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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Durian Fiesta Ride

September 2013 has turned into a month for metric century rides.  Yesterday Chris, Keat, Mark, Raj, Seow and I joined Dave Ern and about twenty-five other riders on a hunt for durians.

Durian Fiesta Banner

Photograph courtesy of Dave Ern

The durian is known as the King of Fruits in Malaysia.  Durian is a seasonal fruit, generally available  in Malaysia from June to August and from end November to January.  Its popularity has led to extensive cloning and farming, not just in Malaysia but throughout South-East Asia.  One result is that durians can now be bought all year round, although supply is limited and aficionados will tell you that the quality of the fruit in the off-season is variable.

Keat,  Raj, Seow, Mark, photographer Chris and I started from the BHP petrol station in Kampung Bukit Tinggi.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

The route that Dave Ern had planned took us downhill along the old Bentong Road.  I travelled this road many many times as a child.  Then it was the only way to get from Kuala Lumpur to points east of the Titiwangsa Range, which bisects the peninsula from north to south.

Durian Fiesta Route

After about twelve kilometers the road levelled out, and it was relatively flat from the Bentong Hot Spring near Kampung Temiang to the town of Bentong.

Durian Fiesta Bentong

We made a refuelling stop at Bentong.  Kedai Kopi Phoon is famous for its wanton noodles.  Definitely finger-licking good.

Durian Fiesta Kedai Kopi Phoon

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The plan had been to continue on to the town of Raub while a support car drove on ahead scouting for durian stalls.  Seven kilometers north of Bentong we got word that there were no durians to be found up the road toward Raub.  So we turned off the Bentong to Raub road and rode toward Kampung Baru Sang Lee instead.

We made an unscheduled stop just after that turn.  Raj and I watched as Keat replaced his punctured rear inner tube.  In case you think that I was not helpful, I did lend Keat my pump. 🙂

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Kampung Baru Sang Lee is surrounded by extensive durian orchards.  The village does not hide its claim to fame.

Durian Fiesta Kampung Baru Sang Lee

We found lots of durians at a large roadside stall in the village.

Durian Fiesta Fruit

Unfortunately these were already loaded onto a lorry, ready to be hauled away to a wholesaler somewhere.  There was precious little left to be eaten at the stall.  The durian lovers amongst us had to make do with sharing just a couple of fruit.

Durian Fiesta Eating

So the Durian Fiesta Ride was a disappointment for anyone who had hoped to feast on the fruit.  But the ride was a lot of fun nonetheless.

This was the first metric century for Chris.

Durian Fiesta Chris Return

For Raj and Seow too.  It was a very hot day, but we had shaded and quiet roads for the most part.

Durian Fiesta Turnaround

Quiet for the most part.  Every now and then we had one of these for company.

Durian Fiesta Lorry

I overtook this lorry before slowing down to take this photograph.  As the lorry swept past I saw Mark behind it, being sucked along in the slipstream.  I have never been motor-paced by an eighteen-wheeler before.  Mark and I had a blast effortlessly hitting 50kph plus behind this lorry.  Later we latched onto the back of an oil tanker for another tow.  The experience of being pulled along at speed was worth all the dust we ate.

We stopped at a Shell station in Bentong to wash the dust out of our throats.  This is now my mid-ride drink of choice.

Durian Fiesta Chocolate Milk

As I downed a half-liter of cold chocolate milk I noticed this display next to the cash register.  What first caught my eye was the collection of mini-LEGO cars and trucks.  Then I saw what the toys were sitting on.  PowerBars and PowerGels.

Durian Fiesta Shell Station

This petrol station must attract a lot of cyclists.

The day got hotter and windier.  Just as the road started tilting upward south of Bentong.  We regrouped at the Bentong Hot Spring.  Sadly the suspension bridge across the Benus River makes a more interesting photograph that the Hot Spring does.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Benus Bridge

The last photo op was the small waterfall four kilometers from the end of the ride.

Durian Fiesta Waterfall

The section of the ride between Kampung Bukit Tinggi and Kampung Rasia is the nicest.  All the traffic across the Titiwangsa Range is now carried by the Karak Highway.  What is left is a peaceful road that follows the arcs and curves of the Benus and Tanglir rivers, hemmed in by primary and secondary jungle.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Kenung

Everybody made it back to the BHP petrol station at Kampung Bukit Tinggi.  Tired and hot, but glad to have made the trip.  It was a very pleasant century ride, despite the shortage of durians.

Heads Down at the Terengganu Century Ride 2013

Courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

Courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride at

Keat and I joined 1,000 other cyclists from all over Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand for the 2nd Terengganu Century Ride.  The ride started and ended in Kuala Terengganu (KT), the capital city of the east coast state of Terengganu.

KT is a six hour drive from Kuala Lumpur (KL).  We left KL at 6am and so had time for lunch at the Permai Hotel, the official event hotel, before we collected our numbers.

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

The expectation in Malaysia is that any organized ride that has a registration or entry fee provides each cyclist with a jersey and a finisher’s medal.  The TCR was no exception.  I though the jersey was a particularly nice design.

TCR Jersey

It was clear from the moment we stepped into the hotel that this was going to be a very well-run event.  There was a nice display of bicycles in the lobby.  There were separate goodie bag collection areas for each of the five participant categories.  We had our timing chips checked to ensure that the right name was associated with each rider number.  Teams with a support vehicle (must be nice!) were given large identifying windscreen stickers, and explicit instructions  for where to park before the start of the event.  There was a little bike expo where you could buy gels, bars, bottles, sun glasses, helmets and so on.

There were also three rider technical briefings spread across the afternoon.  Keat and I were good boys and went to one of them.  We did sit at the back of the room though.  Just like we used to do in school.  But we paid attention.  Just like we sometimes used to do in school!

TCR Briefing

Photo courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

We had hoped to ride along the beach that evening, but we weren’t able to.

TCR Rain

Instead we went for a wet walk to check out the start area for the ride.  This photograph was taken earlier in the day.  It was still pretty quiet when we got there at about 6.30pm.

Photo courtesy of Pulse MediaCommunications

Photo courtesy of Pulse MediaCommunications

The elves must have been hard at work overnight.  By morning there was a Start/Finish gantry, complete with overhead timing transponders, along with barriers, banners and escort vehicles in place.

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas

It rained again in the night, but it was dry and overcast by the 8.15am start time.  Keat and I hung out at the back of the pack behind the start line.  We didn’t want to get run over by the three hundred or so riders who would finish this 160km event in under five hours.

Photo courtesy of Pulse MediaCommunications

Photo courtesy of Pulse MediaCommunications

The ride started with a loop through the city.  Including a stretch through Chinatown along Jalan Kampung Cina, which is one of the oldest streets in KT.

Bike-eye view courtesy of Peter Lim

Bike-eye view courtesy of Peter Lim

The route then took us inland and north for 85km before a right turn at Guntong pointed us toward the coast.

TCR 2013 Route

One of the highlights of this ride (I’ll get to the lowlight) was the cheers we got from the throngs of primary school children waving at us from behind their school fences as we rode by.  We did ride past quite a few schools.  All of which seemed to be on a break as we came by.

We had a few other spectators along the way.

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

It was relatively cool at the start, but it did warm up steadily as the kilometers ticked by.  So the water stops were very welcome.  Another highlight of this ride was the volunteers at the stops.  They did did a great job handing out bananas, water and ice.  Both to riders who were happy for a bit of a rest, and to riders who were pushing for fast times.  At least one such rider needs to practice his drink grab though.

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

Photo courtesy of Roda Pantas magazine

The course was relatively flat.  Much like the Netherlands is.  And much like the Netherlands, it was windy.  Nice at the start of the ride, despite being a headwind, when it was still cool.  Not so nice as a headwind after the temperature had risen.

The wind direction and wind speed changed throughout the day.  I had a headwind for 35km, then a crosswind that became a tailwind that reverted to a crosswind until the turn at Guntong.  The tailwind from that point was short-lived.  By the time I made a sharp right turn at the 90km mark the wind was changing direction yet again.  It became more and more of a crosswind for the 10km to the coast.  Along the coast it was a steadily stiffening headwind for the remaining 60km.

The annotations on the route map below show wind direction and wind speed at the start, and what they were at the point I had reached after riding for one hour, two hours, three hours and so on.

I have never spent so much time in the drops.

TCR 2013 Route with Wind

The views along the beach were nice, but they were hard to appreciate with my head down as I tried to find respite from the wind.

Photo courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

Photo courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

The gusting headwind made the last 30km or so feel interminable.  Thankfully I didn’t feel as bad as I did during the last 30km of the Kuantan Century Ride.  I did a better job of managing my core temperature during the TCR.  But I started to cramp a little, and bonk as well.  I didn’t drink enough, and I should have eaten more during the ride too.

The wind was the lowlight of this ride.   The only negative though, and not enough of one to detract from a very enjoyable event.

The TCR 2013 Event Director, Mr. Zulkarnain Shah, the members of his organizing committee, the army of volunteers, the Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Red Crescent all helped make this event enjoyable and as safe as possible for all the participants.

The route was well-marked with large arrows at eye-level.  Busy intersections were manned by police personnel who made sure that riders did not have to stop for traffic.  There were dozens of mobile marshals on the course to provide assistance where needed.  Including acting as outriders for cyclists making their way along vehicle-crowded roads as the route came back through the city on its way toward the finish on Jalan Pantai Batu Buruk.

As we came to a stop after 161km we got our finisher’s medals.

TCR Medal

And after hours of heads down in the wind it was heads up for the post-ride entertainment.

Photo courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

Photo courtesy of Terengganu Century Ride

Campaign For A Lane 2013

There were two organised rides scheduled in Penang on 8th September.

One was the first ever ride across the Penang Second Bridge, from Batu Kawan on the mainland to Penang island and back again.  This bridge is in the final stages of construction and is not yet open to traffic.  It will be the longest bridge in Southeast Asia.  The other was the 5th Campaign For A Lane (CFAL) ride around the island of Penang.

My Racun Cycling Gang buddies did the CFAL ride last year.  So we signed up for the bridge ride.  A bus was chartered and accommodation booked.  Only for the bridge ride to be postponed at the very last minute.

Hello CFAL!

CFAL Banner

Registration for the CFAL ride had long closed.  Not a problem.  We would be ghost riders.  The term for unofficial participants in an event.

The bus rolled to Penang on Saturday as planned.

Photo courtesy of Marco Lai

Photo courtesy of Marco Lai

Penang is touted by some as having the best street food in Malaysia.  So Saturday was spent cycling from one food venue to another.

Photo courtesy of Debrizio Wong

Photo courtesy of Debrizio Wong

The Campaign For A Lane has been a success in Penang.  These symbols,

Penang Bike Lane

and dedicated bike lanes, have popped up all around the city.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Chin

Photo courtesy of Christopher Chin

The first CFAL ride in 2009 drew 750 cyclists.  Registration for the 2013 edition was cut off at 3,000 cyclists.  A total no doubt exceeded thanks to us ghosts in the peloton.

The ride started promptly at 7.00am from the Esplanade Park.  The start line was at the Penang Town Hall.

CFAL Penang Town Hall

The clock-wise route circumnavigated the island.

CFAL Route

10 km into the ride we caught sight of the first Penang Bridge, opened in 1985.

CFAL Penang Bridge

Those clouds were a warning.  A further 10 km down the Lim Chong Eu Highway the clouds became ominous.

CFAL Tun Dr Lin Chong Eu Highway

We got rained on.  A lot and for most of the remainder of the ride.  The big plus for me was that the rain kept the day fairly cool.  I had no issues with hyperthermia on this ride.

Penang looks flat but there were two substantial lumps to get over.  The first was at the south end of the island where the route turned north through Kampung Tengah.  We went from sea level to about 140 meters / 460 feet.

The bigger lump was the approach to the Teluk Bahang Dam in the north-west corner of the island.  That climb topped out at about 225 meters / 740 feet.  The payoff was views like this.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

The wet road meant that this descent had to be negotiated with care.  The turns were especially tight in places.

There were a few more short and sharp climbs to get over as the road made its way along the coast through Batu Feringgi and Tanjong Bungah at the northern tip of the island.  Then it was past the beachfront hotels and malls along Persiaran Gurney to the finish at the Esplanade Park.

CFAL Penang City Hall

We were starving ghosts by the end of 82 km ride.  Albeit for only as long as it took to get to a restaurant!

I wonder how many of us weighed more when we arrived back in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday evening than we did when we left KL on Saturday morning.

Chain Checkers Do No Good Just Sitting in Your Toolbox

I have not been regularly checking my bicycle chains for wear.  I have no excuse for not doing so.  I have the necessary tool for the job.  Two of them in fact.

Chain Checker

The purist will argue that a steel ruler or steel tape measure is the most accurate tool for measuring chain wear.  Using a ruler can however be error-prone because it is necessary to hold the ruler precisely and measure one end while making sure the other does not slip.  So tools like these ones have been created.  They are not as accurate as a properly-used ruler, but they are an easier and faster way to measure chain wear.

Chain wear is often referred to as chain stretch, but this is a misnomer.  The side plates of a chain do not deform under pedalling forces.  Rather it is wear to the pins, bushes and rollers that causes the distance between the pins to increase, thus giving the illusion of stretch.

This diagram shows A. pin/bushing wear, and C. bushing/roller wear.  B shows an unworn chain.  Note that roller wear does not affect pin spacing.

Illustration courtesy of par at

Illustration courtesy of at

In short, chain wear is indicated by an increase is the spacing between pins.  When I finally put my BBB chain checker to use it showed that the chain on  my titanium Alchemy bike had reached the point where it needed to be replaced.  What I didn’t know was when the chain had reached that point.  Had I been riding for too long on a worn chain, and perhaps damaged the drive train in the process?

Some of my Racun Cycling Gang had recommended Meng Thai Bicycle Centre for bike parts and service.  So I took the bike there to have a new chain installed.  Labor costs are still relatively low here as compared to the Netherlands, so I had less incentive to do it myself.  When I say low I mean a labor charge of  RM 30 / USD 9 to have a new chain installed and to get the bike serviced and tuned up.

My first ride with the new chain was up to Genting Sempah.  It quickly became obvious that I had waited too long to replace the chain.  The chain was skipping on one cog.  It didn’t matter which chain ring I was in.  The chain skipped on that one cog.

At first I couldn’t tell from looking at the cassette that there was anything wrong with it.


A closer look revealed where the problem lay.

Cassette Wear

That shark-tooth profile on the fourth cog is not normal.,  The new chain rides too high up the ramp of the tooth and slips off.  The only solution was a new cassette.  I went with a SRAM PG 1070 cassette at RM 250 / USD 76 rather than replacing this SRAM OG 1090 cassette at RM 650 / USD 198.

The moral of this tale is to regularly check your chain for wear.  I now know, thanks to the late and great Sheldon Brown, that a chain that has just 1% of wear should be replaced.  Anything more than 1% chain wear and the sprockets are probably already damaged.

What is 1% of chain wear?  Ten links of a new chain are 25.4 cm long, measured from pin to pin.  If the last pin in link ten is just past 25.5 cm the chain needs to be replaced.  If the last pin is approaching 25.7 cm away then the most-used sprockets are already damaged.

I got 10,000 km / 6,214 mi out of the cassette.  I wonder how many more kilometers it would have lasted if I had replaced the chain as soon as it showed 1% wear.

I replaced the chain on the steel Alchemy a few days ago.  The cassette on that bike has 13,300 km / 8,265 mi on it so far.  Including 115 km / 71.5 mi with the new chain.

I caught that one in time.  No skips.

A Landmark Ride

The Racun weekend group rides are usually not longer than 60 km.  If we start at 7am we can get to Kampung Kundang for breakfast and back to Bukit Jelutong by about 9.45am or so.  Before the day gets too hot.  The temperature is the limiting factor when it comes to ride length.

As a result a number of the group have never done a 100 km ride.  We decided to rectify that yesterday.  Mark planned a route that would take us from where he lives in Damansara Jaya to the Ijok exit on the LATAR highway and back.  About 110 km according to Google Maps.

Nine of us met at the car park in front of the Damansara Jaya post office.  Marco, Marvin, Peng Soon and Shahfiq were the 100 km ride neophytes (although Marco came close with a 95 km ride last weekend).

The route from the start to the Guthrie Corridor Expressway took us past the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport.  From 1965 to 1998 this was Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.  When it opened the runway was surrounded by jungle and plantations.  This was still the case when the Saujana Golf and Country Club  opened its doors at the south end of the runway some twenty years later.

As you can see from the route map below it is hard to justify the “Country” in Country Club these days.

Century Ride Route

The airport and club are now hemmed in by urban sprawl.  Where there was once jungle and plantations there are now Ara Damansara, Kampung Bukit Cherakah,  Taman TTDI Jaya, Taman Subang Perdana, Kayangan Heights and a host of other residential and commercial developments.

Jet-engined aircraft now take off and land at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is about 80 km from the city centre.  Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport is still used by commercial carriers operating turboprop aircraft.

The roads in the area have expanded to cope with the increased traffic.   The flyover at the north end of the runway was new to me.  And when did Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang and Jalan Sungai Buloh become four lane divided highways?

Jalan Sungai Buloh took us to the the familiar surroundings of the Guthrie Corridor Expressway.  We stopped at the little rest area behind the Lagong Toll Plaza to regroup before turning onto the KL – Kuala Selangor Expressway.

Lagong Toll Plaza

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Our turn-around point was 20 km down the road at the Ijok exit.  Marvin looks ready for the return leg.

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Marco, Peng Soon and Shahfiq (pointing skyward) look happy to be at the turn-around point too.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

We chose a hot day for this century run.  It was already quite warm by the time we got going again at about 9am.  Everyone was getting hungry as well.  Good thing a visit to our favourite breakfast spot was on the agenda.

Photo courtesy of Marco Lai

An hour later we were seated at Sharif Roti Canai.  The corrugated iron roof was radiating heat.  We were grateful to get a table under a fan.

We lingered under that fan for an hour.  Fortified by roti canai, teh tarik and soft-boiled free-range eggs we headed out to cover the 40 km back to Damansara Jaya.

The midday heat and a headwind made the going challenging.  We were all glad to get to the Elmina Rest & Recreation area where we could wash the sweat off our faces, pour water over our heads and sit in the shade for a while.

Congratulations to Marco, Marvin, Peng Soon and Shahfiq on their first 100 km ride.  Additional kudos go to Peng Soon, who hadn’t ridden more than 40 km in one go before.  He persevered despite aching legs and the heat.  In sneakers no less.

We will all be telling stories about this ride for a long time to come.