Pack your bike for cycle-cruise fun
CYCLISTSare always on the lookout for new routes to explore on their two-wheel steeds. I had the opportunity to do just that recently, when I joined 29 other cyclists as we sailed to the ports of Phuket and Langkawi on Star Cruises' first cycle-cruise expedition.
It was a mixed group, ranging from seasoned cyclists with numerous races and overseas trips under their belts, to weekend leisure cyclists. There was even a 60-year-old first-timer, who bought a budget bicycle specifically for this adventure.
The itinerary was a 100km cycle route in total - on land, of course.
Besides the usual cruise entertainment, we had a couple of cycling-specific activities lined up: a safety and long-distance-cycling brief as well as specially tailored workout sessions by athlete and cycling coach Poon Pek Ya.
Phuket was our first port of call. There, we were to undertake a 40km night ride on the outskirts of town.
Our motley crew on road bikes, mountain bikes and foldies set off just before nightfall. We were quite a sight - in brightly coloured Lycra and with blinking lights - accompanied by support vehicles stocked up with water and bananas.
Despite the leisurely pace, we got separated on the way to the midpoint. It could have been the new road conditions or the colourful fruit stalls along the streets that got us distracted and confused.
Inevitably, we got lost. But hey, that's all part of the fun of cycling.
Fortunately, everyone managed to regroup and we celebrated with a much-deserved round of coconut water.
What I found rather incredible was that not once did people sound their horn at us, not even as we negotiated a roundabout slowly in heavy traffic. A near-impossible feat for a cycling group this large in Singapore.
For most of the route, we were travelling on what I assumed was a bicycle lane. While there were lots of vehicles, I felt very safe on the road.
The terrain was also quite doable - there were some hills, but nothing too steep. I clocked a maximum speed of 37kmh.
It took us about four hours to complete, inclusive of rest stops.
For some, the highlight was ending the ride with a quick visit to a night bazaar that sprung up just beside the ship.
Then it was off to bed and on to the next stop, as this was just a "teaser", according to our organisers.
We docked at Langkawi late in the morning and set off on our 60km route before lunch.
The scenery along the way was rustic. I wished I had time to stop and take some photos, but we had a schedule to keep to.
Compared with Phuket, the hills were steeper. The pace and the distance for this leg were more challenging for me.
Still, the new environment and route were really refreshing and they kept our spirits up. Cycling past a number of schools, I managed to wave to the kids when they greeted us.
Our lunch stop was an interesting, authentic, no-frills Malaysian makan place, where we rested for 30 minutes, battling flies. After filling myself up, I decided to push myself to see if I could catch up with the lead pack of hybrids and road bikes. Despite my heavier 29er on knobby tyres, I managed to catch up with the leaders after 12km.
All good, I thought, till my left thigh cramped out big time on the last hill just a few hundred metres from the ship.
So there I lay on the grass on the side of the road, till our group's medic, Colin, came by to help stretch me out.
Limping, I managed to cycle back to the ship. Despite that incident, I still managed an average speed of 18 kmh, with a maximum speed of 46kmh.
The group took five hours to complete the 60km journey.
The trip ended with a nice certificate presentation by none other than the captain of the Super Star Virgo during a gala dinner.
Exploring new routes via bicycle and, at the same time, enjoying the luxuries of a cruise - that's how I would sum up my recent experience.
Would I do it again, cramp and all? Hell, yeah!
The next SuperStar Virgo 3N Penang/Phuket cycle-cruise will be on March 16.
For more photos, go to www.relax.com.sg
Adrian Tay is the editor of Singapore Press Holdings' online portal, AsiaOne (www.asiaone.com).