It all started with an
email from Freedom….”Wanna go for a jamboree?”. Being an ex-scout from my school days, the word jamboree
brought back great memories of strangers from different countries getting
together for a camping activity in the outdoors.
Combined with mountain biking, I thought to myself “Great!
Gotta go for this one!”
The web site showed a
simple map, snaking up and over Penang Hill.
Total distance approx 60km, average rider expected to complete in
6hrs – so said the write up. The
rest of the trail description was so well written in detail, you’d
almost need a degree to remember the whole lot before setting off!!!
A week before the start, it
was decided 5 Absolutees would be taking part.
Giddyyap, Ling The Merciless (you’ll find out why later), Beykha,
Freedom and myself. By
chance, the One Hill Ride was divided into 5 stages, so each of us will be
writing the journal for a stage. Upon
completing each stage, the rider will get an additional sticker pasted
into their number tag. Each
sticker was an achievement in itself.
The game plan was to stay in a group of 5.
No splitting up as we’ll need to help each other.
The night before it
stormed! And on the morning
itself, dark clouds loomed and there was even a light drizzle.
It all added to the anticipation of an epic ride.
The butterflies in my tummy were doing the Macarena.
Either being polite (or sadistic), the organizers had planned to
flag us off in the 1st of 20 waves.
It started quite sanely,
with a few kilometers on tarmac to the trailhead. With more than 270 riders signed up, there was even traffic
police marshalling to ensure we weren’t held back by traffic lights!
Just like a swarm of bees, we breezed through a local wet market
– chickens on the right, fish on the left!
What a sight! Urban Assault! Enter
the trailhead and it began with a variation of single and double track.
Just nice to string out the riders, we were settling into our pace
when I found out why Ling is called The Merciless….
She snapped her chain! (The
day before on our warm up ride, she had been in big crank for most of the
time, while the rest were labouring in the middle ring!)
Out with my battered Alien to sort things out and by the time we
were moving again, half the pack must have gone past us!
Nevertheless, we settled in to enjoy a lovely double track that
must have stretched for at least 5km, winding gently through the trees,
ascending gradually. For
short stretch of 100m, we rode over boulders as large as a car.
Visions of Moab’s Slickrock trail came to mind, except this was
wetter and mossier…
A short descent, and river
crossing gave us time to catch our breath and to prepare for the Stairway
to Heaven. When we reached
the base of this section, we discovered a string of bikers queued up.
I took to opportunity to take a snap shot of the mass of riders
ascending the slope and this was where I lost my Rudy Project glasses, so
I vowed to myself….”The pictures for this ride had better be worth
Ascending the slope with
the bikes on our backs, it must have been a 50°
gradient in some places! With the bike on our shoulders, we were clamouring up the
hill on threes. Climb two
steps, find grip in the muddy sockets on the trail, look up, wait 30
seconds for the person in front to move, do it again.
There was even a short ridge that concealed a second part of the
climb! At this ridge, we
asked a marshall “How much more to climb?” and with a big smile, he
replied “Only 50m, lah!” We
later found out all distances in this ride referred to vertical gains.
We had been climbing for 30 minutes and about to see stars in front
of us when we staggered onto the plateau that was to mark the achievement
of Stairway to Heaven. We had
earned out first badge!!!
Having acquired our first
badge and taking 2hours, we thought “This will be a LONG day.”
The plateau we were on led
onto a tarmac road. What a
relief! The joy of letting my
bike carry me again! After
the first turn, our joy turned into disbelief… The road made a hairpin
and it was like facing the 1st 50m of Kent Ridge Hill.
I thought my granny gear would make easy work, so I powered you the
first sloope. At the end, it
was another hairpin corner and we faced a 2nd slope much like
the first! This ritual went
on for 30 mins … grind your granny, find a level spot in the hairpin to
catch your breath, attack the next section.
With 270 participants
grinding their way up Penang Hill’s infamous Jeep trail, we were glad
the full width tarmac road allowed riders to find their own rhythm without
holding others back. Such was
the steep gradient of the road that at one section, one participant was
seen carrying her bike on her shoulders instead of pushing uphill!
This was still on tarmac, so when later questioned, she revealed
she felt it was easier…quoting something about physics and center of
gravity. Let the record show
such merciless action in punishing the hill was effective enough to even
overcome a few male participants valiantly trying to struggle with their
granny!!! With each little
plateau, we traded wise cracks with fellow riders…
“I thought this was a
“Now I know why this is a
…looking thru the corner
of the eye at the next slope and muttering “Whoa!” and proceeding to
“Can I just buy the
badges and go home?”
The steep climb finally
ended and we began a short descent on a broken tar road.
Apparently built by convict labourers a century ago, surely for
more economically viable activities than mountain biking.
The descent is best described as a roller coaster – varying
speeds and the cool forest air refreshing the senses!
The broken tar section led into undulating single track, some
downhills to keep the grins and some short climbs to keep the heart rate
up. A brisk pace was easily
set and gradually the trail began to snake upward again!
This time more gentle but we could feel we were approaching the
tree canopy walk as the trail snaked up, we were riding through the
foliage of the trees. The
final 500m of the climb was on a slightly mossy concrete footpath, those
lacking a smooth pedal stroke were spinning the wheel with each jab on the
pedals. Nothing could prepare
us for what was waiting at the finish.
Upon completing stage 2, we expected a badge and were also told to
True to their motto, KOTRT,
the Knight’s of the Round Tummy has prepared fresh bananas, ample plain
water and freshly baked, still warm chicken pies in individual boxes!
Giddyap had a bite and said
“It’s roasted chicken and hard boiled egg in gravy!” Needless to day, we armed ourselves with pie, bananas and
water, ate up and headed off to the canopy walk to see the view.
Freedom was no where to be
found … but as we wanted to take a group photo, we called him…
A minute later, he appeared with his 3rd chicken pie in
hand a a mouthful of banana, asking “What’s up?”
It him holding the camera
in the photo with 4 of us on the canopy walk.
If you look closely in the left top corner, you can see come pie
crust on the lens….J
Stages 3 to 4
Checkpoint 3-4 (Iron Cross
to Tarmac Road)
After all the endless hours of huffing and puffing up the hills (one
whether Penang really does have that many hills to climb), we finally
arrived at the much talked about Iron-Cross though we see nothing iron nor cross about this checkpoint. The only good thing about this checkpoint is
that we were told by the marshals that it will be a loooong downhill all
way to Checkpoint 4. Yeah right! (cynical) We've certainly heard that one
before and we were not going to be tricked once again by the evil KORTS.
usual, we had our Kodak moment and off we go. And lo and behold! It is
indeed downhill all the way and they were fantastic downhills too. Most of
the sections were mossy single-tracks so you spent half your time
when your back wheel is going to wipe out under you and or the other half
of the time, you're basically frozen in one position, afraid to move a single
muscle as it might cost you to lose your balance and fall off the hill
ridges. On top of that, there were a total of 27 dangerous hair-pin turns and switchbacks planted in this downhill ride that literally had just
holding our breath whenever we negotiate them! But it was fun and one of
best and adrenaline pumping downhills I've had for a long long time. The
views were awesome as well as one gets to overlook the whole of Penang
but then again, with eyes glued to the narrow single track, one was hardly
in the mood nor frame of mind to admire the views although I was trying to
steal some glances from the side of my eyes. After like forever, when my
shoulder, arms and legs muscles seem to be frozen in time, we finally
reached the end of the downhill which leads us to the tarmac road. And
Seung, being the PAIN that he is, had to live up to his namesake and took
bad and 'malu-iating' crash at the end of the hill, right in front of all
the evil KORTS and the cameraman!! He fell right into the 'longkang' and
suffered some bad cuts and bruises, not to mention a bruised ego too.
some first aid was provided to him, we went happily on our way again, all
too eager to complete the ride and to get our last 'sticker' at the end of
(The Long & Hot Boring Ride Home)
round, we were pretty much pre-warned about this stretch of the
ride and thus was kinda mentally prepared for the monotony of this section
of the ride. Basically, the idea was that it will be about 25km of road
back to our base camp and the initial part will be an uphill climb but
half of the uphill climb that we were suckered into the day before. And
thereafter, it's a nice downhill for a couple of km with some awesome
of the dam (which we've already admired the day before) before we will
to the main road whereby we'll be fighting with heavy traffic along Batu
Ferringhi which will lead us back to base camp. The ride was fine at the
beginning and we enjoyed the few km of downhill. The only gruesome thing
about this stretch of the ride is that it's open, the sun was blazing hot
this point of time, and there were some steep sections that we had to
(probably steep due to the fact that we were tired). After like some
endless, mindless pedalling, we all decided to have stop at a road side
drink stall for some much-appreciated cold drinks. With that, we set off
once again, in a draft fashion, with occasional breaks from Max &
whenever their male ego plays up on them. And after like eternity, we
finally saw our destination and gave a whoop of joy. We completed the ride
and was mighty proud of ourselves for doing pretty well too! We only took
total of 5 and a half hours as opposed to the 7 and a half hours that we
were supposed to take. We were really tired out but all agreed that it was
fun ride and worth all the bike portage and climbs.
Thereafter, we had a hearty lunch at Gurney Drive (one can't imagine the
amount of food we devoured!!) and then went back to our apartment for some
shut-eye before having to return for the Grand Dinner hosted by the KORTS
base camp. The dinner was quite well done. It was a buffet Penang
hawker-fare for all of us, followed by some video clips and shots of our
whole biking experience over the last 2 days and finally ended with a
lighting of the bon-fire by each representative of each biking group. It
really quite a touching sight as it instilled the camaraderie of all
mountain bikers from all over the place (Perak, Johor, Singapore, Penang,
Selangor etc) and from all walks of life. Thereafter, it's chit-chat time
and adios till the next Jamboree ride!
A special thanks to all the KORTS members for a ride so well organised.
Greatly appreciate the efforts put in for this successful event. Here's
looking forward to the next ride and torture session (can't believe I'm