After our first foray into gravel riding in Malaysia last year, we were looking forward to attending Galor in 2023. Iconically described as the “Tomorrowland of Gravel”,  we were very hyped up after hearing plenty of good things about it from the other racers at Coastal Grinders 2022. Boy did Galor not disappoint! It was definitely heartwarming to see the Malaysia gravel community come together for an epic 100km through the dirt paths of Bachok.

Getting to Galor

Based in Bachok, Kelantan, Galor drew the interest of many from the region as it is one of Malaysia’s biggest gravel races. While most locals drove from their respective States to Kelantan, we flew from Singapore to Joshua’s hometown in Penang.

After arriving in the morning, we got our gear and stuff sorted out and by noon, we had both our bikes strapped down in the back of a Toyota Hilux and navigated 6h through the B roads of northern Malaysia all the way to Bachok in Kelantan! 

T-1 to Race Day

The next day, we headed down to the Seri Nipah Resort to collect our race packs. With the race village now close to being fully set up, there were many different booths ranging from various partners from cycling shops to food stalls. Some booths included major sponsors of Galor and were all offering huge pre-race discounts! There was also a steady stream of people arriving at the race village to collect their race packs and the atmosphere got livelier as the day got by. The race packs we received had a quirky spin from the conventional race packs as our items were placed into pizza boxes! 

However, the highlight of the evening was a 200m beach race where a small group of 20 folks raced while everyone grabbed their chairs to spectate. It was an amazing atmosphere where everyone was cheering on the participants through the different heats till the final race.

Subsequently, there were talks held by sponsors Cyclist Wardrobe and as the night approached, most of us headed back to our respective homestays while the rest who camped in Seri Nipah resort hung out till late.

Race Day

The captivating thing about Galor was that everyone was welcomed regardless of whether we were here to race or here to just enjoy riding the route!

With the race scheduled to start at 8am, we could clearly see who were the competitive ones and who were there to simply enjoy the route. Folks with decked out builds were slowly inching towards the front of the start line to get the best starting position. As the pacer dirt motorbikes weaved through the crowd of participants to the start line, Joshua and I tried to stick close to them, capitalising on this opportunity to squeeze ourselves up from mid pack to closer to the start point. 

On the dot at 8am, the pace motorbikes pushed off and controlled the pace in the neutral start as we exited from the resort to the main road. All hell broke loose once we got to the main road. The first 10km featured a straight tarmac section and the rolling pace was 35-40 km/h. There were a few random attacks (one of which Joshua was responsible for!) but the group closed them down and stayed relatively compact throughout this section. 

After the first fast paced 10km, we arrived at an entrance to a fire road and the big pack of riders slowly funnelled into two clear lines. Quick terrain changes and the ability of choosing of the ideal lines differentiated the experienced from the uninitiated as the group slowly diminished in size.

The pace remained fast for the next 20 km as different groups attempted to attack and tried to break away from the main pack. In order to chase the groups in front, those rolling the same pace stuck with each other, working collaboratively to close the gaps. The route kept us on high alert as it alternated between fire roads, single tracks and a few short sections of roads. The mix of terrain was challenging but exciting to navigate.

As we got nearer to Checkpoint 1, we were wow-ed by a change of terrain as the route brought us to a vast plot of land which was surreal to ride through. In what seemed to be a sea of endless space, we relied on our GPS to point us in the right direction.

Most of the folks that we rode with went by Checkpoint 1 briskly, the majority of the riders quickly grabbed a drink while rolling through. Not wanting to lose any precious time, both of us did the same and continued to push the pace.

Soon after, we were met with one of the toughest sections of the course. It was a 5km section of the largest gravel rocks you could imagine. Picking the correct line was highly important at this section as we witnessed a couple of folks at the front having to drop out due to a punctured tyre.

After this section, the pace slowed down a bit as all of us had to take a break from the “extended good vibrations” we experienced in the last section. I counted myself lucky as I managed to get a good line earlier on in the race. Working with one rider up the front, I was in the top 10 position at this point in time. However, after a series of back to back turns, I stopped when my GPS notified me that I was off course. Desperation came upon me when I realised that I had missed a junction. My glimmer of hope came when I was overtaken by another group and saw Joshua in that pack! With renewed energy and adrenaline, I managed to chase that group and sat with them for a bit. We took turns taking pulls with the group up until we arrived at Checkpoint 2.  

After riding past Checkpoint 2, the pack slowly pulled away, leaving Joshua and I together with one other rider from the group (which we later found out was the organiser of @letuagravelfest). The three of us ended up rolling together and pushed the pace in an attempt to catch the group in front of us. Despite the work we put in, it proved to be a futile effort. As we entered the final 2km beach stretch, our newly joined team mate and I both fell and had major cramps. Check out Joshua assisting him while I was suffering off camera! 👀

Jokes aside, Joshua ensured that we were all fine and we pushed on to complete the last 2 km on the beach as it started to drizzle. The feeling of completing this full 100km was fulfilling and it was made even better with a solid team mate!

All in all, it was again an epic adventure for the both of us! Ending this short editorial with a team photo that summarised the wonderful experience we had. I have learnt a lot from this race and will definitely continue racing gravel in the near future!

Last but not least, a huge shout out to the Galor organising team for making such a wonderful event happen. It was heartwarming to see the Malaysian cycling community coming together to make the event a whooping success.  From sponsors, to photographers and the rest of the participants; a huge thanks for making us feel so welcomed! Again, thank you guys and see you at Galor next year!

Photo Credits:
+various community contributed photos

Read more gravel cycling events: Beechworth Granite Classic 2023

December 10, 2023 — Terence Wong

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