Posts Tagged ‘GT Backwoods’

The Indies Heritage Hotel was so nice, I spent most of the last 3 days in it ! At about $55 a night plus breakfast, not only was it the deal of the decade, there was no need to unnecessarily get sweaty outside. Besides I’ve seen the temples, the royal palaces, the choked shopping streets etc etc. Only the mundane last few days of a bike trip errands to do.

Troll the bike shops for bargains and rare hard to find retro bike parts. Secure a bike box for Mr Shrek for the flight home, and meet up with some Singaporean biker friends who were in Jogja for the weekend.


Chicken porridge is a staple street food in Java. This is the much nice looking hotel version. 2 bowls of this and I’m ready to churn the pedals. Well not quite as there are other dishes for breakfast.


Weather beaten but you get the point. A waiting box for bicycles at the start of traffic lights. Very thoughtful.


I drop by the biggest bike shop in town. 3 shophouse units and an apartment above where the owners live. Unfortunately no bike box to give away.


Plan B. Yes they have a box. A sharp eye will notice that some bikes are built from the frame up. That’s a lot of work, but maybe not for the older gent here.


A box a retrieved from another shop across the street. Nicely folded, and tied with a carrying handle of sorts. $1.50. Now I have to cycle back to the hotel to leave it there. And my back pack is already full of some purchases from the previous bike shop.


These 2 guys drove all the way from Jakarta. They had a gala time squatting and pointing to the parts on my bike. They took a photo of me so I returned the favour. Now I just need a bunch of women with toned legs to do the same. Squat and gawk at the bike.


I spot a German brand Stevens at another old shop in town. Check out the floor tiles. Old. This place still has a brand new, but unridden Alpinestar cro mega mountain bike hanging on the wall. I estimate that it’s a 1990 or earlier model with 7 speed Shimano Deore DX parts. Rp 6.5 million or just under $700. Awesome deal if you’re a fan of elevated chainstay mountain bikes. Don’t think that bike is heading anywhere as I saw it on the wall back in 2009. Alam Baru did lighten my wallet though. A new crank and some brakes set me back Rp 1.2 million in one afternoon. For some perspective, I had 8 million when I started the trip.


A pedal van. Yes get 3 friends and you have a 4 human horsepower VW van. These and many others have discovered LED technology and I guess therein lies the novelty. Pedalling around the town square, with blinking lights, in the cool of the night. Me? Back at the hotel surfing 6 movie channels from HBO.


Jogja street graffiti.


Jogja SUV. Severely utilised vehicle.


The boys and I ride 30 kms on a Sunday to Parangtritis Beach south of town to drink coconut juice and watch the raging surf of the indian Ocean.


More quiet contemplation, surf and tattered tarps. And yes, cheap Indonesian cigarettes.


In this scene there are 3 very relaxed musketeers left, downing Jogja tea and cigarettes as No 4 had to rush back to the hotel, pack up and head to the airport. With 30 kms left to backtrack and check in, in 3.5 hours, I’d be quite worried as No 4 was.

First, he had to endure a bit of teasing as to why he did not book a return flight for tomorrow, a very relaxed Monday? Leaving the beach all 4 were furiously pedalling like a TDF time trial….in search of a taxi back to town. There were none this far out by the Indian Ocean.

There was a pick up full of elderly local cyclists heading back and I stopped them, asking of they could take one more on a fancy folding Brompton. No, they were really full to the brim. A quick call was made to a friend asking him to send a taxi from town, 30 kms away. That’ll take some time. Another 20 wasted minutes. So the 4 continued on their time trial as I slowed to take more photos.

While doing so, I spot a white Vios taxi at a crossroads. I jumped on my bike and chased him down, well lucky for me and No 4, he was at the junction taking his time moving off. I told him to head to town and keep a look out for 4 cyclists on very small wheels. One of them would be very pleased to take his taxi to town and thereafter to the airport. It would be a very big fare for him to. Airport runs are a big deal. Rp 80k if from a fancy hotel. No meters. I also found out that daily rental was only Rp 150k ! 2 airport runs and that’s more or less covered. Compare that with a S$140 / Rp 1.3 million a day rental back home.


This was earlier in the day, a second breakfast for the ever hungry boys.


A final shampoo and hot spray bath for the bike. Got quite a bit of volcanic gunk and sand from the ride to the beach.


The shrink wrap cost more than the box, but hey at $4.00 it was peace of mind as the cardboard was soft and flexy. None too strong as I would like, and Changi Airport in Singapore would probably charge a whopping $15 or so for this service.


The very early 7.30 am departure has it’s rewards. The mountains around central Java bathed in the morning light. Here’s Merapi in it’s almost dormant state with other lesser volcanoes west of it. Hence the attraction to ride a bicycle around them.


Days 7 & 8

I finally have a full ‘rest’ day on this trip. Rest meaning I don’t ride to another town, wake up later and basically have no plans, sort of, for this day.

Such days are important on extended bike tours, physically and mentally. Physically the body needs to rest from the routine of packing, eating, cycling and finding a place for the night. Mentally, there’s a break from looking at maps, navigation, reading the weather, getting lost, etc. Usually a rest day is called for every 3 days of the trip, but there are many variables in this set equation also.

Thankfully I have not been too stretched out on both aspects as my distances are shorter than normal for my bike trips. Yesterday’s 125 kms was a test whether I could still ride more than 100 kms and I’m glad I passed. Although I prefer not to ride in the dark for a late check in.

Today I am just going to chill, except that I have placemarked some  Surakarta or Solo bike shops in my phone. Let the games begin !

Click on the individual photos for my detailed comments.

Leaving Solo was a breeze. What was surprising was the thick fog that enveloped the city in the early dawn hours. It would have been great to ride through that but with only 70 kms to go, a 7 am start was not going to happen. I have cable tv and a hotel breakfast to attend to.

Sometimes I am all packed the previous night so that I don’t have to pack  too much in the morning. This was also a non event.

As there’s only one main highway between Solo and Jogja, I did not want to ride the same traffic choked road again. So I did my best to find a parallel country road. It was not easy as both are big cities in their own right and expanding into the countryside with each passing year. 65 kms isn’t vast in Java. At least, as always the towering peaks of Merapi and Merbabu loomed over the western horizon. They were omnipresent till the late afternoon clouds and haze enveloped them.

I think I got about 20 kms of pottering in the ricefields before the dreaded highway appeared. Well better 20 than nothing. Java is a heavily populated island. Even in the countryside there were lots of people, with the only saving grace being slower traffic on the smaller narrower roads.

I got into Jogja proper in very good time. Well there was a slow leak in the front tyre which had also seen better days. The sidewalls were tearing and so I found a shady spot away from zooming traffic. Tyre and tube were replaced together. Yes I carry a light foldable 1.5 inch spare just for moments like this.

A quick soak in the pool of the Indies Heritage Hotel before dinner was a wise choice as the following Saturday and Sunday meant only one thing. Weekend crowds at the hotel.

Tomorrow, I get reaquainted with Jogja, last visited in 2009 and 1997.

Days 4, 5 and 6.

The photo collage format in the last 2 previous posts do not  leave much space for detailed photo captions so I’ve switched to this. Individual large photos with space below for a photo essay type of post.


Choked traffic on the way into Magelang. Like all cities, the shoulder is just another lane. Fair game for everyone. Irritating as well I could easily pedal faster than this bunch of crawlers. Close by is an intersection to the right which leads to the highland town of Wonosobo and the mystical Dieng Plateau.

Dieng was in my plans but a to and fro journey of another hilly 300kms meant another 3 days at least.Dieng itself lies at 2000m with very basic accommodations.  I contemplated taking some form of transport but heck, nice and cold as it was I visited Dieng in 1997, so it was easy to head for Magelang just down the road.


On the southern suburbs of Magelang whose city center of shady narrow roads and old shops did not entice. I’ll see that the next morning when it’s brighter and drier. From this junction one of my preferred hotels was still about 3 kms south. Then my eye caught sight of that huge hotel with a Carrefour and KFC next to it. Bingo! Rode up to the lobby and the manager stepped out. Dried and cleaned myself before going in. Already the manager asked the security guard to put my bike in a safe place, like in his guard room. Great!

One small problem. Sure there were room, but at what price? A million rupiah ! What?!? S$103. That or ride another 3 kms in the wet. Well surely there was a weekday discounted rate for a tired wet hungry cyclist? There was, at Rp530,000. Almost half price. Over budget but not drastically. Done deal again. A room that would easily cost $250 and up, back home.

Had dinner at the adjacent mall’s food court and a quick walk trolling the shelves of Carrefour ended the day. Stock up on some drinks, snacks or fruit. On a solo bike trip it is quite vital to have a place to walkabout after dinner, more so when it is raining outside and you don’t want to battle the elements after a nice shower, much less cycle out again to look for dinner, unless it is absolutely necessary.


The room as you can see was very luxe for a bike tour, and I still don’t exactly know where it is, the bike I mean ! 2 bolsters too. Now since I am paying over $50, I might as well get to the roof on the oh so high 9th floor for some mountain photos. There was a roof top bar, littered with the previous night’s party.

Unlocked doors through the bar and open rooftop. So much for security. At least the skies were clear in all directions and I get to see a nice sunrise over Merbabu and Merapi. Breakfast was amazing, for Magelang and I had my fill.

Going to skip or snack for lunch till I get to the outskirts of touristy Borobudor via some small village roads. A ride of only 40 kms or so, great for checking out at 12 noon, my latest ever. Lots of lounging around with my latest friend, whose initials are HBO.


The morning’s papers confirmed what I saw on Indonesian TV about a month before the trip. A crazy lone sniper in Magelang itself who targeted only women. Schoolgirls were not spared. To date 13 dead, and I asked the hotel security guard about his take. He said there was more than one sniper ! The police had detained one and another was still one the loose.

Nothing to worry about, he said. Only women were his targets. I felt slightly assured as long as the MO did not turn to moving targets like a bicycle tourist. No wonder the streets of downtown Magelang were desolate and shops shuttered in the late afternoon yesterday.

Out of curiousity I rode those streets and narrow lanes among shophouses and small businesses after checking out. Seemed normal to me except more police presence at some corners. Adios Magelang as I headed south on a road parallel to the main highway.


Passing by a well fortified church and school reassured me a bit.


Solitude on a bike lane in suburban Magelang


You know you’re in the villages when bikes start to carry grass feed for the cows.


Closer to Borobudor, I cross a few bridges and scenes like this appear below. It’s still mid afternoon and I have lots of time to scout around for a place tonight. The ‘town’ around Borobudor has sprout out just to fulfill one purpose. Housing and feeding visitors to the temple, so there are scores of cheap accommodation and restaurants near the entrance. Those looked too dodgy and I rode further out to find some cottages in a nice garden down a side lane. Aah the benefits of cycling, don’t like a place, pedal on to seek another.


I was not disappointed once they showed me the room. 2 rooms in a building with a central chilling living room in the middle where the bike slept. This was sort of a mid range place for those wanting to escape the basic homestays outside. They had a price to match $45 and no lower.

Pricey for the lone traveller but just nice for a couple, with 2 breakfasts. Clever me, I ordered 2 breakfasts the next day. An Indonesian one for me and a western one for me also, but to go and have somewhere down the road.

The girls running the place didn’t mind, gossiping away in a slight American accent, no doubt learnt from passing tourists that make Borobudor so popular.


Easy access for the bike to the bathroom meant that it got a shower too, my post dinner workout. A ride into the strip outside in the drizzle reminded me of my past travels in Java. Dark roads, dim lit bulbs fronting push cart stalls and people gathered in small groups quietly tucking into a light dinner. Brightest lights in town belonged to the ever present Alfa Maret convenience stores. I got my usual supplies and had to ride fast back to the hotel as heavy raindrops signalled a night storm on the way.


The soothing pitter patter of rain on the bathroom’s roof was reminiscent of my other stays in Bali, where opened roofed bathrooms are the norm. Bathing under a coconut tree.

I was loving the alternate type of stays I was getting on this trip, very comfy with air conditioning, fast wifi and especially Indonesian cable TV with at least 6 movie channels. Though the quality of US movies can be debated at length, it did make the pre sleeping hours much shorter.


Morning has broken, with sunshine even.Bucolic with roosters crowing. Made checking out a little bit slower, but I have a long day ahead. Let’s see whether I have the mojo to do 125 kms or so.


Before actually getting onto the main roads southeast toward Jogja and Solo, I potter around the backroads of Borobudor. Very quiet and car less. I chanced upon a much touted sunrise viewpoint after 1o kms. The road above also leads to 2 very pricey resorts, in the countryside, hence the lack of potholes and even a guiding white line, non existent on other lesser village roads.


Hah, the temple as seen from it’s north from across padi fields and not a parking lot of vehicles and ringed by souvenir stalls.  No US$25 entrance fees for foreigners like me. In any case I visited in 2009 when it cost US$10 and $2.00 for locals. Guess which ticket i bought in my best indonesian accent. I am told that they now check passports. Game over.


Paid Rp 10,000 for a post sunrise climb. Not 300 m as the ticket seller told me. It was more like 500m as I sweated like no tomorrow. Left my loaded bike at the parking lot, locked of course, in front of the ticket booth. Well the view of the countryside was nice but not nice enough for a 3 am wake up call. Sunrise view is done.


The little morning’s jaunt added another 20 kms to todays massive 125 kms. The longest day’s ride on the trip. By now I was fit enough to manage this. After some kms in the country, it was time to bite the bullet and hit the highway with a faster average speed. Speed is traded for scenery which is not a bad thing. It also tests one’s tolerance for people and their driving or lack of driving skills.

Before that I got to tete a tete with 2 lovely ladies taking a break with a knife and a papaya. They probably woke up before dawn and were chirpy in giving me directions to everywhere but the main road. Then they argued among themselves which was hilarious, but not when one has a knife in hand.

I sort of knew they way, cross that bridge and turn left. Reconfirmed that with my Maps.Me app. which did not show a river that small. After being triple sure I thanked them and left.


After happily cycling about 15 kms only in trying to avoid the highway, I was greeted with this bit of graffiti. Just lovely.


Volcanoes are taken very seriously in Java. Here is one of many enlarged canals, just in case lahar flows from Merapi, gets out of hand. It did erupt in 2010 and the surrounding villages in the danger zone and even cities like Jogja were not spared. Covered in grey ash for weeks on end.


At lunch I got the least sweet of these offerings from the menu. Plain ol coconut juice. No sugar added, they do that sometimes. The rest could keep me awake for a week. Indonesians do love their desserts and drinks very sweet.


Entering the messy roads of Jogja and this was not even down town, but a larger ring road meant to divert traffic to the surrounding areas. I had planned the final 3 nights in Jogja but decided today to press on to Surakarta or Solo, for 2 nights, which was another 50 kms or so east of Jogja. At one point it got so bad that I jumped the road dividers and cycled against very minimal traffic on the other side. At least I was now not cycling at 10 or 15kmp/h.

One of the reasons for the snarl just 10 kms from Solo were road works at 5 pm! Actually they had finished resurfacing the road and the road crew were just relaxing and chilling in their vehicles taking up the first lane, oblivious to the 5 kms of traffic behind them. You’d think that they had the brains to move those vehicles aside, or to a side lane, but no….just continue the mayhem the next day.


Merapi shows it’s eastern flank near sundown. So I’ve circumvented it from 3 o’clock back to 1 o’clock. Imagine a round clock. I missed the 1 to 3 o’clock portions.


After 125 kms, I get to Solo one hour after sunset at 6.30 pm. The Fave Hotel (there are 2 in town and about 50 all over the country) booked online for the princely sum of $33 plus breakfast. My wallet is not complaining.


Pretty in pink and the window faces west, towards Merapi. Cant get enough of it, and of course they have cable TV ! A long shower and slow satay dinner at the hotel cafe ensued. I don’t want to leave this building unless absolutely necessary !




Days 3 & 4

Left the choked roads out of Semarang on a quiet Sunday morning. Headed south inland and 3 steep climbs awaited me. Instantly cooler in the shade of big trees, as sweat poured out like a leaking shower. The last 2 days must have been too easy, with minimal cycling and maximum eating and snacking.

Destination. The hill town of Bandungan, very close to one of the country’s amazing sights. Gedong Songo. A cluster of 9 ancient Hindu temples or candi in the hills high above the sweltering plains. 1250m asl to be exact.

After 30 kms or so on the highway, I turned right into a smaller road that wound it’s way into the hills. A wonderful 90% drop in traffic, and an increase in rural scenery laid before my front wheel.  For the first time padi fields and wooden huts reminded me of Bali. I detoured into smaller concrete roads, with even better scenery and zero traffic.

The climb was only 9 kms, before Bandungan showed itself. A small crossroads village market, that hugged the hill sides meaning flatter roads and easier cycling. Time was certainly on my side. That was until a sudden thunderstorm had me heading for shelter at a disused fruit stand, just 1 km from the Kusma Hotel down the road.

It poured for almost an hour non stop. Then the roof of the stall started to leak. Doing nothing my tummy started to rumble like the thunder in the mountains. I did not really have a lunch, just drinks and snacks from Alfamaret. Cold drinks and freezing AC to boot. They are a Godsend for cyclists and there must be a few thousand outlets in the country.

Just as I was running out of patience, the rains eased and I rode gingerly on the wet and slick roads out of town. The Kusma Hotel was set nicely on a hill side and I got a room facing south and the mountains. Gorgeous views of Mt. Merbabu’s north face and Mt Merapi just behind it.

Like many resort towns in the country, there’s a slew of sleazy ones whose main attraction is the horrendous karaoke parlour and attendant bunch of women in tight clothes.

Seeing that it was a Sunday, and loads of traffic that was leaving Bandungan back to the cities in the plains, it was time to negotiate for a better rate. A deluxe room was going for Rp 500k / $50 way beyond a single traveller’s budget. Reception was nice enough to dangle me the local rate. Rp 300k. A very done deal. Only 2 other rooms out of 20 had guests.

A quick cleanup and I was ready for a 6 pm dinner and a very early night. A simple fried rice with bits of chicken and 2 very black cups of coffee  at an unbelievable Rp 31000, just over $3.00.

Back to a newish 1 year old room, my only ‘companions’ were fast wifi and a dozen movie channels ! This was going to be de rigeur in all the hotel I stayed at. Not that I’m complaining.

Day 4’s weather was gorgeous, as all early mornings in the mountains should be. Let it rain in the late afternoon when I’m in or nearing the night’s hotel. I had to make an early start if I wanted more time to see Gedong Songo and still be back in time for breakfast which ends very early at 9.00 am. It was going to be tight. 5 kms to the start of a steep 3 km climb and back. Photography was going to be my time stealer, as always, but the views were worth it.

After about 2 hours of pottering around Gedong Songo and it’s marvellous setting, it was time to leave. Got back to breakfast 30 mins late and of course the restaurant was bare. No matter, checked out and headed downhill to Ambarawa, whose railway station/museum ate up another hour or so of sightseeing. 2 pm and I’ve clocked a massive 12 kms.

Saw ‘Pauline’s Bakery’ on Google Maps the previous night and headed for it for a snack. As I thought, a Chinese establishment fronted by local Indonesians. No heavy sleep inducing lunches this trip, just snacks to get me thru the daylight hours. I was not disappointed.

A ‘lumpia’ or fried spring roll (so good I took away another 2) a nice sweet slice of ‘kueh lapis’ or layered butter cake, and another unknown peanut stuffed sticky concoction, and a canned Nescafe, all consumed at a lone table inside Pauline’s. $4.00 for the whole lot. Burp !

I’m set for the 40 kms of highway to Magelang ‘city’

Then I saw a sign for a lengthy detour to a coffee plantation and resort. The former Losari Resort now rebranded as the Msea Still Resort. Cycled through some bucolic country lanes far removed from the busy trafficked ones. Drats, a big hill to climb to reach it’s gates. No cycling up to the reception, a huge converted railway station building, transported piece by piece to a hill top. Parked the bike where the staff do, A discreet parking lot hidden in the trees. A uniformed guard helped across the narrow road, whistle blown and a red flag up, even without any traffic at all.

Cleaned myself up and ordered a latte. Rp47.5K after taxes. Or $5.00. It was so pricey but good. Better still they refilled my water bottle with ice and water. I love posh places. Saw just another guest in the dining room.

Now temptation crept in. How much for a night here? They only have villas and the 20% tax levied here could get me a room in Magelang or elsewhere. So about $$240 with breakfast. That was about 33% of my whole trip budget and I have 7 more nights to clear.

Magelang here I come, rumbling thunder in the distance and all. I pedalled away as some raindrops fell.


Days 1 & 2

A 10 day solo trip into Central Java. Started at Semerang along Java’s north coast. A sizable city. a smaller version of East Java’s huge Surabaya, best seen from a slow bicycle, especially when city roads are choked with traffic, technically making cycling faster and saves one the hassle of dealing with public transport and the accompanying fare hikes for tourists.

Right from the city’s smallish airport, (2 immigration counters) I got a taxi booked from an airport taxi booth to my hotel 5 kms away. Rp 50,000 or $5.00. Initially wanted to fix the bike at the airport and ride into town, but the expected 40 deg C temps forecasted for the middle of May,  was deterrent enough. I could do all that in the comfort of my AC room.

Being in a biggish city, with a Dutch past and having arrived in the late afternoon meant that 2 nights in Semarang was a given. There was no way I could see the sights, check out at 12 noon and ride to the next destination. Well I could have done that but that meant not much time left for uncertainties like getting lost or dealing with inclement weather and reaching a hill side town in the dark.

I sort of got this bike touring thing down to a pat. Have ample time when in a strange city, or when leaving it.

Semarang has an old town feel, notwithstanding a few skyscrapers and glitzy malls. Spent quite a few afternoon hours in the actual old town itself. Crumbling Dutch buildings,with quiet neighbourhoods and back roads away from the choked main roads.

On this particular Saturday, there was a flea market and closed roads which made walking and slow cycling a joy. You could see the kids making full use of the peace without cars and other traffic in front of their homes.

I spotted a couple of chic coffee places with great air con and wifi. What more could I ask for?  Tokodeco was set in a 2 storey conservation building and the iced single origin Sumatran coffee I had was heavenly. $3.00 whole dollars.

Leaving Semarang was not easy. The city has mountains at it’s southern backyard. A bunch of volcanoes that separate it from Java’s southern coast. I was also not at my fittest. A case of too much input and not enough output. Hence one of the reasons for a bike trip. Ride a whole lot, and eat sensibly all I want.

3 big climbs loomed just as I left the city limits. They were not that steep but with luggage any cyclist would know that another 50% more effort would have to be put in, just so you don’t ride in the embarrassing single digit speeds.

I actually stopped and rested outside a palatial hotel. It was shady and sent in a posh residential district.  Immediately the winds here were much cooler than the lowlands. I was lucky too as not much later a convoy of Harleys zoomed by. I thought a thunderstorm was looming.

Nah, just your average moneyed Indonesian out to show the world their expensive toys on a Sunday. The convoy was led by of all people, the traffic police! An outrider would go ahead, stopping all traffic, so that the convoy could pass and even run red lights. This has sparked some outrage on social media as to why some are more equal than others to the extent of paying the police to clear traffic for them.

After 30kms I found my riding legs and stopped at a ‘milk factory’ It was jam packed and I guess a place to go for a family outing on a Sunday. Got a cold yoghurt and left.

The turnoff for the mountains was just opposite it.

1993 GT Backwoods

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Bikes

Another ‘itchy hands’ project. GTs are hard to come by. Found this in an old timer’s bike shop, encrusted in old dirt and grime. Tooks a few days of elbow grease to reveal it’s former glory and sheen. From the looks of it, it had been used hard, but GTs like this can take a beating and more. Scuffs and scratches actually added to it’s character. Turned out quite OK, as metallic green and red were the only colours at that time. I thinks there’s more, even a titanium one that was incredibly not light. Not the gorgeous Zixang or Xizang? but the Tempest. This was $80 of fun to relive the days when I actually had a decal-less polished GT. See menu above or


The brand that prides itself on this little triangle. Terribly stiff and hefty on some models


Stiffening plate with thick juicy welds behind the seat tube.


Claim to fame and strength.


Enough parts lying around to build this


Assembled right out of that puny box. Trying it out just for fun from a box that’s the height of the wheels. The secret? Had to remove the sus fork. Another 10 mins work.


In Penang, Malaysia


Dont go riding at midnight in Penang. The roads were eerily quiet until the rains came….dripped chain lube and brake pad gunk all over the hotel lobby….