akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Thursday 12 May 2016

28.04.2016 Solo Mini Tour: Seremban - Sungai Pelek - Seremban

If Plan A is a no-go, proceed with Plan B. Else, proceed with Plan C.

Lemonade with extra pressing sort of thing.

the view of Sungai Sepang on board the ferry. On the right is Selangor, Negeri Sembilan on the left
I took an annual leave on a Thursday and was ready to spend that day for a Masterclass wheelbuilding session. As Murphy's Law kicked in, at midnight I was informed that it has to be postponed (yes, not cancelled. Yeay!).

I was already in no mood to go to work, so I consoled myself to resort to Plan B i.e. a 42km mini tour from Sungai Pelek to Seremban via Lukut and Siliau. To get to Sungai Pelek, I'll be taking the bus from Terminal 1 in Seremban (cycling to T1 from home).

original route:

I took my sweet time prepping the bike after the rest of the family went out for school. For the first time I tested the bike bag that I had bought last year after the Labis to Seremban short tour. All okay, I set out to Terminal 1 at 9.00 am from home.

I reached T1 and went straight to the ticket counter to ask for the bus schedule to Sungai Pelek. I was told that there is none. 
Duhh... how uncharacteristic of me to not check for sure beforehand for such an important detail.

breakfast stop at Jalan Labu
Well, there's an impromptu Plan C, which is a bit crazy and unthinkable. Some sort of a gamble, but still doable. I think. While slowly pedaling out towards Jalan Labu, I thought 'hey, I've never been on Jalan Labu. This would be an adventure'. An adventure indeed. And I'm glad I did.

The very reason for the original mini tour is to get on board the infamous short ferry cruise crossing Sungai Sepang, the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. That's the essence of it. And it is a very, very short ride. Not much of a drama, actually. So now the route has been extended extensively, I'm getting into the 'it's the journey that matters' state of mind.

The original route would have me pedaling about 42km, and with the additional adventure of about 60km (per Strava), the total is substantially extended to about 100km. Perhaps the longest I've ever pedaled in a day!

Not much preparation was made except on the bike that morning. A simple pack-up-and-go ride. Not even a proper breakfast (remind me not to do that again next time).

At 10:00-ish, I was on Jalan Labu and stopped for breakfast as soon as I spotted an eatery. After a plate of fried rice and iced tea (my current favourite drink), I continued on and headed towards Nilai on the spanking new road of Ainsdale after getting underneath the PLUS highway. It was already hot, but not to the point of getting exhausted and dehydrated. It was an okay kind of hot.

biggest pumpkin seen the whole day
Aunty Aini's near Nilai
Jalan Labu (route 362) towards SMAPL is a nice route. Perhaps due to a weekday morning, there were not many vehicles but still there were quite a number of lorries every now and then. At a T-junction, I veered right towards Nilai (N38) and carried on until I came at another T-junction where I turned left towards Sepang on route N28. Not far from Kedai Basikal Lasak Nilai, I stopped at a fruit stall for replenishing lost minerals. A cup of cold (diluted) coconut water did some work, and I moved on.

not in Thailand

I reached Salak and turned left at a T-junction towards Sepang on route B48. By that time there were many vehicles on the road as it was already nearing lunch time. I reached Sepang town at about noon and stopped for another cup of coconut water. I gave a call to Pak Ngah of DETC Bike Kitchen at Sg Pelek, asking if I could come around and say hi. Unbeknownst to me, I thought that Sg Pelek is not far from Sepang. It is actually about 12km. Seems a short distance by car. Hehe.

nearing Sungai Pelek town
Just a little after 1:00 pm, I was already there and greeted by Pak Ngah's warm smile as always, and a few of his bikes on the ground of his backyard. Immediately he offered me a seat at the Bike Kitchen and he went inside his house. A couple of minutes later he had a jugful of cold sirap selasih on a tray for us. This was followed by two bowls of cold sagu dessert. Delicious is an understatement.

with Pak Ngah at DETC Bike Kitchen
I have always admired Pak Ngah's generosity, be it in his sharing stories or knowledge or even the simple serving of cold drinks. Thank you, Pak Ngah. I pray that Allah would bestow upon you and family good health and wealth, and many more bikes (and fishing too).
one for the road - photo by Pak Ngah Ishak
At about half past two, I made a move and went out back towards Sg Pelek town for my lunch and solat. The small town and its nice masjid was quiet at that time. The weather was hot, but not too hot that I couldn't bear to go out. A little headache, yes, but not daunting.

lunch stop at Sungai Pelek town
After solat, and with the verbal instructions from Pak Ngah on how to get to the jetty, I pedaled slowly under the hot sun. There is not a single marking on the jetty. If you knew, you knew. Judging from the situation, I guess the ferry has never stopped getting back and forth with passengers since the morning. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday, and I was in the ferry with two others on their motorcycles. Over at the other side there were a couple more waiting for their turn. Also there were a husband and wife with their mountain bikes, just came back from their ride in Port Dickson.

unmarked lane to the jetty
jetty on the Selangor side
ready to disembark at Negeri Sembilan
Troll on the ferry
Mel and Penny
In our short exchange, Mel told me that they moved to Sungai Pelek from their place in KL some time ago. I get acquainted with his wife Penny as well. It was a brief encounter while they embarked the ferry with their bikes; and as soon as I was about to get ready to disembark, the ferry had already made a turn to the other side.
So I stayed for another cruise to get to Negeri Sembilan and enjoyed the view of Sungai Sepang with healthy mangrove trees on either sides. Not a bad thing to have a double dose of the essence of the trip. With no extra charge.

Now with the second leg of the whole thing in front of me, I started pedaling in Kampung India out to route N4 towards Chuah and moved further on to Tanah Merah. I took a right turn to route 5 to get to Lukut. Quite a  boring route and the day was getting hotter. Mel told me that Siliau is a good route, so I was really looking forward to that.

at Chuah
To be frank, I was getting a bit tired by then. What with the little headache and muscle cramp setting up, it is too easy to give up. However, I stayed dehydrated and made sure I have enough water. I stopped at a petrol station to replenish water, and get some salty chewables to aid the muscle cramp. That was in the form of Mor Far Kor. It worked, seriously. Gradually the niggling soreness died away. While the distance to Siliau got shorter, my motivation grew bigger.

At the T-junction of routes 5 and 53, I went to the left and headed to Siliau passing by Lukut town. As I get nearer to the Seremban - PD highway, the surrounding became familiar. Not boring, rather exciting. I turned into the Springhill housing estate for a change of view and hoping for lesser rolling hills. Well, there were a few but not that bad.

at Lukut towards Siliau and Seremban
Not far after exiting Bandar Springhill, I carried on riding along route 53. A quick stop just before the underpass of the Seremban - PD highway to check on my phone. It was running out of juice, so I decided to end the tracking on Strava and switched it off completely.

Very soon, I came around Siliau. And yes, the route is nice. There are many trees lining up the road. As it was already the end of the work day, the road got busier. Lorries were plenty. Buses too. I kept on pedaling steady while glancing once in a while on my side mirror assessing the traffic.

I reached Mambau, which is very familiar. My wife's late aunt's house is in Taman Kelab Tuanku. It is not far to the roundabout towards Seremban. By this time I was already feeling hungry but didn't stop for anything. The next stop would be the final point of this whole thing - home.

I passed by Hospital Tuanku Jaafar in Rahang and pedaled towards KGV. From there I went to Jalan Keliling and to Kolej MARA Seremban and got to Jalan Dato Muda Linggi (aka route 51 aka the road to Ampangan) via Jalan Penghulu Cantik. One of my favourite stretch of inner road in Seremban.

Not long after that I reached Ampangan and up the hill at Taman Bukti before concluding the 100+ km journey at 7:00 pm.

All in all, I enjoyed the ride. Simple as that. I learned a thing or two. I was on roads I haven't been on before. I finally did some things that I have wanted to do for a long time. A bonus too, for pedaling more than 100km in a day - my first. It was great.

But no, I won't do it again.
There are many more routes to be ridden on.

Captured routes on Strava:
1. home - Terminal 1 - Sg Pelek

2. Sg Pelek - jetty - up to Siliau (hp ran out of juice)

Photos are in here.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

20.03.2016: Spartan Race Super 2016

Sunburn, muscle soreness, skin abrasion and headache from March Equinox heat. All trumped by the high feeling of brotherhood and togetherness.

Venue: Canary Gardens, Bandar Bestari Klang.

Team NCUK.Whattt?
Capt Izham
(and team Bekamer, Zakuan, on his favourite couch at home)

The seven of us, whom we had known each other back in our college days in Shah Alam formed a team for the Super leg of the Spartan Race. An eclectic mix of triathletes, marathoners, CrossFitter and other mid-life crises outlets achievers.

Izham, Hairul and myself took part as individuals in the Sprint leg October last year in different heats. In our quest towards achieving the Trifecta (finishing the Sprint, Super and Beast courses), we decided to team up and enjoined by others as well.

What's beneficial in being this team is that we got the privilege of getting in the early heat, taking advantage of Izham's early registration. Indeed, it is quite an important one as the date coincides with the year's March Equinox, set to be the hottest day of the year. The best of it all, we were reunited after more than 20 years since college, and I'd say the bond is strengthen right there along the course with brotherhood and camaraderie.

muddy barbwire crawl
The objective of this leg was met; we stayed (strolled) together from the start until the end. All the way along the 13 km trail and trenches over (and under some) 20+ obstacles.

I prepared more of my upper body strength primarily doing pull-ups, chin-ups and biceps. Basically with the aim of clearing the rope climb obstacle which I failed miserably during the Sprint event. The other obstacles requiring upper body strength are the walls. 8 ft., 10 ft. and inverted walls. Overall I did better than Sprint in general although it could be better. I cleared the walls with a little help, but perhaps with 80% of my own effort. Believe me, to get that 20% more is quite a daunting task. For that I thank my team members for their literal support.

I'm happy to report that I was only a feet away from hitting the bell on the rope climb. Didn't manage to clear the obstacle, but almost there. Miles better that not being able to even lift myself up during Sprint. Hats off to Hairul and Ashraf for their victory against the rope's bell.

I found myself in a much better shape against many of the obstacles also featured in Sprint event; in part because of familiarity, but most of it due to the time spent at the gym and around the track at Kombes Paroi. The other thing that made it much more bearable is that we didn't run all along the course. Yes, we walked. Hehe. Of course, finishing the whole course in 5 hours is nothing much to shout about. Alas, we did it. Together.
*except for maybe the last few obstacles where Hairul sprinted off to catch up with the time; he had to get back home ASAP to fetch his boys for their afternoon events.

There were a few more additional obstacles not featured in Sprint leg; among them the Tyrolean Traverse, of which I had the same fate with my rope climb. Almost hitting the bell, but my hands just could not bear the grip anymore and I gracefully fell down on my back to the smelly bed of mud. Another one in my list to be cleared off during the Beast leg later this year.

Izham's pair of Salomons gave up on him from the 3rd kilometer on the course. We had to resort to on-the-trail McGyver fix. It lasted up until the 12th km, which is not bad at all. We went in the muddy trails, over numerous trenches and through the course obstacles, stopping at several places to refasten the makeshift broad lacing made out of the cordon tapes.

There was a circulation issued by the Meteorological Department notifying the general public on the heatwave and March equinox a few days before the event day. Coincidentally, the event date is on the March equinox so it was making quite a stir among the participants. Taking cue from the worried cries on social media, the organiser announced that they are going to fortify the 6 water stations along the route. That in itself means that we won't have to bring along our hydration belts/packs on our waists/backs. Cold water and Lucozade were provided in adequate amount (well at least for our morning heat).

We finished at about 1.00 pm, and marched straight to the photo booth for the team's victory photo after collecting our medals. Before getting to the shower area, we collected our Finisher t-shirt and bags. In the end, I decided not to have shower at site, but to get a proper shower at my hotel room in Klang as I have arranged earlier for a late check-out.
trifoota featuring Izham's Salomon
The t-shirt and bag collection were two places where the organisers failed quite miserably. We were handed a simple cutout red ribbon upon getting our finisher medals as a token for exchange at the t-shirt counter. Immediately I thought that it is a bad idea as it can't be controlled especially when I could easily pick up about ten of those red ribbons on the ground right there and exchange for equal number of t-shirts.
Of course I didn't, I'm a Spartan. Albeit, some did and poor Spartans for the later heats were left with bigger sizes to collect (as mere souvenirs or maybe repurposed as a wall decor). The sizing for this time is much different than the Super. The M size that I had last time was a bit tight, so I opted for an L. Fortunately my former teammate Sudi was around and he told me that it is a bit bigger compared to before. So I got myself an M size t-shirt, and it fits me just nice although a bit short.

two-third of the trifecta
I got my bag at the chaotic bag counter quite easily as I could spot it from the outside, hung by the wall together with a friend's. Different story for many fellow Spartans though. Some found theirs appallingly laid outside the bag tent, and some separated from the bags checked in together, and some unlucky souls had their belongings lost.

Overall I think this Super leg is a mix of improvements from the previous Sprint but marred by lagging in some of the things they did okay before. I'm hoping that the next event - Beast - (which by default is a must due to the allure of completing the Trifecta) would be an avenue for the organiser to prove their mantle in getting things right if not better.
And of course on my part to get much better in clearing the obstacles, with minimum burpees to pay.


more photos in here.

Spartans wash their clothes themselves