Repsol Oil & Gas Malaysia organised a Fellowship Ride in conjunction with the Malaysia Day celebration. The objective of the ride and the associated activities was to bring together Malaysians of all ages and from all walks of life in the spirit of unity.
Two weeks before the ride was to take place Malaysia was blanketed by a persistent haze coming from multiple fires in Indonesia.
The haze got so bad in the days before the ride that several outdoor events planned for the weekend in Kuala Lumpur were cancelled.
The health and safety of participants was of course a concern for Repsol Malaysia. After careful consideration Repsol announced that the event would continue in one of three ways, depending upon the Air Pollution Index along the route at 7.00am on the day of the ride. The options were:
- If the Air Pollution Index (API) for Seremban and the areas along the ride route was below 100 the 125km long ride would go ahead.
- If the API was between 101 and 130 the ride distance would be halved.
- If the API was above 131 the ride would be cancelled but the associated events: the various contests, the lucky dip and the lucky draw would proceed.
This ride would start and end at the Kompleks Belia dan Sukan Paroi (Paroi Youth and Sports Complex) in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. Seremban is about 70km from Kuala Lumpur. My KL friends and I had to decide whether it was worth driving to Paroi and back on Saturday to collect our ride packs and then again to Paroi early on Sunday morning for a ride that might not happen.
We all kept the faith. Some of us booked accommodation in Seremban for the night before the ride. Ride pack pickup was a breeze, thanks to this cheerful crew from Cyclomotion Sdn. Bhd, who managed the ride. They stayed smiling while attending to a steady stream of participants throughout the day and into the night.
The packs contained a ride number, a jersey, a keychain and a disposable particulate respirator mask. Which was a nice touch considering the prevailing air quality.
The haze had lifted a bit on Sunday morning. About a dozen of us joined over one thousand other cyclists at the start line, all waiting to hear what the organizers had decided about the length of the ride.
The decision was to shorten the ride to 80km. The API reading issued by the Department of the Environment at 7.00am for Seremban was below 100. However, the original route would have taken us toward Port Dickson and further south to the border with Melaka. The reading for Port Dickson was already 159.
The ride was flagged off by the Negeri Sembilan State Assembly Speaker YB Dato’ Zulkefly Mohamad bin Omar. He was accompanied by the Youth and Sports Development Action Committee Chairman YB Tuan Haji Mohamad Taufek bin Abdul Ghani and Repsol Malaysia Business Unit Director Jorge Milathianakis.
The revised route would take us southward only as far as Siliau and Rantau before returning to Paroi.
It was a prescient decision to shorten the ride. As you can see from the readings below the API for Port Dickson and cities in Melaka got worse and worse as the morning progressed. The API for Seremban nudged up at a slower rate but still was above 100 at 11.00am. The shortened route got us back to Paroi at 11.15am so we were done riding before the haze got bad.
In keeping with the fellowship nature of this ride, the pace was controlled by a lead vehicle that averaged between 30kph and 35kph. Those of use who started right at the rear of the group found ourselves a long way behind the pace vehicle by the time we had covered the hilly 5km to Senawang. Which meant riding at an average speed of 33kph for the next 35km to catch up.
One benefit of keeping all the participants together was that the police could close the roads completely for the relatively short time it took for all of us to ride through. Having the entire road to ourselves was a unique experience. The marshalling of the route by the Polis Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysia Police) and Cyclomotion volunteers was excellent.
There was a twenty-minute stop for water and bananas after 40km. Once again the high-quality management of this event by Cyclomotion was evident. There was plenty of drinking water available. Some of it was iced. And enough bananas to go around too.
While we were riding there were activities at the Youth and Sports Complex to keep the waiting families and friends busy. There was a batik painting competition for children. This was one of the prize-winning efforts from the batik-painting competition.
The adults could try to win prizes for a high score on the Moto GP simulators. This was the first time a motorbike simulation challenge has ever been offered at a cycling event.
The ride back to Paroi after the water stop was slower for my group because we were closer to the pace vehicle. We were able to practice riding within a large group, being constantly aware of the cyclists all around and alert to sudden decreases in speed. Controlled pace rides are not for those who want to ride as fast as they can.
In order to help riders stay properly hydrated in the haze, Cyclomotion added a second water stop at the 60km point. Two water stops would not normally be required for a 80km plus ride but Cyclomotion responded admirably to the unusual conditions on the day.
Riders started rolling under the finishing arch at about 11.15am. Medals were handed out and cold drinks and food were collected. Individuals who were very hungry could choose snacks and meals from the five food trucks parked around the finishing area.
The lucky dip winning numbers had been drawn while we were out on the course. Fifty people came away from the finish area happy at having won one of the lucky dip prizes. Most of the rest of us headed into the hall to wait for the lucky draw for the big prizes.
This lucky draw was worth waiting for. The list of prizes was impressive.
11th. Official Negeri Sembilan team football jersey, courtesy of the State Secretary
10th 40 inch LED television
9th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets
8th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets
7th MotoGP Marc Marquez tribute tickets
6th Rudy Project sunglasses
5th GoPro Hero 7 Black camera
4th Shimano Ultegra R8020 groupset
3rd KTM Road Bicycle
2nd Giant Propel SLR Bicycle
1st Repsol Honda RS150R Motorcycle
Not only did the Negeri Sembilan State Secretary Dato Dr Razali Ab. Malik donate one of the lucky draw prizes, he also completed the ride and kindly presented prizes to the lucky winners.
Suffice it to say that ten people left the hall very happy, but none of those ten people was my friends or me.
This was a very enjoyable event. Despite the haze, the teams from Repsol Malaysia and Cyclomotion did an outstanding job of organizing and managing this Fellowship Ride. I hope this becomes an annual event. I would sign up for the 2020 edition today.