I am writing this on the flight back from Singapore having just cycled the length of Malaysia. It is just over 5 years since the first time I cycled this route, which was part of my world cycle. But this time, without time pressure, without carrying heavy kit and with the pleasure of company.
And what a contrast to 12 months ago… this year I was pedalled blissfully along, through endless miles of palm plantations in 41 degrees heat thinking back to 31st January 2012 when I was in the fight of my life, mid-Atlantic. I don’t take such great adventures for granted any more!
The trip was organised by Kukri Events, who used my circumnavigation as their guide for a route from Bangkok to Singapore. And the challenge was taken up by an amazing group of cyclists. It could have been a disaster… some had barely cycled before and certainly not day after day, let alone a mighty 1200 miles in 14 days. And yet, when I flew out to join them for the second week, I was met by a team of individuals, vastly ranging in ability and yet completely in support of each other. It was utterly inspiring. I stood at the famous Merlion fountain in Singapore a few days ago with some of the riders in tears of joy having completed the toughest adventure of their life. A dog bite and a serious crash did nothing to dissuade all of the riders from completing.
I am pretty sure that this event could become a regular fixture. But be warned – unlike a lot of cycle tours around the world, this is a real physical and mental challenge! Pushing between 80-100 miles a day in the sweltering heat of South East Asia, it’s a whirlwind tour where each day tests endurance and resolve. And yet, if you are determined, it is also possible by most cyclists. On this years event we had riders from their 20’s to their 60’s, from novices to top level road cyclists. As with all expeditions, it is mental toughness that is the key.
Malaysia has changed a lot even in the six years since I was last there. It is amazing to see 7/11’s and Starbucks on every corner, with huge areas under development. And yet, it still ranks as one of the most friendly countries that I have ever visited. Every day the group came together in the evenings with stories of the kind and generous local people who they had met during the day. I have rarely seen a culture that goes so far out of its way to show a warm welcome.
Well done to Crispin Vittoria for pulling the whole event together. Crispin and the Kukri Events team are setting up new exciting challenges over the year so check them out if you like the sound of this. It would really be fun to get more cycling events organised on this scale.
The Queen’s Baton Relay – one of the great traditions...