I did another long day trip to further explore the Sultanate of Johor. I set the aim to reach an old mausoleum of 16th-century Muslim royals and notables at Sayong Pinang, about 60km north of the Singapore/Malaysia border crossing.
This time, instead of my sub-8kg carbon Giant TCR I hopped on my steel touring rig, the 12kg Genesis Croix de Fer. I made this choice for two reasons. First, I wanted to be able to do longer distances on unpaved roads. Second, I wanted to measure the speed difference between my two bikes in a long distance.
I set an initial route plan on my bike computer that avoids the motorways and takes me on secondary roads instead. Before reaching the Sayong Pinang area, my map showed an extensive network of plantation trails just off the road. I decided to leave the pavement and explore these trails a bit. I rode roughly 10km on varying quality of gravel and dirt roads under the shades of the oil palm trees. The steep climbs and descents on the often loose soil posed some challenge even for my very well balanced bike, equipped with 38mm wide tyres. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this getaway from the tarmac away from other vehicles and human beings, aside from the two plantation workers whom I spotted while sprinting through the dense palm forest.
After getting to the paved road again I rode 30km before reaching an aboriginal (Orang Asli) village in the Sayong Pinang area. The settlement is located 4km inside the plantations and inhabited by the Jakun people (one of the 18 Orang Asli ethnic groups that inhabited the peninsula) whose language is closely related to Malay.
The villagers seemed to live a very simple lifestyle. Most of the houses looked basic, built by wood and often needing renovation. I discovered only one, rudimentary shop selling biscuits and soft drinks. In front of several households, I saw Chinese ornaments and scripts. As I found out, the Jakun often marry Malaysian Chinese, which results in the adoption of the elements of the Chinese culture aside their own traditions (often called as animist, but let’s not go deeper into this right now).
After having a 15 minutes nap at the nearby riverbank, I left the settlement. The villagers pointed me in the right direction to find the graves.
The “Kompleks Makam Lama Sayong Pinang (Old Sayong Pinang Burial Complex)” lies about 1 km off the main road. I had to take a gravel track to reach it. The mausoleum consists seven graves, where members of the royal family and high ranking notables of the Johor court were buried in the 16th century.
The Sultanate of Johor was established after the Portuguese conquered the Sultanate of Melaka in 1511, and the ruling family fled south. Johor in its zenith ruled the southern part of the Malayan peninsula, Singapore, and much of the Riau Archipelago. Sayong Pinang once was the administrative centre of the Sultanate.
The fort, that hosted the royal court was built by mud, and its traces have completely disappeared by our time. Only the mausoleum reminds the visitors of the historical importance of the area.
After the visiting the graves I headed back towards Singapore. After about 30km a very heavy thunderstorm caught me. Luckily, I was able to reach a town and seek refuge in a shop, as the road was completely flooded.
It is worth to discuss a bit how my choice of equipment worked out. The Croix de Fer proved to be brilliant off-road. I had no problem going through the roughest plantation roads. The bike is also comfortable and fast on the tarmac. I felt the increased weight compared to the Giant TCR and had to lower the gears more radically when climbing. Yet, at the end of the day, the speed difference was negligible. During this trip, my elevation gain was 500m more than the last one in Johor with the TCR, and I did 10+km off-road. Yet, in a similar distance (192km vs 207), my rolling speed was just 1.1 km/h slower. I guess the reason is that while with the TCR’s slick 25mm Schwalbe One tyres I had to slow down when the tarmac became rougher, with the Croix de Fer’s 38mm Specialized Trigger Pros I could just sprint through the uneven surface and potholes in 30-40km/h speed without risking to crack my rims.
The bottom line is, no matter what bike you hop on, cycling is fun, and even a day trip offers plenty of adventure.
Find the related video post here.