This is a really happy memory from last month - the second OCBC Cycle Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur, on 19-20 Jan 2013!
Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur
I saw the advertisement last year and thought myself, 'January's too busy a time at work' and decided I could not go. But then Julian Lim from OCBC Singapore invited me along, urging, "Just come along and blog about it. Join a bunch of cyclists and go!"
Magic words. I am typically buried in the frenzy of starting up a semester at NUS in January which eats into my weekends. But I kept thinking about KL - I had walked those streets in the 80's and 90's and knew the layout well. It had changed dramatically and this would be the only way to ride the streets in the company of fellow cyclists.
After an unbelievable delay, I asked myself, "what's more important than cycling?" No answer to that so I agreed to go and began working to get ahead of my deadlines (and ignore a few). Then the cycling event was shifted a week to avoid a rally in KL - and that was perfect timing!
We loaded up our bikes and warmed up to a constant chatter on the bus, between Julian, Kevin Lim and our new friends Shawn Chung and Adrian Tay. The conversation on the way up was ALL about cycling - bikes, gear, routes, safety, deaths, policy, local events, and stories from blog, videos and memories, both funny and sad. We talked until exhausted and then snoozed - mrbrown and Ryan were already in KL would add even more to the mix later.
That conversation, like a few more we had during the trip was instructive - if only we had video-ed those! It was great to hear so much constructive and very funny talk about Cycling in Singapore and the two days would transport me a lifetime away from the grind. Cyclists have lots of discuss and share even without an event, this shared, relaxed outing just amplified our discussions.
So what's the verdict?
I had gone up eager to see if the event would be suitable for my cycling kakis, the Zendogs. I was happy to report back enthusiastically that we should definitely head up next year - in fact, I already paid up for OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014!
The route in KL is more urban than the Singapore ride - it's really street-fare amidst the heart of KL town. Enough sweet little hills are interspersed during the ride to make it interesting but not too much so you'll break!
I actually did some sight-seeing during the ride and slowed down to enjoy the views. I recognise many of the old buildings and streets but the new ones flummoxed me. Some were vaguely familiar, having changed purpose. I understood the feeling Singaporeans must have when returning to our city after an absence of a few years.
At 48km long, the Challenge in KL is also a longer, more satisfying ride for me. I am used to fairly leisurely 60km and 80km rides on my mountain bike, and a half-century sprint is a unique and thrilling experience!
As the Challenge sees cyclists ride four loops of 12km, we are able to go faster during latter loops - well some of us as some others had over-stretched themselves in earlier laps. So by their third round, many cyclists were zipping down hill faster than 50km/h on what were now sun-lit roads. It was certainly exhilarating!
Oddly enough, those who took a toss (there were a few), seemed to have done so on relatively flat stretches of the course. One roadie left a kerb blood-splattered and I hope that looked worse than it was!
The road was not uniformly flat and sealed for sure, and pot holes peppered certain parts, and areas near construction sites were very rough. But that is really all regular city-fare. It did get splashy when water drained across the road unexpectedly. And a sump point appeared in the road too - but a large and loud road marshall positioned himself in front of the gap in the middle of the road and yelled strenuously for the entire duration of the ride, "Cyclists slow down!" His actions prepared us well kept us clear of danger; our hero for sure.
Mostly, the mountain bikers rode over problems, as did Kevin on his fat-tyre Surly. The thin-wheeled bikes were careful to manoeuvre around it all. I was on a relatively thin wheel for only the second time in recent decades and this made the ride much more interesting for me!
I loved the early start of 6.00am for we get to see the sun rise over the city. It did involve me frightening a hotel security guard at 4.30am though.
The poor chap was slumped over a chair, securing the door to the bike store. It took great effort to shake him out of his deep sleep and when he woke, he saw my helmeted, googled face peering down at him. Fear enveloped him and he jerked upright with an arm held out to protect his body! Adrian and I contained our laughter and I felt quite apologetic.
Eventually keys were produced for us to claim our bikes and head off to KLCC. We finally laughed about it later.
A short part of the course was dark as we climbed uphill. Happily Kevin and I were sporting bright NightRider lights which lit the road. Our fellow cyclists thanked us, and we realised hardly anyone had strong front lights!
In this second year of the KL ride, some 5,000 people rode in various categories. I didn’t feel crowded, so the spacing of cyclists by timing worked well. Sure, there were a few tight spots but as always, safety above speed.
The Malaysian cyclists are chatty - one chap told me with concern to take it easy as I huffed and puffed up the first hill! I chatted with several others along various parts of the course and Kevin's Surly was a natural conversation opener especially with cyclists on lighter bikes.
It'd be nice to meet and chat with some of the Malaysian cyclists next year, before and after the event - read the blog posts in the links below and you'll realise they are kindred spirits!
Many friends are becoming regular recreational cyclists along park connectors in Singapore. They stay clear of our roads but enjoy the obstacle-free OCBC Cycle Singapore's 20 and 40km (Community and Challenge rides). If they want to add one more event, I'd recommend OCBC Cycle Malaysia, just a short bus ride away.
Certainly Zendogs will be adding this to our annual calendar alongside NTU Bike Rally and OCBC Cycle Singapore.
Ahem, Malaysian and Singapore PMs announced today, a high speed rail to create a 90min train ride between SG and KL by 2020. Link.
On the bus ride with us were two Singaporeans. They had taken up the rather quietly offered option of just a bus ride up to KL. They loaded their trusty bikes which they use on the PCN and had sussed out their own bargain accommodation in the city. When the bus dropped us off at the hotel, they simply cycled off to their nearby hotel.
They took on the foreboding 48km Challenge the next day, did well and travelled back with us, happy.
My tweets tell the story: Saturday 19 Jan 2013
- Cycling in KL with OCBC Cycle Malaysia! goo.gl/fb/ZxRoU
- Right on cue! Transporting bike in rain, will bring lube! RT@NEAsg: Heavy rain warning: thundery showers 7:20am
- On the outskirts of KL, after a morning of bicycling conversation @motorman @mrbrown @brainopera @OCBCcycleMY #ocbccyclemy2013
- Bus driver warns us, "Once in KLCC, cannot get out!". Sounds like KL needs more people on bicycle and less cars. #ocbccyclemy2013
- Ooh goodness they're doing that horse dance at Jln P Ramlee, in front of start line of OCBC Cycle Malaysia Men's Open Criterium.
- Watching Men's Open Criterium guys zip by in an hour over 50km @mrbrown @brainopera #OCBCcycleMY2013 pic.twitter.com/F0GQdWfF
- The pro riders in the Men's Open Criterium whizz by in 2mins, shaking railings with their turbulence. Surprising number from Terengganu!
- Remembering not to hi-five passing cyclists on their sprint lap around KLCC. They really shouldn't give me a media bib. #ocbccyclemy2013
- One cyclist pulls out of Open Criterium, looks like he bust his chain. So it's not just me! #ocbccyclemy2013
- All set for the the 48km ride; woke at 4am, prep, now to collect bikes and head to KLCC by 5.30am #ocbccyclemy2013 pic.twitter.com/dy6gZmYX
- @brainopera @motorman @mrbrown door to bikes locked, security says no one around. No signs left! Checking for access now. #ocbccyclemy2013
- Shocked an exhausted security guard. Guess I look scary this early! I really need my bicycle! #ocbccyclemy2013 pic.twitter.com/t2NcGgKt
- mrbrown fixing the timing chip on his pink Moultin @mrbrown #ocbccyclemy2013 pic.twitter.com/yPIowNHK
- Watch my run right now with @RunKeeper Live rnkpr.com/a2d9czx?live=t… #RKLive #RunKeeper
- OCBC Cycle Malaysia@OCBCcycleMY: Today is an exciting day ahead for everyone! The 48km Challenge Ride will begin in a few minutes. Share with us... fb.me/2cZjWJ9iD Retweeted by @sivasothi
- Start of the second OCBC Cycle Malaysia! pic.twitter.com/FhZPPGdW
- Taman Botani Perdana @OCBCcycleMY pic.twitter.com/FRjuGJEe
- Sharing the road, Jalan Dato Onn, start of second climb in The Challenge, #ocbccyclemy2013 my last of four laps pic.twitter.com/FY0nMTHy
- Ampang! pic.twitter.com/9LJkIfI9
- Just completed a 39.01 km run - OCBC Cycle Malaysia - with Kevin, Adrian, Shawn. rnkpr.com/a2d9czx #RunKeeper [was 48km but my iPhone GS was spluttering the GPS signal]
- Foldies galore at OCBC Cycle Malaysia! pic.twitter.com/z6GqvFir
- Nasi Lemak after OCBC Cycle Malaysia, nett caloric gain, but we're happy! #ocbccyclemy2013 @brainopera pic.twitter.com/cS5HB9eW
- Riding back to the hotel. Traffic unleashed on Jalan Ampang but it's a wide road and Sunday. pic.twitter.com/mJn9Ko3e
- @OCBCcycleMY eight of us from Singapore all agreed: lovely route, good job, thanks for the ride! Back next year with more, for sure.
- Our bus heads south to Singapore as rain descends on KL. Fascinating lunch time chatter about incidents we witnessed during #ocbccyclemy2013
- @motorman @brainopera @mrbrown @kcfevolve thanks for a great weekend guys. Precious times. Next: NTU Bike Rally? bikerally.ntusportsclub.sg
- Julian Lim@motorman - OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 rough cut: youtu.be/48s4-gLE14s?a via @YouTube Retweeted by @sivasothi
- @Sivasothi: @motorman sweet!
- Kevin Lim@brainopera: @sivasothi mrbrown motorman: Here's the heroic road marshal at #OCBCcycleMY2013 who stood in the middle of instagr.am/p/Uufcbmy-c1/
- Blog post (MY) - "OCBC Cycle Malaysia," by alchemyrider. Coming Home as a Roadie, 21 Jan 2013.
- Blog post (MY) - "Kuala Lumpur - OCBC Cycle KL 2013," by Jotaro Zen. AhPek Biker - Old Dog Rides Again, 21 Jan 2013.
- Blog post (MY) - "OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013,":by Sam Cheong. The Samosauran Chronicles, Part 1, Part 2.
- Blog post (SG) - "Chionging our way through KL at OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013," by mrbrown. mrbrown.com, 22 Jan 2013.
- Route - Kevin Lim's Runkeeper plot of the route
- Photos - by Kelvin Lim on Facebook
- Photos - by N. Sivasothi on Flickr
- Photos, video - "OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013: Racing with the Surley Pugsey," by Kevin Lim. YouTube, 23 Jan 2013.
- Article - Downtown Cycling Fun," by Shawn Chung. Cosmone, 28 Feb 2013.
- Video - OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 v2," by Julian Lim. YouTube, 26 Jan 2013
- OCBC Cycle Malaysia: web, fb, twitter