akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Sunday 5 July 2015

Touring: Labis to Seremban (20-22.05.2015) - Prologue

[The Why]
One of the versatility of mountain bikes is that they can be used for road riding. On smooth tarmac. Just change the knobby tires with slicks and you can enjoy speeding on the paved road. Or go slow, and capture the essence of the environment as you roll along the road. For the slower you go, the more your senses could gather and enjoy. The sound, sight and smell.

Perhaps that's the essence and definition of bicycle touring for me. To soak in the environment via the paved road. By that, it also means that distance is not important, rather the route and the place.

 Latfy on a quiet road

Also, as eloquently put by Latfy:
When you travel from place to place
You will begin to realise in your own timely space
Living is not a rush nor it is a race
But breathing life at a slower pace
[The Where]
And so, a year ago I charted on Google Maps the route from Seremban to Plentong in Johor Bahru. Primarily on Route 5, the journey would be along the roads in towns across Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor: Port Dickson, Masjid Tanah, Batu Berendam, Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian and Masai. These are towns that I have been to, but only by bus and car. In sealed boxes with air-conditioning, rolling on four tires. No treat for my senses except for the sights passing by so fast from the windows when looking outside. Even so, the view is restricted when I'm in the bus for I could only see the view either left or right of the road (with a little bit of pain in the neck).

durians on a tree by the roadside
I wanted to experience the journey across the same road and enjoy the sight and sound of the places. The nice and beatiful traditional houses dotted along the road. The redness (and also yellow) of rambutans hanging on trees. The smell of durian by the roadside, and flowers too, as I stride along. Perhaps of equal joy is to feel and take in the breeze of fresh air as I pedal through the road under the shade of trees lining the empty road. But not under the piercing raindrops. Give me sunshine for I can still go on, but not heavy rain as it is safer to stop.

[The Hiccup]
The planned journey was stalled for a year as I encountered a few small obstacles. One which is very important is safety. The other equally important is a touring partner. The rest is to acquire essential knowledge for a self-supported and self-guided touring, along with the proper bicycle parts and equipment.

The initial plan was to go to PD from Seremban. That means going through Mambau's narrow and winding road, sharing with lorries. So yeah, that small bit made me put the plan on the shelf. Until I saw Rezar and a few more from Perpatih Cycling Community went out touring with their bikes to Singapore earlier this year. So I asked Rezar the route that they took to get to Melaka. It was through Rantau. Rantau is Perpatih's familiar route, being their training ground speeding along on road bikes every Friday night (I've never been with one, though). So that's it, Rantau could be the safe connection for me to cycle from Seremban to get to Melaka. It also means that I will be going through a nice place in Melaka which I really wanted to cycle on: Lubok China (especially Ramuan China Besar).

[The Who]
I've been spending time with Latfy during lunch hours and Friday prayers for quite some time lately. Primarily for (cheap, but good) coffee and sharing cycling stories among others. When I mentioned to him about the gap which is now sealed for the touring route, he exclaimed "aku nak ikut!" ("I want to come along!"). One by one things fall into their places. Alhamdulillah.

[The Change]
The initial route is now changed - Revision 1; instead of going to PD, we are going to Rantau, Linggi, Lubok China and Masjid Tanah to get to Batu Berendam. We'll stay for the night in Batu Berendam at my cousin's house and continue to Muar and Batu Pahat. One night in Batu Pahat and to Pontian the next day, sleep over another cousin's house in Rimba Terjun. The last leg would be to JB through Skudai, and finally to Plentong. The journey would be concluded with a train ride from JB to Seremban the next morning. 5 days and 4 nights, about 326km in total. It is deemed doable for I planned it to be at a pace of 15km/h average and not more that 6 hours riding per day. Perfect.

The route was conceived end of March 2015, and we checked our calendars to fit the days in. We agreed initially to set the date on 13th May. Some time in April we changed the date to a week later as Latfy's circumstances has changed. Early May, Latfy told me that he was offered a short assignment in Kedah which requires him to be there the next day after our long touring journey ends. I got back on the calendar and touring plan, and made a major revamp - Revision 2.

[The 2nd Change]
the revised plan
I did not intend to shift the dates again, rather to make it shorter. Heck, it would still embody the essence of why we are doing the touring. No problem. In fact, it is a pure win-win thing. And perhaps a blessing in disguise, for Allah's plan is bigger than ours.

So I took a fresh look at the plan, and fixed my eyes to Muar. We'll be spending the night there - at a homestay owned by Latfy's MIL. Then I looked at at the train schedule, together with Google Maps and saw how Labis could be our destination, en route to Muar. This warrants another big change, which is to go in reverse. A train ride to Labis, then cycle up to Muar and spend the night. The next day, cycle to Melaka and ride around the town before heading up to Batu Berendam for the night. The third day to Seremban via Sungai Udang, Masjid Tanah, Linggi and Rantau. 3 days and 2 nights, 211km in total (estimated with Google Maps). Perfect for a first touring adventure.

[The Parts and Equipment Hunt]
Kona Nunu
My RTW Machine (Kona Nunu) is the intended rig for the touring. The RiBMo tires are with visible hairline cracks now, so I asked around for a pair of good tires for replacement. Pak Ngah Ishak of Sungai Pelek responded, offering for Schwalbe Marathon Plus. The tires are simply awesome. I also changed the SR Suntour Raidon suspension fork with a Surly Troll chromoly rigid  100mm corrected fork. The other essential gear that I got for touring is a pair of panniers by Eiger. It's not Ortlieb, but does the job just fine. They are for front, but I use it for the rear (only one, though, together with an Ibera top bag). I got it quite cheap, bought by a good friend who went to Bandung. I also bought a Topeak long water bottle cage which could house a normal 1.5L PET bottle. It is more like a drinking water storage rather than a water dispenser. For a dispenser, I fixed a normal bottle cage on the Troll fork and use a 750ml cycling bottle. And the final essential item I (re-)installed the bike stand which came originally with the bike.


Shaunda Wiechmann said...

Thank you so much Akmal. I will Be a regular reader of your blog.

akmalhizam said...

Thanks for stopping by, Shaunda. I've posted the next installation of the touring tale. Hope you'd enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.