Welcome to the Cycle Series #2
In this series, I will be introducing you to inspiring men and women who love exploring the world on their trusted two-wheeled vehicle – the bicycle!
David Chang and his friend, Yee Siang headed out into the hilly slopes of tropical Malaysia on their first two-week long-distance cycling trip. Facing intense never-ending winding roads, scorching heat and unpredictable weather, they both attempted a 1,325km distance on two wheels.
David is a full-time graphic designer and is an avid hobbyist photographer who loves exploring and capturing moments where most people wouldn’t think of looking. Believe me, his Instagram grid has the pictures to show for.
In this series, he talks about his long-distance cycling trip departing from Subang Jaya and ending in Kelantan. At a location deep in rural Malaysia, David discovers generous hospitality in the midst of adversity.
David, set the scene for us here – how did you end up taking on this cycling adventure?
One day I caught up with my friend Yee Siang over coffee. He told me that he had been planning for this cycling trip for quite a while and as he was explaining, I got a bit riled up and couldn’t help but get excited about his plans. The next obvious thing happened – he invited me to join him on this trip.
I thought, why not? I already love cycling anyway, so this should be fun right? The only thing is that this would be my first long-distance cycling trip. It’s also Yee Siang’s first. Well, that settles it then. Two long-distance cycling newbies attempting to cycle the unforgiving tropical Peninsular Malaysia route. This should be interesting.
Describe to me how you felt when you first departed?
Truthfully, I felt super excited and surreal. I couldn’t believe that it was finally happening because I remember planning this whole trip with Yee Siang for months ahead. We had to make sure we got the right gears and that our bikes were ready to go and when it finally happened, I was beyond thrilled.
And after all that planning and preparation, did everything go according to plan?
No, not really. Even after all that planning and prepping, we sort of expected it to be—well, difficult. Perhaps it is because it’s our first time. But the biggest factor was the fact that the distance that we had planned out was too far to cover in just two weeks and especially having to travel the distance by bicycle.
When I look back at it, it was almost as if we were attempting a cycling marathon going at it for hours and hours, taking it day by day and if possible, with fewer stops and yet we knew that there is no way we should ever think of giving up. We just had to keep going in order to reach at least to the next stop point.
On average, each day we had to cycle for a distance of 90km. In total, we had to cover about 1,325km in two weeks. Technically, in order for us to get back to Subang Jaya by the end of the two weeks, we had to ensure that distance is covered— both ways!
Boy, we were definitely in for a surprise.
The route that we planned was rather hilly. That in itself was already a huge struggle for us. It cost us major delays because, by the time we reached the hilly areas of the route, it was already midday — and the sun was at its brightest. Surely it added to our struggle because the South East Asian tropical heat was equally relentless as the slopes.
I hate to break it to you Yasmin, but this setback derailed us completely from our plans. We knew our bodies couldn’t take it and we weren’t able to continue. So we decided that it was best to rest until 4pm. Some days we rested until 5pm before we resume our journey.
Was there any other hiccup along the way?
The hilly slopes, the hot weather and I must say— the huge lorries and the wind. Every time the lorries pass by us, they create strong winds that would consistently hit our faces. That was both annoying and challenging.
Don’t forget, we’re not athletes or well-trained endurance cyclists. We’re just two Malaysian guys who want to cycle through the country—just cause it’s exciting. Again, the distance was a major factor. It really was tough and I think I was already exhausted from week one. Our bodies had to adapt to the situation very quickly too.
Then there was that time when my bicycle handles came loose and we had barely even started our journey. So I had to somehow bear with it for a very long time.
Yee Siang, on the other hand, hit a pothole causing his bicycle hook (which was holding his pannier bag) to fail. When that happened, his bag dropped in the middle of a busy road and a car ran over it—completely destroyed everything inside.
What would you say is the major highlight of your trip?
I would say the local’s kindness, generosity and friendliness towards travellers like us. This is definitely the other side of Malaysia I never knew about before.
A significant one was when I experienced a flat tyre. I wasn’t able to change it on the spot because the tyre was so hard to remove from the rims. I figured, if I pump air into it every 3 to 4km, I would be okay.
When it was dusk, I stopped at a watermelon stall to re pump. I didn’t want to do it any further along the way because it was already dark and dangerous to stop and pump. While I was pumping, the watermelon ‘Mak Cik’ (owner or lady) offered me a watermelon for free to take it with me.
It was such a generous offer but unfortunately, I did not have enough room for watermelon and I was rushing to the guest house which was located Kuala Besut. I would have probably taken it otherwise.
Then in Merang, Terengganu, the heat was crazy and the Sun was scorching hot. We had to stop at one of the food stalls to take a break. I remembered how we were both super exhausted and ended up ordering eight glasses of ice drinks.
The stall owner, this ‘Mak Cik’ decided to not charge us at all. What a generous gesture and it is such a relief to know that in these parts of Malaysia, such kindness exists. To top it off, the ‘Mak Cik’ washed our water bottles and refilled them with fresh water.
Motorcyclists that pass by gave us thumbs up and a honk to encourage us. A 4WD truck driver even offered us a lift.
One last question, what would you tell people who want to do this trip?
Forget about the mileage you should be covering or have covered. Be open to explore and enjoy the ride as much as possible and be safe as well.
Many thanks to David for sharing his cycling excursion! If you enjoyed David’s cycling adventure and want to know more about it, ask away in the comment box below!