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Avoiding the Heat

Malaysia’s climate is equatorial, being hot and humid throughout the year.  The maximum temperature and high humidity numbers for Kuala Lumpur so far in February 2018 bear this out.

Feb Temp and Humidity

Data courtesy of Weather Underground

I have written in the past about how to beat the heat. I wrote a post about how much to drink on a ride.  Another post was about the efficacy of wearing a base layer.  There was a post about how to keep sweat out of your eyes.

Lately a few riding buddies and I have taken heat and humidity management to a new level.

Ride Start Times.png

When possible, we have taken to starting rides before 5.30am.  That way we get most of our riding in before the sun rises at around 7.30am.  We get an average of 85km / 53mi done, and have breakfast, by about 9.30am.  At that time of the morning the temperature is still in the mid 20s °C / mid 70s °F.

Not everyone can start a ride before 5.30am.  I for one need to take a mid-afternoon nap.  But for those who can, there is no better way to stay

Out of the sun

How Much To Drink on a Ride?

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Hydration Banner

One of the givens of cycling in Malaysia is the heat and the humidity.  I have written a number of posts about the challenges of riding in our tropical weather.

Hyperthermia – Avoid It

Does a Base Layer Really Work in Tropical Weather?

Sweaty Eyeballs

Your Country Very Hot

The really hot and humid weather during the BCG Tour ride from Kajang to Melaka and back over the past weekend got me thinking again about hydration.

Drink 2 liters / 68 fl oz (or eight glasses) of water every day.

Lose more than 2% of your body weight and your performance will decline by x%.

Words to this effect have been repeated over and over in sports, health and lifestyle magazines.  They have become burnt into the minds of cyclists the world over.

It turns out that there is no scientific method behind those numbers.  Exercise physiologist Stacy Sims, Ph.D., a hydration researcher at Stanford University, says that the recommendation to drink 2 liters per day don’t take into account gender, environment, altitude, and fitness level—factors that could affect fluid intake needs.
Read more at Are You Overhydrated?

Alan McCubbin, an Accredited Sports Dietitian, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and the President of Sports Dietitians Australia, points out that the recommendation that athletes drink enough fluid to prevent a loss of body weight from sweat of more than 2% during exercise is based on studies using performance tests that don’t resemble real world sporting events.
Read more at Hydration for Cyclists: How Much Do We Really Need to Drink?

It is clear that dehydration does have an effect on cyclists and other athletes.  The physiological responses include:

  • Reduction in blood volume
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased skin blood flow
  • Decreased sweat rate
  • Decreased heat dissipation
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Increased core temperature
  • Increased rate of muscle glycogen use
  • Rapid and deep breathing, faster than normal
  • Decreased digestive function

All of which contributes to fatigue and an impaired capacity to turn the pedals.  Read more at Dehydration. Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

I have lost count of how many times I have had an elevated pulse rate, an increased core temperature, and shortness of breath while on long, hot rides.  I sweat more profusely than most, and so am probably losing at least 1 liter / 34 fl oz of fluid per hour of particularly hot and humid days.  Perhaps more.  So it is no surprise to me that I need to constantly watch my hydration levels.

Which brings me back to the question of how much I should drink while on my bicycle?  I hadn’t previously considered quantifying the amount I drink in the course of a long bike ride.  But a comment from a fellow participant in the BCG Tour to Melaka got me thinking. He said that one bidon (that is fancy French cyclist speak for “bottle”) lasts him between 60km and 80km / 37mi to 50mi.

I don’t know if the fluid replacement rate for a cyclist is constant over time, but let us assume that it is.  Let us also assume that one bidon has a capacity of 620ml / 21fl oz.  Using these assumptions, this gentleman would have drunk between 0.87 and 1.16 liters / 29 and 39 fl oz over the 112km / 70mi from Melaka to Kajang.

I drank about 5.5 liters / 186 fl oz over 112km / 70mi last Sunday.  A combination of the following:

With a Nuun tablet dissolved in the water in each of my bidons when I started, to replace lost electrolytes.

Drink 6

What I do not know of course is whether this gentleman only drank from his bidon while riding, or also had other drinks during rest stops.

Whatever the case, the answer to the question is clear – or not, depending on how you look at it.  The amount a cyclist needs to drink to stay adequately hydrated is a very personal thing.  As pointed out by Stacy Sims, our body type – our height, weight, and a gendered predisposition to muscle or fat – will have an impact on the amount of fluid we require.

The environment at ride time is also a major determinant of how much you need to drink.  I have ridden 60 to 80km on just one bidon.  But that was in the cool of a Netherlands spring day.  There is no way I could have survived on just two bidons in the heat of last Sunday.

So while there are guidelines, they may not apply to you as a unique individual, and to the conditions at the time you are riding.

Your starting level of hydration is likely to be important. If you start a race already partially dehydrated, then the amount you need to drink to satisfy thirst and prevent performance declines will likely be greater.

Which prompts the question of when to drink?

The Google consensus is to sip on 500 to 750 ml / 17 to 25 fl oz of isotonic (see below) carbohydrate sports fuel in the two hours before a long ride to ensure optimal hydration and fully stocked up energy reserves.

Then, during the ride, the key point to remember is not to wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking.  Drink little and often right from the start, even if you don’t feel thirsty yet.  If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.  Aim to take two or three good sized gulps from your bidon every ten to fifteen minutes right from the moment you roll off. Read more at Hydration on the Bike

Finally, don’t forget to continue drinking after the ride is over.  Even if you drink regularly during the ride, you will still likely be dehydrated at the end.  You will need to replace that lost fluid and electrolytes.  I drank another 1.5 liters / 51 fl oz within an hour of finishing the BCG Tour ride back to Kajang.  And more until I went to bed that night.

A final point to make is that it is possible to over-hydrate.  Drinking too much can lead to hyponatremia, which is a dangerously low level of sodium in the blood.  It is some consolation to know that you really have to work at it to drink too much.  Most people can process about a liter or so per hour.  That is 1.6 bidons per hour.

The 5.5 liters / 186 fl oz I drank last Sunday sounds like a lot.  But the total ride duration was just over six hours.  So I drank about a liter an hour, including a 900ml / 30 fl oz bottle of chocolate milk that I finished in one sitting.

Still not drinking at the level of professional cyclists, who can go through 9 liters / 304 fl oz in the course of a six hour stage race.  Read more at Cycling in the Heat and Avoiding Dehydration

The takeaway for me is that when I am on my bicycle, particularly in the middle of the day, I should be drinking more than I do now.  I don’t think I have to worry about hyponatremia.

Hydration Banner 2

BCG Tour Kajang – Melaka – Kajang Day 2

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BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Banner 2

We were up, dressed and packed in time for a nasi lemak breakfast at 6:45am and the Day 2 briefing at 7:00am.

We all got started at 7:43am.  Pre-warned to pace ourselves because although the return route was 45km / 28mi shorter, it had more climbs, including a big one at KM78 / MI48.

Sure enough the terrain started rolling 3km / 2mi from the hotel, and it stayed lumpy all the way to Kajang.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 2 Elevation

The three of us had planned to break the ride into thirds, with a refreshment stop after 40km / 25mi and 80km / 50mi.  We knew early on that it was the right strategy for us.  The morning was extremely humid.  Despite the overcast skies, I was sweating profusely, and we had been riding for only thirty minutes.


We started looking for a likely place to stop when we had covered 35km / 22mi.


A few kilometers later we entered the small town of Kota, where we found a shop selling roti canai.  I drank two iced Milos in quick succession while waiting for my roti canai telur.  The roti wasn’t very good, so I had a third iced Milo.

Despite the so-so roti, the shop was crowded.  We had a long wait for our food.  We spent almost forty five minutes in Kota.  Fortunately we had shared a table with a gentleman who was waiting for his order of one dozen roti.  Which explains why we had to wait so long for our food.  He was an interesting person to chat with, so we didn’t mind the wait.

The downside of the long stop at Kota was that the sun got higher and higher in the sky as we sat in the shop.  It was going to be another scorching day.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 2 Sun

About an hour later, as we were on yet another climb north of Pedas, Leslie dropped his chain.  Which was an opportune reason to stop under the shade of the trees for a short rest.  I am glad that we did, because a short while later we were riding through the built-up areas of Senawang and Seremban.

Johan and Danial did a great job of making sure we all stayed on the correct route as we rode through the exit to Bandar Seremban Selatan, Rantau and Linggi.

Video courtesy of HW Wee

Roads seem extra-hot when surrounded by concrete.

Video courtesy of HW Wee

Not long past the Sungai Gadut KTM Komuter station Danial drove past us in his sweeper truck.  Just fast enough to make it worth accelerating into his slipstream for a pull up the next hill.

Video courtesy of HW Wee

I was starting to get tunnel vision from the heat.  Our next planned stop at about 80km / 50mi couldn’t come fast enough.  In the center of Seremban we caught up with a group who were just getting going again after taking a break.  We tailed them for a few kilometers through town.  One kilometer from the start of the big climb of the day we stopped at a coffee shop and drank as much as we could.  In my case, a liter of chocolate milk.

We added ice to our bidons before heading back out into the sun.  And 180m / 590ft of climbing over 6km / 4mi.

By the time Mark and I had finished the climb and zoomed down the other side into Mantin, we had emptied one bidon each.  We started looking for a cendol or coconut water stall as we rode through Mantin.  It didn’t look promising at first, but as we were leaving town the Mantin Original Coconut Shake shop appeared on our left.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 2 Coconut Stall Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

Leslie and Mark opted for plain coconut water.  Two for Mark.  Leslie had one coconut water and one apple and sour plum juice.  I had two apple and sour plums.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 2 Apple Sour Plum Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

My face was starting to match my base layer.

Never mind.  Just 10km / 6mi to go.  I had expected a flat run in to Kajang.  But it was far from flat.  Dammit!  There was 213m / 700ft of climbing yet to do.

I should have paid more attention to the elevation profile.  When did Beranang and Semenyih get so hilly?

It was again feeling like 40°C / 104F° as we rode those last kilometers.  We were all relieved to see the Bandar Teknologi Kajang Police Station, and the mamak shop next to it.

“Can I have three iced lime juices please?”

The important thing was that everyone arrived safely.  There were only minor incidents over the two days – some flat tires and a couple of shoe failures.

It was another very successful weekend of riding orchestrated by Danial AM and Johan S.  Made even better of course by a fun and friendly group of fellow riders.

Thanks guys and gals.  I’m looking forward to riding with you again at the next BCG Tour.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Danial

BCG Tour Kajang – Melaka – Kajang Day 1

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BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Banner

Johan S and Danial AM of BCG Tour held their second event on June 4th and 5th.  This time from Kajang to Melaka, and back again the next day.

Unlike the inaugural tour from Ijok to Teluk Intan, this time the outbound and inbound routes were different.  It was about 149km / 93mi to Melaka, and 112km / 70mi back to Kajang.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Melaka Route

Or in my case, the outbound ride would have been 149km if I had followed the excellent cue card that was given out at the start.

Kajang Melaka 04jun16


I downloaded the .gpx files for the routes to my Garmin 705.  I should have just stuck with the cue sheet for the ride to Melaka.  Rather than just following the downloaded route, my Garmin directed me down an alternate route.  The Garmin did guide me to the New Century Hotel in Melaka.  But from the 117km / 72mi point it took me along a path very different from the one so carefully planned by the organisers.  More on that later.

Twenty of us met at the start point near the Bandar Teknologi Kajang Police Station.

Mark, Leslie and I grabbed a quick drink before we went to the pre-ride briefing.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Start Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

The pre-ride briefing by Danial was thorough, and with our safety on the road in mind. Johan chipped in as well, in between taking the photographs.  Unless otherwise indicated, the photographs featured in this post are courtesy of Johan S.

In a delightfully retro gesture, Danial had a bulb horn rather than a whistle or a gun to start us off with.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Start Danial

We followed Johan’s car for the first 20km / 12mi as he guided us along the busy roads out of Kajang and through Semenyih and Bangi.  A départ fictif.  Just like in the major bike races!

Once Johan released us, the pace quickened.  All the riders who were in front of Mark and I, which was most of the group, missed the left turn off Jalan Kajang – Dengkil onto the much quieter Selangor State Route B48.  So the two of us were riding alone for about thirty five minutes.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Duo

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Duo 2

The rest of the group steadily made up ground on us.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Chasing Pack BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Chasing Pack 2

Mark and I were caught 5km / 3mi from Sepang.  The faster riders pulled ahead.  By then the bunch had broken up into smaller groups as riders settled into the pace that best suited them.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Sepang


Leslie had caught us too.  The three of us, and Max, made our first stop at the Shell petrol station in Sepang.  We caught our breath and shared a litre of 100Plus as the rest of the group sailed past and onto Federal Route Route 5 toward Port Dickson.

We got going again at about 9.30am.  All hopes of a cool morning were evaporating in the sun that had broken through the cloud cover.  It was going to be a hot one.

At about 10:30am, as we approached Port Dickson, Leslie, Mark and I diverted off the published route onto Jalan Seremban.  That took us to the Port Dickson Waterfront.  More specifically to the McDonald’s there.  Mark and I, along with some other Flipsiders, had stopped at that McDonald’s three years ago, during our ride to Tanjung Tuan for the Raptor Watch 2013.

Why McDonald’s?  The Brekki Wrap with Sausage is the bomb after 70km / 43mi on a bike.

Mc Donalds weekday breakfast special brekkie wrap with sausage rm4 Possible To Earn RM30,000 A Month For Malaysian Blogger From the World of Advertisement Starting From McDonald's Ads

Photograph courtesy of Golden Arches Restaurants Sdn Bhd

And there is air-conditioning.  And a sea view.  What’s not to like?

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 PD Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie

By the time we  got back on our bikes at 11:15am the sun was out in full force and almost directly overhead.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Sun

The shadows were getting shorter and shorter as we made our way through Port Dickson and past the Wan Loong Temple.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 PD Wan Loong Temple Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie

Staying hydrated and cool become all important as the “feels like” temperature edged towards 40°C / 104F°.  An hour after coming out of the air-conditioned McDonald’s we were looking for some shade and another drink.  Others were looking for the same thing.

We found it at Kampung Sungai Raya, at the junction of Selangor State Route 5 and Federal Route 138.  There was a row of roadside stalls selling various drinks.  Leslie, Mark and I  downed two glasses of iced coconut water each in quick succession.

Someone else was thirsty too!

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Coconut 2

An hour further down the road we were again getting desperate for shade and something cold to drink.  We started looking for a petrol station or a shop after making the left turn onto Melaka State Route 142.  It seemed like a long time before we came upon a minimarket in Kampung Jeram.  In reality it was less than 4km / 2.5mi, but in the midday heat it certainly felt further.

It had been a long time since I had done this, but it was so hot that I resorted to the ice tricks that have helped me in the past.  Ice wrapped in a bandana and placed on the back of my neck.  Ice under my skull cap.  Even ice under my arm sleeves at each inner wrist.


I was dripping all over as the ice melted, but I felt cooler and much more comfortable.  So much so that I pulled ahead of Leslie and Mark, admittedly helped in that regard because they had to stop and wait at a couple of red traffic lights that were green for me.

I should have waited for them.  12km / 7mi outside Kampung Jeram my Garmin directed me to turn left onto Lebuh Spa.  I should have stayed on Federal Route 5 to Jalan Malim Jaya.  Instead I had an unplanned mystery ride through some villages and residential neighbourhoods.

The ice on my head lasted just long enough before I rode into this.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Melaka Weather

A most welcome rain shower that kept me cool, and rinsed some of the sweat and salt out of my cycling gear.

The rain was quite heavy, but it didn’t last very long.  It had stopped by the time I popped onto Federal Route 19 with just 5km / 3mi to go.

Everyone got a bit wet before arriving at the New Century Hotel.

The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent reliving the day’s ride, eating, napping, and eating some more.

It had been an early start for Mark and I.  We had driven to Leslie’s home before 6:00am so that we could car-pool to Kajang in Leslie’s bike / people mover.  So we called it a night after dinner.

BCG Tour Kajang - Melaka - Kajang Day 1 Sleep


Fun and Food (Not Necessarily in that Order)

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Morib was the destination this morning.  It is a route I have ridden a few times already.  An Epic Ride describes one of those prior jaunts to the seaside at Morib.

Alvin, Liang, Mark and I got rolling at about 6.45am.  Avoiding the midday heat on the way back was our primary objective.  All looked good as we made our way down the motorcycle path beside the KESAS Highway, through Kota Kemuning and on to Bandar Botanik.  It was an overcast morning, and we had cool conditions as we rode through Telok Panglima Garang and onward to the coast and Morib.

Morib Route

The road along the Langat River to Tanjung Tongkah Lighthouse, previously a section of road in disrepair, has been resurfaced.  Cool weather and smooth tarmac makes for fun riding.

The first order of business once we got to Morib was breakfast.  We stopped at the aptly named Delicious Bread Coffee Shop.

Morib Delicious Bread

The bread was as advertised.  We had ours toasted, with butter and kaya.  Along with nasi lemak, soft-boiled eggs, and iced Milo or coffee.

Morib Breakfast Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Yummy yummy!

Morib Breakfast Group Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Then it was time for a bit of fun.  Photographs further down the road at the Morib Gold Coast Resort, for no other reason than it has a sign that reads “Morib.”

Morib Gold Coast Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

More photographs on the sea wall at the beach at the end of Persiaran Mestika.

Morib Bicycles Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

And another picture just to prove that we had really ridden to Morib beach.

Morib Group

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

The overcast skies cleared just as we started on the 70km / 44mi ride back to Bandar Sunway.

It was less and less fun as the temperature and humidity ramped up.  By the time we were 15km / 9mi from home, it was properly hot.  So much for an early start to avoid getting toasted on the way back.

Morib Weather

We were only 12km / 7.5mi away from Morib when we made a hydration stop.  The first of a few such stops.  We pulled up to a small sundry shop near Kampong Kathong and bought litres of water, some iced tea and other flavoured waters.

About 20km / 12mi from Morib we had made what in hindsight was an ill-advised detour toward Pulau Carey.  The realisation after 4km / 2.5mi of the detour that it was still a long way to Pulau Carey, coupled with the rising temperature, prompted the smart decision to turn around.

Our next hydration stop was at Cendol Santan Sawit Mak Lang.  A mere 20km / 12mi from the sundry shop.

We didn’t know that there was such a thing as santan sawit.  Santan is the Malay word for coconut milk.  Made, as the name makes clear, with the flesh from the nut of the coconut palm tree. Kelapa sawit is the Malay term for oil palm.  At the time it didn’t make sense to us that santan could be made from the nut of the oil palm tree.  We figured the term “santan sawit” referred to santan made from coconuts that grew amongst the oil palm trees.

I now know that palm oil is used to make a coconut milk substitute.  The aforementioned santan sawit.

Which, despite the complete lack of coconut milk in it, makes a delicious cendol.  Made even better, in this case, by lots and lots of shaved ice.  We even got an extra bowl of shaved ice.

Morib Chendol Mark

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

We made two more hydration stops in the 37km / 23mi between the cendol stall and Bandar Sunway.  Both times at petrol stations.

At the Petronas station 10km / 6mi from Bandar Sunway we met up with some friends who had ridden to Morib as well.  They rode a slightly different route, including a climb to this lookout spot at Jugra.

Morib Dicky Cindy Benjamin Cindy

Photograph courtesy of Cindy

By the time they pulled up at the Petronas station they were looking just as hot and sweaty as we were.

It was 1.45pm by the time we got to our cars.  More drinks, and lunch, were on our minds once we had cleaned up and stuck our bicycles into our vehicles.  Mark led us to Lim Fried Chicken in SS15, Subang Jaya.

Fried chicken, a fried egg, green beans and curry rice, with extra curry gravy and sambal on the side.

Morib Lunch Alvin

Photograph courtesy of Alvin

Chased with ice-cold homemade soya milk.

The ride to Morib and back was suddenly fun again.


Sweaty Eyeballs

Sweaty Eyeballs Creativeallianceorg

Graphic courtesy of

The bane of every cyclist.  It is hot.  You sweat. The sweat drips into your eyes. It stings your eyes and smears on your glasses, impairing your vision.  Usually just as you are approaching a pothole or a sharp corner at speed.

I started cycling in Houston, Texas.  Where summer temperatures are consistently in the mid 30s C / 90s F.  So it wasn’t long before I was looking for a way to keep sweat out of my eyes.  I settled on a Sweat GUTR.  A soft plastic headband with a lip across the front which channels sweat away from your eyes and glasses.


The Sweat Gutr worked well, but it had one shortcoming.  My forehead gets oily as I sweat.  The smooth plastic headband would start sliding down my forehead, breaking the seal between skin and band and allowing sweat to leak into my eyes.

I either had to keep pushing the band back up above my eyebrows, or tighten the band.  A tighter band solved the slippage problem in exchange for a pressure headache.  I settled for pushing the Sweat GUTR back up my forehead when necessary.  Once the dog days of summer gave way to cooler autumn days, my Sweat GUTR stayed in a drawer.

Then I moved to the Netherlands, where even on the hottest days, sweaty eyeballs are much less of a problem.  My Sweat GUTR continued its stay in a drawer

It came out of the drawer when I got home to Malaysia.   But the average humidity of 80% or more made the slippage problem worse than it had been in Houston.  The Sweat GUTR was soon consigned to the back of a drawer, never to be used again.

For a while I resorted to wiping the sweat off my brow with a bandana.  I built up quite a collection of bandanas.


They weren’t a particularly effective solution.  Too often I was reaching into a jersey pocket for a bandana after sweat was already stinging my eyes.

A friend suggested streaks of Vaseline above my eyes.  That may have worked, but I foresaw one major drawback.  I would forget the Vaseline was there, and would smear it everywhere the first time I wiped my face.

So I relied on my bandanas.  In other words, I put up with stinging eyes.

One day a riding buddy turned up wearing a helmet liner.

Mission Enduracool Helmet Liner 1
He raved about how this particular helmet liner uses a “proprietary technology . . .  to create a prolonged cooling effect.”  Mission Athletecare website

I needed help coping with the heat.  The helmet liner was worth the price just for the cooling effect.

Now that I have worn these helmet liners for the better part of a year, I value them for more than just their cooling effect.  The helmet liner wicks away sweat from my forehead before it can trickle down into my eyes.  No more sweaty eyeballs!

The stretchy fabric stays comfortable over long periods.  No more pressure headaches!

The fabric is stretchy enough for me to stuff some ice cubes under a liner to cool my scalp on particularly hot days.

A multi-tasking piece of cycling kit.  The best kind.

Does a Base Layer Really Work in Tropical Weather?

Hot Weather Banner

Illustration courtesy of

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation issued a media statement on 8th January 2016, in which he said that peninsular Malaysia will have hot and dry weather throughout the first quarter of the year.  A strong El Nino phenomenon is to blame.  We may see a rise in temperature of between 0.5 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees Celsius compared to the norm for this time of the year.

So far the recorded high temperatures in Kuala Lumpur support this.

Weather forecast KL

Data courtesy of

Hooray!  It is going to be hotter than normal for the next few months.

Staying cool in Malaysia’s humid tropical heat has been an ongoing challenge for me.  In previous posts I have chronicled the various things I have tried to stay cool while out on my bike.

The latest tool in my bag of tricks is a base layer.  The opinions on the efficacy of wearing a base layer in hot weather are mixed, to say the least.  Some riders think it is crazy to wear an additional layer under a jersey out in the heat.  Others swear by the ability of a good base layer to make a hot weather ride more comfortable.

I was persuaded by articles such as this one, titled “Why Wear A Base Layer In The Heat?“, which appeared in Cycling Tips.

I have worn a sleeveless base layer under a jersey on long rides for a few months now.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Air Kelapa Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

In the absence of riding with a rectal thermometer to provide quantitative data, I can’t tell you how many degrees cooler my core temperature has been with a base layer on.  Plus there are too many other variables to consider – ambient air temperature, level of exertion, hydration etc.

However I can report that in my case, a base layer does what it claims to, which is help keep me cool in hot weather.  My base layers  are much more breathable than my jerseys, which helps with evaporative cooling.  The same process that makes my arms feel cooler when I wet my arm screens.

I also feel more comfortable riding with a base layer on.  It wicks moisture away from my body, so I don’t have a soaked jersey clinging to me.

I can unzip my jersey and not have rivulets of sweat dripping down my torso.  For a heavy perspirer like me, this is a big plus.  It is also easier on the eye for my riding companions as I sit with an open jersey at rest stops.

An advantage of a base layer that most riders agree on is that the extra layer between jersey and skin provides some protection against road rash in the event of a fall.  I hope not to test that claim!

It is forecast to be at least 33° C / 91°F this Sunday, during the Pulau Indah 180.  My base layer says “Bring it on!”

Beat the Heat


Audax BRM200 Malaysia 2016

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Banner

When I first read the terms “Audax,””Brevet” and “Randonneurs,” I had to look up what they meant.

  • Audax:  A cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion.  Also known as Randonneuring.
  • Brevet:  A long-distance bicycle ride with check-point controls.  Also known as a Randonnée.
  • Randonneur:  A rider who has completed a 200km event.

Apart from noting that audax is an excuse to market hi-viz jerseys for brevets (see the zipped chest pocket for carrying a brevet card), I thought little more about that variety of cycling.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Jersey

Image courtesy of Rapha

Some time later I read an online article in CyclingTips titled “Paris-Brest-Paris – Never Again.”  Written by James Fairbank, a finisher of the 2011 edition of the quadrennial 1,200km brevet from Paris, to Brest, and back again in a time limit of under 90 hours.

Then I read the accounts of four other riders who also completed the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris in “PBP 2011: Four Journeys” on the Rapha website (the provider of the Brevet jersey above).

Utterly mad!

So when I was invited to participate in the first Official Audax Brevet in Malaysia (thanks Yue-Jin), I thought “No way!”  220km / 137mi was further than I had ever ridden in one sitting, so to speak.

But the more my cycling buddies and I talked about it, the more we thought “Why not?”

Which led to ten of my buddies and I being amongst the 480 or so mad folk who registered for this event.  Here we are in Kapar, ready for the 5am start.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Start Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We collected our brevet cards and then rode off into the darkness.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Brevet Card Collection Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

Fortunately we didn’t have to make any turns during the first two hours.  In the dark I couldn’t read the nifty cue card that Liang had made for us.  Brevet routes are not marked, so this cue card taped to my top tube was consulted often after we got past the first check-point.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Cue Card

By sunrise we had reached Sekinchan on our run northwest up the coast.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Route

Just before 8am we rolled into the first check-point at the McDonalds in Sungai Besar.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 1st Checkpoint Liew Jho

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

We needed breakfast, but an Egg McMuffin didn’t appeal.  So some of us went on a hunt for roti canai.  Which we found at what is apparently Sungai Besar’s oldest Malay restaurant.  I think the wait staff were a bit surprised to have a dozen lycra-clad guys turn up together.  All demanding food.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Breakfast Shop Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Six more of these please!

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Roti Canai Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

By the time we got going again the sun was breaking through the clouds.  The weather forecast had called for continuous rain, and I had come prepared with a rain jacket and shoe covers.  We were all looking forward to the cooler temperatures that rain brings.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Weather

However the only water we saw all day was in this canal.  No need for that rain gear.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Canal Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

The sun got brighter and brighter as the day progressed.  There was some cloud cover, so we had occasional respite from direct sunshine, but we felt the heat anyway.

Photograph courtesy of Eric Chen

Photograph courtesy of Eric Chen

At about 9.30am we turned onto Jalan Sungai Panjang.  Why did the squirrel cross the road?

Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Nasir

Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Nasir

Jalan Sungai Panjang, or Long River road, is appropriately named.  We were on it for 40km / 25mi.

That is not the river on the left by the way.  Sungai Bernam is a couple of kilometers to the left of this road.  That river demarcates the border between the states of Selangor and Perak, starting from the river mouth on the west coast and meandering 90km / 56mi or so eastward to Tanjung Malim.

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Radzi Jamaludin

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Radzi Jamaludin

Before long some of the group got bored and upped the pace.  The rest of us followed for about 10km / 6mi before letting the faster riders go.  We needed a break.  Mark spotted a stall in the midst of the oil palm trees.  Literally in the middle of nowhere.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Coke Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We cruised the remaining 17km / 10.5mi to the second check-point at Kampung Soeharto, posing for some GoPro shots along the way.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Liang and Mark Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Leslie Liang

Photograph courtesy of Liang

And enjoyed the shade beneath the clouds where we could.

Photograph courtesy of Denny Zulkasi

Photograph courtesy of Denny Zulkasi

The first order of business upon arriving in Kampung Soeharto at 11.30am was to get our brevet cards stamped by a group of cheerful volunteers.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Check-Point 2 Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

Then it was time for lunch.  The brevet organisers had warned us that there was no food or drink to be had for 40km / 25mi beyond Kampung Soeharto.  We crowded into Laila Restaurant for chicken rice and lime juice.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Lunch Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Shade was in demand!

BRM 200 2016 Looking for Shade Joel Tanmenghan

Photograph courtesy of Joel Tanmenghan

We spent about an hour in Kampung Soeharto.  It was almost 2pm by the time we got to the outskirts of Batang Berjuntai.  The first sign of refreshment after the previous bone dry 40km / 25mi was a roadside stall selling coconut water.

Take one freshly-opened young coconut, add ice and a straw, and say “aaaaaah!”

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 JM Air Kelapa Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We made one more stop at the PETRONAS station at Simpang Tiga Ijok.  That was only 10km / 6mi from the coconut water stall, but it didn’t take long in the 35° C / 95° F heat for us to want more cold drinks and some time in air-conditioning.

At that point most, if not all, of my buddies had ridden further than they had on their previous longest rides.  I was in new territory also.  Despite having ridden 190km / 118mi we were all still in good shape.  Tired and a bit sore perhaps, but no one was cramping.

Our decision to ride conservatively (there was one collective rush of blood to the head before our Coca Cola stop, but that turn of speed didn’t last very long) had paid off.  I was certainly feeling better at 190km on this day than I remember feeling at 100km / 62mi on a number of previous rides.

We also had the good fortune of not suffering any mechanical problems.  Not a puncture amongst us.  Respect to this gentleman, who finished the ride solo on a tandem that had suffered a broken rear wheel spoke.  Thereby embodying the self-reliance that the Audax culture prizes.  External support is expressly prohibited in the Audax rules, and if you go off course or experience a mechanical, you are expected to take responsibility for finding your own way home and making your own repairs on the road.

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

Photograph courtesy of Liew Jho

With ‘just’ 30km / 18.5mi to go, we lost our conservativeness.  Our average speed went up by at least 4kph / 2.5mph as we pushed for the finish.  This despite riding over the poorest road surface of the entire route between the 200km / 124mi and 215km / 133mi points.

The organisers had been forced to make a last-minute change to the end of the route, to avoid presumably worse conditions.  The roads on the rest of the route were by and large in good to very good condition.

Audax Randonneurs Malaysia did a terrific job putting this event together.  Kudos to the committee members.  And a heartfelt shout-out to the volunteers who distributed and stamped the brevet cards.

All the information that went out ahead of the event was very helpful. In particular the cue sheet and photographs of the turns along the route, like this one.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Directions Sam Tow

Photograph courtesy of Sam Tow

All my buddies and I finished the ride in about 10 hours 45 minutes.  Well within the time limit of 13 hours 30 minutes.

As did this group, which rolled into the final check-point at the Kapar KFC about 8 hours after they started.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 1.04 Finishers Lawrence Loh

Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Loh

In the spirit of Audax, all 389 of us who finished the event before 6.30pm, including getting to the check-points on time, were successful.  One last stamp on the brevet card.

BRM 200 2016 JM Finish Joel Tanmenghan

Photograph courtesy of Joel Tanmenghan

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Brevet Card

We are all very pleased with our achievement.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Finish Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

I think all my riding buddies joined me in stumping up the cash to get a 200km medal from the Audax Club Parisien, the body that administers randonneuring around the world.  This will be quite a memento.

Audax BRM 200 Malaysia 2016 Medals Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

The teaser video for the 400km / 248mi brevet in September is already out!  The time limit is 27 hours.

Video courtesy of Sam Tow.

The question now is, will my buddies and I ride it?

“No way!”

For now.


Shah Alam Enduride 2015

Shah Alam Enduride 2015 Banner 2

The Shah Alam Enduride 2014 was the first, and so far the only cycling event, that I didn’t finish.  I struggled badly from the 60km point.  At about 100kms I packed it in.

So I came into this year’s SAER determined to finish.  Experience has taught me what to do, and what not to do.

To do:

Stay hydrated

Eat enough

Not to do:

Ride hard from the start

Go into the red on the climbs

Marvin, Liang, Justin, Mark and I took our customary positions at the rear of the pack.

Photograph courtesy of Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

Stephen was with us too.

Photograph courtesy of Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark

The riders at the front were treated to some traditional gamelan music while they waited for the gun.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

We didn’t have to wait long.  This year the VIPs were not late, and the ride started just minutes after the appointed time of 7.30am.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The Flipsiders, as always, took a more relaxed approach to the start.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The route was not exactly the same as last year’s, but it covered much of the same ground.  A clockwise run from Shah Alam through Sungai Buloh and north toward Batang Berjuntai, with a loop toward Batu Arang, before turning south again through Puncak Alam, and over the two Dragon’s Back sections on the way back to Shah Alam.

Shah Alam Enduride Ride 2015 Route

I was sure to avoid my two “Not to do’s” right from the start.  There was 1,400 meters / 4,600 feet of climbing to be done, most of it in the first half of the ride.  With the Dragon’s Back kickers to come at the end, as you can see from the route profile below.

Graphic courtesy of VeloViewer

Graphic courtesy of VeloViewer

I made sure to observe my “to do’s” as well.  It was well into high 30° C / 100° F territory by about 11am.  It was also very humid, so I was sweating a lot.  By the 75 km / 47 mi mark it was time to stop for a cold drink, a Snickers bar, and a bag of ice.  The cooling strategy I first practiced at the Kedah Century Ride had worked wonders.  It was time to use it again.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Ice under my skull cap.  Ice in my bandanna against the back of my neck.  Ice in the centre pocket of my jersey.

You can tell from the shadow that by this time the sun was beating down on Marvin and I.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

We were a trio, together with Justin, for most of the ride.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Liang, Mark and Stephen had hooked onto faster groups.  We didn’t see them again.

We did however see Marco.  He wasn’t able to participate in the ride, but he appeared beside us on his scooter as we got to the Batu Arang area.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

And look what he had with him . . .

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Fantastic.  Our own personal support vehicle, loaded with ice and cold water.  Just what we needed an hour later, as we approached the Dragon Back climbs.  We stopped at a PETRONAS station on Jalan Meru Tambahan to replenish my ice-powered cooling system, and for Justin and Marvin to top up their bidons.

Then it was 4 km / 2.5 mi more before the left turn onto Jalan Bukit Cerakah, and the start of the first Dragon’s Back.  The sensible early pace, and the ice on the back of my neck, did me a lot of good.  Last year I was thoroughly cooked after 100 km / 62 mi.  This year I could muster a thumbs up and a smile at the top of the final climb before the left right turn onto the second Dragon’s Back.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

It was hot.  It was windy.  My ice pack had melted.  But the Dragon’s Backs were behind me.  There was one last sharp little climb up to a roundabout in Shah Alam, and then it was across the line.

Marvin followed soon after.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Justin finished safely as well.  We were all pleased to have completed the ride, but perhaps none more than I.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

The Enduride lived up to its name.  Lots of climbing.  Poor road surfaces in places.  High temperatures.  Gusting winds.  Everyone who completed the ride deserves their medal.

Shah Alam Enduride 2015 Medal

Kedah Century Ride 2015

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Banner

Four Flipsiders made the trip to Alor Setar for the Kedah Century Ride.  Everyone’s bikes were loaded into Keat’s truck.  Mark’s Tommasini, Keat’s Scott, Marco’s Hasa, and my Ritchey.  Marco and Mark handled driving duties during the 450km trip from Kuala Lumpur to Alor Setar.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

My biker chick was a student at Universiti Utara Malaysia in Sintok, which is about 50 kms from Alor Setar.  When I told her I was riding in Alor Setar, she made plans to meet up with some of her university mates who now live and work in the area.  She and I decided to fly rather than drive.

Coincidentally we arrived at the hotel just as the guys were unloading the truck.  Once we were checked in and the bikes were safely stored in our rooms, we went looking for food.  The road-trippers hadn’t had lunch yet.

We didn’t have anything particular in mind, so we explored along Jalan Anak Bukit.  This roadside stall on the corner of Jalan Madrasah caught our attention.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

I ate lunch before I boarded the flight, but the food looked too good to pass up.  Everyone agreed that this was some of the best tandoori chicken, naan and chapati we had ever eaten.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

With blood sugar levels restored, we went to the TH Hotel and Convention Centre to collect our goodie bags.

We bumped into cycling friends, as always happens when collecting ride packs.  This time it was a group of Tyrell small wheel bike riders from Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.  Cindy and William joined Mark and I to check out what swag came along with our ride numbers.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

This goodie bag was better than some we have received in the past.  The jersey design for this ride was also one of the nicer ones.  Perhaps influenced by Garmin as one of the sponsors.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Jersey

We noticed this place on the way to collect our goodie bags.  There were a number of road bikes leaning against trees and posts.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Ameer Nasi Kandar

So no surprise that we were back there a few hours later for dinner.  There were a number of stalls under one roof, but Ameer Nasi Briyani was the only stall with a queue of at least a dozen people waiting to chose their food.  That queue got longer and longer while we were there.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

And no wonder.  The food was very good.  And cheap.  My plate of briyani rice, fried chicken, chicken livers and half a salted egg cost me RM8 / USD2.20.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

The next morning we rode the 10 km or so to the start of the ride at the Paddy Museum.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

The Tyrell riders were there too, resplendent in their Knog jerseys.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

As is often the case, we started late.  I do wish that event organisers and the dignitaries invited to officially flag-off these events would be on time.  Participants waste time waiting in the dark, and both riders and volunteers spend more time than necessary in the midday heat.

We got away about 25 minutes late.  Cindy and Dicky were just in front of the Flipsiders, who were in their customary position at the very rear of the group.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The route was a clockwise loop.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Route

As advertised, much of it was as flat as a pancake, despite the hills in the background.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 View

We headed south through Pendang and to the first water stop after 50 kms at Bukit Jenun.  Much of that distance was spent riding in a group with these guys on their vintage Panasonics and Pinarellos.  Complete with drilled brake levers and downtube shifters.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The Nord Vintage Cyclismos pulled over at the water stop.  Mark was already there, and he rejoined Keat, Marco and I as we rode through the water stop.

By the 80 kms mark we need to eat.  Mark spotted a food stall in Bedong, which conveniently was near a 7-11.  Marco, Mark and Keat ate at the stall while I drank chocolate milk and ate a candy bar from the 7-11.

Bedong was where the route turned right toward the coast.  5 kms later we rode up to the second water stop.  Team Tyrell Knog’s support van was there, so we stopped and chatted and took advantage of their supply of ice-cold water.

There were some short climbs in the middle third of the ride.  The steepest came within sight of the sea as the route swung north along the coast.  The last of the three climbs at Tanjung Jaga.

After that it was flat riding through the paddy fields.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

By the last third of the ride people were starting to wilt.  It was 36° C / 97° F with a heat index of 45° C / 113° F.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The constant wind didn’t help.  Mark and I were trading pulls, but my efforts were becoming shorter and shorter as I overheated.

There is very little along the road from Tanjung Jaga apart from rice fields.  After 10 kms we came across a Caltex station.  We were looking for cold drinks, but the chiller in the small shop wasn’t working.  So we made do with dousing ourselves with water to help with evaporative cooling.

At 120 kms we came across two rows of shophouses.  All the shops were closed except for a couple of car workshop, and thank goodness, the Mahsuri Mini Market.

My key purchase was a bag of ice cubes.  I wrapped some cubes in my bandanna and put the bundle on the back of my neck.  Some cubes went under my skull cap.  Some went into the middle pocket on the back of my jersey.  And some went into my bidons.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

I should have bought ice at the 7-11 in Bedong.  I was amazed at how much better I felt.  More importantly I was able to take reasonable pulls into the the wind again.

We grabbed a bottle of water as we rode through the last water station at 125 kms.  One of the impressive things about this event was that all the water stations were still well-stocked when we rode through.  The last station still had bananas on offer.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Water Stop Cycling Malaysia

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

My bottle of water went straight onto my arm screens and down the front of my jersey.  Which only delayed the inevitable.  25 kms further on all the ice had melted and I was heating up again.  Mark needed a break as well so we pulled into the Petronas station at Teluk Kechai and sat in the shade of the forecourt canopy for 10 minutes.

15 kms to go.  The headwind kept on blowing, so we put our heads down and pushed on.

There was one last surprise.  The Tok Pasai bridge over the Kedah river.  It was one climb too many for a rider in front of us, who literally ground to a halt and fell over.  Fortunately not into the roadway.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Jambatan Tok Pasai

The view looking out to sea from the middle of the bridge is worth the effort to get there.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 River View

The speedy descent off the bridge would have been more fun without the sharp right turn at the bottom.  The marshalling at that turn was excellent.  A particular highlight of this event was how well all road junctions, corners and turn offs were manned with volunteers to ensure that riders stayed on course.

I could have used this additional service from the volunteers over the last 10 kilometres.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Team Tyrell Knog riders finished safely.  Anyone who completes a century ride on a small wheel bike deserves a medal.

Photograph courtesy of Dicky

Photograph courtesy of Dicky

Marco celebrated his ride.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Keat finished with a smile.

Photograph courtesy of Keat

Photograph courtesy of Keat

Cindy and I were just glad to be in the shade.  I was especially glad to take my shoes off and to work on drinking as much as I could of the 1 litre bottle of ice-cold 100 Plus the organisers handed out at the finish.  There was food as well, but all I want at the end of a hot ride is cold fluid.

Photograph courtesy of Marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco

My Flipside companions and I eventually got back on our bikes for the 13 kms ride back to our hotel.  180 kms and change in total for all of us.

Medals well-earned.

Kedah Century Ride 2015 Medal