Danial suggested the route for our latest credit card tour.
• Cycle from home to the Kepong KTM station and ride the Komuter train to Tanjong Malim
• Cycle from Tanjong Malim to Ipoh
• Cycle from Ipoh to Brinchang
• Cycle from Brinchang to the Tanjong Malim KTM station and ride the Komuter train to Kepong
• Cycle from the Kepong KTM station to home
Choo Chian and Halim quickly said that they were up for it. I enjoy riding with the three of them and opted in as well. If I had thought more about the route I was committing to I might not have been so quick to agree to participate. 390km / 242mi and more than 3,000 metres / 9,800 feet of climbing over three days.
I met Choo Chian and Halim at just past 6.00am on Day 1 and we rode together to the 7-Eleven on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah where Danial was waiting.
We caught the first train from Kepong, the 7.30am departure, to Tanjong Malim. All smiles at this point.
It was 8.50am when we rolled our bikes out of the train in Tanjong Malim. We had 118km / 73mi to ride. But first, breakfast at our usual spot, Restoran OCU Amy, 1km from the station.
The plan was to ride to Ipoh at an easy pace so that we would have fresh legs for the 2,000 plus metres / 6,500 plus feet of climbing on Day 2.
So much for that plan. We spent almost three-quarters of our moving time riding at 30kph / 18.6mph or faster. “Fresh Legs” became our ironic catchphrase for the next three days. As in “My legs feel so fresh” or “Your legs look so fresh” when the opposite was the case.
We weren’t helped by the heat. We made regular stops to refill bottles. We bought iced fresh fruit at the Bidor stop. It was 37ºC / 99ºF when we got to Tapah at 1.00pm.
We spent the next two hours over a long lunch in the air conditioning at the KFC there. It was still a furnace outside when we got going again. At 3.45pm we had to stop (what a relief) because of a puncture. It was 38ºC / 100ºF.
Halim’s sister saw this photograph and commented that I looked like I was regretting coming on this ride. What I did look like was this . . .
We arrived at the Mornington Hotel in Ipoh without further incident. Choo Chian had done the research into accommodation and had booked the most promising looking places in Ipoh and Brinchang. The Mornington Hotel was excellent.
For RM45 / USD11 each we got two Standard Twin rooms with the amenities not usually provided at this price point. The fixings for coffee and tea, a couple of bottles of mineral water, toiletry sets including toothbrushes and toothpaste, a fridge, a safe, and wifi. Best of all, bicycles are allowed in the rooms, which are big enough to accommodate two bikes without them being in the way. The bonus is the Mornington has a lift so we didn’t have to carry our bikes up a flight or more of stairs.
We took a Grab car into Ipoh for dinner. Danial suggested the Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice restaurant on Anderson Road. Sadly the quality of the food there has declined since he last ate there. The food was alright but not worth another visit.
By 9.00pm it was lights out. Our legs weren’t feeling particularly fresh, which was a bad sign.
At 6.40am we rolled away from the Mornington Hotel to the Restoran Nasi Kandar Pulai 3km / 2mi away for breakfast. The restaurant must have only just opened because there were only a couple of staff members there to take orders and make hot drinks and prepare food. Service was slow, to say the least.
While we were there a group of four cyclists came in looking for breakfast as well. One of them asked us for directions to the road to Cameron Highlands. Like us, they were from Kuala Lumpur. Unlike us, they hadn’t ridden to Ipoh the day before. I’m sure their legs were fresher than ours. We wished them well on their maiden ride to Cameron Highlands and headed to the 7-Eleven a couple of shop lots away to stock up on drinks.
Our paths would unexpectedly cross, in a manner of speaking, later in the day.
I had ridden from Simpang Pulai as far as the Meiko Strawberry Centre a couple of times, but never with a 5kg / 11lb saddle pack. This time there would be a further 23km / 14mi to ride, and another hill to climb to get to Brinchang. It promised to be a long and hard day.
13km / 8mi from the hotel we got to the start of the climb to Cameron Highlands. The first 2.5km / 1.5mi are particularly steep, rising 280 metres / 918 feet.
Mindful of the amount of climbing we had to do, we made regular stops to stretch our not-fresh legs.
Despite the sunshine, the temperature stayed at or below 25ºC / 77ºF for the first 40km / 25mi.
We made another of our frequent stops after 45km / 28mi. The temperature had risen to 30ºC / 86ºF in the space of 5km / 3mi. Admittedly it had taken us forty minutes to climb that 5km, but still.
It was very humid. We were sweating profusely and despite carrying extra bottles of fluid we were running out.
There are very few places selling drinks along Federal Route 185. We knew that there was a café somewhere near the border between the states of Perak and Pahang, but weren’t sure where exactly it was or whether it would even be open. I was starting to worry that we would run out of water before we found a place to restock.
That’s when a father and son in an SUV pulled over and asked if we wanted water or 100 Plus. We gratefully accepted his generous offer. It turned out that the man’s wife was one of the four cyclists we met over breakfast at the Restoran Nasi Kandar Pulai. Quite a coincidence. We never did see those four cyclists again though.
It was a relief to have more water in our bottles. Though as it turned out we were only 2km / 1mi (and ten corners) from the Waterfall Café. Which was open.
It was 12.45pm and we had no idea where the next place selling food was. So we had lunch. In my case a bowl of Maggi mee with two poached eggs and keropok udang (prawn cracker) croutons. Very delicious.
We spent a very pleasant fifty-five minutes over lunch chatting and watching the koi in the pond that fronts the café.
1km up the road, I had a surprise. The last time I rode here was in the Cameron Highlands KOM event in December 2018. At that time there was nothing but a construction site.
Today that construction site is the Kafe Banjaran. Which is clearly very popular with big bikers. The motorized kind. There is even a shop selling Route 185 merchandise.
3km / 2mi later we were at the border between Perak and Pahang. Just 31km / 20mi to go . . . .
The road continues upward, albeit with some short descents along the way, until the right turn onto Federal Route 59. From there it is a 7km / 4mi descent to the Cameron Valley Tea House. We stopped for some cardamom tea and scones with cream and strawberry jam.
We needed the calories. The road kicks upward from the Cameron Valley Tea House for 9km / 5.5mi and more than 400 metres / 1,300 feet of climbing to Brinchang. The payoff was chocolate-coated strawberries at the Kea Farm street market. I have to admit that I didn’t expect the strawberries to be so good. What a treat that was. We should have bought more.
Choo Chian had picked another winner for accommodation. This time a comfortable and spacious two-bedroom apartment. Again bicycles are allowed inside the property and there is a lift. Barrington Square consists of three blocks of apartments, shops and restaurants. We didn’t have far to walk to dinner.
Paradise Reyan serves Middle Eastern and Western food. We had a combination: hummus as the starter and lamb pizza as the main course. Both were good.
It was lights out for me at 8.00pm. Fresh legs? Only in my dreams.
We were out of the apartment at 6.30am. Brinchang is at an altitude of 1,540 metres / 5,050 feet. It was 14ºC / 57ºF. We had a mostly downhill and very chilly 3.5km / 2mi ride to Tanah Rata where we had breakfast at Restoran Nasi Kandar Mamu Ismail. The hot drinks and roti canai warmed us up before the still nippy 50km / 31mi descent to Tapah.
About 4km / 2.5mi from Tanah Rata is the Cameron Valley tea plantation, owned by the Bharat Group. Bharat is Malaysia’s second largest tea producer.
It was very quiet as we dropped more than 1,000 metres / 3,300 feet through rain forest over the next fifty minutes. There was very little traffic on the road with us. However, the quality of the road surface was inconsistent. Sometimes smooth and then suddenly rutted and patched. So we had to keep our eyes on the road rather than on the scenery around us, especially when descending at more than 45kph / 28mph. The occasional pack of dogs on the road added to the hazards to be alert for.
I took off my windbreaker about two-thirds of the way down the mountain. Stowed on my saddle pack it made my butt look like a baboon’s.
The gravity assist came to an end 10km / 6mi before we got to Tapah. From Tapah it is 70km / 43.5mi to ride to get to Tanjong Malim. With legs which were most definitely not fresh.
We had a long stop at Tapah, and an even longer one at Sungkai. Then a ten-minute break at Slim River before getting to Tanjong Malim at about 1.15pm. Where we had time to sit in the air conditioning at the PETRONAS station before riding to the station to catch the 1.55pm train to Kepong.
The only comments to make about the ride from Tapah is that there seemed to be a headwind for most of the time and the temperature went up from 28ºC / 82ºF to 36ºC / 97ºC.
The train was a welcome respite from the heat. Still all smiles as we waited for the train to depart.
The exertions of the trip caught up with us not long after we were seated.
We were all at home by about 4.00pm. It had been a tough trip. I won’t be doing the same route again in a hurry. But it was definitely a lot of fun riding with Choo Chian, Danial and Halim. There were plenty of laughs throughout the weekend.
Now if only there really were a cream to turn tired legs into Fresh Legs.