Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ride For Rations 2014 (22 to 24 Aug 2014)


Group picture at Hatten before rolling off

I was a newbie when I heard about Ride For Rations event from some friends and that year was in 2011.  I brought a cheap Raleigh mountain bike for the ride.  I had always thought those who ride on road bikes are risk takers but not knowing after this event, I bought my first Giant roadie too.  In the first edition, I was joined by some of my outdoor kakis for this event.  Kevin Soh brought his Dahon foldie and he rode for three consecutive years, Hooi Yen who was the first one to inform some of us of such a meaningful event rode for three consecutive years too.  Corina and Vivien rode for the first two editions.  CK and Dora joined us on the second edition and they did twice in a row too. TS Chua joined last year and this year again.  My kaki Long Chua did one ride, had a bad fall while preparing for the second year but he continued to provide support back up until today.  I got to know the two Tay brothers, Tomas and Peter and went on to become their cycling mates.  I was struggling on my mountain bike then, almost pulled a cramp on the last leg to Singapore while climbing up one of the bridges.  I truly enjoyed the first event and the subsequent ones too.  I was impressed with the spirit of volunteerism and best of all, the sincerity of the organising team especially the husband and wife team in Shoeb and Shireen and the founder of Bike Aid, Manjit Singh.  Shoeb was not even a cyclist then and Shireen does not look like someone into sport or adventure stuff but they left a lasting impression on me with their superb oganising and administrative skills.

About to roll off

I participated again in 2012 with more friends.  In 2013, both Tomas and I were invited by Manjit to join Bike Aid where we helped to organise the event.  Dan came onboard with us too. Each year we witnessed more participants and with more participants, more funds were raised too.  This year is not exception.  We decided to cap it to 150 cyclists and upped our target to S$280,000 - a lofty target to say the least.  We are still consolidating the total fund which will be announced in our appreciation dinner on 19 Sep at Aranda Country Club.  As promising as it looked, we did have more corporate sponsors this time around and also, we have more new cyclists signing up too.  This is the power of social media and words-of-mouth.  We were even pleasantly surprised to learn that Tote Board has agreed to increase the sponsor sum to S$50,000 maximum from their usual S$20,000.  This will certainly help us to achieve our target baring any unforseeable, that is.

Celebrating Dr Kevin Lee's birthday at Katrina Hotel

Ride For Rations 2014 was scheduled on 22 August 2014, Friday where we took the coach ride to Malacca.  There were 6 coaches designated at three different pick up venues, namely Aranda Country Club, Hougang Stadium and West Coast McDonald's.  Some drove up.  Our hotel in Malacca is Hatten, our second time with them and they were already familiar with our arrangements.  Everything went smoothly on our arrival.  Check in was done swiftly and briefing for support team by Shireen was crystal clear to all.  I did not join my other kakis to roam the town but had a quick dinner with Chua.  We slept early to prepare the long ride ahead.

Showing off for the camera with Fenny in front

Breakfast was taken early at 0600 hrs by most and by about 0700 hrs, almost everyone was ready at the entrance of Hatten to be flagged off.  We were to flag off by the hotel's general manager in  batches led by appointed pacers.  The fastest riders will roll off first followed by the rest.  At about 0745 hrs, we were finally flagged off.  It was a cool morning.  The total distance is 100 km to Katrina Hotel in Batu Pahat.  After lunch, Fenny was mostly with me.  She was on her one single-crank foldie.  She is not a fast rider but she has good endurance and most importantly, a positive attitude.  By mid day, we were very near Batu Pahat town but dark cloud had started to build up.  I was hoping for the weather to hold for another half an hour but alas, my wish was not answered.  On reaching the bridge that leads us to Batu Pahat, it suddenly poured heavily.  Fenny was just behind me.  The wind was blowing very hard and the branches started to fall from trees.  Roaring thunder can be heard too.  It was raining very heavily and there was no way we could ride on.  Fenny and I quickly took shelter at a hawker centre which had yet to open for business.  We waited for about 20 minutes for the rain to subside.

On our way to Batu Pahat

When we reached Katrina Hotel, I was told that there were two falls.  One of them was Arthur.  Fortunately for him, he did not suffer any fracture.  It was just bruises and abrasion on the wrist and legs.  The other cyclist was not that fortunate though.  He fell on his shoulder and had to be sent back to Singapore for urgent operation.  Not a good piece of news to greet us on our arrival but we have to press on and hoping all will be well on our second day of ride.

Our respected senior cyclist, Kuldip Singh who joined for the 4th consecutive time  

We had group dinner at the hotel.  During the dinner, I managed to auction off a complimentary cruise voucher sponsored by Star Cruises and it was Tomas who bid the highest price for it.  The auction raised S$950 which will go to the fund raising.  After dinner, it was straight to bed for me.

My back view with the word "Pacer" on my helmet

The second day of ride is always the most challenging especially the busy stretch from Pekan Nanas town to the immigration and customs side.  The total distance on the second day is about 140 km.  This time, we had standby a 21-seater coaster at Pekan Nanas for those who do not wish to continue on.  EZ Rider group too had a coach on standby at Pekan Nanas to bring them across the causeway to Marsiling.  The weather was nice in the morning.  By about 0730 hrs, we rolled off.  Some of us stopped at Long Chua's place in Muar which was along the way.  We plucked the longan fruits from the tree, had some fun poking at each other.  Chua's mother, his niece and nephew were home.

Group cycling

Again, Fenny tagged along with me for the most part.  We were among the rear cyclists.  At about 70 km mark, we stopped to replenish our drinks.  There were another 20 plus km to our final lunch point at Pekan Nanas town.  When we were ready to go, I noticed the brake on the front wheel of my bike was pressing on it.  Kevin from Rock and Roll group who was providing the support stepped in to help and finally, we decided to swop with another bike.  When I was ready to roll off, Fenny who was on own was way ahead of me.  I tried to catch up with her and I missed the right turn which proved crucial.  When I finally caught up with her, I knew we were not heading the right direction.  I can still see Gunung Pulai from a distance and I told myself as long as I can head there, I should be able to find a side road that will lead us to Pekan Nanas.  I was wrong.  There is no road that can lead to Pekan Nanas town except the turn that we had missed earlier.  By then, we had cycled some 10 km.  Rendered no choice, we made a u-turn back meaning clocking another 10 km more.  It was near noon time and the weather was getting hotter and hotter.  Fenny gamely rode with me, not a single word of complaint or grumbling from her.  I knew she was tired but she just pressed on.  There were no support cars for us too.  We were on our own until we reached Pekan Nanas lunch point.  When we finally reached, the last group of cyclists was about to roll off.  Fenny decided to stop and take Long Chua's car back while I cycled on with the last group, the final 40 km to the finish.

Just before Johor customs, I stopped before the last descent from the bridge to check on the last few cyclists.  When the last cyclist cleared that final part, I hopped on my bike to continue on.  My front tyre just went flat.  Fortunately, the last support car driven by Robert was just behind me.  I decided to take a hike from him to Marsiling instead.  We were the last to arrive at our destination and most cyclists had already left for home by then.  Everyone had arrived safely and that is key.

Group picture at the finishing less me (I was still cycling)

This event had scored few firsts for us.  We had the highest number of cyclists since our inception; our founder of Bike Aid, Manjit Singh cycled with us after laying off from cycling for good many years; we had more corporate sponsors; we had ambulance through out the 2 days of ride; we had trained medic and nurse with us too, thanks to Dr Kevin Lee; we had bike mechanics and we had a team who did 1,000 km which was led by Dave.  The oldest among our cyclists is a 71-year old gentleman and there were quite a number of cyclists aged above 60.  To thank our cyclists and supporters, we will have an appreciation dinner on 19 Sep at Aranda Country Club and we will make official announcement on our final figure for Sunlove Home which will go to the monthly purchase of essential rations for the needy families in Marsiling and Chai Chee.  For now, the total sum remains a mystery but I remain positive.

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