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Kuala Lumpur to Penang: Day 1

Planning for a three-day ride from KL to Penang started in August. Culminating with a last meeting over roti canai and thosai. And a loaf of home-baked sourdough bread courtesy of AiLin.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Lay, Marvin, Amy, Pai and I were ready to go at 5:15. Mark isn’t in this photograph because he was the cameraman. Martin isn’t in the photo either because he was slightly late (he had to finish the breakfast his wife made for him before he was allowed out of the house).

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The first leg for the day was from Taman Tun Dr Ismail to the KTM station in Kuang. It had rained during the night so the roads were wet. Our freshly-washed bicycles didn’t stay clean for long.

Staying true to the R@SKL raison d’etre there were two themes to this adventure. Riding and eating. Our first food stop was at a coffee shop across the road from Kuang station. Three of us fuelled up with plates of noodles for the train ride to Tanjung Malim.

The 7:27 am train was on time so we didn’t spend much time striking poses on the platform.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We had most of the carriage to ourselves. Once settled in our seats the first order of business was checking mobile phones. We did speak to each other during the one hour journey to Tanjung Malim. And one not-to-be-named person took a nap.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

Amy provided her truck as a support vehicle. That was very helpful because we could put bags in the truck instead of riding with saddle packs. Mark was the driver on the first day because Daddy duties prevented him from riding with us at 5:15 am.

We met Mark at a roadside stall about a kilometre from Tanjung Malim station. We had only ridden 30km / 19mi but were already into our second meal of the day. Roti canai for those who hadn’t eaten in Kuang. If you ever find yourself on Jalan Ketoyang, north of Tanjung Malim station, stop at Restoran Al Kassim Maju. Their roti is the bomb.

The riding then started in earnest. Our final destination for Day 1 was Kampar. 88km / 55mi north on Federal Route 1. Mark would drive ahead of us and park on the side of the road. After we went past him he would leapfrog us again.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

After ninety minutes we stopped for a break at Kampung Gajah, which is just south of Sungkai. Drinks only for all of us except for Martin, who had burned through his home-cooked breakfast and was hungry.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We were riding under clear blue skies. The temperature was rising steadily. It was 25º C / 77º F when we left Taman Tun. It was 38º C / 97º F when we rolled into Bidor at noon.

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

We had plenty of time to cover the 30km to Kampar. There was no point getting there before we could check in to the hotel. We spent ninety minutes consuming cold drinks and kai chai pang (chicken biscuits) under a fan at Restoran Mee Wah. Why the name “chicken biscuits” is a mystery because they do not contain any chicken.

Soon after we got going again clouds rolled in and we got drizzled on for a while. No one complained because the cooler temperature was appreciated by all.

10km / 6mi from Kampar the sky to the east got dark and the wind started to blow. A thunderstorm was on the way. We picked up the pace and got to the Kampar Boutique Hotel just ahead of a burst of rain.

After a shower and a short nap, we headed out to look for snacks. We found cendol, ais kacang and noodles.

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

It started to rain again, this time heavily, as we sat drinking and eating. We were trapped on the wrong side of the road from our hotel. After twenty minutes we gave up waiting for the deluge to stop and ran across the road through the rain.

Mark, Marvin and Pai were stuck on the hotel side of the road because of the rain, and couldn’t join us for cendol. Instead they went to Restoran Yin Phun Low, which is next door to the hotel. The rest of us joined them for dinner and beers. The food was so-so. I don’t recommend this restaurant.

The highlight of our time in that restaurant was deciding who would drive the truck the next day. In the week before the ride, everyone expressed a desire to drive. There was the talk of taking turns through the day as a way of getting some time off the saddle.

By the end of Day 1, that sentiment had changed. We had ridden at a relaxed pace. No one needed a break from riding. And Mark made it clear that the stop and start driving was no fun. There were no volunteers to drive the next day.

So Mark held out a fan of one ringgit notes and we each took one. Pai drew the note with the lowest last digit in the serial number. To the relief of the rest of us!

You would have thought that dinner would be the end of eating for the day. You would have been wrong. Kampar is noted for its Claypot Chicken Rice. A couple of the guys ventured out later that night for some.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The rest of us called it a night. We had another early start planned for Day 2.

The Art of Exercise

I enjoy studying graphic representations of data.  Like this map illustrating 59,036 routes between 3,209 airports on 531 airlines spanning the globe.

Sisu openflights org

Graphic courtesy of openflights.org

And this chart showing our galaxy’s relative size and position within the known universe.

Sisu Galaxy national geographic com

Graphic courtesy of nationalgeographic.com

The latest graphic to pique my interest is one created by Sisu.

Sisu Logo

Sisu takes your exercise data from Strava or Runkeeper, and turns that data into a print.  Sisu has been around since at least 2014.  Co-founder Peter Roome posted the first blog entry on the Sisu website in May that year.

I found out about Sisu last week, when cycling friends started posting their Sisu prints on Facebook.

There are a few designs to choose from on the Sisu website.  I like their original design that displays all the routes you covered between your chosen start and finish dates.  The plots of each route are sized so all of them fit on one page.  Thus the plots are not to scale.

Below are the routes I rode in 2010, the year I started cycling.  The first four rows show rides within and around Houston, Texas.  The rest of the routes are either loops or out-and-back rides starting from Den Haag, The Netherlands.  I moved from Houston to Den Haag in May 2010.

The rides range from 14.5km / 9mi (row two, far right, which was a short run from my Houston home to Hermann Park and back), to 124.5km / 77mi (row six, third from the left, which was from my Den Haag home to Kinderdijk and back).

Sisu 2010

Graphic courtesy of madewithsisu.com

Even with only fifty rides in 2010, patterns emerge from the plots.  Most of my Houston rides were with the West End 6:30 group.  We rode a consistent route through the city every Tuesday and Thursday.  Most of those are shown on row three.

Den Haag is just a couple of kilometers from the coast.  You can’t ride very far west before you run into the North Sea.  So a lot of my rides in The Netherlands followed the coastline, either south-west or north- east from Den Haag.

As you lengthen the timeline, the Sisu plots of each route get smaller.  To ensure that, in this case, 885 routes fit on one page.

This print shows my entire Strava ride history.

Sisu 2010 to 170318

Graphic courtesy of madewithsisu.com

I think this print is a fascinating way to review my cycling history.  It is obvious from the graphic that my Kuala Lumpur friends and I spent an awful lot of time on the KESAS Highway in 2013 and 2014, as shown by all the horizontal, slightly squiggly routes in the middle third of the print.

There was a time when the Bukit Damansara route was popular.  This route Bukit Damansaraappears a dozen times in the centre rows.

Highlights stand out too.

An evening’s ride around the Sepang International Circuit produced this plot Sisu Sepang.  It is not too difficult to find, about two-thirds of the way down the print.

More difficult to pick out is this route, my longest ever ride at 445km / 276.5mi Sisu BRM400.  It is in the fourth row from the bottom.

Of course, what my Facebook friends and I should be doing is paying Sisu for a print.

Sisu Order

Prints come on 300 grams per square meter Matt Photorag stock.  300gsm paper stock is at the higher end of paper thickness.

The print size is 12 inches by 16 inches for US orders, and A3 size (297mm by 420mm) for orders from the rest of the world.  The price for a physical print, or a digital download, are above.

I’m thinking of a present to myself when I hit 60,112km / 37,351mi.  That is 1.5 times around the circumference of the Earth.  Which should be in two months or so.

A Good Reason to Cycle to Taman Tun

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There are more and more signs, apart from the growing number of bicycles on the roads, that cycling is increasingly popular in Kuala Lumpur.

There is now a permanent “car-free morning” on the first Sunday of every month.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall is planning to build bicycle lanes in the city.

A community-build bicycle route map project has just produced Working Draft 2.5 of trialed and tested bike routes in the city.

And now we have a bike-friendly cafe.  The Grumpy Cyclist, in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail.

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Look for the black awning and white logo at 26 Jalan Datuk Sulaiman.

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There is outdoor seating at the front of the cafe.

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The first hint that this is a cafe for cyclists. . . .

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Confirmation that this is a cafe for cyclists. . . .

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The space is warmly lit and welcoming.  The decor is of course cycling-themed, right down to the gear rings cemented into the floor and the bicycle wheel light fixtures.  The staff are friendly and helpful.  The menu tends to the cyclist’s staples of coffee and cake, but it has already expanded to include wraps and pasta.  A dinner menu is planned.

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The cycling paraphernalia gives the Grumpy Cyclist a bicycle-oriented feel.  All well and good.  But this place really earns its chops as a cafe for cyclists by providing bike racks, helmet and gear storage, and perhaps most useful, given KL’s heat and humidity, a shower.  The next time I am there I’ll have to check if the shower is stocked with toiletries and towels.

The Grumpy Cyclist welcomes everyone.  You can spot the cyclists though.  They are the ones looking closely at the bikes on display.  The piece de resistance for me is this Colnago Master 55th Anniversary bicycle on the back wall of the cafe.  This example is number 1 of 99 ever made.

Click on the photograph and then zoom in to appreciate this work of art.

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I feel the need for a latte fix.  Time to pedal over to Taman Tun.

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OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 Logo

The streets of Kuala Lumpur were taken over by bicycles between the 17th and 19th of January.  The OCBC Cycle Malaysia events were back in town for the third time.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 02

Photograph courtesy of baikbike.com

This year there were seven events on Saturday, including a tricycle ride for 2 to 5 year olds, kids rides for various age groups, an Ultimate Foldies Challenge, and a Criterium.

Photograph courtesy of ocbc.cyclemalaysia.com.my

Photograph courtesy of ocbc.cyclemalaysia.com.my

3,000 of us rode in one of the two events on Sunday.  The 48 km Challenge ride.  Four loops on closed roads in the center of KL.  Click on the photograph below for a larger image.  Zoom in and you’ll see the PETRONAS Twin Towers just outside the loop on the right.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 Route

The start was scheduled for 6.30am, in front of the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

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The guest of honor and a participant in the Challenge Ride was the Minister of Youth and Sports, Yang Berhormat Encik Khairy Jamaluddin (number V9028).

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

It was nice to have his support, but I wish he had been on time.  The poor drummers had to work overtime to keep the riders entertained while we all waited.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 06

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

We got underway at a few minutes past 7.00am.  Once the speed demons had squeezed their way through to the front we all settled down to a relaxed spin through the city.  I struck up a conversation with a rider next to me on the second lap.  Alan and I kept each other company for the rest of the ride.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 04

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

While I was waiting after the finish a reader of this blog came up to me and said “hello.”  What a treat that was!  He came all the way from Kuala Terengganu to ride in The Challenge.

Azlan, Shahfiq and I met up here.  I’m not sure how anyone found their friends in crowds like this before we all had mobile phones.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 02

The rest of the Racun and Flipsiders groups met up on the other side of the finishing area to take a photograph with their medals.

Photograph courtesy of Jason

Photograph courtesy of Jason

Azlan, Shahfiq and I cycled back onto the ride route to get to the Twin Towers area, where they had parked.  As we passed Kedai Makanan Yut Kee on Jalan Dang Wangi we noticed some familiar faces at one of the tables.

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 01

Jason, Cedric, Keat and others were tucking into breakfast.  The three of us stopped and had soft-boiled eggs, toast with kaya and coffee too.  A great end to a fun morning on my bicycle with good friends.

Photograph courtesy of 2009.tonton.blogspot.com

Photograph courtesy of 2009.tonton.blogspot.com

Kilo Months

I started keeping track of my rides in January 2010.  I had a new road bike, and an even newer Garmin Edge 705 cycle computer.  Uploading the details to the Garmin Connect web site after every ride became standard practice.   That year I rode 3,173 kilometers.

The heat map below shows where I rode for the first six months of 2010.  The most-ridden routes are depicted in red.  Click on the heat map to open the image in a new window.  You will see that most of my kilometers were accrued on the West End Tuesday and Thursday evening rides, and the Sunday Taco rides through Houston.

2010 Heat Map

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

I had some big rides outside metro Houston:  The Humble Lions Club Ride, The Space Race, and the BP MS150.  But I didn’t have a kilo month, which is my term for riding more than 1,000 kilometers in a month.

In mid-2010 I moved with my biker chick to The Netherlands.  The excellent cycling infrastructure there gave me more opportunity to ride, albeit on my own as I didn’t connect with a cycling group until the following year.

I started riding with the Not Possibles in March 2011.  The Saturday and occasional weekday rides with them boosted the distance I rode in 2011 to 6,985 kilometers.  In 2012 that number increased to 11,054 kilometers.  Almost of those kilometers were around Den Haag, with the 2011 and 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen sportives, and the 2012 UCI World Championships sportive in Belgium thrown in for good measure.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat Map courtesy of Strave

I racked up my first kilo month in August 2011.  The fine summer weather allowed me to ride eighteen times that month for a total of 1,085 kilometers.

Somewhat surprisingly I didn’t have another kilo month until January 2012, when I rode 1,091 kilometers.  I then had four more kilo months that year.  March, and three in a row from June to August.  My Not Possibles friends and I had a good summer that year.  My biggest ever kilo month was in July, when I rode 1,718 kilometers.  I had the luxury of being able to go on twenty five rides that month.

In October 2012 my biker chick and I moved home to Kuala Lumpur.   My ride frequency and average distance dropped dramatically for some months before slowly increasing again.  So it took more than a year before I had another kilo month, in September 2013.  Helped by five rides of at least 100 kilometers each.

My 2013 heat map looks a lot like my 2010 Houston heat map in that most of my rides are limited to a couple of routes.  Int his case KESAS and the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, with Putrajya and Genting Sempah thrown in for variety.  Scattered around the map are the one-off events that I rode in Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan and Penang,  My Racun buddies and I also rode to Fraser’s Hill, and I joined Dave Ern on a ride to Cameron Highlands.  You can also read about the Bike X and Broga 116 rides.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

It looks like I will ride about 7,300 kilometers in 2013.  And perhaps have another kilo month this quarter.  Garmin Connect will reveal all.

Stuck Indoors

Peat lands, forests and palm oil plantations are burning in Riau province, Sumatra.  At this time of the year westerly monsoon winds blow from Indonesia across the Strait of Malacca to Malaysia.

Malaysia uses the Air Pollution Index (API) to measure air quality.  The amount of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter in the air is used to calculate the API.  A value above 100 is unhealthy.  A value above 200 is very unhealthy.  A value above 300 is hazardous.  People are advised to stay indoors when the API is above 300.

In the past week the API hit 750 in Muar, Johor.  The highest API in Malaysia in sixteen years.  Readings in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam nudged 200.

This was Kuala Lumpur a few days ago.

Haze

Photo courtesy of Lai Seng Sin at AP Photo

The air quality in Kuala Lumpur is not great at the best of times.  For some years now there have been too many poorly-maintained diesel engined buses and lorries spewing black smoke, and too many poorly maintained two-stroke engined motorcycles spewing white smoke.

When my biker chick and I moved to Den Haag in 2010 we immediately noticed the clearer air there.  I was later told that the air quality in the Netherlands is amongst the worst in the European Union.  The Dutch may emit excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide, but it certainly looks like they have less particulate matter floating about.

I dug up some photographs I took while riding in the Den Haag area to remind me of what clear air and blue sky look like.

It was a beautiful evening when I left home Blue s

The Drie Molens (Three Mills) in Leidschendam They

Schiphol Ride 02

 

Kinderdijk Ride Seat View 1

The API this evening for Shah Alam is much improved compared to what it has been recently.

API courtesy of apps.evozi.com

API courtesy of apps.evozi.com

Tomorrow we ride!

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013

My alarm went off this morning at 4.15am.  It was time to get ready for the OCBC Cycle Malaysia ride.  Malaysia’s only mass participation cycling event on closed, public roads in Kuala Lumpur.

OCBC Route

Our start time was 6.15am.  That would give us time to complete four loops before the city streets were once again opened to motorcycles, cars, lorries and buses at 8.30am.

By 5.00am my Racun Cycling Gang buddies were arriving at the entrance to my apartment building.  The ride started in front of the Petronas Twin Towers.  The building I live in is 500 meters from the Twin Towers.  So I had access to some of the most coveted parking space in the KLCC area.

At 5.30am we were gathered in front of Restoran Pelita, about two-thirds of the way to the start.  That was where we met those of our group who had parked further away and had ridden to the KLCC.

Time for some last-minute adjustments before we rolled to the start.

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This ride was billed as one of the largest of its kind in Malaysia.  It certainly seemed that way as we waited amongst about 5,000 other riders at the start.

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There were riders from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and from further afield.  Being amongst so many riders was a bike-spotter’s dream.  The “splash the cash” award went to the rider on the bike right beside us at the start.  I had never seen a Specialized S-Works McLaren Venge in the wild before.

The only difference between the bike in the photo above and the one we saw this morning was that the Zipp 404s had been swapped out for a Mad Fiber carbon wheelset.

Photo courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photo courtesy of Procycling at procyclingwarehouse.com

So it was with the heady sight of a RM 54,000 / US 18,000 bicycle disappearing into the darkness ahead of me that I started the ride.

Photo courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photo courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

I soon forgot all about the Venge as what was supposed to be a fun ride exploded around me.

For some reason the organisers had given each of us a timing chip.  Perhaps that was the reason for so many people blasting along the fairly narrow start chute at maximum speed.  Sadly a number of riders came to grief a few minutes later along Jalan Raja Chulan when they hit a pot hole at speed in the pre-dawn darkness.  From the pieces scattered along the edge of the road I think at least two riders are in the market for new carbon front wheels.  A few others required medical attention after going down hard.

Mark L picked up a double puncture along the same stretch of road.  Fortunately we had a spare inner tube each so he was able to fix both flats.  The upside, if you could call it that, of having a double puncture is that by the time we got rolling again the sun was up, and the high-speed riders were all ahead of us.

The rest of the ride was a lot of fun.  A few meandering cyclists notwithstanding.  After the drama of the flat tires there was a short climb into the Lake Gardens followed by a u-turn back down the hill.  We rode past the Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Banks of Malaysia) building and through a wooded and quieter part of the city.  The second half of the loop took us back past the office blocks, shop houses, hotels and apartments of the city center.  It was a treat to ride on streets that are usually clogged with traffic.

Photo courtesy of Yuri Wong.

Photo courtesy of Yuri Wong.

When I was sixteen I cycled to school along some of these same streets.  So I really appreciated the opportunity to ride through a city center that has changed dramatically since then.

The morning ended in the best way possible.  I made it safely to the finish in front of the Twin Towers, where I got my participant medal.

Photo courtesy of Irene Cho

Photo courtesy of Irene Cho

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Then it was back to Restoran Pelita with the Racun gang, where we traded ride stories between mouthfuls of roti canai, nasi lemak and teh tarik.