Four Flipsiders made the trip to Alor Setar for the Kedah Century Ride. Everyone’s bikes were loaded into Keat’s truck. Mark’s Tommasini, Keat’s Scott, Marco’s Hasa, and my Ritchey. Marco and Mark handled driving duties during the 450km trip from Kuala Lumpur to Alor Setar.
My biker chick was a student at Universiti Utara Malaysia in Sintok, which is about 50 kms from Alor Setar. When I told her I was riding in Alor Setar, she made plans to meet up with some of her university mates who now live and work in the area. She and I decided to fly rather than drive.
Coincidentally we arrived at the hotel just as the guys were unloading the truck. Once we were checked in and the bikes were safely stored in our rooms, we went looking for food. The road-trippers hadn’t had lunch yet.
We didn’t have anything particular in mind, so we explored along Jalan Anak Bukit. This roadside stall on the corner of Jalan Madrasah caught our attention.
I ate lunch before I boarded the flight, but the food looked too good to pass up. Everyone agreed that this was some of the best tandoori chicken, naan and chapati we had ever eaten.
With blood sugar levels restored, we went to the TH Hotel and Convention Centre to collect our goodie bags.
We bumped into cycling friends, as always happens when collecting ride packs. This time it was a group of Tyrell small wheel bike riders from Van’s Urban Bicycle Co. Cindy and William joined Mark and I to check out what swag came along with our ride numbers.
This goodie bag was better than some we have received in the past. The jersey design for this ride was also one of the nicer ones. Perhaps influenced by Garmin as one of the sponsors.
We noticed this place on the way to collect our goodie bags. There were a number of road bikes leaning against trees and posts.
So no surprise that we were back there a few hours later for dinner. There were a number of stalls under one roof, but Ameer Nasi Briyani was the only stall with a queue of at least a dozen people waiting to chose their food. That queue got longer and longer while we were there.
And no wonder. The food was very good. And cheap. My plate of briyani rice, fried chicken, chicken livers and half a salted egg cost me RM8 / USD2.20.
The next morning we rode the 10 km or so to the start of the ride at the Paddy Museum.
The Tyrell riders were there too, resplendent in their Knog jerseys.
As is often the case, we started late. I do wish that event organisers and the dignitaries invited to officially flag-off these events would be on time. Participants waste time waiting in the dark, and both riders and volunteers spend more time than necessary in the midday heat.
We got away about 25 minutes late. Cindy and Dicky were just in front of the Flipsiders, who were in their customary position at the very rear of the group.
The route was a clockwise loop.
As advertised, much of it was as flat as a pancake, despite the hills in the background.
We headed south through Pendang and to the first water stop after 50 kms at Bukit Jenun. Much of that distance was spent riding in a group with these guys on their vintage Panasonics and Pinarellos. Complete with drilled brake levers and downtube shifters.
The Nord Vintage Cyclismos pulled over at the water stop. Mark was already there, and he rejoined Keat, Marco and I as we rode through the water stop.
By the 80 kms mark we need to eat. Mark spotted a food stall in Bedong, which conveniently was near a 7-11. Marco, Mark and Keat ate at the stall while I drank chocolate milk and ate a candy bar from the 7-11.
Bedong was where the route turned right toward the coast. 5 kms later we rode up to the second water stop. Team Tyrell Knog’s support van was there, so we stopped and chatted and took advantage of their supply of ice-cold water.
There were some short climbs in the middle third of the ride. The steepest came within sight of the sea as the route swung north along the coast. The last of the three climbs at Tanjung Jaga.
After that it was flat riding through the paddy fields.
By the last third of the ride people were starting to wilt. It was 36° C / 97° F with a heat index of 45° C / 113° F.
The constant wind didn’t help. Mark and I were trading pulls, but my efforts were becoming shorter and shorter as I overheated.
There is very little along the road from Tanjung Jaga apart from rice fields. After 10 kms we came across a Caltex station. We were looking for cold drinks, but the chiller in the small shop wasn’t working. So we made do with dousing ourselves with water to help with evaporative cooling.
At 120 kms we came across two rows of shophouses. All the shops were closed except for a couple of car workshop, and thank goodness, the Mahsuri Mini Market.
My key purchase was a bag of ice cubes. I wrapped some cubes in my bandanna and put the bundle on the back of my neck. Some cubes went under my skull cap. Some went into the middle pocket on the back of my jersey. And some went into my bidons.
I should have bought ice at the 7-11 in Bedong. I was amazed at how much better I felt. More importantly I was able to take reasonable pulls into the the wind again.
We grabbed a bottle of water as we rode through the last water station at 125 kms. One of the impressive things about this event was that all the water stations were still well-stocked when we rode through. The last station still had bananas on offer.
My bottle of water went straight onto my arm screens and down the front of my jersey. Which only delayed the inevitable. 25 kms further on all the ice had melted and I was heating up again. Mark needed a break as well so we pulled into the Petronas station at Teluk Kechai and sat in the shade of the forecourt canopy for 10 minutes.
15 kms to go. The headwind kept on blowing, so we put our heads down and pushed on.
There was one last surprise. The Tok Pasai bridge over the Kedah river. It was one climb too many for a rider in front of us, who literally ground to a halt and fell over. Fortunately not into the roadway.
The view looking out to sea from the middle of the bridge is worth the effort to get there.
The speedy descent off the bridge would have been more fun without the sharp right turn at the bottom. The marshalling at that turn was excellent. A particular highlight of this event was how well all road junctions, corners and turn offs were manned with volunteers to ensure that riders stayed on course.
I could have used this additional service from the volunteers over the last 10 kilometres.
Team Tyrell Knog riders finished safely. Anyone who completes a century ride on a small wheel bike deserves a medal.
Marco celebrated his ride.
Keat finished with a smile.
Cindy and I were just glad to be in the shade. I was especially glad to take my shoes off and to work on drinking as much as I could of the 1 litre bottle of ice-cold 100 Plus the organisers handed out at the finish. There was food as well, but all I want at the end of a hot ride is cold fluid.
My Flipside companions and I eventually got back on our bikes for the 13 kms ride back to our hotel. 180 kms and change in total for all of us.