Tuesday, September 27, 2016

East West Adventure Ride of Malaysia - Prelude

5 hrs by car, 5 days by bicycle!
Image result for hentian titiwangsa

Note the climbs!

It is said that remoteness often bring about amazing beauty. The highway that joins the east coast of Northern Malaysia to the west coast from Kota Bahru to Penang was nominated as the top 3 bicycle routes in Malaysia and a last minute window of opportunity opened for me to attempt this 350 km route.

The highway took a long time to build, started in 1970 but finished only in 1982 as it traversed through 2 formidable mountain ranges, the Bintang and the Titiwangsa. Also it required bridges to be built over the huge Lake Temengor. Skirting the border of Thailand, this area was also the stronghold of the Malaysian Communist Party that fought a guerrilla war against the Colonial Government from 1947 to 1989 resulting in the sabotages and even deaths of workers and soldiers. 

There is a plague that honours those who lost their lives and it reads,

                            THE GREATEST SACRIFICE, 

The East West Highway (Gerik - Jeli) was opened to traffic on 1st July 1982. Many lives have been lost during the construction which was implemented in 1970. Some people have died during work accidents and some people were attacked by communist terrorists.
At this location, about 63 bulldozers were blown up by the communist terrorists on 23 May 1974. At this location also three JKR workers were killed and several others wounded in an ambush on 27th August 1974. Several other attacks have occurred along the highway involving the JKR workers and security forces. We commemorate those who have sacrifice their lives for the construction of the East West Highway.

For this trip, I have decided to use my zhnged up Bike Friday Tikit 16" folding bicycle which has just been fitted with a front derailleur to enable better climbing. This is very essential as it will be a ride with many climbs especially from Jeli to the top of Hentian Titiwangsa which is a 40km climb. I have also fitted 2 water-bottle mounts as unlike other parts of Malaysia, it is pretty remote and I don't want to be caught with insufficient water.

Because we will be travelling by coach from Singapore to Kota Bahru, a long 12 hour journey and returning also by coach, the folded Tikit will be able to fit inside the belly of the bus with ease. It is also one of the few 16" foldies that can take Ortlieb panniers and has 16 speeds.
I am very honoured to have the ageless Sir KC to accompany me for this epic EWAR and he will be riding his Bike Friday Llama. KC has just ridden from Singapore to Hat Yai, a gruesome 1100km journey 3 weeks ago and is battle fit unlike me whose fitness has somewhat languished due to the cold winter in Perth that made training difficult. Thank God KC is a very patient man and is probably been on the most LTF Adventures with me.

Day 1 - Spore to Kota Bharu to Tanah Merah. The game plan is to see if the coach can drop us off at Tanah Merah, some 60km south of Kota Bahru. Failing this, we shall have to cycle this distance immediately after arrival at 7-8am. There is a beautiful new hotel there called the Humaira which looks impressive and comfortable.
Day 2 - Tanah Merah to Jeli, 60km. Accommodation options are rather limited to either the Hotel Jeli Inn or D'Jeli Hotel, both very basic and simple in a one horse town.
Day 3 - Jeli to Hentian Titiwangsa, 57km. This is essentially the toughest stage which has the longest climb for over 50km and some CGOAB tourers got winded after making it to the top. 37km there may be a restaurant but there is a highway rest stop there which serves food and drinks but more importantly offers spectacular views of the mountain ranges. I'm not sure what physical stage we will be in but the option of camping is available and some have chosen to do this. The temptation to camp is the reward of an amazing sunrise!

HT to Banding Lakeside Inn, 32km. This is an easy downhill to BLI across the beautiful lakes and long bridges. Should be very scenic and fun descending for 20km!


Day 4 or 5, Banding to Gerik, 41km. More climbs maybe 8km stretch but Gerik is a fairly large town with a good choice of hotels. We were there 2 years ago enroute to Betong, Thailand.

Day 5 or 6, Gerik to Butterworth, 120km. We will try to ride this leg and it will be a challenge but once again, we are not in a hurry and can always stop along one of the small towns if needed.

Penang, a ferry ride from Butterworth will be our reward with its amazing food and we will chill there for a day before taking the overnight bus back to Singapore.

We get on the bus in less than 10 hours time and will be on our Fridays for a week! We can't wait for EWAR to begin.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Spring mounting to King's Park


After what seems like a long winter, spring is finally here. This early part of spring is probably the best as we still get wintery nights (it was 4c yesterday) but with lovely sunny and cool days, of 16-18c. This is also a great time to see wildflowers here in Western Australia and today, we set off to do just that. Witness the wildflower bloom at King's Park.

It was great to meet up again with Frank and Carolen under Mt Henry Bridge for the 12km ride to KP via excellent bikepath that runs along the Kwinana Freeway. When I left home it was under 10c and a bit nippy but the weather settled to a cool 15c morning with blue sunny skies. It was wonderful to ride with a strong tail wind and we were flying at 27-28km/h without any effort. It was amazing that we got to the turn-off at Mount Street in 30 mins flat!


For those who know, Mount Street is named so appropriately because it is one of the steepest hills in Perth. Many roadies come here to train and my young friend Lance, a top class competitive roadie was here with his mates earlier. There is even a video made called "Chain Breaker"...

We had to gather ourselves and prepare mentally to climb this chain breaker hill. It did not help when a young lady on a roadie pulled up where we were, took a look at the hill, got discouraged and wanted to turn back. I told her "Let's do it together!" and so off we went. Frank on his KHS T3 went off first, followed by Ms Roadie, then I on my humble 7 speed Giant with Carolen also on a KHS T3 taking the rear.

Frank charged up like a rocket and it was discouraging to see him so far. It helps when you have age or the lack off, on your side. But when it comes to climbing, it is always best to do so at your own pace. I was very skeptical that my coffee-mug carrier could do this climb as the gearing was meant for cafe rides but moments like this, I had to draw from my experience to make this work.

I started off fast to get the Giant Momentum to live up to it's name and settled at a steady pace. This worked well until half way up when no amount of pedal pushing could propel the bike forward. No wonder granny gears were invented for such a time like this and the KHS foldies had them! Just like sailing against the wind, tagging a hill can be helpful and I used this technique to go up. Ms Roadie meanwhile who was left behind caught up with me and panted her way up.

It was so satisfying to finally make it to the top and it was great to see that Carolen was still chugging up. She had a serious injury 9 months ago and to see her recover, so determined and making the climb was heart warming. We celebrated with a drink from out water bottles and cruised up easily the rest of the way to King's Park where Frank was waiting for us, looking a bit bored.


Well deserved coffees all around at the cafe and I brought along some special Grapefruit Butter Cake which my friends Ray and Caroline baked for me, to celebrate our achievement. It is always special to catch up with good friends over a cycling coffee break like this.


Indeed, the flowers at King's Park were at full bloom and I was worried my Hay Fever would attack with a vengeance. Thank God it behaved itself somewhat and I managed to shoot these lovely pics.

Returning was much harder as we had to battle the headwinds but after climbing Mount Street, headwinds were relatively easy. We stopped to admire the Pelicans basking in the sun before heading home.

Truly one could not ask for a better Spring day to cycle and mount Mount Street, in the company of good mates! Days like these are given to us by our Creator to enjoy and seeing all these beautiful flowers really lifts up the soul. More importantly, they serve as a reminder of God's great love and care for all of us.


If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers - most of which are never ever seen - don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Matt 28:30-33  The Message

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mirror mirror on the ball...

Image result for bicycle mirrors road bikes
Pic - www.felixwong.com

Age must be catching up on me as I have been nursing a rather stiff neck. I find it difficult to look behind my right shoulder, something that we normally do not do, unless we are cycling in traffic. It is so important to check visually before we swerve left or right on the road to change lanes or cross the road etc especially when there are fast moving cars around.

With my aching neck, every time I turn to check while cycling can be a rather painful affair. I do not know why it took me so long to attach a simple handlebar mirror on my Momentum bicycle but pain can be a very powerful motivator. Just taking the newly mounted mirror for a test ride, this particular one which I got for $5 or so at Changi Village Singapore, proved to be worth every cent and more.


It is so reassuring to hear, see and then expect traffic creeping or zooming past you and we can then make the necessary safety adjustments on the road. Being able to keep an eye on your mates who are cycling behind you is also a good thing. If they are out of sight, we can slow down or stop if needed instead of squirreling down the road and then wondering what happened?

Just a quick check on e-Bay will show a myriad of bicycle mirrors, some as cheap as $1.29 so really, there is no excuse of not getting one.


Some may say that having a mirror on a bicycle is optional, perhaps so uncool even and really being too much on the ball. But I would say having one in traffic is as essential as having good lights at night and perhaps even more so than a helmet.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Getting that cycling "visa" from the wife...

The most prized Visa given to my dear buddy by his loving wife on his birthday!


Here's a big THANK YOU to our amazing wives!


Pic fm Rev Dan Lee

For those of  you who are married to a wife that loves to cycle, this blog post is not for you. You guys are so blessed as anytime you want to go for a tour, you just go with her and enjoy yourself. Please do not take this for granted and do spare a thought for us who love to jump on our bike, but we have to get the nod from our better half first. Sometimes, this is easier said than done and can be quite a challenge.


I try to do 4 major trips a year and I'm very grateful to have a wife that is very understanding and is sympathetic to my passion. However, it is a fine balancing act to make her happy as well as to make my many bicycles happy. These 2 goals seem to be in conflict with each other but it does not need to be that way if you follow closely these "time and tested" principles on how to get your cycling visa. Please don't sue me if these fail...


1.  Make her #1 in your life. Unless she knows she is more important than your bike, you are doomed before you even take the Ortlieb out of storage. The truth is that she did not need to marry you but she did. The least we can do is to cherish her decision and be diligent to make sure each day is the best day of her life. Show her that she is the reason why you work so hard, the reason why you come home, the reason why you love the kids so much. Sounds like a tall order, but if you can do this, half your battle is won. Remember "Happy wife, happy life!"


2.  Let her know that touring actually makes you a better husband and father. OK, this one sounds a bit flimsy but truly, it does! Even the best marriages need regular time out and absence does make the heart fonder. Being away from your spouse can be healthy as you do miss each other and a time of reflection and appreciation are important. I come back from tour missing my family dearly and feeling renewed, recharged and refreshed. This also is a good time for her to catch up with her friends. Needless to say, touring is a very physically healthy activity too and approved by physios.


3.  Make her a part of your tour if she is not going. Not all wives are interested, but do so anyway. Involved her in the planning, share with her who will be on the team, get her to meet them if possible. Share with her the map and the destinations you hope to visit. When you are on tour, contact her daily and update her about the happenings of each day. Be interested too in how her day went. It is important she knows that she is in your mind, not out of sight, out of mind, and be thoughtful. If possible, buy her a gift. Yes, we always give the excuse that as cyclists, our pannier are already bursting but a broach, earrings or a scarf do not take much space. O yes, it helps if you know what she likes!


For those whose wife tours with you not because she loves to but because she wants to be supportive, make sure this experience is a really special one for her. Take this opportunity to be that White Knight who carries her panniers, who fixes her bike, who serves her drinks and even throw in a massage every now and then.


I am by no means the authority on this but I hope you find these tips helpful. Would love to start a discussion and hear from you guys and gals as well. We can learn so much from each other. Talk to me.

All the best in getting that cycling visa!


Her children stand and bless her
Her husband praises her
"There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!"

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last
But a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

Proverbs 31: 29,30