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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Too Wet to Ride?

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I bought my first book about cycling not long after I got my first road bike.  As with bikes I didn’t stop at one book.  I don’t have room in the apartment for another bike.  There is not much I can do about that.  I don’t have room on the shelf for another book about cycling.  Hello Kindle!

That first book was “The Rider” by Tim Krabbé.  Krabbé puts the reader inside the head of a competitor in a French cycling race, the Tour du Mont Aigoual.  Krabbé captures in tremendous detail the nuances of road-racing strategy, mixed in with snippets of cycling history.  I was hooked on cycling books.


I have since filled a 90cm / 35.5in shelf with cycling books.  Some are easy to classify.  Books about individual cyclists for example.  Toward the right side of the shelf sits “Put Me Back on my Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson” by William Fotheringham.  The ultimately tragic story of a man best remembered for dying on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France.


William Fotheringham also wrote the next rider biography on my bookshelf, “Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi.”  The life story of perhaps the greatest of Italian cyclists.

Fallen Angel

Then comes “Major” by Todd Balf.  About Marshall Walter Taylor, at one time the world’s fastest man on two wheels and America’s first African American sports celebrity.


William Fotheringham appears again on my bookshelf, this time as the author of “Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike.”  Eddy Merckx is widely considered to be the greatest professional cyclist ever.  He won 525 races during his career, including five Tours de France, four Giros d’Italia and three world championships.


Frederico Bahamontes was known as “The Eagle of Toledo” for his exceptional climbing ability.  He won numerous King of the Mountains classifications in all three major tours.  He also won the Tour de France in 1959.  His story is told by Alasdair Fotheringham, brother of William.

The Eagle

The last biography I have is about Jacques Anquetil.  Anquetil is another giant of the sport.  The first man to win five Tours de France.  His personal life however overshadowed his achievements on a bicycle.  Paul Howard recounts all in “Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape.”

Sex, Lies

There are autobiographies as well.  The first of these in my collection, starting from the right side of the shelf again, is “Tomorrow We Ride” by Jean Bobet.  Jean is the younger brother of Louison Bobet, the first man to win 3 Tours de France in a row.

Tomorrow We Ride

Vin Denson‘s memories of his professional cycling career during the 1960s, including being the first British cyclist to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia, are in “The Full Cycle.”


Tony Hewson, in “In Pursuit of Stardom: Les Nomades du Velo Anglais,” tells an extraordinary tale of three British cyclists who venture into France in the 1950s to try their hands in the European road racing scene.

In Pursuit

Laurent Fignon is perhaps best known as the man who lost the 1989 Tour de France to Greg LeMond by a mere 8 seconds.  He should be better remembered as a man who won the Tour twice and the Giro d’Italia once.  These and other victories are described in “We Were Young and Carefree.”

We Were Young

Bob Roll is next.  He is a former Tour de France racer and member of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame.  He offers his unique perspective on the professional racing circuit in “Bobke II: The Continuing Misadventures of Bob Roll”.  There is a “Bobke:  A Ride on the Wild Side of Cycling” that I haven’t yet read.


Then comes another American racer who crossed the pond in the 1980s to try and break into the European professional peloton.  Joe Parkin wrote about his experiences as a pro racer in Belgium in “A Dog in a Hat.”

A Dog

Parkin followed up with “Come and Gone,” his memoirs of a difficult return to road bike racing in the United States, and his subsequent rebirth as a mountain biker.

Come and Gone

I read Michael Barry‘s “Inside the Postal Bus,” his recollection of his time as a domestique on the US Postal cycling team, some years ago.  Since then it has come to light that he had a spot of amnesia when it came to the use of performance enhancing drugs by the team.  I’ll have to read this book again now that we know what really went on in that bus.

Inside the Postal Bus

I’ll cover the rest of my rainy days collection in my next post.

My Name is alchemyrider and I am a Bikeaholic

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Rain has returned to Kuala Lumpur with a vengeance.  The Tuesday KESAS ride was called off because of it.  We managed to squeeze a make-up ride between downpours on Wednesday night.  We did get caught in a sprinkle, but escaped getting soaked.  The  Thursday night KESAS ride was cancelled.  The inaugural VUBC Setia Alam evening ride on Friday night was washed out.

My bottles were in the fridge.  My bike light was charged.  My tires were up to pressure.  My cycling kit was ready.  Since Thursday.  I was suffering withdrawal symptoms.  That is the only explanation for the number of cookies I have eaten over the past few days.

I was looking forward to a ride this morning.  None of my buddies could ride today, so I could choose the route.  It has been a while since I have pedaled up to Genting Sempah, so at 6am I pointed the car north toward Gombak.

The roads were damp from the previous night’s rain.  I didn’t know it when I left home, but the roads were about to get a lot wetter.  Here is this morning’s weather map for peninsular Malaysia.  Dark blue = heavy rain.

KL Weather

10km / 6mi into my drive the skies opened.  It was immediately clear that if I did the Genting Sempah ride it would be in a deluge.  I don’t mind getting caught in the rain, but I am averse to starting a ride in the wet.  “Hard-core” must not be in my genetic makeup.

What were my options?  I could give the Batu 18 to Genting Perez route a try.  But that was also to the north of Kuala Lumpur.  And probably just as wet.

I could go home, eat more cookies and go back to bed.

Or I could head south-west toward Bukit Jelutong and see if it was dry there.  I may not be a hard-core cyclist, but I do like my bike rides.  A lot.  So I did a u-turn and headed back the way I came along the DUKE Highway and then on the North Klang Valley Expressway towards Shah Alam.

Drive to Ride

After 50km / 31mi of driving I was at D’Bayu in Bukit Jelutong.  The skies looked threatening but it wasn’t raining.  So I took a chance and rolled out of the car park and down the hill toward the Guthrie Corridor Expressway.

Tomorrow’s ride will be along the same expressway.  So for some variety I turned left at the first intersection onto Jalan Batu Arang.  Jalan Batu Arang is nicknamed Dragon’s Back.  The ride profile tells you why.

Dragon's Back Profile

It isn’t Genting Sempah, but it does have more climbing than the Guthrie expressway.  Especially if you do an out-and-back ride.

Dragon's Back

Driving all the way to Bukit Jelutong turned out to be a good call.  I was able to scratch my cycling itch.  It drizzled a little bit as I got onto the first climb on Jalan Batu Arang.  The clouds quickly blew over though, and I rode in sunshine after that.

I was the only cyclist on the road.  Perhaps everyone else had more sense than to be on a bicycle at 7am.  A big plus about being out that early was I didn’t have much traffic for company, at least on the outward leg.  Once the hills were out of the way I got to the Jalan Meru Tambahan intersection, where on previous rides we have turned right.  This time I kept going.  The road changes its name to Persiaran Puncak Alam 6, and comes to an end in Bandar Puncak Alam.  Exactly 25km / 15.5mi from the start.

I hit my top speeds for the day on the way to Puncak Alam.  Which meant I had some long uphill slopes on the way back to Bukit Jelutong.  I certainly got to do some climbing this morning.  In relatively cool conditions too.  I was back at my car at 8.40am.  Well before the day really heated up.

Drive 50 km / 31mi one way to ride 52.7km / 32.7mi.  Sounds reasonable to me!


We got caught in a proper storm on the Guthrie Corridor Expressway this morning.  The monsoons must be here.


Hyperthermia. Avoid It!

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Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates.  From the Wikipedia entry for hyerthermia

I had a few instances of overheating when I first got back to Malaysia.  The land where maximum temperatures year-round look like this:

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Broadcasting, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Broadcasting, Inc.

Since then I have been able to manage my core temperature.  I have been hot during rides, but not excessively so.  Where did I go wrong during the Kuantan Century Ride to end up hyperthermic?

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

A lot has to do with the length of this ride.  It was about 100 km / 62 mi longer than our weekend rides.  My routine for staying cool during those rides was insufficient when stretched out over 160 km / 100 mi.

There are reams of articles, blog posts and lists about how to prevent exercise-induced heat stress.  They all start with hydration.  The most important thing you can do to stave off hyperthermia is to stay hydrated.  How much fluid is required depends on body type and sweat rate.  One guideline suggests drinking 1 liter / 34 oz per hour.  By this measure I should have drunk about 6 liters / 203 oz during the ride.  I did drink about 5 liters / 170 oz.  My Camelbak Podium Chill bottles hold 620 ml / 21 oz each.  I went through 8 bottles.  So I was 2 bottles short.

What you drink is also crucial.  Lost fluids and electrolytes need to be replaced during a ride.  I added a Nuun tablet every time I refilled a bottle with water.  Even so I probably didn’t take in as many electrolytes as I should have because I didn’t drink enough.

I usually put a bottle in the freezer and another in the fridge the night before a weekend ride.  The cold fluid helps to keep my core temperature in check.  All the fluid I drank during the Kuantan Century Ride was lukewarm.  It wasn’t until I picked up some ice at the last rest stop that I got some cooling effect from what I was drinking.

I got my hydration wrong on all counts.

Clothing always gets a prominent mention.  I had on the right ‘technical fabrics’ that wick sweat away from the body.  As the sweat evaporates it carries heat away with it.

The right fabrics but perhaps the wrong color.  My jersey was navy blue, and the suggestion for staying cool is to wear a light-color.  The sun was very strong so it is likely that I absorbed more radiant energy that I would have if I had worn a white jersey.

My jersey did have a full zip.  Unzipping my jersey and getting moving air onto my bare skin helped a lot.

I also had my arms covered so they never felt hot.  My bare legs, on the other hand, did get hot.

I got my clothing partially right.

Most writers suggest pouring water over your head every 15 minutes or so.  Preferably enough to soak your jersey as well as wet your head, face and neck.  You will immediately feel that the water is cooler than your body is.  Pouring a bottle of water over my head did cross my mind, but the two times I thought about it I was at rest stops that had run out of water.

I didn’t take full advantage of evaporative cooling.

Another suggestion is to generate less body heat by riding at a slower pace.  My riding companions and I had planned to ride at an easy pace right from the start.  The intent was to conserve energy so that we would still have something in the tank for the last part of the ride.  I am sure the gentler pace helped keep my core temperature down, at least in the first half of the ride.  Of course riding at a slower speed meant spending more time in the sun than would have been the case if we had gone quicker.  I am not sure which would have been more detrimental:  generating more body heat or absorbing more radiant heat.

Let’s say that I got the pace of the ride right.

That, and having ice to eat for the final 30 km / 18 mi, is probably how I made it to the end of the ride.  I knew I was feeling the effects of hyperthermia with 50 km / 31 mi to go.  I was light-headed, which I now know is an early symptom of heat syncope.  I started cramping on the run in to the finish.  That is another symptom of hyperthermia.

After the ride I spent 30 minutes sprawled in the shade, shoes off and iced drink in hand.  That cool tiled floor felt good.

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

So what to during the 120 km / 74.5 mi Iskandar Johor Mega Ride in July?  The lessons learned from the Kuantan Century Ride are:

  1. Freeze two bottles and chill the third.  Carry one frozen bottle in the middle pocket of my jersey, where it can cool my lower back.
  2. Drink a liter of Nuun-infused water an hour.
  3. Carry extra Nuun tablets.
  4. Buy chilled water at petrol stations rather than depend on rest stops.
  5. Soak my head and jersey with water every 30 minutes or so.
  6. Wear a light-colored jersey.
  7. Ride at a gentle pace.

All the “Beat the Heat” articles I read today have given me a few other things to try as well:

  1. “Pre-cool” 30 minutes before the start by drinking cold fluids.
  2. Wrap a water-soaked bandanna around my neck.  Or go one step further and wrap an ice-filled sock around my neck, as suggested by Phil O’Reilly, former president of the Five Borough Bike Club.
  3. Buy ice cream at petrol stations.

I’ll give these other suggestions a miss for now:

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

Cartoon courtesy of Transportation Alternatives Magazine

Team 165 at the Kuantan Century Ride 2013

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Keat, Hans and I were in the state of Pahang over the weekend for the Kuantan Century Ride.  I named us Team 165, which is the sum of our ages.  For the mathematically inclined amongst you, I am a year older than Hans and a year younger than Keat.

Kuantan Century 2013 Promo

The sun in the promotional banner turned out to be a hint of things to come.

I took my traveling bike with me.  The Ritchey Break-Away.  The bike case and two other bags fit nicely in the trunk of my biker chick’s car.

Kuantan Century 2013 Ritchey

We spent the weekend at the Swiss Garden Resort.  Keat’s wife convinced the management to let us have breakfast at 5.30am on the day of the ride.  The coffee house normally opens at 6.30am.  We were expecting a few slices of bread and some butter and jam.  We were pleasantly surprised by the spread that the staff had laid out.

Kuantan Century 2013 Breakfast

Our hotel was about 18km / 11mi from the start at the International Islamic University Malaysia.  We discussed riding to the start but decided against it.  We would have been riding in the dark along a busy road.  Even less appealing was the thought of having to cycle back to the hotel after a long event.  So we loaded our bikes into Keat’s pickup truck and drove to the start.

Some 2,000 people had registered for the event.  It looked like most of them turned up on the day.

Kuantan Century 2013 Start Queue

As is always the case at cycling events in Malaysia, all types of bicycles were represented.  These guys were braver than I to attempt 160km on knobby-tired mountain bikes.

Kuantan Century 2013 MTBs

Here we are at the start in our “before” photograph.

Photo courtesy of Kuantan Century Ride

Photo courtesy of Kuantan Century Ride

The organizers impressed everyone by managing to start the event bang on time at 7.30am.  We even had a two minute warning.  We were led out by a string of police motorbikes.  The police and marshals did a good job of controlling traffic at intersections to allow us to cycle through without having to stop.

Kuantan Century 2013 Police Bike

A fleet of road crew on motorbikes and in cars and trucks, and an army of volunteers at the start/finish line and rest stops, made this a very well organized and supported event.

The route took us through Kuantan town and south along the coast for the first 40km / 25mi.  After the first rest stop we headed inland for a bit before turning right onto Federal Route 3.  The next 80km / 50mi were north or north-east into the state of Terengganu before heading east toward the coast at Cherating.

Kuantan Century 2013 Route

That stretch included the second rest stop at the 83 km / 51.5mi mark.  By then the sun was out in full force.  It got to 34°C / 93°F.  With the humidity at 90% the heat index was about 40°C / 104°F.  I was emptying my two bidons in double-quick time.  The good news was we got to the second rest stop just in time to grab the last of the water.  The heat made the demand for water far greater than the organizers had anticipated.  The riders after us had to wait for stocks to be replenished.

Kuantan Century 2013 Rest Stop

The bad news was all the 750 meters / 2,460 feet of climbing came in the second half of the course.  Mercifully there was another rest stop just after the big hill of the day.  There was still plenty of water at that rest stop.

From that point the heat became more and more of a factor.  The descent after the third rest stop took us to the Gebeng Bypass.  We had an out-and-back along the highway.  The 28km / 17.5 mi along that stretch of rolling highway seemed interminable.  The sun was beating down and the headwind on the outward leg made it even more unpleasant.  The sight of the final rest stop on the other side of the highway with the turnaround point still 3km / 1.8mi away was the final straw for some riders.  They chose to skip the electronic checkpoint at the end of the bypass and cut across the highway to the rest stop.

I was hyperthermic and was sorely tempted to take a shortcut as well.  I persevered but it was a very close call at the time.  So I was not happy to finally get to the rest stop only to find that all the water was gone.  Fortunately they had lots of ice.  I tossed my last  Nuun tablet into one bidon and filled both with ice cubes.  More water was on the way but I was too hot to wait.

Hans, and that ice, saved my ride.  Han pulled me the last 28km / 17.4mi.  I was chewing on ice cubes all the way to the finish, desperate to stay cool enough and cramp-free to make it to the end.  This is Hans at the finish.

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

I was happy to be just behind Hans.

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

At the halfway point Keat had told us to push on without him.  The heat got to him even before it got to me.  So it was great to see Keat smiling at the finish.

Kuantan Century 2013 Keat Finish

Can you spot the difference between this “after” photograph and the one of us at the start?

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Apart from having these in our literally hot hands.

Kuantan Century 2013 Medal

Team 165 is already talking about doing a 120km / 74.5mi ride in the southern state of Johor next month.  Hopefully by then I will have figured out how to keep my  core temperature in check.