Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 World Car Free Day - Part 2

It should be better organized.. 

We waited a while until the announcer mentioned the last remaining roadies who crossed the finish line.
By the time the Mayor arrived, the ground crew were seen dismantling a mobile arch with the Shimano logo on the road.
As the mad scramble began, leisure cyclists were getting ready to try out the 4km route which was closed to motorists.
I had the opportunity to catch up with some friends who waited for the leisure ride to flag off at Jalan Ampang.
One of them remarked: "What the hell is this la! Racing on a Car Free Day? All the event organizer see is money, money, money.."
Some even condemned the MNCF for the farce.
I saw the race as a means for some roadies to mutually stroke themselves in public. Nothing more than that.. 
Way I see it, City Hall should plan the Car Free Day thoroughly before they implement an open day for cyclists, skaters, and those who intend to walk around the city.
Even the 4km route was poorly managed. Some cars managed to "squeeze" their way onto the bike path.
Nevertheless, we cycled on and actually made two loops before deciding to call it a day.
The turn out was so-so, mediocre compared to the mass cycling events in Penang or recently in Ipoh.
I guess the last-minute planning by City Hall didn't help as the public was unaware of the World Car Free Day.

Man of the hour: KL's Mayor arriving at the scene


The Mayor made his entrance with style, he was swarmed by reporters from the Electronic and print media.
There, he gave a sweeping statement: Car Free Day to be organised on every Sundays and bicycle lanes will be created in the city.
Some cyclists are doubtful of this and a few actually said that if such events are organized on a weekly-basis on the same route, it will be boring and eventually, the cause will run out of steam.

Factual inaccuracy

While the Mayor had laid out his plans, the MNCF was quick to claim credit for the World Car Free Day. They were quoted by the New Straits Times for "initiating" the World Car Free Day event.. The NST's report on the event
For the record: "World Car Free Day" was an effort by the World Car Free Network (WCN) initiated in 2009 with member countries like the UK, Germany, The Russian Federation, France, Spain, Italy and Brazil.
The NST's boo-boo aside, I give credit to the MNCF for organising the Kuala Lumpur Car Free Day which was factually correct as reported in the NST's Street Central Edition earlier.

Cycling down Jalan Ampang with the iconic KLCC in the background

Samo, watching the race from the roadside
The brotherhood of cyclists..

It was reported in the Press that some 600 people attended the ride.
From what I saw, it may be less than projected.
To my surprise, Folding Bike owners made a large turnout at the event.
Some took the train to the city, others drove and parked at the fringe and rode into Jalan Ampang and a handful actually rode from their homes to the event. Kudos!
We rode off towards Jalan Brickfields to enter the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
But, before that, I led Michelle and Anita into the "Ninja Turtle Route".
This is a simple ride along a 1.8km stretch along the Klang River bank.
I was introduced to this route by Master Urban Cyclist Sin Tai Lim sometime back.

Riding along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman

The Ninja Turtle Route

A mural depicting Malaysia's Founding Fathers

The Gang

Cycling below the city's road level
We saw, we rode, and it's a wrap!

Coming straight out of the sewer, we rode towards the connecting bikeway and made good progress on the Federal Highway's motorbike lane.
At the Jalan 222 interchange, we bade Anita farewell and continued with our journey to Subang Jaya.
It was a smooth ride as we clocked-in more than three hours on the road with a total distance of 61km. This was much shorter than what we did back in January when we rode to the city to join the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 Community Ride.
Michelle and I were satisfied with the ride.
On the whole, Malaysian motorists have a long way to go in lowering the number of vehicles on the road on such a day. 
I guess that with so few bikeways connecting the sub-urban areas to the city, cyclists are put off with the idea of riding from their home to the city centre.
The LRT may provide a good avenue for a multi-modal commute, but restrictions in terms of carrying your bike into the train during peak hours is a damper to the Car Free effort.
What made it worse was the fact that the LRT station staff had refused to allow bikes with their larger auto gates in such times.
All that said and done, let's just hope that the KL City Hall would take some cue in organizing a better Car Free Day event.
And like the few cyclist friends that I met at Jalan Ampang, I don't support organizations that is out to make a quick buck by taking advantage of a Car Free Day with their fancy road race...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 World Car Free Day - Part 1

Off to an early start...

We've had a good rest and woke up at 05:30am.
I set up the bikes the night before and this is actually the first time we were riding our 24" folding bikes into the city centre.
The plan was to cycle from our home in USJ 26, ride up to USJ 20 and take persiaran Tujuan towards the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
Michelle had earlier set up a meeting point with her friend Anita who is cycling with us into the city for the first time.

Last-minute announcement

The guy who runs the Malaysian National Federation of Cyclists (MNCF) was quoted in the newspapers for organizing a Car Free Day event in the city.
At the same time, he also mentioned about a criterium road race where sections of the city's main roads are closed to traffic.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall was involved in this and Leisure cyclists were encouraged to join the ride with the Mayor.
We took this as a cue to ride into the city. There were just the three of us.

Getting ready to hit the road

Riding along the edge of the LDP

On the Federal Highway motorcycle lane
There were no issues at all getting to the Federal Highway bike lane that connects Klang to Kuala Lumpur's City Centre.
Last year, I organized a ride from KL - Klang on the same route.
It took as about an hour to get to Jalan 223 where we met Anita. From there, we made our way into the city centre via Jalan Bangsar.
By the time we got to Jalan Travers, traffic began to pick up in terms of the number of vehicles on the road.

Posing for a shot at the refurbished Majestic Hotel

The Army had their open day in Dataran Merdeka

Michelle, checking out a howitzer
We found that certain sections along this route was really dangerous - especially from Jalan Travers to the Museum. The road splits and we had to cross two lanes to get to the city centre.
The hoarding in front of the Museum didn't really help either as the road becomes really narrow.
Lucky for us, it was just a short distance to cover before reaching the old KL Railway station.
I called for some photo opportunity at the refurbished Majestic Hotel before we rode off to Jalan Raja Laut.
At Dataran Merdeka, the Army had their field day where some of their hardware were shown to the public.
We reached the Sultan Abdul Samad building and noticed a group of cyclists wearing lime-green tee shirts.
Jalan Raja Laut was closed and when we entered the road, a traffic cop directed us to move aside as a peloton of cyclists approached.

Breakfast in Jalan Doraisamy

The KL skyline

The road race in Jalan Ampang

We wait..

I led the gang to Jalan Doraisamy for breakfast.
While our day was about to begin, the night owls were having their last meal of the day before heading back to their barn for hibernation.
I noticed a group of sexy chicks in their night dressing having breakfast at a stall opposite the spot where we had our nasi lemak. These people must have been partying late till the early hours of the morning.
We made our way to Jalan Ampang near the Dang Wangi LRT station where the road race took place.

Chilling out by the roadside
In terms of organization, the DBKL World Car Free Day event was haphazardly done. 
There were no indication as to where cyclists were supposed to gather.
On the race part, there were only a handful of roadies racing each other.
Last I checked there were three groups..
No one even bothered to cheer the peloton as they made their way to the timing sensor along the race route.
I don't think there's any appeal for racing on a Car Free Day.

The irritating announcer..

Some dude who had the mike on his hand was commentating. 
The less-enthusiastic crowd were more interested in socialising than to listen to him.
And while he was at it, a couple rode past on their road bike. They were riding on the side of the road.
Out of the blue, the announcer yelled: "Hey you, father and son team, please get out of the road, there is a race going on!".
The guys shouted back: "This is a car free Sunday!!!"
Later, I found out that the duo was actually a couple - a caucasian dude and an asian lady.
Way I see it, the traffic management and crowd control was pretty bad. 
Leisure cyclists were riding on their own pace while the race was going on.
Even the whole motivation of making money on a Car Free Day seemed morally wrong..

Cycle to work @ 2013 Pre-World Car Free Day ride

We won the battle...

Eddie "niceguy" Chua, my colleague whom I have known for more than two decades had drafted a letter which he managed to get the top man at The Star to lay his signature.
The content stated that a few of us are cycling to work and wanted to bring our bikes to our workplace.
Our big, big, boss agreed. 
He sealed the deal and there are no more controversies about bringing a bicycle to the workplace.
Eddie did not agree to park his bike in the loading bay and since it was a folding bike, there were no issues having it at the workstation as it does not get in the way.

Far and few in between

I cycle to work whenever I need to.
On a few occasions, I had no choice but to cycle because my car was in the workshop.
To do so, I must give myself at least one hour head-start to slowly make my way from USJ 26 to the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
This is roughly about 10km from where I live.
And for the record, I am the only guy from The Star who cycles to work regularly.
Now, with the permission granted to do so, I do plan to do more often.

Living up to a tradition...

Cycle to work was initiated by Star Two Assistant Editor Andrew Sia back in 2011.
He wanted to do an article about commuting to work with a bike.
I obliged by cycling from my home in USJ 26, Subang Jaya, covering a distance of 43km on a round trip.
Last year, I continued the tradition by roping-in Eddie Chua. Only both of us cycled on Car Free Day.
This year, the plan was the same. Meet up in Sungai Way and cycle to work.
The only difference was having three more guys joining us.
I also put up a request for a video shot by multimedia.

This year's gang.. 
We had The Star Cycling Team captain Kevin Tan on his Tern Verge X20 folding bike, Mohd Sean Shazarin who ride a GT mountain bike and StarMetro Assistant Editor Jacobus Jeyaraj who also rode his GT mountain bike.
So, we gathered at Tukang Basikal Fook Sang at 08:00am in Sungai Way and ride towards Menara Star in Section 16.

Samo leading the way.. 

Negotiating the traffic
A simple ride..

We set out from Fook Sang with ease, rolling down towards Jalan 223 and half-way through, I received a call from the multimedia videographer.
He was late, so we met up with him in Medan Selera Jalan 222.
After filling with some Nasi Lemak and teh tarik, Patrick, our video guy shot some footages.
I also liaised with Award-winning photographer Azman Ghani for the lead photos.
Throughout the ride, we coordinated and planned where the best angles are for the shots.
Azman did a superb job and so did Patrick with the editing and linking up the video on YouTube.

The video put up on YouTube

Arrival at the office.. 
It was a short ride to the office, the only tough part was the long climb from Section 13 to Section 16 at Jalan Dato Abu Bakar.
I had no problems keeping up with Kevin who seemed to be cycling with much ease.
We waited for Eddie and Jacob to climb the hill and I can see that Eddie was struggling to keep his pace.
After clearing the hill, it was a smooth roll to the office.

And there's work to be done.

The moment I got to m workplace, I began to work on the story.

Later in the day, I saw to it that it sees print with an on-line photo gallery and the video link.
My work day came to a close at 06:15pm when I clocked out from the office.
It took me another one and a-half hours to get home.

Likes and dislikes...

The YouTube video was put on-line and publicly shared. On the last count, there were four likes and nine dislikes.
I don't know whether the losers who disliked the video were simply trolls or people who hated cyclists. 
But hey! The least we did, was to cycle to work and we did just that.
I hope that the next cycle to work venture will attract more people. At least this year, we had three more guys joining in the ride. 
And for a company with more than 3.000 people, five cyclist out of the lot goes to say that something is very wrong.. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ipoh - Part 3

Preparing for the trip home.. 

We've had a blast at the Hulu Kinta Forest reserve.
The cyclists spent some time exploring this part of Ipoh and took plenty of pictures.
I told Uncle John that it was time to move on and that we should break for lunch when get get out of the trail.
He told me to alert the rest of the riders about the downhill ride.
Inexperienced cyclists, he added, might encounter some difficulties.
We also parted ways to Patrick, his wife, John, a foreigner and a young girl. They lived in Tambun, so, that was their destination.

Coconuts for the soul

Cooling off

Mr & Mrs Wong enjoying their refreshment
We rode out towards Sunway Ipoh and found a place for a break.
It was a small stall selling coconuts and at RM2.50 a pop, the natural cooling juice was a welcoming treat.
Later, the group proceeded for a lunch break near Giant Hypermart.
I timed the break in such a way, we would be able to get back to the Ipoh Sentral station by 04:00pm at the latest.

Lunch break
A chance encounter...

After filling up our tummies, we rode out towards the Tambun junction.
There, we parted ways with Uncle Joe.
The group carried on riding until they reached a roundabout.
From that point, the cyclists were breaking up.
We regrouped at a bus stop and while we were waiting, Uncle John pointed out at a senior citizen who was pushing his bike.
The man wore a safety vest and was pushing his 26" bike.
"Hey Sam! You've got to meet this guy, he is 95-years-old and still cycling!," said Uncle John.
The man in question is Mr Joseph Sr. 
He was a bank employee and one of the longest surviving cyclist in town.
Uncle Joseph said he had been hit by vehicles a few times and thanked the Lord for looking over his shoulder.
I found his story inspiring and there's no doubt that Ipoh is a place for retirees.
Hopefully, I would be able to catch Uncle Joseph on the trail again. I wished him safe travels before moving on to the new part of the town for an early tea break.

Uncle John sharing a light moment with the Grand old cyclist of Ipoh..

The group, making a final run to town..
We had our tea break at a coffeeshop called Loke Wooi Kee which is famous for their ice-cream soda drink.
There, we feasted on their rojak buah and quenched our thirst with the carbonated beverage.
Uncle John, being the good host that he is, kept watch over our bikes while the group was split in half when some of the cyclists had decided to try out a soya bean drink outlet nearby.

The famous coffee shop serving ice-cream soda in Ipoh, Perak

Uncle John keeping watch
The ice-cream soda treat
After the tea break, Johnny decided to get some trinkets for his family.
He wanted to get the salted herbal chicken and one of the shop selling it had a long queue.
I told him that its all the same.
So, we went to a corner shop and bought some of the local delicacy.
When we were done, we rode out towards the Ipoh Sentral station.
There, we took a group photo to honor our host Uncle John and parted ways.
It was an awesome ride right from the beginning...

Thank you Uncle John! 
Johnny, packing up his 16" ride

The gang, heading back to KL
We said good bye to Uncle John and our riding kaki Roger and Patric had decided to stay behind.
After packing our bikes, we went to a cafe at the station.
There was a table where we sat down with Eric Eng treating the gang with some cool drinks.
While we were at it, an elderly Malay man started engaging in a conversation.
He asked if we were part of a club.
I told him that we were merely friends.
"Eh, you can help me la, organize rides for charity...," he said.
Then, he pulled out his business card and the man has a title.
So, I politely told him that we are not club members and event organizers.
He took my hint and changed the subject.
This is a stranger who wanted a group of cyclists to do his bidding. If we were naive, we might end up doing work for him while he reaped the profits.
So, the way to go about this is to lay low and go under the radar. I had a bad feeling about this and stayed away from giving out way too much information.


The Ipoh ride had turned out to be a success. Everybody was happy. That said, I can look forward to an overnight stay in Ipoh and spend more time getting to know the great foldies of this Northern town. Once again, Thank You Uncle John and Gang for making this happen! 

Ipoh - Part 2

Riding a small bike in the real world..

I've had my Dahon Curve SL 9-speed 16" folding bike since 2011.
Its the perfect bike for bikepacking and town-hopping.
The 9-speed Shimano Capreo drivetrain is evenly paired with the bike's 55T FSA chainring.
This little demon can climb, cruise and coast.
My last outing was a solo bikepacking ride in Taiping, Perak and I came to appreciate the bike for its versatility.
In the Ipoh ride, three 16" bikes were on the road.
Johnny Ng brought his XDS foldie while Eric Eng was riding a Polygon Urbano.
I didn't have much trouble keeping up with Uncle John and the rest and was actually reserving my energy for the ride to Hulu Kinta.

Samo's going places with his Curve SL
Eric Eng and his Polygon Urbano

Johnny's little and nippy XDS 16" folding bike
We chilled out at the Kek Look Tong cave temple.
A bunch of curious old timers were checking out the bikes and when they were told how much it costs, their faces literally went white.
We took a group photo at the temple grounds before moving off towards Jalan Tambun.

Local folks checking out the bikes.. 

At the Kek Look Tong temple
The road to Hulu Kinta...

Prior to moving out, I told Patrick, the ride leader who took over from Uncle John to keep an eye out for a petrol station where the cyclists can fill up their water bottles.
We have between 10 - 12km to cover before reaching the Briged Utara training centre where the elite VAT69 police commandos are based.

Riding along Jalan Tambun 
Filling up with RON95

Roger and Patric, my regular touring kakis

We rode towards Jalan Tambun through some housing estates to avoid the daily traffic.
While I was maintaining my speed, Uncle Joe rode past and told me that Tambun is the epicentre for growing pomelos.
We kept our conversation until a climb over the North-South Higway bridge.
From that point, we made a right turn towards Sunway Ipoh.
A petrol station was not too far in the distance and there, we filled up on our water while some took their toilet break.

A strong group and well-organized cyclists...

The Ipoh foldies are the most friendliest and courteous group of people I've come across.
In my years of cycling the folding bike, I've yet to meet riders over the age of 70.
There as Uncle Joe and Uncle Tee who were way past their 70s.
Uncle John is one year shy of joining the 70s club.
He told me that the two other guys would cycle regularly and go on town-hopping trips.
"We go to Gopeng and have lunch, then jump into the train back to Ipoh," said Uncle John.
He takes bikepacking seriously and has plans to discover Central Sumatera on his folding bike.
We left the petrol station and Patrick the ride leader is a strong cyclist.
He was pulling at 25km/h and half-way through, Uncle John blasted his electronic siren to ask for a re-group.
The stunned ride leader then said the rest of the group was a bit slow.
I told him that the average moving speed is between 12 - 19km/h.
We waited for the group to close-in and made our way to the Hulu Kinta Trail.

Johnny and his little bike in action
Uncle John our host in Ipoh
Places in Ipoh I never knew existed...

We rode in certain places around Ipoh which I think could be included as a set destination in future bikepacking trips.
I wanted to check out the Tanjung Rambutan train station as it is scheduled to be demolished.
But seeing as it is, the trip to Hulu Kinta forest reserve seems more interesting.
Lucky for me, none of the KL foldies protested, so, we rode out to the area.
Uncle John told me that the area could be really tough for beginners as the terrain was undulating.

At the end of the climb.. 

Mohd Radzi at work with his camera

At the Sultan Azlan Shah reservoir with Patric Yee
I rode along Uncle John and had a chat with him.
We talked a bit and waited for the rest of the riders to re-group.
There are stalls at the Sultan Azlan Shah reservoir and I was told that there are also tracks leading to the National Stud Farm beyond Tanjung Rambutan.
If I have paid to ride in the Ipoh Fun Ride event, I would have never seen these places.
I felt really privileged to cycle with Uncle John and his crew who showed us around.
We spent some time at the Hulu Kinta area before moving back to town..

Ipoh - part 1

A month's worth of planning...

Bike technician and shop owner Johnny Ng had expressed keen interest on a train & ride trip from KL - Ipoh.
I suggested that we take the KTM ETS service from KL Sentral and ride around Ipoh, Perak.
He took the idea with great enthusiasm and all that's left, is to round up the posse.
I bought the tickets in advance and told Johnny that only certain seats in the coach are with enough space to place the folded and bagged bikes.
Apart from that, I also contact Uncle John Pah, an Ipoh resident who rides a Tern Eclipse P24h.
He was very enthusiastic about it and actually made arrangements to show us around.
The head-count was seven cyclists from KL and another 15 people in Ipoh.
Our ride also coincided with the Ipoh fun ride that took place on Sept 15.

The gang in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
Early morning blues

Getting up in the wee hours of the morning and driving to the KL Sentral station isn't everybody's cup of tea.
To bikepack, you've got to be thoroughly disciplined.
People with Rockstar attitude would not cut it.
So, the plan is to meet Johnny and the posse: Mohd Radzi Md Noor, Roger Teoh and Patric Yee (my usual bikepacking and touring kakis) in Brickfields at a public carpark and ride to KL Sentral.
There, we will meet two more cyclists, newcomers Eric Eng and William Yeo.

Ipoh-bound, William, Eric and Mohd Radzi
Johnny wasn't impressed with the size of the breakfast wrap...
We've loaded up with breakfast to begin the two and a-half hour journey to Ipoh.
And at 06:04 sharp, the doors on the KTM ETS coach closed.
Usually, on early morning rides as such, the coach would be half-full. So, we could sit anywhere we want.
And as I've predicted, some asshats sat on our seats. 
It's okay since we found a area in the coach which was large enough to accommodate our bikes.
But the bummer was the fact that I lost my Cateye Rapid One with an adapter clip that was given to me by Johnny's partner Ah Fatt.
I went on without realizing that the light was missing.

Rendezvous with the Ipoh foldies...

We reached Ipoh Sentral station at 08:30am.
There was a group waiting for us there and the first person who came up to us was Uncle John.
He told me that his group is waiting in front of the train station and are ready to escort us on the ride.
"Eh, Sam ah! We are going to take you around a park area in town before heading down to the old section of the city for breakfast.. Okay ah?," asked Uncle John.
I was happy to oblige and told him that Patric was really hungry. 

Introducing the posse to Uncle John at the train station
We made our way to the entrance of the station to set up the bikes.
This time round, I brought my old faithful 16" Dahon Curve SL.
It has the lowest mileage in my stable with about 550km of ride time.
I felt really guilty because the rest of the time, I was cycling my Dahon Speed P8 and Jetstream EX.
Later, we went out to the exterior of the train station and organised a group photo.

Fellowship of the foldies
Uncle John led the cyclists to a park area near the riverfront which I never knew existed.
It was very interesting as we were led towards the older part of Ipoh.
Breakfast was served and my priority was to lead Mohd Radzi to some Halal food stalls while the guys enjoy their Ipoh street food.
Being the only Muslim cycling buddy in the group, I felt obliged to look after him.

Breakfast at Omar Nasi Kandar
Immediately after filling up our tummies, we rode back into town to join the rest of the people.
The ride sweeper Patrick, Uncle John's cycling kaki said we were slightly behind time.
Since Johnny wanted to see some cave temples, I told Uncle John to grant him the wish.

Riding along the Concubine Lane in Ipoh Old Town
Heading out of town

Cycling in an orderly manner
So, we rode a loop across Little India and made our way to the outskirts of Ipoh.
The first destination was the old Polo ground.
We rode around the place and went straight to the Kek Lok Tong Cave temple..