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“Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” *

My last urban night ride was in Houston in April 2010.  The Six Thirty West End group still does a Tuesday evening and a Thursday evening ride through downtown Houston.  I can still hear Juan R’s “Two Minutes” call at 6.28pm.  And I can still taste the Tex-Mex at Jax Grill where we had regular post-Thursday ride meals.

I was delighted to hear that Van’s hosts urban night rides in KL.  They start at 9pm so lights are essential.  Of course when I was packing up my riding stuff in Den Haag I didn’t think I would need lights right away.  My Niterider MiNewt Mini and Planet Bike Super Flash are in the sea freight, not to be seen until November sometime.  So if I was going to ride on Tuesday evening I needed lights.  When I was at Van’s on Monday, creak hunting with YC, I bought a Cateye Rapid 5 tail light.  Raymond T at Van’s kindly lent me a headlamp.  Good to go!

The Racun Cycling Gang met at the Decanter restaurant on Jalan Setiabakti in Bukit Damansara at 8.45pm for a 9pm start.  We were a mixed group of nine riders.  As was the case with the Genting Sempah ride the majority were on folding bikes, although Wan A was on a rather tasty looking yellow Specialized  S Works Tarmac SL3.  We headed out onto quiet residential streets with YC following behind in a car.  The roads were still a bit damp from the afternoon rain.  And my bike was still creaking!

Those were the least of my concerns though.  Here is the elevation profile for the first twelve kilometres from my last ride in Den Haag:

Here is the elevation profile for the first twelve kilometers from the Tuesday night ride:

We weren’t even two kilometres into the ride and my heart rate was pushing 150 bpm.  Which is not far short of my maximum heart rate.  The rest of the ride was more of the same.  A series of  7% to 9% gradients packed fairly together.  Those low-geared folding bikes were starting to look good.

We were fortunate to have YC in a car following behind us.  At the 4km mark we were all descending at some speed.  I heard the unmistakeable sound of a bike hitting the pavement behind me.  The damp road surface, wet leaves and speed had brought down one of our group.  Fortunately he came away with only scrapes and bruises.  YC took our unlucky rider to get his road rash cleaned up.  The rest of us looked around for my headlight, which had fallen out of its handlebar mount at about the same time the accident happened behind me.  We found the batteries and the light, less the battery cover and lens cover.  The LED was still working so I stuck it back in its mount and rode on.

We made it safely up and down the rest of the climbs that made up this ride.  We regrouped at the Decanter, loaded our bikes into our cars and drove down to a roadside stall for a lime juice and cycling chat.  Which stretched to another lime juice and more chat.  And a third lime juice and yet more chat.  I’m not sure that “I was just out for a bike ride” worked as an excuse for why I got home at almost 1am.

* Title courtesy of The Wizard of Oz.

Step One: Find the Meeting Point

The instructions for the Sunday morning ride with the Racun Cycling Gang seemed simple enough:

Meet at the McDonald’s – Middle Ring Road 2 @ 7.45am

I was familiar with the road if not that particular McDonald’s outlet.  I fired up the Tom Tom and selected my destination.  I pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot on the MRR2 at 7.40am, pleased that I was right on time.  I walked into the restaurant and looked around for anyone clad in stretchy fabrics.  The first warning bell rang in my head.  I was the only one sporting bib shorts.  Fortunately I wasn’t fluorescent as well.  I looked outside.  The second warning bell rang.  There were no bikes to be seen.

A hurried phone call revealed that there is more than one McDonald’s on that section of the MRR2.  I wasn’t on time after all.  But not to worry.  This was Malaysia; the land of the never-on-time,  and not the Netherlands; the land of the fastidiously punctual.  Ten minutes later I was amidst a group of new-found fellow Lycra-wearers.

I hadn’t hauled my bike out of the back of the car upon my arrival.  Which was a good thing as the ride didn’t start there.  We all piled back into our cars and drove for another six kilometers or so to Kampung Batu Dua Belas, Gombak.  That translates literally as Twelfth Mile Village, in Gombak.  Naturally enough the village is at mile 12 on the Gombak Road.  And it wasn’t renamed after the country went metric.

The Gombak road used to be part of the main route from KL up over the spine of the Malaysian peninsula and down again to towns and cities on the east coast.  It has been superseded by the Karak Highway.  Which means that there is now hardly any motorised traffic on the old road.  Bicycles were another matter entirely.  I hadn’t expected so many and such a variety of bikes on the road.  I saw between eighty and one hundred cyclists during my ride that morning.

We found parking spots and got our bikes ready.  Three of us had road bikes; I had my purple steel bike, but the rest of the guys in the group pulled folding bikes out of their cars.  I quickly learned that folding bikes are very popular here.  At least for the distance we planned to ride that morning.  Which was about sixteen kilometers – straight up.  I did say that the road goes up over the spine of the peninsula.  Here’s the route:

Genting Sempah

We regrouped at the top of the climb to catch our breath, and in my case to also wipe the sweat out of my eyes and off my face.  Here are some of the Racun Cycling Gang:

Christine D saw this photo and sent me the following sweat control advice – which I definitely needed:

Using unflavored, uncoloured (no mint!) lip balm, draw a line on your skin, above your eyebrow, extending down past the side of your eye, to make a “hydro barrier” – do this over each eye. don’t put it on too thick or smear it. this channels the sweat away from your eyes.

Here’s some of the competition we had for the shade at the top of the climb.

Once our pulse rates stopped hammering in our ears we rolled down the other side of this slope to the McDonald’s that is a rest stop on the Karak Highway for coffee and Cokes.  Then it was a sharp one kilometer climb back up to the point in the photo above, followed by a long sweeping descent back to our cars.

What a fabulous first ride!  The road runs through the rain forest that covers much of the country.  So while it was rabbits, ducks and geese on the bike paths in Den Haag, here I had to watch out for monkeys on the road, in this case long-tailed macaques.  The road surface is generally very good and there was very little traffic to contend with.  On my way down I passed perhaps three cars coming the other way, all driven by learner-drivers with instructors at their sides.  Presumably practicing hill stops and starts.  So I was able to descend with some speed.

The only niggle in my morning was a creak that developed at the start of the climb.  All creaks seem to emanate from the bottom bracket, but I am fairly sure that wasn’t the source.  A bit of a mystery to solve in the next few days.