Saturday, November 26, 2005

10 hour bike ride

Yesterday I rode around Penang island which I'm told is about 50 miles. I did it in 10 hours so I averaged 5 miles per hour. I made many stops along the way to rest, take pictures, eat and get my bike repaired.

The trip was quite uneventful so I don’t really have any great story to tell as I had hoped so all I can really do is ramble on and on about nothing.

I left Teluk Kumbar at noon during a rain storm. Sister #1 warned that I cannot ride in the rain and that I should wait for another day but the forecast showed rain everyday for the next week so there was no point in waiting. Plus this is a warm rain. I’ve ridden in much worse. I’ve ridden in the cold November rain of the East coast of the USA where it’s near freezing and windy. I’ve ridden in -10F (-23C) in snow and on ice. I can handle a warm tropical rain.

Kelly wanted me to wear a rain coat so I did but it was so hot that I got soaking wet from my own sweat! I would have been better off getting rained on because that rain-coat was too hot. She was afraid that I would get cold but when you’re riding up a mountain, that’s not really a concern since you generate a lot of body heat. After I got over the first hill, I removed the rain-coat just in time for the sun to come out!

When we go on trips, we always forgot one thing and the thing I forgot this trip was to wear sun-screen and carry some with me. For the uphill climbs I did not wear my helmet so that my head could vent the heat otherwise the pads in my helmet get so soaked with sweat that it literally pores out when I squeeze the helmet against my head. The downside to this is that my face got sun-burned.

For the down hills, I lowered my seat to lower my center of gravity. I also put my helmet back on and tightened up my brakes so the pads rubbed so when I squeezed the lever I simply made them rub harder. There is little traffic on this side of the island so I had the road to myself. There were 180 degree hair-pin turns … switchbacks. I leaned into the turns hard and fast. Flying down the mountains was the most fun. By then the roads had dried so I had good traction. I just had to watch for oncoming traffic since vehicles like to cut corners.

Once at the bottom, I removed my helmet, put my seat up and loosened my brakes so they wouldn’t rub. My face started feeling sun-burned so I put my helmet back on since it had a visor that could provide some shade for my face. By the end of the day my forearms and face were slightly sun-burned.

The first third of the trip was over some big mountains and thru many small towns including Balik Pulau which is a valley surrounded by mountains. The only way to get there is to drive over a mountain.

As I came out of the mountains I passed a new impressive looking dam then I hit the North shore, aka The Pearl of the Orient. Finally it was flat as it wound around the shoreline and I hit the big city starting with Gurney.

Realizing it was 5:30 pm and that the bike shop probably closed at 6 pm, I had no choice but to hail a taxi for a 15 minute ride into Georgetown to the bike shop. Yes, I cheated but because my bike needed repairs. I had no choice. The taxi ride cost RM 15 (USD 4) and the bike repairs cost RM 25 (USD 7) and Kelly complained about my spending. Oh well. I explained that I had no choice.

The bike shop I stopped at is the same bike shop I bought my bicycle. They are the best bicycle shop in Penang by far. They not only sell high quality bikes but offer high quality repairs. I’ve had my bike repaired by other bike shops and they always do a half-assed job. I need it done right the first time. I push my equipment to its limits and beyond. I need for it to work.

In a poor bike shop you can buy a bicycle for as little as RM 125 (USD 30) and the most expensive bike they sell is about RM 600 (USD 160). This one bike shop is rare because they only stock high-end bikes. My bike cost RM 1,100 (USD 300) which was one of their low-end bikes. They have bikes for as much as RM 20,000 (USD 5400)!

I don't like to spend less than USD 600 on a bike because the quality tends to be too low for my type of riding but I had to save money for the wedding so I got a lesser bike but now I'm paying for it since it constantly needs repair. Over time I'm upgrading the parts but I’m wishing I had spent about RM 2000 (USD 540).

As I left the bike shop it was getting dark. I stopped by the bridal shop to make the final approval on our wedding photo album pictures then it was time to head home. It was rush hour so traffic was dense.

I discovered that a bicycle can take turns faster than a car and motorbike. It makes sense since it is lighter. So when we came up to a turn, if there was room, I flew by the cars and motorbikes but of course they flew by me seconds later but it just felt cool to have the advantage if only for a few seconds.

When I got to the highway it was quite dusty and I was wishing for rain since it was also quite hot even though it was about 8 pm. But no rain came but eventually I got past the dusty area. My energy levels were starting to drop near the end of the trip so I stopped at a park bench and slept for 20 minutes.

Finally the night cooled but it was still very humid and it reminded me of how it feels in New Jersey just after a rain-storm at night around September. These moments that remind me of the USA are nice. I'm actually suffering from a little home-sickness for the first time in my life. Things are so different here, that I'm starting to miss the way things were.

There was one last hill to conquer so I stopped at the “Happy” convenience store. It’s like a 7-11 but it’s called Happy. I had my heart set on a Snickers bar but when I got to the candy bar section, it was quite full but the space for the Snickers was completely empty! Obviously Snickers has done some good marketing because everyone else is buying Snickers too.

Although this store is on a main strip, there is no way to easily get to it. There is some concrete poured at the curb so motorbikes can ride up but then they must cross a crappy bridge over the drainage ditch. There is no official place to park so motorbikes park anywhere and any which way. I don’t understand why they would build a building so close to the street with no room for parking for cars. They would get a lot more business if cars could easily stop but this is not the case.

I bought myself a Twix bar for some quick energy which really paid off because I was able to get up and over the hill without much problem and before I knew it, I was back home. I looked at my HP (mobile phone, aka hand phone) and noticed it was 9:59 PM. I had been gone about 10 hours.

The gate to the house was closed and I didn’t have a key but lucky for me, Kelly was in the store taking inventory so I waved and she was glad to see me. She clapped in appreciation of my difficult feat of riding around the island.

When Kelly saw the wrapper to the Twix bar she gave me a look of unapproval but I explained that I needed the energy for one last push. I needed my second wind. I hardly ate much the whole day I must have burned thousands of calories so a small Twix bar was actually a good thing.

Now it was time to rest, bathe and get some food, then sleep for the night.

Sorry, no near-death experiences to talk about today.

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