The night before my first long bike tour I could not sleep well, call it excitement, nerves or what have you, but my mind was occupied with anticipation.That morning, I was up earlier than my alarm clock and I double checked the contents of my panniers and took out several things that I felt I can live without. When I travel (via planes and cars) I do have a tendency of packing more than what I really ended up using so I was ruthless in packing this time. Every extra ounce meant an extra load to haul on the bike.
At the last weighing, both my panniers weighed a total of 25kg, add to that the 2-person tent, sleeping bag and a foam mat (yes, I like to sleep in a bit of luxury) the rear rack has to carry about 30kg of load (the rear rack has a rated 40kg maximum limit). My own weight is about 73 kg so that is easily 103kg combined. The bike itself is at least 15kg so we are looking at close to 120kg of mass to push up hills along the way although with such a weight I will be quite fast on the descent. 🙂
From Shah Alam, where I stay, my wife drove me, 50km to Precinct 15 Putrajaya where my brother, Nazry, is staying (I know some of you must be thinking, I might as well start cranking my bike from home. See Economics 101 of Cycling. I understand the argument okay..). I arrived early around 8am and from there we cycled out to the junction of the Putrajaya main highway to join up with Abg Zol who had just arrived in a van driven by his wife. Abg Zol is the coolest guy I’ve ever met, in our lingo we say “sempoi”, while both Nazry and I were riding touring bikes, Abg Zol was on his normal mountain bike complete with wide knobby tyres. He had a rear rack attached to his bike and instead of panniers he had what looked like a school bag tied securely with a bungee cord.
He is probably around 56 years old but later I discovered him to be one of the fittest and strongest rider in our group. That must be the benefits of cycling to one’s health.
The other group (Abg Syaaban, Herman and Muzammil) will cycle from Seri Kembangan and meet us en route. Our agreed meeting point was at the Putrajaya Challenge Park junction on the road to Dengkil and the original plan was to roll at 9am. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans in store for us.
When we arrived at the meeting point, the second group was nowhere to be seen and all of the sudden it started to rain cats and dogs as if the skies suddenly opened up to unleash the excess water it had been storing. We took shelter at a restaurant nearby for breakfast while we wait for the other group to join us. We had already finished our breakfast when they finally arrived, drenched, as it was still raining. After a brief introduction and checking out each others bikes and gears, they decided to have their breakfast so we waited for them.
On hindsight, I was glad it rained as we had a lot of time to get to know one another and what better way to break the ice other than through lots of roti canai and teh tarik.
By the time we finally made our move it was probably closer to 11am. Well, in bike touring, we have to play by ear sometimes and don’t be too hung up on the need to get to the destination quickly. As they say, bike touring is about the journey not so much the destination.
Along the way, Muzammil noticed that his rear tyre was slightly under inflated so we decided to stop over at the Shell petrol station near Kota Warisan. As we had cycled for quite a bit, it was a good time for us to check our panniers and other items strapped to the rear racks to make sure that all was good.
Herman checking out his front and rear panniers to make sure that the weights were balanced. I would say that his bike was the heaviest among the rest with his front panniers fully loaded with pots and pans, cooking utensil and gas burner and additional gas cyclinder.
Once we started going again, Muzammil was playing the role of pace setter upfront while Herman acted as sweeper at the end of the convoy. Both Muzammil and Herman kept close communication through walkie talkies. The dampness from the morning rain started to give way to heat of the afternoon sun. (check out my earlier posting on Cycling in the Malaysian Heat for some tips) I got my buff fully covering my nose and mouth, one for the shielding from the elements and the other one from the vehicles fumes as we were cycling on road shoulders.
Somewhere along the way near Sepang we came across this drinks and fruits stall, and under the hot weather, the icy cold fruit juices seemed so tempting. So we stopped for a while to enjoy our watermelon juice, coconut, etc to quench our thirst and to regroup as some of the riders seemed to be left behind for quite a distance at the back.
Feeling refreshed, our first destination was Sg Pelek to meet up with Pak Ngah, one of the founding fathers of the Darul Ehsan Touring Cyclist group. I know Pak Ngah from his FB postings but I have never met him in person. We arrived at Sg Pelek maybe closer to 2pm and Pak Ngah was already waiting for us in front of a bank with his Surly.
I supposed it is true the notion that all cyclists are brothers as when we all make our introduction, there was instant chemistry and bonding as if we have known each other for quite a while. Pak Ngah was generous in offering to buy us lunch and we of course obliged, as the few hours of cycling was making us hungry. We chose a food stall across the street from the bank and we helped ourselves to “nasi campur” where you are handed a plate of plain rice and you then pick your own dishes (fish, veggies, chicken, etc) from those available. It is also true that food always taste better when you have good company (and hungry).
We chatted about the journey so far and swapping cycling stories in general, it was fun hearing the different perspectives and experiences and we always ended up laughing (cyclists are a happy lot!)
A Chinese Funeral Procession passing through the road while we were chatting
Time passes by so fast when you are having fun. As it was already late afternoon and we still had a long way to go, we quickly got ready to get going again. Pak Ngah said there is a short cut to Port Dickson if we take a small barge to cross the nearby river. This way we could bypass some major climbing stretch and save some time.
Pak Ngah led the way to the jetty and once we arrived at the other side of the river, Pak Ngah rode with us for a while to get us on to the right junction. Along the way, there were a lot of dogs by the roadside, Pak Ngah coolly took out his Dog Dazer and pressed away and amazingly the dogs just ignored us and let us pass without a fuss. Dogs and cyclists sometimes do not make good company and every cyclist needs to have his /her own Dog Strategy (see my earlier post on Dogs Love Bicycle for tips)
Once we said Jumpa Lagi to Pak Ngah we were on our way to Port Dickson. The route we took has a nice kampong (village) and orchards scenery, and there were not many cars or lorries on this route so it was a pleasant cycling route.
We passed by Kg Sungai Nipah that once gained global fame (or is it notoriety) because of the “Nipah Virus” that led to the culling of thousands of pigs in the Bukit Pelandok area. With that thought in mind, I raised my buff higher to my cheeks and found myself cycling a little faster.
We have now entered Negeri Sembilan, but the heat and exhaustion had started to creep in and taken its toll on our cycling speed. Herman, our sweeper, had been experiencing some muscle cramps, on and off, ever since we passed Sepang but the cramps were getting more intense as we got closer to Port Dickson.
We stopped by the roadside to assess the situation. Abg Syabaan, the super human cyclist, offered to take off the front pannier load from Herman’s bike into his so that Herman’s bike would be lighter and perhaps could help in reducing his exertion when cycling. So we had to transfer the front rack to Abg Syaaban’s bike and load the front panniers.
Instead of complaining, Abg Syaaban commented that with the additional front load his bike’s handling now felt more stable and he could get used to the idea of having the front rack there permanently (for free of course hehe).
(Lesson: Cycling together is about teamwork, and helping one another in their time of need. It is not about who crosses the finishing line first but to arrive at the destination together. I began to fall in love with this concept of group bike touring.)
We arrived in Port Dickson late in the evening and stopped for a while to take a group picture with this beautiful mural in the background.
Funny that I never noticed the mural being there before during the many times that I had drove into Port Dickson. Perhaps, living life at a slower pace when you cycle really allowed your senses to absorb more and you can stop when you like, as often as you like.
To me, the experience gained from bike touring is not just about eating up the big mileage getting from point A to point B, but it is an opportunity to get in touch with your inner thoughts (your mind really cleared up when you cycle), develop an appreciation and respect of the geographical landscape (respect the hills that you climb and enjoy the carefree wind in your face as you accelerate downhill) and enjoying the endless banter and cheerful interaction with your touring partners.
We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Teluk Kemang not far after Port Dickson and as the night takes over from daylight, all our headlights and rear blinkers were attached and activated on our bikes.
We cycled through the night, not much sceneries to capture on camera from then on, but the cool air invigorated us and made the cycling easy and fast.
Bright lights from the oncoming vehicles sometimes shone our path, in the horizon we saw sporadic glittering lights from the villages, beautiful like fireflies in the night. Occasionally we heard dogs barking and howling breaking the quietness of the night. The dogs must have been spooked by our presence or something else.
Once we crossed the Sg Linggi bridge we have arrived in Malacca. Our final destination for the night was Pengkalan Balak, where Abg Syaaban’s family home is located. Our legs were weary but our spirits high. When we reached Pengkalan Balak it was already around 10pm, we were too tired to set up camp by the beach and Abg Syaaban insisted that we sleep in the living hall of his house. We were not complaining, after all it was nice to be indoors after being outdoors facing the element for the last 14 hours.
Our first day journey had been completed and we have covered a distance of 114km. We stopped a lot of times and our cycling speed was not the fastest but hey, this is bike touring, after all, it is about the journey not the destination. Good nite. Zzzzzzz.