The Great KL Getaway (or not!)

Or 6 numpties goes to KL and the rest try to herd them

Or I love Janda Baik so much I want to do it again

//Glen//

Once again the call rang out for expressions of interest in attending a club trip to KL, this time on new roads with new hills but still staying at the unofficial ANZA-clubhouse-on-the-road, the Park Royal Kuala Lumpur. The primary challenge of the weekend was to determine just how much of the club lounge bar can 20 people clean out in 2 hours on a Saturday evening after riding all day. A task taken to with gusto!

Before that, there was the small matter of getting everyone onto the bus on time on the eve of a long weekend during a tropical downpour and Gordon’s Getaways lived up to its reputation for smooth organisation and timing. McDonald’s West Coast Park did a mini rush on lattes and muffins and we were all aboard a mere 10 minutes after the scheduled departure time. Little did we know of the drama about to unfold when we reached Tuas checkpoint for our trip organizer herself.

//Over to Laura//

Super happy to ‘get the show on the road’, we pulled into Tuas checkpoint to clear immigration. I can’t tell you how excited I have been about this trip, given that we had so many newbies to Kuala Lumpur, Don Losi’s marvellous hospitality and #gordonsgetaways.

Like a good-captain on a sinking ship (there’s forewarning there!), I was the last to disembark the coach, and the last in the queue at the e-gates. I was slightly perturbed by the fact that e-gates were not letting me pass and on my third attempt I was told to join the foreigner line, which at this point was 60 people long.

I thought customs were feeling sorry for me when they pulled me into a private room, and told me that if I exited Singapore I would no longer be able to return as a PR.  In fact I would relinquish my PR status altogether if I left as my re-entry permit had expired 7 days earlier. #Numpty1

LAuraSo, rather suddenly and only 47 minutes into the weekend that I had been planning for over 4 months, my trip was cut short. I had to disembark the coach with my bike and my rucksack, saying a rather miserable goodbye to the #gg crew as the officers sent me riding back home solo to Orchard via Jalan Ahmed Ibrahim, which quite frankly puts West Coast Highway to shame.

Sadly on this trip #GordonDoesNotGetaway

I then spent a weekend at the ICA sorting out my Visa status, so I can go on the next #GordonsGetaways my Taiwan Trip!!

//Back to Glen//

After clearing customs and already one rider down before a pedal had been turned, we were fortunate to get a clear road all the way to the Park Royal.

NIK_6820Saturday morning and pre-6am alarms were sounding in time for breakfast and a planned 7am roll-out for destinations unknown to most of us. We gathered in the lobby for some last minute instructions from our in-house guide and host, Mark “Don” Losi before setting out on a smooth and incident free 20km of easy group riding towards Genting Sempah where the trip’s first climb loomed. For the uninitiated, Genting Sempah is around 600m of climbing over a distance of 15.5km – not particularly steep, but very long for those that only have Mount Faber or NTU as a training ground for mountains.  The best part is it is only 35km from the hotel lobby to the summit, so those of you planning mountainous adventures, this is one of your best options [I did laps of Sempah in training for L’Etape du Tour a few years ago 😉 Ed.].

NIK_6842The wise group members settled in for a tempo ride to the top, each at their own comfort level, while a few (including yours truly) decided to have a bit of a crack and test the legs. Genting Sempah is very pretty with lots of shade, a great road surface, jungle everywhere and occasional stunning views out over the Southern Titiwangsa mountain range that are definitely worthy of a quick photo stop. Such a stark difference to the constant urban/industrial/concrete jungle of Singapore. After 15-20 minutes of climbing, our initial group of 4-5 was down to 2 and then with about 5km to go, it came to pass that my daily commutes to Tuas were no match for the climbing legs of Phil who was riding very strongly, fresh from his recent exploits in South Africa. Mr Routley took first blood in the unofficial climber’s cup for the trip.

NIK_6956After a regroup at the summit, we descended towards Janda Baik, a picturesque 15km loop through a kampong area of rolling hills, small villages, simple small scale farming and rural living. The vehicular obstacles of Singaporean roads had given way to the occasional dog, small groups of wandering chickens and a free roaming cow that had left the odd deposit on the bitumen for us to navigate; all a welcome confirmation of having escaped the rat race for the weekend. We paused for a quick Kopi at a roadside stall with handy bike racks for everyone’s choice of kopi peng, ice milo or calamansi juice.

NIK_6959Not long after, the group split with the less adventurous [we had plenty of adventures and a scenic trip back to the hotel. Ed.] heading back towards KL on a 9km climb, while those intent on more miles headed for a famed ayam bakar eatery just beyond the township of Bentong on a long, mild descent through the jungle. Of course confusion reigned as to the specific location of the restaurant for lunch, but we did find a signposted ikan bakar place with a load of motorcycles outside and thankfully it turned out to be the right one when our faithful guide who had been following the back of the group showed up with the last arrivals. Quite simply the food was wonderful, it may have helped that we had around 100km in the legs by this point, however the lemang (glutinous coconut milk rice cooked inside bamboo over charcoal for 4-5 hours) and ayam bakar (bbq chicken) was worth the trip alone.

By now the heat was beginning to take its toll and we still had a choice to make. Do we ride the 20km detour to visit the Chamang waterfall, or do we make a beeline for the 30km climb we still had in front of us to get back to the summit of Genting Sempah? A bit of friendly banter and the decision was made with Hilke and Liesbeth basically telling the guys to #HTFU and get on with it. It turned out that Macca had done some pre-trip strava research and he was targeting the segment out to the waterfall anyway, so he took off using the live segment feature of his Garmin to pace his effort and secure the KOM! While it was definitely hot, and would be certain to exact some toll on the legs for later, it was an inspired decision to do the side trip to Chamang as we all enjoyed a very pleasant 15 minutes of cooling down the legs in the stream, a very welcome respite from the 38 degree heat of the day.

WaterfallRefuelled once again from the boot of Mr Losi’s trusty Mercedes, I noted a few of the riders lightening themselves of unnecessary spares and phone pouches (the support car is following us, so it’s always right there if needed right?) in advance of the long climb ahead. Thinking this was a sign of a pending smashfest up the climb, I too handed over my excess pocket contents in preparation for what was to come.

We pointed the bikes in the direction of Genting Sempah and set off on the 30+km climb that gradually gets steeper until it hits around 15% in the last km. Well at least that was what everyone else did, I however had a point to prove after the morning’s climb, so I’d struck out ahead of the bunch alone and for some reason took an ill-advised left turn only 20 something kilometers into the climb resulting in me riding back to Janda Baik. By the time I stopped to confirm I was on the wrong route at an intersection, I’d ridden 7.5km from the turn, only to have my fears realized when a store keeper told me that the way I’d come from was the fastest way to Genting Sempah #Numpty2.

This was going to be fun!  I was now way off course, with no money, no spares, no phone and no idea how to get back to the hotel once I was off the main road.  The chase was on! I figured I was probably 15km behind the last rider by now, but I also knew the group would stop for an ice-cream after descending Genting Sempah, so I had a chance to catch them there. Mountain ITT here we go! In short, it hurt a lot trying to chase down a bunch of riders that thought I was somewhere ahead of them. Up a mountain and down the other side; I didn’t get to enjoy any of the scenery this time, it was pure fear of being lost in KL that drove me on.  The ice-cream stop came and went, no sign of the group.  Signs read 17km to KL, then 14, then 12, still no group and the roads were starting to feel unfamiliar.

Finally I caught a glimpse of some helmets and flashing tail lights in the distance between cars and I’d made it back to the bunch with 1cm of water left in my second bidon.  A planned 181km had become 196, of which 55 were completely solo by the time we reached the hotel. I was smashed [What!  You didn’t do a couple of laps of the hotel to make the 200km? Ed.]

Perhaps the best part of attending an ANZA club trip is the chance to get to know your fellow club members a bit better off the bike, something very easily done when the club lounge is running an open bar and a smorgasbord of pre-dinner nibbles for 2 hours. ANZA has always had a mix of accents, a wide range of cycling experience and both fresh arrivals and long term island state residents in the club, but for some reason this trip seemed to be even more eclectic than usual, it was an evening to enjoy getting to know some new faces. The beer fridge was completely emptied out, reinforcements were delivered and they too were consumed along with plenty of tall stories as we relived the day’s ride in ever increasing colour as the evening progressed. Some chose to continue the banter over pizza at a nearby eatery, while others found sleep a far too attractive proposition – including me.

//John//

Lost:

What of the short group I hear you ask, well that all went a bit pear shaped as on departing the coffee shop the sugar rush of the (well) sugar with a dash of milo must have short circuited my brain.

I thought I was in the front group so after 10 minutes I pulled over to take some photos and wait for Liesbeth and Hilka as us MTB crew stick together. So when I saw the sweeper van it dawned on me I may have slightly misjudged the situation.  Feeling fresh and ready for the full 180km that day I chased the group and quickly got to a T-junction where I caught up with Ruth.  Where we should have taken a right turn to take us back to Genting Sempah, we decided to go left #Numpty3and4.  Perhaps it was the enjoyment of the Kopi and Milo Peng that sub-consciously made us want to repeat the entire Janda Baik loop.  So, after a nice long decent and recognising the coffee shop we had left 25 minutes earlier we realised it had all gone a bit Pete Tong [For those of you lacking in education of the finer aspects of East London language, you may want to consult this link. http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/slang/pete-tong  Ed.]

Climbing back up took a bit longer and being the gentleman I am I thought I better stick with Ruth in case of any mechanicals.  We were saved by Jules who had been instructing the sweeper van in its search of the Malaysian countryside in search of the two lost souls.

By then all my hopes of joining the 180km group had evaporated and I had to call an early bath and head back with the 110km group.  I proceeded to pull the group back [ignoring] to many cries of “steady up” due to a little bit of pent up frustration.  Still it was a great day andand the sweet potato stop at the bottom of McDonald’s Hill powered me home.

//Rachel//

After finding the 2 lost souls sitting under a tree refuelling on roasted sweet potato, we made the final ascent of McDonalds hill (no McFlurry’s in sight).  For those who have been in Singapore too long or are relatively new to climbing, despite being short this was definitely the most challenging part of the day and for some, it was a lesson in what ‘having the right cassette’ really means!  This was also the point where the dreams of riding Taiwan, or Mt Ventoux quickly faded for some of us novices [Don’t put that dream away, just file it for later, Ed.]

Some of the group enjoyed the long fast descent among the trees to regroup before our final 20km back through the streets of KL. After such a great day of climbing, touring and enjoying the villages it is hard to imagine the drama still to come.  Tour leader, Andrew felt we hadn’t been on the bike long enough and that we should all get to experience the joys of riding through the traffic and back streets of KL. The extra stress, pain and heartache was worth every penny for the obligatory photo of the petronas towers!

While doing the obligatory u-turn (which all privately guided tours of KL require), the group stumbled across a poor man who had been struck by a mysterious scooter/car/fallen out of car.  No one watching the poor man had any idea how he came to be lying in the middle of a packed street with injuries we suspect to be from being hit by a car/scooter.  Being dutiful citizens we showed the nurses, who were standing by watching, what real nursing is all about! Malaysia Truly Asia! No one knew anything about nursing and there was no urgency in making sure he was ok.  Thankfully by the time we left, the ambulance had arrived and he was moving and starting to come round.

We were not sure the support vehicle appreciated the numerous detours but to his credit, despite every effort made to lose the driver, he managed to appear from nowhere to finally guide us in the direction of the hotel.

DuraAceWith sounds of relief we roll up the side walk.  A simple U-turn into the driveway of the hotel was all that remained to be negotiated, with calls to navigate carefully over the hazardous grate at the entrance to the hotel.  It must have been the smell of beer or relief at getting off the bike, that a momentary lapse in judgement, led to an expensive and spectacular fall from grace for one of the group.  Much to the delight of the taxi drivers and concern from fellow cyclists (some would say more for the written off wheel set, than for the cyclist himself).  Having parked the front wheel in the grate as if to use it as a cycle rack, our poor fellow cyclist teetered and fell sideways #Numpty5.  The sound of cracking carbon still fuels my nightmares to this day and the taxi drivers are still talking about it!

For any of you teetering on the edge of thinking you aren’t fast enough/strong enough to come away for a cycling weekend with some badass riders,  I have to say, do it!  This weekend was a great mix of ability and speed. The rides allowed the fast ones to win the strava segments, but also allowed us slower cyclists to enjoy the scenery, go at our own pace and push ourselves to our own limits.  Mark and the Mercedes were the icing on the cake.  Spoilt by a car boot of water, coke, bananas 100plus, cyclists couldn’t ask for more!

//Back to Glen for day 2//

Gathering in the lobby before 7am on Sunday morning with tired legs from the previous day’s exploits, the group was looking a bit apprehensive. Another 90+ km of new routes lay ahead and there would be another 4 decent climbs to negotiate. Talk of 7% for 3km suddenly took on a new meaning for those who hadn’t previously understood quite what that meant the day before.

The day’s route took in quiet, scenic and very low traffic roads to Ampang lookout (3.2km in length, 4.2% average), Bukit Hantu (3.4km and 6% average with parts over 10%), Genting Perez (9km at 3%) and back over Ampang lookout from the Eastern side (4km at 4%). The warmups of Ampang and Hantu had everyone working up a sweat, but the undeniable highlight of the day had to be the climb and decent of Genting Perez where the majority of the road was on brand new tarmac that had been laid so smoothly that it could have been a formula 1 track. Coming down I couldn’t help but simply let gravity do the work and enjoy the seemingly endless flowing curves.

NIK_7335We re-grouped at the bottom and headed for a great little family run kopi tiam with bike racks out the front (Singapore cafe’s could really learn something here!) for a quick refuel. The traffic was picking up in the late morning, so the return journey towards Ampang NIK_7354-2lookout was definitely busier than on the way out. We were all lined out single file on a narrow section of road when mid group, Matt hit a hole and swerved to the right due to his front brake jamming on.  If not for his assured bike handling I’m sure a number of us would have hit the deck, but thankfully nobody did. Onward to the last climb of the trip and the sun was beating down mercilessly. My garmin read 38.9 degrees as we worked our way up the quite exposed climb back to the lookout. It was hot, and there was little shade to shelter in once at the summit regrouping point – but in what seems to be a reliable occurrence on any ride no matter where you are in Malaysia, an ice-cream vendor on his trusty motorbike appeared out of nowhere to provide us all with unexpected extra sustenance.NIK_7351

A few obligatory photos and we were on our way when Carmen managed to get the only flat among the group for the trip just 500m into the final decent – thankfully it wasn’t further down the hill in a steeper section where it would have been a lot more interesting to handle! Mr Losi was on call with a track pump and after locating an errant piece of glass in the tyre, we were rolling again to catch the rest of the group for the uneventful roll into KL and the poolside lunch awaiting us in the hotel.

An hour of eating, drinking and chilling and it was time to board the bus for the return to Singapore after a great weekend of roughly 300km of riding and new friendships made. Once again, thanks to the pre-trip organization of Laura and extra-mile support of our host, Mark for ensuring everything ran like clockwork.

//Mystery Writer//

After clearing passport control at Tuas my bags were in the scanner when out of the corner of my eye I saw the customs officer leap out of her chair like she had just won the jackpot at MBS. She excitedly pointed at my bag as it exited the equipment. Mmmm… Anyway apparently there’s an issue in bringing Tiger back to Singapore #Numpty6 and I was promptly led away for interrogation. After every single document I had was photocopied in triplicate I was taken to the senior customs officer who proceeded to give me an extremely interesting talk about the nuances of the duty free allowance for different ports of entry. This spellbinding lecture was interrupted when Jas phoned to find out if I needed bail. After the call was over I explained to the official that the ANZA riders were waiting outside in the bus and he said “oh in that case you’re free to go if you pay the $4.45 duty”. I did so and was hastily escorted to the bus. I am not certain why he had such a sudden change of heart and released me, but I suspect that he knows Glen and was feeling some sympathy for me and the rest of our group after spending 48 hours with him.

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