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Bicycle Out, Train Home

I wrote about taking road bicycles onto KTM Komuter trains in Bikes on Trains in Kuala Lumpur.  Since then I have incorporated a train into my ride a few more times.

Once was over the Chinese New Year holiday in early February.  In the last week I’ve done two more bike and train rides.

The KTM Komuter network operates on two lines.  The Port Klang line runs east to west, from Batu Caves to Port Klang.  Batu Caves is less than 15km / 10mi from home, so a train ride from there doesn’t make sense.  Port Klang, at 50km / 31mi away, is further, but not far enough away to make a one-way ride to that station seem worth it.  And the ride to Port Klang through an entirely urban landscape is boring anyway.

The Seremban line runs from Tanjung Malim in the north to Rembau in the south.  Tanjung Malim is about 90km / 56mi from Kuala Lumpur.  Rembau is more than 120km / 75mi from Kuala Lumpur.  Those are reasonable distances to cover during a morning’s ride.  Much of the riding in either direction is through countryside and villages, so the views from the bike are pleasant.

KTM Map

We covered both directions last week.

Train Routes

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

 

Five of us did a mid-week ride to Rasa station in the north.  The destination was meant to be the railway station in Kuala Kubu Bharu.  Afternoon plans meant that we had to be on the train by noon.  A series of flat tires in Rawang and Bukit Beruntung slowed us down.  We were at risk of missing the train at Kuala Kubu Bharu.

Rasa Station 4 Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

So we had something to drink in Rasa town, and were in the station with plenty of time to spare.

Rasa Station 1 Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

Rasa Station 2 Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Eight of us rode out on Friday morning, bound for Seremban.  The early challenges were to get over the Ampang Lookout Point and Bukit Hantu climbs.

It was a clear morning, so it was worth stopping halfway up Lookout point for a photograph.  The Twin Towers are just about visible to the left of Liang’s head.

Seremban Lookout Point Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We needed a bit of sustenance after the 200 meters / 650 feet or so up climb to Lookout Point, and before the 259 meters / 820 feet up Bukit Hantu.

Seremban Batu 14 Breakfast Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Coming off the descent of Bukit Hantu, it was nice to see the Semenyih Dam full again after such a long time.

Seremban Tekala Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

25km / 15.5mi later we were in the town of Broga, and desperate for a drink.  It was turning into a hot day.

This caught our attention.

Seremban Broga Drinks Menu Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Waiting for our coconut shakes and pineapple shakes to arrive.

Seremban Broga Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

Delicious!

Seremban Broga Drinks Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Seremban was 30km / 18.5mi away.  Unlike Wednesday’s ride, we all got there with only one flat tire between us.  Which happened, unfortunately, just seven kilometers from Seremban.  Or to put a positive spin on things, fortunately, because the flat came just after a 150 meter / 490 feet climb.  Which gave everyone the opportunity for a rest.

Seremban Flat Leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We got to Seremban in time for food and drinks at the Pasar Besar Seremban, which is the main wet market in the city.  The fresh vegetables, meat and fish are sold on the first floor, and part of the second floor.  The rest of the second floor is occupied by food stalls.

There are ramps leading up to the second floor, so we rode our bicycles right up the the food stalls.

Seremban Market Evelyn

Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

The railway station is a short ride from the market.  Marvin forgot his cycling shoes, but his sandals were a good stand-in.

Seremban Station 4 Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We discovered that Fridays are not the best day to ride the train with our bikes.  There were a lot of people waiting on the platform for the 2.15pm train.  Luckily there was space in the last carriage for us and our bikes.

Seremban Train

More people with luggage got on at each successive station, and before long it was standing room only, with people squeezed in between our bikes.  Friday afternoons must be a popular time for people to start their weekend trips.

Quite a lot of people got off at the Bandar Tasik Selatan station, which is linked to the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, KL’s main long distance bus terminal.   Some people got on at that station too though.  So it wasn’t until the train had passed through KL Sentral station that seats became available again.

Lay and I got off the train at Bank Negara station.  The others in our ride group got off one stop later, at Putra station.

We needed food and drink en route to home from the station.  League of Captains provided the coffee, and Souled Out on Jalan Ampang provided the satay.

We may never go this far to get our bicycles onto train tracks,

Seremban Rail Bike

but we will definitely be on the train with our bikes again and again.

 

Chinese New Year 2017 Tour

gong-xi-fa-cai

Danial, Safwan and I kicked off the Year of the Fire Rooster with a three day / two night credit card tour from Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson, Melaka, and Seremban.

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Map courtesy of Strava

On the morning of Day 1, Safwan and Danial rode from Bangsar to the McDonald’s at Ampang Park.  I met them there.  This would be the standard start to each day.  Breakfast at McDonald’s.

cny-2017-day-1-ampang-park-mcd-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The ride along the MEX Highway was quieter than usual.  Being the second day of Chinese New Year, the roads everywhere were relatively empty.

We made a short “nature calls” stop at the Seri Kembangan R&R.  Then another stop at the PETRONAS station in Dengkil, for provisions.

Other than a few stops for traffic lights, like this pretty long wait at the junction of the Nilai – KLIA Highway (Federal Route 32) and Jalan Besar Salak (Selangor State Route B48), we kept moving for the next two hours.

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Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Our next stop for a drink and a bathroom was at the Shell station in Sepang.

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Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

After that is was over the lumps on Federal Route 5 to Lukut, and then the flatter closing 12km / 7.5km to Port Dickson.  About 100km / 62mi for the day.

It was lunch time when we arrived in Port Dickson.  We had cendol and rojak at Azmi Cendol, and the guys bought cheap flip flops from a nearby shop,  before we rode to the Waterfront Boutique Hotel.

cny-2017-waterfront-hotel-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

After a shower, in my case whilst wearing my kit so it got a wash as well, I took a short nap.  Then we met in the lobby for the short trip around the corner to Starbucks Coffee.  A venti Mocha Frappuccino hit the spot.

That evening we revisited Restoran Seri Mesra Ikan Bakar for dinner.  We had eaten there during a BCG Tour to Port Dickson.  Fortunately we didn’t have to cycle the 11km / 7mi to the restaurant.  Darshini had made a day trip to Port Dickson, so we had a car ride there and back.

There was the option for another Starbucks after dinner, but I was fading.  We planned a 7.00am start, so I fell into bed and was soon fast asleep.

My kit was dry, and more importantly, not smelling funky, at the crack of dawn.  We checked out of the hotel and rolled the few hundred meters to McDonald’s for breakfast.

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Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Melaka here we come!

cny-2017-day-2-route

Map courtesy of Strava

The roads between Port Dickson and Melaka, along Federal Route 5, Federal Route Route 138, Melaka State Route M142, and back onto Federal Route 5, are very pleasant.  The road surface is good, and there isn’t much heavy vehicle traffic to contend with.

cny-2017-day-2-otr-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

33km / 20.5mi from Port Dickson, we crossed the Sungai Linggi, which at that point doubles as the border between the states of Negri Sembilan and Melaka.  We did notice that the road narrowed a bit, and changed colour, once we crossed into the state of Melaka.

cny-2017-melaka-border-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

We made an early lunch stop at Restoran Kuala Seafood, in Kampung Kuala Sungai Baru.  Not everything on the lunch buffet menu was ready yet, but there was enough on offer for us to fill our tummies.

Our lunch stop, or more accurately, our brunch stop, came about halfway to Melaka.  We made a semi-emergency stop 10km / 6mi further on, at the Petron station in Masjid Tanah.  Danial needed an ice-cream to quell the flames in his stomach from the too-spicy curry he ate at lunch.

We had planned to ride non-stop the rest of the way to Melaka town.  We got to Tanjung Kling before large raindrops began to fall.  We ducked under the first shelter we could find, and waited out the rain.

cny-2017-day-2-rain-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

I was quite smug about having packed shoe covers and a rain vest.  I put those items on as we waited for the rain to stop.  Twenty minutes later we rolled out onto the wet road.  We could hardly have gone more than a kilometer before the road changed to being completely dry, and the sun was out.  I wasn’t so smug anymore.

We had been caught, quite literally, under a cloudburst.  And now it was sunny and dry, and I was getting hot under my vest.  We started making jokes about my rain gear having the power to repel rain.

It was 12km / 7.5mi to Melaka from Tanjung Kling.  There was a traffic jam for most of that distance into Melaka.  I was glad to be on a bicycle.  We stopped on the bridge over the Sungai Melaka for a photograph of the river.  A river that is much cleaner these days.

cny-2017-day-2-melaka-river-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Then it was off the bridge and around the corner to the Fenix Inn.  The bicycle-friendly hotel that we have stayed at before.

Our post-ride routine was identical to the one the day before.  A shower with kit on, a short nap, and then a walk to the Starbucks Coffee next door to the hotel.  The guys even had to buy flip flops.  It turned out that the RM2.50 / USD0.60 flip flops they had bought in Port Dickson weren’t such a good deal after all.  They were more stiff plastic than rubber, and were very uncomfortable.  So the guys left them in Port Dickson.

I was happy to wait until dinner to eat anything.  Danial and Safwan were peckish, and wanted to try the chicken rice balls at Ee Ji Ban Chicken Rice Ball.  I related my disappointing experience with the chicken rice balls at that restaurant.  Ee Ji Ban Chicken Rice Ball has developed quite a name for itself, so the guys thought that I must have been there on an off-day.

They admitted after eating there that they should have listened to me.

Dinner was at the Restoran Ole Sayang, on the recommendation of AiLin, who is a Melaka girl.  AiLin was in Melaka for Chinese New Year, and not only came to Ole Sayang with us, but picked up the tab as well.  We owe you one Ailin.  Thank you.

A Starbucks was between the restaurant and out hotel, so we stopped for coffee and cake.  There were some brief thoughts of going on to somewhere else after Starbucks, but common sense, and age in my case, caught up.  I needed to get to sleep if I wanted to be ready for another 7.00am start.

Guess where we went for breakfast on Day 3?

cny-2017-day-3-mcd-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The sharp-eyed will have spotted that Safwan had packed a second set of cycling kit.  Danial and I stuck to our wash-and-dry routine.  Which worked yet again.

cny-2017-day-3-route

Map courtesy of Strava

Our route out of Melaka to Seremban took us onto the AMJ Highway (Federal Route 19).  A road which is characterized along its entire length by rolling terrain.

cny-2017-day-3-amj-highway-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Compounded on the day by a headwind that blew all the way to Seremban.  All that up and down riding against the wind was thirsty work.  We stopped at the R&R at Simpang Ampat for a cold drink.  We had covered all of 31km / 19mi.

The sun had come out in full force while we were at the R&R.  I pulled on my arm screens, and made a mini keffiyeh out of a bandana to keep the sun off the back of my neck.  Of course, as soon as we got going, the cloud cover rolled in and blocked out the sun.

We were blessed with excellent rising weather over the three days.  Apart from brief periods of bright sun, we rode in overcast and cool conditions.  We think my bandana was the charm.

cny-2017-day-3-sun-chasing-gear-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Our plan was to hop onto the KTM Komuter at Seremban, rather than ride all the way back to Kuala Lumpur.  After 39km / 24mi we turned left off the AMJ Highway onto Jalan Seremban – Tampin, which roughly paralleled the rail tracks we would be on later.

cny-2017-day-3-tracks-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The guys were hungry at about the 50km / 31mi mark, so we stopped at Isyani Café in Rembau.  They devoured large plates of fried rice, and I sucked down a couple of iced Milos.

There were 30km / 18.5mi to go to Seremban.  Or more precisely, to Restoran Nelayan Seafood, which is where Danial wanted to have lunch.  That restaurant is well-known for its masak lemak dishes, which are a Negri Sembilan speciality.  A variety of meats, fowl and seafood are cooked in a coconut milk and bird’s eye chilli gravy, which is coloured a rich yellow by turmeric.

cny-2017-day-3-restoran-nelayan-seafood-warisn9world-blogspot-my

Photograph courtesy of warisn9world.blogspot.my

The guys ate well.  Luckily it was only a few hundred meters from the restaurant to the train station.

cny-2017-day-3-seremban-station-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

 

RM11 / USD2.50 each for ourselves and our bikes, and we were in air-conditioned comfort for the ninety-minute train ride to the Bank Negara station.

cny-2017-day-3-komuter-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

I skipped eating at Restoran Nelayan Seafood.  I was looking forward to the Lamb Balls and Egg at Born & Bread Café.  A mere 4km / 2.5mi from the Bank Negara station.  Admittedly through some heavy traffic.  It was worth the wait and the ride!

cny-2017-day-3-lamb-balls-danial

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Three happy guys, ready to do it all again sometime soon.

cny-2017-day-3-bb

 

Bikes on Trains in Kuala Lumpur

A rail-based rapid transit system came into being in Kuala Lumpur in 1995, with the introduction of the STAR Light Rail Transit (LRT).  This was followed by the PUTRA LRT in 1998, and the KL Monorail in 2003.  These three systems have since been placed under one administrative umbrella, and branded as RapidKL.

These privately operated commuter train systems supplemented the KTM Komuter service, which was introduced in 1995.  KTM Komuter is operated by the national rail company, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railways Ltd).

Bicycles were not very welcome on LRT and Komuter trains.  While folding bicycles have been allowed on LRT trains during off peak hours for many years, this quote from a 2009 online article in The Nut Graph is illustrative:

RapidKL considers bicycles, even folded ones, “potentially dangerous” to bring onboard an LRT. Hence, its policy restricting bicycles from LRT trains during peak hours.

RapidKL: Bicycles “potentially dangerous weapons”  The Nut Graph  17 September 2009

So it is not surprising that RapidKL had a long list of guidelines for commuters with folding bikes. in 2011 these guidelines were:

  1. Inform station personnel of your intention to bring a foldable bicycle onboard.
  2. Bicycles MUST be folded and once folded, dimensions must not exceed 3 x 2.5 x 1.5 feet.
  3. Bicycles must be dry and clean from oil/mud/grease. This is to ensure grime from the tires or the working parts does not contaminate the trains.
  4. Bicycles must not block the aisles and doors or impede commuter movement at ANY time.
  5. When taking the Kelana Jaya Line, cyclists with foldable bicycles must stand near the door, while on the Ampang Line cyclists must stand near the Driving Cab area.
  6. If traveling in a group, only FIVE (5) cyclists are allowed with the bicycles on board the Ampang Line, and if traveling on the Kelana Jaya Line only TWO cyclists are allowed. If traveling on the bus only ONE cyclist and foldable bicycle is allowed at one time.
  7. All folding and unfolding activities must be done outside the station area.
  8. Please use good judgement and logic whenever you travel with a foldable bicycle onboard the LRT

But things were about to change.  Cycling was becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia in general, and in Kuala Lumpur in particular.  A group of cycling activists coalesced around Jeffrey Lim, who in 2012 had the idea of creating a bicycle map for Kuala Lumpur.  2012 was also the year in which an avid cyclist, Tan Sri Ahmad Phesal Talib, took office as the mayor of Kuala Lumpur.

The Bicycle Map Project became a reality in September 2014, with the first print run of 10,000 copies of the bicycle route map.  You can view and download a copy of the map here.

The mayor of Kuala Lumpur worked with Jeffrey Lim on a number of cycling-related initiatives, including the creation, in 2015, of the first official cycling lane in the city.  Read more about the creation of the bicycle route map and related Kuala Lumpur City Council efforts here.

The mayor has continued to drive initiatives to develop a cycling culture in Kuala Lumpur.  For example, the KL Car Free Morning, introduced in 2014, is now a twice-monthly opportunity for cyclists, joggers, walkers and skaters to take over major streets of the Golden Triangle.

That cycling culture has infiltrated RapidKL and KTM Komuter.  In September 2015 RapidKL announced efforts to encourage more commuters to cycle, by reaffirming that commuters can take folding bicycles aboard LRT trains during off peak hours.  Those limitations are understandable as the LRT carriages are compact, and often very full, even during off peak.  Kuala Lumpur City Hall also announced plans to provide bicycle storage areas at all LRT stations.

Of more interest to me, as a roadie, is what KTM Komuter  announced in June 2016.  As part of a new, first-of-its-kind programme called “Ride N’ Ride”, KTM Komuter now allows all types of bicycles inside Komuter trains.  Foldable bicycles are allowed at all times, while full-sized bikes are only allowed during off peak hours.

I had my first experience on being on a KTM Komuter train with my bicycle today.  Lay, Henry, Leslie and I rode from Kuala Lumpur to Seremban in the morning.

After lunch at the Pasar Besar Seremban, we pedalled the kilometer or so to the Seremban railway station.  A ticket to take a bicycle on board the train is RM2 / USD0.45.  My fare from Seremban station to Bank Negara station was RM9.00 / USD2.00.  Not bad for a 55km / 34mi journey.

The train arrived on schedule.  Always a good start to any rail journey.

ktm-komuter-at-seremban-station

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We had a very pleasant ninety minute ride, in air-conditioned comfort.  The space allocated for bikes in the first and last carriages of each Komuter train is more suited to folding bikes.  But the powers that be at KTM are clearly okay with full-sized bikes in the two designated carriages.

I brought slippers with me.  They definitely made moving around the stations and the train easier.

ktm-komuter-chilling-2

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The whole trip was such a success that we are already planning more Ride N’ Rides, to use KTM’s tagline.  There are a few possibilities to choose from amongst the stations that KTM Komuter serves.

ktm-komuter-route-map-2

Graphic courtesy of http://www.spad.gov.my

 

I see more of this in my future.

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