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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Ramadan Rides

We are in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Ramadan.  Which for Muslims means fasting during the daylight hours from dawn to dusk.

The Islamic lunar calendar year is eleven or twelve days shorter than the solar calendar year.  There is no intercalation, or insertion of a leap day, week or month, to realign the lunar calendar with the solar calendar.  So Ramadan migrates through the seasons.

My biker chick and I spent the last two Ramadan months in the Netherlands.  Where the summer daylight hours extend for eighteen or more hours.  There are advantages to being back in Malaysia where there is little variation in the length of the day throughout the year.  Here we have only about fourteen hours between sahur, or the pre-fast meal, and iftar, or the fast-breaking meal.

The length of the fast at this time of the year in northern Europe means that iftar is not until almost 10pm.  So rather than spend the last hours sitting at home thinking about food I would go for an evening bike ride.  Sometimes on my own and sometimes in the company of David or others from the Not Possibles.

Ramadan Ride 1

After a loop like this one, and a shower, I was very ready for that iftar drink and meal.

I did the Saturday morning Not Possibles rides as well.  Those rides were too much fun to miss.  A very large banana and blueberry smoothie at sahur set me up nicely for the ride.  I must admit the post-ride koffie verkeerd and appeltaart at The Coffee Club were tempting.

Ramadan rides in Kuala Lumpur are a bit more challenging because of the heat and humidity.  Fortunately with iftar being at 7.30pm or so there is no need for evening rides to divert the mind from food and drink.  So rather than riding late in the day on an empty stomach, as I did in the Netherlands, I do the Tuesday and Thursday night rides in Kuala Lumpur on a very full stomach.  I am usually eager to get started at 9pm, but during this month I am happy for any delay that adds to my digestion time.

Weekend rides will continue here as well during Ramadan.  The heat and humidity mean that I have to be selective about the routes, and the pace.  The Guthrie Corridor Expressway route is very open and gets too hot for a ride sans hydration.  Which leaves Genting Sempah as the ride of choice.  That route winds though forest so is shaded and breezy.

Photo courtesy of abuomar at

Photo courtesy of abuomar at

Having lots of scenic spots for rest stops helps too.

Photo curtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

There is the elevation to deal with, but if taken at a relaxed pace that isn’t a problem.  Most importantly for my non-fasting riding companions, the nasi lemak shop at the end of the ride is open during Ramadan.

I get to ride during Ramadan, and my non-Muslim friends get their teh tarik.  Everyone is a winner!

Road ID iPhone App Review

I have worn a Road ID Wrist ID Sport for more than three years.  I never go on a ride without it.  Fortunately my Road ID has never been used for what it was designed:  to identify me, list medical information, and provide emergency contact details to first responders to an accident or medical emergency.

My Road ID tag does give me some peace of mind when I am on my bike.  So I was very happy to get an email from Edward Wimmer, the co-owner of Road ID, inviting me to test their all-new Road ID app for the iPhone.  This app is designed to take advantage of the GPS and internet access capabilities of the iPhone to complement the Road ID tag.

Click on the Road ID app icon below to go to the iTunes Preview of the app.

Road ID App Icon

There are three things that you can do with this app.

The first is to create an image to use as the Lock Screen for your iPhone.  This image is displayed whenever your iPhone is turned on. Entering the data to be displayed is straight forward.  The app then creates the image for you.  The final step is to go into your iPhone Settings app to select this image as your Lock Screen, Home Screen, or both.  The Lock Screen looks like this.


This screen identifies you, lists essential medical information, and shows emergency contact details for up to three people.  If you can’t speak for yourself, your Road ID Lock Screen will.

The second thing you can do with this app is to track your movements.  Road ID calls this eCrumb tracking.  You can select up to five of your contacts to receive a link that allows them to track your movements using any web browser on any device.  The app transmits your location on a regular basis, which is plotted as a track on a map.

I tested eCrumb tracking during the Iskandar Johor Mega Ride.  This is the map showing where I started from, the route I took, and where my ride ended.  My biker chick followed my progress ‘live’ over the 100 km / 62 mi course.

Road ID App Map

The third thing this app can do is to send a Stationary Alert Notification to your selected contacts in the event that you stop moving for a pre-defined period of time.  The worst case scenario being that you have had an accident or a medical emergency and are immobile and / or unconscious.

The Alert message is customizable.  An audible 60 second countdown is activated if you stop moving for the chosen period of time.  That gives you the opportunity to cancel the Stationary Alert Notification if your stop is not because of an emergency.

You can activate eCrumb tracking only, or Stationary Alert Notification only, or both at the same time.

I have replaced the default Lock Screen on my iPhone with a Road ID Lock Screen.  When someone turns my phone on they see the same details that I have on my wrist tag.

The eCrumb tracking works well and is a fun way for others to follow your progress while you are biking, running, skiing, hiking or whatever outdoors.

I have not tested the Stationary Alert Notification.

The Road ID iPhone app is currently in beta.  Edward Wimmer is actively soliciting feedback from early users to drive bug fixes and future enhancements.

I am very pleased with this app.  My only complaint is that eCrumb tracking cuts my iPhone battery life to just over three hours.  I think that eCrumb tracking should run for at least five  hours before completely depleting the phone battery.

Apart from the battery power management issue, I think this app is ready for prime-time.  It is an excellent safety aid for anyone.

Iskandar Johor Mega Ride 2013

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Team 165 drove to Johor, the southernmost state in peninsular Malaysia, for the Iskandar Johor Mega Ride.  A 120 km / 75 mi loop that started and ended at Kota Iskandar, the new administrative center for the state government of Johor.

I had never been to Kota Iskandar, which is part of the larger Nusajaya development.  The arch at the entrance to the complex gives visitors some hint of what is to come.

Iskandar Johor Gate

Photo courtesy of Johor Real Estate

This is the Dato’ Jaafar Muhammad building.  Named after the first Chief Minister of Johor, this building houses the Office of the Chief Minister and State Secretariat.

Iskandar Main Building

Photo courtesy of syza aljufri

The Sultan Ismail building is the home of the State Parliament.

The ride started at 7.45am, a little behind schedule.  This is the young and fast group at the line, eager to get going.  Iskandar Start

Keat, Hans and I took our customary positions towards the back of the peloton.  As it turned out the first 30 km / 19 mi or so were at a controlled speed behind a group of police motorbikes.  The route started through the relative quiet of Nusajaya.  We rode past Malaysia’s first international theme park.  Legoland Malaysia opened less than a year ago.

Legoland Malaysia

Photo courtesy of Amin Khairuddin

Then it was along the Lebuhraya Pesisir Pantai (Coast Highway) and through the west edge of Johor Bahru, the capital city of Johor.  Johor Bahru is the third-largest city in Malaysia, and it has the morning rush hour traffic to prove it.

Iskandar Johor Route

The motorbike police stopped traffic from entering the highway as we rode past.  Despite having the police marshals we had to do some defensive riding, especially along Jalan Skudai, where the traffic was particularly heavy.

Once we got through Skudai there was a lot less traffic on the road with us.  Unbeknownst to us there were fewer cyclists as well.  A group of about thirty riders, including Keat, fell behind the marshals and got lost.  They ended up being directed back to the start and having their ride cut short.

The rest of us were pleasantly surprised to come upon a water stop after 40 km / 25 mi.  The route map showed the first water stop at 65 km / 40 mi.  Even better was the fact that the water being handed out was chilled.

I put my revised hyperthermia control strategy into action.  I poured a couple of bottles of cold water over my head, soaking my hair, jersey and arm coolers.  I did the same at the next water stop at the 80 km / 50 mi point.  That worked so well at keeping my core body temperature down that I didn’t bother to stop at petrol stations to buy ice cream.

It helped that there wasn’t much climbing on this ride.  There was a lump to get over between 30 km / 19 mi and 46 km / 29 mi but the gradients were gentle.  The steepest bits were on the bridges and overpasses along the Pesisir Pantai Highway.


When Hans and I got back to the Lebuhraya Pesisir Pantai for the second time we realised that the route had been changed.  About 20 km / 12 mi had been taken out of the early stages of the route.  That explained why we got to the first water stop so quickly.  We hit the finish line after just under 100 km / 62 mi of riding.

Hans and I rode the course at a reasonably fast pace (for us oldies anyway).  We averaged 30.8 kph / 19.2 mph for the ride.  So we didn’t complain that the route had been shortened.  Our relief was short-lived though.

Iskandar Medal

After we were given our medals I saw the message on my mobile phone from Keat saying that he got lost and had to truncate his ride.  Just after I sent him a reply asking him where he was, my mobile phone battery died.

Keat wasn’t at the finish area.  Hans and I rode to where we had parked.  No sign of Keat or his truck.  So we kept riding toward our hotel.

15 km / 9 mi of the route back to our hotel in Bukit Indah was along the 2nd Link Malaysia – Singapore Highway.  Where bicycles are not allowed.  Of course a pair of highway patrolmen pulled up behind us on that section.  Fortunately they bought my woeful tale of being abandoned in Kota Iskandar, and let us ride the last 5 km / 3 mi along the highway to our exit.  Hans and I covered 120 km / 75 mi and a bit more on the day after all.

Keat had driven back to the finish area to look for us.  He caught up with us on the road just after our encounter with the highway patrol, and escorted us back to the hotel.

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

More Team 165 adventures to come in August and September.

Things to See on a Bike in the Netherlands: Wall Art

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Drivers sometimes experience highway hypnosis.  That state of driving on autopilot and arriving at the destination without any memory of what you saw along the way.  Highway hypnosis is brought about by the monotony of driving along a boring road for an extended period of time.

I often finish a ride with little recollection of what was around me along the way.  But not because the ride was monotonous.  It is because the ride was fast.

The faster I ride the more I have to concentrate on the road just ahead of me.  Looking out for pot holes, gravel, sand, broken glass and other debris which could bring my ride to an abrupt halt.  If I am riding in a group my focus is even tighter; most of the time on the rider in front of me. Watching closely for sudden swerving or braking.  So I miss a lot of what is around me.

There is a web site called 18 Miles Per Hour, where “speed, calmness and observation all live together.”  The site is about seeing and absorbing the world around you while you ride.  Good reasons for going on slow rides once in a while.

I know I missed a lot of wall art the Netherlands.  Fortunately this wall was at the turn-around point in Alphen aan de Rijn.  I was going slow enough to notice it.

M.C. Escher is a very well-known Dutch graphic artist.  A number of his murals adorn buildings.  This three-dimensional mural, titled Fish and Birds, is on the Delfluent water treatment plant in Scheveningen.

The Escher in het Paleis museum is in Den Haag.  A large print of his Day and Night hangs over the entrance.

Look who I discovered living in Harmelen.

This mosaic is over the escalators that take pedestrians and cyclists in to and out of the south entrance of the Maastunnel in Rotterdam.  The tunnel is 585 meters / 1,920 feet long, and runs up to 20 meters / 66 feet below the river Nieuwe Maas.

The mosaic on the north side, visible in the following video, features mermen instead of mermaids.

Translated Lyrics
Two big copper dome roofs: north and south
Is where this tunnel sees them all go in and out
On the escalator cyclists stand oblique
They carry bags with lunch and start their working week

Back to you, under the river Maas
Back to you, your echo I can’t lose
Back to you, and endless corridor
Tiles up the wall, I long for more
Back to you

I just go on, for there is still no end in sight
I get back in time, by the 1940’s light
The escalators rattle on the other side
You – at the end of this long tunnel – end my ride


Closer to home is this mosaic on a wall of the sports center in Voorschoten.

The bike path to Rottermeren runs under the A12 highway and the train tracks near Moerkapelle.  The tunnels are tiled with patterns of flowers and birds.

This last piece was not on a wall but on the side of a truck.  It is however quite emblematic of the Netherlands, which is the center of production for the European floral market, as well as a major international supplier to other continents. More than Euro 5 billion worth of cut flowers are exported annually.

It certainly is worth slowing down to smell the flowers once in a while.

Things to See on a Bike in the Netherlands: Public Art

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It is not just windmills, cheese and tulips in the Netherlands.  The country is also a center for the visual arts, and has been since the 17th century.  Every town and city has at least one art museum.  The Dutch website lists 325 museums in the ‘fine arts’ category.

If you want to see a Rembrandt, a Vermeer or a van Gogh you will of course have to visit a museum.  (Click the arrow below to hear how the Dutch pronounce “Vincent van Gogh”).

Sculpture, on the other hand, is not confined to sculpture gardens like that at the Kröller-Müller Museum or the Museum Beelden aan Zee.  Public art is everywhere in the Netherlands.

Some is in a classic style.

This statue commemorates the many Maassluis residents who have lost their lives at sea. The inscription on this statue is from the poem “The Sea” by Antoine “Toon” Hermans, a noted Dutch comedian, singer and writer.

It reads “. . . en de zee zal mijn zwijgen wel verstaan . . .” / “. . . and the sea will understand my silence . . . ”

This memorial is in Hoek van Holland.  It is called “Channel Crossing to Life.”  It commemorates the 10,000 mainly Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who were permitted to enter England without their parents and escape Nazi persecution.  Most crossed the English Channel to Harwich from Hoek van Holland.

This gentleman can be found in Delft.

This fine fellow is watching the world go by in Leiden.

Some public art is in a modern style.

This statue is in Maassluis.

The Dutch equine industry is highly regarded in the Sports Horse sector, and particularly in terms of the standard of breeding and bloodlines. The equine industry in the Netherlands is worth more than Euro 1.5 billion per year.  This horse graces a field in Valkenburg.

I see lots of people out and about on horseback Ho

I noticed Dick Tracey in Den Haag soon after I arrived.  It was much later before I discovered that the building behind him is occupied by a branch of the Dutch police.

I’ve never seen anyone lounging on this seat in Hoek van Holland.

I am embarrassed to admit that I rode this route on the outskirts of Zoetermeer many times before I noticed this sculpture.

And some public art is just plain weird.

This melange of animals stands outside the Stadhuis in Den Haag.

Den Haag Stadhuis Sculpture

Surrendering in Hoek van Holland.

This multi-headed creature is in the Grote Markt in Den Haag.

Somewhere near Rijpwetering.  Interpretations anyone?

Classic, modern or weird:  all are visible from your bicycle.

King of the Mountains #4: Cameron Highlands

Posted on ran a feature about the Cameron Highlands a few days ago.  The Cameron Highlands, along with Fraser’s Hill and Kuantan, was a favorite family holiday destination in the late sixties and seventies.  We would head to a rented bungalow in the highlands to escape the heat and bustle of Kuala Lumpur.  I have fond memories of the Cameron Highlands.

So it was with some anticipation that I signed up for King of the Mountains #4.  The fourth ride in Dave Ern’s Nine Kings of Mountains 2013 series.

There are three roads up to the Cameron Highlands.  The Tapah road provides better access to food and drink enroute than the other two roads.  We were a baker’s dozen at the start.

Cameron Highlands Ready to Roll

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Which was at the Lata Iskandar waterfall, about 22 km / 13.6 mi from Tapah.

Lata Iskandar Waterfall

It is all uphill from the waterfall to Ringlet, 21 km / 13 mi away.

Cameron Highlands Profile

The road is shrouded in jungle as it winds its way around the contours of the mountain.

Cameron Highlands Road

This section is dotted with roadside stalls run by orang asli, the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia.  Most were selling jungle produce like petai or stink bean, wild honey and fresh bamboo shoot.  A few stalls had other things, like this one that had angklung and bird’s nests.

My naturalist friend Irshad Mobarak tells me that the nests were made by the male Baya Weaver.  After weaving the nest the male bird dances and sings to invite a female to inspect it. If she approves of it she will mate with him. If she does not like it she will unravel the nest and the male has to build a new one for her.  The Baya Weaver makes many such nests in a tree, and likewise he also has many mates too.

Cameron Highlands Orang Asli Stall

Ringlet (I wish I knew the etymology of the name) is just over the border between Perak and Pahang.  It is the first town along the road from Tapah to the Cameron Highlands.  The highlands are the only place in Malaysia where strawberries are cultivated on a commercial scale.  Hence this welcome at the start of the 1 km descent into Ringlet.

Cameron Highlands Strawberry

We stopped in Ringlet to regroup..  I took the opportunity to test out my new temperature regulation strategy.  (See Hyperthermia.  Avoid It!)

Cameron Highlands Cornetto Royale Chocoluv

It worked so well that I stopped in Ringlet on the way down the mountain for one of these.

Cameron Highlands Magnum Choco-Cappuccino

The next town was Tanah Rata.  A further 12 km / 7.5 mi up the road.  There was a photo opportunity along the way at the Cameron Valley Tea House.  Incidentally the site of the first traffic jam I encountered as cars and buses jostled for parking at the side of the road.

The Cameron Highlands is the largest tea growing area in Malaysia.  Boh, founded in 1929, is the largest plantation owner.  My biker chick especially likes the Boh Seri Songket teas.  The other major tea producer is Bharat, which started operations in 1933.  Bharat sells under the Cameron Valley brand.

The valleys around Tanah Rata and Brinchang are carpeted with bright green tea bushes and dotted with buildings for tea processing.

Cameron Highlands Bharat Tea View

Tanah Rata is what I remember being the ‘centre’ of the Cameron Highlands.  The holiday bungalows were all in the area.  Like the Shell bungalow at Bukit Ruil.

Photo courtesy of KumarKT

Photo courtesy of KumarKT

That is where the golf course is as well.  The golf club has expanded since I last hacked divots from their fairways.

Cameron Highlands Golf Course

The fabled Ye Olde Smoke House Inn is still beside the golf course.

Cameron Highlands Smoke House Inn

I don’t remember the inn being so close to a major road.  The Cameron Highlands was a much quieter place when I was a schoolboy.

Just north of the golf course I saw just how much busier the place has become.  There was a one-way traffic system around and through a commercial hub that houses at least fifteen budget hotels and holiday apartment blocks, and the restaurants that cater to them.  Despite the one-way system and a number of traffic policemen working the flow, things were at a crawl.  It was faster by bike, despite the 6% incline.

There was a line of vehicles for the next 3 km to Brinchang and the Equatorial Cameron Highlands.  The resort is 1,628 meters / 5,341 feet above sea level.  The highest accessible point in the highlands.  From the resort grounds you can see how the tourist trade now lives cheek-by-jowl with the vegetable farms that the Cameron Highlands has long been known for.

Much of this market gardening happens under protective roofs and plastic sheets that extend in terraces up from the valleys.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Plots

The farms have themselves become tourist attractions.

Butterflies have long been a feature of the highlands.  Sadly I saw just one butterfly during my ride.  Not counting these ones.

Cameron Highlands Butterfly Garden

I turned around not far past the butterfly garden.  It was time to claim my reward for all that climbing.  Chasing and overtaking cars, lorries and buses on the switchback road back to the Lata Iskandar waterfall.  One bus driver in particular was astonished to see that a bicycle can carve through turns faster than most four-wheeled vehicles can.

Cameron Highlands Switchback

I enjoyed my ride to Brinchang.  I was less enthused with the changes I saw along the way.  The area is suffering from its popularity with visitors.  The Cameron Highlands may well be a cycling destination again for me in the future, but it won’t be a holiday destination anymore.