feeding lots of these alongside the roads.

At the far end of the lake we hit a 500 meter stretch that dropped at better than 6.5°.  No problem with ‘riding’ my age there.  The problem came just a few minutes later when we turned around to retrace our route.  Going up that 500 meter stretch wasn’t as much fun.

I took a short detour at the 30 km point.  They guys had told me about a steep climb up Jalan Sungai Tekali.  I thought I would take a look at it.  It certainly was steep with a grade of better than 9°.  A taste was all I wanted so I stopped after 500 meters and waited for a car to go past before turning around.  I forgot that I was in a very small gear.  As I turned my bike I pushed down hard on my pedal and my front wheel lifted off the ground.  In a dejà vu moment, considering the topic of my last post, I tumbled to the ground.  In typical roadie fashion I first checked to see if my bike was okay.  It was.  I on the other hand had a bloodied elbow and a bruised hip.

I have learned a few tricks since I started riding here.  One is to add a towel and a bottle of water to my riding kit bag.  Essential for wiping oneself down after a hot and sweaty ride if you want to be presentable post-ride.  Here are my very presentable fellow Cyclistis; Asyraf, Adzuan, Hairi (who started late on his mountain bike and caught up with us at the end of the ride) , Syihan and Farid, after the mandatory teh tarik and roti canai.

 

* Title courtesy of The Sound of Music.

A Rite of Passage

I was eager to take my new road bike out onto the streets of Houston for an inaugural ride.  However there was something I had to learn to do before I went out on the road.  My hybrid bike had a pair of these . . .

My new road bike came with a pair of these . . .

Clipless pedals were new to me.  James F. had recommended these Speedplay Zero pedals because they are dual-sided.  That would save me from having to flip the pedals around to the ‘right’ side in order to clip in.  I just had to align the cleats on the bottoms of my Sidi Genius 5-Pro Mega cycling shoes with the pedals and push down.  An audible click would signify that the cleats were locked to the pedals.  Clipping out of the pedals seemed easy enough to do too.  Rotating my heels outward would release the cleats from the pedals.

I practiced using my clipless pedals in the safety of the parking area in my apartment building.  I pushed one foot down on the pedal, heard a click and felt the cleat engage.  I turned the crank to get the bike moving.  I put my other foot on the opposite pedal and pushed down.  Another click and I was clipped in.  As I circled the parking lot I mentally rehearsed the action to release my cleats from my pedals.  Rotate heels outward.  Rotate heels outward.  I unclipped, came to a stop and put my feet on the ground.  Success!  I repeated the process of clipping in and out or my pedals a dozen times.  Each time without mishap.  I was ready for the road.

My apartment building had a multi-story car park.  I was on the third floor.  I clipped in to my pedals and set off.  I successfully negotiated the turns and ramps down to the ground floor.  I rolled through the car park exit and made the right-turn onto Travis Street.  As I approached the intersection with Walker Street the traffic light turned red.  I squeezed my brakes and lifted my right heel.  My cleat did not disengage from the pedal.  Unclipping had gone so well just minutes earlier.  I lifted my right heel again.  My cleat did not disengage.  Why wasn’t this working?  I was two yards from the intersection.  The light was still red.  Panic rose in my chest.  I yanked my heel up.  And toppled over onto the street.  To the amusement of the six or seven people at this bus stop.

Perhaps it was embarrassment that made the lesson stick.  ROTATE your heels, not lift.