By GUS GHANI
My wife Maryati and I enjoy participating in outstation bike rides to escape from stressful city life by exploring our beautiful countryside.
The fact that we had never been to Kampar, Perak, made us curious enough to register for a ride there on July 26.
The Kampar Majesty Ride (KMR) was started in 2013 by the event organiser, Grand Kampar Hotel (GKH), and the town’s cycling community to attract more visitors to the ex-tin mining town. The idea was to add cycling to the many outdoor activities here such as white-water rafting and caving (at Gua Tempurung and elsewhere).
The first KMR 2013 attracted only 150 participants, and the number rose steadily to 320 in the second year. By 2015, it had reached 530 riders. As GKH General Manager, Leroy Tan explained, “We never expected to have so many participants in our third year.”
The epicentre of KMR is the majestic-looking Grand Kampar Hotel, about 1km from the town centre. Kampar is also home for the main campus of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR). To cater for the many students, there is a wide array of restaurants, cafes and convenience shops, all located near the hotel.
The newly refurbished rooms are nice and spacious and their facilities, including a rooftop swimming pool, exceeded my expectations for a small town hotel.
My wife and I took advantage of the special room rates for participants. We checked in the day before at 3pm, and stored our bicycles at the hotel for safe-keeping. After dropping our luggage in the room, we went to the mezzanine floor to collect our goodie bag containing a micro-fibre T-shirt and our individual ID numbers which also doubled-up as our lucky draw tickets. There were two merchandise booths set-up in the hotel lobby offering cycling gear and accessories too.
As part of our race-eve routine, after a simple dinner, we retired to our room early, to prepare for our 60km ride the next morning.
At 6am, the participants gathered at the hotel’s cafeteria for our complimentary buffet breakfast. By 6.45am, we all picked up our bicycles from the hotel storage and gathered outside the main entrance – which was the start and finish line.
The flag-off was delayed slightly but nobody was complaining because we were happy to be given extra time to digest our hearty breakfasts. A few minutes after 7am, all the riders were flagged-off, accompanied by the cycling marshalls and an ambulance van.
From the hotel, we rode towards Kampar town centre. We continued along Route 1 (the former Kuala Lumpur-Ipoh trunk road) and soon passed the tiny town of Temoh. The traffic police did a marvelous job controlling traffic, enabling us to ride smoothly and safely pass all the major junctions.
Except for a few avoidable potholes along the country lanes, the overall road conditions were ideal for all types of bicycles. Indeed, the wide appeal of this event could be seen by the many different types of bikes: roadies, MTB’s (mountain bikes), foldies and even tandems.
After Temoh, the route took us to Tanjung Tualang via the A180 road, and then back to Kampar via A114.
Along the way, I was impressed by the beautiful scenes of villages, vast open spaces, verdant forests, palm oil estates, reflections of mining ponds, cows grazing along the riverbanks, and the everpresent view of the Titiwangsa mountain range in the background. Since this was a fun ride, I took my time to soak in the wonderful sights and sounds of rural living, and I even stopped a few times to take photos.
One of my favourite parts of cycling is the strong fellowship. Whenever I go for events, I invariably end-up making new friends, and KMR was no exception.
For instance, I struck up a conversation with an engineer from Putrajaya, called Amir. While we were riding a few kilometres together, not far from the first water station, Amir shared, “I took up cycling in early 2015 because my sugar level was borderline diabetic. Since then, I have lost 5kg, and I can feel improvements in my health. My plan is to invest in a decent roadbike so that I can ride longer distances”.
I love hearing inspirational stories like that because it proves that cycling has a very positive impact on people’s lives. I also met another new friend, Jackie, while he was cheerfully taking photos on a bridge.
Like me, I could tell that Jackie was just happy to be cycling, and occassionally he would stop and smell the roses, so to speak, along the way. Again, I can relate to Jackie because he was really enjoying the journey and was in no hurry to reach his destination.
There was also a Brompton foldie rider, Lina from KL. She carries her bike on the KTM Komuter train from Batu Tiga (near Subang Jaya) to work in KL. Then, after work, she commutes home by bike. What an amazing individual! I admire cyclists like Lina, who have the determination to commute to work by bicycle despite the challenges posed by inconsiderate drivers.
During the kit collection, I bumped into avid cycling couple, Nash and Selle from Subang Jaya. The pair are great ambassadors of cycling and practically every weekend, they will travel the length and breadth of Malaysia to join a cycling event.
Nash pointed out, “We participated in last year’s KMR, and at that time, it rained heavily the night before which caused a landslide along a hilly stretch of the route”.
On the way to dinner, I met another cycling buddy, CG Gan, a retiree from Klang. She can ride very long distances on her foldie bicycle, and she shared, “I do not mind cycling under the sun as I cover myself fully from head to toe for protection!”
During breakfast, a Singaporean rider, named Yeoh. introduced himself to me because he had seen me before in another event. Yeoh has joined many century rides in Malaysia, and incredibly, he rides his foldie bike in all of them!
After Maryati and I had finished, we waited for the last riders to arrive, while being served a lunch buffet in the hotel. During lunch, I could not help but appreciate how cheap the registration fee was.
For only RM65, we got a T-shirt, a finisher’s medal, buffet breakfast and lunch, a 60km ride along beautiful country lanes, and a lucky draw ticket! In addition, RM10 from the registration fee of each participant was donated to Living Hope, an association (headed by Dr Peggy Wong) which gives assistance to underprivileged school children. All the participants could give themselves a pat on the back because they raised RM5,300 for a worthwhile cause.
After lunch, the event was capped-off with the presentations of 78 lucky draw prizes, including the grand prize of a Fat Bike valued at RM1,600.
As participants, we should never forget to show our appreciation for all the hard work carried out by the organiser, sponsors, local authorities, traffic police, ride marshalls and volunteers to make our experience enjoyable and memorable.
I would like to give special thanks to the following people who made us feel so welcomed in Kampar: Leroy Tan (the hotel manager) and his crew of amazing volunteers, Adrian Ho and Ganesan of the Kampar cycling community, Kampar police, RELA, St John’s ambulance, and everyone else who played a role making it happen.
It was one of the best events in which my wife and I have ever had the privilege to join.
Gus Ghani is a certified High Intensity Interval Training Coach who enjoys participating in endurance sports. Contact him at email@example.com.