Monday, 29 February 2016

Pontian Explorer ( 28 February 2016 )

Kevin and Claudine, looking cool...
Khan, trying to figure out a GoPro
Khan trying out "The Rock's" look
When a wefie!
Somewhere in Pontian

All riders convened at Khass promptly on the morning of the ride. All, except Claudine who did not want to ride out alone in the dark. As arranged, Claudine received a call from Khan when the team started to roll. On that cue, she left home and rode to the butterfly interchange. There she waited to intercept the riders.

Quoting Henry Van Dyke, "Time is too slow for those who wait", she restlessly strained her eyes to the oncoming traffic. Before long, she spotted them....only 2 riders??? Where's the rest??? When the silhouettes became a larger form, she observed the physics. Thin man in black jersey could only be Leo. The other larger looming figure can only be Khan...but when did Khan become so huge?? Finally, the visions came closer and she realized it was a mistaken identity!

Waving her support to the riders, the waiting resumed. After awhile, the convoy arrived in a beautiful line. It was easy to spot them as many were wearing the yellow and black Rapha jerseys. 

As they approached, Captain Leo gestured to Claudine to get in the peloton. Few greetings were exchanged. Khan rode up to chat. He assured Claudine the speed will be manageable today but she was not convinced. She knew this is just JEC's warming up speed. 

True to fact, once they turned off to Lebuh Kota Iskandar, everyone started to pump the pedals. Aaron flew right ahead but Captain Leo still held the helm. He led everyone through the Eco Botanics roundabout, shot straight ahead and then ... the climb over the flyover began!

Mash, mash, mash! Everyone climbed at their own pace. One by one, everyone overtook Claudine! When she reached the peak, she glided down with as much speed as she could muster to catch up with the rest. 

After the flyover, there were the other obstacles to overcome. Today, the traffic lights were not cooperative at all. They seemed to turn red every time. 

At the second red light, Sara had just unclipped her left pedal to make the stop when the lights decided to turn green again! She clipped back only to be stalled by the vehicle in front. Balancing motionless for a few seconds, she was finally pulled down by gravity!

Voon was quick to offer a hand but Sara with "bound feet" had to unclip before getting up. She suffered some light abrasions but it was her ego that suffered the most!

As a team, we waited for Sara to get back her composure. When she was ready, we rode to the cross junction with Jalan Ulu Choh. There, we turned right.

We rode in an orderly manner with the front riders using hand gestures to warn on holes, pedestrians and even dogs!!! Stray dogs on the streets can be a poser as we have heard too many stories of them chasing postmen, so why not riders?

We turned left at Kg Ulu Pulai, just before the colossal electro-transmission center at Eco World. We rode up to Uncle Lim durian farm and turned left. As we maneuvered the corner, everyone changed gears. "Clack! Clack! Clack!" It was almost a melodious rhythm to a rider's ear.

We rode to the cross junction and turned left at the traffic lights. Here, a nice lorry driver held up traffic for Claudine and Khan to catch up with the rest. They gave him a thumbs up for his chivalry!

Within minutes after the turn, we stopped at the Pekan Nanas' Shell petrol station. As it was just the first 23 km, everyone were in good spirits. Khan, though was caught yawning. The ride was probably not challenging enough! 

After a good 5 minutes break, we hit the road again.

We passed the Pekan Nanas town and its iconic pineapple...

We headed straight for Pontian...

Numerous times, Kevin rolled to the front to take the lead from Leo. They took turns pulling the group. Meanwhile, Khan and Voon took turns to sweep, all the time making sure the lady riders are sandwiched between the men. It was just a lull before a storm. When they hit the motorcycle lane, everyone sprinted gleefully!!!

We went on a slow cruise in Pontian. In respect of our vegan friends, we stopped at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant. Some of us had Nasi Lemak while the other half went for fried noodles with eggs. Sara though skipped breakfast!

Fueled by simple carbs, we rode again. This time, a long line of traffic lights on a relatively long and straight road slowed us down enough to appreciate Pontian as it is. 

We crossed 2 bridges. The first bridge intersects a much wider river with larger fishing boats. The second one transversed a smaller river and thus could only allow smaller boats to pass through. Before long, the road runs parallel to the open sea. Craning one's neck, one is rewarded with a view of the horizon and ships afar.

When we hit the intersection to Kayu Ara Pasong and Parit Sikom, Aaron the non-conformist had sped right through without making the right turn. He was too far to hear the shouts of the team! Leo had to chase after him. It was a long chase for Leo, and for us .... a loooooong wait.

Waiting at the road shoulder just after the junction without shades, we felt like lizards basking in the sun. Since non of us are lizards, we took cover under a shady tree in someone's open compound. 

Finally, Leo and Aaron returned. Aaron though apologetic was eager to speed again. But Zeus sent headwinds to deter him. He finally succumbed to ride in a peloton with us.

We rode pass a passion fruit farm ... The vines with overhanging fruits in the orchard appears like light bulbs on a bright sunny day!

We passed a few factories...

We passed 2 more streams...

And then it happens....Sara's X-files experience! She was unable to shift from the smaller chainring to the bigger one. Leo tried helping but failed.When we finally had a water break, the problem was fixed! Apparently, she did not press hard enough!!

After a relatively short break, we continued our ride. As promised, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley below. A lone factory with fumes billowing out from its giant smoke stack is visible from afar. 

Then, the undulating hills began. It was a smooth roller coaster ride but one which needs pedal power reminiscent of the Flintstone days!

And then.... it happened to Claudine! It was now her turn not to be able to shift chainrings!!! She was stuck with the smaller one and that slowed her down tremendously.

Finally, everyone arrived at Pekan Nanas. A pre-victory toast of fruit juice was called for but not before a group photo was taken with the iconic pineapple. In good humour, we all smiled for the camera.

As Pekan Nanas was her turf and the return route is not an isolated road, Claudine asked everyone not to wait for her. She knew she will undoubtedly be slow. But Sara and Leo did not loose sight of her throughout the return ride.

Almost home, with the last menacing climb on the flyover, Khan and Kevin were waiting under the shades. Everyone took a breather except Claudine. She is extremely slow on hills and wanted a head start. Tired out and not used to long rides, she laboured up the slope. Halfway up, the tyrants all overtook her!!!

Claudine bid everyone goodbye at Horizon Hills' Southgate. It's been quite a ride and as she climbed up the slopes, a light mist of rain fell on her.... as if a blessing from Him!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Tour de Wantan Mee (27 February 2016)

Riders in layang-layang
Riders in Renggam

Huo Guo Shan is a well known temple amongst Taoist devotees. Located at the foot of a mountain, it is known be the residing cave of the Monkey God. Therefore, when Claudine and VT cruised into the dark parking lot of Huo Guo Shan, there were no reasons to fear coming across any nebulous images. Besides, Ray and Thomas were already there! 

Within minutes, Malcolm and Sue, led by Ivy also pulled in. Everyone exchanged greetings and hurriedly assembled their bikes. It was difficult to work in the dark. Sue had a problem with her brakes and cried out for help. Ray was summoned!

Meanwhile, VT and Claudine were also blindly feeling for the fork dropout and the quick release. Thomas offered some help and with the lights from the smartphone, all problems were quickly solved.

Very soon, dawn broke and more riders arrived. The drive from the city to Sedenak is a good 40 minutes away and many riders scurried to the toilets to relief themselves. The early arrivals did a few quick rounds to test out their bikes but got restless in no time.

When it was noticeable that there were still more cars arriving as late as 7.15 am and there was no urgency for some to suit up, the slower riders decided to push off. After all, a head start or handicap is always a gentlemanly gesture in sports!

So, with a quick goodbye, VT, Malcolm, Claudine, Yew Loong and Thomas left. Within minutes, VT dropped behind to sweep the group. Malcolm overtook Claudine with an apology....she had cheekily warned him earlier, not to video her back posterior too much!

We crossed the railway tracks and entered the oil palm estate. It was such a shame that a newly tarred road of less than a year is now riddled with holes. Beside avoiding holes, we also had to keep a look out for cow dungs!!! Then, there were a lot of fresh kills on the road too....rats, squirrels, kingfisher!!!

After a few hills and kilometers, the more able riders begin to stand out from the rest. Thomas was teleported somewhere ahead.... Yew Loong was a vision from afar.... and Malcolm and Claudine played a continuous game of overtaking each other.

Back at Huo Guo Shan, Sue and Ivy under the tutelage of Jolin, kicked start their ride. Much later, Captain Leo, Agnes, Khan, Voon, Donovan and Wil gave chase.

We all crossed Sungai Skudai, Sungai Siku and Sungai Besoi today. We also saw smaller brooks that runs through the oil palm estates.

We suffered the stench of the chicken farm. The smell wafted further than a one kilometer radius!

We passed a swallow condominium...those ugly, grey, multistorey building with small little holes for the poor birds to move in and out. What a great deception of the little minds, but you wouldn't call them bird brains for nothing!

After mashing the pedals for less than an hour, we arrived in Layang-layang. Thomas, of course was already waiting for some time. Yew Loong who pulled over in case of getting lost was led by Claudine to the ultimate stop....the best wantan noodle in Johor! Malcolm who doesn't know the way followed suit.

Sue was at her best element today. Coached by Jolin, a professional cyclist, trained in China she has progressed from 15.4kph on October 10, 2015 to 24kph today!!! Taking into account that she bull powered all the way to Layang-layang on a front wheel that was set up the wrong way, her sheer determination will see her as good as Agnes one day!

All riders eventually trickled in at their own pace in no time. While some languished behind for the succulent noodles, Leo, Agnes, Khan, Voon, Donovan and Wil rode on to Renggam. They were later met halfway by Chi Wei and KG, who yet again came with his fixie bike!!!

Everyone returned to base at their own pace, though Sue, Jolin and VT were delayed by a train crossing.  We rode back the same way we came from, crossed the same rivers, suffered the same chicken stench, saw the same road kills....though they are more mutilated by now, probably rolled over many times by passing vehicles....

Sedenak to Layang-layang is a beautiful route. It is very popular among cyclists for we were also informed Delta, Chun and a few Madcat riders also made it today!!! 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

LTF comes to JB (12-14 February 2016)

"Gong Xi! Gong Xi!" 5th day of CNY
LTF team crossing the border
LTF team in Malaysia
Taking a break at the Istana
Bikes taking a rest

Watch out for the Cows!!!
Tg Piai
Iconic Globe
KC's pet toy that made the ride
Beware of monkeys!
Docile rabbit??

Date : 12-14 February 2016
Venue : Singapore - JB - Kukup

When the LTF team heading for Dabo, Singkep were deported at Tg Pinang, Claudine and VT quickly invited them for a Kukup ride. They arrived a day after their epic deportation, in big beads of sweat! The meeting point was at Perling's Kang Bee Hong chicken rice shop but nobody was in any mood to eat. Questions and Answers were fired at rapid intervals as everyone were baffled how this incident could have happened.

Please see the link :

But eat they did.....eventually, though George was suffering from indigestion. Perhaps his body was rejecting the previous day's event!

Sue who has had a year's longing to join LTF's adventures came to meet the gang with son, Amri in tow. She had her first hand education on foldies and what to expect on bicycle tours from our LTF chief.

True to the spirit of LTF, every meal is ended with desserts, so the team trooped to Moonlight Cafe, Bukit Indah for cakes and coffee. Not air-conditioned we suffered the humidity of an incoming onslaught of rain. It was not the best choice but during the CNY week, many cafes were closed and thus everyone sweated it out politely.

Then, the rain came!

It poured and poured for hours. And we chat and chat for hours, hoping to sit out the rain. Moonlight staffs were so kind they came offering us cold water, on the house, as they realized we were stuck with no opportunity to escape.

When 6 pm approaches, the sky was still grey. We knew it was time to start being proactive or we may risks having dinner at the cafe as well. It was decided that VT and Claudine should drive home with at least 2 foldies and come back with 2 cars to bring more home!

Stepping out to organize the logistics, we noticed Alvin's Brooks leather seats was drenched! The Moonlight plastic bag protecting it had been blown away by strong winds! Berenda was more meticulous. Her seat was still in good condition, her bag still protecting the seat.

When VT and Claudine returned with 2 cars much later, Ying Chang has already left with KC's mountain bike!!! The rain had tapered down to a drizzle and it was soooo like him to love riding in the rain. Everyone arrived at the hosts' house, but YC, on 2 wheels beat the rest to the finish point!!!

We had mandarin oranges to celebrate CNY, cookies and chocolates while waiting for the few to shower. VT's mum even came out with her walker to meet the famed group.

When it was time for dinner, George has made a decision to follow YC back to Singapore the same night. He really doesn't think he was up to a century ride the next day. It's been a bad day for George as he had lost his handphone near the istana. You see, George should have followed KC for a cleansing to wash off the bad luck hovering over the group!

YC's and George's bike were put in the trunk of both cars. It was intended for VT to drive them to JB Sentral so that they could ride into Woodlands easily.

Everyone enjoyed an authentic dinner at Agneey's cuisine at Tampoi. We had too much of ghee dhosai, masala dhosai, plain dhosai, garlic naan, plain naan, onion uttapam, bhatura, mutton curry, garlic chicken, tandoori chicken..... We washed it all down with Teh Tarik. Alvin exclaimed, "This tea has body!"

The night ended with YC and George back in Singapore while the remaining team shared quality time in the hosts' living room. When it was time for bed, Alvin and KC shared the guestroom while Claudine's boys exited the room happily for Berenda.

The ride to Kukup started early. Just packed with a cup of Milo, everyone left as dawn was breaking. We rode out through the Southgate onto the butterfly interchange and headed towards Legoland. Just before the theme park, we turned left, onto another interchange and headed towards Pontian.

VT was leading the group while Claudine swept from behind. Boy, the Singapore team could really ride. They were like little hamsters pumping on the wheels. Up the flyover they flew and down they sped!

In no time, everyone arrived at Amin's mamak shop at Nusa Ria. Breakfast was an edible Nasi Lemak with fried chicken in red batter, fried mee mamak that was a bit wee spicy, dhosai and roti prata. Today was Claudine's turn to get indigestion. She ate very little.

When we were powered with spicy food, we rode again. We got onto the scenic kampung route. We passed the malay cemetery, the madrasah and the government school. At the bridge that intersects the river, we stopped for a group photo.

Then we rode again. We passed Uncle Lim's durian farm and finally stopped at Pekan Nanas' fruit stalls. Our usual coconut juice stall had just reopened after a long CNY break. Lucky us!

When we were done refueling, we rode yet again. We turned off a few kilometers after Pekan Nanas and headed towards Kukup via the famed Strava segment of 10km flats. When we did finish the 10 km, whizzing and wheezing over chicken farms, we turned right at the T-junction.

We then took the first left turn. This road leads through an oil palm estate. In the midst of the oil palm estate is a malay kampung.

We passed a lorry collecting the oil palm fruits.

We passed by a few cows left to graze by the side of the road.

We hit the main road to Kukup. From here, we turned left. When we reached the junction to Tg Piai, we made a pre-stop at Petronas station for a drink. By this time, Claudine and VT were already suffering. The speed set by Berenda on her tiny 6 speed Brompton was wayyyyyy too fast. The couple have never been subjected to a constant 28kph on foldies before. It was hard to keep up with the Queen of Taiping Shan!

At Tg Piai, we made a stop at a resort for some quick photo shoots. From here, we can see the industrial part of Singapore. We then went to the National Park which is mainly a mangrove swamp with wooden walkways. Promoted as the southern most tip of EuroAsia, the novelty had attracted quite a few tourists.

Bicycles were not allowed in but thankfully, we brought some locks to keep the bikes safe. The operators were quick to advise us not to leave any bags behind as the clever monkeys will not hesitate to make a go at it. Lockers were provided inside for free but they were only the size of pigeon holes, so Berenda had to carry her huge Brompton pannier along!

The walkways were spread out and there were two towers for a higher vantage point. But we were too lazy to walk let alone, climb. So, we contended to walk the 1 km straight to the jetty to see the blur vision of Karimon Island in Indonesia and the many ships that ply one of the world's busiest shipping line! It was breezy at the jetty but packed with tourists and the incessant blowing of a bullhorn by a person there drove us out quickly.

Away from the noise, we made a slow walk to the iconic stainless steel globe that marks the tip. Sadly, truly Malaysian style, the concrete jetty had collapsed slightly and thus, we never really reached the southern most tip of EuroAsia. We took solace on another jetty overlooking the globe. The wind on that afternoon was cool and it could have lulled us to sleep had it not been VT who was roaring to go for his seafood lunch.

Kukup came soon enough. The village was crowded with tourists when we arrived. We went to our usual restaurant next to the Kukup International Jetty. While we pushed our bikes right into the restaurant on stilts, we came upon a line up of Harley Davidson bikes. What an impression our weeny bikes must have looked next to the Giants!

The settings of the restaurant was the same though KC's white macaw is now propped closer to the counter. Perhaps it has been harassed by customers before and having it nearer to the cashier makes it easier to protect it from harm's way. KC though, almost "choked" the poor bird with his rubber duckie!

Lunch was terrible though thankfully not at cut throat CNY prices. The Japanese tofu seems to be laden with pre-cooked sauce, the fish pre-fried and then topped with soy sauce and garnishing, the salted egg fried squid came fried in plain batter....the only thing that tastes good was the vegetables.

We left 10 minutes after our Bikers, suffering from past midlife crisis, rumbled out with cheers and waves from the crowd. Our departure though, went almost unnoticed had it not been a waitress....she called out to her fellow friends to cheer for us but embarrassingly, it turned out lukewarm.

Out from the restaurant, we decided to have a quick stop for rojak and mango in crushed ice. Again, the food at this popular stall is a disappointment. The stall must have been low on fruits for they substituted them with tofu and fried yiu tiau! So much for CNY!!!!

Alvin rode with us to the junction leading to the oil palm estate before bidding us farewell. He rode alone to Pontian and cheated by boarding a bus heading for downtown. Can't blame the lovesick man as he was rushing home to Celia's homecoming from Cambodia.

The remaining group then rode at high speed through the estate road and out onto the 10km flats segment again. This time though, Claudine called for a rest at the shops by the junction. She declared herself truly exhausted!

The coffee shop owner was very nice to us. He allowed us to use his chairs even though we didn't patronize his shop. We never intended to order anything as we preferred the coconut juice at Pekan Nanas. Moreover, there were a lot of flies on the tables!

Fully recovered, we rode again. This time, Berenda and KC thoughtfully reduced the speed. By the time the trio caught up with VT who had had a headstart, Claudine was fully herself again.

We had another drink at our usual fruit stall in Pekan Nanas and then we headed home, all tired and weary. Thankfully, the rain did not come until we were safely home!

When it was time for dinner, went out to Mak Engku, a Malay restaurant nearby. We had Nasi Goreng Kampung, fried lekor, otak-otak, Sotong Goreng kunyit and tomyam.

KC and Berenda spent another night at Claudine and VT's home. No thanks to their bad hosts, they went to bed early that night.

The next morning, the rejuvenated team members, all went out for Ipoh Old Town Char Kueh Tiau. Then, KC and Berenda rode back to Singapore!