RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Titiwangsa Range

Small Chainring + Biggest Cog

The first road bike I owned was equipped with a standard 53 / 39 chainring and an 11 – 25 cassette.  That was seven years ago in the flatlands of Houston, Texas.  I was fifty two years old.


Two years later I moved to Den Haag.  North Holland is not noted for hills, but South Holland and Belgium are.  A trip in April 2011 to the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportif introduced me to the many short, sharp hellingen which have made that race one of the Monuments of professional cycling. The Muur van Geraardsbergen featured that year, with its maximum gradient of 19.8%.

There were other hilly events to be ridden in the year to come.  One was the Amstel Gold sportif down in the corner of South Holland that shares a border with Belgium to the west and south, and Germany to the east.  Another was the sportif which preceded the 2012 UCI World Championships, held that year in Limburg, South Holland.

My first encounter with the hills of Belgium convinced me that I needed lower gearing on my bike the next time I ventured south to ride.  A few months later I had a second road bike.  Equipped with a compact 50 / 34 chainring and an 11 – 28 cassette.


At the end of 2012 I moved back to Kuala Lumpur.  Where any ride to the north or east of the city means venturing into the foothills of the Titiwangsa Mountains.  These mountains are molehills compared to the Pyrenees, the Alps, or the Rockies, but they do present more than enough of a challenge for my now fifty nine year old knees.

My rides these days are on a bike with a compact crank and an 11 – 32 cassette.


Photograph courtesy of Alchemy Bicycle Co.

I use the 34 tooth chainring – 32 tooth cog combination quite a lot.  On yesterday’s ride from Batu Lapan Belas to Titi and back for instance.  This is the elevation along the route we took.


Graphic courtesy of veloviewer.

The climb to the summit of Genting Peras “officially” starts at the Simpang Peras T-junction.  The warm up for the climb proper is the 50 meters / 165 feet of elevation over the 1.5km / 1mi on Jalan Sungai Lui before Simpang Peras.

This is Lay, Eugene and I heading into the mist on the lower slopes of Genting Peras.


Photograph courtesy of Danial

9km / 5.5mi and 404 meters / 1,325 feet of elevation later Marco and the rest of the group were catching our collective breaths at the summit.


Photograph courtesy of Danial

The first time I did this ride, I thought that the 13km / 8mi from the summit to Kampong Kongkol was all downhill.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the descent is broken into three sections, with 200 meters / 656 feet of climbing between sections.

Of course we had to take the scenic way from Kampong Kongkol to Titi.  Through Kampung Chennah and Kampong Puom.  That is the loop to the right in the elevation graphic above.

It is a very pretty ride down into the valley formed by the Sungai Kongkol to Kampung Chennah, and then along the Sungai Kenaboi until Kampung Temelang.  The road is bordered by a series of small villages, rubber plantations, goat farms, oil palm estates and a durian orchard.  Then you have to pull yourself out of the valley and back up to Jalan Kuala Klawang – Semenyih.


Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

The view back across the valley is worth the climb.


Photograph courtesy of Simon Soohu

There are a number of good Hakka kopitiams (coffee shops) in Titi.  We were very ready for our breakfast of pan mee, soft-boiled eggs, toast with kaya and iced coffee by the time we sat down.


Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

Titi is one of those small Malaysian towns far from a major highway, where time passes slowly.  As illustrated by the sign and chick blinds at this shop across the road from our kopitiam.  Along with the usual necessities:  clothes (baju), shoes (kasut), and fabric (kain), Ho Keng Kee sells a much more unusual item.  Rubber tapping knives (pisau penoreh).


Photograph courtesy of Evelyn Bird

You don’t come across this in your local supermarket.


All that remained after breakfast was the little matter of 650 meters / 2,130 feet of climbing back to the summit of Genting Peras.

In preparation we filled our bottles with fresh coconut water and ice from a stall in Titi.  Notice the pink funnel.  They must fill a lot of bottles for cyclists.


Photograph courtesy of Eugene.

Then it was small chainring + largest cog time for the 13km / 8mi from Kampung Kongkol to the summit of Genting Peras.  We regrouped and had a bit of a rest at the summit.  Then we all rolled safely down the mountain and over the final 11km / 7mi to Batu Lapan Belas.

The odds are I will be in the small chainring + biggest cog during my next ride.  My knees aren’t getting any younger.

Durian Fiesta Ride

September 2013 has turned into a month for metric century rides.  Yesterday Chris, Keat, Mark, Raj, Seow and I joined Dave Ern and about twenty-five other riders on a hunt for durians.

Durian Fiesta Banner

Photograph courtesy of Dave Ern

The durian is known as the King of Fruits in Malaysia.  Durian is a seasonal fruit, generally available  in Malaysia from June to August and from end November to January.  Its popularity has led to extensive cloning and farming, not just in Malaysia but throughout South-East Asia.  One result is that durians can now be bought all year round, although supply is limited and aficionados will tell you that the quality of the fruit in the off-season is variable.

Keat,  Raj, Seow, Mark, photographer Chris and I started from the BHP petrol station in Kampung Bukit Tinggi.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

The route that Dave Ern had planned took us downhill along the old Bentong Road.  I travelled this road many many times as a child.  Then it was the only way to get from Kuala Lumpur to points east of the Titiwangsa Range, which bisects the peninsula from north to south.

Durian Fiesta Route

After about twelve kilometers the road levelled out, and it was relatively flat from the Bentong Hot Spring near Kampung Temiang to the town of Bentong.

Durian Fiesta Bentong

We made a refuelling stop at Bentong.  Kedai Kopi Phoon is famous for its wanton noodles.  Definitely finger-licking good.

Durian Fiesta Kedai Kopi Phoon

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The plan had been to continue on to the town of Raub while a support car drove on ahead scouting for durian stalls.  Seven kilometers north of Bentong we got word that there were no durians to be found up the road toward Raub.  So we turned off the Bentong to Raub road and rode toward Kampung Baru Sang Lee instead.

We made an unscheduled stop just after that turn.  Raj and I watched as Keat replaced his punctured rear inner tube.  In case you think that I was not helpful, I did lend Keat my pump. 🙂

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Kampung Baru Sang Lee is surrounded by extensive durian orchards.  The village does not hide its claim to fame.

Durian Fiesta Kampung Baru Sang Lee

We found lots of durians at a large roadside stall in the village.

Durian Fiesta Fruit

Unfortunately these were already loaded onto a lorry, ready to be hauled away to a wholesaler somewhere.  There was precious little left to be eaten at the stall.  The durian lovers amongst us had to make do with sharing just a couple of fruit.

Durian Fiesta Eating

So the Durian Fiesta Ride was a disappointment for anyone who had hoped to feast on the fruit.  But the ride was a lot of fun nonetheless.

This was the first metric century for Chris.

Durian Fiesta Chris Return

For Raj and Seow too.  It was a very hot day, but we had shaded and quiet roads for the most part.

Durian Fiesta Turnaround

Quiet for the most part.  Every now and then we had one of these for company.

Durian Fiesta Lorry

I overtook this lorry before slowing down to take this photograph.  As the lorry swept past I saw Mark behind it, being sucked along in the slipstream.  I have never been motor-paced by an eighteen-wheeler before.  Mark and I had a blast effortlessly hitting 50kph plus behind this lorry.  Later we latched onto the back of an oil tanker for another tow.  The experience of being pulled along at speed was worth all the dust we ate.

We stopped at a Shell station in Bentong to wash the dust out of our throats.  This is now my mid-ride drink of choice.

Durian Fiesta Chocolate Milk

As I downed a half-liter of cold chocolate milk I noticed this display next to the cash register.  What first caught my eye was the collection of mini-LEGO cars and trucks.  Then I saw what the toys were sitting on.  PowerBars and PowerGels.

Durian Fiesta Shell Station

This petrol station must attract a lot of cyclists.

The day got hotter and windier.  Just as the road started tilting upward south of Bentong.  We regrouped at the Bentong Hot Spring.  Sadly the suspension bridge across the Benus River makes a more interesting photograph that the Hot Spring does.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Benus Bridge

The last photo op was the small waterfall four kilometers from the end of the ride.

Durian Fiesta Waterfall

The section of the ride between Kampung Bukit Tinggi and Kampung Rasia is the nicest.  All the traffic across the Titiwangsa Range is now carried by the Karak Highway.  What is left is a peaceful road that follows the arcs and curves of the Benus and Tanglir rivers, hemmed in by primary and secondary jungle.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Kenung

Everybody made it back to the BHP petrol station at Kampung Bukit Tinggi.  Tired and hot, but glad to have made the trip.  It was a very pleasant century ride, despite the shortage of durians.