1,044km blast through Tanjung Piai – and finding oneself in the middle of nowhere

I was home alone last weekend. It was a long weekend, as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s birthday was on Monday.

The missus and children went up north to attend a social function with my in-laws. For me, it was a no-holds barred weekend ride.

Several months ago, I received a message from a fellow rider, Datuk Amar Singh, who retired as Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Investigation director. He mentioned a ride to the east coast and cutting through central Johor before returning to Kuala Lumpur.

I had the ride planned for quite some time and thought that the long weekend would be perfect to test it out. Amar, who rides an air-cooled BMW 1200 GSA, had embarked on the route during his work some time ago.

I must mention that my first-ever experience of riding the BMW GSA was with his bike. I used to go for rides with my 400cc scooter, throttling hard behind the boys with the big bikes.

I had made a social visit to his house, and over delicious chapatis, aloo (potatoes) and sardine, he offered me the chance to ride his bike.

I was sold, hook, line and sinker, after that experience.

After much soul searching, internet browsing and talking to senior riders, the decision was made that I should go for the GS, rather than the GSA, as it would be more suitable for me to handle.

When the time came to view the bikes at the showroom, the GS looked smaller, demure, and graceful like a thoroughbred from a good stable, ready to race at the Royal Ascot.

Her non-identical twin was taller in stature, broader in stance, and ready to rumble. She was like a mustang meant for the wild plains of the savannah or the sands of the Sahara.

Common sense and the sales person said to go for the GS, as the GSA rides tall and my feet were not comfortably touching the ground. But something clicked with the GSA and the deal was done – Christine, as I called the bike, was mine.

In the last six years of riding her, I have gone down twice. She can be quite unwieldy, fully tanked up with 30 litres of fuel, and you must be ready for the shift in weight when she tilts more than 20 degrees when stationary. I learnt this two days after getting her when I experienced a “jatuh bodoh” (silly fall) moment.

I was at a traffic light. There was a slight dip in the road and my feet did not get a good point of contact. The bike tilted and the next thing I knew, I was jumping off the falling bike.

I was not hurt but my ego took a big hit, falling in front of a big audience at a busy junction.

Thank God I was fully suited, complete with a full-face helmet. No one could see the embarrassment coursing through me.

It took the help of two other individuals to lift the bike. I have learnt the technique to do it solo now, if required.

The second time was when I was riding along the Kesas highway on the motorbike lane in 2018. In trying to avoid a dog, I ran full tilt into a tree, damaged the front forks and sustained large deep wounds to both my legs over the shin, crashing into the engine guards.

I now ride with full-length boots to protect the shin, even to buy bread.

Back to the ride. I started my journey at 2am. It was a solo ride.

I headed from Kuala Lumpur to Gambang, via the East Coast Highway. It was 195km before I stopped for fuel and got some rest. The second leg of the journey was a non-stop, 235km ride to Mersing Jetty in Johor for coffee and snacks by the sea at sunrise.

Breakfast at Mersing Jetty. Image by Dr M. Narendran

From Mersing, it was a journey to Tanjung Sedili and Tanjung Piai – covering 217km through Felda plantations. That ride was a real eye-opener as Christine was able to handle easily, the long, undulating, and uneven roads, blessed with great corners.

We made good pace but I’m not sure if a pure road bike could have done the same and kept up. It would have rattled the rider and damaged the bike.

Both Christine and I had significant air time whenever we hit the apex of ascents.

There was almost zero traffic. The road was dotted with multiple road kills, with birds feeding on them.

For about three kilometres, I rode standing up on the pegs, with partially flexed knees, to ride out some very uneven tarmac. I kept the visor partially open, at its lowest, to feel the wind in my face. The feeling was priceless.

I made it to Tanjung Piai, the southernmost tip of Peninsular Malaysia, by 8.30am, 30 minutes before the shop opened, just as I had planned.

I was the first visitor for the day.

While resting from the exhausting and pumped-up ride, a family of four arrived in an SUV. The driver of the vehicle walked up to me. We greeted each other and introduced ourselves.

He was Shahrol, a rider who runs the road on a BMW RT1200. That’s the typical character of a rider – even if you drive a car, you definitely want to chat with another rider you meet.

I am guilty of this, but many friendships have been forged this way, for me at least.

Over the course of our conversation, we realised that we lived nearby – practically neighbouring areas. Numbers were exchanged and we planned to meet up for teh tarik and go for rides. Another friendship forged.

As I was checking my bike before leaving, I realised my hot and hard run from Mersing had taken its toll on my front tyre. It was abraded to the thin cable inlays on the right side due to the predominant abrasive deep right turns.

That threw a spanner in the works. I had to change my tyre before I could make the long ride home safely.

Mr Google came to the rescue and suggested several tyre shops. I also called up my friend from BMW Motorrad Ipoh for help.

Most of the shops were closed but I finally managed to get in touch with a gentleman named Fairuz. He had the required tyre and was based in Tampoi, some 64km away.

I proceeded with my plan to enter the Tanjung Piai National Park and walk to the southernmost point of mainland Asia. It was a two kilometre walk in the hot sun with my riding boots. That was an experience, too.

Returning to the bike, and now with the sun beating down mercilessly from its high perch, I decided to remove the waterproof liner of my jacket, since my ride to Tampoi was going to be very slow. With insufficient airflow, I was going to be roasted in it, otherwise.

I reached the garage 90 painful minutes later. Christine held it together. Fairuz was not around but his cheerful and helpful mechanics, Eshan and Shah, were there to help change the tyre.

Both were really happy people, a reflection of a good boss. I would surely recommend them to anyone who needs a tyre change in Johor Bahru.

As I was waiting for the tyre change, I got a call from the Emergency room for a case. I was already two-and-a-half hours behind my planned schedule, so Ali Asam Pedas in Batu Pahat had to be cancelled.

It was a non-stop 340km ride to the hospital. I entered the highway at Skudai toll, and the skies opened up in full force. It was pure deluge for the next 211km. Without the liner, I was soaked to the bone.

I stopped at a petrol station in Ayer Keroh to take a breather. It was a hard ride in the heavy rain. I stopped next to a gentleman who was riding a Yamaha LC135.

We got to talking. His name was Izzat and he was riding from Muar, heading to Klang, to visit his family. He had to stop as his bike was difficult to control due to the heavy water flow on the road.

I understood his predicament. Smaller bikes with narrow tyres have difficulty to displace the water and there’s risk of aquaplaning.

I gave him an option to follow my bike tyre track at a safe distance, so he could continue on his journey. He accepted and off we went. I maintained a slow and steady pace, which he could safely follow until Rembau, when the rain stopped.

We picked up our pace and rode until the Elite highway, where we went our separate ways, but not before a wave and a honk, as I prayed for his safe journey home to his family.

I decided to head home for a quick shower before going to the hospital to review the patient.

It was a very fulfilling day of a long ride, covering 1,044km. Special thanks to Amar for his input, as I met new friends and was able to attend to my patient.

The only drawback was that I had to cancel a date with Ali Asam Pedas in Batu Pahat.

Looks like I have an excuse for another ride down south to make up for the small blip on this trip.

It was once said: “Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.

“Those who fly solo have the strongest wings.”

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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