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INFINITI Drive & Ride 2017

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Photographs courtesy of TopGear Malaysia magazine

A former colleague and long-time friend, Louis Foo, asked me if I could round up some cyclists to take part in the INFINITI Drive & Ride 2017.  Louis is the Managing Director of Big Road Media, the publishers of TopGear Malaysia and Cycling Plus Malaysia magazines.  Those magazines were collaborating with INFINITI to put on this event.

Participants would get the opportunity to ride in an INFINITI car to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) and back.  And take a turn at the wheel.  Why Kuala Kubu Bharu?  Because that is the natural place to start the Ride portion of the event.  Up to Fraser’s Hill and back down again.

That is why I, together with 31 other riders, ended up at the INFINITI Center in Kuala Lumpur at 5.00am.

5am

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We were greeted by a crew which provided excellent support throughout the event.  Starting with the registration of participants.

Registration 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We were each assigned a car for the day.  We also received an identification tag for our bicycles.  Those tags told the support crew which car we would be in, so that our bikes were in the Thule racks above us as we made the 80km / 50mi drive to KKB.  Cyclists get nervous when they are separated from their bikes!

Loading Bikes

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Registration formalities over, it was time to get a coffee and a banana, and to say hello to the other participants.

Coffee before the drive 03

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Next on the agenda was a welcome speech by Tiffany Tan, the General Manager of Inspired Motors, and technical briefings about driving in a convoy to KKB, and about hazards along the ride route up to Fraser’s Hill.

Pre-Ride briefing

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

You learn something new everyday.  On this day it was that the INFINITI logo represents “two central lines leading off into an infinite point on the horizon,” symbolizing this “luxury performance brand’s desire to be always looking forward – to new horizons, to infinity.”

Infiniti Logo

Photograph courtesy of INFINITI

After the briefings, all that was left to do was to pose for some group photographs, chose drivers, and start our engines.

There was a team from the Institute Jantung Negara (National Heart Institute).  If anyone were to have a cardiovascular incident, this was the time and place for it.  Some of the best cardiac surgeons in the country are serious cyclists.

Team IJN

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team NATO Bicycle Club were well represented.

Team NATO Drive

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And there were five R@SKLs.

Team R@SKLKs

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Everyone squeezed together for a final photograph.

Ready to roll 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Tiffany and Louis dropped the TopGear Malaysia flag.

Tiffany Tan GM & Louis Foo GM

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And we were away.  The stars of the show were, of course, the cars.

The INFINITI Q50,

Infiniti Q50

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti Q50 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

the INFINITI Q60,

Infiniti Q60

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti Q60 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And the INFINITI QX70.

Infiniti QX70

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Infiniti QX70 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Inside each car was a walkie talkie for incoming instructions from the convoy leader.  Each car also had a pre-loaded Touch & Go card for the toll booths on the North-South Highway.  We also found ziploc bags full of bananas and munchies.  We were in no risk of being short of calories on this ride.

Sustenance We made a quick stop at the Rawang R&R to use the toilets, and to switch drivers.  It wasn’t long before the instruction came over the walkie-talkie to restart our engines, and to head back out onto the North-South Highway.

As you can see, it was a misty morning.  We all hoped that the weather would be on our side, and we would have an overcast and cool ride.

Misty

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We got to the car park outside Restoran Fazlina Maju in KKB safely, albeit behind schedule.  It is always difficult to get a large group to stick to a schedule.

As the support crew were pulling bikes off the Thule racks, some of us had a last minute teh tarik before putting on our cycling shoes and helmets.

Restoran Fazlina Maju

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

It wasn’t long before we all had our bikes, and were ready to start riding.

Time to ride

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Let's ride

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team IJN led the way.

Team IJN setting the pace

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Then came the NATO Cycling Club.

Team Nato Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team ACT were riding with us too.

Team ACT Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The R@SKLs were in our customary position toward the rear.

Team Rascals Up

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

It is a 38km / 24mi climb from KKB to the clock tower at Fraser’s Hill.  We had a number of support vehicles, and an ambulance, accompanying us as we made our way to The Gap.  Water and bananas were available for anyone who wanted them at the halfway point.  Many of us took a breather at The Gap, which marks the start of the one-way section of road to Fraser’s Hill.

It is 7km / 4.4mi from The Gap to the clock tower.  The steepest slopes of the climb are within those 7km.  The lighter-bodied amongst us shot up those slopes.  The more well-padded weren’t as rapid.

After getting to the clock tower – the de facto finish of the climb to Fraser’s Hill – we headed 200 meters up the road to the Shahzan Inn for brunch.

Brunch

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

There was a nice spread of fruit, pancakes with honey, scones with jam, roti jala with chicken curry, juice, coffee, and tea.

I hid my teh tarik from the guys at the IJN table.  I don’t think teh tarik, with all its condensed milk, counts as heart-healthy.

No teh tarik here

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The NATO Cycling Club riders got to the Shahzan Inn well ahead of the R@SKLs.  So they had time to relax in the garden.

Tean Nato Shahzan Inn

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The support crew deserves a huge round of applause from all the riders.  They made us feel like professional cyclists.  All we had to do was ride our bikes.  Everything else – food, drinks, mechanical help, etc. – was taken care of by the support crew.  They were outstanding.

Support Staff

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

There were three or four photographers amongst the support crew.  Hence all the excellent shots in this blog.  They pulled out their cameras for another series of group photographs at the clock tower, before we headed back down the hill.

Team NATO Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team IJN Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Team R@SKLs Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

We weren’t photographed just with hand-held cameras.  This was shot from a drone.

Everyone Top

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Then it was time for the fun part of the ride.  Woohoo!!

This is the fun part

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

All 32 of us, and the support vehicles, got to the Restoran Fazlina Maju car park without incident.  Well, almost without incident.  One of the IJN riders had a crank arm come loose early in the descent, which sadly put an end to his ride.  But I believe that was it for mechanicals.  I don’t think anyone had a puncture.

Everyone had an excellent time.  There wasn’t much traffic on the roads.  And as you can see from the photographs, the weather was kind to us.  It was overcast and cool the entire time we were on our bikes.

In fact the weather did give us a bit of a scare, just as we headed down the hill after brunch.  It started to drizzle, right where the steepest slopes and tightest corners are.  Fortunately it lasted just a few minutes.  There were some damp patches further down the road, so care was required.  Happily the conditions weren’t so poor that they took the fun out of the descent.

The rain may have held off while we were riding, but it was waiting for us as we drove into KL.  It poured as we passed through the Jalan Duta toll plaza and onto Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim.  At least our bikes got a wash!

The rain had stopped by the time we got to the INFINITI Center.

Back in KL

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The festivities didn’t stop though.  While the support crew – they were amazing – took our bikes off the Thule racks, we were served more food inside the INFINITI showroom.

More food

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Perhaps to ensure that we had enough energy to jump up if our name was called in the lucky draw.

Thule donated a hiking pack and a laptop pack as lucky draw prizes.

Lucky Draw 02

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Lucky Draw 01

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The lucky draw marked the end of a wonderful event.  Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari Yakub, the CEO of IJN, stepped forward to say some words of appreciation on behalf of all the participants.

Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari Yakub CEO IJN

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

I am sure I speak for all the participants when I echo Datuk Seri’s sentiments.  A very big and sincere “Thank You” to Louis Foo, Tiffany Tan, Adam Aubrey, who is the editor of Cycling Plus Malaysia magazine, Eugene Wong from Thule, and not least, to all the support crew.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the INFINITI Drive & Ride.

Closing Eugene Wong

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

 

A bit like trying to herd cats

Morib Banner jkstakent com

Graphic courtesy of jkstalent.com

The Bangsar Cycling Group organised a Sunday ride from Kota Kemuning to Morib.  I suggested that they use the route that the R@SKLs ride to get to Morib.  It avoids the heavily-trafficked and poorly surfaced Jalan Klang Banting, except for  4.5km / 2.8mi stretch from Jenjarom to Jalan Bandar Lama.

None of the BCGers knew that route.  That is how I ended up leading the BCG ride.

Coincidentally, the R@SKLs were also riding from Kota Kemuning to Morib on Sunday.  They were starting from their usual meeting point, Restoran BR Maju.  The BCG were starting from their usual meeting point, McDonald’s.  So I arranged for both groups to meet at Bandar Rimbayu, so that we could all do the ride together.

Both groups got to Bandar Rimbayu, as planned, at 7.30am.  There were forty two riders in all, including the cameraman for this shot.

Morib 01 J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

From the left:

Morib 07f J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Morib 07e J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Morib 07d J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Morib 07c J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Morib 07b J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Morib 07a J Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

I set off at the head of this large group of riders, leading them through Bandar Rimbayu and onto the bridge over the SKVE.

Morib SKVE Bridge Up Shahfiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

As we rolled off the bridge I was still at the head of the group, riding at approximately the advertised moving speed of 29kph / 18mph.

Morib SKVE Bridge Down Shahfiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

Just as I felt a sense of control over the group, my illusion was shattered.  Riders shot off ahead of me, clearly more interested in testing their legs than sticking to 29kph.  Oh well!

Morib 12 Winston Wong

Photograph courtesy of Winston Wong

To no one’s surprise, the faster riders missed the right turn at Kampung Seri Cheeding.  Mobile phones to the rescue.  A few back-and-forth calls, and Google map consultations, and everyone was reunited 15km / 9mi later at the junction of Jalan Bukit Jugra and Jalan Jeti.   Google maps didn’t warn of this road hazard though.

Morib Cows Wee Hwee Wang

Photograph courtesy of Wee Hwee Wang

As usually happens, there was some talk of climbing Bukit Jugra.  I thought that first getting some food and drink at Morib was the way to go.  And that was what we did.

It was about 10.30am, and getting hot, by the time we left Morib for the homeward leg.

Morib 03 Shafiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

The R@SKLs left a bit before the BCGers, and they headed straight back to Kota Kemuning.  Some of the BCGers were determined to climb Bukit Jugra.  Which is why we ended up here.

Morib Jugra Climb Shahfiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

Some, probably wisely, elected to wait at the bottom of the hill.  Those who braved the up to 17° gradients were rewarded with views of the Langat River from the lookout point.

Morib Jugra Viewing Shafiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

And the added treat of watching a paraglider launch himself off the slope.

Morib Paragliding backpackerzmag com

Photograph courtesy of backpackerzmag.com

We probably spent a bit too long up on the hill.  I had expected that we would be back at Kota Kemuning at about noon.  It was 11.30am by the time we all got going again from the base of Bukit Jugra.  There was 45km / 28mi, and a cendol stall, between us and Kota Kemuning.

Any thoughts of skipping the cendol stall were dispelled by the 34°C / 93°F temperature.  The heat, and the distance, were starting to affect some riders, so a stop for a cold drink and a rest was well worth it.

And then the punctures started.  First at the cendol stall, when a tube spontaneously popped.  Then 5km / 3mi later.  A further 5km and it was my turn.  I rode over a rock. Eight of us clustered in the shade under a tree in someone’s front garden to review the damage to my rear rim.

Morib Flat Shafiq Khairy

Photograph courtesy of Shafiq Khairy

Not good.  Fortunately the rim was still rideable.

We weren’t done yet.  We had only just got moving again when we had puncture number four.  All in the space of 13km / 8mi.

What with one thing or the other, it is no surprise that out of the total ride time of seven hours, we were stopped for three hours.  Which explains why we didn’t get back to the McDonald’s in Kota Kemuning until 2.00pm, when the temperature was pushing 37°C / 99°F.

A salted caramel sundae never tasted so good!

Morib Salted Caramel

We all got split up between Morib and Kota Kemuning.  I haven’t heard any reports of missing cyclists, so I can only assume that everyone got back safely.  Albeit some with minor scrapes, cramps and sore muscles.

I need to practice being a ride leader.  If nothing else, it makes a good excuse!

Morib Banner north florida bicycle club

Graphic courtesy of North Florida Bicycle Club

R@SKLs Do Penang – Day One

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R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Shoes Not Allowed.png

The R@SKLs crawled or bounced out of bed, depending on how much wine and beer had been consumed the night before.  Freshly-baked bread, jam, juice, yogurt, fresh fruit, and coffee were waiting in the communal kitchen / dining area.

The plan for the day was a gentle ride of between 30 to 40km / 18 to 25mi, interrupted at regular intervals for food and drink.  The estimated time of arrival back at the hotel was 11am.  What transpired was a little different.

We were all ready to roll at about 8am.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Start 2 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

Lay was in town, so he joined us

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Start 1

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

I mentioned in the Prelude post that we would do this ride in style.  We hired these three fine young men to accompany us on their scooters and motorbikes.  Armed with whistles, flags, and walkie-talkies, they stopped traffic at junctions and intersections, and rode between the traffic and us on multi-lane highways, so ensuring that we were safe during our ride.  They were our guardian angels over the weekend.  Thank you gentlemen.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Marshals CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

We spent the first kilometer of the ride looking for somewhere to have a second breakfast.  Clearly, the breakfast at the hotel was merely a snack to tide us over whilst we searched for a proper breakfast.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Breakfast TH Lee

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We didn’t get far after the roti canais and teh tariks.  Simon had a puncture within the next kilometer.  Some of us were up the road, so there were only Leonard, Kevin and Kelin to stand around and watch Simon and CK replace an inner tube.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 First Flat Spectators Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

We got an early taste of Penang’s bike paths.  There is an annual cycling event organized by the Campaign For A Lane (CFAL), that raises funds for the creation of bike paths and bike lanes.  CFAL has been running for about a decade, and the results are visible all around the island.

After our stint on the bike path we were on the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway, riding toward the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge.  This bridge, Malaysia’s longest, opened in early 2014.  It is the second bridge linking Penang to the mainland.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Penang Bridge Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

If we had known better, we would have retraced our track from here, and been back at the hotel, and out of the sun, by 11am.  As most of us expected.

Instead we continued on to Bayan Lepas airport, and beyond.  We all agreed that Kapitan Simon was to blame for this.  We are sure he misled our guardian angels into thinking that we all wanted to ride further.  So they took us on a longer route.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Route

Just after the right turn onto Jalan Permatang Damar Laut, at the southern tip of the island, TH had a puncture.  It was about 10am.  The sun was bright and it was already 32°C / 90°F.  A group of us waited in the only shade we could find as TH replaced his inner tube.

Fifteen minutes later we were all rolling again toward Teluk Kumbar, where we turned right.  We were now cycling north and starting to climb up Bukit Genting.  Those of us who had ridden CFAL in the past were familiar with this climb.

Once down the other side, it was time for more food.  A stall in the Balik Pulau Food Court is famous for its asam laksa.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 5 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

“What’s that?  No asam laksa?”

The guys had to settle for koay teow soup instead.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 4 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

“But wait!”  There is more asam laksa being made.”

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court Asam Laksa TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

So some of the guys had seconds.  Asam laksa on top of the koay teow soup.  A decision that would rise up, so to speak, to haunt at least one person.

All smiles at this point, as we left the Balik Pulau Food Court.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 6 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Literally 500 meters from where we took the photo above, the road started tilting up, and up, and up.  It was 5km / 5mi to Anjung Indah, with gradients touching 10% and more.  This was allegedly a shortcut back to the hotel.  Give me the longer way next time!

This was the last 20 meters of what is one of the hardest climbs any of us have done.

We stopped where the junction with a side road offered some extra tarmac where we could safely get off our bikes.  As you can see from the photos, the sun was directly overhead.  So we sought refuge in some shade across the road.  Pretty much in a drain.

Which would have been convenient if that asam laksa had erupted up and out of someone’s stomach!

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Anjung Indah Climb 7 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

If we had known that there were fruit and drinks stalls 300 meters up the road, we would have kept going, rather than stop where we did.  Although I must admit, that is easy to say now.  We were on the limit at the time.

After all the cursing about the climb while recovered beside the drain, smiles were restored when we discovered durian at the fruit stalls.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Anjung Indah Park 1 Kevin Chin

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Chin

Treasurer Heng Keng thought that he might have to make a cash call, given the amount of durian consumed.  Especially by some guy in pink from Taiwan!

We still had 23km / 14mi to get back to the Tien hotel.  With 8km / 5mi of that along the unshaded Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway.

By the time we got back into George Town it was about 2pm.  We were boiling.  Cendol was called for.  There is a very well-known cendol stall on Lebuh Keng Kwee, which goes by the less-than-modest name of Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol.  The queue for their cendol is always long – see below.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Cendol 1 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Some locals say that the cendol from the stall across the road is, in fact, better.  We opted for that much less-crowded stall.  Some of us had two bowls of cendol, and we were on our way before the people at the end of the queue for the “Famous” cendol had been able to place their orders.

Just one more kilometer, and we were back in the air-conditioned comfort of the Tien hotel.  Most of us jumped into showers.  Some took another option.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Pool TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

All of us did turn the rooftop pool deck into a dobi, or laundry.  Open dividers, which had obviously been designed with considerable thought and care, became excellent places to hang wet cycling kit.

Some of us took naps.  Some went for a massage.  Some indulged in the nyonya cakes and bubur kacang merah (red bean soup) that were laid out in the hotel dining area.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Tien Hotel Tea

Cyclists that we are, we had all done the maths, and had determined that, despite all we had eaten already, there were still calories to be replaced – see I Am Sure I’ve Earned That Second Roti Canai.  We were ready for more food.

Dinner was at Yi Bing Qing Fish Head Steamboat.  Yi Bing Qing is a big name when it comes to steamboat restaurants in Penang.  So good that Leonard paused to give thanks at the altar of the steamboat chimney.

In all seriousness, the steamboat was delicious.

With that meal, Day One was a wrap.  There was, allegedly, a party that night up in the lounge / bar area of the hotel.

Allegedly.  If there was a party, I slept through it. R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Halo 2