Cycling

for

Smiles


Persisting through blood, sweat, and pain for a noble cause.

5 October, 2016 by Mahen Bala

By 7pm, every inch of space in front of McDonald’s at Dataran Pahlawan, Malacca was packed with tyres, cycling helmets, and eager spirits from all over the country. This is both the starting and ending point of the BRM400 Audax Randonneurs Malaysia. Unlike a regular cycling race, where a participant is rewarded for finishing the race in the shortest time, the BRM is an endurance circuit of races, where the goal is to complete the race within a stipulated time. The BNR200 was to be completed in twelve hours and this time, participants had twenty-seven hours to complete the BNR400, a full 412 km loop between Malacca and Skudai.

Of the more than 300 people who signed up for the race, my friend Radzi Jamaludin decided to embark on a personal fundraising ride, in conjunction with the race falling on Malaysia Day. Friends and generous strangers pledged between RM0.10 and RM1 for every kilometre he completed. Some even upped the ante with a full RM1000 if he completed the ride within time. The funds would all go to Red Bubbles, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing smiles and laughter to seriously ill children in hospitals and other healthcare settings through regular clowning visits. The plan was for Radzi to cycle with a group of friends, and I was to be their support vehicle, driving from one checkpoint to the next, carrying supplies and emergency equipment.

8pm and they were off. No VIPs to officiate the race, no music, no blaring horns. Only fresh muscles pedalling against a ticking clock. The swarm of cyclists began pouring out onto the street in single file, egged on by the motorists. I wished Radzi the best of luck and saw him off. Leaving the hustle of Malacca town, I drove through the thick of night, keeping a lookout for blinkers, a safety requirement for every cyclist so they are visible to other motorists. Finally, I caught up with two of them, torsos parallel to the road, eyes looking straight ahead, and legs pressing down on the pedal like the driving wheel of a steam locomotive.

7.32am and cyclists were still trickling into second checkpoint, the 201 km mark. The dreaded sun was slowly creeping over the hills behind us. Radzi eased in and rested his bicycle against my car. He was already having problems with his knee.

I’m not sure if I can do it. The last part just now, I had to cycle with just my right leg. My left knee…

was all he could muster between quick breaths. After a quick nap and a good breakfast, he was the last of his group to leave the checkpoint. He had to keep going, whatever the cost. From here onwards, the cyclists were headed to Yong Peng, sharing the road with potholes, cars, and 12-wheeled juggernauts. They were free to stop as they wished, be it for a teh tarik and or a quick nap at a petrol station.

Cycling on trunk roads, participants have the added challenge of negotiating the use of the road with other motorists.

11am and I was parked under a tree, photographing cyclists as they huffed and puffed their way up a small hill to Yong Peng. That’s when I received a call from Radzi. A call he must have agonised over through every strained pedal. I drove back down the road, and there he was, sitting under a pondok by the roadside, massaging his left knee. “I can always ride again on another day, but I only have one pair of knees.” He said with a deep sigh, having to stop at the 266 km mark. Struggling to lift himself with all the pain, with lengthy oooh and aahs, he grabbed my shoulder and popped the most important question of the day, “Eh bro, here got cendol ah?”

Just as we packed the bicycle in the back of my pickup truck, Just then, I caught a glimpse of something fluttering in the distance. A small pack of kampong kids on bicycles were headed down the opposite direction, with oversized Jalur Gemilangs tied to a pole behind them. They were not part of a ride, or a corporate publicity stunt, not even spectators. A few cyclists zoomed past us, paying no attention to the kids or the pain in their calves. The kids simply looked on, and continued cycling, once again breathing life to their war flag.

We took a slow, quiet drive back to Malacca, cruising through Yong Peng, Merlimau and Jasin, past the remaining cyclists. An admirable effort but my thoughts were still with the kids, now far behind us, cycling their handed down bicycles without a care in the world. No energy bars, no finish line, no support vehicle. It wasn’t about winning, but being a part of something larger than themselves. The joy of championing a cause without any immediate gratification or even acknowledgement. Only a love for home and country.

The race is over for Radzi, but those who pledged to his cause insisted on giving the full amount, bringing the total to RM11,627.10. Amidst all the pessimism slowly gripping the nation into numbness, the desire for the individual Malaysian to go above and beyond for a noble cause is still alive and well. If there is a will, then yes, there is a way.

Note:The funds raised will go a long way in helping Red Bubbles continue their efforts in providing the best ‘medicine’ to our little heroes who need it the most. Follow the adventures of Red Bubbles on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/myredbubbles/

Radzi Jamaludin with Iskandar Syah Ismail, Chief Clown Doctor at Red Bubbles.

Radzi Jamaludin with Iskandar Syah Ismail, Chief Clown Doctor at Red Bubbles.

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