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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Pulau Indah 180 2016

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Banner

180km / 112mi is further than most organised rides.  An extra 20km / 12mi didn’t sound like much, especially as a few of us had made it through the 220km / 137mi brevet a couple of weeks before.  As it turned out, this ride was much more challenging than even the brevet was.

The attrition rate in an event is one sign of how challenging a course is.  592 riders started the Pulau Indah ride.  398 finished within the cutoff time of 7 hours 30 minutes.  So 33% of participants either did not finish, or finished outside the cutoff time.

The three of us rode together.  I missed the memo about the choice of jersey!  I can assure you that we didn’t look so cheery eight hours later.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Justin, Liang, JM Justin

What contributed to the attrition rate?  I think it was a combination of the road conditions,  the winds, and the mid-day sun.

As the name of the event suggests, the ride started and ended on Pulau Indah.  The island is separated from the mainland of peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Lumut.  Pulau Indah is home to Westports, the largest sea port in Malaysia.  Together with Northport nearby, Westports has become the 18th busiest seaport in the world.  Pulau Indah is also home to an industrial park.

The side streets and the Pulau Indah Expressway carry a large number of cargo trucks everyday.  Which inevitably leads to potholes and cracks in the road surface, and then patch upon patch as the damage is repaired.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Route

The organisers did warn us about the poor roads during the technical briefing before the race / ride was flagged off.  I don’t think all the participants fully appreciated the warning, and some started out riding too fast for the conditions.

By the time we got to the bridge over the Straits of Lumut, a number of cyclists had suffered pinch flats or damaged carbon wheels.  There were lots of bidons on the road.  I also heard that there were a few crashes.  Signs that the roads were damaged and very bumpy.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Bridge

So the first contributor to the attrition rate came early.  Puncture a tubular tire, or crack a carbon rim, and your day is over.

The poor road conditions continued after we turned right onto Jalan Banting Klang. through to Banting town.  Things improved a bit along the coast after Morib, but concentration on the road and riders ahead remained very important over the entire course.  Even Cat’s Eyes could catch you out.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Cat Eyes Jack Mah

Photograph courtesy of Jack Mah

I think the energy spent constantly concentrating on the road conditions was energy that was not available to turn pedals later on in the event.

I must credit Central Spectrum SB for doing a fine job organising the Pulau Indah 180.   This was one of the better run events I have participated in.

Central Spectrum couldn’t do much about the roads, but they did very well with other aspects of the ride.  Directional signage to the start point was good.  Goodie bag pickup went smoothly.  There was free coffee, tea, and some munchies on offer before the start.

We started on time – hooray.  Always a good indicator that the organiser is on top of things.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Start Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The directional signs along the route were large and clear.  Especially helpful were the signs warning of humps in the road.

The marshalling along the route was excellent.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Moto Marshalls Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Some busy roads through Banting were closed off to traffic, which made life less stressful for the riders.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Closed Road Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

We did have to ride with traffic in some places.  Again concentration was important.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Traffic XviCliX

Photograph courtesy of XviCliX


There was free food and drink at the finish.

Kudos Central Spectrum SB.

The first water station was 50km / 31mi into the event, on the south side of Banting.  Bananas, water, and 100 Plus were available.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Water Station XviCliX

Photograph courtesy of XviCliX

17km / 11mi later the three of us stopped at Morib for breakfast.  I was surprised that not more riders stopped at those food stalls beside the sea for a rest and some eats.

It had been overcast for most of the distance to Morib, so the riding had been comfortable.  We averaged about 30kph / 19mph to that point.  A bit faster than I had anticipated, but my average heart rate was only 107bpm.  I must have been drafting the entire way!

Conditions changed after Morib.  We were riding along the coast, and the wind was making itself felt.  It was my turn to pull, and started riding in the drops.  I was crouched low against the wind for much of the remainder of the course.  Which explains why my glutes are so sore today.

We chased down a group ahead of us, which gave us the relief of a draft.  I noticed a red Specialized Roubaix in the group, and wondered if it was Simon.


Photograph courtesy of Joy Saidin

A salute to the guy on the fatbike.  It must have been an effort to push those tires aound the course.

Simon and his girlfriend had found my blog, and had contacted me some weeks before the Pulai Indah 180.  Simon was making the trip from the UK to ride this event, and asked if he could rent a Roubaix in Kuala Lumpur.

The short answer is “no”.  The availability of rental bicycles in KL is extremely limited.  The only shop providing rentals that I know of is Cycleism in Taman Melawati.  They have Lapierre bicycles for rent, but only in size M.

Simon decided to bring his Roubaix with him to KL.  I didn’t manage to chat with Simon during the ride, but did see Farrah and him at the finish area.  It was very nice to chat with them.  I am pleased that we connected through this blog.

By the time we got to the second water station at 103km / 64mi, the sun was out, and the temperature was quickly rising to the predicted high for the day.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Weather

Graphic courtesy of Weather Underground

Some were better prepared than we were.  There was a contingent of rider friends from Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.  They had a support vehicle with, among other things, an ice chest full of drinks.  Certainly made our lukewarm mineral water look distinctly second-best.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Support Car William Cheang

Photograph courtesy of William Cheang

There was a time check at 110km / 68mi, right outside the Sepang International Circuit.  It would have been fun to ride a lap of the circuit as part of the route.

Hope for some relief flickered briefly at about the 120km / 75mi, when a light rain started to fall.  That lasted for all of a minute, after which normal sunshine resumed.

We were getting cooked, and wind hadn’t helped us.  We were hoping for a tail wind on the way back to Pulau Indah.  But the wind had turned, so we rode against it for most of the rest of the event.

A cold drink stop was in order.  We pulled into a PETRONAS station at 130km / 81mi.  A spot of air conditioning and three cold chocolate milks hit the spot for me.

We were starting to drag, as were many of the other riders around us.  This ride was becoming hard work.  I can’t imagine what it was like for the elite men and women, who were racing for cash prizes.  RM3,000 for the category winners.  Not to be sniffed at.

The third water station at 150km / 93mi couldn’t come fast enough.  Lukewarm water served to rinse salt off our faces.  Fortunately there was a row of shop houses behind the water station that provided a source of cold drinks, and some shade.

We lingered in the shade for longer than we probably should have, but the thought of another 30km / 19mi in the wind did not appeal.

It was hot.  It was windy.  The roads were bad.  It was hard work.  My average speed over the last 60km / 37mi dropped to 27.5kph / 17mph.  My heart rate went up to an average of 134.5bpm.

What a relief to see the 5km / 3km / 1km to go signs.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 3km Sign Catherine Wong

Photograph courtesy of Catherine Wong

The organizers were about to dismantle the timing gantry when I got to the finish.  I think I was the last finisher to get an official time.  Just a hair outside 7 hours and 30 minutes.

I could have used a spray down at the end of this ride, but the fire truck was long gone by the time I finished.  Not even a wet patch on the road remained to show that they had been there.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Bomba Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

For those of you into numerology, check out my ride number.

Pulau Indah 180 2016 Medal

Unfortunately it was D007 that won a prize in the post-ride lucky draw!

Sweaty Eyeballs

Sweaty Eyeballs Creativeallianceorg

Graphic courtesy of

The bane of every cyclist.  It is hot.  You sweat. The sweat drips into your eyes. It stings your eyes and smears on your glasses, impairing your vision.  Usually just as you are approaching a pothole or a sharp corner at speed.

I started cycling in Houston, Texas.  Where summer temperatures are consistently in the mid 30s C / 90s F.  So it wasn’t long before I was looking for a way to keep sweat out of my eyes.  I settled on a Sweat GUTR.  A soft plastic headband with a lip across the front which channels sweat away from your eyes and glasses.


The Sweat Gutr worked well, but it had one shortcoming.  My forehead gets oily as I sweat.  The smooth plastic headband would start sliding down my forehead, breaking the seal between skin and band and allowing sweat to leak into my eyes.

I either had to keep pushing the band back up above my eyebrows, or tighten the band.  A tighter band solved the slippage problem in exchange for a pressure headache.  I settled for pushing the Sweat GUTR back up my forehead when necessary.  Once the dog days of summer gave way to cooler autumn days, my Sweat GUTR stayed in a drawer.

Then I moved to the Netherlands, where even on the hottest days, sweaty eyeballs are much less of a problem.  My Sweat GUTR continued its stay in a drawer

It came out of the drawer when I got home to Malaysia.   But the average humidity of 80% or more made the slippage problem worse than it had been in Houston.  The Sweat GUTR was soon consigned to the back of a drawer, never to be used again.

For a while I resorted to wiping the sweat off my brow with a bandana.  I built up quite a collection of bandanas.


They weren’t a particularly effective solution.  Too often I was reaching into a jersey pocket for a bandana after sweat was already stinging my eyes.

A friend suggested streaks of Vaseline above my eyes.  That may have worked, but I foresaw one major drawback.  I would forget the Vaseline was there, and would smear it everywhere the first time I wiped my face.

So I relied on my bandanas.  In other words, I put up with stinging eyes.

One day a riding buddy turned up wearing a helmet liner.

Mission Enduracool Helmet Liner 1
He raved about how this particular helmet liner uses a “proprietary technology . . .  to create a prolonged cooling effect.”  Mission Athletecare website

I needed help coping with the heat.  The helmet liner was worth the price just for the cooling effect.

Now that I have worn these helmet liners for the better part of a year, I value them for more than just their cooling effect.  The helmet liner wicks away sweat from my forehead before it can trickle down into my eyes.  No more sweaty eyeballs!

The stretchy fabric stays comfortable over long periods.  No more pressure headaches!

The fabric is stretchy enough for me to stuff some ice cubes under a liner to cool my scalp on particularly hot days.

A multi-tasking piece of cycling kit.  The best kind.

Does a Base Layer Really Work in Tropical Weather?

Hot Weather Banner

Illustration courtesy of

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation issued a media statement on 8th January 2016, in which he said that peninsular Malaysia will have hot and dry weather throughout the first quarter of the year.  A strong El Nino phenomenon is to blame.  We may see a rise in temperature of between 0.5 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees Celsius compared to the norm for this time of the year.

So far the recorded high temperatures in Kuala Lumpur support this.

Weather forecast KL

Data courtesy of

Hooray!  It is going to be hotter than normal for the next few months.

Staying cool in Malaysia’s humid tropical heat has been an ongoing challenge for me.  In previous posts I have chronicled the various things I have tried to stay cool while out on my bike.

The latest tool in my bag of tricks is a base layer.  The opinions on the efficacy of wearing a base layer in hot weather are mixed, to say the least.  Some riders think it is crazy to wear an additional layer under a jersey out in the heat.  Others swear by the ability of a good base layer to make a hot weather ride more comfortable.

I was persuaded by articles such as this one, titled “Why Wear A Base Layer In The Heat?“, which appeared in Cycling Tips.

I have worn a sleeveless base layer under a jersey on long rides for a few months now.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Air Kelapa Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

In the absence of riding with a rectal thermometer to provide quantitative data, I can’t tell you how many degrees cooler my core temperature has been with a base layer on.  Plus there are too many other variables to consider – ambient air temperature, level of exertion, hydration etc.

However I can report that in my case, a base layer does what it claims to, which is help keep me cool in hot weather.  My base layers  are much more breathable than my jerseys, which helps with evaporative cooling.  The same process that makes my arms feel cooler when I wet my arm screens.

I also feel more comfortable riding with a base layer on.  It wicks moisture away from my body, so I don’t have a soaked jersey clinging to me.

I can unzip my jersey and not have rivulets of sweat dripping down my torso.  For a heavy perspirer like me, this is a big plus.  It is also easier on the eye for my riding companions as I sit with an open jersey at rest stops.

An advantage of a base layer that most riders agree on is that the extra layer between jersey and skin provides some protection against road rash in the event of a fall.  I hope not to test that claim!

It is forecast to be at least 33° C / 91°F this Sunday, during the Pulau Indah 180.  My base layer says “Bring it on!”

Beat the Heat


Audax BRM200 Malaysia 2016

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Banner

When I first read the terms “Audax,””Brevet” and “Randonneurs,” I had to look up what they meant.

  • Audax:  A cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion.  Also known as Randonneuring.
  • Brevet:  A long-distance bicycle ride with check-point controls.  Also known as a Randonnée.
  • Randonneur:  A rider who has completed a 200km event.

Apart from noting that audax is an excuse to market hi-viz jerseys for brevets (see the zipped chest pocket for carrying a brevet card), I thought little more about that variety of cycling.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Jersey

Image courtesy of Rapha

Some time later I read an online article in CyclingTips titled “Paris-Brest-Paris – Never Again.”  Written by James Fairbank, a finisher of the 2011 edition of the quadrennial 1,200km brevet from Paris, to Brest, and back again in a time limit of under 90 hours.

Then I read the accounts of four other riders who also completed the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris in “PBP 2011: Four Journeys” on the Rapha website (the provider of the Brevet jersey above).

Utterly mad!

So when I was invited to participate in the first Official Audax Brevet in Malaysia (thanks Yue-Jin), I thought “No way!”  220km / 137mi was further than I had ever ridden in one sitting, so to speak.

But the more my cycling buddies and I talked about it, the more we thought “Why not?”

Which led to ten of my buddies and I being amongst the 480 or so mad folk who registered for this event.  Here we are in Kapar, ready for the 5am start.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Start Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We collected our brevet cards and then rode off into the darkness.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Brevet Card Collection Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

Fortunately we didn’t have to make any turns during the first two hours.  In the dark I couldn’t read the nifty cue card that Liang had made for us.  Brevet routes are not marked, so this cue card taped to my top tube was consulted often after we got past the first check-point.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Cue Card

By sunrise we had reached Sekinchan on our run northwest up the coast.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Route

Just before 8am we rolled into the first check-point at the McDonalds in Sungai Besar.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 1st Checkpoint Liew Jho

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

We needed breakfast, but an Egg McMuffin didn’t appeal.  So some of us went on a hunt for roti canai.  Which we found at what is apparently Sungai Besar’s oldest Malay restaurant.  I think the wait staff were a bit surprised to have a dozen lycra-clad guys turn up together.  All demanding food.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Breakfast Shop Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Six more of these please!

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Roti Canai Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

By the time we got going again the sun was breaking through the clouds.  The weather forecast had called for continuous rain, and I had come prepared with a rain jacket and shoe covers.  We were all looking forward to the cooler temperatures that rain brings.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Weather

However the only water we saw all day was in this canal.  No need for that rain gear.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Canal Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

The sun got brighter and brighter as the day progressed.  There was some cloud cover, so we had occasional respite from direct sunshine, but we felt the heat anyway.

Photograph courtesy of Eric Chen

Photograph courtesy of Eric Chen

At about 9.30am we turned onto Jalan Sungai Panjang.  Why did the squirrel cross the road?

Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Nasir

Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Nasir

Jalan Sungai Panjang, or Long River road, is appropriately named.  We were on it for 40km / 25mi.

That is not the river on the left by the way.  Sungai Bernam is a couple of kilometers to the left of this road.  That river demarcates the border between the states of Selangor and Perak, starting from the river mouth on the west coast and meandering 90km / 56mi or so eastward to Tanjung Malim.

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Radzi Jamaludin

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Radzi Jamaludin

Before long some of the group got bored and upped the pace.  The rest of us followed for about 10km / 6mi before letting the faster riders go.  We needed a break.  Mark spotted a stall in the midst of the oil palm trees.  Literally in the middle of nowhere.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Coke Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We cruised the remaining 17km / 10.5mi to the second check-point at Kampung Soeharto, posing for some GoPro shots along the way.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Liang and Mark Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Leslie Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

And enjoyed the shade beneath the clouds where we could.

Photograph courtesy of Denny Zulkasi

Photograph courtesy of Denny Zulkasi

The first order of business upon arriving in Kampung Soeharto at 11.30am was to get our brevet cards stamped by a group of cheerful volunteers.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Check-Point 2 Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

Then it was time for lunch.  The brevet organisers had warned us that there was no food or drink to be had for 40km / 25mi beyond Kampung Soeharto.  We crowded into Laila Restaurant for chicken rice and lime juice.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Lunch Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Shade was in demand!

BRM 200 2016 Looking for Shade Joel Tanmenghan

Photograph courtesy of Joel Tanmenghan

We spent about an hour in Kampung Soeharto.  It was almost 2pm by the time we got to the outskirts of Batang Berjuntai.  The first sign of refreshment after the previous bone dry 40km / 25mi was a roadside stall selling coconut water.

Take one freshly-opened young coconut, add ice and a straw, and say “aaaaaah!”

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Air Kelapa Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We made one more stop at the PETRONAS station at Simpang Tiga Ijok.  That was only 10km / 6mi from the coconut water stall, but it didn’t take long in the 35° C / 95° F heat for us to want more cold drinks and some time in air-conditioning.

At that point most, if not all, of my buddies had ridden further than they had on their previous longest rides.  I was in new territory also.  Despite having ridden 190km / 118mi we were all still in good shape.  Tired and a bit sore perhaps, but no one was cramping.

Our decision to ride conservatively (there was one collective rush of blood to the head before our Coca Cola stop, but that turn of speed didn’t last very long) had paid off.  I was certainly feeling better at 190km on this day than I remember feeling at 100km / 62mi on a number of previous rides.

We also had the good fortune of not suffering any mechanical problems.  Not a puncture amongst us.  Respect to this gentleman, who finished the ride solo on a tandem that had suffered a broken rear wheel spoke.  Thereby embodying the self-reliance that the Audax culture prizes.  External support is expressly prohibited in the Audax rules, and if you go off course or experience a mechanical, you are expected to take responsibility for finding your own way home and making your own repairs on the road.

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

With ‘just’ 30km / 18.5mi to go, we lost our conservativeness.  Our average speed went up by at least 4kph / 2.5mph as we pushed for the finish.  This despite riding over the poorest road surface of the entire route between the 200km / 124mi and 215km / 133mi points.

The organisers had been forced to make a last-minute change to the end of the route, to avoid presumably worse conditions.  The roads on the rest of the route were by and large in good to very good condition.

Audax Randonneurs Malaysia did a terrific job putting this event together.  Kudos to the committee members.  And a heartfelt shout-out to the volunteers who distributed and stamped the brevet cards.

All the information that went out ahead of the event was very helpful. In particular the cue sheet and photographs of the turns along the route, like this one.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Directions Sam Tow

Photograph courtesy of Sam Tow

All my buddies and I finished the ride in about 10 hours 45 minutes.  Well within the time limit of 13 hours 30 minutes.

As did this group, which rolled into the final check-point at the Kapar KFC about 8 hours after they started.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 1.04 Finishers Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

In the spirit of Audax, all 389 of us who finished the event before 6.30pm, including getting to the check-points on time, were successful.  One last stamp on the brevet card.

BRM 200 2016 JM Finish Joel Tanmenghan

Photograph courtesy of Joel Tanmenghan

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Brevet Card

We are all very pleased with our achievement.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Finish Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

I think all my riding buddies joined me in stumping up the cash to get a 200km medal from the Audax Club Parisien, the body that administers randonneuring around the world.  This will be quite a memento.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Medals Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

The teaser video for the 400km / 248mi brevet in September is already out!  The time limit is 27 hours.

Video courtesy of Sam Tow.

The question now is, will my buddies and I ride it?

“No way!”

For now.