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Chamang Waterfall with the R@SKLs

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Chamang Banner odysseyonline com

Photograph courtesy of odysseyonline.com

My body clock usually wakes me up before the alarm clock goes off.  I was awake before the alarm clock buzzed this morning, but this time it was thunder and lightning at 4.30am which stirred me.  Not a good omen for a ride that thirty people had signed up for.

It was still raining in most of Kuala Lumpur at 6.00am.  The last time this happened, I stayed in bed.  Only to later see R@SKLs smiling in group photographs taken on dry roads.

This time I took the chance that it would be dry in Bukit Tinggi.  Kedai Makan dan Minum Zheng Ji (literally translated as Zheng Ji Eat and Drink Shop) in Bukit Tinggi was the designated meeting point for the start of the ride.

Depending on where you live in Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Tinggi is 40km to 50km / 25mi to 31mi away.  The rain put some people off from driving that far.  I started to have my own doubts as I drove through the rain at Genting Sempah, which is 5km / 3mi from Zheng Ji.

I needn’t have worried.  The rain had stopped by the time I parked my car.  Half a dozen buddies were already sitting over hot drinks at Zheng Ji, and more were arriving by the minute.  Twenty-eight riders were ready to roll at 7.20am.  The roads were wet, but the rain had stopped.

Chamang Start 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Chamang Start Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Our destination was the Chamang waterfall, with a stop in Bentong on the way for breakfast.

Chamang Route

It is about 28km / 17.4mi from Bukit Tinggi to Bentong.  Almost all of it downhill.  We were on the old road between Kuala Lumpur and Bentong.  The old road runs alongside the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Highway, which was opened in the 1970s to provide a faster and safer link between Kuala Lumpur and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

There is usually very little traffic on the old road.  Add the overcast skies and you have very pleasant conditions for a ride.  Despite the short flooded section and the occasional rutted patch of tarmac.

Chamang On The Road 03 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Chamang On The Road 01 Khoo Bin Soo

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Bin Soo

Among us were some cyclists who had never ridden this route before.  We stopped after 11km / 7mi at Bentong Hot Spring to regroup.

Chamang Bentong Hot Spring gobentong com

Photograph courtesy of gobentong.com

All smiles at this point.

Chamang Hot Springs 03 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Chamang Hot Springs 01 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

The next regrouping location was the Shell station on the edge of Bentong town.  Clearly some fiddling was going on here.

Chamang Bentong Shell Station 02 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Chamang Bentong Shell Station 03 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was on to breakfast at Kedai Kopi dan Makanan Kow Hing (Kow Hing Coffee and Food Shop).

Chamang Bentong Breakfast Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Napoleon Bonaparte said Une armée marche sur son ventre (An army marches on its stomach).

In the case of the R@SKLs, Le peloton monte sur son ventre (The peloton rides on its stomach).

Stomachs ready for more cycling, it was on to Chamang waterfall.  The ride to the waterfall requires about 200 metres / 655 feet of climbing.  Which is even more of a challenge when you are on a touring bike, as Marco was.

Chamang Entrance Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The work was worth it.  The waterfall was in full flow.  The heavy rain the night before meant that there was a greater volume of water than usual tumbling down the rock face.

Chamang Waterfall 03

Group photo time.

Chamang Waterfall Group Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Those darned photobombers!

Chamang Waterfall 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The first time I rode to Chamang waterfall was in 2013 with the Flipsiders.  It was very nice to be still riding with some of that group.

Chamang Flipside Marco Lai 02

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Usually, where hills are involved, our rides end with a descent.  This time the last part of our ride was the 550 meter / 1,800 foot climb from Bentong to Bukit Tinggi.

Still smiling!

Chamang On The Road 02 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We made the obligatory stop in Bentong to take photos in front of the big sign.

Chamang Bentong Sign 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Paul deserves a solo photo for smiling through the longest ride he has done for some time.  Despite getting a puncture.

Chamang Bentong Sign 02 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Everyone finished the ride safely, albeit sweatily because the sun had come out and the humidity had soared over the last 20km / 12.5mi.  Just what we didn’t need on the uphill road.

Stomachs needed refilling in Bukit Tinggi.

I’m sure the R@SKLs will do this ride again soon.  Those who slept in are demanding it!

The R@SKLs get fried

Temperature

I suspect what will be remembered most about today’s ride to Pulau Carey is how hot it was while we were riding back to Kota Kemuning.  It got up to 37° C / 99° F.  Combine the temperature with the humidity of almost 70%, and the temperature felt like 45° C /  113° F.  Even a rare tailwind – hooray – between Jenjarom and Bandar Rimbayu did nothing to cool us down.

Route

We shouldn’t have been surprised that it got so hot.  It felt warmer and more humid than usual at 6.15am when the first R@SKLs arrived at Restoran BR Maju.  Warning sign #1.

Carey Island early arrival

Photograph courtesy of Alfred Chan

30 of us were ready to roll at 7.00am.  Under a cloudless sky.  Warning sign #2.

Carey Island start

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Twenty minutes later we were riding through Bandar Rimbayu, with the sun already making its presence felt as it rose above the horizon. Warning sign #3.

Carey Island riding

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were in Jenjarom at 8.00am.  The temperature was 28° C / 82° F.  About half of the group could only do a short ride and were turning back at Jenjarom.  We all flooded into a coffee shop for breakfast before the group split up.

Carey island breakfast

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Carey island breakfast 2

Photograph courtesy of Jiv Sammanthan

40 minutes later 17 of us continued on to Pantai Tanjung Rhu, Pulau Carey.  We were very happy to see that sections of Jalan Klang Banting had recently been resurfaced.  Including the section between the Lebuhraya Lembah Klang Selatan flyover and Jalan Bandar Lama, which had been exceptionally badly rutted and potholed.

As you can see from the route map above, Pulau Carey is barely an island.  The land mass of Pulau Carey is separated from the peninsula by the Langat River and a narrow meandering finger of the Strait of Malacca.

When we got to the sea at 9.20am, the tide was out.

Carey Island panorama

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

There was no shade, which was inconvenient as Jiv had a puncture just as we got to the end of the road.  There was quite a bad cut in his tire, so the fix was a bit involved and took some time.  CK to the rescue!

Carey Island flat

Photograph courtesy of Jiv Sammanthan

We interrupted the repair for a group photograph.  It was too hot to linger, so as soon as Jiv’s tire was fixed we started the return leg to Kota Kemuning.

Carey Island group

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

By 10.30am we had covered the 16km / 10mi between the beach and our regular cendol stall.  Wet, ice cold and sweet.  Just what the doctor ordered when it was 32° C / 90° F and felt closer to 37° C / 99° F.

Carey Island cendol

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The temperature kept climbing as we rode the 28km / 17mi from the cendol stop to Restoran BR Maju in Kota Kemuning.  We needed a short rest in the shade at Kampung Sri Cheeding after 15km / 9mi.

Lots of sunblock and sunscreen were applied today.  Nevertheless, I suspect some of us got burnt over the last 35minutes of the ride today.  It was a scorcher!  Probably hot enough to do this.

Carey Island fried egg

Photograph courtesy of alert-conservation.org

 

Enough already!

 

 

Flat Banner

Diorama courtesy of my Biker Chick

I’ve been fixing flat tires a few too many times lately.  As in three times in one week.  More often than not, the punctures were caused by staples like these.

Staple

I have pulled entire “fresh” staples out of my tires.  After staples have been on the road for a while they look like this.

The Culprit Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin Lee

The latest rash of staple-induced flats got me thinking.  I had many punctures while riding in Houston and Den Haag, but none of those were caused by staples.  Broken glass, sharp flints and stones, and thorns – yes.  But not staples.

Do Malaysian roads have an unusually high proportion of staples mixed in with the other road debris?

I did a little survey, asking respondents to rank the following causes of bicycle tire punctures, from most frequent (1) to least frequent (6).  The choices were:

  • Glass
  • Thorns
  • Staples or other wire
  • Pinch flats
  • Flints or other small stones
  • Unknown cause

I received 42 responses.  The table below shows the number of times each option was ranked as the most frequent cause of punctures.  Two respondents did not indicate a top cause of punctures.

Chart 2

30.00% of respondents ranked Staples or other wire as the number 1 cause of punctures.  22.50% of respondents ranked Pinch flats as the number 1 cause of punctures.
22.50% of respondents ranked Glass as the number 1 cause of punctures.

33 of the respondents live in Malaysia.  3 live in North America.  2 live in The Netherlands.  2 live in Australia / New Zealand.  1 lives in The United Kingdom.  And 1 lives in another Asian country.

2 out of the 3 North American respondents ranked Staples or other wire as the number 1 cause of punctures.   The other North American rated Staples or other wire as the second most frequent cause of punctures.  So perhaps I was just lucky to avoid staples when I lived and rode in the United States.

Interestingly, both of the Dutch respondents ranked Staples or other wire as the least frequent cause of punctures.  Which matches my own experience over more than two years of cycling in The Netherlands.

The sample size is small, and the methodology is not scientific by any means.  Nevertheless, this survey does show that Malaysian cyclists suffer more punctures due to staples or other wire (usually fragments of steel wire from failed car and truck tires) than from any other cause.

I don’t know why there are so many staples on Malaysian roads.  Perhaps stapled paper, being light, gets blown out of rubbish trucks and onto the road.

I do know that some Malaysians have the atrocious habit of tossing rubbish out of their moving cars.  Which has to be the explanation for the most unusual cause of a puncture reported by a Malaysian cyclist.  A chicken bone.

Other causes of punctures reported by respondents were variations on pinch flats – hitting a pothole, drain grille etc. (4), faulty valve stems (2), worn or misaligned rim tape (2), old inner tubes (2), nails or screws (2) and overheating by being left in a car under a hot sun.

I have my share of pinch flats too.  My fault for not checking my tire pressures before every ride.

There’s not much I can do about the staples and other debris on the roads, apart from staying off the road shoulders as much as possible.

Perhaps it is time to consider an old-school device – a tire saver / tire wiper.

Tire Saver Stronglight flickr com

Photograph courtesy of Stronglight at flickr.com

 

What causes your flat tires?

I’ve had four punctures in the past eight days.  Which made me curious about the common causes of punctures amongst cyclists.

If you want to share your experience, please click on the link below to respond to my survey on the subject:

Link to my survey

Thank you.

 

The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 6

Day 6 banner

It was a cold, wet and windy Sunday morning.  Not a good time to be outside on a bicycle.

We had other things on our mind anyway.  Firstly, how to fit our bikes back into their cases?  I get there in the end but am never able to duplicate the way I got my bike to fit in its case the last time.

Day 6 Bike Packed

We took our bike cases to the hotel lobby at 8.00am.  Xiao Ger was waiting to load them onto a small truck for transport to Taoyuan Airport.

At breakfast, the thirty-three boxes of Sunny Hills pineapple cake that we ordered were distributed.  Many Taiwanese consider these the best Feng Li Su (pineapple cakes).  I had strict orders to bring some home for my Biker Chick.

Day 6 Sunny Hills

TH, Kiam Woon, and Heng Keng went to the Rapha Taipei shop after breakfast.  They wanted to buy Pai a gift in appreciation of all his hard work arranging this trip and looking after us so well.  Sadly they had been misinformed about the Sunday opening times.  The Rapha cafe opens at 9.00am, but the shop doesn’t open until noon on Sundays.  So they came back empty-handed.

As with our arrival, we were on different flights departing Taipei.  Lay, Simon, and Pai were the first at the airport.  They followed the lorry carrying our bike cases, helped unload them, and kept an eye on them while waiting for the rest of us to arrive.

Luane, Voon Kiat, Ralf, and Aaron were next.  I don’t know how the Hong Kong boys convinced Luanne to get drinks for them.

The six boys on the MAS flight checked in together.  Which was a good thing for those who had overweight check-in bags.  (Courtesy of the Kavalan distillery shop).  The counter staff allowed us to lump together the weight of our check-in bags so that the average weight came under our individual baggage allowances.

Day 6 Airport Liew Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

Then it was on to one last snack before boarding.

Day 6 Mos Burger

We all had a fabulous time in Taiwan.  And we can’t thank Pai, Xiao Ger, and Ah Dar enough for all that they did to make our cycling visit to Taiwan such a success.

Day 6 xiexie

The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 5

Day 5 banner

This was our last full day in Taiwan.  The itinerary at the start of this trip listed a Day 5 ride as optional.  Not having ridden at all the day before, we were all up for riding in Taipei.

There are at least 200km of bike paths in the city.  All the bike paths are coloured orange in the map below.

Pai plotted a 95km route that took us from our hotel in the centre of the map north to Tamsui where the Tamsui River empties into the Taiwan Strait.  Then we reversed direction to Bitan which is where the MRT Green Line terminates at its southernmost point before returning to our hotel along the opposite bank of the Tamsui River.

Day 5 Route (1)

Twelve of us did the ride.  Simon had a cold and opted to sightsee rather than ride.  Arthur kept him company.

Day 5 Ready to Toll Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Within 3km of the hotel, we were on the bike path alongside the east bank of the Keelung River.

The bike paths are uniformly excellent.

Day 5 Bike Path 3Day 5 Bike Path 1Day 5 Bike Path 2

As were the river views.

Day 5 River view Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 5 River view Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 5 View

Our first stop was at one of the Bicycle Stores which dot the bike path system.  These shops offer bike rentals, cycling accessories, and equipment repairs.  Luanne is holding a rear blinker which she had just bought.

Day 5 Pathside bike shop Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

At the 20km mark, we were at Tamsui. Tamsui Old Street is lined with shops, restaurants, and vendors selling local specialties.  Some R@SKLs went off in search of snacks.

 

Mark and I went exploring to the end of the bike path.  We came upon a memorial to Dr. George Leslie Mackay, who was the first Presbyterian minister in northern Formosa (Qing-era Taiwan).  He landed at this spot on 9th March 1872, later making Tamsui his home and place for his missionary, medical, and educational work.

Day 5 Dr Mackay

Mark and I needed a pedalo to go any further.

Day 5 Pier End Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

On the way back to the others, we passed these statues of a girl with a group of cats.   I’ve tried to find information about this group of statues, to no avail.

Day 5 Cats

Snacking was still going on.  Pai shared his red bean-filled cake with me.

Day 5 Snack Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Arthur and Simon were in the meantime exploring Taipei on foot.

Day 5 Taipei 1 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Day 5 Taipei 2 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Taipei 101 was officially classified as the world’s tallest building in 2004 and remained so until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

Day 5 Taipei 101 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Back at Tamsui, Kiam Woon had a problem with his rear derailleur.  How many cyclists does it take to . . . . ?

Day 5 Kiam Woon repair Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Once we got Kiam Woon rolling again we rode south and crossed the Tamsui River via the Guandu Bridge which links Tamsui District and Bali District.

Day 5 Guandu Bridge

This yellow zero marks the start of the Bali Left Bank Cycling Path.

Day 5 Bike Path marker Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

Day 5 Cycling Path Map

We got rained on, sometimes heavily, during this ride.

Day 5 Wet wet wet Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

 

You wouldn’t expect much climbing on bike paths alongside rivers.  There wasn’t any, except when you had to get up onto elevated bridges and overpasses.  Then you had to get up and down ramps like this one, up to and alongside the New Taipei Expressway.

Day 5 Ramp to New Taipei Expressway

The section alongside the New Taipei Expressway was about 1.2km long.  About halfway along there was a bike path interchange of sorts, where be path dropped to a set of ramps that took you to round level.

If you were going straight you had to climb back up to expressway level.  It was narrow and wet when we were there.  Better safe than sorry.

 

About 10km from Bitan Aaron had a puncture.  How many cyclists does it take to . . . . ?

Day 5 Flat Liew Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

Bitan was our turnaround point.  It was also where we had lunch.  Most everyone headed down this street looking for food.

Day 5 Bitun Street Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

 

Here is an annotated photograph of what was on their table.

Day 5 Food Luanne (1)

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Mark and I went Western rather than Asian.  KFC for him and this old standby for me.  I couldn’t get enough of that Super Supao sports drink.

Day 5 Bitan 7-Eleven

We took a group photograph with the Bitan suspension bridge behind us.  The pedestrian bridge across the Xindian River was built in 1937.

Day 5 After Lunch Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

It was a 30km ride back to the Golden China Hotel.  We made a couple of pit stops along the way.  Along with the Bicycle Stores, there are restrooms at regular intervals on the bike paths.  Outstanding!

Day 5 Toilets

We got drenched again as well as lost for a while on the way back to the hotel.  But the paths and the views were so nice that we didn’t mind.

Day 5 Bridge Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Pai got his bearings back and pretty soon we were one traffic light away from the hotel.

Day 5 Almost back at the hotel Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

We would all be packing our bikes that evening for the trip back home.  Everything was covered in sand, so a wash was in order.  There wasn’t a hose, so Ralf improvised.

Day 5 Hotel Bike wash Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Xiao Ger had arranged dinner for us at a restaurant / karaoke bar.  I have just noticed that Ralf’s shoes match the front door.

Day 5 karaoke restaurant Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Belting out the tunes.

Day 5 Karaoke TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Four of us snuck out during dinner to make a quick visit to the Taipei Rapha store.  We’ll see how long it takes the other R@SKLs to spot who has a new jersey.

 

We got back to the restaurant in time to sing Alles Gute dir to Ralf.

Day 5 Ralf birthday TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The night rocked and rolled on until 2.00am.  Celebrating the most perhaps was Pai, after successfully leading us through an excellent tour of Taiwan.  Thank you Pai!

Day 5 Pai can relax Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

 

 

 

THE R@SKLS in Taiwan: Day 4

Day 4 An Tong Hotspring Hotel Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

The plan for today had been a 125km ride from An-Tong to Hualien.  With 1,139 metres of elevation thrown in just for fun.

Pai modified that plan into something less ambitious.  We would instead drive part of the way and then ride.

While Xiao Ger adjusted bikes we all got suited up.

Day 4 Driver 2 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Except for TH, who didn’t think it would be comfortable to drive for hours wearing bib shorts.

Day 4 An-Tong lobby Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

We left the An-Tong Hot Spring Hotel fairly late.  When we reached Hualien City 90km away it was time for lunch.  This is the front window display at our chosen restaurant.

Day 4 Lunch Selection

The R@SKLs can eat.  The dish at the top is the specialty of the house.  I’ll leave it to you to guess what it is.

Well-fed and happy!

Day 4 Lunch stop TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The entrance to Taroko National Park is thirty minutes from Hualien City.  The Arch of Taroko at the Taroko Gorge marks the start of the climb up Wuling Mountain.  With 3,500 metres of vertical gain in less than 80km, it is one tough climb.

Day 4 Wuling Gate

The view up Taroko Gorge.

Day 4 Wuling Gorge

There are things to see on the ground as well.

Day 4 Sidewalk detail

We hopped back into our vans and drove to the coast.  10km later we were looking at this.

Day 4 Ocean View

Day 4 Cliffs

Amazing scenery.

There was one “must visit” destination for some of the R@SKLs.  The Kavalan distillery in Yuanshan.  Taiwan’s first whiskey maker.  As it turned out, the Kavalan distillery was a long 95km north.

There was a lot of traffic on Route 9.  The slow driving conditions were made worse by roadworks where only one lane was open, necessitating long waits for your turn through the one-way section.

Work was being done to shore up the rock faces on the land side of the road.  We were lucky to have been on that road on Friday.  There was a landslide the next day which closed the road.

We saw some touring cyclists earlier in the day.  They wouldn’t be on Route 9 north of Suhua Township.  The tunnels are so narrow that bicycles are not allowed.

Day 4 Touring Riders Ralf Hamberger

Photograph courtesy of Ralf Hamberger

Ah Dar stayed in good spirits while driving the van despite the slow going.

Day 4 Driver Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were too late for the tour when we got to the Kavalan distillery.

Day 4 Kavalan Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

But not too late for a quick sample taste and to buy out half the distillery shop.  There were some overweight bags at the airport when it was time to leave Taiwan!

Long before we reached the distillery we had resigned ourselves to not riding on this day.  To his credit, TH wasn’t too smug about not wearing his cycling kit.

We decided to eat dinner near the distillery to avoid the Friday evening rush hour in Taipei.  Funnily enough, we were starving, despite just sitting in a van for most of the day.

Goose was the specialty of the restaurant we ate at.  I can assure you that we ate more than just goose.

Day 4 Goose Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Our first task after checking in at the Golden China Hotel in Taipei was to retrieve our bike cases from the hotel’s basement storage.  The bike cases had been delivered to the hotel direct from Taoyuan Airport.

Day 4 Cases

After a shower, the more energetic in the group went to the Shilin Night Market.  One of the largest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, especially when it comes to food.

Day 4 Night Market Aaron Au

Photograph courtesy of Aaron Au

I didn’t ask Heng Keng, Mark, Luanne, or Lay what they thought of the WOW Frog eggs!

Day 4 Night Market Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng