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Category Archives: Cycling in Malaysia

Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

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Graphic courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

I lived in Port Dickson (PD) for a couple of years.  For many years after my family moved away, PD was a regular day trip destination.  The Si Rusa Inn, with its restaurant and bar open on all sides to the sea breeze, outdoor jukebox, and kampung ladies sitting under the casuarina trees, weaving and selling mengkuang hats, bags, and mats, was a favourite place to spend a Sunday.

That was forty years ago.  The Si Rusa Inn is now derelict.  PD has become crowded with resorts and hotels.  The beaches are not what they used to be.  I stopped going to PD for beach holidays.

PD pdwaterfront com my

Photograph courtesy of pdwaterfront.com.my

In the last few years it has instead become a cycling destination for me.  See BCG Tour Klang – Port Dickson – Klang and Chinese New Year 2017 Tour.

The Avillion Coastal Ride (ACR) has been hosted by PD for a number of years.  I made up for missing the previous ACRs by turning this year’s ACR into a three-day cycling event.  Kota Kemuning to Morib with the R@SKLs, and then solo to PD on Saturday.  The 160km Endurance ACR with friends on Sunday.  And a solo ride home on Monday.

You can tell by the way the pre-ride formalities are managed that an event is run by a competent organiser.  In this case Bikeaway and their event director, Encik Zulkarnain Shah, seen here keeping an eye on the goody bag distribution.

Organiser

Information about the ride was clearly posted outside the room where participants were to collect their goody bags.

IMG_4386

The distribution of ride packs / goody bags was efficiently managed.   I was out of the room, three goody bags in hand, in a matter of minutes.

Those goody bags were heavier than I expected.  That 500g pack of organic rice was an unusual goody bag item.

Goody Bag Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

Registration for the ACR 2017 entitled participants to a discounted rate at the host hotels.  Either the Avillion Admiral Cove, or the Avillion PD.  I had opted for the latter.  So I had a 4.5km / 2.8 ride from the goody bag pickup at Avillion Admiral Cove to the Avillion PD.  With goody bags swinging from my handlebar.

I had been in my cycling kit for more than eight hours. The first thing I needed after checking in to my water chalet was a shower.  I stood fully-clothed under the high-volume shower head, rinsing salt and grime off body and out of kit.

Avillion PD I hadn’t eaten anything since stopping at Morib with the R@SKLs.  I had a late lunch in the Crow’s Nest restaurant, with a view of the Straits of Malacca.

 

Avillion PD 2

Marco, Mark, and Martin drove from KL to PD early on Sunday morning.  I met them at the Avillion PD car park, and we rode to the start line at the Avillion Admiral Cove.

Here we are, waiting for the ride to be flagged off.

Four Musketeers Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

There were lots of cycling clubs and teams, resplendent in their matching kits.  Including this group of former students from my secondary school.

SJI Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

There were three distances to choose from.  The 25km / 15.5mi Fun Ride, the 90km / 56mi Scenic Ride, and the 160km / 99.5mi Endurance Ride.

The Endurance Ride participants set off first.  Led out by three riders on postman’s bikes.  The national courier, Pos Laju, was the main sponsor of the ACR 2017.

Pos Laju leadout

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

1,606 participants streamed under the Start / Finish arch.  Including two riders on unusual machines.

Recumbent 2 Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

Elliptigo Marco

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

The Endurance Ride route took us south past the old Si Rusa Inn, and then eastward.  Within ten minutes the four of us had latched on to the rear of a fairly large group.  Which included this gentleman on a fat bike.

Fat Bike Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

He, and the others ahead of us, provided a draft which we enjoyed all the way to the first water station at Linggi.  Almost everyone in the group stopped there.  We rode through that water station, so we became a peloton of four.

Route

Map courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

At about the 40km / 25mi mark we crossed the border between the state of Negri Sembilan and the state of Melaka, at Lubok China.  We were enjoying the very pleasant roads between the small towns and villages.

In the country Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

There wasn’t much traffic on those roads.  Not that traffic would have been a problem.  We were accompanied by a capable set of marshalls on motorbikes, who shielded us from any vehicles.

Outrider Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

There were also mechanics on motorbikes and scooters.  More than a few participants were very grateful for the roadside assistance they received.

Flat Repair Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

The mobile marshalls were complementd by marshalls positioned at intersections.  They stopped traffic so that we could keep rolling.  The ever-present marshalls are another hallmark of a well-organised event.

Marshall 3 Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

It takes considerable resources to efficiently and effectively manage a cycling event.  In the case of the ACR 2017, this included 300 support crew, officials and volunteers, 3 ambulances, 3 broom lorries, 7 support vehicles, 6 police patrol cars and 60 police motorbikes and pilots.

Kudos to Bikeaway, Encik Zulkarnain Shah, the police personnel, and the support crew, officials and volunteers for making the ACR 2017 a safe and memorable event for all the participants.

3km / 1.8mi after crossing the state border, we became a group of three.  Martin did the Scenic Ride.  His route split from ours at the junction of Federal Route 5 and State Route M140.

90km Route

Map courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

We waved goodbye as Martin turned right.  By then, Marco and Mark had been ready for breakfast for some time.  I had had the benefit of a room service breakfast, albeit at the ungodly hour of 4.40am.  (My breakfast was delivered twenty minutes early).

My companions were on the road while I was eating my pancakes, so they were hungry.  We stopped at a food stall in Kampung Jeram, about 50km / 31mi into the ride.

Nasi lemak and iced Milo sorted out the hunger pangs.

Breakfast Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Having only recently fed and watered ourselves, we rolled through the next water station at 72km / 45mi.  We missed out on the dabbing action there!

Water Stop ACR

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

Halfway through the ride we were on the AMJ Highway.  The clouds had burned off, and the temperature was rising.  Our thoughts turned to the ice cold coconut shakes at Klebang Original Coconut Shake.  5km / 3mi away.

All the turns along the route were very clearly marked with red arrows.  Even at junctions without a marshall, it was obvious which way to turn.  We got to Jalan Klebang Besar / Klebang Kecil and turned right, as indicated by the red arrow.

We started looking for Klebang Original Coconut Shake.  2km / 1.2mi later we were riding out of Klebang Besar, without having seen the coconut shake shop.  One look at our route on Strava revealed why.  Klebang Original Coconut Shake is 200 meters / 660 feet to the left of the junction where we had turned right.  So close!

Klebang Shake

Map courtesy of Strava and Google Maps

A couple of kilometers later we turned left onto Jalan Pekan Tanjung 2.  And found a sundry shop with cold drinks and a tap where we could wash our faces.  We spent fifteen minutes there, sitting inside the shop, under a fan, cold drinks in hand.

We had met up with Johan S. a number of times along the route.  He would pass us on the downhills, and we would pass him on the uphills and flats.

IMG_4396

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

We spotted him as he rode past the sundry shop.  A quick yell, and he was soon resting in the shop with us.

Our next destination was Kuala Seafood at Kuala Sungai Baru, 25km / 15.5mi away.  This is the restaurant which was closed, to our great disappointment, when we rode to Melaka about a month ago.  I was certain that the restaurant was along our route, so we wouldn’t miss it the way we had missed Klebang Original Coconut Shake..

Kuala Seafood

Kuala Seafood was open!  A waitress told us that the restaurant had closed for a month so that the staff could have a long holiday.  It had been re-opened for two days.  I told her that the next time they plan to close for a month, they need to put an announcement about it in the newspapers.

It was 12.30pm when we got to Kuala Seafood.  It was at least 35° C / 95° F.  We were shoes-off hot.

Hot Feet Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The food looked delicious, as we expected.  But we were too hot to eat any of it.  All we wanted were ice-cold drinks.

At that point we had about 35km / 22mi left to ride.  We were back on familiar roads between PD and Melaka.  We had cycled before on these roads at about the same time of day, so we knew it was going to get hotter over the next hour or two.  The number of people we saw taking a break in whatever shade they could find bore this out.

In the Shade 2 Avillion Coastal Ride

Photograph courtesy of Avillion Coastal Ride 2017

The last 12km / 7.5mi of the ride included a 10.5km / 6.5mi stretch of Jalan Pintasan Teluk Kemang.  That road is a dual carriageway that serves as an inland shortcut to the Seremban – Port Dickson Highway.  It bypasses the narrow, winding two-way road which runs along the coast.

It was probably 37° C / 99° F, if not hotter, on that bypass.  There is no shade.  And it rolls up and down over its entire length, to the tune of 162 meters / 530 feet of climbing.

Bypass

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

It was too hot to linger.  So we upped the pace, helped by a tailwind, to the finish at the Avillion Admiral Cove.

Because we had lingered over food and drinks along the way, we were amongst the last finishers.  Well behind all the Fun and Scenic Ride participants, and most of the Endurance riders.

So we didn’t get any of watermelon or iced Milo on offer at the end of the ride.  It had all been polished off by the cyclists ahead of us.  I’m looking at you Martin!

There were plenty of packs of biryani rice, chicken, and cabbage left.  It was pretty good too.  Some of the better post-ride food I’ve tasted.  There was lots of water, and chocolate muffins as well.  We didn’t really have to eat our medals..

Sweet Marco

After we ate and cooled down, we rode back to the Avillion Hotel PD for a shower and a change of clothes.  We had one more place to visit.

Azmi Chendol Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

A bowl of Azmi chendol was an excellent end to the ACR 2017.

I’m looking forward to the ACR 2018.

Medal Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

INFINITI Drive & Ride 2017

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Photographs courtesy of TopGear Malaysia magazine

A former colleague and long-time friend, Louis Foo, asked me if I could round up some cyclists to take part in the INFINITI Drive & Ride 2017.  Louis is the Managing Director of Big Road Media, the publishers of TopGear Malaysia and Cycling Plus Malaysia magazines.  Those magazines were collaborating with INFINITI to put on this event.

Participants would get the opportunity to ride in an INFINITI car to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) and back.  And take a turn at the wheel.  Why Kuala Kubu Bharu?  Because that is the natural place to start the Ride portion of the event.  Up to Fraser’s Hill and back down again.

That is why I, together with 31 other riders, ended up at the INFINITI Center in Kuala Lumpur at 5.00am.

5am

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We were greeted by a crew which provided excellent support throughout the event.  Starting with the registration of participants.

Registration 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We were each assigned a car for the day.  We also received an identification tag for our bicycles.  Those tags told the support crew which car we would be in, so that our bikes were in the Thule racks above us as we made the 80km / 50mi drive to KKB.  Cyclists get nervous when they are separated from their bikes!

Loading Bikes

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Registration formalities over, it was time to get a coffee and a banana, and to say hello to the other participants.

Coffee before the drive 03

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Next on the agenda was a welcome speech by Tiffany Tan, the General Manager of Inspired Motors, and technical briefings about driving in a convoy to KKB, and about hazards along the ride route up to Fraser’s Hill.

Pre-Ride briefing

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

You learn something new everyday.  On this day it was that the INFINITI logo represents “two central lines leading off into an infinite point on the horizon,” symbolizing this “luxury performance brand’s desire to be always looking forward – to new horizons, to infinity.”

Infiniti Logo

Photograph courtesy of INFINITI

After the briefings, all that was left to do was to pose for some group photographs, chose drivers, and start our engines.

There was a team from the Institute Jantung Negara (National Heart Institute).  If anyone were to have a cardiovascular incident, this was the time and place for it.  Some of the best cardiac surgeons in the country are serious cyclists.

Team IJN

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team NATO Bicycle Club were well represented.

Team NATO Drive

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And there were five R@SKLs.

Team R@SKLKs

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Everyone squeezed together for a final photograph.

Ready to roll 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Tiffany and Louis dropped the TopGear Malaysia flag.

Tiffany Tan GM & Louis Foo GM

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And we were away.  The stars of the show were, of course, the cars.

The INFINITI Q50,

Infiniti Q50

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti Q50 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

the INFINITI Q60,

Infiniti Q60

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti Q60 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And the INFINITI QX70.

Infiniti QX70

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti QX70 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Inside each car was a walkie talkie for incoming instructions from the convoy leader.  Each car also had a pre-loaded Touch & Go card for the toll booths on the North-South Highway.  We also found ziploc bags full of bananas and munchies.  We were in no risk of being short of calories on this ride.

Sustenance We made a quick stop at the Rawang R&R to use the toilets, and to switch drivers.  It wasn’t long before the instruction came over the walkie-talkie to restart our engines, and to head back out onto the North-South Highway.

As you can see, it was a misty morning.  We all hoped that the weather would be on our side, and we would have an overcast and cool ride.

Misty

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We got to the car park outside Restoran Fazlina Maju in KKB safely, albeit behind schedule.  It is always difficult to get a large group to stick to a schedule.

As the support crew were pulling bikes off the Thule racks, some of us had a last minute teh tarik before putting on our cycling shoes and helmets.

Restoran Fazlina Maju

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

It wasn’t long before we all had our bikes, and were ready to start riding.

Time to ride

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Let's ride

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team IJN led the way.

Team IJN setting the pace

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Then came the NATO Cycling Club.

Team Nato Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team ACT were riding with us too.

Team ACT Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The R@SKLs were in our customary position toward the rear.

Team Rascals Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

It is a 38km / 24mi climb from KKB to the clock tower at Fraser’s Hill.  We had a number of support vehicles, and an ambulance, accompanying us as we made our way to The Gap.  Water and bananas were available for anyone who wanted them at the halfway point.  Many of us took a breather at The Gap, which marks the start of the one-way section of road to Fraser’s Hill.

It is 7km / 4.4mi from The Gap to the clock tower.  The steepest slopes of the climb are within those 7km.  The lighter-bodied amongst us shot up those slopes.  The more well-padded weren’t as rapid.

After getting to the clock tower – the de facto finish of the climb to Fraser’s Hill – we headed 200 meters up the road to the Shahzan Inn for brunch.

Brunch

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

There was a nice spread of fruit, pancakes with honey, scones with jam, roti jala with chicken curry, juice, coffee, and tea.

I hid my teh tarik from the guys at the IJN table.  I don’t think teh tarik, with all its condensed milk, counts as heart-healthy.

No teh tarik here

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The NATO Cycling Club riders got to the Shahzan Inn well ahead of the R@SKLs.  So they had time to relax in the garden.

Tean Nato Shahzan Inn

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The support crew deserves a huge round of applause from all the riders.  They made us feel like professional cyclists.  All we had to do was ride our bikes.  Everything else – food, drinks, mechanical help, etc. – was taken care of by the support crew.  They were outstanding.

Support Staff

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

There were three or four photographers amongst the support crew.  Hence all the excellent shots in this blog.  They pulled out their cameras for another series of group photographs at the clock tower, before we headed back down the hill.

Team NATO Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team IJN Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team R@SKLs Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We weren’t photographed just with hand-held cameras.  This was shot from a drone.

Everyone Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Then it was time for the fun part of the ride.  Woohoo!!

This is the fun part

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

All 32 of us, and the support vehicles, got to the Restoran Fazlina Maju car park without incident.  Well, almost without incident.  One of the IJN riders had a crank arm come loose early in the descent, which sadly put an end to his ride.  But I believe that was it for mechanicals.  I don’t think anyone had a puncture.

Everyone had an excellent time.  There wasn’t much traffic on the roads.  And as you can see from the photographs, the weather was kind to us.  It was overcast and cool the entire time we were on our bikes.

In fact the weather did give us a bit of a scare, just as we headed down the hill after brunch.  It started to drizzle, right where the steepest slopes and tightest corners are.  Fortunately it lasted just a few minutes.  There were some damp patches further down the road, so care was required.  Happily the conditions weren’t so poor that they took the fun out of the descent.

The rain may have held off while we were riding, but it was waiting for us as we drove into KL.  It poured as we passed through the Jalan Duta toll plaza and onto Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim.  At least our bikes got a wash!

The rain had stopped by the time we got to the INFINITI Center.

Back in KL

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The festivities didn’t stop though.  While the support crew – they were amazing – took our bikes off the Thule racks, we were served more food inside the INFINITI showroom.

More food

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Perhaps to ensure that we had enough energy to jump up if our name was called in the lucky draw.

Thule donated a hiking pack and a laptop pack as lucky draw prizes.

Lucky Draw 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Lucky Draw 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The lucky draw marked the end of a wonderful event.  Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari Yakub, the CEO of IJN, stepped forward to say some words of appreciation on behalf of all the participants.

Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari Yakub CEO IJN

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

I am sure I speak for all the participants when I echo Datuk Seri’s sentiments.  A very big and sincere “Thank You” to Louis Foo, Tiffany Tan, Adam Aubrey, who is the editor of Cycling Plus Malaysia magazine, Eugene Wong from Thule, and not least, to all the support crew.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the INFINITI Drive & Ride.

Closing Eugene Wong

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

 

Independence Day Ride

BCG Bentong Merdeka

Malaysia was born on 31st August 1957.  That day Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, read the official declaration granting the Federation of Malaya independence from the British Empire.

Most years friends and I have marked Merdeka Day (Independence Day) with a bicycle ride.  This year it was the BCG Merdeka Ride to Bentong.

About fifteen of us met at the Orang Asli Hospital for a 7.15am start.  I got there early, hoping to have a hot drink at the small restaurant near the hospital.  The restaurant was closed.

I had forgotten that it was a five-day weekend.  Thursday was Merdeka Day.  Friday and Saturday were public holidays for Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha)  And Monday had been declared a public holiday to commemorate Malaysia winning 145 gold medals out of the 225 gold medals competed for at the 2017 SEA Games, which had come to an end on 30th August.

Traditionally Malays celebrate both Hari Raya Puasa (Eid al-Fitr) and Hari Raya Haji with family in their home towns and villages.

Which means a mass exodus from Kuala Lumpur the day before those festivals.  The Karak Highway is the main road link between Kuala Lumpur and the cities and towns on the east coast of the peninsula.

We stopped near the summit of the Genting Sempah to look at the traffic on the Karak Highway.

BCG Bentong Bridge Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

This was the view of the eastbound lanes of the Karak Highway from Genting Sempah.

BCG Bentong Jam Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The volume of traffic on the Karak Highway prompted many to take the old road to Bentong.  Jalan Gombak is usually very quiet.  We cyclists typically share the road with the odd lorry, a few learner drivers, and some motorcycles.  On this day there was a steady stream of cars, vans and buses heading up the road with us.

We had a nice surprise at the Genting Sempah flyover.  The couple who, on weekends, set up a makeshift drinks and snacks stall out of the boot of their car, were there.  Hooray!

BCG Bentong Genting Sempah 2 Vince Chan

Photograph courtesy of Vincent Chan

If you are wondering, I couldn’t find a red hibiscus, which is the national flower of Malaysia.

BCG Bentong Genting Sempah 1 Vince Chan

Photograph courtesy of Vincent Chan

We continued to share the road with a stream of vehicles on the 35km / 22mi run from Genting Sempah to Bentong.  There is a section between Bukit Tinggi and Bentong where the road is badly potholed.  That caused traffic to be backed up for a few kilometers.

Once past the potholes, those vehicles that we had overtaken roared past us.  Only for us to overtake them again as they waited in a long queue for the traffic lights at the T-junction of Jalan Gombak and Jalan Lama Bentong – Karak.  It was definitely faster by bike over the last 25km / 15.5mi to Bentong.

We had planned to eat at Lemang To’ki, home of the best lemang in Bentong.  We weren’t surprised to find that Lemang To’ki was closed.  So we settled for the next-best option.  Roti canai, half-boiled eggs, and kaya toast.

And peanut ice cream at Kow Po Coffeeshop.

BCG Bentong Ice Cream Daniel Ng

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Ng

That was the easy part over and done with.  It was all uphill from Bentong back to Genting Sempah.  1,000 meters / 3,280 feet of elevation gain.

We were smiling as we rode through Bentong.

BCG Bentong Sign Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The climbing, and the 34° to 36° C / 93° to 97° F temperatures, wiped those smiles off our faces.  By the time we got back to Genting Sempah we were gagging for cold drinks.

We gave the McDonald’s there a miss, assuming, no doubt correctly, that it would be packed with travelers taking a break from the traffic jams.  The roadside stall we stopped at had run out of canned drinks, but fortunately they still had lots of ice and Sunquick.

Then it was just Hamburger Hill between us and the 16km / 10mi descent to the Orang Asli Hospital.  We had to be careful.  The traffic was still streaming up the hill, with some drivers cutting corners.  The bus drivers were the worst culprits.

We all got down the hill safely.  Tired, but glad to have done the ride in great company.  I wonder where we will be riding to when Malaysia turns 61.

BP_31%_Facebk_2017

While We Can

Sunday’s R@SKLs ride was one of our standard routes.  From D’Bayu in Bukit Jelutong to Rawang via the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) and the Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR).  Breakfast in Rawang, and then back to Bukit Jelutong.

We had a wet start to the ride.

Rawang Bypass Wet Start Eugene Lee

Photograph courtesy of Eugene Lee

By the time we got to Denai Alam, 8km / 5mi away, it was bone dry.  Hooray.

As we approached Rawang on LATAR, we could see the elevated section of the Rawang Bypass in front of us.

Rawang Bypass Elevated Section SkyscraperCity

Photograph courtesy of SkyscraperCity

The Rawang Bypass, when open, will divert traffic travelling on Federal Route 1, between Kuala Lumpur and Serendah, away from Rawang.  This will ease congestion on Jalan Rawang.  It is a much-delayed project, construction having started in early 2009.

Rawang Bypass Banner Nazrey

Photograph courtesy of Nazrey

Friends have posted photographs of their recent rides on the bypass.  The roadway is complete, and just the finishing touches remain before the bypass is finally opened to traffic.  And therefore closed to bicycles.

Over breakfast we debated riding the length of the bypass.  None of us had ridden it before.  We were all up for an adventure.

Getting to the bypass required crossing two lanes of Jalan Rawang.  Fortunately Jalan Rawang is not very busy on Sunday mornings.  The direction we came from meant that we had to ride up the wrong side of the roadway.

The construction crew didn’t bat an eye as we rode under the barrier and onto the bypass.

Rawang Bypass Start Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

The high point of the elevated section of the bypass is 65 meters / 213 feet above the ground.  It has to the clear the exit ramp, which is itself elevated, which connects LATAR to the KL-bound lanes of Jalan Rawang.  and it has to pass over the Kancing forest reserve, minimizing disturbance to the green area below.

So we headed upwards.

Rawang Bypass Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And upwards.  For about 4km / 2.5mi.  The views are very nice, and the gradient is challenging but not excessive.

Rawang Bypass Construction Johan sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

We were happy to get to the highest point of the elevated section.

Rawang Bypass Kevin Chin

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Chin

We had the road all to ourselves, so . . .

Rawang Bypass Kings of the Road Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Rawang Bypass Kings of the Road 2 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

It turned out well to be on the wrong side of the road at first, because there were a lot of workmen and equipment on the other side of the road.

Just after the elevated section the road was closed off.  There were workmen paving the lanes in front of us.  Fortunately there was a break in the concrete central divider, so we could cross onto the correct side of the road.

There was another short climb, and then a high-speed descent to the end of the bypass at Sungai Choh.  Everyone made it back to Federal Route 1 without incident, except for one puncture.

Rawang Bypass Kevin Flat Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

It was worth being adventurous.  We all enjoyed riding the Rawang Bypass.

I propose that the R@SKLs, in the words of Steely Dan . . .

Music to my Ears: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bluetooth Headphones

Aftershokz Logo

Logo courtesy of Aftershokz

Wearing earphones and listening to music while riding is one of those topics, like wearing a helmet, or the correct length for socks, that divides the cycling community.

The main argument against is that earphones block out surrounding sounds, so cyclists are less aware of aural cues like traffic noise, spoken or shouted warnings of hazards, and so on.

Proponents of listening to music whilst riding say that it can boost their ability to ride harder, faster and with more enjoyment.  Others simply enjoy the escapism and motivation that listening to music can bring to a solo ride or training session.

I enjoy listening to music while I ride.  I used a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds X in-ear Bluetooth headphones, until the inline controller failed.

I replaced them with Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bluetooth headphones, which address the problem of earbuds blocking the ear canal by positioning transducers in front of your ears, rather than in the ear canal.

Using bone conduction technology, sound vibrations are transmitted directly to the inner ears via the cheekbones, bypassing the eardrums completely.

IMG_0617

Graphic courtesy of Aftershokz

The Trekz Titaniums have been a revelation.  I rate headphones for use while cycling on five criteria:

  1. Fit / comfort
  2. Battery life
  3. Sound quality
  4. Ease of use
  5. Durability

My primary requirement for headphones is that they fit well, and are comfortable for many hours.  The Trekz Titaniums do fit well.  The wraparound headband, or more accurately, neckband, is flexible, and the headphones are light (36g / 1.27oz).

I wear the headphones as shown in the photograph below.  I find that fitting the arms holding the transducers over the stems of my glasses helps with long-term comfort.  That way, the transducers do not press so hard on your cheekbones.

Some reviewers complained that these headphones are slightly uncomfortable after prolonged use.  To them I say riding a bicycle gets slightly uncomfortable after a prolonged time, unless you change hand positions, move around on the saddle and so on every now and then.  Take the Trekz Titaniums off whenever you stop for a break, and discomfort will not be an issue.

IMG_0615

Photograph courtesy of engaget.com

My second requirement for headphones is battery life.  The Trek Titaniums have a claimed battery life of six hours.  I have exceeded that estimate on a number of occasions.

Sound quality is my third assessment criteria.  The Trekz Titaniums have enough fidelity to suit my needs.  The sound quality is not brilliant, but if I wanted to enjoy the full range, definition, and subtle nuances in my music, I wouldn’t be listening to it while riding a bike.

More importantly, the bone conduction technology works as advertised.  I can hear what is going on around me, and hold conversations, while these headphones are pushing music to my inner ears.

The controls for these headphones are easy to use.  On the right arm are a volume up button that also serves as a power button, and a volume down button.  Next to these sit a Micro USB port for charging the headphones.

Aftershokz Controls

Photograph courtesy of trustedreviews.com

On the outside of the right hand transducer is a multi-function button. Pressing this button once allows you to play and pause tracks, answer and reject calls, and activate Siri or Google Now voice commands.

You can also double-press it to skip forward to the next track in your playlist.  Oddly, there is no capability to move backwards through your playlist, so repeating a favourite song is not an option.

Aftershokz Controls 2

Photograph courtesy of trustedreviews.com

As for durability, these headphones are well-built.  The controls work reliably.  Bluetooth connectivity is fast and consistent, with a range of 10 meters / 33 feet.  More importantly, sweat, of which I produce a lot, and rain have not had an adverse effect.  A nanotechnology coating and watertight rubber gaskets repel sweat and moisture.

The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are available in four colours, and two sizes.  The Mini comes with a headband which is 4.7cm / 2ins shorter than the standard headband.

IMG_0616

Photograph courtesy of pushys.com.au

The Aftershokz Treks Titanium Bluetooth headphones are an essential part of my cycling kit, like a helmet and spare tube.  I recommend them to all my cycling buddies.
Aftershokz Rating

Eating Our Way to Melaka

Melaka Banner Johan Sopiee

Graphic courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Mark and I decided that it was high time to break out the Apidura saddle bags and go on an overnight bicycle trip.  We chose Melaka as our destination, because it is a reasonable distance from Kuala Lumpur, the roads are generally good, and the eating along the way and in Melaka is excellent.

After some canvassing, we had a group of six.  Alan and Chee Seng could not stay overnight, so their plan was to ride to Melaka, and then get to Tampin KTM station for the train back to KL.  Johan S., Ridzuwan, Mark and I would spend Thursday night in Melaka.

We were all excited about the trip.  Bikes and saddle bags were set up the day before, and some of us struggled to get to sleep the night before.

We started from where I live.  We were on the MEX Highway by about 6.15am.  The adrenaline levels are a bit high when riding on MEX.  It is a highway after all.  Though at that early hour, there isn’t much traffic leaving KL, so the riding is not too fraught.

We made a quick pit stop at the Seri Kembangan R&R.

Melaka MEX R&R Alan

Photograph courtesy of Alan Tan

As expected, given the wet weather of the preceding days, we got rained on as we left the R&R.  Fortunately the rain wasn’t heavy, and it didn’t last long.  We did have wet roads until we reached Dengkil.  A benefit of the Apidura saddle bag is that it extends back far enough to block the spray coming off the rear wheel.  It is like riding with a rear mud guard.

Dengkil was where our first planned food stop.  There is a roadside stall on the corner of Jalan Aman and Jalan Mutiara 1J.  We stop there for breakfast whenever our rides take us through Dengkil.

Melaka Dengkil Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had a visitor looking for handouts during breakfast.

Melaka Dengkil Cat Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

From the Dengkil bypass we rode along the busy Putrajaya–Cyberjaya Expressway and the Nilai – KLIA Highway before turning right onto the quieter Jalan Besar Salak at Salak Tinggi.

Melaka Rolling Johan sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Our next stop was at the Shell station in Sepang.  70km / 43.5mi done.  110km / 68mi to go.  It was supposed to be a short stop for drinks and the loo, but soon after this picture was taken . . .

Melaka Sepang Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

this picture was taken.

Melaka Flat 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

My front tire had gone soft while we were at the Shell station.  This was the culprit.

Melaka Flat 2 Alan Tan

Photograph courtesy of Alan Tan

An advantage of Two-Way Fit™ rims is that the tire bead stays locked to the rim after a puncture.  A flat tire doesn’t roll off the rim.  A very useful quality when you get a flat while speeding down a winding descent.

The associated disadvantage of 2-Way Fit™ rims is that it is difficult to get the tire off the rim, and even more difficult to seat the tire properly when reinflating the tube.  Thank goodness for the air pump at the petrol station, which generated enough air pressure to quickly seat the tire.

Happy smiles as we finally got going again.

Melaka Sepang Rolling Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

We rode out of the Shell station onto Federal Route 5, which runs along the west side of Peninsular Malaysia, from Skudai in the south to Ipoh in the north.

Our intermediate destination was Cendol Azmi in Port Dickson.  Which serves some of the best cendol I have ever had.  Mark and I have been there a number of times.  We talked up Cendol Azmi over the 25km / 15.5mi to Port Dickson.

So imagine our collective disappointment when we go to Cendol Azmi and found it closed.  What a letdown!

We settled on Sukand’s Food Station, across the road from Cendol Azmi.

Melaka Port Dickson 1 Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

To Sukand’s credit, their cendol was pretty good.  As was the three-layer air bandung.

We debated having lunch in Port Dickson, but decided to hold out until we got to Kuala Sungai Baru, across the state border in Melaka.  Mark and I had eaten at Kuala Seafood during previous cycling trips to Melaka.  That restaurant was a highlight every time.

We stopped to buy Cokes at Pasir Panjang, about halfway between Port Dickson and Kuala Sungai Baru.  We then picked up the pace over the 20km to Kuala Seafood.  2pm had come and gone, and we were hungry.

So imagine our extreme disappointment when we got to Kuala Seafood and found it closed.  What a bummer!!

There weren’t many options for food.  The few restaurants in the vicinity had sold out of their lunch offerings.  We settled for some mediocre fried rice, just to fill out stomachs more than anything else.

We had 40km / 25mi to go to Melaka.  Alan had been talking about getting coconut shakes once we got there.  Melaka is known for good coconut shakes.  Alan said that Klebang Original Coconut Shake was the place.  Having been disappointed twice already, we made Alan call Klebang Original Coconut Shake to make sure that it was open.

It was.

Melaka Coconut Shake 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And the coconut shakes were good.  Good enough for us to drink a second round of shakes.

Melaka Coconut Shake 2 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

This place is worth visiting again.

Melaka Coconut Shake 3 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

By the time we left Klebang Original Coconut Shake, my patched inner tube was failing.  I gave it a good pump up, and Johan S., Mark, Ridzuwan and I headed to our hotel.

Alan and Chee Seng were heading back to KL that evening.  They first rode to Jonker Walk and Dutch Square for obligatory tourist photographs.

Melaka Alan & Chee Seng 1 Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

And a refreshing recovery beverage.

Melaka Alan & Chee Seng 2 Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

The rest of us checked in to the Hallmark Crown Hotel.  I had booked the hotel sight unseen.  Welcome to the Internet Age!  The price was right – about USD25 per night for a double occupancy room, including buffet breakfast.

We weren’t expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised when we got to our rooms.  Which were clean and comfortable, and had air-conditioning and a mini-fridge which worked.  Plus there was lots of hot water on the shower, and the free wifi signal was strong.

Showered and changed, we walked to the next food destination on our list.  The Makko Nyonya Restaurant.  Another repeat visit venue for Mark and I.  Fortunately for the two of us, Makko was open!

Fried eggplant with chilli, beancurd skin rolls, cincalok omelette, chicken rendang, curry prawns with pineapple, and chendol.

The 180km / 112mi bike ride was worth it for this meal alone.

While we were stuffing our faces at dinner, Alan and Chee Seng had made it to Tampin, and were on the KTM Komuter train back to KL.  Comfortably so.

Melaka Train Alan Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

Not to be outdone in the food stakes, Alan and Chee Seng had supper in KL.

On Friday morning the four of us attacked the hotel buffet breakfast.  An observer would have thought that we hadn’t eaten at all the night before!

Then it was out turn for tourist photographs.

Melaka Tourist 3 Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Melaka Tourist 2 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had, briefly, considered cycling back to KL.  Riding to Tampin and taking the train seemed like a more reasonable thing to do.

Melaka Lebuhraya AMH Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

40km / 25mi of pedalling got us to the Pulau Sebang (Tampin) KTM station.

Melaka Tampin 3 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We loaded our bikes and ourselves into the last carriage of the train.

Two and a bit hours later, we were at the Bank Negara KTM station in KL.  It is a short ride from there to where I live.

It was lunch time, so we made a side trip first, to Santa Chapati House on Jalan Sarikei.  A fitting end to our two-day adventure.  It was, after all, an eating trip with some cycling thrown in for variety.

Melaka Santa 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Thank you Alan, Chee Seng, Johan S., Ridzuwan and Mark for your enjoyable company.  We had a lot of laughs and good riding.  To be repeated for sure.

Footnote

The graphic at the top of this post is a mashup of our coconut shakes and the logo for a anti-littering campaign which was launched by the Melaka state government in 2014.  A take on the “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign started there in 1986.

 

The R@SKLs Like Penang – Day Three

Sunday AM CFAL Banner

The Tien Hotel was buzzing at 5.30am.  R@SKLs were getting coffees and filling bottles. Pumping up tires.  Filling jersey pockets with ride essentials.

At 6.10am sharp we rode down Lebuh Chulia toward the Residence carpark on the corner of Jalan Penang, where the rest of the R@SKLs were waiting.  A headcount confirmed that we had twenty four riders in our group.

Local boy Lay led us over the 6km / 3.7mi from the Residence to the CFAL start line at the Youth Park.  There were reportedly 3,500 participants in this ninth edition of the Campaign for a Lane.

We positioned ourselves at the back of the pack.  We didn’t want to get caught up in the starting rush and crush.

Sunday AM Start Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The excitement, or pressure, of the event must have got to some of the R@SKLs.  They developed a sudden interest in the surrounding bushes.

Sunday AM CFAL Start Leakage TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The CFAL event has developed a reputation as one of the better organised rides.  The organisers get most things right.  Like starting the event on time.  Cyclists began pouring out of the part at 7.15am.  Right on time.

Sunday AM CFAL Start Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

The CFAL route has remained unchanged for a number of years now.  Out of the Youth Park to Persiaran Gurney, and then clockwise roughly following the coast, down to Bayan Lepas in the south-eastern corner of the island.

Our new jerseys stood out well against the sea of purple CFAL jerseys that most of the other participants were wearing.  That made staying together as a group easier.

A very popular photo spot along the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Highway is within view of the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, more commonly known as the Penang Second Bridge.

Sunday AM Penang Bridge Leslie Tong

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

It took a few tries, but we did get that bridge in the background.

We had our first proper rest stop at the Caltex station, just the other side of the Sungai Bayan Lepas, about 30km / 18.5mi into the ride.  We raided the station shop for drinks and food.  And queued for the toilet.

From the Caltex station the route curved inland to the right for a kilometer or two, and then curved back down toward Teluk Kumbar on the coast.  At Teluk Kumbar the route headed due north to the Puspakom vehicle inspection site in Kampung Tengah.

That Puspakom compound marked the start of the first of the two climbs on the CFAL route.  It is about 2km / 1.2mi long, and has 115 meters / 377 feet of elevation.

Everyone was looking good on the slopes.

We went past this guy on the lower slope of the climb.

Sunday AM CFAL Penny Farthing Dennis Tan

Photograph courtesy of Dennis Tan

He gave it a good effort, but it wasn’t long before he was walking his penny-farthing up the hill.

We regrouped at the bottom of the descent of Jalan Balik Pulau, where the road takes a sharp left onto state route P239 toward Pulau Betong.  Once we were all together again, we cruised over the next 15km / 9.3mi to the row of shophouses opposite the Sin Min primary school.

Sunday AM Kampung Tomoe Suga.png

We stopped so that riders could buy water, 100 Plus etc. from the sundry shop there.  It is a good place to stop for a rest and a drink.  The small temple on the end of the row of shophouses marks the start of the second climb.  This one is 4.8km / 3mi long, with an elevation of 259 meters / 850 feet.

We agreed to meet on the other side of the hill, at the Teluk Bahang Dam.  Most of us know the spot, because we took photographs there the last time we rode in Penang.  This is one of those photographs.  We were standing on the dam.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Reservoir View 1 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

I got to the dam first.  I stopped in the shade of a tree opposite the dam, and waited for the other pink jerseys to appear.

5 minutes went by.  No pink jerseys.

10 minutes went by.  Still no pinks jerseys.

15 minutes went by.  Aha!  There is a pink jersey.  Damn (pardon the pun).  Not one of ours.

I started to wonder if someone had suffered a puncture, or worse, had suffered a fall.

20 minutes went by.  Then a participant shouted at me as he rode past.  “I think your friends are resting up the hill.”

I pedaled 300 meters back up the hill and around a corner, and there they were.

Sprawled on the grass.  Looking comfortable and relaxed.

Leslie, who wasn’t in Penang with us the last time, pulled off at this spot.  Everyone else followed him, instead of continuing down to the dam.

Sunday PM Teluk Bahang Dam CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of Lim Heng Keng

I do admit that it was a nice place to stop.

But for next time guys.  This is what the dam looks like.

Sunday PM Teluk Bahang Dam

There were about 20km / 12.4mi to ride back to the Youth Park.  It started raining as we got to Batu Ferringhi.  Jalan Batu Ferringhi is a winding, rolling, narrow stretch of road, with a hill on one side and a drop-off to the sea on the other side.  It would be a pleasant road for a bike ride, if only there wasn’t so much traffic.

Sunday PM Batu Ferringhi Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Add rain to the mix, and the ride along Jalan Batu Ferringhi to the Penang Swimming Club is a bit stressful.  Sometimes the safest place to be is in the middle of the slender lane.  It can upset drivers, but it stops them trying to squeeze past you, and in the process forcing you right to the edge of the road, or worse, off the road.

The last 5km / 3mi along Jalan Tanjung Bungah is also busy with cars, lorries, and buses, but the road is wider and has a proper shoulder, so you are not riding in amongst the traffic.

It was still raining when we got to the Youth Park.  3,500 riders quickly turned sections of the grass field into a quagmire.  The large marquee tent was packed with people sheltering from the rain.  As I was looking for somewhere to leave my bike, I saw Husher from Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.  He was manning a stall at one corner of the marquee, where he was displaying some of the Rikulau stainless steel bikes that he sells.

Husher’s stall became the area for the R@SKLs to park their bikes.  It was close to the medal, water, and food pickup points.

Sunday PM CFAL Food Tomoe Suga.png

And also close to the backdrop for finisher photographs.  Thank you Husher.

The lucky draw was in progress as we waited for all the R@SKLs to finish and to collect their medals.  I don’t think any of us expected to win a prize, although it does appear that one of us did have a winning number.  Number 2276 was called.  One R@SKL had number 2275, and another had number 2277.  So someone in the group must have had number 2276.  Oh well!

It was still raining after everyone had their medal in hand.  So we decided to ride back to the hotel, rather than looking for somewhere to eat along the way.  Halfway to the hotel the rain stopped.  It was sunny and hot at the Tien Hotel.

Lunch was at Goh Thew Chik Hainan Chicken Rice, which is a few doors away from the Tien.  Simon reserved four whole chickens for us.  Two roasted, and two poached.

That wasn’t enough.  It took two more chickens, and more rice, to satisfy the R@SKLs.

Lay and Leslie couldn’t join us for lunch.  Their ride back to KL left Penang at 2pm.  Heng Keng left for the airport right after lunch.

Others went straight from the chicken rice shop to look for dessert.

Sunday PM Chendol 1 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Those of us on evening flights were able to linger at the Tien.

Sunday PM Time to Relax 2 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Sunday PM Time to Relax 3 Tomoe Suga

Pai was a true team player.  He brought cendol back to the hotel for those of us who were too idle to walk to the stall with him.  Thank you Pai.

Sunday PM Chendol 2 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Most of the remaining R@SKLs were on an 8pm flight.  Which gave them time to devour one last plate of char koay teow and oyster omelette before bidding farewell to Penang.

Sunday PM Last Food Run Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The Hong Kong trio flew out on Monday.  TH looked after them very well.  Champagne even!

Sunday PM HK Crew TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Our bikes and bags had been loaded onto the van at 4pm.  ETA at Pegasus Cycles was 10pm.  Collecting our bikes marked the end of a wonderful weekend with great friends and great food, with some cycling thrown in for good measure.

Sunday PM Bike Unloading Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Thank you TH and your staff for looking after us so well.

Thank you CK and Danial for providing much valued support.

Thank you R@SKLs for being excellent company.

When is our next trip?

Sunday PM Medal.png