RSS Feed

Tag Archives: The Not Possibles

Weer Fietsen in Nederland

My Ritchey Break-Away came with me on a trip to Cuba.  Unfortunately I didn’t do any riding in Cuba.  My bike stayed in its case in La Habana while the group I was with explored Cuba by van.  About 1,800kms / 1,100mi over nine days.

I saw a lot of Cubans on bicycles, especially in towns outside La Habana.  Some towns have pedal powered taxis.

IMG_0804

A number of visitors were on touring bikes, especially on the south coast around Trinidad.  And we drove past these guys on road bikes in La Habana one evening.

IMG_0525

I brought my bike with me because my biker chick and I had a stopover in Den Haag on the way home.  My bike was out of its case and I was on the fietspaden (bike paths) the day after we arrived in the Netherlands.  It was so nice to be back in the dunes.

IMG_1240

It was not so nice to be back in the wind.

IMG_1252

Welkom in Nederland!

The group I cycled with when I lived in Den Haag, the Not Possibles, is still going strong.  I joined them for their regular Saturday ride.

I say “joined.”  In reality I got dropped within the first five kilometers of leaving DAKA Leidschendam.  I blamed it on the flu bug I picked up in Cuba.

Fortunately Jeff was kind enough to ride with me as I sniffled and coughed my way around the Zoeterwoude-Rijndijk to Hazwerswoude to Kruisweg to Leidschenveen loop, and back to the Coffee Club in Leidschendam.

It was nice to see old friends, and to meet new ones, over a coffee or two.

I rode six more times.  Alone, or with Jeff, or with David and Jeff, and one more time with the Not Possibles.  By that second ride with the Not Possibles I had flushed most of the flu bug out of my system.  I can honestly say that I rode “with” them that day.

What a great place for cycling the Netherlands is.  There are bike paths like this one to explore.

IMG_1270

The countryside is lovely.

IMG_1262

IMG_1243

And of course there is this to look forward to . . .

IMG_1300

Now if the Dutch could find a way to eliminate getting something like this in your tyre, the Netherlands would be absolutely fantastic for cycling :).

IMG_1257

That puncture was a small price to pay for a wonderful week on my bike.  This is what I will remember.

IMG_1272

IMG_1301

Ramadan Rides

We are in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Ramadan.  Which for Muslims means fasting during the daylight hours from dawn to dusk.

The Islamic lunar calendar year is eleven or twelve days shorter than the solar calendar year.  There is no intercalation, or insertion of a leap day, week or month, to realign the lunar calendar with the solar calendar.  So Ramadan migrates through the seasons.

My biker chick and I spent the last two Ramadan months in the Netherlands.  Where the summer daylight hours extend for eighteen or more hours.  There are advantages to being back in Malaysia where there is little variation in the length of the day throughout the year.  Here we have only about fourteen hours between sahur, or the pre-fast meal, and iftar, or the fast-breaking meal.

The length of the fast at this time of the year in northern Europe means that iftar is not until almost 10pm.  So rather than spend the last hours sitting at home thinking about food I would go for an evening bike ride.  Sometimes on my own and sometimes in the company of David or others from the Not Possibles.

Ramadan Ride 1

After a loop like this one, and a shower, I was very ready for that iftar drink and meal.

I did the Saturday morning Not Possibles rides as well.  Those rides were too much fun to miss.  A very large banana and blueberry smoothie at sahur set me up nicely for the ride.  I must admit the post-ride koffie verkeerd and appeltaart at The Coffee Club were tempting.

Ramadan rides in Kuala Lumpur are a bit more challenging because of the heat and humidity.  Fortunately with iftar being at 7.30pm or so there is no need for evening rides to divert the mind from food and drink.  So rather than riding late in the day on an empty stomach, as I did in the Netherlands, I do the Tuesday and Thursday night rides in Kuala Lumpur on a very full stomach.  I am usually eager to get started at 9pm, but during this month I am happy for any delay that adds to my digestion time.

Weekend rides will continue here as well during Ramadan.  The heat and humidity mean that I have to be selective about the routes, and the pace.  The Guthrie Corridor Expressway route is very open and gets too hot for a ride sans hydration.  Which leaves Genting Sempah as the ride of choice.  That route winds though forest so is shaded and breezy.

Photo courtesy of abuomar at http://basikalgunung.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy of abuomar at http://basikalgunung.blogspot.com

Having lots of scenic spots for rest stops helps too.

Photo curtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

There is the elevation to deal with, but if taken at a relaxed pace that isn’t a problem.  Most importantly for my non-fasting riding companions, the nasi lemak shop at the end of the ride is open during Ramadan.

I get to ride during Ramadan, and my non-Muslim friends get their teh tarik.  Everyone is a winner!

Flying the Colors

I thinned down my collection of cycling jerseys when we came home to Kuala Lumpur.  Among the jerseys that I kept were my local club jerseys.  The camaraderie that those jerseys represent makes them near and dear to me.

“Club” sounds a bit formal.  “Group” is a better word.  My first cycling group was West End.  So named because our rides started outside the West End Bicycles shop on Blossom Street in Houston, Texas.  The shop owner, Daniel Murphy, told me about the group and the rides that they do.  There are Tuesday and Thursday evening rides that start at 6.30 pm, and Ted’s Taco Ride on Sunday mornings.

I met Daniel not long after I started cycling.  In my days of riding my Trek 7.5FX hybrid bike in my baggy shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes.  My first ride with the West End group was spectacularly unsuccessful.  I got dropped within the first few kilometers.  Dropped so badly that I lost sight of everyone’s tail lights.  I didn’t know the route so I had to go home.

The next ride went much better.  Largely due to a few riders hanging back to make sure I didn’t get lost again.  I can’t thank them enough for that.

The West End group introduced me to riding further than 16km / 10mi in one go, how to change a flat tube, what to bring with me on a ride, and the culinary delights of Jax Grill and Doña Maria.

West End Bicycles sold these jerseys.  I know about Frank, the dearly-loved and sadly-departed shop cat.  I don’t know anything about the dog in the shop logo though.  I can tell you that the West End group lives up to the motto on the collar.  Fast and Friendly.

West End

There have also been a series of 6.30 jerseys.  Including this one, which I no longer have.  I donated this jersey, along with others, to an aid organization in Den Haag.  Perhaps someone is still sporting this jersey somewhere in South Holland.

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

It took a while to find a group to ride with in Den Haag.  All the Dutch cycling clubs that I encountered were very serious.  In the typically Dutch way they were very well-organised and had excellent facilities.  They were also geared toward the competitive rather than the recreational cyclist.  Some even required that you met a qualifying time for membership.  Ride 40km / 25mi in an hour for instance.

So a year had gone by before I heard of the Not Possibles.  A group made up largely of expatriates living in the Den Haag area.  Weather permitting, the Not Possibles meet outside the DAKA sports store in the Leidsenhage shopping center on Saturday mornings.  The route for the day often depends upon the prevailing wind, and is usually about 40 to 60km / 25 to 37mi long.

Th group was described to me as one that rode at a pace between 20 to 25kph / 12.5 to 15.5mph.  I learned on my first ride with them that this was not strictly true.  They averaged about 25kph / 15.5mph for the entire ride.  Including the slow rolling start from Leidsenhage, the stops at traffic lights and the slow rolling through built-up areas.  I spent most of my first ride with the Not Possibles frantically trying not to lose sight of the tail end of the group as it sped through the trees in the dunes.  This struggling on the first ride was becoming a bad habit.

A few months after I hooked up with the Not Possibles we decided that we needed group jerseys.  This is what we came up with.

Not Possibles

The Not Possibles introduced me to routes north, east and south of Den Haag (west was not possible because the North Sea gets in the way),  riding in the rain, harnessing a tail wind for 60km / 37mi and taking the train to get home, and the delights of apple pie and coffee at the Coffee Club.

I hooked up with a group of cyclists within a few days of arriving in Kuala Lumpur.  As soon as my bikes arrived I was off on a ride with the Racun group.  “Racun” is the Bahasa Malaysia word for “poison.”  In this case the name refers to how people are poisoned by the cycling bug.  One bike becomes two bikes becomes three bikes.  Every bright and shiny new accessory becomes a must-have.

The name is especially appropriate because the Racun group are linked to Van’s Urban Cycling Co.  Where new temptations are constantly presented.  Like the new Knog Blinder Road light.  I am not the only one in the group who is sorely tempted by this light.

The Racun group has introduced me to the world of folding bicycles, urban night rides, breakfast at Sharif Roti Canai, and orange + green apple + lychee juice.

Van’s was sold out of the original yellow and black Racun jerseys.  Fortunately for the new joiners a second batch of jerseys was made up.

Racun

The jerseys may be different, but they represent the same things.  A love of cycling, fun and friendship.  I fly these colors with pride.

Share the Road

I have a “Share the Road” sticker on my car.  It reminds other drivers to do their bit to help make our roads safer for cyclists.

During last Sunday’s ride up Genting Peres I was reminded that cyclists share roads and bike paths with more than just vehicles.  I have encountered enough birds and animals while on my bike to stock a small zoo.

Dogs are of course everywhere.  Fortunately I haven’t been chased by any.  Though I do recall a particularly ornery dog that used to lie in wait on Sylvan Road in Houston for us to ride by.  Our Taco Rides would be enlivened by this dog barking furiously as it burst onto the street.  I keep a wary eye on the feral dogs that roam the back roads of Hulu Langat and Genting Sempah, though I have yet to hear even a whimper out of any of them.

I expected to see more cats than I did in the Netherlands.  A lot of our riding was through villages and towns, but I guess the majority were house cats and therefore weren’t out and about.

Ducks, geese and swans were another matter.  Water birds are everywhere in the Netherlands.  I had to stop frequently for various birds as they ambled across the bike path.  More infrequent were pheasant bolting across the bike paths when we passed too close to their nests.

In Malaysia we come across the occasional chicken trying to cross the road.  The challenge with chickens is that they often change their minds about the direction they want to head in.  I haven’t seen anyone hit a chicken yet, but there have been some near misses.

I’ve had a few near misses with rabbits.  The dunes along the coast north and south of Den Haag teem with baby rabbits in the spring.  The best tasting greenery always seemed to be on the other side of the bike path.  Like chickens, baby rabbits often don’t have the courage of their convictions, and turn around mid-path.  Much to the alarm of cyclists.

The dunes are also home to foxes, which don’t like to be out in the open and move very quickly when exposed.  I saw very few foxes, and when I did it was late in the evening.

The same is true of hedgehogs.  Out late in the evening I mean.  Not moving very quickly.

It was broad daylight when the Not Possibles got the shock of our lives.  A large deer  appeared out of nowhere and ran beside us for a good fifty meters or so before veering off into the bushes and trees of the dunes.

Many bike paths in the Netherlands are shared with people on horseback.  Although to be honest we spent much more time dodging piles of manure than we did skirting around horses and ponies.

I’ve mentioned the monkeys on the roads in Malaysia in previous posts.  Monkeys feature on this sign at the summit of Genting Peres.  It warns road users that this is an area where wild animals cross the road, and lists what drivers should do when animals are on the road..

IMG_1222

I’ve yet to encounter the other two species on this sign.  It would be quite something to share the road with a tapir.

Is This a Cycling Blog or a Food Blog??

I haven’t eaten any satay since I came home to Kuala Lumpur almost six months ago.  I mentioned satay in Another Place to Eat three days ago.  We stopped for satay last night.

Karma?  Coincidence?  You decide.

Tuesday and Thursday nights have become KESAS ride nights.  I wrote about this route, along the Shah Alam Expressway to give the road its proper name, in Another Uncle Wiggily.

WhatsApp is our current messaging medium.  My mobile phone starts pinging with weather updates from 5pm or so.  Confirmation that the ride is on comes at about 7.30pm.  Between then and the 9pm start time the messages are usually of the “I’m on the way” and “Stuck in traffic” variety.  It was no surprise to get a message from Chris at 8.50pm, telling us that Chon and he were close by.  What was unusual was his second sentence.  “Satay ride.  Chon is hungry.”

It turns out that there are two choices for a satay stop.  Both are Sate Kajang Haji Samuri outlets.  The first is about 10km into the ride, at the Taman Kinrara Rest & Service area.  The other is on the opposite side of the expressway at the Awan Besar Rest & Service area.  About 19km from the start.

Chon chose the nearer one.

Sate RR-Kinrarakinrara1

Kajang has been traditionally known as the “Satay Town.”  There was a time when you had to make the 20km drive south from Kuala Lumpur to Kajang to get authentic Kajang satay.  These days there are numerous stalls and shops selling Kajang satay.

Sate Kajang Haji Samuri is a Malaysian equivalent of a fast-food chain.  They have twenty outlets.  Three in Kajang and the rest scattered around the Klang valley, Seremban and Port Dickson.  If the quality of their satay is consistent across all their outlets, they are doing something right.

We had chicken satay.  It came piping hot from the grill.  Tender and juicy, with the right hint of lemongrass in the marinade.  A key part of a good meal is the kuah satay or peanut sauce.  This one was good enough to eat by itself.  And in a nice touch the kuah satay and the sambal, or chilli paste, for the sauce came separately.  So each of us could add as much or as little sambal to our individual bowls as we wanted.  I skip the sambal completely.

We also got a generous serving of cucumber and nasi impit, or compressed rice cakes.  These are the traditional accompaniments to satay.  There was a time when ketupat instead of nasi impit was served with satay.  The difference being ketupat is cooked in a woven palm-leaf pouch, while nasi impit is cooked in a far less labor-intensive plastic pouch.

Satay During Kesas Ride 03

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Happy days for Gary, Chon, Chris and myself!

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

As an aside, the short zip on my Not Possibles jersey may have been adequate for Dutch weather, but it didn’t work so well last night in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.  Especially as we averaged about 32kph getting to the satay, and the same afterward to burn it off.

That satay was worth the effort!

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2012

The 2013 Spring Classics season is almost upon us.  If the current weather conditions in northern Europe are anything to go by, the March races in Belgium may include the snow, sleet, rain and howling winds that, together with the legendary pavé, give Gent – Wevelgem, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (RvV) and Paris – Roubaix their harsh reputations.

So I was thankful that there was no snow or sleet in the lead up to the 2012 RvV cyclosportive. I tried to be better organised than I was for the 2011 edition (click here for that story.)  I looked on-line for group tours to the RvV.  I found one put together by the Gruppo Sportivo Gazzetta.  They were coming from the UK to ride the RvV.  They had block booked accommodation at the family-run Horenbecca Hotel in Horebeke.  Which was within riding distance to the start in Oudenaarde.  Most importantly there was room for up to six Not Possibles if we quickly confirmed our participation.

There were lots of Coffee Club conversations about riding the RvV, but no quick decisions.  By the time Richard and I finally decided we would do it, Gazzetta had already confirmed their numbers with the hotel.  Theresa, my Gazzetta contact, gave me the telephone number of the hotel.  I still had laughter ringing in my ears from my late attempt to book RvV accommodation the year before.  As expected, Luc Wachtelaer, the owner of the Horenbecca, told me that all his rooms were booked.  What I didn’t expect was to be offered space in the almost finished spa that he was adding to the hotel.  “As long as you don’t mind not having any windows” Luc said.

We met the eight Gazzetta members who made the trip across the Channel for dinner at the Horenbecca on Thursday evening.  Luc is an excellent chef.  We knew from the first bite of our evening meal that we would dine at the hotel as often as we could.

RVV 2012 Gazzetta 03

Luc, his wife and his mother kept the food and drink coming late into the night.  Which meant that it was a slow start for some on Friday morning.  After a top-notch breakfast we headed out for what Theresa had described as a warm-up ride.  Richard and I interpreted “warm-up ride” to mean a jaunt of perhaps 30km at a fairly gentle pace.  The reality was a little different.  We covered about 90km, including two climbs up the Kapelmuur.  “Just for fun,” as that famed climb was not part of the 2012 RvV route.

I was grateful that those two climbs were split by an excellent pasta lunch and a couple of coffees in Geraardsbergen.

We rode over a few cobbled stretches, including one bumpy descent before lunch where I lost the bolt that joins my non-drive side seat stay and chain stay.  I must say that I was very impressed with the strength of the aptly named Columbus Muscle carbon rear triangle.

Columbus

Despite one seat stay and chain stay no longer being connected the rear triangle didn’t snap and collapse.  The only clue that something was amiss was the smell of hot rubber from my rear tire rubbing against the non-drive side chain stay.  There was a bit of a wobble but that was masked by the bouncing around on the cobbles.

That could have marked the demise of my weekend.  So I was doubly grateful for the help Neil provided.  He hoisted my frame, sans wheels and water bottles, onto his shoulder and rode to the nearest bike shop to look for a replacement bolt.  Forty five minutes later he was back with my repaired frame.  What a star!

Neil on the left

Neil on the left

Richard and I woke up on Saturday a bit worse for wear from the previous day’s exertions.  Nothing that a good breakfast couldn’t fix though.  We had opted for the 87km route.  Our new Gazzetta friends were all doing the 138km route.  So the only part of the ride that we shared was the 10km to the start in Oudenaarde.

It doesn’t look it from this photo but 15,345 riders from 32 countries rode the 2012 RvV.  Granted not everyone started in Oudenaarde.  3,000 hardy souls rode the full 244km course that started in Bruges.

RVV 2012 Start

Richard is an avowed BMC fan.  The morning started out well for him!

RVV 2012 Richard at BMC

It was a fairly cold morning, though thankfully without rain, sleet or snow.  So Richard and I were bundled up as we left Oudenaarde.

RVV 2012 083953_hires

It wasn’t long before we were warming up.

RVV 2012 095214_hires

A ride profile like this is guaranteed to generate some heat, but it never warmed up enough for us to take our jackets off.

RVV 2012 87km Profile

The 87km route had more than enough climbing in it.  Despite the pretty views . . .

RVV 2012 Climb 02

. . . some of the climbs were tough, . . .

RVV 2012 Koppenberg Sign 02

so we made sure we followed the correct arrows!

RvV 2012 Directions

There were lots of these on the course.

RVV 2012 3S

Some research revealed that they were for Dries Devenyns (3 S = Drie S). Dries is from the village of Kluisbergen, which is all of 13kms from the race finish in Oudenaarde.

We also saw this gentleman pushing his draisine along.  He may be Czech, but he is a true Flandrien.  He put the rest of us, including the penny-farthing rider, to shame.

RVV 2012 Draisine 01

Richard and I rolled into the finish seven hours after we started.

RVV 2012 133445_hires

Despite having eaten at every rest stop we were starving.  We passed on the offerings at the finish . . .

RVV 2012 Food Bus

. . . and rode into Oudenaarde, past the marching band . . .

RVV 2012 Band 01

. . . to where else in Belgium but . . .

RVV 2012 Frietshop

for a heaping portion of double-fried frites.  We were thusly fortified to make it up the final climb to the hotel.  A ride to Horebeke in one of these would have been appreciated though.

RVV 2012 Helicopter

The next morning we all kept an ear out for the thump-thump of helicopters.  The RvV race route would twice bring the riders near the Horenbecca Hotel.  The approaching helicopters signaled the imminent arrival of the breakaway group, the chasing peloton and everything that accompanied it.

This was a great finish to a memorable weekend.  Hopefully I can repeat the experience one of these years.

UCI Worlds Cyclosportive 2012

The UCI Road World Championships came to Limburg in the Netherlands in September 2012.  A number of Not Possibles signed up for the Toertocht or Cyclosportive.

UCI Toertocht Graphic

Thomas and some of his riding buddies came all the way from Aberdeen to join Christine, David, Richard, Rogier and I, along with some 7,000 other enthusiasts, at the start in Landgraaf.  We were all looking forward to riding over the Worlds course . .

UCI Toertocht Route

and tackling some of the vaunted climbs like the Bemeleberg and the Cauberg.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 05

We rolled over the start line at about 8.20am.  We wouldn’t see Thomas and his friends again until the end of the ride.  As for myself, this shot is misleading.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 082352a

By the time I was 10km into the ride I was not looking so happy.  I was struggling to keep up with the others.  So much so that I began to worry that at the rate I was going, I would not make the time cutoff for the 170km route that we were attempting.  Fortunately whatever it was that was making me feel unwell passed, and I caught up to Christine and the rest of the group at the first rest stop.  No doubt the waffles there helped!

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 03

About halfway into the ride David and I spotted a group of riders sporting the Dutch colours.  We picked up the pace and caught up with them.  We started chatting a learned that they were members of the Dutch junior team.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 120625a

We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for keeping pace with riders from the Dutch national junior squad.  That is until they decided it was time to stop dawdling and shot off down the road.

We all made it over the 1,500 meters of climbing, including the iconic Cauberg, which would be the final climb before the finish of the mens’ and womens’ elite races.  Fortunately we didn’t have to ride up the Cauberg ten times like the elite racers would have to in their races.  When we crossed the finish line I was able to strike the pose I had at the start.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 163334

Rogier and I at the finish with our finisher’s certificates and medals.

UCI World Championship Sportive 2012 01

Lastly here’s the video of this ride in which some of my Not Possibles friends appear.