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CFAL 2018: Round Island Ride

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Penang City Hall

Photograph courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Sunday morning, woke up yawning; did my alarm really ring?
Pulled on my bibs and sprayed that sun screen all over my skin.
Went down the stairs and kissed my bike to make it come alive.
‘Cause with 22 gears and the R@SKLs all in pink,
I got to go for a Round Island ride.

With apologies to The Bee Gees

The half dozen or so R@SKLs who needed breakfast before the Round Island Ride met in front of the Tien Hotel at 6.00am.  Lebuh Chulia and the surrounding streets were becoming filled with blinking bike lights as cyclists emptied out of the many hostels, backpacker inns and boutique hotels which have opened in old Georgetown since it was accorded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site status in 2008.

Old Georgetown is now even more of a tourist draw.  Most tourists don’t look for breakfast at 6.00am on a Sunday morning.  So we were greeted with rows of dark shop fronts as we rode around looking for breakfast.

The first open place we found was the Restoran Liyaqatali Nasi Kandar Beratur.  Open from 10.00pm to 8.30am.  As its name suggests, you queue (beratur) for your food, and then try to find somewhere to sit on the sidewalk outside.

We wanted roti canai.  We were directed to Restoran Dalcha Kassim Mustafa.  That was open, but the roti man only starts doing his thing at 7.00am.  So we settled for rice and curry and hard-boiled eggs.

We were back in front of Tien Hotel at 6.30am where a cloud of pink was already gathering.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Tien Billy

Photograph courtesy of Billy

There were more than twenty-five of us.  As is always the case, the larger the group, the more likely that at least one rider will have a flat tire.  Mark, who seems to have become our designated mechanic whenever Danial or CK is not around, was called into action to help Kieren with his flat.  Which ultimately required a change of tire to fix.  Henry, thank goodness, had a spare tire to loan to Kieren.

Kevin also had a flat tire outside the Tien Hotel.  He took it as a sign that he should skip the ride.  A decision no doubt helped by the after-effects of the beach party.

The Penang City Hall on the Esplanade is a little more than 1km away from the Tien Hotel.  We took up our customary position right at the back of the estimated 3,500 participants in this, the 10th edition of CFAL.

CFAL Day 2 Start 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were flagged off a bit after 7.00am by Malaysia’s Finance Minister Mr Lim Guan Eng.  Mr Lim has a long-standing relationship with CFAL, having served as the Chief Minister of Penang between 2008 and 2018.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Lim Guan Eng Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The start was slow as the exit from the Esplanade is narrow.  That gave us the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Sunrise TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We made a short photo stop opposite Pulau Jerejak, where you have a view of both bridges between the island and the mainland.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 2nd Bridge

The next stop was at Teluk Kumbar.  We were 28km / 17mi into the ride and 1km from the first of the two climbs on the route.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Route Map event howei com

Map courtesy of event.howei.com

Nasi lemak, teh tarik and a restroom.  This place ticked all the boxes.

CFAL 2018 First Stop Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Up, up and away.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Climb 1 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Working.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 4 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 2 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 5 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Resting.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 6 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 1 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

In past years the CFAL route took a sharp left turn at the bottom of the rapid descent from Bukit Genting.  I was behind a group of a dozen riders as we approached that corner at speed.  All of us were looking at the RELA man at the junction for directions.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Rela Cycling Plus Mag

Except our man was not indicating anything.  He wasn’t even looking our way.  So everyone ahead of me continued straight down the road.

4km /2.5mi later I started thinking “This can’t be right.”  I looked back and saw Martin Lee and Ralf.  They had followed me.  Oops!

CFAL Day 2 Wrong Way Ride With GPS

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Now I know we could have turned left at Jalan Sungai ‘Pinang and rejoined the official route about 4km from the second climb.  Oh well.  An extra 8km / 5mi never hurt anyone.  Ha ha ha!

The rest of the R@SKLs had no such problems.  Except for Kieren, who suffered a second cut tire and had to Grab Car it back to town.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 1 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The second climb up Jalan Teluk Bahang is more than twice as long as the Bukit Genting climb, but the average gradient is the same.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 2 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Our next regrouping point was at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Reservoir

While we were larking and monkeying about (SOP for the R@SKLs at rest stops) this young man, Danial Asyraf, pulled up.  He was riding with his grandfather, Bakar Noordin.  Bakar Noordin is one of six friends who in 2012 rode from Lebuh Downing in Penang to Downing Street in London.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Six year old and Grandfather Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

His six-year-old grandson is no slouch on a bicycle either.  If it took you more than four hours to complete the Round Island Ride, please do not look the next photograph.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Danial Asyraf

Photograph courtesy of Penang Mountain Bike Association

You looked!  Repeat after me . . .

CFAL 2018 Day 2 OMG

Emoji courtesy of Bitmoji

We let Danial and his grandfather ride off ahead of us.  I for one had no need to be embarrassed by a six-year-old spinning past me on the slopes of Jalan Batu Ferringhi.

A final water and restroom stop at the Caltex station at the bottom of the descent from the Teluk Bahang Dam, and we were on the last 22km / 13.5mi to the finish.  The traffic on Jalan Batu Ferringhi was challenging, but we all got through that section okay.

Plain sailing from then on, until . . . .  This time Mark had a flat of his own to fix.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Mark Flat TH Lim (1)

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

With lots of onlookers.  Who knew changing an inner tube could be a spectator sport?

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Mark Flat TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

In less than 10km / 6mi we were collecting our medals at the finish line.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Medal Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Posing for selfies.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Finish Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Finish 2 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And sprawling on the grass.

CFAL 2018 Finish Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Where TH started yelping in pain.  We all thought he had a cramp.  Turns out having your hand stood on by someone wearing cycling cleats hurts just as much as a cramp.

Another fantastic weekend trip with the R@SKLs.  Thank you, everyone, for making it so enjoyable.

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Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

R@SKLs Do Penang – Day Two

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R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Banner.png

After the santai (relaxed) turned bantai (thrashed) ride of the day before, some of us were dubious about attempting a round-the-island ride.  Following the CFAL route to the south-east, south-west, and north-west corners of the island, before heading east back to George Town, had been the original plan when this Tien Hotel Residence getaway to Penang was first mooted.  Now we wondered if it would be a bit more than we could handle, given the exertions of the previous day.

However, the die was cast.  We had invited some Penangites to ride with us, and they were on the doorstep at 7.45am, expecting to replicate the 80km / 50mi CFAL route.  So nine R@SKLs and six Penangites posed in front of the Tien hotel before following our three guardian angels – we had retained the same three young men from the day before – out to Pengkalan Weld and then to Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Start 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

This time we covered 12km / 7.5mi before having to stop for a mechanical problem.  This time to reseat Simon’s rear tire.  It is a mystery how, but a section of the bead had separated from the rim.  Fortunately we had CK with us.  The man from Pegasus Cycles soon had Simon’s wheel sorted out.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Lifesaver Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Our next stop was intentional.  Kampung Tengah was 25km / 15.5mi into our ride.  We stopped to regroup there because Kampung Tengah is at the base of Bukit Genting.

Everyone agreed that the 2km / 1 mi climb up Bukit Genting was easier than we had anticipated.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 First Climb View Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

As we came off the relatively fast descent – more than 50kph / 31mph in places – we had to drop anchors and cut speed in time for the sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill onto Jalan Sungai Nipah.  The day before, we had continued north, straight on Jalan Balik Pulau to the food court.

This time we headed south to Kampung Bakar Kapur and the coast.  That was the closest we would come to the sea until we got to Teluk Bahang, in the north-west of the island, about 25km / 15.5mi away.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Beach 1 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

But that would be later.  It was first time for some food.  I wouldn’t have known this was a restaurant.  It is a good thing we had locals riding with us.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Food before Second Climb Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Highlights of this meal, apart from the noodles, were the home-made soya bean milk and nutmeg juice drinks.  Nutmeg juice is a unique Penang speciality.

Fed and watered, we made the straight run northward to Sungai Pinang in quick time.

We regrouped at the 玄龙双祝宫 temple, which Google translates as Xuanlong Double Wish Palace.

As you may have guessed, our local guides stopped at the temple because it is at the base of the climb up Jalan Teluk Bahang.  A 5km / 3mi winding route that rises 255 meters / 837 feet.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Route

We got ourselves to the top of the climb, which wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Climb 2 At The Top CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

The run down to the Teluk Bahang Dam would have been much more fun if the road hadn’t been littered with leaves, small branches, sand and mud.  It had rained very hard the previous night, and a lot of debris had been washed onto the road.  Descending with extra care was required.

We wanted to take our bikes with us through the security post at the dam, but that was a non no.  So it was just us at the water’s edge, showing off our better sides.

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

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

We made our last stop at Restoran K-Haleel, just after the roundabout at the bottom of the descent from the dam.  It was a good place to stop for a drink, and to thank our newfound local friends for their hospitality and guidance.  Most of them were not going all the way back into town.  Instead heading their own ways to get home.

There were just over 20km / 12.5mi to go.  Most of it rolling terrain as we hugged the coast through Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Tokong.  Once we got to Gurney Drive we had a flat 5km / 3mi to the Tien hotel.

Six of us were 3 km / 1.8mi from the hotel when word came through, via walkie-talkie to the guardian angel with us, that Pai had suffered a puncture.  Once again, it was CK to the rescue.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Lifesaver 2 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Waiting.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Where Are They Pai Flat Leonard Yee

Photograph courtesy of Leonard Yee

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 First Flat Waiting Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Inner tube replaced, Pai and the rest soon rolled around the corner where we were waiting, and we had no further interruptions as we wound our way through town to the hotel.

It was then a case of replaying the post ride activities of the previous day.  Showers, hanging kit up to dry, napping, and eating and drinking.  Plus loading bicycles and bags into the repaired van for the trip back to Pegasus Cycles.

All too soon, our boutique hotel / cycling getaway was over.  We owe a large debt of gratitude to TH and the staff at the Tien Hotel Residence for making our stay such a nice one.  We are already planning to stay there again during our next Penang trip.  CFAL 9 is on 13th August.

Book those seats fellas!

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Homeward Bound TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim