By YEOW MEI JYN
A great way to boost the Merdeka spirit this year was to get on a bicycle.
More than 400 cyclists came together to renew their yearly fellowship on two wheels in a cycling extravaganza through four states.
Over the three-day Merdeka weekend, the Pedalholics Cycling Club (PCC) Malaysia organised the 18th edition of the PCC Interstate, starting from Cyberjaya in Selangor through Port Dickson in Negri Sembilan and Batu Pahat in Johor before ending in historical Malacca. The route was to cover a massive 470km.
Ais kacang relief
The first major challenge was dealing with the afternoon heat. We found relief after some hard riding in a bowl with a syrup- glazed mountain of shaved ice.
An unassuming shack in little Broga town, opposite the police station, served the best (to us anyway) air batu campur (ABC) and pan mee hand-made noodles in town. After this quick refill, the riders tackled a 10% gradient near the town of Lenggeng as their shadows grew smaller while the sun rose higher.
The Interstate experience is fully enjoyed with a bunch of friends on bicycles. Or while getting some respite from the heat and exertion under trees or in small shacks along the way. Indeed, misery loves company, but company makes the miles pass quickly, and you’ll find “home” for the day sooner than you think.
I attempted part of the journey on a smaller foldable bicycle which was playing an “undercover” role as a full-sized road bike.
Many were excited at the sight of this bike, the “Blue Streak” or Tern Verge X18, but wary of its performance over high speeds and long distances. Despite its smaller 50.8cm (20in) wheels (compared to the normal 66cm (26in) wheels of full-sized bikes), the bike’s quality component parts and drop handlebar (so that riders can lean forward to reduce wind resistance) helped my quest to keep up with other riders at high speeds. However, it did require a lot more power from me.
Cyclists covering long distances do so in a peloton, or a tight-knit group, to minimise the wind resistance for individual riders. All it asks is for riders to saddle up and keep pedalling to play their part in forming a smooth cruising machine, beating the rules of aerodynamics to slice through trunk roads while passing idyllic towns and palm oil estates.
As the crow flies, the distance to the beach resort of Port Dickson from Lenggeng is not very far, but the peloton took the long “scenic route” on countryside roads, clocking in 158km for the first day.
Beefing up spirits
The second day of cycling brought more suffering from rolling hills in Malacca. This time, I was riding on my road bike and this felt effortless thanks to its bigger wheels and cleat pedals. The familiar feeling of riding in a peloton and the friendly chatter beats riding solo anytime.
Everyone gathered their mighty weapons of choice and embraced the challenge ahead, to slay the never-ending series of hills (called the dragon’s back) with their bicycles armed with wheels and guts sharper than Valyrian steel swords.
As soon as the riders hit Tangkak in Johor, only one dish was foremost on their minds, the town’s famous beef noodles.
Luck was on our side, as a local Tangkak cyclist in our peloton gave us directions to the famous noodles (which was along our route). The soup was solid brown and had a herbal taste, compared to the transparent clear soups of the Ipoh version of this dish.
The towns of Johor sported a festive feel, with the national flag bouncing gaily in the strong coastal winds, strung across the streets. We also observed that most of the mosques and shops in Johor were painted blue, according to the colour of the state flag.