Words by Tony Brown
Photos by Ben Crouch and Chris Bloch
Club ride report from Tanjung Pengelih via Desaru, Kota Tinggi, JB, Woodlands and beyond.
The team for the day consisted of Ben Crouch, Chris Bloch, Craig Martin, Jonas Trindler, Juliane Winzer, Michael Jones, Mike Koreneff, Roger Allingham and Tony Brown.
Eating breakfast and slathering on sunscreen at 4.30am is always tough. It was a very early start with the meet at Changi Point ferry arranged for 6am. Nothing a warm vending machine can of coffee won’t fix. So, after a few delays, we were underway by boat just after 7.30am. It was a perfect morning as we made our way on the short crossing to Malaysia, clear blue skies, flat ocean…. It was going to be a great day.
After the formalities on arrival in Tanjung Pengelih, we had a quick group snap and we were on the road and rolling by 8.30, later than we’d hoped for, but the mood was up. The bright skies looked set for the day, the opening 20km was amazing as we made our way east across the south coast towards Kampung Lepau. It was mostly rolling dual carriageway, very little traffic and the bunch chatted away as we made good time. It was a great day to be out on the bike.
We picked up highway 92 which took us south towards Sungai Rengit and the coastline. Without much effort we seemed to be rolling along at a great clip. This all came to abrupt halt once we joined highway 90 turning north east and following the coastline towards Tanjung Sepang. No, we weren’t all on a great day after all, we’d had a good tailwind that was now straight in our faces. The chatting stopped and we had to start working much harder, riding into a decent headwind for what turned out to be most of the morning. The group worked well together, heading north hugging the Desaru coastline through lots of villages, each with their own friendly waving and smiling locals, and series of unmarked speed humps.
By now, we were running low on water. After an unsuccessful detour off route around the new hotel developments of Desaru [ed. this was part of the route], the consensus was to keep following the highway and assumed we’d come across somewhere to buy water and maybe lunch. Just as it was looking like KFC would fill the void, there appeared a strip of shops and a great little supermarket. Ice creams and electrolytes were hastily consumed, and it was soon time to get back onboard. By now, we were back on highway 92 and headed towards Kota Tinggi.
This was probably the toughest sector of the day for all, it was another 50km to Kota Tinggi heading north west. The first thing I noticed was the traffic became much busier with lunchtime approaching, plus the road was narrower, riding two abreast wasn’t going to be safe. The second thing was that I was really struggling. To avoid potential hunger later in the day, I’d eaten way too much at lunch, my body was punishing me for the error.
With the busy traffic, the heat and the speed of the strung-out group, it made sense to split into two. Special mention here to Chris Bloch for towing my group virtually the entire way to Kota Tinggi. Chris got us to the turn onto highway 3, and we were now heading south towards JB and the wind was now mostly at our backs.
After another ice-cream and electrolyte fix at one of the lovely service stations, we were en route home. I’d ticked off a tough section and it felt like it was the home straight. Another 45km to the border checkpoint. We can do it!
Unsurprisingly, highway 3 was the busiest of the roads we travelled on. Riding single file most of the way, dodging pot holes and road debris became paramount. By this time, it was well after midday at the hottest point of the ride. My Garmin told me it was 40C, each set of lights we stopped at, felt like stepping into a sauna. We were making good time, weaving our way through endless traffic queues, getting close to the border. Again, low on water, there was one final pit-stop to fuel up on ice creams and take on water. The border wasn’t too busy, there wasn’t a queue and we sailed through to the Singapore side. Well, some of us did. Craig Martin might be the only person, ever to have punctured on the bridge. Eventually, all 9 of us were safely back in Singapore.
On tired legs we rolled down Woodlands and Bukit Timah roads. Some doing more pulling than others. We said our goodbyes and peeled off as we neared home. Some of the hardcore went for a thirst-quenching beer. What had been a blisteringly hot day, was finished in true Singapore style by a downpour within 5km of home.
It was my first ride into Malaysia. It was very challenging, but it was awesome fun. As soon as the pain subsides, I’m sure I’ll want to do it again. Well done to all taking part, it was a great bunch, with good humour and camaraderie.
We must give thanks to Mike Koreneff for taking charge with navigation and always making the time to check the bunch were safe and travelling OK. Finally, thanks to Anza Cycling!