Newbie goes to Frasers!

[It took me 5 years to get to Frasers, Arran has managed it in 2 months. Ed.]

By Arran Pearson

21st July, arrived in Singapore…
25th July, first road ride in Singapore (followed an ANZA West Coast Ride route I found on Strava)…
26th July, first attempt at an ‘official’ ANZA ride (bike broke!)
27th July, first MTB ride (Bukit Timah dodging monkeys)…
10th August, MTB ride with the ANZA dirt crew
17th August, first ANZA race (again with the dirt crew).

So as you might have guessed by now, when we decided to move from Sydney I had pretty much sussed out the riding situation in my soon-to-be home well before I had managed to secure myself gainful employment!  Helped of course by the number of ex (and current?) ANZA members that have ended up riding with my Sydney Club (Sydney CC).

So when facebook lit up with discussions of an upcoming trip to KL I figured that I’d just jump in the deep end – what better way to get to know a few people than go and hang out for a weekend riding bikes with complete strangers.  Having secured the approval of my darling wife all there seemed to do was actually work through the logistics of actually getting there.

I confess I signed up and sorted most of this well before I had any real inkling of what was involved or where we were going.  The banter on the facebook group gave me confidence that someone seemed to know what was happening and besides – it would add another country to my ‘list’.

As our departure loomed strava files showing the route were produced… hmm…. Now its not the distance per-se that was worrying… or the climbing really… but I was suddenly conscious that the weeks prior to my departure (and indeed since arriving) had perhaps been filtered through an amber haze that may not put me in the best shape to tackle a 36++ km climb.  Oh well… how bad could it be?

Bad.  But more on that later.

Thanks to Nico and Matt’s organization skills the coach arrived on time and our passage out of Singapore and through customs was surprisingly hassle-free.  About now I had consumed most of my snacks and was looking forward to the dinner stop that is always part of the traditional aussie road-trip.  This was not a traditional aussie road trip.  There was no dinner stop.  (at one point Nico tried to offer me some kind of substance he claimed was food but to this day I’m not convinced).  Ok.  The ‘pack sandwiches’ comment was serious advice and not banter!

It was a weary (and in my case starving) group of travelers who arrived at the KL Parkroyal to be greeted by exceptional hospitality at midnight – swift check-in and friendly staff (no doubt aided by the efforts of club member and Parkroyal GM Mark Losi) made the late night arrival bearable verging on pleasant!  It was swiftly off to sleep for me – breakfast at 6, depart at 7!

Day 1, the Queen Stage…

This was the biggie – 200km out to Bukit Fraser and back.  Strava maps were posted and for someone who had just gotten used to the lack of ‘up’… to see a real mountain was not pretty.  5 climbs – ‘The Wall’ – a nasty 1km of 10+ % to get you warmed up.  ‘Evian’ (spelling mistakes are mine alone!) – about 6% average but steadily ramping as you climb.  Bukit Fraser – 36+km of an average of around 4% but at 6% for most of the last 8km.  Then Evian (steeper) and the wall (shorter but still steep) on the way back.  All in all you are climbing for about 80km or so.

I was fine for the first two – sure not with the mountain goats but still ok and feeling sort of comfortable.  Mark had organized a couple of chase vans well stocked with liquids and other goodies so we were never short of refreshment and snacks – just as well as the temperature climbed well over 35’.

Now, the monster Bukit Fraser is really not _that_ bad – just like the climb up SBV… its just that you’re doing that for more than 2 hours.  Add in some over exuberance on the lower parts of the climb and insufficient water (and salt) intake and I was in a world of hurt.  Not the place to be when the road markers helpfully point out that there’s 30km still to go.

It was a long lonely ride for me – more or less stuck in no-mans land not being quick enough to catch anyone in front but the unwise choice of a 11-25t cassette meaning that I was not able to sit and comfortably spin.  The sense of achievement when I finally went around the last bend and saw the clock tower at the top of the climb was amazing (luckily I saw bikes thus and didn’t feel the need to do some extra climbing to the uppermost resorts like some).  Of course this was dampened somewhat by not really being able to move as my legs cried enough!

I ride 45km uphill and all I get is a photo?The banter in the group at the top was great – there’s something about a shared difficult experience that really makes a group of strangers into friends (although sadly I was not in the small group that had been reportedly offered ‘inducements’ to keep climbing by some of the ANZA women…).  A bit of food and more refreshments (sorry – its going to take a while before I look forward to fried rice as a mid ride snack rather than the traditional burger!) and we were off again.

If the ride up was torture then the ride down more than made up for it (well… once we had stopped to take care of Andrew and Phil who had perhaps chose the wrong corner to practice their late braking skills – missing skin but importantly the bikes were ok! [What are you talking about, ok?  My bike left skin on the road too 😦 Ed.]).  The descent was 50 minutes of pure fun – not so steep that you had to constantly be on the brakes but still enough downhill that pedaling was more a choice about how hard you wanted to go than necessity.  Nice!

Quick stop for refreshments (and for some refugees to flee to the comfort of the busses) and then it was back on the flat roads back to home.  Spirits were high, we had conquered the highest (and I thought toughest) mountains and it was time to potter home.

Wrong.

DSCN1639Turns out that when you’ve got over 150km in the legs that a 5km 7% climb in 40’c is actually quite tough.  This was the low point for me… as soon as the road pointed up I dropped straight off the group and resigned myself to a slow plod up the mountain.  As I suffered along my heart was lifted a tiny bit by the sight of some of my fellow riders (names withheld) stopped beside the road waiting for the bus… although the bus seemed more intent on slowly following me rather than any broken body collection!  Yes I was nice (eventually) and got the driver to turn around!

This hill seemingly went on forever – my faithful bus had rejoined me and probably the only thing that carried me forward was not knowing exactly around which bend the top was and the fear of bailing out and taking a seat some stupidly short distance from glory!  No fear though, once the summit was crested there was the smiling face of Mark and his crew ready with bottles of coke and 100+ on hand to convince the head (if not the body) that there was only one more climb to go.

After all the grinding climbs, the 800m 10% wall at the end was almost a relief – at least the short, sharp standing climb exercised slightly difference muscles!

We eventually arrived back at the hotel at 5:30 – some 10 hours or so after we left and amazingly the spirits of the group had done nothing but lift the entire day.  A quick shower and it was off to enjoy yet more of the Parkroyal’s amazing hospitality – some drinks and then out for dinner where, despite Nico’s exhortations to hit up the local karaoke bars most turned in for an early night knowing that a recovery ride was scheduled for the next day!

Day 2, the recovery.

Only after an epic we’d experienced the day before could this be termed a recovery ride.  Only one hill but it was still 15km long although once again at a relatively gentle grade.

The majority of the day was pretty uneventful – after the efforts of the day before this was just a nice ride in the countryside – KL even managed to turn on a fun run in the centre of town for us!  The climb itself was a civilized 3-4% and mostly shady.  All in all this was an ideal way to end the weekend – just enough to turn the legs over and do a little bit of work (although from what I hear there was the usual silly antics up front from the fast crowd!) without ending the day utterly destroyed.

We were back at the hotel just before lunch – just enough time for a leisurely lunch and swim beside the pool before once again boarding the bus for the 6 hour trip home.

For a new member to the club (and indeed new to Singapore) this was a fantastic introduction to both the club and the sort of riding lifestyle that I am sure I can become accustomed to.  The actual organization of the trip was flawless (thanks Nico and Matt for ensuring that the logistics of getting to and from were well sorted) and the actual riding and accommodation in KL itself is top notch (big shout out to Mark Losi).

The only thing I really want to know now is when (and where) is the next one!

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