Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bentong - Karak Ride part 2

Our old friend Ah Pan (left), Rita, Uncle Meng and Michelle

Farmer Wong trying out the full-suspension recumbent bike by Veloteknik

The heavy traffic leading to Karak

Our planned route
I put my foot in my mouth when I said I don't ride on highways.
Somehow, I was beaten flat and Michelle complained about riding some 16km of highway from Karak to Bentong..
The realistic route was from Sertik to Bentong. This is an additional 20km to the existing route and I don't think we would take it.
That aside, we managed to cycle all the way to the Bentong junction along the East Coast highway without a hitch.
I can see plenty of skid marks on the road. Some cars have actually swerved and crashed on a straight stretch. 
If fate would have things it's way, we were done for.
It just takes a drunk driver or some guy high on drugs to end our lives in a flash. 
That is the danger of cycling on a highway.
Even the road leading to Bentong was heavy with traffic.
I received a call from Ah Pan when I was about to reach town. He was already there with farmer Wong and wanted to meet me at a coffee shop opposite the town's central market.
As I made my way, a bunch of high-powered motorbikes whizzed through town. They acted as if they owned the road. I have little respect for super bikers because they have no courtesy.
Ah Pan wave and shouted as we made our way through the town square.
Bentong is small and our plan was to have a bowl of curry laksa there.
"Eh, no good la, there's a Vietnamese beef noodle shop here. Its really good!," said Ah Pan.
We took a bite at this and it was really good.
Half-way through, I saw two familiar shapes and they were none other than Uncle Meng, a recumbent bicyclist and his friend Rita.
We communicated on Facebook and were told that they would be plying the Bentong route from Gombak.
Uncle Meng is expected to shoot off to Europe next week for a three month tour.
His HP Veloteknik bike was fully loaded with gear and this, I guess, was a final run before he embarks on the long-haul.
We exchanged some notes at the coffee shop, the couple had their noodles and drinks and as the day grew hotter, it was time to hit the road.
While Ah Pan and I were examining the recumbent bike, a middle-aged man asked: "You are Sam Wong right? The guy who cycles and writes about food?"
Both Ah Pan and I were dumbfounded. "Sam Wong? Nah, never heard of him.. Sorry boss.." I said. I can see the confused look on the guy's face. And Ah Pan did the right thing by correcting him. 
"Sam Cheong is it? This is the guy la.. ", he jested.
So, there I was, caught in a catch 22 situation. I am no 'Sam Wong', because that namesake was a real prick back in art college.
Jokes aside, I chatted with the guy, obliging some questions. 
Our Dahons were 'overshadowed' by the HP Veloteknik recumbent.
Ah Pan suggested that we meet up with farmer Wong and his kid at 'Pusat Basikal Bentong', an authorised dealer for LE RUN products.
It was just a couple of minutes ride as we made our way through Bentong's busy street. 
The traffic seems to flow seamlessly till I flagged down a car and a motorcycle to allow us to cross over.
We caught up with farmer Wong and in the heat of the conversation, some mountain bikers rode past. 
They asked Michelle a lot of questions about her Dahon Speed TR.
With the sun above our heads, she hinted that it was time to scoot.
I wished Uncle Meng well for his long-haul and parted ways with Ah Pan and farmer Wong.
The next ride would be a trip from Karak to Raub. This would be interesting.
As for the fun, well getting back was all there is on my mind. 
We don't want to get killed and our main objective is to ride it all the way.
Certain parts of the road to Karak had proven to be truly overwhelming.
The heat and undulating terrain had forced us to pull over to cool off several times.
But with determination, we rode back to Karak town at half past twelve.
Getting home to Subang Jaya, well, that is another thing!


RIDE REVIEW


Total distance covered: 42.51km
Time utilised on the road: 3hr 02mins
Total of stops: 6
Number of flat tires: 0
Average Speed: 13.9km/h
Top Speed: 48km/h


THE GOOD


Decent road, plenty of places you can pull over to rest, conduct repairs. The distance of 20km from Karak to Bentong is not bad. But you will have to be at least a level-2 rider (fit, with some training) to complete the course.


THE BAD


Plenty of road debris along the way, some parts of the route are really narrow and there were a couple of sections with long slopes, so, if you are a lousy climber, better work on the right technique


THE UGLY


This is a route that is heavy with traffic. There are speeding trailers, trucks and cars. So, be on the defensive. I know this sounds crazy, a side mirror helps. If a car comes from the rear and is careening out of control, you have ample time to ditch the bike and jump for safety.


There are very few places along the route that offers water. Whether you buy or fetch it. So, plan your water supply, hydrate all the time..
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