Pedalholics Cycling Club show their spirit over 470km
True friendships are forged on the simplest of elements like the bicycle, and the Merdeka spirit too can be revived on a fellowship on two wheels.
More than 400 cyclists came together from Malaysia and around the world to renew their yearly fellowship in the PCC Interstate, cycling through four states in true Malaysian spirit and hospitality.
As the sun rose over Cyberjaya, the oldest cycling club in Malaysia, PCC Malaysia organised the 18th edition of the PCC Interstate with a 470km route over three days through various facades of Malaysia. Starting from techno town Cyberjaya in Selangor to the beach town Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan, Batu Pahat in Johor and historical Malacca.
Friends were reunited, traditions were upheld, and new friends were made in to the journey on foldable bikes, touring bikes and road bikes. The peloton knows no racial cards, colour or creed. All it asks is for you to saddle up and keep pedalling to play your part to form the smooth cruising machine, beating the rules of aerodynamics.
A new steed with a #roadiefoldie
This time in the Interstate, I brought a different steed in Taiwanese foldable bicycle, the Verge X18 provided by Tern Malaysia. Many roadies were excited at the sight of this bike as it looked like a mini road bike, but wary at its performance over high speeds and long distances.
I attempted part of the journey on a smaller foldable bicycle which was playing an “undercover” role as a full-sized road bike.
In truth, the faster I rode on this bike, the harder they would try to ‘drop’ me out of the peloton. That indeed, is the true competitive nature of roadies.
Sporting smaller 20 inch aero wheels on the Blue Streak, but having a drop handle bar, and a worthy groupset did help in my quest to keep up with the peloton at high speeds. It did require a lot more power from me, and if I had changed to cleat pedals and shoes, I might have been able to keep up more efficiently with less effort.
As the rolling hills approached, I took take a more relaxed approach as how foldable bicycles should be ridden, towards the border town of Broga situated on the border of Negeri Sembilan and Selangor for the first state crossing.
Ais kacang relief
A sweet dessert bowl filled with some treasures buried beneath a syrup glazed shaved ice mountain was the ultimate relief to the cyclists suffering from the high afternoon heat. The un-assuming shack opposite the Broga Police Station, served the best ‘Ais Batu Campur – ABC or Ais Kacang’ and Pan Mee, hand-made noodles in town.
With a quick refill, the peloton continued the journey, tackling a 10% gradient climb near the town of Lenggeng as their shadows grew smaller as the sun rose higher. As we continued towards Salak Tinggi, we could almost just turn right and arrive at Port Dickson by noon, but that’s not what the Interstate is about. The peloton would take the ‘scenic route’ passing through Seremban, Senawang, cycling on countryside roads clocking in 158km for the day.
We cycled past the beaches of Port Dickson which were filled with the weekend family crowd, causing the usual traffic congestion. It was indeed lovely to be on a bicycle as you skipped the congestion while enjoying the salty beach air, amidst the casuarina trees and the myriads of colours from the kites and floats along the way.
The Interstate experience must be fully enjoyed with a bunch of friends on the bicycle, under a tree, or in small shacks, catching some respite along the way. Indeed, misery loves company, but it’s also company which makes the miles pass rather quickly, and you’ll find ‘home’ for the day sooner than you think.
The second day brought the challenge of more from rolling hills through Malacca, the second smallest state in Malaysia. Small but compact, Malacca would greet us with a punch.
This time, I was riding on my Pinarello road bike which felt effortless on bigger wheels and cleat pedals in comparison. The familiar feeling of riding in a peloton and the friendly chatter felt very welcoming.
Soon enough, the terrain got serious. Everyone gathered their mighty weapons of choice, refilled their spirits, and embraced the challenge ahead, slaying the the never-ending dragon’s back like terrain with their bicycles armed with wheels and guts sharper than Valyrian steel swords.
Beefing up spirits
As soon as the peloton hit Tangkak in Johor, only one dish rang through the Malaysian hearts, Tangkak’s famous beef noodles.
The local beef noodle soup was brown in colour and had a herbal taste, as opposed to the transparent clear soups from the Ipoh and Vietnamese variety. We also met other cyclists from Singapore who were there to fill up on the local delicacy too.
The Malaysian flag, named Jalur Gemilang was seen flying and decorated alongside state flags as we travelled through Malacca and Johor. We also observed that most of the mosques and shops in Johor were painted blue, according to the colour of their state flag. Johor towns spotted a more festive feel, with the national flag strung high across the streets, and bouncing gaily in the strong coastal winds.
Only cyclists seem to understand the bane of having coastal and cross winds cut their speed by more than half, while increasing the intensity of pedalling efforts. These winds seemed more challenging than scaling steep mountains earlier in the day.
Stop and smell the coffee
Each town in Malaysia has their own unique way of roasting coffee beans which lends to different aromas, taste and gleam on your regular cup of joe. When in Muar, do as the locals do, and try a cup of coffee from the ‘434’ brand, founded in 1953, by local connoisseur Sai Kee, or affectionately known as ‘Ah Sai’.
As the temperatures rose to searing heat enough to roast a steak on the road, the peloton gleefully emptied out the ‘food trucks’ from their stock of cold drinks. The little helpers also came with spray bottles to spray a mist of cold water onto the over-heated riders, equivalent to finding a waterfall in the desert.
Sooner than expected, the peloton pocketed another 171km to call it a day in Batu Pahat and found a satisfying recovery meals in the local seafood restaurants. All in the day’s ride.
On the third day, we discovered that the real trick to surviving the PCC Interstate was to get our bodies used to fatigue from cycling three days consecutively, a torturous “luxury” weekend warriors hardly experience.
Not everyone will admit that the toughest part of the ride is getting up the next day and putting yourself back onto the saddle.
With more than 400 heartbeats drumming as one, the peloton departed for the final chapter towards the historical town of Malacca. We noticed the change in states when we spotted a mosque, which was painted yellow instead of Johor’s state colour, blue.
Historical Malacca beckons the peloton
The route was flat for the first half of the day’s 140km, but the terrain started to climb as the peloton approached Jasin in Malacca. Ah, welcome back to the rolling hills.
The sleepy town of Jasin seemed rather invigorated by the 400 cyclists trundling through. We could almost smell the famous chicken rice balls of Malacca town but couldn’t get the real thing yet, so regular chicken rice had to do for a carbo boost.
It was over all too soon with the relatively short distance to Malacca town, but a final “King of Mountain” or KOM challenge awaited the cyclists at the new Swiss-Garden Hotel as they were required to cycle up the parking ramp to the fourth floor!
The day was still young as I took to ‘touristy rides’ along the Malacca river to Jonker Street just across the Malacca river from the hotel. Nothing like the famous local chendol with durian to quench the thirst, and chicken rice balls for the perfect recovery meal.
A quick ride towards the ‘Red house’ also known as the Stadhuys, where many locals and tourists alike were taking in the historical significance and recording it in snapshots. Many of the shop houses still bore the original structure from pre-war times, sometimes it feels like a shame when a new shop takes over with modernised architecture.
Meanwhile back at the hotel, the hall rang with jubilant voices, many newbies to PCC Interstate, celebrating their achievement of pocketing 470km over the Merdeka weekend.
The PCC Interstate was an achievement accomplished by team work and camaraderie on the saddle and pedals.
Believe me, many of us have already signed up for next year!
‘WAGs’ – Wives and Girlfriends brings smiles and cheers
The ‘WAGs’ – Wives and Girlfriends support crew helmed by Doris Liew and Caryne Wong, ran a ‘food truck’ for the PCC Malaysia peloton. Thanks to their thoughtfulness and nurturing hearts, their extended menu included five star delicacies only seen in hotel laden Continental breakfast displays like German Danish chicken sausages, pancakes, specially made chicken and ham rolls, cheesecake, chocolate brownies besides cooling herbal drinks boiled with ‘love’, and frozen five days in advance. That definitely beats the standard menu of electrolytes, water and bananas.
When the road is flat, long and dreary for the peloton, the sight of the support crew makes it all worthwhile. A photographer on the side of the road, patiently awaiting the ‘Kodak moment’ can revive the spirits of a flailing cyclist. Everyone makes the effort to smile and look good for the camera!
Driving support vehicles is extremely stressful though, lest anyone thinks they are just cruising along following the cyclists. The stress levels rises as drivers look out for their cyclists, keeping a safe distance while navigating their way through unfamiliar territory and stopping to help any cyclist in mechanical needs along the route.
As the peloton gets faster, the support crew gets no rest in between stops, setting out earlier to scope out the next safe and shady area for the next pit stop. Quite often when support cars are stuck in traffic congestion, the cyclists arrive way ahead of them!
The youngest rider – Glenys Tan, 12 years old
While other 12-year-olds are fretting over exams, Barbie dolls or staring into iPads, Glenys Tan from Kuching had 470km of cycling in mind instead.
The youngest rider of this year’s PCC Interstate, she completed the long ride despite a slight mechanical problem on the first day.
Riding a beautiful Colnago C60 bike with souped-up wheels and groupset, Glenys started cycling with her father’s group last October.
Her love for cycling has spurned further after the Kuching Colnago Ride in January, and she has been diligently joining the training rides every Sunday to build up endurance over long distances.
The usual Sunday group ride consisting of 30-40 cyclists had been ramping up their rides to get used to the long distance including a return trip spanning 260km from Kuching to Simunjan over hilly terrain.
With patience, tenacity and encouragement from a 46 member strong team from Kuching, led by team captain Chin HC, all the riders who came for their first Interstate finished jubilantly.