The idea of a charity bike ride across Malaysia started as a dream around Christmas time. Back in Singapore in January I met with Jean-Francois Torrelle who is one of the key figures in long distance cycling in Asia and Europe to refine the idea.

I started a Facebook group and, in the space of 2 weeks, 30+ riders from around Asia expressed interest in the ride. Then I had to release the bad news. The ride will start in Thailand and finish in Singapore, an 800 km journey down the East Coast of Malaysia to complete in less than 48h. All of a sudden, the numbers went down from 30+ to about 16. The Trans Malaysia Express aka TME was born.

The TME could have remained a ride amongst 16 nutters (and friends of course) but as a charity ride we felt that we had to do a bit more promotion. Fellow rider Jeff Paine had the brilliant idea to talk to Tourism Malaysia and try to get them on board as our main partner. It happened that they were the most enthusiastic partner imaginable and they turned this small event into a major cycling event in Malaysia, offering all their expertise in planning the trip, providing police escort all the way (up to 2 cars and 4 motorbikes on some sections!), paramedics, and all the logistics.

Simultaneously David Kolpak, one of the most serious long distance riders in Singapore, came on board. His help with the planning and fundraising was unbelievable.

After 5 months of planning and fund raising (more on this later!), the Trans Malaysia Express set-off from Thailand at 10 p.m. on Wednesday 31st May.

We rode through the darkness of the night. That was a very lonely night and probably the only time I really had doubts during this epic journey. After the excitement of the start, I soon realized that we were all tired, grumpy, were not working together very well as a team, and it was a tense few hours trying to avoid some potholes in total darkness. There was a few punctures during that night, quickly repaired.

About 200 km later we were rewarded by the most beautiful sunrise along the East Coast of Malaysia and the morale went up as we enjoyed breakfast by the Coast.

It was a long and tough day though, with temperatures rising steadily throughout the day to reach 37C by lunchtime.

By the time we finished Day 1 we had 460 km on the clock and had been on the road for 21 hours. We met the Kuantan cycling club for the last 30 km and there was a bit of racing going on…

340 km to complete on Day 2 would not be that bad if we did not have a tight time constraint. We had to be at the High Commission at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The High Commissioner kindly hosted a welcoming party and we could not afford to be late!

So we decided to set our alarm clocks to go off at midnight and to set-off at 12:30 a.m. after 3 hours sleep.

The first few hours in the night went really well. Most of the roads were lit, in good condition, and the TME team was very motivated. We encouraged each other keeping a cruising speed of 28-29 km/h to keep the group together.

By early morning we were in Mersing for a great breakfast. The morale was high up, the team worked well, and we were on schedule.

We almost enjoyed the 90 km of rolling hills between Mersing and Kota Tinggi. We were only 100 km from the border, we could “smell” Singapore. Some of us decided to race each other in the hilly sections.

Then came JB, our exit point from Malaysia. We waived our Police and Paramedics escort goodbye and passed the border around 3 p.m. Reaching Singapore was a bit of an anticlimax. Where is our Police Escort? Where are all these smiley faces on the roadside?

Latest calculations showed we were going to be a few kilometres short on our 800 km goal so we raced each other one final time up and down Mandai Road.

Less than 43 hours after our start, 3 hours sleep and exactly 800.0 km later we reached our final destination, the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore who hosted a great finish party. It has been hard work, we swore and shouted at each other to keep the pace up, we endured a lot of pain but we did it, managed to stay together at as a group and stayed friends despite all the abuse!

Many Thanks to my 14 fellow riders (Dave O’Rahilly, Jeff Paine, David Kolpak, Alan Grant, Bernard Johnson, Chris Szpojnarowicz, Brian Johnsen, James Middleditch, Dan Smith, Stephen Ames, Lee Harle, Teck Meng Loh, Jerry Steale and Nicolas Faquet) for embarking in this wonderful and unforgettable journey.

My friends Stephen Pennell and Jean-Francois Torrelle should have been on board the TME but Stephen broke his leg hours before the TME and that was a “mega-bummer”. As for JFT, work interfered.

Thanks also to all our supporters. The guys in the support cars (Tam, Francis, Nyuk, John, OK) were amazing.

And of course Thanks to my cycling club, Anza Cycling, and Triathlon Club, BPTC. Training with them is always so enjoyable and my best friends in Singapore belong to these clubs.

More importantly, the 17 of us (15 riders + Jean- Francois Torrelle and Stephen Pennell) have managed to raise so far in excess of US$80,000 for a charity cause, avoidable blindness in South-East Asia through A New Vision.

You can find more information on our website or Facebook group, as well as plenty of pictures and videos.

Text by Richard Thevenon


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