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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Southern Thailand Tour Day 2

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After our 65km / 40mi warm up ride the day before, it was time for the main event of the tour.  The Satun International Century Ride 2016.

The organisers served a light breakfast in the Satun City Hall.  So we were on the quiet road from the hotel at just after 6.00am.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

When we got to the City Hall the doors were already open and participants were digging into you char kway (called pathongko in Thailand) and knocking back warm soya milk.

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Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

We took a photograph before heading into the hall for a bite and a drink.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were, at most, two hundred riders gathered at the start.  Thailand is in the midst of a year-long period of mourning following King Bhumibol’s passing. As a result very few Thais participated in this event.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The extent of the loss felt by all Thais is reflected in the caption on the event jersey.

Serve the King’s Wishes
Create Virtues for Siam

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We were ushered to the street beside the City Hall to observe 89 seconds of silence.  Then there was a speech or two before before we were sent on our way just before 7.00am.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai.

We rode an anti-clockwise loop.

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The road conditions over the entire route were uniformly good.  Smooth, unblemished tarmac with a generous shoulder.  Typical of not just the Satun area, but everywhere we cycled during our four days in Thailand.  Their roads are such a pleasure to ride on.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The first water stop was 50km into the ride.  Where friendly volunteers waited with ice cold water and bananas.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

That water stop was very strategically placed.  The terrain got lumpy as soon as we left that water stop.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

After a few kilometers of rolling roads we hit a short but very steep climb.  Shades of the Wang Kelian climb from the day before.

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Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

This was where the escorts provided by the organisers came in useful for some riders. Marshals on scooters or motorbikes had attached themselves to each of the groups of riders that had formed on the road.  They rode ahead of the group to indicate upcoming turns.  They rode beside the group to keep everyone on the right side of the road.  And they gave flagging riders a helping push when the gradient got too challenging for them.

This was the young man who followed our group for much of the day.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

This marshal was offering bottles of water to anyone who wanted one.

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Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

There were also uniformed personnel stationed at every crossroad, T junction and side street.  It was nearly impossible to get lost.

Philip had shot off from the gun.  We didn’t see him again until after we finished.  Leslie wasn’t far behind Philip for the first half of the ride.Lay, Marco and I caught up with Leslie at the second water stop – see photograph with marshal above.

Leslie coasted along with us for a while, took our photograph, and then bolted away again. It was Lay’s first century ride.  Marco and I did not want it to be his last, so we were sure to keep the pace manageable.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were enough lumps and bumps over the second half of the ride to keep us working, but we were careful to stay out of the red.

It was a hot day though.  By noon it felt like 38°C / 100°F.  We were glad to see a 7 Eleven at a PTT petrol station after we had covered 110km / 68mi.  The you char koay and the banana I had eaten that morning had been all burned away.  It was time for a cheese toastie and a large Yakult.

We lounged in the air conditioning of the 7 Eleven for almost thirty minutes.  Completely forgetting that we had a motorcycle escort, who waited patiently outside for us.  Which was embarrassing.  We compounded our embarrassment after we got going again by asking him if there were many riders behind us.  He didn’t speak English, so we tried hand signals.  He interpreted our hands pointing behind us a request to stop riding beside us.  Ooops!!

He then latched on to another couple of riders ahead of us who needed a push to get over a series of rollers.  Fortunately we managed to catch up to him at the last water stop and thank him for looking after us.

We might not have been very convincing, because he didn’t follow us when we left that water stop.  He was replaced by a young couple on a motorbike, who stayed with us for the remaining 16km / 10mi to the finish.

Including waiting patiently while I replaced a flat front inner tube.  Punctured by a staple with just 6km / 4mi to go!

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our motorcycle escort stopped traffic at intersections, and with 2km / 1mi to go, told us to sprint into the finish.  We were already doing about 34kph / 21mph.  We weren’t going to go any faster.

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Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

As I had anticipated, Philip and Leslie were already in the Satun City Hall, eating lunch, when we got there.  I needed a liter of ice water and a few minutes under a fan before I could contemplate eating anything.

I don’t normally eat anything right after a long ride.  But this was Thailand, where the food is always delicious.  Including a shredded and fried fish with curry leaves dish that went very well with white rice or fried noodles.

“Where are the photographs?” you ask.  I do apologise, but none of us took any pictures of the lunch buffet.  I assure you though.  It was very good.

The Satun International Century Ride organisers, i.e. Khun Metharin and her team from WeSee Sport, had already done an outstanding job looking after the riders.  Three meals.  Excellent signage and marshalling along the route.  Plenty of cold water at all four stops.  Ice available at all but the last stop.  (It was such a hot day that all the ice at water stop four had melted by the time we got there).  Motorcycle escorts accompanying participants as they rode.  A jersey and a matching T shirt.

Add to that a lucky draw with attractive prizes.  Leslie won a set of tires, and Lay won a water bottle.

All this for just a RM160 / USD36 registration fee per participant.  Khun Metharin and her Wesee Sport team put many a Malaysian century ride organiser to shame.

We expressed our appreciation and gratitude to Khun Metharin for a thoroughly enjoyable event.  And we will definitely keep an eye out for the next event she organises.  She did drop a hint.  Krabi in March 2017.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The main event was well worth the trip.  And we had two more days to look forward to. Well, after a shower and a nap, that is.  And dinner around the corner from the hotel. Which was delicious.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was to bed.  We had an early start planned for Day 3.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Southern Thailand Tour Day 1

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Almost exactly three years ago, I did my first bike ride ride in Thailand.  The excellent Samila Century Ride 2013.  Since then my friends and I have occasionally discussed doing another ride in Thailand.  Nothing came of those chats until the Perlis Bike Ride 2016 was cancelled due to lack of interest.

The Perlis Bike Ride had been scheduled on the same weekend as the Satun International Century Ride Thailand 2016.  I had opted for the Perlis ride as Perlis is the only state in Peninsular Malaysia where I have yet to ride.

With the Perlis ride off the calendar, Leslie suggested that we do the Satun ride instead.  And to make the long drive to Satun even more worthwhile, he suggested we take a few days to ride around in southern Thailand.

That sounded like a good idea to Lay, Marco, Philip and I.  As Leslie had already done a few bike tours around Thailand, he volunteered to map out a route and itinerary for us.

The five of us met at the Sungai Buloh R&R area at 6.00am.  Leslie, Marco and Philip in one vehicle, and Lay and I in another.  We had 490km / 304mi to drive to the border town of Padang Besar.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The only concern we had about the entire trip was where to park our cars in Padang Besar.  Our worries about leaving our vehicles unattended for three nights were put to rest when the sergeant at the Padang Besar Police Station let us park inside the station compound.

With parking sorted out, we get ready to ride.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The Padang Besar Police Station was the official start and end point for our four-day tour of southern Thailand.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We rode from  Padang Besar to Satun.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The most convenient border crossing between the two towns is at Wang Kelian.  The road to Wang Kelian and beyond bisects a ridge of hills between Padang Besar and Satun.

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The switchbacks were a significant challenge.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

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Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

Like the rest of us, Lay was glad to get to the top after more than 200 meters / 760 feet of climbing over 2.5km / 1.5mi.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Just as we were about to negotiate the switchbacks down to Kampung Wang Kelian, the sky suddenly darkened and it started to pour.  It rained so hard that water was streaming down the road.  The risk of skidding was high, even at low speeds.  Keeping my speed low was difficult because my brakes were getting very little grip on my alloy rims.  Philip had so little braking on his carbon rims that he had to walk his bike down the steeper sections.  It was a sketchy descent for all of us.

We waited out the rain in a small sundry shop in Kampung Wang Kelian.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The rain was torrential for about fifteen minutes.  Just as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped.

(I’ll write a review of our waterproof Apidura saddle packs.  Suffice to say here that our belongings stayed bone dry, despite the deluge.)

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

4km / 2.5mi down the road is the Thai-Malaysian border.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Immigration formalities didn’t take long.  Then we were back on our bikes for the 14km / 8.5mi ride down through the valley before reversing direction and riding south to Satun.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We had to be at the Satun City Hall by 5.30pm.  The program for the Satun International Century Ride included a pre-ride dinner and remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  We didn’t want to be late.

The first order of business was to say hello to Khun Metharin.  She had organised the Samila Century Ride in 2013, and together with Wesee Sport, was the organiser for the Satun ride.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Also in the photograph are the emcee for the event, and a news cameraman.  The three of them conspired to get me to do a recorded interview about where Team Flipside was from, how we felt about participating in the Satun ride, and to share my thoughts about the passing of Thailand’s revered and beloved king.

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Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

Then it was dinner time.  The start of four days of good eating in Thailand!

The evening ended with some speeches by officials from Satun Province, followed by 89 seconds of silence and a remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We gathered up our goodie bags, turned on our bike lights, and wove our way through an unexpected night market on our way to the SinKiat Buri Hotel.  Our home for the next two nights.

It had been a very early start to the day.  And there were many kilometers to ride the next day.  Time for me to call it a night.

How to Talk Like a Cyclist in Malaysia

cycling-lingo

Paceline.  Groupset.  Magic spanner.  Aero.  Sticky bottle.  Bike throw.  Road rash.  Endo.

A small sample of the English words and phrases likely to come out of the mouth of a cyclist.   Throw in the French, Flemish, Dutch and Italian terminology common to the sport, and it is no wonder that most non-cyclists are baffled by cyclospeak.

Not to be outdone, Malaysian cyclists have a few cycling terms of their own.  Such as:

Bojio
A Hokkien phrase which means not inviting someone along to an event or activity.
Often used in Facebook comments in response to postings of Strava ride summaries.

Ceria rider
The Malay word for “cheerful.”  Refers to someone who rides purely for fun.
“No lah.  I don’t want to do a century ride.  I am a ceria rider only.”

FFK
The abbreviation of Fong Fei Kei.  A Cantonese phrase which means a betrayal or breaking of a promise / deal made with another party.
In this case a person who did not turn up for a group ride as promised.
“Next time you FFK, you have to buy everyone breakfast.”

Hantu / Ghost rider
The Malay or English word referring to an unregistered, non-paying rider in an organised event.
“The registration damned expensive.  So just be a ghost rider lor.”

Just buy a new bike
The standard advice given to any cyclist who has even the slightest thing go wrong with their bicycle, or who muses about buying a new component or upgrading an existing one.
“Eh.  Your shifting quite noisy.  Just buy a new bike lah.”

Kaki besi
A Malay phrase meaning “iron legs.”  Refers to a strong rider.
“That guy kaki besi one.  I can’t follow him.”

Kaki jelly
The opposite of kaki besi.  Literally means “jelly legs.”
“So much climbing today.  I got kaki jelly now.”

Kena conned
Refers to being tricked into riding further / faster/ higher than anticipated.
“She said we are riding about 50km today.  Ended up riding for five hours.  I really kena conned.”

Kena racun / Got poisoned
This Malay or equivalent English phrase is used to refer to a person who was persuaded to upgrade an existing, or buy a new, bicycle component.
“He kena racun and bought a set of Zipp 404s.”

Nubis Kubis
A term for a newbie.  If anyone knows why the Malay word for cabbage, “kubis,” is part of this phrase, let me know.
“I am a nubis kubis.  Dare not use clipless pedals.”

Pancit
A Malay word that is most likely a corruption of the English word “punctured.”  The equivalent of “blowing up.”
“I have to stop for a while.  Pancit already.”

Santai ride / Chillax ride
The Malay word for “relaxed,” and the English portmanteau word combining “chill” and relaxed.”
“Don’t worry.  It will be a santai ride.  Average speed less than 25kph”  (See Kena conned above)

Smoke me
What a kaki besi does to a nubis kubis.  Leaves them in the dust.
“That girl smoked me.  After a few kilometers I couldn’t see her anymore.”

Tarik me
The Malay word for “pull.”  With the same meaning in a cycling context.
“You got kaki besi mah.  So you tarik me lah.”

 

I’m going for a santai ride in the morning.  I’ll be alone, so no one to tarik me.  Hopefully none of my friends complain that I bojio them.

Food Hunt Ride II

The Saturday ride was so much fun that we did the same again on Sunday.  There were a few minor differences.  We had more people in the group this time.  It was already sunny, rather than misty, at the start.  We rode to Rawang via Kuang instead of along the LATAR Expressway toward Templer Park.

And we stopped for breakfast at Restoran Sri Indah, which is 500 meters / 0.3 mi from Restoran Teratak Nogori.  Lay had recommended that restaurant to us.

It was a very good recommendation.  They had my favorites.  Nasi lemak, sardines, brinjals and pumpkin.  And a fried egg for good measure.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

After breakfast we showed Evelyn, Lay and Wai Choong our scenic discovery from the day before.  This time posing for a photograph at the entrance to the Templer Park Country Club, with that impressive limestone outcrop in the background.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We duplicated our route back into Kuala Lumpur.  Right down to stopping at Born & Bread Cafe for drinks and more cake.

I didn’t expect it, but that pandan crème brûlée topped with jackfruit slivers was excellent.

We had planned to head north from Rawang after breakfast and do the Ulu Yam climb in reverse.  It was so hot that we decided against it.

As compensation of sorts, we left Born & Bread Cafe and dragged ourselves up Changkat Tunku to the official residence of the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur.  Hence the nickname of that climb.  Mayor’s Hill.

Once heart rates had fallen enough so we could see properly, the view of the KL skyline from 120 meters / 394 feet above sea level is quite impressive.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

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As hot as it was, we naturally had to stop in TTDI for a bowl or two of icy, sweet cendol before finishing the ride.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

My diet started today!

Food Hunt Ride I

Admittedly most of my Flipside group rides involve food.  We have a list of restaurants and coffee shops that are on regular rotation.

Last Saturday we tried somewhere new.  Mark (our expert food spotter) had noticed a particularly crowded restaurant during one of our previous rides through Rawang.  We decided that would be our breakfast stop that morning.

It was very misty as we rode along the Guthrie Corridor Expressway towards the Lagong Toll Plaza.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

About 50km / 31mi into the ride we arrived at the red awnings of Restoran Teratak Nogori.

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Photograph courtesy of Leslie Thong

Mark had been attracted by the sign advertising steamed nasi lemak.  The nasi lemak was as good as advertised.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

After we got back onto Jalan Rawang we took a little detour into the housing area bordering Templer Park.  The road is much quieter there, and the views are nice too.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our route back from Templer Park into Kuala Lumpur took us toward the junction of Jalan Sentul and Jalan Tun Razak.  Right where our Bangsar Cycling Group buddy, Danial, has just revitalised the Born & Bread Cafe.

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We had to stop there for a coffee and some cake.

The mist of the morning had long burnt off, and it was hot when we left the cafe.

To get back to where we had started our ride, we had to cut through Taman Tun Dr Ismail, popularly known as TTDI.  Which happens to be the location of a good cendol stall.  Given the temperature, a cendol stop was called for.

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Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

An excellent way to set us up for the last 15km / 9mi  of a 100km / 62mi ride.

Small Chainring + Biggest Cog

The first road bike I owned was equipped with a standard 53 / 39 chainring and an 11 – 25 cassette.  That was seven years ago in the flatlands of Houston, Texas.  I was fifty two years old.

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Two years later I moved to Den Haag.  North Holland is not noted for hills, but South Holland and Belgium are.  A trip in April 2011 to the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportif introduced me to the many short, sharp hellingen which have made that race one of the Monuments of professional cycling. The Muur van Geraardsbergen featured that year, with its maximum gradient of 19.8%.

There were other hilly events to be ridden in the year to come.  One was the Amstel Gold sportif down in the corner of South Holland that shares a border with Belgium to the west and south, and Germany to the east.  Another was the sportif which preceded the 2012 UCI World Championships, held that year in Limburg, South Holland.

My first encounter with the hills of Belgium convinced me that I needed lower gearing on my bike the next time I ventured south to ride.  A few months later I had a second road bike.  Equipped with a compact 50 / 34 chainring and an 11 – 28 cassette.

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At the end of 2012 I moved back to Kuala Lumpur.  Where any ride to the north or east of the city means venturing into the foothills of the Titiwangsa Mountains.  These mountains are molehills compared to the Pyrenees, the Alps, or the Rockies, but they do present more than enough of a challenge for my now fifty nine year old knees.

My rides these days are on a bike with a compact crank and an 11 – 32 cassette.

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Photograph courtesy of Alchemy Bicycle Co.

I use the 34 tooth chainring – 32 tooth cog combination quite a lot.  On yesterday’s ride from Batu Lapan Belas to Titi and back for instance.  This is the elevation along the route we took.

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Graphic courtesy of veloviewer.

The climb to the summit of Genting Peras “officially” starts at the Simpang Peras T-junction.  The warm up for the climb proper is the 50 meters / 165 feet of elevation over the 1.5km / 1mi on Jalan Sungai Lui before Simpang Peras.

This is Lay, Eugene and I heading into the mist on the lower slopes of Genting Peras.

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Photograph courtesy of Danial

9km / 5.5mi and 404 meters / 1,325 feet of elevation later Marco and the rest of the group were catching our collective breaths at the summit.

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Photograph courtesy of Danial

The first time I did this ride, I thought that the 13km / 8mi from the summit to Kampong Kongkol was all downhill.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the descent is broken into three sections, with 200 meters / 656 feet of climbing between sections.

Of course we had to take the scenic way from Kampong Kongkol to Titi.  Through Kampung Chennah and Kampong Puom.  That is the loop to the right in the elevation graphic above.

It is a very pretty ride down into the valley formed by the Sungai Kongkol to Kampung Chennah, and then along the Sungai Kenaboi until Kampung Temelang.  The road is bordered by a series of small villages, rubber plantations, goat farms, oil palm estates and a durian orchard.  Then you have to pull yourself out of the valley and back up to Jalan Kuala Klawang – Semenyih.

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Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

The view back across the valley is worth the climb.

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Photograph courtesy of Simon Soohu

There are a number of good Hakka kopitiams (coffee shops) in Titi.  We were very ready for our breakfast of pan mee, soft-boiled eggs, toast with kaya and iced coffee by the time we sat down.

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Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

Titi is one of those small Malaysian towns far from a major highway, where time passes slowly.  As illustrated by the sign and chick blinds at this shop across the road from our kopitiam.  Along with the usual necessities:  clothes (baju), shoes (kasut), and fabric (kain), Ho Keng Kee sells a much more unusual item.  Rubber tapping knives (pisau penoreh).

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Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

You don’t come across this in your local supermarket.

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All that remained after breakfast was the little matter of 650 meters / 2,130 feet of climbing back to the summit of Genting Peras.

In preparation we filled our bottles with fresh coconut water and ice from a stall in Titi.  Notice the pink funnel.  They must fill a lot of bottles for cyclists.

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Photograph courtesy of Eugene.

Then it was small chainring + largest cog time for the 13km / 8mi from Kampung Kongkol to the summit of Genting Peras.  We regrouped and had a bit of a rest at the summit.  Then we all rolled safely down the mountain and over the final 11km / 7mi to Batu Lapan Belas.

The odds are I will be in the small chainring + biggest cog during my next ride.  My knees aren’t getting any younger.