Sunday morning, woke up yawning; did my alarm really ring?
Pulled on my bibs and sprayed that sun screen all over my skin.
Went down the stairs and kissed my bike to make it come alive.
‘Cause with 22 gears and the R@SKLs all in pink,
I got to go for a Round Island ride.
With apologies to The Bee Gees
The half dozen or so R@SKLs who needed breakfast before the Round Island Ride met in front of the Tien Hotel at 6.00am. Lebuh Chulia and the surrounding streets were becoming filled with blinking bike lights as cyclists emptied out of the many hostels, backpacker inns and boutique hotels which have opened in old Georgetown since it was accorded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site status in 2008.
Old Georgetown is now even more of a tourist draw. Most tourists don’t look for breakfast at 6.00am on a Sunday morning. So we were greeted with rows of dark shop fronts as we rode around looking for breakfast.
The first open place we found was the Restoran Liyaqatali Nasi Kandar Beratur. Open from 10.00pm to 8.30am. As its name suggests, you queue (beratur) for your food, and then try to find somewhere to sit on the sidewalk outside.
We wanted roti canai. We were directed to Restoran Dalcha Kassim Mustafa. That was open, but the roti man only starts doing his thing at 7.00am. So we settled for rice and curry and hard-boiled eggs.
We were back in front of Tien Hotel at 6.30am where a cloud of pink was already gathering.
There were more than twenty-five of us. As is always the case, the larger the group, the more likely that at least one rider will have a flat tire. Mark, who seems to have become our designated mechanic whenever Danial or CK is not around, was called into action to help Kieren with his flat. Which ultimately required a change of tire to fix. Henry, thank goodness, had a spare tire to loan to Kieren.
Kevin also had a flat tire outside the Tien Hotel. He took it as a sign that he should skip the ride. A decision no doubt helped by the after-effects of the beach party.
The Penang City Hall on the Esplanade is a little more than 1km away from the Tien Hotel. We took up our customary position right at the back of the estimated 3,500 participants in this, the 10th edition of CFAL.
We were flagged off a bit after 7.00am by Malaysia’s Finance Minister Mr Lim Guan Eng. Mr Lim has a long-standing relationship with CFAL, having served as the Chief Minister of Penang between 2008 and 2018.
The start was slow as the exit from the Esplanade is narrow. That gave us the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise.
We made a short photo stop opposite Pulau Jerejak, where you have a view of both bridges between the island and the mainland.
The next stop was at Teluk Kumbar. We were 28km / 17mi into the ride and 1km from the first of the two climbs on the route.
Up, up and away.
In past years the CFAL route took a sharp left turn at the bottom of the rapid descent from Bukit Genting. I was behind a group of a dozen riders as we approached that corner at speed. All of us were looking at the RELA man at the junction for directions.
Except our man was not indicating anything. He wasn’t even looking our way. So everyone ahead of me continued straight down the road.
4km /2.5mi later I started thinking “This can’t be right.” I looked back and saw Martin Lee and Ralf. They had followed me. Oops!
Now I know we could have turned left at Jalan Sungai ‘Pinang and rejoined the official route about 4km from the second climb. Oh well. An extra 8km / 5mi never hurt anyone. Ha ha ha!
The rest of the R@SKLs had no such problems. Except for Kieren, who suffered a second cut tire and had to Grab Car it back to town.
The second climb up Jalan Teluk Bahang is more than twice as long as the Bukit Genting climb, but the average gradient is the same.
Our next regrouping point was at the Teluk Bahang Dam.
While we were larking and monkeying about (SOP for the R@SKLs at rest stops) this young man, Danial Asyraf, pulled up. He was riding with his grandfather, Bakar Noordin. Bakar Noordin is one of six friends who in 2012 rode from Lebuh Downing in Penang to Downing Street in London.
His six-year-old grandson is no slouch on a bicycle either. If it took you more than four hours to complete the Round Island Ride, please do not look the next photograph.
You looked! Repeat after me . . .
We let Danial and his grandfather ride off ahead of us. I for one had no need to be embarrassed by a six-year-old spinning past me on the slopes of Jalan Batu Ferringhi.
A final water and restroom stop at the Caltex station at the bottom of the descent from the Teluk Bahang Dam, and we were on the last 22km / 13.5mi to the finish. The traffic on Jalan Batu Ferringhi was challenging, but we all got through that section okay.
Plain sailing from then on, until . . . . This time Mark had a flat of his own to fix.
With lots of onlookers. Who knew changing an inner tube could be a spectator sport?
In less than 10km / 6mi we were collecting our medals at the finish line.
Posing for selfies.
And sprawling on the grass.
Where TH started yelping in pain. We all thought he had a cramp. Turns out having your hand stood on by someone wearing cycling cleats hurts just as much as a cramp.
Another fantastic weekend trip with the R@SKLs. Thank you, everyone, for making it so enjoyable.