The first road bike I owned was equipped with a standard 53 / 39 chainring and an 11 – 25 cassette. That was seven years ago in the flatlands of Houston, Texas. I was fifty two years old.
Two years later I moved to Den Haag. North Holland is not noted for hills, but South Holland and Belgium are. A trip in April 2011 to the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportif introduced me to the many short, sharp hellingen which have made that race one of the Monuments of professional cycling. The Muur van Geraardsbergen featured that year, with its maximum gradient of 19.8%.
There were other hilly events to be ridden in the year to come. One was the Amstel Gold sportif down in the corner of South Holland that shares a border with Belgium to the west and south, and Germany to the east. Another was the sportif which preceded the 2012 UCI World Championships, held that year in Limburg, South Holland.
My first encounter with the hills of Belgium convinced me that I needed lower gearing on my bike the next time I ventured south to ride. A few months later I had a second road bike. Equipped with a compact 50 / 34 chainring and an 11 – 28 cassette.
At the end of 2012 I moved back to Kuala Lumpur. Where any ride to the north or east of the city means venturing into the foothills of the Titiwangsa Mountains. These mountains are molehills compared to the Pyrenees, the Alps, or the Rockies, but they do present more than enough of a challenge for my now fifty nine year old knees.
My rides these days are on a bike with a compact crank and an 11 – 32 cassette.
I use the 34 tooth chainring – 32 tooth cog combination quite a lot. On yesterday’s ride from Batu Lapan Belas to Titi and back for instance. This is the elevation along the route we took.
The climb to the summit of Genting Peras “officially” starts at the Simpang Peras T-junction. The warm up for the climb proper is the 50 meters / 165 feet of elevation over the 1.5km / 1mi on Jalan Sungai Lui before Simpang Peras.
This is Lay, Eugene and I heading into the mist on the lower slopes of Genting Peras.
9km / 5.5mi and 404 meters / 1,325 feet of elevation later Marco and the rest of the group were catching our collective breaths at the summit.
The first time I did this ride, I thought that the 13km / 8mi from the summit to Kampong Kongkol was all downhill. Imagine my surprise when I found that the descent is broken into three sections, with 200 meters / 656 feet of climbing between sections.
Of course we had to take the scenic way from Kampong Kongkol to Titi. Through Kampung Chennah and Kampong Puom. That is the loop to the right in the elevation graphic above.
It is a very pretty ride down into the valley formed by the Sungai Kongkol to Kampung Chennah, and then along the Sungai Kenaboi until Kampung Temelang. The road is bordered by a series of small villages, rubber plantations, goat farms, oil palm estates and a durian orchard. Then you have to pull yourself out of the valley and back up to Jalan Kuala Klawang – Semenyih.
The view back across the valley is worth the climb.
There are a number of good Hakka kopitiams (coffee shops) in Titi. We were very ready for our breakfast of pan mee, soft-boiled eggs, toast with kaya and iced coffee by the time we sat down.
Titi is one of those small Malaysian towns far from a major highway, where time passes slowly. As illustrated by the sign and chick blinds at this shop across the road from our kopitiam. Along with the usual necessities: clothes (baju), shoes (kasut), and fabric (kain), Ho Keng Kee sells a much more unusual item. Rubber tapping knives (pisau penoreh).
You don’t come across this in your local supermarket.
All that remained after breakfast was the little matter of 650 meters / 2,130 feet of climbing back to the summit of Genting Peras.
In preparation we filled our bottles with fresh coconut water and ice from a stall in Titi. Notice the pink funnel. They must fill a lot of bottles for cyclists.
Then it was small chainring + largest cog time for the 13km / 8mi from Kampung Kongkol to the summit of Genting Peras. We regrouped and had a bit of a rest at the summit. Then we all rolled safely down the mountain and over the final 11km / 7mi to Batu Lapan Belas.
The odds are I will be in the small chainring + biggest cog during my next ride. My knees aren’t getting any younger.