Three months ago a former colleague of mine asked if he could connect me with two guys who are attempting to be the first pair to circumnavigate the globe on a tandem bicycle. A ride that would take them through thirty countries.
Andy told me that at the time, the guys were cycling between Istanbul, Turkey and Tbilisi, Georgia. Their route from Thailand to Singapore would bring them through Kuala Lumpur.
I replied “I would love to meet up with your friends when they come through KL.”
It then went quiet until last Monday, when I received a WhatsApp message from George Agate, one of The Tandem Men. John Whybrow and he had just crossed the border between Thailand and Malaysia, and were on their way to Georgetown.
That’s when I opened up their website, The Tandem Men, and checked their route through Malaysia. John and George has started their 29,000km / 18,000mi journey from Canterbury, England in June. Since then they pedalled through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey (arriving there on the day of the attempted coup d’état), and ending the European leg of their round-the-world trip in Georgia (due to a detour after not being able to get visas to enter Iran).
They then flew from Tbilisi to Mumbai, India, to start the Asian sector. From Mumbai they cycled down the west coast of the sub-continent to Nagercoil, before heading northeast to Chennai. A flight across the Bay of Bengal took them to Bangkok, their first stop in South-East Asia. Now they were almost on my doorstep.
My initial reply to George was to welcome them to Malaysia, and to suggest an alternate route for them to follow from Georgetown to Kuala Lumpur. The route on their website was via the North-South Expressway. This would not work because bicycles are not allowed on the North-South Expressway. Never mind that the volume and high speed of the traffic on that highway make it a dangerous place for cyclists to be.
I suggested that they use the coastal roads through Seri Manjung and Kuala Selangor instead. Further to pedal, but more scenic, and with less traffic to contend with. That route would also allow my friends and I to meet them in Bandar Botanic, and to ride with them along the KESAS and MEX highways into KL.
I also offered to host them while they were in KL, and I was delighted that they took me up on my offer.
George and John did follow the coastal route, spending nights at Seri Manjung and Kuala Selangor on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. On Thursday morning, Lay, Marco and I rode to Bandar Botanic, where I had suggested we meet.
The three of us got to Bandar Botanic a bit early. We parked ourselves at Restoran Resepi Warisan for nasi lemak, teh tarik and iced coffee. The restaurant was a couple of hundred meters from the point on Jalan Langat where I had suggested we meet.
I sent The Tandem Men our location via WhatsApp. A few minutes later John and George rolled up to the restaurant.
We got another round of drinks before heading to the motorcycle lane along the KESAS highway.
One of the many rules rules stipulated by Guinness World Records is that George and John are not allowed to draft. So the tandem bike led the way, complete with its 35 kilo / 77 pound complement of panniers, bags and water bottles.
Taking KESAS to get into KL from the west was certainly a better option than coming in from the north via Jalan Kuching. Not having to share the road with cars, vans and lorries is a definite plus.
Being separated from other traffic does not prevent punctures though. George and John noticed that they had a slow leak as we neared the Kinrara R & R. The rear tire leak was slow enough, and we were close enough to home, that we decided to take the risk of pumping it up and continuing on our way, rather than changing the inner tube.
We exited the KESAS highway at Awan Kecil and took the MEX highway to Jalan Tun Razak.
One kilometer to go.
John and George graciously agreed to go to Le’Park@Nasi Lemak Malaya for dinner, and to share stories with some of my cycling friends.
The Tandem Men have so far covered 10,651km / 6,618mi over 114 days. About one third of the distance required to become the first people to circumnavigate the world by tandem bicycle.
One of their personal goals is obviously to complete this adventure of a lifetime. Another is to raise at least £100,000 / RM537,000 / USD130,000 for the three brilliant causes that they have chosen to support on their journey. The work of these charities changes the lives for many, both locally and internationally. These charities are:
- Porchlight (which will receive 34%)
- Great Ormond Street Hospital (which will receive 33%), and
- WaterAid (which will receive 33%)
If you would like to donate to these charities, please click the link below.
It has been a treat and an honour to meet and host George and John. My friends and I will be following their progress as they cross Australia, ride up through New Zealand, make their way from San Francisco to Panama, and finally ride from Marrakech up through southern Europe and back to Canterbury in England.
Godspeed, and fair winds George and John.