road riding in Penang | Malaysia

We be Jammin' II: Banding 2005
19 - 20 November 2005

by Darren Lee | photos by Finian Lee, Ong Kai Seng & Goh "Budak" Taw Yeang
(see Articles section for Banding 2003 article)

As a cycling holiday destination, Banding Island seems to be floating to the top of my list, along with Cameron Highlands. This is my third time already. For those who don't know, the island is a man-made island at the edge of Temenggor Lake, one of the largest natural lake systems in Malaysia. Banding is about 30km north of the northern Perak town of Grik (so that means it is waaaay north). And Thailand is just across the border ...

My first time there was back in 2002 as part of PCC's Interstate. Since we missed the following year's Interstate, a bunch of us decided to ride to Banding on the same day of Interstate 2003. At that time, I thought getting 10+ riders on an overnight riding trip was a feat. This year, we had 33 riders, 8 support crew, 7 support vehicles and a motorbike marshall! I sure was amazed that our organiser, Kulim Lee, managed to pull this off with such a high turnout.

It was a pleasant Saturday morning when the riders and support crew started to gather in front of our makeshift headquarters, Kulim Lee's house in (where else) Kulim. We also had some KL riders who came up all the way for the camp (Jordan & crew). After the usual rounds of schmoozing and hand-shaking, Kulim Lee gathered us around for a short briefing.

The first climb was to come after 60km of riding. Wow - 60km usually means I've almost finished a typical Penang round island ....

After the briefing, it was time to fire the starting gun (figuratively speaking, that is ... ). However, things did not go as well as planned. First, Edwin had a puncture and then after we started, an accident happened between an elderly local man and the peloton who were going in opposite directions.

Things got much smoother after clearing Kulim town and soon the peloton was rolling along at 31km/h amongst the oil palm estates. There weren't any breakaways as the support vehicles were under instructions to control the speed of the group.

We all had a cheerful stop at 60km (Kampung Melayu). Cheerful, that is, while it lasted ... little did they know about the climb that would follow - how steep the appropriately named Klian Gunung would be - an 8.6km climb averaging 5.2% that would kill most of us off .... and just to prove I'm not making this up, check out the graph below ....

If graphics don't say a thousand words, maybe a photo will ....


Of course, no self-respecting cycling article (such as mine ...) would be complete without a shot of some poor chaps suffering up the hill .....

Can't talk! Can't talk!

Anyway, all of us made it to the top and down the "hill" in one piece. Well, nearly all of us, though. The steep downhill had us hitting 80km/h and Steven overcooked one of the corners and ended up in a ditch, Jan Ullrich-style. Fortunately, he was ok (apart from some ruined lycra .... but what's that compared to mashed head).

At the bottom of the hill and in the middle of nowhere, it was time for the obligatory group photo.

Say "that was hard .. "

Group photo over, it was on to the lunch stop at Lawin (kilometre 100) along the new road to Grik. Soon after we started, a breakaway formed (led by Danny, I think) and a furious chase ensued, led by a charging Kulim Lee who seemed to have developed a huge engine for flat and rolling terrain (I kind of wished he hadn't at that point in time .. ). Suffice to say, most of the time were spent tucked behind him, hanging on for dear life.

No time to enjoy the scenery ...

Lunch was of course, well deserved and the stall/restaurant owners were simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of very hungry people expecting food. We even resorted to self-service (waiting by the wok) to get our grubby hands on some decently cooked food - there's only so much we can have of bars and bananas.

We finally reached Grik for a short rest. 135km had already been covered in beautifully overcast weather, although I was told that it was raining lightly in Banding. Well, I think everyone would have preferred rain to shiny sun at this point. Wei Aun took out his raincoat and for some time remained the butt of jokes - but it turned out he was nursing a cold and didn't want to take excessive risks.

There was excitement and at the same time apprehension - reaching Banding meant a glorious rest time but there lay before us a 17km climb - which no doubt delighted the climbers and fast riders who attacked and disappeared as soon as the climb started. The rest of us simply struggled up the climb, which at 2.1% didn't sound very hard, but it was.

"Budak" and the raincoat-clad Wei Aun duking it out on the Banding climb. Note Budak's version of "The Look" ...

The riders trickled into Banding resort one by one and everyone was thankful for the rooms which Edwin and Pheng Babey already checked in for us. I was cooked myself and I didn't remember the ride to Banding to be that hard in 2003 - which was probably because I was going easy while accompanying for our celebrity columnist, Gil Sneed (see Articles section for 2003 write-up).

After some gladly taken rest, we proceeded to our BBQ dinner which consisted of the normal stuff plus some bonuses such as barbequed river fish and cooked fish fillet. Nice, but the atmosphere was strangely quiet. I guess doing 171km and 1,600 metres on climbing has that effect on you. The dinner ended early and everyone obediently filed into their rooms to end the night at 9:00pm. Whatever happened to the all-night party we were talking about??


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