Twenty kilometres were all it took to cycle from one side of Singapore to the other. The roads were busy but there were plenty of shared paths for us to jump on. It was hard to pull away from the amazing hospitality from Suyin’s family and the daily food comas but we had a flight booked in Bangkok and needed to ride up the coasts of both Malaysia and Thailand to get there.
We chose to cross into Malaysia via Woodlands Crossing, a motorway spanning the causeway joining Woodlands, Singapore to the center of Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The key to crossing by bicycle is joining the dedicated motorcycle lane that is completely separate from the vehicle lanes. The motorcycle lane buzzes with workers from both sides commuting so it’s best to cross out of peak hours, say between 10am and 3pm.
Finding the entry for the motorcyclist lane is a little tricky. It isn’t the same ramp as vehicles, you actually have to join onto it earlier from the motorway. Just keep your eye out for motorcycle signs, and you should be fine. Missing the entry means doing some creative backtracking like we did (by creative I mean riding down the wrong side of a motorway, not advised).
We were welcomed by heavy Malaysian monsoon rain as soon as we left Singapore soil. Drenched head-to-toe, and clearly the anomaly in the crowd of scooters, we were laughed onwards by the Malaysian customs officer. Though our passports were quickly stamped we couldn’t actually leave as the rain was causing flooding across the road. We hung out with motorcyclists with the same idea for a good half hour as we watched trucks hurtling through water below.
Trying to find our way into Johor, as all main roads seem to lead straight back to the border, even more floods were closing down streets. On one particular street we saw police officers wading in up to their thighs and cars with water up to the windows. It turned out that had been a little worse than the usual monsoon afternoon intermission, that stretch made the news that night.
Our first introduction to Malaysia and we were already seeking refuge of a warm hostel. With the rain booming down I noticed my right pedal was on an adventure of its own. Ever so slightly loose in its socket the pedal had been slowly grinding away at the aluminum crank thread, leaving the sides so smooth I could pull out the pedal with my hand. Not good news.
With not a single piece of thread left but with perfect timing, my pedal gave up hope as we carried our bikes up the stairs to our hostel, clanking onto the reception floor. Our one night in Double K hostel had now turned into three, thanks to my inventive yet vastly unimproved one-pedal bike. Our amazing hostel owner Kay, sympathetic to my predicament, offered me a lift the next day in search of a thread insert or a new crank set.
Suyin was in good care at the hostel having the time of her life with the resident kitten. The kitten was found abandoned in a box at the bottom of the steps, and was now living it up with the hostel common room.
One bike store turned into 6 as a new crankset or thread insert was unavailable. I was coming around to the realisation that we may need to go back to Singapore to be able to fix it. We dropped into one last store which did have a secondhand Shimano crankset, but the wrong sized cogs. The owner had the great idea of frankensteining together the crankset with my front cogs, which took two days. In the end all was fixed for a very reasonable $50AUS. I also bought two sets of new plastic cheapo pedals, to change out our SPD hybrids. We never ended up buying SPD shoes so the SPD side was just irritating. As a thank-you to Kay for driving me all over Johor I took a bunch of pictures of the hostel rooms for her to use on their website.
Three days in and we had made it 5 kilometres into our Malaysian ride.