We came, we saw, we survived… we will return! KL Hills Club Trip June 2014
Day 1: Out and Back – KL to Bukit Fraser (200km) round trip
By Laura Gordon
The Maître’d appeared somewhat perplexed as Megan and I rocked up for breakfast in full ANZA kit and tried to check-in our bikes like they were coats at a restaurant. Needless to say, the staff handled the situation seamlessly, as we cried out for coffee. A delayed departure, and late night chatting – meant that we had only managed to get about 4 hours sleep, not exactly ideal for taking on the challenge ahead. But we weren’t complaining. A quick quaff, and some substantial carbs from the fine Asian/continental buffet, we were on track for our 7am rollout for the big day ahead.
Then ensued the typical last minute faffing, tyre pumping, multiple head-counting, establishing of lead van vs. sag wagon etc… followed by a thorough briefing by our wonderful host; Mark Losi, Esquire. Collectively the group had opted for the ‘VERY HARD’ route… which included day 2 of Mark Haller’s infamous ‘Brutal Double Header’.
Mr Losi kindly gave each of us a written sheet of directions (I will come back to this point later) – where he had broken the ride into 5 respectable chunks for 100km. Plus the 6th chunk – which was, quite eloquently put ‘repeat in reverse’.
We agreed to roll out as a group for the first 14km until we reached the outskirts of KL. This would be followed by a flat stretch, and a cheeky climb called The Wall, which would complete the first 30 clicks of the day, and take us to the first water/fuel stop.
The roll out was great, until 10 minutes in, we had our first, and thankfully only, flat for the whole weekend. Undeterred and now very eager… we continued our way to the first drink stop.
The Wall, although not long, packed a punch. Determined to do this in my big chain ring, I sat in to successfully grind up. ‘Evian’ on the other hand, was a different story, a much longer climb. Obsessed with my HR monitor, I managed to get up this one in Zone 3. The scenery was quite beautiful, only marred by the awful litter strewn about on the side of the road… plastic bottles and bags, tissues, styrofoam containers: such a shame. Road kill also helped pass the time; flattened lizards and snakes and most distressful was a monkey, whose skull was cracked in two like a coconut. And of course there were the imaginary animals and insects – rope snakes, tube snakes, ‘leaf’ lizards and so on… HR now Zone 5!!!! Delirious. Water please J.
As I arrived at the peak of ‘Evian’ (so named for the spot where locals come to collect water), the faster group were ready to descend. The natural order of things had been established, I was now with second group. A quick gel, slice of cake, and a 100+ and we were ready to make our way along to the 60k marker.
I don’t remember too much about the next stretch, as I was focused on the main event ahead; the Fraser’s climb. Although I do remember one pretty fast descent, which seemed to drag on for a while. Descending – not my greatest skill, I further slipped to the back of the ride. Mark Losi kindly reminded me that we had to go back up there on the way home. I am not too sure how I feel about that, as we keep the pace steady.
As we reach the 60k fuel stop at KKB, the faster group has now split again with Ståle, Phipster, Raoul, Craig, Derek (and another Phil?! – there were three!) – leading the charge. I now want to take a pee. I opt to drop my daks behind a tree, only to be advised, that my bum would be facing the police station. Change of plan. The police let me use their facilities. (First kitten spotted but I digress).
By the time I finish my comfort break; the middle group, have left. Bruce Morris and I have formed a new friendship. We start the climb together along a great wide flat road, next to a reservoir, which continues on its way to Fraser’s. I did feel a bit sorry for Bruce, as he had to put up with my incessant questioning: ‘what percent is it now?’ – every 45 seconds. He was very kind and humoured me all the way to ‘The Gap’. We were averaging somewhere between 15km – 18km, which I thought was pretty respectable, and my heartrate was thankful.
We opted for another quick break at the Gap, another 100+ downed, we make our final ascent, at this point I drop into my small chain ring. The last memory of this climb, was single digit speed, but this time was around 11/12kph– so went much quicker (I’d like to thank our sponsors Athlete Lab for this). I was also thankful, that there was a 600m decent, 2km from the summit. Both Bruce and I rolled into Fraser’s Central, ready for makan.
There was a huge fanfare; as there was an International Chicken Race going on (or some such nonsense), where VIPs were favoured for lunch over paying cyclists. A few of us were getting ‘hangry’. But nothing quite like fried rice and chicken, and an egg, and another piece of fried chicken, and a soya bean drink and a Tea Halia… after a big climb… oh and some more cake.
We waited for the last riders, to reach the summit, and have some nosh – before we began the ride home. A fabulous descent back to KKB of winding roads (and headwinds… this hardly seemed fair). Somehow I had managed to join the middle group, Bruce and I again working in tandem, and with Megan, Nico, Lenka, Derek, Phil and others… all was well, and then came the pain. Poor Bruce cramped up, and encouraged me to ride on… somehow, I had found a second wind.
We then began that awful climb that Mr Losi had reminded me of earlier; and goodness this was tough. Back in my small chain ring, I just managed to make the ascent… passing a few of the broken lads on the way up. I think this was the brutal bit – that Mr Haller had referred too. Amazingly, I make it to the top… and there was a magic waterfall; a few of us jumped in fully clothed oblivious (this was a good time to find out that my Samsung S5 was waterproof)… and it was like an ice bath… AHHHHHH J
One final descent found me sadly separated from the group. I reverted to the written sheet of instructions, which of course in true black-comedy fashion, was soaking wet from the dip, and completely illegible. Feeling quite confident nonethless, I follow signs into KL – only to end up on the motorway. With a further 16km in to KL, rapidly fading light and a dodgy sense of direction – I opt for the only sensible choice.
Day 2: Out and back – KL to Genting Sempah (70km) round trip
By Megan Kinder
Once again we ravenously descended on the hotel’s breakfast buffet to fill up on prata, pineapple and poached eggs. Our voracious apetites could possibly have been due to the fact that we’d eschewed a ‘real dinner’ the previous night, both happy to make the most of the club lounge hospitality that was generously put on by Mr Losi, complete with numerous beers and nibbles and a scrumptious Birthday Cake for birthday girl Lenka and also as we were simply too shattered to consider going out anywhere.
I confess it had crossed my mind many times that a (sleep-in/massage combo) posed an extremely pleasant alternative to slogging it out up the side of another mountain, yet with the ‘in for a penny…’ mentality, I organised my bike, loaded up on salt tabs and associated accoutrements and shuffled once again in my borrowed hotel slippers to the lobby for the day’s briefing. It seemed that most of the group were similarly happy to push on through the saddle sores and stiff quads heroically acquired from Day 1 and we left the hotel as a group of 16, only 3 down on the previous day’s number.
With Mr Losi having sold the ride as a ‘lovely, shaded, low traffic 70km with 17 km of climbing at 3-4%’ I was looking forward to heading out of the city to take on what I thought would be a hill akin to 7 or 8 lots of our well-traversed South Buona Vista Rd. How pleasant. I’ll be the first to acknowledge I’m no mathematician but I now know that these talks of percentages/gradients etc can be manipulated to sound as ‘lovely’ or as ‘punishing’ as one wishes. Indeed, it was a 17km stretch of 3-4%, yet with the first 2km being basically flat, this meant that the next 15km were more like 5-7%, with a few ramps of 8-10% thrown in, just to keep us on our toes. After the previous day’s effort, this meant that quite a few of us were firmly entrenched in that dark space known as ‘the hurt locker’.
Once again, the faster boys took off: Phipster (Hipster Phil), Ståle, Phil R, Raoul, Mike, Nico, Craig, Derek and Phil M. Laura, Bruce and I took it in turns pulling each other along for most of the way up, with one or the other of us taking off a little or dropping back, pace waxing and waning in tune with the gradient. Our quiet tapping away was only interspersed with gradient related Q&A and the self satisfied jubilance that broke forth when we were able to tell Laura, “11%, 11%… no 12%!!!”. This came to a rather abrupt end when autopause inevitably kicked in; the GPS unit turns itself off because you’re going so slow it thinks you’re not moving. Ho hum.
It was, as Mark had described quite a peaceful, shaded, winding road, obviously popular with local cyclists, of all manner and shape, who called out friendly hellos as we (for the most part) were overtaking. Apart from the disgusting swathes of rubbish littering the roadsides once again, there was a certain natural charm and a lovely relief from the noisy haze of downtown KL. Then came the learner drivers. This road had obviously been deemed by the local driving school as a most excellent practice area for 14-year-old learner drivers. Sitting in tiny little Malaysian cars, gloriously bedecked in massive L plates, these learners would appear around every second bend, both moving and not. Note to self – give plenty of room and approach blind bends cautiously.
Approaching the final km or so I felt a renewed surge of competetive edge, that I’d previously thought had been left to die a slow and painful death somewhere on the side of the road between The Wall and KL from the day before, and I stood up out of the saddle to put in a final strong burst to the finish. Not sure whether it was that Laura and Bruce were just too tired or didn’t realise they were in a race… (well that’s just silly) but they were content to let me be the next to the top, where the faster guys had been waiting for a little while.
We chatted to a few more locals, admired a dessicated, small, black (probably highly deadly in it’s day) snake, downed a few chewy jubes and waited for the remainder of the group to arrive. One by one they came, Colin, Lenka, Mark and the group’s most stalwart trooper, Beverly.
Planning for my typically cautious descent, I opted to leave with the first few heading back down, knowing full well from the previous day that with most others not quite as circumspect in their approach to the downhill as I, I would likely be overtaken fairly swiftly. One, two, three came swishing past as I resolutely feathered my brakes ever so slightly, constantly looking ahead to establish the best line down around each bend. Coinciding with a doof to the head from an out-of-control butterfly, a growing suspicion that this downhill thing could actually be quite fun started taking over. My hands were thanking me as I decided to ease up a smidge more on the brakes and allow the bike to swing out and down through each bend. “Wheeeeee! 5km down, 7, 9, oh what a shame, only another 5km to go, noooo! I don’t want this to be over… too much fun…” and then before I knew it, I was being hailed to stop by the lead guys who’d already pulled up at the icecream/drinks stop.
Milo icecream 🙂
As we called out, several more riders pulled to a screeching halt, with Nico refusing (in a somewhat ‘Frangry’ fashion) as we were apparently not at the officially designated shop. Not wishing to upset the French too much, we finished our icecreams, waited for Laura to take some (more) cute cat photos and remounted, conspiring to enjoy a second stop at the next establishment a few kms down the road.
Standing in front of the well-airconditioned and brightly lit shop, we did our best to re-enter Nico’s good books, whilst waiting for the remainder of the group. With the group finally in sight, we were looking to saddle up once again when it became apparent that not everything was quite tickety-boo. As they approached, we realised Lenka was being nursed along in the middle of the pack, looking a little dazed, holding together a clearly compromised posture, with blood running down her arms from two fairly severely grazed elbows. She’d unfortunately hit the deck.
As we gathered about to help patch her up, the story came out that she had indeed had an encounter with one of the aforementioned Learner Drivers. Coming around a bend a little too quickly, she was surprised to see one of the little cars almost stationary, blocking her lane. Taking evasive action, with a little overcorrection, she’d lost her back wheel, with her bike simultaneously diving into the ashphalt and bucking her off. Luckily she’d been seen by a group of very solicitous locals, who checked both her and the bike over and escorted her down the rest of the way. Putting on a brave face, Lenka declared that she was ok to make the 20km ride back to the city so we set off, ensuring that Lenka was well watched over.
With everyone looking forward to lunch and beers by the pool, it was a smooth and uneventful ride back. Once again, upon our return, the hotel staff did an excellent job of looking after us with Mr Losi kindly organising for everyone to have a leisurely check out, just prior to boarding our private coach. Wine 🙂
Huge thanks to Nicolas Chaste for organising this trip and to Mark Losi, Daljit and The Hotel ParkRoyal KL for tremendous hospitality. If you are interested in organising a similar trip, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.