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CFAL 2018: Round Island Ride

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Penang City Hall

Photograph courtesy of

Sunday morning, woke up yawning; did my alarm really ring?
Pulled on my bibs and sprayed that sun screen all over my skin.
Went down the stairs and kissed my bike to make it come alive.
‘Cause with 22 gears and the R@SKLs all in pink,
I got to go for a Round Island ride.

With apologies to The Bee Gees

The half dozen or so R@SKLs who needed breakfast before the Round Island Ride met in front of the Tien Hotel at 6.00am.  Lebuh Chulia and the surrounding streets were becoming filled with blinking bike lights as cyclists emptied out of the many hostels, backpacker inns and boutique hotels which have opened in old Georgetown since it was accorded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site status in 2008.

Old Georgetown is now even more of a tourist draw.  Most tourists don’t look for breakfast at 6.00am on a Sunday morning.  So we were greeted with rows of dark shop fronts as we rode around looking for breakfast.

The first open place we found was the Restoran Liyaqatali Nasi Kandar Beratur.  Open from 10.00pm to 8.30am.  As its name suggests, you queue (beratur) for your food, and then try to find somewhere to sit on the sidewalk outside.

We wanted roti canai.  We were directed to Restoran Dalcha Kassim Mustafa.  That was open, but the roti man only starts doing his thing at 7.00am.  So we settled for rice and curry and hard-boiled eggs.

We were back in front of Tien Hotel at 6.30am where a cloud of pink was already gathering.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Tien Billy

Photograph courtesy of Billy

There were more than twenty-five of us.  As is always the case, the larger the group, the more likely that at least one rider will have a flat tire.  Mark, who seems to have become our designated mechanic whenever Danial or CK is not around, was called into action to help Kieren with his flat.  Which ultimately required a change of tire to fix.  Henry, thank goodness, had a spare tire to loan to Kieren.

Kevin also had a flat tire outside the Tien Hotel.  He took it as a sign that he should skip the ride.  A decision no doubt helped by the after-effects of the beach party.

The Penang City Hall on the Esplanade is a little more than 1km away from the Tien Hotel.  We took up our customary position right at the back of the estimated 3,500 participants in this, the 10th edition of CFAL.

CFAL Day 2 Start 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were flagged off a bit after 7.00am by Malaysia’s Finance Minister Mr Lim Guan Eng.  Mr Lim has a long-standing relationship with CFAL, having served as the Chief Minister of Penang between 2008 and 2018.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Lim Guan Eng Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The start was slow as the exit from the Esplanade is narrow.  That gave us the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Sunrise TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We made a short photo stop opposite Pulau Jerejak, where you have a view of both bridges between the island and the mainland.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 2nd Bridge

The next stop was at Teluk Kumbar.  We were 28km / 17mi into the ride and 1km from the first of the two climbs on the route.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Route Map event howei com

Map courtesy of

Nasi lemak, teh tarik and a restroom.  This place ticked all the boxes.

CFAL 2018 First Stop Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Up, up and away.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Climb 1 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine


CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 4 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 2 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 5 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan


CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 6 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 1 Marvin

Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

In past years the CFAL route took a sharp left turn at the bottom of the rapid descent from Bukit Genting.  I was behind a group of a dozen riders as we approached that corner at speed.  All of us were looking at the RELA man at the junction for directions.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Rela Cycling Plus Mag

Except our man was not indicating anything.  He wasn’t even looking our way.  So everyone ahead of me continued straight down the road.

4km /2.5mi later I started thinking “This can’t be right.”  I looked back and saw Martin Lee and Ralf.  They had followed me.  Oops!

CFAL Day 2 Wrong Way Ride With GPS

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Now I know we could have turned left at Jalan Sungai ‘Pinang and rejoined the official route about 4km from the second climb.  Oh well.  An extra 8km / 5mi never hurt anyone.  Ha ha ha!

The rest of the R@SKLs had no such problems.  Except for Kieren, who suffered a second cut tire and had to Grab Car it back to town.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 1 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

The second climb up Jalan Teluk Bahang is more than twice as long as the Bukit Genting climb, but the average gradient is the same.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 3 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Riders 2 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

Our next regrouping point was at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Reservoir

While we were larking and monkeying about (SOP for the R@SKLs at rest stops) this young man, Danial Asyraf, pulled up.  He was riding with his grandfather, Bakar Noordin.  Bakar Noordin is one of six friends who in 2012 rode from Lebuh Downing in Penang to Downing Street in London.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Six year old and Grandfather Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

His six-year-old grandson is no slouch on a bicycle either.  If it took you more than four hours to complete the Round Island Ride, please do not look the next photograph.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Danial Asyraf

Photograph courtesy of Penang Mountain Bike Association

You looked!  Repeat after me . . .

CFAL 2018 Day 2 OMG

Emoji courtesy of Bitmoji

We let Danial and his grandfather ride off ahead of us.  I for one had no need to be embarrassed by a six-year-old spinning past me on the slopes of Jalan Batu Ferringhi.

A final water and restroom stop at the Caltex station at the bottom of the descent from the Teluk Bahang Dam, and we were on the last 22km / 13.5mi to the finish.  The traffic on Jalan Batu Ferringhi was challenging, but we all got through that section okay.

Plain sailing from then on, until . . . .  This time Mark had a flat of his own to fix.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Mark Flat TH Lim (1)

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

With lots of onlookers.  Who knew changing an inner tube could be a spectator sport?

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Mark Flat TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

In less than 10km / 6mi we were collecting our medals at the finish line.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Medal Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Posing for selfies.

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Finish Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

CFAL 2018 Day 2 Finish 2 Cycling Plus Mag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Plus Magazine

And sprawling on the grass.

CFAL 2018 Finish Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Where TH started yelping in pain.  We all thought he had a cramp.  Turns out having your hand stood on by someone wearing cycling cleats hurts just as much as a cramp.

Another fantastic weekend trip with the R@SKLs.  Thank you, everyone, for making it so enjoyable.


Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The R@SKLs Like Penang – Day Three

Sunday AM CFAL Banner

The Tien Hotel was buzzing at 5.30am.  R@SKLs were getting coffees and filling bottles. Pumping up tires.  Filling jersey pockets with ride essentials.

At 6.10am sharp we rode down Lebuh Chulia toward the Residence carpark on the corner of Jalan Penang, where the rest of the R@SKLs were waiting.  A headcount confirmed that we had twenty four riders in our group.

Local boy Lay led us over the 6km / 3.7mi from the Residence to the CFAL start line at the Youth Park.  There were reportedly 3,500 participants in this ninth edition of the Campaign for a Lane.

We positioned ourselves at the back of the pack.  We didn’t want to get caught up in the starting rush and crush.

Sunday AM Start Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The excitement, or pressure, of the event must have got to some of the R@SKLs.  They developed a sudden interest in the surrounding bushes.

Sunday AM CFAL Start Leakage TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The CFAL event has developed a reputation as one of the better organised rides.  The organisers get most things right.  Like starting the event on time.  Cyclists began pouring out of the part at 7.15am.  Right on time.

Sunday AM CFAL Start Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

The CFAL route has remained unchanged for a number of years now.  Out of the Youth Park to Persiaran Gurney, and then clockwise roughly following the coast, down to Bayan Lepas in the south-eastern corner of the island.

Our new jerseys stood out well against the sea of purple CFAL jerseys that most of the other participants were wearing.  That made staying together as a group easier.

A very popular photo spot along the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Highway is within view of the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, more commonly known as the Penang Second Bridge.

Sunday AM Penang Bridge Leslie Tong

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

It took a few tries, but we did get that bridge in the background.

We had our first proper rest stop at the Caltex station, just the other side of the Sungai Bayan Lepas, about 30km / 18.5mi into the ride.  We raided the station shop for drinks and food.  And queued for the toilet.

From the Caltex station the route curved inland to the right for a kilometer or two, and then curved back down toward Teluk Kumbar on the coast.  At Teluk Kumbar the route headed due north to the Puspakom vehicle inspection site in Kampung Tengah.

That Puspakom compound marked the start of the first of the two climbs on the CFAL route.  It is about 2km / 1.2mi long, and has 115 meters / 377 feet of elevation.

Everyone was looking good on the slopes.

We went past this guy on the lower slope of the climb.

Sunday AM CFAL Penny Farthing Dennis Tan

Photograph courtesy of Dennis Tan

He gave it a good effort, but it wasn’t long before he was walking his penny-farthing up the hill.

We regrouped at the bottom of the descent of Jalan Balik Pulau, where the road takes a sharp left onto state route P239 toward Pulau Betong.  Once we were all together again, we cruised over the next 15km / 9.3mi to the row of shophouses opposite the Sin Min primary school.

Sunday AM Kampung Tomoe Suga.png

We stopped so that riders could buy water, 100 Plus etc. from the sundry shop there.  It is a good place to stop for a rest and a drink.  The small temple on the end of the row of shophouses marks the start of the second climb.  This one is 4.8km / 3mi long, with an elevation of 259 meters / 850 feet.

We agreed to meet on the other side of the hill, at the Teluk Bahang Dam.  Most of us know the spot, because we took photographs there the last time we rode in Penang.  This is one of those photographs.  We were standing on the dam.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Reservoir View 1 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

I got to the dam first.  I stopped in the shade of a tree opposite the dam, and waited for the other pink jerseys to appear.

5 minutes went by.  No pink jerseys.

10 minutes went by.  Still no pinks jerseys.

15 minutes went by.  Aha!  There is a pink jersey.  Damn (pardon the pun).  Not one of ours.

I started to wonder if someone had suffered a puncture, or worse, had suffered a fall.

20 minutes went by.  Then a participant shouted at me as he rode past.  “I think your friends are resting up the hill.”

I pedaled 300 meters back up the hill and around a corner, and there they were.

Sprawled on the grass.  Looking comfortable and relaxed.

Leslie, who wasn’t in Penang with us the last time, pulled off at this spot.  Everyone else followed him, instead of continuing down to the dam.

Sunday PM Teluk Bahang Dam CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of Lim Heng Keng

I do admit that it was a nice place to stop.

But for next time guys.  This is what the dam looks like.

Sunday PM Teluk Bahang Dam

There were about 20km / 12.4mi to ride back to the Youth Park.  It started raining as we got to Batu Ferringhi.  Jalan Batu Ferringhi is a winding, rolling, narrow stretch of road, with a hill on one side and a drop-off to the sea on the other side.  It would be a pleasant road for a bike ride, if only there wasn’t so much traffic.

Sunday PM Batu Ferringhi Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Add rain to the mix, and the ride along Jalan Batu Ferringhi to the Penang Swimming Club is a bit stressful.  Sometimes the safest place to be is in the middle of the slender lane.  It can upset drivers, but it stops them trying to squeeze past you, and in the process forcing you right to the edge of the road, or worse, off the road.

The last 5km / 3mi along Jalan Tanjung Bungah is also busy with cars, lorries, and buses, but the road is wider and has a proper shoulder, so you are not riding in amongst the traffic.

It was still raining when we got to the Youth Park.  3,500 riders quickly turned sections of the grass field into a quagmire.  The large marquee tent was packed with people sheltering from the rain.  As I was looking for somewhere to leave my bike, I saw Husher from Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.  He was manning a stall at one corner of the marquee, where he was displaying some of the Rikulau stainless steel bikes that he sells.

Husher’s stall became the area for the R@SKLs to park their bikes.  It was close to the medal, water, and food pickup points.

Sunday PM CFAL Food Tomoe Suga.png

And also close to the backdrop for finisher photographs.  Thank you Husher.

The lucky draw was in progress as we waited for all the R@SKLs to finish and to collect their medals.  I don’t think any of us expected to win a prize, although it does appear that one of us did have a winning number.  Number 2276 was called.  One R@SKL had number 2275, and another had number 2277.  So someone in the group must have had number 2276.  Oh well!

It was still raining after everyone had their medal in hand.  So we decided to ride back to the hotel, rather than looking for somewhere to eat along the way.  Halfway to the hotel the rain stopped.  It was sunny and hot at the Tien Hotel.

Lunch was at Goh Thew Chik Hainan Chicken Rice, which is a few doors away from the Tien.  Simon reserved four whole chickens for us.  Two roasted, and two poached.

That wasn’t enough.  It took two more chickens, and more rice, to satisfy the R@SKLs.

Lay and Leslie couldn’t join us for lunch.  Their ride back to KL left Penang at 2pm.  Heng Keng left for the airport right after lunch.

Others went straight from the chicken rice shop to look for dessert.

Sunday PM Chendol 1 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Those of us on evening flights were able to linger at the Tien.

Sunday PM Time to Relax 2 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Sunday PM Time to Relax 3 Tomoe Suga

Pai was a true team player.  He brought cendol back to the hotel for those of us who were too idle to walk to the stall with him.  Thank you Pai.

Sunday PM Chendol 2 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Most of the remaining R@SKLs were on an 8pm flight.  Which gave them time to devour one last plate of char koay teow and oyster omelette before bidding farewell to Penang.

Sunday PM Last Food Run Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The Hong Kong trio flew out on Monday.  TH looked after them very well.  Champagne even!

Sunday PM HK Crew TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Our bikes and bags had been loaded onto the van at 4pm.  ETA at Pegasus Cycles was 10pm.  Collecting our bikes marked the end of a wonderful weekend with great friends and great food, with some cycling thrown in for good measure.

Sunday PM Bike Unloading Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Thank you TH and your staff for looking after us so well.

Thank you CK and Danial for providing much valued support.

Thank you R@SKLs for being excellent company.

When is our next trip?

Sunday PM Medal.png


R@SKLs Do Penang – Day Two

Posted on

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Banner.png

After the santai (relaxed) turned bantai (thrashed) ride of the day before, some of us were dubious about attempting a round-the-island ride.  Following the CFAL route to the south-east, south-west, and north-west corners of the island, before heading east back to George Town, had been the original plan when this Tien Hotel Residence getaway to Penang was first mooted.  Now we wondered if it would be a bit more than we could handle, given the exertions of the previous day.

However, the die was cast.  We had invited some Penangites to ride with us, and they were on the doorstep at 7.45am, expecting to replicate the 80km / 50mi CFAL route.  So nine R@SKLs and six Penangites posed in front of the Tien hotel before following our three guardian angels – we had retained the same three young men from the day before – out to Pengkalan Weld and then to Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Start 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

This time we covered 12km / 7.5mi before having to stop for a mechanical problem.  This time to reseat Simon’s rear tire.  It is a mystery how, but a section of the bead had separated from the rim.  Fortunately we had CK with us.  The man from Pegasus Cycles soon had Simon’s wheel sorted out.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Lifesaver Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Our next stop was intentional.  Kampung Tengah was 25km / 15.5mi into our ride.  We stopped to regroup there because Kampung Tengah is at the base of Bukit Genting.

Everyone agreed that the 2km / 1 mi climb up Bukit Genting was easier than we had anticipated.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 First Climb View Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

As we came off the relatively fast descent – more than 50kph / 31mph in places – we had to drop anchors and cut speed in time for the sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill onto Jalan Sungai Nipah.  The day before, we had continued north, straight on Jalan Balik Pulau to the food court.

This time we headed south to Kampung Bakar Kapur and the coast.  That was the closest we would come to the sea until we got to Teluk Bahang, in the north-west of the island, about 25km / 15.5mi away.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Beach 1 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

But that would be later.  It was first time for some food.  I wouldn’t have known this was a restaurant.  It is a good thing we had locals riding with us.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Food before Second Climb Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Highlights of this meal, apart from the noodles, were the home-made soya bean milk and nutmeg juice drinks.  Nutmeg juice is a unique Penang speciality.

Fed and watered, we made the straight run northward to Sungai Pinang in quick time.

We regrouped at the 玄龙双祝宫 temple, which Google translates as Xuanlong Double Wish Palace.

As you may have guessed, our local guides stopped at the temple because it is at the base of the climb up Jalan Teluk Bahang.  A 5km / 3mi winding route that rises 255 meters / 837 feet.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Route

We got ourselves to the top of the climb, which wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Climb 2 At The Top CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

The run down to the Teluk Bahang Dam would have been much more fun if the road hadn’t been littered with leaves, small branches, sand and mud.  It had rained very hard the previous night, and a lot of debris had been washed onto the road.  Descending with extra care was required.

We wanted to take our bikes with us through the security post at the dam, but that was a non no.  So it was just us at the water’s edge, showing off our better sides.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Reservoir View 1 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

We made our last stop at Restoran K-Haleel, just after the roundabout at the bottom of the descent from the dam.  It was a good place to stop for a drink, and to thank our newfound local friends for their hospitality and guidance.  Most of them were not going all the way back into town.  Instead heading their own ways to get home.

There were just over 20km / 12.5mi to go.  Most of it rolling terrain as we hugged the coast through Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Tokong.  Once we got to Gurney Drive we had a flat 5km / 3mi to the Tien hotel.

Six of us were 3 km / 1.8mi from the hotel when word came through, via walkie-talkie to the guardian angel with us, that Pai had suffered a puncture.  Once again, it was CK to the rescue.

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Lifesaver 2 Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai


R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Where Are They Pai Flat Leonard Yee

Photograph courtesy of Leonard Yee

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 First Flat Waiting Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Inner tube replaced, Pai and the rest soon rolled around the corner where we were waiting, and we had no further interruptions as we wound our way through town to the hotel.

It was then a case of replaying the post ride activities of the previous day.  Showers, hanging kit up to dry, napping, and eating and drinking.  Plus loading bicycles and bags into the repaired van for the trip back to Pegasus Cycles.

All too soon, our boutique hotel / cycling getaway was over.  We owe a large debt of gratitude to TH and the staff at the Tien Hotel Residence for making our stay such a nice one.  We are already planning to stay there again during our next Penang trip.  CFAL 9 is on 13th August.

Book those seats fellas!

R@SKLs Penang Day 2 Homeward Bound TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim