December 31st for most people means staying up until midnight to watch fireworks and to welcome in the new year.
For about 550 arguably slightly unhinged people, December 31st 2016 meant either staying up past midnight, or waking up in time, to make the 2.00am start of the the Audax Randonneurs Malaysia BRM300.
I was amongst that crowd. Regular readers of this blog will recall that after the very first official Brevet in Malaysia, the BRM200 in January 2016, I said that it was unlikely that I would ride another Randonnée.
“Famous last words” is a quote introducing my post about the BRM400, which I rode in September 2016.
My excuse for participating in the BRM300 is that my Biker Chick said that I should, because “The colours of the medal are nice.”
I didn’t have a comeback for that. So I booked a room in the Acappella Suite Hotel in Shah Alam, and Biker Chick and I made a weekend getaway out of the ride.
The BRM300 started in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam. I have driven there many many times for weekend rides. So why the need for a hotel this time?
Biker Chick and I live a stone’s throw from the PETRONAS Twin Towers. Where most of Kuala Lumpur seems to congregate as the sun sets on New Year’s Eve. Roads in the area become clogged, and are then closed to further traffic as midnight approaches. I really had no choice but to flee to the relative calm of Shah Alam before the area around the Twin Towers ground to a standstill.
Biker Chick dropped me off at MyMydin in Bukit Jelutong at 1am on New Year’s Day. Lay, Liang, Chon and Mark were already there. They would be my riding buddies for the next fifteen or so hours.
The MyMydin area was an excellent choice. There is lots of parking, and options for food and drink. A number of restaurants, a 7-Eleven, and even a burger stall or two.
The Audax Randonneurs Malaysia team had been at the start since 11.00pm, ready to distribute brevet cards. A brevet card and a cue sheet are the two essential documents for a randonneur. The cue sheet indicates the route and the location of the checkpoints. The brevet card is stamped at each checkpoint. The stamps verify that the rider passed through those checkpoints between the opening and closing time for each checkpoint.
There was a bit of rain about forty five minutes before the start. As it turned out, wet weather gear was not required because the shower was short and localised. Although the ground was wet at MyMydin, the roads were dry by the time we got to Jalan Sungai Buloh.
With our brevet cards and cue sheets in our pockets, we rolled out exactly at 2.00am, behind the Audax Randonneurs Malaysia liveried Land Rover. With Sam Tow, the President of Audax Randonneurs Malaysia, at the wheel.
We headed north out of Bukit Jelutong, through Rawang, toward Tanjong Malim and Checkpoint 1.
We made our first stop in Rawang. It was almost 4.00am, and some of the guys were hungry. Restoran Al Basheer was one of the few eateries open at that hour. In 30 minutes we had finished our roti canais and iced Milos, and were on our bikes again.
The moon was in a waxing crescent phase, with only 3% of it illuminated. The sky was very dark. Until we got to Rawang, the lack of moonlight wasn’t much of a problem. There were street lights along most of our route to that point. In some places the artificial lighting was so bright that we didn’t need our bike lights.
That changed after Rawang. It was very dark between the towns of Serendah, Rasa, Kering and Tanjong Malim. My riding buddies and I appreciated having 1,400 lumens from my Lezyne Deca Drive 1500XXL lighting up the road ahead when necessary.
It took us 4 hours and 20 minutes to get to Checkpoint 1 in Tanjong Malim. By which time the sky was brightening, ahead of the sun rise.
Lee Lee K, Stanley Low and Ong Hock Seong were the Audax Randonneurs Malaysia committee members and volunteers waiting outside the Restoran D Warna Warni to stamp our brevet cards.
Riders spent time at Checkpoint 1 eating,
drinking, refilling bottles, and in some cases, napping.
And waiting in line for a bathroom!
It was light when we pushed off toward Checkpoint 2 in Sungai Besar. There had been some rolling terrain between Rawang and Tanjong Malim. After we made the left turn at Behrang we hit some steeper hills. That was the last climbing of any consequence until we got to the Dragon’s Back climbs at the very end of the ride.
After those hills we were on Jalan Sungai Panjang. A 45km / 28mi stretch through oil palm estates on one side, and secondary forest on the other. With almost no sign of habitation for most of its length. Certainly no roadside stalls or restaurants.
We had ridden Jalan Sungai Panjang in the opposite direction during the BRM200. I had forgotten just how boring that had been. Especially the sections where the road was straight and seemingly never-ending as it disappeared into the horizon.
We pulled over 40km / 25mi after leaving Tanjong Malim for a stretch and a rest. We stopped again at the first sign of civilisation in 35km / 22mi. There were some sundry shops at Merbau Bedarah, where we bought cold drinks and some cakes.
I had packed some peanut butter and some kaya toasties. It was my first attempt at carrying food other than energy bars and gels. I had given up gels some time ago. I think I’ll give up energy bars in favour of toasted sandwiches from now on.
Apart from eating and drinking, it was also time to smear on some sun block. The weather had been overcast and cool for longer than is usual in the morning, but the sun had broken through the cloud cover. It was definitely time for some protection from sunburn.
4km / 2.5mi from Merbau Bedarah the oil palm and secondary forest was replaced by paddy fields.
But only for 6km / 4mi before the oil palm estates taook over the landscape again.
We had 40km / 25mi to go to Checkpoint 2. At 10.45am we got to Sabak Bernam. We were still some way from Checkpoint 2, but we were hot, thirsty, and hungry. We could not resist the attractions of KFC.
We spent 45 minutes ploughing through plates of fried chicken and chicken nuggets. That perked us up enough to get us to Checkpoint 2, the McDonald’s in Sungai Besar. We had our brevet cards stamped as soon as we got there. Then we stood outside eating lime sundaes. Which were just as good as they had been during our credit card tour to Teluk Intan.
There was about 100km / 62mi to go. We were on our way from Checkpoint 2 after a 30 minute stop.
As we drew close to Sekinchan we caught up to Danial and Farid. Two guys who ride with another group of cyclists that Lay is also a part of. The seven of us rode together the rest of the way.
Marco wasn’t able to ride the BRM300, but he met us south of Sungai Besar, and took on official photographer duties.
The sun kept breaking through the clouds often enough for us to get hot and sweaty, so we needed to stop in Sekinchan to get some ice and refill bottles. We hung out in the shade for 25 minutes before moving on.
After Tanjung Karang we had some long arrow-straight roads to endure. Jalan Raja Musa includes a 7km / 4mi stretch heading due east, then a ninety degree right turn and 2km / 1mi due south, followed by a ninety degree left turn and a further dead straight 17km / 10.5 mi.
The sun was still out while we were on Jalan Raja Musa, but an hour later, ominous looking clouds were on the horizon.
The route had been fairly easy to follow throughout the ride, although there were a few tricky sections. I had learned my lessons from the BRM400. Which were to study the cue sheet and a map of the route before starting the ride. I also added the distances between turns to the cue sheet, so I wouldn’t have to rely on potentially faulty mental calculations mid-ride while trying to figure out how far it was to the next turn.
I’m happy to report that we didn’t get lost this time.
The others stopped at the Burger King in Bestari Jaya. Hunger had struck again. Lay and I didn’t need to eat, so we pressed on.
The slightly rolling roads after Bestari Jaya were the merest hint of what was the final act of the BRM300. The 16.5km / 10mi and 360 meters / 1,180 feet of climbing that is Persiaran Mokhtar Dahari. A real sting in the tail after more than 280km / 174mi.
Petrol stations are a regular stopping point on long rides. Lay and I bought a final cold drink at the Caltex station at Bandar Seri Coalfields. The last petrol station between us and the Dragon’s Back.
There were quite a few other randonneurs there as well. All psyching themselves up for the test ahead.
Lay and I made it over the seven humps of the Dragon’s Back and down the last kilometer of Jalan Sungai Buloh and Persiaran Gerbang Utama to the finish at Kafe An Nurs. Which got us that last, all-important stamp on our brevet cards.
Then it was time for finish line photographs.
Liang, Mark and Chon arrived safely at Bukit Jelutong too. Which was the result we had all hoped for when we left Bukit Jelutong fifteen and a half hours earlier. No punctures, no crashes, and not getting lost were bonuses.
Those rain clouds on the horizon? By the early evening riders were getting doused.
By 7.30pm a storm hit the Shah Alam area, creating what one rider described as near typhoon conditions. The combination of torrents of water, wind, and poor visibility forced some riders to walk up the climbs on Persiaran Mokhtar Dahari. As far as I can tell, everyone who was out on the roads during that deluge made it to the finish without incident.
Congratulations to all finishers!
So despite the rain showers and storm, the BRM300 was a great success. Due in no small part to the long hours and hard work put into organising this event by the committee members of Audax Randonneurs Malaysia.
Thank you very very much:
Lee Lee K
I hesitate to ask Biker Chick if she likes the colours of the 600km medal.