RIDER: HAVE BIKE WILL TRAVEL

It was a weekday afternoon when I met Jefni. What got my attention was the sticker on his 12 year-old Diamond Back mountain bike. There was a sticker made up of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand country flags. I got curious and walked over to ask the owner did he pasted those stickers on the bike because he cycled to these places. He smiled and told me he toured to Thailand with this bike. I was impressed.

JEFNI AMAT PROVES THE SAYING RIGHT ONCE AGAIN – IT’S THE RIDER NOT THE BIKE!

It was a weekday afternoon when I met Jefni. What got my attention was the sticker on his 12 year-old Diamond Back mountain bike. There was a sticker made up of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand country flags. I got curious and walked over to ask the owner did he pasted those stickers on the bike because he cycled to these places. He smiled and told me he toured to Thailand with this bike. I was impressed.

Jefni’s bike does not have your regular bike-of-the-day carbon frame set up. No lightweight carbon rims with optimal engagement hubs. No modern groupset that guarantees the most efficient and seamless shiftings. Just a hardy frame, some sturdy wheels and a trusty leather saddle and he was off to Narathiwat with a friend!

We want to find out more about this rider!

WHO’S THAT DUDE?

Name : Amat Jefni
Age: 47 years young
Bike owned and how old is the bike: Diamondback, 12 years. 
Joined any cycle races ? None so far. You never know. 
What about non cycle races? Spartan races and marathons. 
How often do you cycle ? Everyday. 
Other sports ? Scuba diving. 
Sponsored? Self sponsored. 
Favorite food : I’m not fussy. 
Any pets ? None for now. 

How did the idea of cycling tour came about ?

The idea came about after many years of street and off road cycling. I also cycled to nearby locations like Kukup, Pendas and Kota Tinggi in Johor. In 2017, I decided to challenge and push myself further. The idea was to embark on a bike touring run from Singapore to southern Thailand. I wanted a partner who is more experienced in traveling to guide me along. Enter my cycling buddy, Mr Malik Atan. 

From inception, the planning took 2 weeks. We simply took to the maps and “Go!”. Malik’s experience on Malaysia’s roads helped a great deal. Our minds are set to just push forward no matter the challenges. We are also prepped to expect the unexpected. 

Any need for fitness preparation before you embark on your adventure?

I’ve always been quite active. I frequent the gym 3 days a week. I cycle to and fro work. During rest days, I would jog or cycle 120 km rides. It’s always satisfying for me when I push my body to the limit. It’s like a high I cannot explain. 

What did you bring along for the tour?

Since it was my first long distance bike tour, I wasn’t exactly the most experienced guy out there to pack a bike touring bag. Somehow, I managed. In my bag, I had a pair of socks, some simple toiletries,  3 dry t-shirts, 2 capris (3/4 pants), 2 padded bicycle tights, a raincoat, sleeping bag, 1 spare tube, 1 brake cable, 1 shifter cable and fitting tools. Last but not least, a pair of shorts and singlet to sleep in. 

During the tour, I was gifted a t-shirt in Thailand by one super nice villager while searching for water. 

Where were your riding schedule?

We cycled at a relatively slow pace and for 120 km max each day. During the tour, we never rode less than 70 km on a riding day. The riding distance is dependent on the weather. 

We rode from dawn to dusk for a few days and then stopped for one or two days to recharge ourselves. The recharge period is also the time for some sightseeing, soaking up the culture and mingling with the locals. 

With so many riding days during the tour, have you ever had days when you are suffering from muscle aches or cramps and you wanted to just give up and get on a train or bus?

We are definitely tired and fatigued. But the thought of giving up never crossed our mind. The adventure and the people we’ve met along the way motivated us to push on and to uncover more of such experience ahead. It’s a priceless opportunity I do not want to miss. A bad day of cycling is better than a bad day at work. Anytime. 

Any interesting or memorable stories from these touring days?

There’s too many interesting stories to recount. But there’s one which I find most memorable though. We were invited to a Thai wedding reception at a hotel in Songkhla! 

The bride and groom’s family were so gracious and treated us like relatives of their own. We were even included in the family photo session! They did not care that we were grossly under-dressed for the occasion. What mattered was sharing their moments of happiness on their big day. 

Amongst the towns and places you have cycled to, is there a favorite place?

Narathiwat. Without a doubt. I am in love with the place and the people. Everyone we met, including the security guards, soldiers and police officers were so nice. This place have been reported as an politically unstable and insecure area by the media. What I experienced for myself was warmth and welcoming side of this place. 

Initially, we planned to rest for only one night but this town is so cosy we extended another night. We went to the Mosque, visited some of residential area and chatted with everyone we could. The place has a fishing village vibe to it that gave us peace. Although the houses are made from wood and living condition is not luxurious, the people we met looked contented and happy. We had the opportunity to have a meal at one of the villager’s house. When we wanted to pay them for the meal, they graciously rejected our money and expressed that they treated us as guests. Such warmth! 

Are you planning for another one soon?

Yes! For starters, right after travelling restrictions are lifted, I’d like to go for a short cycling trip, probably from Singapore to Melaka. 

For the next one, a longer cycling trip starting from Hat Yai to Surat Thani and then probably end with a chilled rest at either Krabi or Koh Samui. 

What is your advice for someone who wish to embark on an epic bike tours?

Trust yourself. Trust your bike. Your bike will be your wife for the rest of your trip. Take very good care of it! 

For physical fitness – know your limits. Know how far you can push yourself in a day. Touring is not about speed. It’s about the journey and loving the experience.

Mentally set your goals and achieve it at your own pace because it’s not a race. It’s touring. 

Other things to note:
• The country’s currency
• Travel insurance
• Bicycle spare parts
• Medications
• Basic first aid item
• Clothings packed lightly
• Emergency contacts of the country you’re in
• Lastly, don’t forget and take care of your PASSPORT (Cos you are always on the move)

For me, my 12 years old Diamondback mountain bike works for all my ridings so far. Everyone has their own preferences. A touring bike would be beneficial. One important aspect never to overlook is the right fitting of rider with the bike. You need to be comfortable during long rides. A leather saddle is recommended. 

Be aware of the traffic around you. Be it motor vehicles, people or animal crossings! Do not ride in the dark. Knowing when to start riding is as important as knowing when to stop. The hours of day and night may vary, albeit slight changes at different regions. Some places you would be visiting won’t even have street lamps and this illustrate why you should not ride at nights. 

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Photos by Jefni Amat

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