Cycling fun in Johor

Andrew en route to Desaru by bike
If you are a child of the 70s, you may have enjoyed the freedom of riding around on your Chopper or BMX bike.  At that time the Chopper was the height of coolness because it was designed to look like the chopper motorcycles that were made popular by movies like “Easy Rider.”  The BMX which means “bicycle motocross” was a popular choice for off-road stunt riding and racing but the BMX craze actually took off with the success of the 1982 Steven Spielberg science fiction movie, “E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

I remember watching this movie, one of the highest grossing films of all time, about Elliot, a lonely 10-year old boy who longs for a friend and then befriends an extra-terrestrial or E.T. who is stranded on earth.  While attempting to keep it hidden from his mother and the government, Elliot and his friends help E.T. find his way home.  The scene that remains engraved in my mind is E.T. tucked in a basket, covered by a white sheet in Elliot’s bicycle as he and his biker friends outwitted the authorities on their BMX bicycles in an exciting chase.

The most unforgettable part of the chase must be the point when the bikers faced a dead end and suddenly, E.T. used his telekinetic power to lift them into the air and fly away toward the forest.  The friendship between a boy and an extra-terrestrial and the bikers’ skills in outrunning and outwitting adults on mere bicycles was especially inspirational to audiences worldwide.  This movie made such an impact that youngsters wanted a BMX and cycling became popular again.

Recently cycling made a comeback as a healthy hobby and my nephews and their friends are pursuing it quite seriously.  On weekends, these cycling enthusiasts enjoy morning rides in Nusajaya and give themselves a breakfast treat on their way back to Johor Baru.  These invigorating morning rides around Kota Iskandar at Nusajaya are fun especially when the roads are not only wider but less congested with vehicular traffic. 

My nephews, Aaron [2nd from Right] and Andrew [3rd from Right] with their cycling gang at Puteri Harbour
When they shared their exciting experiences with Andrew, my nephew who’s also a cyclist enthusiast based in Perth, he couldn’t resist the thrill of joining them for a ride when he was next back in Johor.  So when Andrew and his wife came home for Chinese New Year he also packed his bicycle and brought it along for that much anticipated ride to Nusajaya.  We talked about their biking plans over our Reunion Dinner and as soon as the festivities were over, this group of cyclists went for a morning ride to Puteri Harbour (NST Streets Johor, Feb 6). 

Nor Muhammad Iskandar's spontaneous
 offer to help the thirsty cyclists is
very commendable
This preliminary ride was just a warm-up for their next ride to Desaru which started from Taman Molek at 5am the following morning.  The valiant riders took the necessary rest stops in their exhilarating ride but agreed that one of the most challenging stretches of the grueling trip must be the climb across the bridge near Teluk Sengat.  Riding 80km to Desaru in more than four hours on their iron horses, was indeed an apt way to kick off the lunar Year of the Horse.

From the many cyclists who frequent Nusajaya by day and at night, it is clear that the cycling phenomenon is getting big in Johor Baru.  While vehicle drivers share the roads with the cyclists, I hope the authorities will seriously consider constructing cycling lanes or create cycling routes like the Park Connectors that exist in our neighbouring country.  The lighting along the highways should also be improved for a more welcoming ambience in Nusajaya.

Refreshing drinking water received
courtesy of Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour
Early last Saturday, our group of cyclists was riding in Nusajaya again and going by the Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour to an adjacent convenience store to top up their water bottles with isotonic drinks.  They were disappointed that the store was not open yet and pleasantly surprised that their hesitation attracted the attention of a hotel concierge staff who approached them to offer help.  They asked him if there was any other convenience store nearby and when he said there was none, he promptly offered each one of them the hotel’s complimentary bottled water!

Such a random act of kindness by the hotel staff so impressed the thirsty cyclists that they wanted my friends at the hotel to commend such an exemplary staff who certainly reflected the hotel’s training in hospitality and encouragement to practice kindness at all times.  He was alert and went beyond his call of duty to respond to the immediate need but even after his spontaneous response in this incident, people in that area cannot expect a ready supply of drinking water from the hotel. 

That is why I am urging the developers of Nusajaya to provide water fountains at bus stops and other strategic spots in Kota Iskandar for pedestrians and cyclists to quench their thirst and enhance their visit to this beautiful part of Johor Baru.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 24 February 2014

Interesting Update:

On Sunday morning, 23 February, while I was on a media tour to experience the eco attractions at Kampung Sungai Melayu in Nusajaya, I met two cycling enthusiasts who were taking a refreshment break at the village corner coffee-shop.  It was interesting to meet Teo Cherng Linn and his brother, Cherng Hann, weekend cyclists who enjoy exploring sites in Johor on their bikes.

Teo Cherng Linn [Left] and his brother, Cherng Hann at Kampung Sungai Melayu in Nusajaya

After their refreshment break, the brothers set off on the next leg of their cycling tour of Nusajaya
I learnt that they are from Pontian but live and work in Singapore now.  And when they come to visit relatives who live in Bukit Indah, they will also plan a cycling tour in and around Johor Baru to rediscover the charms of Johor.


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