This charity ride, themed 'Ride For Rations 2012 which is organised by Bike Aid for Sunlove Home's Neighbourhood Links is into its second year and also, my second consecutive ride with them. I was inspired by the warm and enthusiastic spirit of the organisers who volunteered their own time to put together such a well organised event. I must compliment the people behind it, Manjit Singh, Shoeb, Jennifer and the rest in the organising team for their hard works.
I got to know my current cycling kakis, GP Riders exactly one year ago when I first joined 'Ride for Rations 2011'. I was then a novice rider and the two brothers whom I just got to know, Tomas and Pete were then rooting me all the way. After that event, I become one of GP Riders members and the rest is history.
Each cyclist had to pay S$200 for the one way coach transfer, 2 nights accommodation, a hosted dinner on second night and non stop supply of isotonic & mineral drinks and bananas throughout the two days of ride. On top of that, each cyclist has to raise a minimum sum of S$500 which is key to this event. The fund is meant for the needy families managed by Sunlove Home. In all, there were 79 cyclists and we were supported by more than 15 vehicles.
On 6 July, Friday we assembled at Lavendar Road for coach pick up. The coach was scheduled to leave at 2.45pm and I was there before 2 pm but learnt that I was waiting at a wrong spot with some cyclists. Only Dora and CK joined Chua who was driving up to Malacca in his car. At my request, one coach was assigned to our group. We left on time for 2nd link but we were told to offload my bikes after clearing the immigration & customs in Johor and transfer to another coach. It puzzled me because it was the Malaysia registered express coach that we were taking which does not require any transfer in Johor under normal circumstances. It was such a hassle taking out our bikes out again and then re-transferred onto another waiting coach. I gave my feedback to the organisers to take note for future similiar event. At the Johor customs, we did encounter some disruption of sorts when an officer initially did not allow our coach to clear through with our bikes citing permit required, among others. I knew something was amiss but left it to the organisers to sort it out. Fortunately, everything went on smoothly.
We were in high spirit on the coach, each of us making self introduction to the group and as usual, I was poking fun at people but it was meant to create relaxed atmosphere, nothing to be serious about. I was poked by my kakis too, taking back some as much as I gave out. Finally, we arrived in Malacca's Emperor Hotel and it was around 7.30pm. Dora, CK and Chua had arrived earlier and they were there to meet us. That night, we had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel but some of my other kakis, Dora, CK, Kevin, Jacky and Chua went off separately. We had an early night to ready for a long ride from Malacca to Batu Pahat on the following morning.
I bunked in with Chua, got up at 5.45 am when the phone rang, quickly brushed my teeth and thinking it was already 6.30 am. When I was about to go for breakfast, Chua asked me why I got up so early for breakfast, only then I realised I got up early - no thanks to that earlier than expected phone call.
Before 8.00 am, we were all ready, almost everyone donned the specially designed 'Ride For Rations 2012' jerseys - what a sight. At exactly 8.00 am, we were flagged off. We were heading to Batu Pahat, total distance slightly more than 100 km. It was a wet morning, fortunately the rain had already cleared but the road was still wet and pool of water filled some pockets on the road. We can't ask for more, the entire morning was cool which was definitely good for ride. I tagged along some of my GP Riders gang while Dora, CK and Kevin who cycled with their foldies gathered among themselves. Before the flag-off, one of our GP Riders members, Simin had a flat tyre. We waited for them while the main group left. When it was done, we rolled off together as the last group. But to no avail, after a short ride her tyre gave way again. Tomas, Arthur, Corrina, Vivien and I went ahead while Pete and others stayed behind to help out.
We were riding an average distance of 30+km an hour, even hitting 38km/hr and near 40km/hr at some stage. It was not a slow ride, given we have to cover more than 100 km to reach Batu Pahat. The weather was hotter in noon. After lunch, we were left with about 30 km to reach our destination, Batu Pahat. We did slower ride this time, about 25km/hr and by 2.00 pm, we reached Pine Tree Hotel. It is quite a new hotel, clean & spacious and definitely better than the one we stayed last year. Some of the faster group had already settled down at the hotel. I got my room, put my bike in the room first and waited for the rest and my belonging which was left in Chua's car. By 3.00 pm, Dora and the rest arrived and shortly after, Chua arrived with all our bags. I had a good bath and by 4.00 pm, we met at the lobby for a good massage. As our group was big, it was split into two. Dora, CK, Kevin, Chua and some left to have light meal followed by massage while I joined my GP Riders group for massage only. We rejoined later for hosted dinner at the hotel.
The distance from Batu Pahat to Singapore is longer, about 136 km and therefore, flag-off was scheduled at 7.00 am. It was a different route from last year. It is more scenic, cycling through idyllic kampong and of course there is lesser traffic along the West Coast heading to Pekan Nanas town. We donned our 'red hot' GP Riders jerseys on the last day of the ride. After we were flagged off, it was my turn to have flat tyre just less than 10km into the ride. My GP Riders group shot ahead, not aware of my predicament but Corrina and Vivien who was behind me stayed back to help. After changing into a new spare tube, we set off. Just ahead, I saw my group standin by the side of the road and this time, it was Richard's turn to encounter flat tyre. Ah Wee, our trusted bike mechanic was there to help out. After getting Arthur's bike up and running, we rolled off again. This time misfortune seemed to get me the second time. My back tyre went flat again. Ah Wee's expertise came in handy. This time, we really made a thorough check making sure the rim and the tyre were clear of sharp debris.
Off we went. I was the second last person and Pete was behind me. I had a strange eeling something was not going to be right despite assurance from Ah Wee that everything was alright with my tyre. True enough, the back tyre went flat again. By then, the group had shot ahead and only Pete was left behind with me. I told him to move ahead while I will bring the bike to the nearest bike shop for repair. Luckily, Chua's car was nearby. We managed to find a bike shop in a small town. He didn't have the spare tube and mine too was the right type. No choice, we had to patch up the tube. It is not the usual bike shops we find in Singapore or big town, it is a small nondescript bike repair shop in this small town which I cannot remember its name. The owner did his best to patch up my spare tube, not a fantastic job but good enough, I hope. I was way way behind the slowest rider, almost one hour was wasted trying to solve this puncture tyre saga.
Chua was hoping I can give up the ride to join him as co-driver. But I was not prepared to give up yet and I assured him that if this time the tyre gives way again, I will join him as support team. Chua drove some 20 km ahead for me to start cycling. I was just behind the last group of cyclists. I was covering about 30km/hr but the head wind was slowing me down to around 25/26km/hr at some point. I was hoping to join my GP Riders group, if possible. I really huffed and puffed all the way. Slowly, I passed some cyclists along the way. At about 68km mark, I managed to meet Jacky with two bandaged knees. He told me he fell while avoiding a car and luckily, it was superficial cut.
I left him and the rest to cycle alone, hoping to reach the lunch venue at Pekan Nanas. It was some 30 km to the lunch venue and I was hoping I can rejoin my group there. I saw a group of red shirt cyclists from a distance and I knew they are from GP Riders. I was not too far away from them now. By then, I cycled past Kingston who was lying on the side of the road and was attended by a medic. Oh no, not again but fortunately, his injury does not seem serious. .
Finally, I managed to meet my GP Riders group at the lunch point. We were slotted to move off as the first batch of 28. We had another 40km left but this time, we must move as a single group on the more busy road all the way to Singapore checkpoint. We moved off together in one single file at about 1.15 pm. When we reached the Singapore immigration counter, Ah Wee who was queuing in front of me suddenly pulled a cramp. I managed to get him to lie down, pressed his right leg down to relieve the muscle tension. He was grimacing in pain but he managed to recover to continue.
We reached Marsiling Block 3, our final destination at 4.00 pm, safely and in one good piece. The second group comprising Dora, Kevin, CK, Jacky and Rene, among others arrived at about 5.00 pm. Most of us left for home before the arrival of the last group but I later learnt that the last rider arrived at about 6.15 pm. To the relief of the organisers, everyone has arrived well and safe.
It has been another fun and memorable outing. Without detailed route planning and support, we cannot have made it so smoothly all the way back. This event was not supported by any government agency on either side, solely an initiative by a group of volunteers with fund raising in mind but collectively, they have had put up an an excellent job, yet again.