Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kuala Selangor - Sekinchan Ride

An obligation to a request..
I received a phonecall a week ago.
On the other end of the line, was a beginner folding bicycle cyclist.
She wanted to ride in Sekinchan.
Well, for starters, many cyclists have been there to cycle. You can either do the paddy fields or the Bagan (fishermen's village).
Then Andrew Ng contacted me to plan a route.
I had the weekend off and Saturday was my off day.
So, I told him that I could assist in the ride.
He asked if I could also lead. I obliged.
I gave the route: Kuala Selangor via Jalan Ara near Kg Sungai Yu and towards Tanjung Karang and a detour via Bagan Tengkorak and Sungai Burung.
For the safety of the bunch, I avoided using Highway 5 that links Klang to Teluk Intan.


It goes around and around..
Social media feeds are very powerful. 
Once you announce to the entire realm, all sorts of responses would be made.
And word landed at my workplace. 
I asked one of co-workers if he's going. It was 50-50.
Other people in my office viewed him as a cycling guru. He offered a route in the kampung roads, I asked if he could co-lead, no commitment on his part. Its all jibba-jabba.
"You rode in Sekinchan before ah?" 
I told him that I have cycled from Kuala Selangor to Teluk Intan via Highway 5. After that, no more responses. 
The tough part was to design a route which is scenic, not boring to ride and away from the busy Saturday traffic. 
And as far as the stretch along the West Coast is concerned, we've done from Tg Piai to Teluk Intan. I am still connecting the dot as I am speaking.


Ride day
Pre-event day, I made sure that the cyclists are supplied with bananas (a source of potassium and energy). I invested a small sum of money to procure 5kgs of bananas. All these, I gave away for free. 
There were some leftover tire patches that was also given away.
Down at the pre-ride briefing, I told the cyclists on what to expect.
There were many new faces. Some folks, I had cycled with them before on one or more occasions. 
The final head-count was 40 cyclists. Two more had made prior arrangements to link-up in Tanjung Karang.
We rode off at 7:45am towards Sungai Yu. 
This was a short distance from Kuala Selangor as the morning sun rose beyond the horizon.


The group in Kuala Selangor
A short detour
As the ride leader, I maintained a speed of 20km/h. 
But with cyclists who had different levels of fitness, the bunch started to break. 
Stronger riders are able to keep up while the average one would form the middle pack and the weakest would fall way back.
To keep things in tow, I handed Andrew Ng who volunteered as a sweeper.
Now, in a large group, sweeping is no easy task. But Ng managed very well.
We also lucky to have a Doctor and some experienced riders to form the middle pack.
Right after exiting Sungai Yu, we entered Bagan Tengkorak.
With plenty of time on hand, I led the bunch to a offroad section, where we cycled on a bund and  returned back to the village.
Sekinchan is only a short distance away from Bagan Tengkorak.
Sungai Burung was next as I led them towards Kampung Parit Empat.
We reached Sekinchan around 10:50am, there were ample time to ride to the Beach area.
This is to give the cyclists a feel of what its like riding in an open range.
By 11:15am, the group were already at the beach area and had a break before lunch.


A photo session at the beach..
Timing is essential
Right after the session at the beach, it was time to get filled.
Lunch was in order.
We rode back to the Bagan and circled around. 
I had failed to locate a makan place where the boats are built.
Then I decided that it was best to take our meals at a place recommended by Mr Khaw Lye Hock, a veteran rider whom I met in a couple of rides.
Khaw had suggested Cha Por Thian restaurant.
We were good to go on that.
While seated, the radio crackled. 
Our sweeper had lost his way.
Instead of eating at the suggested place, a group had cycled across Highway 5 to Sekinchan town.
Later, they re-grouped and were the last to eat.
I had a good time with the veterans. 
We had beers and a decent meal and to top it up, great company.


The beer kakis!
The journey back..
One big thing that was lingering in my mind was the safety and well-being of the group.
There were 40 of us. I think a few who had indicated that they would join in the ride were no-show at Kuala Selangor.
My plan was simple: get them across to Sekinchan and ride towards Tg Karang using the canal roads.
Now, the sun was directly above my head.
It was about 1:45pm and I don't think many took the liking to the scorching heat.
Nevertheless, a decision was made. I convened with the ride organizer to voice this out in which he agreed.
Right after lunch, a group of six decided to leave.
They knew the route, and I told them to get the okay from the event organizer before leaving.
Take away six, we had 34 people.
Still, a large group to be accounted for.
We began the ride on the paddy fields and every five kilometers, I signaled for a break.
The heat had taken toll on many.
One of them was my colleague Eddie.
He seemed pretty weak with all his energy sapped from exhaustion.
I told him that the furthest he could go was Tg Karang.
When we reached the halfway mark, one of the guys, a cycling guru came and asked if I could lead the group to ride "under the shade".
I told him that if he knew what was best for the benefit of all, he should take lead.
I was ready to relinquish the leadership to him.
That didn't happen, so, I continued to ride towards Tg Karang.
With the intricate maze of inner canal roads, I relied heavily on my Garmin EDGE800 GPS.
It showed the way and all the nasty turns along the route.
I remember part of the journey very well after riding Tg Karang - Sg Besar with TT Siang two years ago.
The last part was tricky because of the turn. Make a wrong move and you would wind up in Sekinchan.
My worst fear was apparent when the sweeper said he was lost.
Even the middle bunch were late.
When I was closing-in to Tg Karang, a rider came up and showed his displeasure.
"You all ride so slow la! I am falling asleep.."
While the rest were taking a break at a mamak restaurant, I can clearly see the guy protesting with his head on his arms. 
Way I see it, its bad to throw tantrums especially in front of novice cyclists. But hey! What am I supposed to say? 
I decided to head back to the junction and re-trace the last bunch and right there before my eyes, the middle bunch appeared.
Slowly, they moved forward and I was told that one of the cyclist had taken a fall.
He had abrasions on his nose and upper lip.
Thankfully, our resident expedition doctor was in the house.
I took out my first aid kit and let the medical expert do his job.
Finally, word from the sweeper was he found a way back.
The old-timer who was grumbling had also taken off. I guess we were 'too slow' for his liking.
Eddie had also decided to call it a day by offering to drive the wounded cyclist back to the starting point.
We were reduced by three people.


The final push
We had another 16km to go.
At this point in time, I had to push for an average speed between 20 - 23km/h.
I knew that with every bit of energy left on my body, I would be able to maintain the average moving speed of 17km/h.
We must get back to Kuala Selangor before 05:30pm.
While pulling the rest, we did good time and took a break at a Cendul stall some 6km from Kuala Selangor. 
There, we linked-up again with the sweeper.
Two more cyclists had dropped out from the group.
I was told that they wanted to take the scenic route.
After savouring the tasty iced dessert, we rode the final stretch and reached the finish line in time.
I wasted no time in packing the bike and thanked the organizer for doing a good job.
After saying good bye to the rest, we made our way home.
In total, it was 69km ride with the hottest temperature recorded at 39C.
As far as my obligation was concerned, everyone arrived back safely. And that made my day...
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