Friday, November 21, 2014

Seven is Heaven


The saying time flies when you are having fun is so true, especially when it comes to pursuing and blogging about one's passion. It has been a really quick 7 years since my first post on Lovethefold and I am amazed that it is still going, albeit at a much slower pace gauging by the number of postings made this year. Blame it on general busyness, other pursuits or distractions but at least I got all the major adventures logged! That said, the readership has surprisingly not fallen that much, averaging at 7000 per month last year to about 6500 this year. For that, I am very grateful for all your support.

Reflecting on 2014, it began with the ultimate adventure - The 1000 Hills Ride through Northern Thailand. This was memorable and will continue to be so for a long time as the the climbs were really tough, almost akin to climbing a wall.

Pic KC

All 6 of us came home champions especially the 3 touring newbies, Ian, Anne and Jan. I almost feel guilty that their first initiation to touring overseas was so darn tough. Without going for Basic Military Training, they parachuted straight into the Ranger course - and survived intact!

I am so proud of them and what is encouraging is that Jan (& Pete) joined me once again for another adventure in August. 500km from Phuket to Chumphon through torrential monsoon rains across beautiful Southern Thailand with our team of 7.

Pic KC

We celebrated the end of our ride in style by chilling in balmy Ko Tao island and did an amazing 600km overnight train ride to Penang where we met up with more friends and family where we ate too much. Penang is undisputedly the food capital of the world, as confirmed by Lonely Planet.

Though all the adventures are special, the one that really took the cake this year must be Taiwan with the chirpy Spring Riders. Our big team of 17 led very capably by Ying Chang, rode literally the whole East Coast covering 600+km over 9 days.

This is my second tour there and it confirmed for me that this is perhaps the best destination for bicycle touring. Amazing scenery, great climate, superb infrastructure (dedicated long distance train with bike carriage for instance), friendly people, quaint accommodation and great cuisine. Though I was apprehensive about joining such a big group, it turned out great fun for most of us and I deepened some beautiful friendships.

It is no surprise then that those who made the effort to give, share and care in a group end up enjoying the most, and the inverse is true. There is wisdom indeed not just in touring but in life, that it is better to give than to receive. To live for more than oneself makes all the difference to the team, and to ourselves.

Two minor tours were done in Malaysia, one pre-Chinese New Year ride in February to Malacca with many newbies and a recent one to Mersing in October, aptly called the Legend Ride. I had the privilege to ride with Heng of Audax fame and the venerable, unconquerable Uncle KC where I never had to ride so hard and so fast. We also did a marvellous 2 day tour from Busselton to Dunsborough in Western Australia with Rod, Patrick and Pete in Sept.

My latest acquisition bicycle wise (#13) is a practical Bridgestone Jobno Mamachari that I lugged all the way from Matsumoto Japan 11 months ago. I wanted a souvenir from Japan and didn't expect to buy such a big one. It's 5 speed internal gear hub, lightning with intelligence, dynamo hub, auto steering lock and great Japanese finishing meant I had to own this important icon of Nippon. O yes, did I mention the stainless steel front basket?

If I was asked to name only one thing that I truly enjoy most about cycling foldies, I have to say it is the people that I am privileged to meet. New friends who sometimes grow to become firm and priceless friends. They truly are God's gifts to me and fill my life with so much joy and laughter. Proverbs 17:17 instructs us that a friend loves at all times and I hope we all become such friends to one another.

As Lovethefold turns seven, it is my wish that this written expression of my passion for cycling and life will inspire you - to be a little more curious about our wonderful world that is waiting to be discovered, to be a little more motivated to get on the saddle and wear out those tires and perhaps to be a little more bold in meeting and embracing new people. Time may move quickly but the wonderful moments and memories that God allows us to enjoy together on our small wheels will stay with us forever!

That in itself, is a bit of heaven experienced already, don't you think?

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Newbie no more

It is always wonderful to introduce newbies to the wonderful world of cycling. Last Saturday, we had a new friend Hui join us for a spot of cycling. She is from Taiwan and sister of my ride buddy YC. She and her nephew are here in Perth for a holiday and what better way of enjoying Perth than to explore on a bicycle.

Trouble was that she had not ridden more than 3km. An accident some time back also made her loose confidence, which was very understandable. Challenge is how do we get her to the Lo Quay Cafe at Fern Bridge and back, some 18km without her fainting or dying from exhaustion if ever that happens?

Here is where my Prodeco E-bike comes to the rescue. I told Hui don't worry, anything happens you hop onto this and your worries are over. With that, she felt very assured and our group of 6 headed out to the beautiful Shelley Foreshore. It was a glorious late Spring day and the sun was shining nicely at a lovely 23c.

I made sure we took breaks at 5km and 8km for pictures and when I asked Hui if she was feeling ok, she smiled cheerfully, "No problem!"  We were very blessed to be able to get a table on a busy Saturday morning at the famous cafe and enjoyed our coffees.

Our return home was easy enough too. It was to be a last 500m gradual climb back to my home and I offered Hui the Prodeco. She gallantly and politely refused and managed to make it back in one piece, surprised that she broke her previous record of 3km by 6 times!

Perhaps it was the wonderful scenery, excellent bike path, great company, cool weather all put together but the most important thing was that Hui had fun. We will be cycling again this Sat for the Jacaranda Festival at Applecross, and I'm delighted to say that Hui is a newbie no more.

Pic - marinos

Thursday, November 13, 2014

An unnecessary death

Rod and I were cycling along the beautiful bike path at Cottesloe admiring the emerald blue waters and expansive beach when we were stopped in our tracks by this bicycle memorial. A white "ghost" bike honours the memory of a young man Tim Anderson who sought to make a difference in this world.

This 26yo bright chemical engineer was killed at 8pm  in March 2012 while cycling along Curtin Ave by a hit and run drunk driver. He was training for a charity ride. Tim had all the safety gear (lights, hi visible clothes, helmet) but all that did not help as the driver was stoned drunk. He had been drinking in a Fremantle pub for 4 hours. What made it worse was that the drunk driver was racing with another car at 100km/h on a 60km/h zone.

Although the culprit was caught and jailed for 5 years, I can only imagine the pain, loss and grief his family faced and still are facing. The loss of a son is unimaginable. We were very touched to see this beautiful memorial put up for Tim and to encourage safe driving. It stands out with its gleaming white life-size bicycle overlooking the beautiful ocean. A memorial ride will be held this Sat Nov 15.

Which makes me think about bicycle safety and all those who have lost their lives needlessly to drunk drivers, particularly my buddy the late Paul Lim. I am very glad that the authorities are slowly paying more than lip service to making it safer for bicycles on the road and while demarcated bike lanes are good, the key is to separate the cyclists completely from drivers. This is the Dutch way and I reckon the best way to prevent drunk drivers from killing yet another cyclist.

Sadly as much as I hope not, you can be sure there will be a few more unnecessary deaths in the future.  Meanwhile, please ride safe and may God's protection be upon all of us. And yes, live life well and like the late Tim, let us all try to make a difference in our world with whatever God has given us.

A beautiful song dedicated to his friend Paul by CW.


Update 14/11/14 - A dear friend just brought to my attention that her former boss, an avid cyclist and a Professor at Curtin University was hit by a car from behind as she was cycling along King's Park Road about 2 weeks ago.  Tragically, shared roads somehow do not work very well unless cars and cyclists can learn to accommodate one another better. Given the "war" between both parties, this will be a real challenge.

Pic Ian Munro - The West Australian

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Folding to Mersing Part 2 - 55km

Pic KC

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One of the pleasures in any Malaysian town is the wide variety of breakfast options available and Mersing typifies this. We had wanted the traditional Dim Sum but because we all slept in a bit, KC’s usual eatery was all sold out. The early bird certainly catches the dumplings here but we were not too disappointed as we still have tomorrow. Plan B warranted us to step into another coffeeshop teeming with people and for good reason. There were a variety of stalls selling all types of fare and we settled on the ubiquitous Wanton Noodles. For $4 RM, it delightfully satisfied our stomachs as well as our wallets.

Today was a leisurely one as all we wanted to do was not so much cycling but sightseeing. Our first stop however was to book our bus tickets for our return journey which was easily done. The bus station is just off the roundabout and we were spoilt for choice as there are quite a few companies offering the Mersing – Larkin JB route. Here is where the economic theory of Adam Smith's invisible hand becomes reality. At RM $12.60 or US$4 for a 150km journey, this is only possible because of competition.

The last time I really explored Mersing must have been in the 1990s and Air Papan, some 12 km north, was just a sleepy beach with a few huts. There is now a beautiful road that hugs the coast north of Mersing and we enjoyed spinning our wheels with the sea on our right, laced with shady Causarina and Coconut Trees. I was happy to see greater Mersing blossoming slowly with many shops, restaurants, resorts and even a brand new housing estate. A congregation of cars and motorcycles ahead piqued my curiosity. We stopped to see what was happening and happily stumbled upon a mini fish market. The morning boats must have returned and up for sale was all sorts of freshly caught fish including crabs, sting rays and a grouse looking gigantic cat fish that looked right out of a horror movie.

Pic KC

Continuing on, we hit a T junction and a right turn across green and open padi fields some 3km brought us to Air Papan. Despite being a weekday, the beach had a fair share of holiday makers and vendors selling drinks, ice cream and snacks. We resisted the temptations as our engines were hardly warmed up and rode another 1km to the end of beach where it was peaceful and deserted. I took the opportunity to wet my feet in warm clear waters of the South China Sea like I always do to "connect" with God's majestic creation.

Meanwhile Heng and KC were busy feeding their cameras. KC as usual, came up with his unique soon-to-be patented water-bottle camera stand. And it works, when there is no wind blowing! 

Pushing on northwards, the beautiful road towards Penyabong runs parallel to Highway 3 on the inland and ends near Endau. Heng tells me that this is a stretch his roadie friends use for training and I can see why. Rolling hills, very little traffic and smooth, like green velvet on a billiard table. Like Porsches on an Autobahn, we opened up our throttles. Drafting behind Uncle KC, we were sitting on a very respectable 30-35km/h on our foldies, hitting 40+ on the downslopes. It was an exhilarating workout for me. However as it was past 1pm, the sun was really starting to blaze.

Pic KC

KC led us to his favourite spot, an island which was accessible by a narrow land strip. This required us to do a bit of on beach riding which was rather fun. I cannot help but marvel at how our simple bicycle opens up such wonderful avenues of adventure. 

As usual, KC had fun clowning around the mangrove swamp but I was getting really famish. I noted the one and only Warung (a Malay eatery) opened for business some 3km down the road and told the boys to meet me there. At this time, it was hovering about 40c and I thought I was going to faint as I cycled slowly to the oasis of sustenance.

My face must have been crimson red when I pulled into the cool shade of the Warung and the ice cold tea tasted like heaven. When I finally settled, I got up to the trays of food displayed and chose a simple lunch of rice and Assam Pedas Fish. Though hungry, it was really too hot to eat. 

Heng and KC pulled in soon after. Apparently, they had a great time fooling around together with a kampong game. All hot and sweaty, they too could not eat a full lunch but chose to nibble on cakes and savouries. But one thing that we really enjoyed was ABC – Air Batu Campor or mixed ice topped with sweet colourful syrup and that really did the trick.

Pic KC

Revived, we were ready to take off once more but a circus of sorts pulled into the Warung. Before our eyes were a whole lorry load of alpha male monkeys. I have read about these expert coconut pickers and have never seen these clever animals up close. They each had a chain around their neck and looked rather forlorn. Who wouldn’t if all you do is to climb up trees and pluck coconuts that you can’t eat? If there was any consolation, their master appeared to feed them well as they looked very healthy.

Pic KC

Our ride back was another no holds bar sprint along the Air Papan Autobahn. However, the clouds started to turn dark and unloaded with a vengeance. One moment its searing hot and the next its blistering wet and cold. Experiencing such extremities in weather would make anyone fall sick but fortunately, our health held up. Though I was soaked to the skin, this was far better than riding in desert like conditions!

Pic KC

Arriving at the Embassy Hotel, I hit the showers and rested. Heng had taken another route while KC was busy exploring the port of Mersing. I really admire his sense of curiosity, and zest for life. We later rode to the main jetty which is the launching point for Tioman and other lovely islands. Then it was a quick climb to the beautiful main Mosque in town.

At the roundabout, we stumbled upon Sarawak Noodles which turned out to be average. I found it a bit too dry and we went searching for dinner part 2. As we were roving the streets, I noticed a very famous Cantonese restaurant Loke Tien Yuen all lighted up with its 2 red lanterns, inviting us in. 

It is renowned for traditional home cook food, super clean premises and down to earth prices. I have been there quite a few times before on our fishing trips and got acquainted with its friendly owner, Margaret Siew. It was like a homecoming as we chatted like long lost friends. It was a pity that our stomachs were already half filled so we could only order 3 signature dishes. 

That dinner was by far the best and truly brought us immense joy as we cleaned out the dishes. Heng was caught slurping the last drops of gravy of the black bean bittergourd pork rib dish.

We went to bed feeling very pleased at how well our day of exploration unfolded. Determined to wake up early for Dim Sum breakfast, we turned in early and slept like logs.

There is always something magical about Dim Sum. It is not just a place to enjoy amazing treats but it is the social epicentre of the Chinese community in Mersing, at least it appeared so in the busy coffeeshop we were in. Everyone seemed to know each other and exchange greetings, very much like a traditional village in China. We were served by a very kind elderly grandma who made sure we had enough tea, and always offering a smile. 

As our bus only left at 1130am, we had all the time in the world and ate leisurely, just like the locals who did not seem to be in any hurry. We had time to slowly pack our stuff and then reluctantly make our way to the bus terminal.

It was easy to fit the foldies into the bus luggage area but what was a real pain dealing with a very greedy and rude driver. "RM$10 each per bike! " he barked and scowled at us like we were some pariah passengers. I still don't understand his arrogant attitude but I gave his assistant RM$20 for 3 bikes, and that seemed to keep his mouth shut.

If ever there is a take home lesson here, it is to always bag your foldy to prevent psychopath drivers from getting unnecessarily stirred up. Our friend Chris Wee had this problem too in the Thai hamlet of Ranong bus terminal some years back with some bus boy.

We arrived at Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor at 145pm in what was an effortless ride. Joining us to celebrate the end of our adventure was Ying Chang who rode all the way from Singapore to meet us for lunch on his Dahon.

He had very much wanted to join us earlier but could not due to family commitments. So he being there with us on our last lunch as well as our first dinner meant a lot to us.

I can think of no better way to finish our folding adventure than to enjoy a spicy bowl of Laksa with great friends, who happen to be cycling legends too!

Thank you so much Heng, KC and YC for an amazing tour. Till we ride again... 


This song is dedicated to the 2 legends I rode with. Yes, we have seen the rain! Lots and lots!!!