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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Perak Century Ride 2016

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Perak Century Ride 2016 Logo

2:45am

That is when I had to get out of bed for the Perak Century Ride 2016.  Six of us had decided to drive to Ipoh on the morning of the ride, rather than spend Saturday night in a hotel there.

The ride started at 7:00am, and the start line was 210km / 130mi away.

3:45am

Liang, Alvin and I were on the road in Liang’s MPV.  There was plenty of room for three bicycles and us.

4:15am

We rendezvoused with Marco and Mark at the Sungai Buloh R&R before hitting the North-South Expressway to Bandar Meru Raya, which is a new township in Ipoh, Perak.  Marvin made it a three vehicle convoy when he caught up with us on the road.

5:15am

We drove into rain, heavy at times.  Not a good sign.

6:30am

It was still raining.  The other two cars stopped on Jalan Bandar Timah in the old town section of Ipoh.  That street is the location of Sin Yoon Loong Restaurant, across the road from Nam Heong Restaurant.  There is an ongoing debate as to which is the originator of the Ipoh White Coffee brand.   Marco, Mark and Marvin wanted breakfast.

I didn’t have time to stop for breakfast.  Leslie had collected my ride number, jersey and so on for me they day before.  I had to get those from him before the 7:00am event start.  And he was already parked and waiting at the official hotel for the event, the Casuarina @ Meru.   Alvin and Liang were keen to start riding on time too.

7:18am

Alvin, Leslie, Liang and I got onto the road after the event had started. We must have been among the last riders to get out onto the route.  As none of us know the way to the start line, I was looking out for the timing gantry that would have been over the start line.

I didn’t see one.  I found out later that there was no timing gantry at the start.  So it made no difference that my timing chip fell off my helmet after thirty minutes of riding in the rain.

Not  having found the start line, we were lucky to spot a group of riders and a motorbike race marshal ahead of us.  They were our guides until we started passing direction signs for the ride.  The signs were planted all along the route.  There were also marshals directing riders.  One of the things that the organisers got right on the day.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Marshals Cycling Plus Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Malaysia Magazine

We rode anti-clockwise to Kuala Kangsar, and then south to Parit and Siputeh, before heading north back to Ipoh.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Route

7:20am

It wasn’t long before the feature that epitomises this event made itself felt.  The rolling terrain.

Perak Century 2016 Rolling Monica T

Photograph courtesy of Nancy Y

Nothing too severe, apart from a couple of steep, but thankfully short, pitches south of Kuala Kangsar.  Which might have been where the Rapha KOM section was.  There were prizes on offer for the first in each category across the KOM line.

I have no idea where this was.  We were so far behind that all traces of the KOM timing gantry had been cleared by the time we got up whichever hill this was.

Perak Century 2016 Rapha KOM PCR

Photograph courtesy of Perak Century Ride 2016

The seemingless endless series of climbs, as shown on the route profile below, took their toll on many participants as the event progressed.  I am sure that was one of the contributing factors to the high attrition rate at this event.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Profile

The rain took its toll too.  Not only on my socks, which started the day pristinely white and ended the day a dingy grey.   But on tires and inner tubes as well.

In wet conditions small stones, pieces of wire, shards of glass etc. have a greater tendency to stick to tires.  Water on tires acts as a lubricant, making it easier for sharp objects to penetrate and puncture a tire.

This was a common sight.

Perak Century 2016 Flat Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie

The guys from Meng Thai Bicycle Centre were running a mobile repair service from the back of a car.  They were in great demand.

Perak Century 2016 Roadside Service Lee WH

Photograph courtesy of Lee WH

As were the services of the lorries picking up riders and their bicycles along the route.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Lorry Cycling Plus Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Malaysia Magazine

7:36am

The four of us skipped the first rest stop at 35km / 22mi.  It was still overcast and cool.  I wasn’t sweating very much, so I still had a lot of fluid in my bidons.  It was a good time to be out on a bike.

9:34am

We did take a break at the second rest stop.  We hadn’t had breakfast, and we were getting hungry after 65km / 40mi in the saddle.

Perak Century 2016 Group Water Stop Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie

We were out of luck.  No bananas.   Bananas are standard fare at the rest stops in Malaysian century rides.  One of the knocks against the organisers was that the rest stops were poorly provisioned.  Not enough cold water and food for all the participants.

Team AGRR did it right.  They had their own support car, dispensing, amongst other things, dim sum.  Talk about style.

Perak Century 2016 Team Support Monica T

Photograph courtesy of Nancy Y

10:52am

It was the same at the third rest stop.  No bananas.  By that point we were 90km / 56mi or so into the ride, and starting to get the shakes from hunger.  Perhaps the three who stopped for breakfast at 6:30am had the right idea.

Fortunately meters away from the rest stop was a roadside stall selling food.  After a packet of nasi lemak and a fried egg, and some cans of 100 Plus courtesy of WH Lee and Meng Thai, we were feeling much better.

By this time the WhatsApp chatter confirmed what had happened to the breakfast gang of three.  They had eventually gone to Bandar Meru Raya and gotten on their bicycles.  But had started riding in the wrong direction.  So after a short ride they gave up and went home.

The sun made its presence felt over the final 60km / 37mi.  As you can tell by the shadows.

11:16am

We had ridden 100km / 62mi.  How things change once the temperature rises.  The humidity rocketed, thanks to all the rain that had fallen.  The sweat was streaming off me, my core temperature was rising, and I was drinking much more.  We took advantage of the two remaining rest stops at 118km / 73mi and 141km / 88mi to get some water, both into and onto us.

1:02pm

The water at the last rest stop was warm, so it didn’t do much to cool us down.  By then Liang and I were ahead of Alvin and Leslie.  We decided to hit a petrol station between the last rest stop and the finish line.  A Shell station conveniently appeared 5km / 3mi later. Air conditioning and cold chocolate milk are a winning combination!

We saw Alvin ride past as we were sitting inside the petrol station convenience store.  But no sign of Leslie.  We later found out that he had suffered a flat.  His spare inner tube had a faulty valve, so he couldn’t inflate it properly.  Fortunately he was rescued by a group of good samaritans bearing a floor pump.

2.01pm

Alvin, Liang and I finished safely and had regrouped at the MPV.  My phone had buzzed a few times during the run in to the finish.  I had a few missed calls from Leslie.  I called him back, and found out that he had suffered a flat.  His spare inner tube had a faulty valve, so he couldn’t inflate it properly.

He needed a floor pump, which we didn’t have.  Fortunately he was rescued by a group of good samaritans bearing the required floor pump.

Perak Century 2016 Rescue Squad Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie

2:45pm

We had cleaned up as best we could, changed out of our cycling gear, and were getting hungry.  Leslie had yet to finish, having been delayed by the problems with his inner tube. He was staying another night in Ipoh, so we left him to his own devices.  Alvin, Liang and I went on a hunt for a late lunch.

3:45pm

We had an inadvertent scenic diversion to Kuala Kangsar on our way to the old town section of Ipoh.  So our hunt for lunch started even later than originally anticipated.  We found it anyway, at Restoran M Salim.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Lunch 2 Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Not satisfied with just rice and chicken, we added this.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Fish Head Curry Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

The signature dish at this restaurant.  Fish head curry.

We then stopped at another small place for dessert.  There could be only one choice for something cold and sweet.  Cendol.

All that was left was to get home safely.

8:20pm

Which we did, after being delayed by the traffic on the North-South Expressway.

Perak Century Ride 2016 Medal

 

 

Fun and Food (Not Necessarily in that Order)

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Morib was the destination this morning.  It is a route I have ridden a few times already.  An Epic Ride describes one of those prior jaunts to the seaside at Morib.

Alvin, Liang, Mark and I got rolling at about 6.45am.  Avoiding the midday heat on the way back was our primary objective.  All looked good as we made our way down the motorcycle path beside the KESAS Highway, through Kota Kemuning and on to Bandar Botanik.  It was an overcast morning, and we had cool conditions as we rode through Telok Panglima Garang and onward to the coast and Morib.

Morib Route

The road along the Langat River to Tanjung Tongkah Lighthouse, previously a section of road in disrepair, has been resurfaced.  Cool weather and smooth tarmac makes for fun riding.

The first order of business once we got to Morib was breakfast.  We stopped at the aptly named Delicious Bread Coffee Shop.

Morib Delicious Bread

The bread was as advertised.  We had ours toasted, with butter and kaya.  Along with nasi lemak, soft-boiled eggs, and iced Milo or coffee.

Morib Breakfast Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Yummy yummy!

Morib Breakfast Group Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Then it was time for a bit of fun.  Photographs further down the road at the Morib Gold Coast Resort, for no other reason than it has a sign that reads “Morib.”

Morib Gold Coast Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

More photographs on the sea wall at the beach at the end of Persiaran Mestika.

Morib Bicycles Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

And another picture just to prove that we had really ridden to Morib beach.

Morib Group

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

The overcast skies cleared just as we started on the 70km / 44mi ride back to Bandar Sunway.

It was less and less fun as the temperature and humidity ramped up.  By the time we were 15km / 9mi from home, it was properly hot.  So much for an early start to avoid getting toasted on the way back.

Morib Weather

We were only 12km / 7.5mi away from Morib when we made a hydration stop.  The first of a few such stops.  We pulled up to a small sundry shop near Kampong Kathong and bought litres of water, some iced tea and other flavoured waters.

About 20km / 12mi from Morib we had made what in hindsight was an ill-advised detour toward Pulau Carey.  The realisation after 4km / 2.5mi of the detour that it was still a long way to Pulau Carey, coupled with the rising temperature, prompted the smart decision to turn around.

Our next hydration stop was at Cendol Santan Sawit Mak Lang.  A mere 20km / 12mi from the sundry shop.

We didn’t know that there was such a thing as santan sawit.  Santan is the Malay word for coconut milk.  Made, as the name makes clear, with the flesh from the nut of the coconut palm tree. Kelapa sawit is the Malay term for oil palm.  At the time it didn’t make sense to us that santan could be made from the nut of the oil palm tree.  We figured the term “santan sawit” referred to santan made from coconuts that grew amongst the oil palm trees.

I now know that palm oil is used to make a coconut milk substitute.  The aforementioned santan sawit.

Which, despite the complete lack of coconut milk in it, makes a delicious cendol.  Made even better, in this case, by lots and lots of shaved ice.  We even got an extra bowl of shaved ice.

Morib Chendol Mark

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

We made two more hydration stops in the 37km / 23mi between the cendol stall and Bandar Sunway.  Both times at petrol stations.

At the Petronas station 10km / 6mi from Bandar Sunway we met up with some friends who had ridden to Morib as well.  They rode a slightly different route, including a climb to this lookout spot at Jugra.

Morib Dicky Cindy Benjamin Cindy

Photograph courtesy of Cindy

By the time they pulled up at the Petronas station they were looking just as hot and sweaty as we were.

It was 1.45pm by the time we got to our cars.  More drinks, and lunch, were on our minds once we had cleaned up and stuck our bicycles into our vehicles.  Mark led us to Lim Fried Chicken in SS15, Subang Jaya.

Fried chicken, a fried egg, green beans and curry rice, with extra curry gravy and sambal on the side.

Morib Lunch Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Chased with ice-cold homemade soya milk.

The ride to Morib and back was suddenly fun again.

 

More Water

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No excuse to stay in bed.  It wasn’t raining when the alarm went off at 5.30am.

Ninety minutes later I was at Batu 18, Hulu Langat, ready to hit the slopes up to Genting Peras with Chris and Lai.

I’ve seen this spot on the border between the states of Selangor and Negri Sembilan referred to as “Perez” and “Peres.”  I wasn’t sure of the right name myself, so this time I paid attention to the sign at the summit of the climb.  “Peras” it is.

Peras Sign

Over the crest of the hill is a long descent to Titi.  With, of course, an equally long climb to get back to Batu 18.  If we had gone to Titi, the last thing I would want to do upon getting back to the top of the hill is to attack.

Especially if I were running back up this hill as part of the Titi 100 ultra marathon. Participants in the 200km / 124mi category ran up and down this hill twice!

Peras Attack

Photograph courtesy of Chris

Instead of descending to Titi, we turned around and gravity-surfed back down to Simpang Peras, and then continued on to the Sungai Tekala Recreation Park.

Peras and Tekala Route

The last time I rode past the Semenyih Dam, the water level in the lake was pretty low.  All the rain we have had lately has helped raise the water level behind the dam.  There is still some way to go before the lake is full, but we may get away without water rationing this year.

Peras Tekala 1

The lake is a lovely sight when it has water in it.  Definitely worth a stop for a photograph or two.

Peras Tekala

Photograph courtesy of Lai

The small waterfalls along this route have more volume after all the rain.  Another excuse for a breather.

 

If only it wouldn’t rain when we want to ride!

One Thing Rain is Good For

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It has been raining a lot lately.  Quite a few night rides have been cancelled because it was too wet.  A ride planned for this morning didn’t happen because it was raining when my alarm went off.

One upside is any waterfalls we pass are worth stopping at for a longer look.  There are a couple on the route from Janda Baik to Chamang.

Waterfalls

The first, Bentong waterfall, is on the left as you descend from Bukit Tinggi.  It feeds the Sungai Tanglir, which is on the right side of the road.

Bentong Waterfall

Bentong Waterfall

The second, Chamang waterfall,feeds into the Sungai Perting.  It is a bit of a climb to get to the falls, but the effort is worth it.

Chamang Waterfall

Chamang Waterfall

 The recent rains have added to the volume of water in these falls.  A good thing for sightseers.  But I do hope it isn’t raining tomorrow morning.

BCG Tour Ijok – Teluk Intan – Ijok

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BCG Tour Teluk Intan Banner

When the first Facebook posts about a supported ride from Ijok to Teluk Intan and back appeared on my News Feed, I was intrigued.  It was the maiden ride organised by Johan S and Danial AM, who together are BCG Tour.  They describe themselves as “2 cyclists who are dedicated to spreading the joy and good feeling of cycling to everyone.”

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Organisers

I am always up for joy and good feeling.  Leslie and I signed up, and joined eleven other cyclists in Ijok.

Right away we all made new friends.

Before we headed out onto Jalan Kuala Selangor we got a short briefing about what to expect along the way.  We were given ziploc bags holding cue sheets for the route.  There weren’t many turns to watch out for, so none of us were worried about getting lost.  Danial and Johan would both be driving support vehicles, one of which was a pickup, so help would always be close at hand.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Support

Johan is a photographer by profession.  He started snapping photographs at the start, and regularly hopped out of his car along the route to take action shots.  All the photographs in this post, unless indicated otherwise, were shot by him.

The route took us west from Ijok town to Jalan Kapar.  There we turned right and headed north to Kuala Selangor and Sekinchan.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Route

Route map courtesy of Ride With GPS

We made our first stop at Sekinchan after covering 48km / 30mi in 90 minutes. Pretty quick, thanks to Eric leading the way.  It was time to regroup, and have a cold drink and a rest at a PETRONAS station.

The pace stayed high between Sekinchan and Sabak Bernam, which was our next designated regrouping point.

The staff at the KFC weren’t fazed by a throng of sweaty cyclists rocking up to the counter to order drinks and food.  I’m not sure what the other patrons thought though.

We spent ninety minutes at the KFC in Sabak Bernam.  By the time we were all ready to leave it was starting to get hot.  Very hot.

IMG_2740

Weather graphic courtesy of Weather Underground

Certainly hot enough for me to slather some more sunscreen on my exposed skin, and to tuck a bandana under my helmet to keep the sun off the back of my neck.

The last 40km / 25mi to Teluk Intan started with a 5km / 3mi detour through town and along the Sungai Bernam to avoid roadworks on the main road.  The detour did include the opportunity to show off some cyclocross skills.

 

Once back on the main road we hit the climb of the day – the entire route is so flat that bridges across rivers count as climbs.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan KOM

Photograph courtesy of Danial AM

After that it was a non-stop ride to Teluk Intan.

I am sure we were all glad to get to the landmark Menara Condong (Leaning Tower) in Teluk Intan.  The end point for Day 1.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Menara Condong

Photograph courtesy of Yew Boutique Hotel

Overnight accommodation was at the Yew Boutique Hotel, situated a few hundred metres from the Menara Condong.  The hotel ticked all the boxes.  The lobby cum coffee house is bright and spacious.  The room Leslie and I shared was clean and comfortable.  The air conditioning worked well, as did the water heater for the shower.  We were even allowed to bring our bikes into our room.

Most of us hung out in the coolness of the coffee house before heading up to our rooms for a shower etc.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Yew Boutique Hotel

Once we were cleaned up it was time to eat.  Next door to the hotel is the Medan Selera GSB (Glutton Square Baru) that serves delicious vegetarian popiah.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Popiah

Photograph courtesy of Daniel N

Three servings, and some of Leslie’s shrimp wan tan, were enough to tide me over until dinner that evening.

Next came a dusk photo session at the Menara Condong.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Menara Condong

A dinner tip from local boy Shahfiq was the udang galah (giant freshwater prawns) at Restoran D’Tepian Sungai.  Udang Galah are a big deal in Teluk Intan.  These big versions are at Dataran Udang Galah (Udang Galah Square), which we walked through on the way to the restaurant.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Dataran Udang Galah

I took this photograph

As its name implies, Restoran D’Tepian Sungai overlooks the Sungai Perak.  It is a simple open-air place.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Restoran D'Tepian Sungai

Photograph courtesy of narizan.blogspot.com

Essentially just a roof over tables and chairs, with the river visible behind.

You don’t come to Restoran D’Tepian Sungai for a fancy restaurant experience.  You come for this.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Udang Galah

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Ordered by the kilo, and cooked in your choice of six different ways.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Udang Galah 2

Photograph courtesy of Daniel N

We were treated to an epic thunderstorm as we ate our prawns, squid etc.  The rain persisted after we had all finished our dinners.  By the time we could venture out into the open to walk home, some were peckish again.

Teluk Intan is noted for its chee cheong fun.  The best is reputedly made by Liew Kee (Ah Lek) Chee Cheong Fun, which conveniently was on the way back to the hotel.

Despite all the food I ate for dinner, I was up early for the set breakfast that came with the hotel room.  Toast and jam, a fried egg, baked beans and coffee set me up for the ride home.

Riders headed back onto the road when they were ready, beginning before dawn.

My day didn’t start very well.  I had a puncture 9 kilometres from the hotel.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Puncture

Photograph courtesy of Leslie T

The fix was complicated by a valve core that kept unscrewing from the valve, rapidly releasing all the air that Leslie and I had just worked hard to pump in.  Fortunately Danial appeared in his truck, with a small pair of pliers, and perhaps more crucially, a foot pump that had a push-on rather than a screw-on head.

Once my rear tire was back on my bike, we had no more trouble.  We retraced our route back to Ijok, this time without the need to detour around road works.

As it had done the day before, the temperature climbed steadily through the morning.  The humidity level was also very high after the heavy rain during the night.

IMG_2745

Weather graphic courtesy of Weather Underground

I wasn’t the only one sweating buckets on the return ride.  Leslie and I stopped at a Caltex station in Batang Berjuntai for a cold drink and a dose of air conditioning.

We stopped again at the Padi Box in Sekinchan, which was the scheduled regrouping point.

The Padi Box is a homestay place built out of repurposed shipping containers.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Padi Box

Photograph courtesy of Seng Chee Photography

Unfortunately the cafe was closed because there was a video shoot going on.  So we descended on the fruit stall on the corner of Jalan Tali Air 4 and the main road.  Where I drank three large glasses of fresh mango juice in double quick time.  I had been drinking regularly from my bidons, but the fluid was dripping out of me almost as fast as I was taking it in.

20km / 12mi later we stopped at Cendol Durian Borhan in Kampung Permatang.  Yet another food outlet that has achieved stellar status in the eyes of foodies.

I can’t fault the decor.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Cendol Durian Borhan

Photograph courtesy of asparaguswhite.blogspot.com

The cendol was very good.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Cendol

Photograph courtesy of Leslie T

So good that I had another bowl after I finished the two in front of me.

Given the amount of fluid I had drunk during the previous two hours, I am surprised that I wasn’t sloshing around during the 25km / 16mi from the cendol stop to Ijok.  It was straight into the 7-Eleven at Ijok for another drink as soon as we finished.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Finish Ijok

Johan and Danial did an excellent job making sure that everyone got back to Ijok safely.  Kudos to the both of them for organising a fun event.  And congratulations to all the participants.   For some this was their longest ride to date.  Well done.

If you are interested in joining the next BCG tour event, click here.  Kajang to Melaka and back on June 4th and 5th.  260km / 162mi in all.  I’m sure you will enjoy it.BCG Tour Teluk Intan Next Tour Banner

 

 

FSA K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost

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Seatpost In Action

Graphic courtesy of Road Bike Review

I have written a few posts about my Alchemy Eros.  Starting with A Bicycle for the Cognoscenti Adventure, followed by My New Best Bike:  the Alchemy Eros, and 4,000 km / 2,500 mi Update:  Alchemy Eros.

A common theme in the two later posts is that the trade-off for a stiff and sharp handling titanium frame is a ride that is sometimes jarring.  I have owned, and still own in the form of a Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon, Ti bicycles that are more comfortable.

I lived with the tradeoff between frame stiffness and comfort until I read an online article in VeloNews titled Getting the Most From Your Post.  First published in June 2012, the article is somewhat dated, but still relevant.  The article attempted to determine the role the seatpost plays in rider comfort.

In its typically thorough fashion, VeloNews set out to answer this question by testing 14 seatposts of different materials, setback and design philosophy. At Boulder’s Microbac accredited test laboratory, they measured vibration damping over small bumps with an accelerometer, and they measured linear deflection (flex) under body weight in two dimensions.

The winner was the FSA K-Force Light SB (Setback).  VeloNews judged the FSA seatpost to be the best choice for long road rides.   The FSA seatpost has excellent vibration damping, which makes it noticeably more comfortable, especially on long rides, dirt roads, or concrete or asphalt with lots of small cracks and expansion joints.

The seatpost that came with my Eros is the Ritchey Comp Carbon.

Ritchey Carbon Comp

Photograph courtesy of Ritchey

This seatpost was not one of those tested, but three other Ritchey seatposts, the WCS Carbon SB, the WCS Aluminium SB, and the WCS Carbon Straight, are among those in the Velonews review.  The Ritchey seatposts came in sixth, tenth and last respectively.

The Comp Carbon sits at the lower end of Ritchey’s seatpost offerings.  I thus assume that it would score even lower than its siblings on the VeloNews test.

Eager to soften the ride of the Alchemy Eros, I bought an FSA K-Force Light.

FSA K-Force Light

Photograph courtesy of Full Speed Ahead

I have the version with the same 25mm of setback that my Ritchey Comp Carbon has.  For purely aesthetic reasons I opted for the black and grey graphics rather than the red and white.

VeloNews had discovered that a setback post will give you greater pedaling efficiency and more high-frequency vibration damping.  My usual routes don’t have big bumps, where the greater flex of a straight seatpost is an advantage.

I have ridden 370km / 230mi on the FSA K-Light.  The ride quality of my Eros has noticeably improved.  Even with 10psi more air pressure in each tire.  There is much more vibration damping now.  My Eros rides much more like I would expect a Ti frame to ride.  So my qualitative impression so far matches the quantitative findings at VeloNews.

I have a 240km / 149mi ride, split over two days, this weekend.  I am looking forward to a more comfortable long-distance ride than I have had before on the Alchemy Eros.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016

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RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Logo

There was a twist to this year’s Shimano Highway Challenge.  Unlike the 2013 and 2014 events, this year’s ride was at night.  The LEKAS Highway was closed from 5.00pm until 3.00am so that participants could cycle on an empty highway under LED street lights that came online in December 2015.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Lighting

Photograph courtesy of GigaTera

I have done one other night ride.  The Moonlight Bicycle Ramble in Houston.  The Ramble was a well-organised event.  The Shimano Highway Challenge, however, has been in a class of its own right from its first running in 2013.  Heavyweight sponsors will do that for you.

RHB, which is a Malaysian bank, and Shimano were the title sponsors this time.  RHB put out a number of tips for participants leading up to the event.

Cycling Plus magazine has just launched a Malaysian edition.  IJM Land, a local property developer, has an in-house magazine called “like.”  Copies of both publications were in the goodie bags, along with a Brother branded water bottle and a PowerBar.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Schwag 2

The benefits of generous sponsorship extend beyond schwag.  It also funds proper and sufficient resources to run the event well.  The organization of the event, as it has been in past iterations, was excellent.

The goodie bag, and bike and rider identification number, distribution was efficient and fast.  There were a large number of volunteers working the process.  It was obvious that a lot of effort had gone into pre-packing bags and pre-sorting identification numbers.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Pickup 2

 

3,000 or so riders lined up at the start point for either the 78km / 48mi or the 105km / 65mi ride.  Here are some of the guys I regularly ride with, all set to go.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Start 1RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Hardcore Cycing Tan Meng Guan

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Talisman Guys Azad Z

Photographs courtesy of Mark L, Tan MG, and Azad Z

The outstanding kit award has to go to these modern-day Les Forçats de la Route (Prisoners of the Road), a phrase immortalised in a piece written by Albert Londres for Le Petit Parisien during the 1924 Tour de France.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Prisoners CMM

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

LEKAS, the highway concessionaire, estimated that closing the highway for us would result in a loss of traffic  volume of approximately 50,000 vehicles.  Despite information about the closure being disseminated through various media, there was quite a traffic jam as motorists clogged up alternate routes in the area.

Inconvenience to motorists aside, it was a treat to be able to cycle on the fast lane of a three lane highway.  We joked about needing our Touch ‘n Go electronic cash cards to get through the toll booths, which of course had been disabled.

In a nice touch, the electronic highway information signs had been reprogrammed for this ride.

As in previous years, the route was an out-and-back one, with a 4km / 2.5mi climb to test the legs.  If you rode the 105km / 65mi option, you had to repeat a section of the route.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Route Map

The 105km riders rolled out right on time.  As we always do, my riding buddies and I positioned ourselves at the rear of the pack at the starting line.  Even so, we got swarmed a few times in the early kilometres by bunches of riders moving faster than we were.

There were, as is always the case, a few crashes.  One happened right beside me when there was a touch of wheels in a group that was overtaking me at speed.  Other crashes were announced by the wail of an ambulance siren.  As far as I know, none of the crashes resulted in serious injury.

Crashes aside, this event was once again among the best on the Malaysian ride calendar. The evening start time was universally appreciated.  It was cool with minimal wind.  Which meant that overheating and dehydration were not a problem.

As you would expect from a highway, the road conditions were excellent.  Smooth, pothole-free asphalt under bright LED lights.  The rolling terrain, coupled with no disruptions from motorized traffic, were a delight.

I didn’t stop during my ride (a first for me on a ride exceeding 100km / 62mi), but reports were that the water stations were superb.  Although there was an issue with a shortage of water at the first stop.  All the other stops were literally overflowing with cool water, 100 Plus, bananas and PowerGels.  I’ve never been in a Malaysian ride where PowerGels were given away.  As many as you wanted.

The marshals were excellent.  Each highway exit was manned with volunteers holding lighted batons with which to direct riders.  Marshals on motorbikes patrolled the route. The need for route signage was minimal, but it was clearly visible where needed.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Support CMM

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The entire mood of the event was festive.  The lively music at the start, the upbeat volunteers, the outstanding facilities, the magical sight of thousands of red lights blinking on down the highway, and the reception at the finish line all helped make this a memorable event.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 JM Finish BaikBikecom

Photograph courtesy of BaikBike.com

The good times continued at the finish area.  Sponsors like Garmin, Volvo and Polygon, a local bike shop chain, had booths displaying and selling their products.  Clear Marque, the local distributor for Volvo Life Paint, was demonstrating and taking orders for their unique reflective spray.  As Volvo says, “The best way to survive a crash is not to crash.”

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Volvo Life Paint Karen Khoo

Photograph courtesy of Karen Khoo

Like on Friday during the goodie bag pickup, the Starbucks van was doing a good trade in Frappuccinos.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Starbucks 1

Lots of free food was on offer as well – satay, muffins, coconut shakes, fruit.  There was a massage tent. There were lucky draw prizes to be given out.

And post-ride was a great time to catch up with friends.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Friends Farid

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Farid AB

Including these former colleagues of mine in their spiffy corporate jerseys.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Astro Guys Khairul MS

Photograph courtesy of Khairul MS

There are some who didn’t think that the RHB Shimano Highway Ride was a tremendous success.  Mostly drivers who were caught in the traffic caused by the closure of the LEKAS highway.  The rest of us can’t wait to do it all again next year.

RHB Shimano Highway Ride LEKAS 2016 Medal