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Monthly Archives: October 2019

TCCP 2019

Graphic courtesy of

A weekend trip to Penang for the annual round island ride has been a R@SKLs tradition since 2016. Over the past decade, this ride was known as the Campaign for a Lane Ride and was approximately 80km / 50mi long.

This year the ride had a new name. Toward Cycling City Penang. And the distance was extended to 100km / 62mi. The two out-and-back stretches at the lower left and middle left of the route accounted for the additional 20km.

Map courtesy of Map My Ride

The ride started right on time at 7:00 am. Kudos to the organisers.

The R@SKLs rode as a group for the entire ride. Speeds were kept to below 30kph so that everyone could stay together. Despite best intentions, a couple of riders did fall off the back of the group because of a mechanical problem.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

In the past, we stopped near the Penang Bridge. This time we didn’t so photographs of the bridge were taken on the go.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Our first brief stop was after 18km.

Photograph courtesy of Zeus

Not long after that we turned right and rode along the southern end of the runway at Penang International Airport.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

In another departure from past practice, we did not stop for a restroom break at the Caltex station near Kampung Binjai.

😳Bladder control On.

The first extension to the route came at Taman Cahaya after 29km. In past years we turned right to tackle the climb up Bukit Genting.

This time we continued straight along the southwestern tip of the island for about 5km before retracing our route back to Taman Cahaya.

I had reached the limit of my bladder control at the U-turn and had to stop.

As I neared Bukit Genting I got a telephone call from Simon. He had stopped to help Eugene with his mechanical. As did Marvin. I thought they were behind me but I was wrong.

I was speaking to Simon via my Aftershokz Aeropex headphones. I took my hands off the bar and cupped them over my ears to reduce the wind noise as I spoke.

Simon: Eugene, Marvin and I are at the top of the first climb. Where are you?
Me: I am at the bottom of the first climb. Everyone is at the bottom of the climb.
Simon: OK. Wait for us. We will ride down now.
Me: NO. Stay there. I am still at the bottom of the climb.
Simon: OK. You stay there. We are coming.
Me: NO NO NO. You stay where you are. We are all still climbing up to you.

Having my hands over my ears didn’t make me very intelligible to Simon. Fortunately, he understood enough to stay put while the rest of us rode up to the three of them.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

How did Eugene, Marvin and Simon get ahead of us? They skipped the extra 10km loop.

The first water stop was at the top of Bukit Genting. Despite the threat from the organizers of no service for riders who weren’t wearing the official event jersey, we all got water. In a nice move to reduce the use of plastics the organizers did not provide individual bottles of water. Instead, they filled each cyclist’s bottles from a water dispenser.

It is a high-speed descent (unless you are stuck behind traffic) to Taman Simpang Jaya and the sharp turn to the left that leads to a flat 15km through several kampungs (villages).

Photograph courtesy of Zeus

After 10km of flat riding, some of us stopped at Mysara Café for a drink. The others continued to the sundry shops next to the Chinese temple at the foot of the second climb of the day.

Immediately before the Chinese temple, we discovered the second extension to the route. A 7km loop to Pantai Aceh and back.

The Mysara Café contingent finished the loop and rode past the rest of the R@SKLs just as they were remounting their bikes for the 5km and 200 metre / 656 foot climb.

After the climb and descent, most of us regrouped at the rest hut overlooking the lake beside the Teluk Bahang Dam. Some had to get back to their hotels early to check-out so they went ahead.

There were 30km left to ride through Teluk Bahang, Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokoh and Gurney Drive to the finish.

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

We collected our Finisher’s medals and rode straight back to our hotels. It was too hot to linger and many had to shower and check-out of hotels.

Or indulge in a celebratory cold one!

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The final act for five of the seven who rode to Penang was to load our bikes into Amy’s truck for the drive back to KL.

Photograph courtesy of Amy Ho

Until 2020 then.

Graphic courtesy of Serrena Lau
Graphic courtesy of Tien Hotel + Residence

Pantai Merdeka with the R@SKLs

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Our Penang-based friends ST Chan and Dennis Tan kindly agreed to lead a group of R@SKLs on a ride to Pantai Merdeka. Pantai Merdeka is the only sand beach in mainland Kedah. More important to the R@SKLs was the prospect of mee udang (prawn noodles) at Kampung Pulau Sayak mid-way through the ride.

In addition to the seven R@SKLs who rode to Penang, there were about twenty other R@SKLs who had made their way there by road or by air. Together with perhaps a dozen riders from Penang, we made a big group as we headed down Lebuh Chulia at 6:15 am toward the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The ferry service to the mainland is free. As soon as the barriers opened we rode onto the 6:30 am ferry for the fifteen-minute trip to the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal in Butterworth.

The route to Pantai Merdeka headed directly north, crossing the border between the states of Penang and Kedah at the Sungai Muda.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Once we were north of Penaga we had lovely views of paddy fields.

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee
Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The group spread out and split up into smaller clumps over the 35km / 22mi or so toward Pantai Merdeka. Most R@SKLs rode all the way to Pantai Merdeka.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

A half dozen of us turned left at Kampung Tukang Jusoh, about 2km from Pantai Merdeka, and rode straight to Usop Mee Udang at Laut Pulau Sayak. We wanted to be at the front of the queue for the mee udang.

Photograph courtesy of Zeus

While waiting for our drinks and mee udang we enjoyed the views of the beach and Pulau Sayak.

The much-anticipated mee udang . . . .

Photograph courtesy of Nabila A

The ride back to the Sungai Muda ran closer to the coast. We didn’t have any views of the sea but we still had views of the paddy fields.

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

We turned left toward the bridge over the Sungai Muda at the Kota Kuala Muda Tsunami Memorial.

The memorial is a poignant reminder of the devastating tsunami which took place on 26th December 2004 following a powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. The Kota Kuala Muda region was badly affected with one hundred houses destroyed and eleven villagers losing their lives.

Photograph courtesy of ismakedah

Surprise surprise! When we got to the tsunami memorial it was hot. 32º C / 90º F hot. About twenty minutes later we stopped at Padang Tembusu for a cold drink.

Photograph courtesy of Ally

Then we rode the 17km / 11mi to the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal and the ferry ride back to Penang.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We took a little detour to Lebuh Downing to collect our ride packs for the next day’s Towards Cycling City Penang round island ride before riding back to our respective hotels. All the R@SKLs finished the ride safely. The rest of the day was spent in the Tien Hotel’s Chulia Restaurant and Bar.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And of course at the food stalls.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Carbo-loading for the Towards Cycling City Penang ride.


Kuala Lumpur to Penang: Day 3

Bin Soo joined us for the Taiping to Penang leg. She and Ai Lei had driven to Taiping. Mark told Bin Soo that we would all meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30 am.

I am sure we were all still asleep when Bin Soo and Ai Lei got to our hotel at 5:11 am 😲. They were there early to take us to breakfast. Ham chim peng (Chinese fried doughnuts) and coffee.

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Bin Soo

Amy and I didn’t make it to breakfast. I for one was nowhere near ready to head out of my room before 6:15 am.

We rolled out of Taiping at 6:30 am. I used Ride With GPS to plot the shortest route from our hotel to Federal Route 1. We would spend most of the day on that road.

All went well until 7km from the hotel. We came to a right turn where the paved road became a narrow gravel track. Too narrow for the truck.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

So Marvin had to find a driveable way to get to Federal Route 1. We forged ahead into the unknown. I had no idea how long we would be riding off-road.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

All credit to Bin Soo for being willing to ride over gravel and through puddles on her brand-new bike.

No one dared to ride across this bridge.

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

The track was luckily rideable enough to get us to Federal Route 1. Except that we were on the wrong side of a divided highway. That required a dismount and quick sprint over the highway divider.

We came to another interesting bridge across the Sungai Sepetang 14km into the day.

We made our first restroom stop at the PETRONAS station in Bagan Serai after ninety minutes of cycling. The ride itself was unremarkable. So much so that trailing a tractor for a short time was exciting.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

The reason we didn’t draft behind the tractor for longer was that it was moving too slowly.

We took a short detour off Federal Route 1 for a pit stop at Bandar Baharu. Marvin guided us to this place on the Sungai Kerian. The food here was excellent and cheap.

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps

We were back on our bikes at about 10:00 am. One hour later we were sitting in Nasi Kandar Rizq in Simpang Ampat. It was already 35º C / 95º F. Significantly warmer than it had been at the same time the day before. We all needed cold liquids and some shade.

There were 22km to go to the Penang Sentral ferry terminal. The run from Simpang Ampat was in the most traffic we had encountered on the entire trip. There is a lot of commercial traffic on the roads to Butterworth. For the most part, we had no other route option to take. We did a detour to avoid riding on the Butterworth Outer Ring Road over the last 5km to the ferry terminal.

We were on a ferry at 12:50 pm, having paid the princely sum of RM1.40 / USD0.34 each for the privilege. Which is incredibly cheap because no ticket is needed for the return trip from the island.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

The ferry ride takes fifteen minutes. There is a nice view of the Penang Bridge during the crossing.

It is just over 1km from the Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal on Penang island to our respective hotels on Lebuh Chulia.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

After getting cleaned up we wasted no time getting to one of the main reasons to come to Penang.

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Bin Soo

Food glorious food! Both on the streets and in the cafés.

Lots of Penang food was a very nice way to celebrate riding about 330km / 205mi over three days. Without a single puncture amongst us.

We are already talking about where to ride to next.

Photo by Poh Wei Chuen on Unsplash

Kuala Lumpur to Penang: Day 2

It was 5:59 am. We had checked out of the hotel, loaded the truck and posed for a photograph.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

All that was left to do was to ride 126km / 78mi to Taiping. It had rained some more during the night. The roads were wet as we rode toward Jalan Batu Sinar through neighbourhoods which were just coming to life.

Our route west and then north would be mostly on secondary roads which are smooth and relatively vehicle-free.

Kampar sits in the Kinta Valley. Once an area with rich tin ore reserves. Most of the tin mines closed down following the collapse of the industry, especially in the late 20th century.

The mining pools remain. The first 17km of the morning took us through an area studded with pools. Sadly it was too dark to see them properly.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

By the time it was light enough to see our surroundings we were on the A112 Jalan Kampung Bali and already through the main concentration of pools. The road was still quiet.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Very quiet at times.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

No one had eaten breakfast before we left Kampar. Once we had ridden for an hour it was time to look for a place to eat. We chanced upon D’Anjung Bali about 25km / 16mi into the ride.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

I say ‘chanced upon’ because we probably would have ridden right past this place if not for one of us being desperately in need of a pee break. As we slowed down to see if there was a bathroom available I noticed someone “throwing” a roti canai. Not only was there roti, but there was also puri and nasi lemak. There was a bathroom too. What a find in the middle of nowhere. Well, technically D’Anjung Bali is in Kampung Melayu Bali, but there are uninhabited kilometres on either side.

Over coffee and Milo Pai tried to convince us to choose the driver for Day 3. We all declined and said we would wait until dinner time to draw lots. None of us wanted to have our day spoiled by the knowledge that we would be driving the next day.

Photograph courtesy of Johan Mokhtar

After a very pleasant breakfast, we were on the road again. In 3km we turned left onto busy Federal Route 5. Fortunately we would be on that road for only 22km / 14mi. Pai was doing what Mark did the day before. Driving ahead of us and then stopping and waiting until we rode past.

Somewhere around Bota, we came upon the truck parked on the road shoulder. It looked like Pai was checking his phone as we went past him. Twenty minutes later Pai called me and asked, “Are you lost?”

That surprised me because we were still on Federal Route 5. Pai hadn’t seen us ride by and assumed that we were still behind him. He might deny it but I think he was asleep when we went past him. He had turned around and gone back to look for us, thinking that we had taken a shortcut somewhere.

When Pai called me we were about 4km from the right turn onto A127 Jalan Gelang Pepuyu. After we made that turn we stopped at the first roadside restaurant for a drink and to wait for Pai to find us.

I had sent Pai our location via WhatsApp. WhatsApp locations are not always accurate to the metre. Pai didn’t see us where WhatsApp said we were and sped right by.

I must admit that we were not easy to spot behind those clumps of bamboo. Another phone call got Pai back to where we were.

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps

We had lots of time before we could check-in at our hotel in Taiping. So we spent forty-five minutes over our drinks before getting back on the road.

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

Once again we had blue skies and rising temperatures. It was 10:30 am and 30º C / 86º F when we arrived in Beruas. Time for another drink at Restoran Padi Emas.

We stopped at Beruas for forty minutes. In that time the temperature went up to 34º C / 93º F.

23km / 14mi later we stopped at a small restaurant in Padang Gajah. Where the majority of customers looked like nurses in their white uniforms. More cold drinks were ordered. There was also an unusual treat on sale. Coconut jelly. Tasty and more importantly, cold.

We rolled out of Padang Gajah at about 12:30 pm. There were 30km to go to Taiping.

Though you don’t see it in this photograph, the roads through Terong and Changkat Jering and on to Taiping were fairly busy. The road shoulder was also badly rutted in places, which made it uncomfortable to ride at the edge of the road.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Pai did an excellent job of following right behind us. In doing so he blocked traffic from squeezing past us. Vehicles had to move into the opposite lane to overtake Pai and us. Which gave us room to ride on the smoother part of the road toward the centre of our lane.

Pai would toot his horn whenever a vehicle overtook him so we knew to move to the road shoulder. Thank you, Pai.

We got to the Taiping Panorama Hotel at 1:40 pm. Surprisingly, our rooms were ready. Some of the others wanted to get lunch before showering. Not me. It had been 38º C / 100º F during the ten minutes it took us to negotiate the city streets and traffic lights to get to the hotel. I needed a cold shower more than lunch.

The photographs of lunch did look good though.

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

I had a short lie down after my shower. At 3:45 pm Mark and I walked to Ansari Famous Cendol. That place has been there for at least forty years. Their cendol is deservedly famous. Two bowls worth of delicious.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Lay and Marvin joined us after dropping off their cycling kit at a nearby laundromat. On the way to Ansari Famous Cendol Marvin bought pisang goreng and keledek goreng (banana fritters and sweet potato fritters) and fried popiah (spring rolls). We had quite a snack fest.

Amy, Marvin, Martin and Pai watched Joker that evening. The rest of us met up with them for dinner after the film. We sat at a table in the street and ordered food from the shops and stalls all around us.

Martin was prepared to do some slurping.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

It was time to see who would be driving on Day 3. Marvin was confident that it would not be him. “I am always lucky,” he said. Amy thought that Marvin would be the driver.

Mark held some RM1 notes serial number side down and we each chose one.

Amy must be clairvoyant. Marvin drew the low last digit 😆.

The rest of us ordered more food to celebrate not having to drive on Day 3. Stuffed to the gills, we strolled back to the hotel and our beds. It would be an early start again in the morning.

Kuala Lumpur to Penang: Day 1

Planning for a three-day ride from KL to Penang started in August. Culminating with a last meeting over roti canai and thosai. And a loaf of home-baked sourdough bread courtesy of AiLin.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Lay, Marvin, Amy, Pai and I were ready to go at 5:15. Mark isn’t in this photograph because he was the cameraman. Martin isn’t in the photo either because he was slightly late (he had to finish the breakfast his wife made for him before he was allowed out of the house).

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The first leg for the day was from Taman Tun Dr Ismail to the KTM station in Kuang. It had rained during the night so the roads were wet. Our freshly-washed bicycles didn’t stay clean for long.

Staying true to the R@SKL raison d’etre there were two themes to this adventure. Riding and eating. Our first food stop was at a coffee shop across the road from Kuang station. Three of us fuelled up with plates of noodles for the train ride to Tanjung Malim.

The 7:27 am train was on time so we didn’t spend much time striking poses on the platform.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We had most of the carriage to ourselves. Once settled in our seats the first order of business was checking mobile phones. We did speak to each other during the one hour journey to Tanjung Malim. And one not-to-be-named person took a nap.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Amy provided her truck as a support vehicle. That was very helpful because we could put bags in the truck instead of riding with saddle packs. Mark was the driver on the first day because Daddy duties prevented him from riding with us at 5:15 am.

We met Mark at a roadside stall about a kilometre from Tanjung Malim station. We had only ridden 30km / 19mi but were already into our second meal of the day. Roti canai for those who hadn’t eaten in Kuang. If you ever find yourself on Jalan Ketoyang, north of Tanjung Malim station, stop at Restoran Al Kassim Maju. Their roti is the bomb.

The riding then started in earnest. Our final destination for Day 1 was Kampar. 88km / 55mi north on Federal Route 1. Mark would drive ahead of us and park on the side of the road. After we went past him he would leapfrog us again.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

After ninety minutes we stopped for a break at Kampung Gajah, which is just south of Sungkai. Drinks only for all of us except for Martin, who had burned through his home-cooked breakfast and was hungry.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We were riding under clear blue skies. The temperature was rising steadily. It was 25º C / 77º F when we left Taman Tun. It was 38º C / 97º F when we rolled into Bidor at noon.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We had plenty of time to cover the 30km to Kampar. There was no point getting there before we could check in to the hotel. We spent ninety minutes consuming cold drinks and kai chai pang (chicken biscuits) under a fan at Restoran Mee Wah. Why the name “chicken biscuits” is a mystery because they do not contain any chicken.

Soon after we got going again clouds rolled in and we got drizzled on for a while. No one complained because the cooler temperature was appreciated by all.

10km / 6mi from Kampar the sky to the east got dark and the wind started to blow. A thunderstorm was on the way. We picked up the pace and got to the Kampar Boutique Hotel just ahead of a burst of rain.

After a shower and a short nap, we headed out to look for snacks. We found cendol, ais kacang and noodles.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

It started to rain again, this time heavily, as we sat drinking and eating. We were trapped on the wrong side of the road from our hotel. After twenty minutes we gave up waiting for the deluge to stop and ran across the road through the rain.

Mark, Marvin and Pai were stuck on the hotel side of the road because of the rain, and couldn’t join us for cendol. Instead they went to Restoran Yin Phun Low, which is next door to the hotel. The rest of us joined them for dinner and beers. The food was so-so. I don’t recommend this restaurant.

The highlight of our time in that restaurant was deciding who would drive the truck the next day. In the week before the ride, everyone expressed a desire to drive. There was the talk of taking turns through the day as a way of getting some time off the saddle.

By the end of Day 1, that sentiment had changed. We had ridden at a relaxed pace. No one needed a break from riding. And Mark made it clear that the stop and start driving was no fun. There were no volunteers to drive the next day.

So Mark held out a fan of one ringgit notes and we each took one. Pai drew the note with the lowest last digit in the serial number. To the relief of the rest of us!

You would have thought that dinner would be the end of eating for the day. You would have been wrong. Kampar is noted for its Claypot Chicken Rice. A couple of the guys ventured out later that night for some.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The rest of us called it a night. We had another early start planned for Day 2.