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Campaign For A Lane 2013

There were two organised rides scheduled in Penang on 8th September.

One was the first ever ride across the Penang Second Bridge, from Batu Kawan on the mainland to Penang island and back again.  This bridge is in the final stages of construction and is not yet open to traffic.  It will be the longest bridge in Southeast Asia.  The other was the 5th Campaign For A Lane (CFAL) ride around the island of Penang.

My Racun Cycling Gang buddies did the CFAL ride last year.  So we signed up for the bridge ride.  A bus was chartered and accommodation booked.  Only for the bridge ride to be postponed at the very last minute.

Hello CFAL!

CFAL Banner

Registration for the CFAL ride had long closed.  Not a problem.  We would be ghost riders.  The term for unofficial participants in an event.

The bus rolled to Penang on Saturday as planned.

Photo courtesy of Marco Lai

Photo courtesy of Marco Lai

Penang is touted by some as having the best street food in Malaysia.  So Saturday was spent cycling from one food venue to another.

Photo courtesy of Debrizio Wong

Photo courtesy of Debrizio Wong

The Campaign For A Lane has been a success in Penang.  These symbols,

Penang Bike Lane

and dedicated bike lanes, have popped up all around the city.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Chin

Photo courtesy of Christopher Chin

The first CFAL ride in 2009 drew 750 cyclists.  Registration for the 2013 edition was cut off at 3,000 cyclists.  A total no doubt exceeded thanks to us ghosts in the peloton.

The ride started promptly at 7.00am from the Esplanade Park.  The start line was at the Penang Town Hall.

CFAL Penang Town Hall

The clock-wise route circumnavigated the island.

CFAL Route

10 km into the ride we caught sight of the first Penang Bridge, opened in 1985.

CFAL Penang Bridge

Those clouds were a warning.  A further 10 km down the Lim Chong Eu Highway the clouds became ominous.

CFAL Tun Dr Lin Chong Eu Highway

We got rained on.  A lot and for most of the remainder of the ride.  The big plus for me was that the rain kept the day fairly cool.  I had no issues with hyperthermia on this ride.

Penang looks flat but there were two substantial lumps to get over.  The first was at the south end of the island where the route turned north through Kampung Tengah.  We went from sea level to about 140 meters / 460 feet.

The bigger lump was the approach to the Teluk Bahang Dam in the north-west corner of the island.  That climb topped out at about 225 meters / 740 feet.  The payoff was views like this.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

The wet road meant that this descent had to be negotiated with care.  The turns were especially tight in places.

There were a few more short and sharp climbs to get over as the road made its way along the coast through Batu Feringgi and Tanjong Bungah at the northern tip of the island.  Then it was past the beachfront hotels and malls along Persiaran Gurney to the finish at the Esplanade Park.

CFAL Penang City Hall

We were starving ghosts by the end of 82 km ride.  Albeit for only as long as it took to get to a restaurant!

I wonder how many of us weighed more when we arrived back in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday evening than we did when we left KL on Saturday morning.

Chain Checkers Do No Good Just Sitting in Your Toolbox

I have not been regularly checking my bicycle chains for wear.  I have no excuse for not doing so.  I have the necessary tool for the job.  Two of them in fact.

Chain Checker

The purist will argue that a steel ruler or steel tape measure is the most accurate tool for measuring chain wear.  Using a ruler can however be error-prone because it is necessary to hold the ruler precisely and measure one end while making sure the other does not slip.  So tools like these ones have been created.  They are not as accurate as a properly-used ruler, but they are an easier and faster way to measure chain wear.

Chain wear is often referred to as chain stretch, but this is a misnomer.  The side plates of a chain do not deform under pedalling forces.  Rather it is wear to the pins, bushes and rollers that causes the distance between the pins to increase, thus giving the illusion of stretch.

This diagram shows A. pin/bushing wear, and C. bushing/roller wear.  B shows an unworn chain.  Note that roller wear does not affect pin spacing.

Illustration courtesy of par do.net at http://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-004/000.html

Illustration courtesy of pardo.net at http://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-004/000.html

In short, chain wear is indicated by an increase is the spacing between pins.  When I finally put my BBB chain checker to use it showed that the chain on  my titanium Alchemy bike had reached the point where it needed to be replaced.  What I didn’t know was when the chain had reached that point.  Had I been riding for too long on a worn chain, and perhaps damaged the drive train in the process?

Some of my Racun Cycling Gang had recommended Meng Thai Bicycle Centre for bike parts and service.  So I took the bike there to have a new chain installed.  Labor costs are still relatively low here as compared to the Netherlands, so I had less incentive to do it myself.  When I say low I mean a labor charge of  RM 30 / USD 9 to have a new chain installed and to get the bike serviced and tuned up.

My first ride with the new chain was up to Genting Sempah.  It quickly became obvious that I had waited too long to replace the chain.  The chain was skipping on one cog.  It didn’t matter which chain ring I was in.  The chain skipped on that one cog.

At first I couldn’t tell from looking at the cassette that there was anything wrong with it.

IMG_1663

A closer look revealed where the problem lay.

Cassette Wear

That shark-tooth profile on the fourth cog is not normal.,  The new chain rides too high up the ramp of the tooth and slips off.  The only solution was a new cassette.  I went with a SRAM PG 1070 cassette at RM 250 / USD 76 rather than replacing this SRAM OG 1090 cassette at RM 650 / USD 198.

The moral of this tale is to regularly check your chain for wear.  I now know, thanks to the late and great Sheldon Brown, that a chain that has just 1% of wear should be replaced.  Anything more than 1% chain wear and the sprockets are probably already damaged.

What is 1% of chain wear?  Ten links of a new chain are 25.4 cm long, measured from pin to pin.  If the last pin in link ten is just past 25.5 cm the chain needs to be replaced.  If the last pin is approaching 25.7 cm away then the most-used sprockets are already damaged.

I got 10,000 km / 6,214 mi out of the cassette.  I wonder how many more kilometers it would have lasted if I had replaced the chain as soon as it showed 1% wear.

I replaced the chain on the steel Alchemy a few days ago.  The cassette on that bike has 13,300 km / 8,265 mi on it so far.  Including 115 km / 71.5 mi with the new chain.

I caught that one in time.  No skips.

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.

IMG_1004

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.

IMG_1008

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

IMG_1009

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.

Shall We Climb?

Wind comes with the territory, so to speak, in the Netherlands.  So often the key decision for the Not Possibles is whether to start a ride with the wind or against it.  Hills come with the territory in Kuala Lumpur.  The choice to be made here is to ride a route with some climbing, or to ride a route with a lot of climbing.  The choice on recent weekends has been to climb a lot.  1,319 meters / 4,300 feet the Sunday before Christmas.  1,069 meters / 3,500 feet the Saturday before New Year’s.

So it was nice to climb ‘only’ 684 meters / 2,240 feet last weekend.  The Racun Cycling Gang met at Pekan Batu 18 at the usual unearthly hour of 6.45am.  Well, some of us were there at 6.45am.  This is Malaysia after all.  Our peleton of folding bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes started into the mist along Jalan Sungai Lui at about 7.15am.

11km later we got to the T-junction with Jalan Sungai Lalang and Jalan Hulu Langat – Kuala Klawang.  Every other time we have turned right toward Tasik Semenyih.  There is some climbing along the way to the Sungai Tekala Recreation Park, but nothing like the climbing awaiting those who turn left.

On this day our only option was to turn left.  The road to Tasik Semenyih was still closed following a landslide that took a section of the road into the reservoir.  Here we are at the T-junction, waiting for the folding bikes to catch up to us.  Mark is helpfully pointing out the “Road Closed” sign.

Hulu Langat Comfort Break

Photo courtesy, I think, of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

We regrouped, girded our loins, and started the 9km climb to the summit of Genting Peres.  I had struggled to the summit from the opposite direction during the Broga 116 ride in November 2012.  This time the climb was almost pleasant.  It was much cooler, and I didn’t have cramping quadriceps.

A third of the way up the climb we turned a corner to a spectacular view of the mist-shrouded valley below.  That view alone made the climb worthwhile.

Hulu Langat Mist 01

The summit of Genting Peres is on the border between the states of Selangor and Negri Sembilan.  We waited at the border marker for the rest of the foldies to arrive.

Hulu Langat Genting Peres Summit 02

As always the payoff for all the climbing, the view notwithstanding, is the “look ma, no brakes” descent.  Well, perhaps not quite “no brakes.”  It is a twisty road, the surface is a bit sketchy in one or two spots and there are cars and motorbikes to watch out for.  Nevertheless I surprised one driver by overtaking at 60kph.

The mist had burned off by the time we got back to the T-juntion.  We had blue skies and a crescent moon overhead (I promise the moon is visible in the photo) as we rode back to Pekan Batu 18.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

From Pekan Batu 18 some of us rode on to the Sungai Congkak Recreational Forest.  The others drove there.  We all went there for this . . .

Hulu Langat Nasi Lemak 01

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Nasi lemak, curry puffs and teh tarik of course.  At the stall beside the river.  Note that the unopened packets of nasi lemak were not for me!

All that was left to do after a beautiful ride and yummy food was to roll back down the hill and gently pedal the short distance back to Pekan Batu 18.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

And of course to take a nap once I got home.

Weather Blues

It has been pouring with rain almost every afternoon and into the evenings for the past two weeks.  The Racun Cycling Gang’s evening rides are not the only things that have been washed out.  Five times the normal daily rainfall contributed to a landslide that washed out a 200 meter section of road alongside Tasik Semenyih.  That puts paid to our weekend rides to the Tekala Recreation area for a while.  The landslide also caused a change in the route for tomorrow’s Broga Reverse 116 ride.  It is now the Broga Reverse 105.

Landslide

Photo courtesy of The Star Online

Precipitation of a different kind forced the cancellation of today’s Not Possibles morning ride.  Enough snow fell on Den Haag yesterday to make the bike paths icy and hazardous.  We were lucky last winter.  There were many below-freezing days and some snow, but not enough to get in the way of our Saturday rides.  Not last winter anyway.  This is on the Rottermeren.

Bike on Ice

It was a bit different in the winter of 2010.  I took this video from the warmth of our kitchen.  You had to be Dutch, or Inuit, to ride on this particular day.

Mark’s Nasi Lemak Ride

The West End Bicycles Six Thirty group in Houston has Ted’s Taco Ride.  Mark’s Nasi Lemak Ride could become the equivalent for the Racun Cycling Gang in Kuala Lumpur.  Roti canai and teh tarik have made frequent appearances in my posts.  This is the first time I have mentioned nasi lemak.  Nasi lemak is another quintessential Malaysian dish.  Best described by a good friend of mine, Azlan Zahari Zahid, who writes a blog titled The Nasi Lemak Journal.  Click on the link to his blog to read his description of this very popular dish.

Mark Lim suggested that we add a ride to the Sungai Congkak Recreational Forest to the end of our round trip from Kampung Batu 18 to the Sungai Tekala Recreational Park.  More specifically, to the nasi lemak at Sungai Congkak.  Mark, Chon and I set off at 7.15am for Sungai Tekala.  Two hours later we were back at Kampung Batu 18 and ready for the main event of the day.  After a final 75 meters / 250 feet  of climbing we pulled up to an unassuming stall on the bank of a small river.

This is what we came for.

Individual packets of nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf.  The traditional way of serving this dish.  Here’s what was inside each packet.

A little mound of coconut and pandan flavored rice topped with a sambal made from chillies, onion and dried anchovies, a slice of cucumber and a bit of omelette.  Simple and delicious.  We demolished two packets each in next to no time.  Which turned out to be the last of that batch of nasi lemak.  When Marvin and his friend, whom we had met up with toward the end of our ride, arrived a short while later they had a thirty minute wait for the next batch to finish cooking.

The stall was relatively cool, nestled as it was at the edge of the jungle and next to a small river.  The water made a pleasant roar as it tumbled over the rocks.

We sat with our teh tariks and enjoyed each other’s company and the calm surroundings.  My sense of well-being due no doubt to the two helpings of nasi lemak that I had just devoured.  As I gazed around the stall I noticed a framed newspaper article on the wall titled “Me and My BMI.  Nasi Lemak and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance.”

It turns out that this particular nasi lemak stall is well-known.  The proprietor Haji Ramli Maon and his wife Rosnah Zakaria have been serving one of Malaysia’s favorite breakfast meals to cyclists and non-cyclists alike for more than fifteen years.  A stream of whom had turned up on bikes and in cars as we sat there.

Marvin and his friend got their nasi lemak, piping hot and fragrant, fresh out of the pot.  They agreed it was worth the wait.  Mark, Chon and I had a third packet each.  We couldn’t resist.  Especially when a packet costs only RM 1 / USD 0.33.  My somewwhat excessive breakfast of three packets of nasi lemak and two teh tariks cost the princely sum of RM 6 / USD 2.  I paid the equivalent of fifty nasi lemaks to the guy who came by selling bottles of jungle honey.  If he is to be believed that honey is a miracle cure for most any ailment.  Mark has already tried some of his.  He confirms his thumbs up rating for the honey.

Chon (left) and Mark, jungle honey and teh tariks.

I give the whole morning a thumbs up.  I don’t think this will be the last Mark’s Nasi Lemak Ride.

A Capital Idea

The Racun Cycling Gang does regular rides through Putrajaya.  Putrajaya is the administrative center of Malaysia, much like Brasilia is for Brazil and Canberra is for Australia.  And like those capitals Putrajaya is a planned city, albeit the newest of the three.  The seat of government moved from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya in 1999.

The 32 km/ 8,000 acre greenfield site presented architects with a blank canvas to cover with buildings and bridges in all manner of of traditional and modern design.  Much of Putrajaya is lit up at night, and the spot and colored lights make the buildings look even more spectacular.  Our ride started below the International Convention Centre.  Sadly we weren’t allowed to ride up the hill and circle the building.

We rolled down the hill from the International Convention Center and rode along the Putrajaya lakefront.  We passed in front of the Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel.

We then crossed the Seri Gemilang bridge toward the Ministry of Housing and Local Government buildings.

The next spectacular building we passed was the Energy Commission’s Diamond Building.  This is the first office building in the counry to obtain the Green Building Index platinum rating.

After the short sharp climb to Wisma Putra or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we shot back down the hill and covered a roughly semicircular route from east to west.  We then turned eastward again across the  Seri Wawasan bridge to get to Persiaran Perdana or Perdana Boulevard.  Persiaran Perdana runs north-south and is the longest boulevard in Putrajaya.

We headed north on Persiaran Perdana to the circular Dataran Putra.  Around the 300 meter circle are the Prime Minister’s office complex, the Putrajaya Souk and the Putra Mosque.

From the mosque it was a straight ride southward back across the Seri Gemilang bridge to our starting point below the International Convention Centre.  Here is the final look back across the bridge.