Gambung Pass: The New Normal Group Ride

Gambung Pass: The New Normal Group Ride

How would new normal approach affect group cycling?

The question was hovering over my head when @isnain2142 invited me for a group ride. It’s been almost 3 months since the country confirmed its first cases of Covid-19 and implemented mass social distancing policies; it’s been almost 3 months, the spread of the virus hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down, the vaccine availability is still months away, and people has grown weary, financially, psychologically—so much, that the government declared “new normal” as new approach to cope with the pandemic.

The ride plan was tempting: Gambung Pass was one among my favorite mountain passes, and it could be the perfect route for my new Surly Midnight Special’s first century ride. It was, however, the opportunity to answer the question, that ensured me to accept the invitation, instead of choosing to ride the route alone; the opportunity to practice “new normal” approach in group cycling.

It was minutes past thirty to 8 o’clock, the sun had just broken through the thick haze, when the five of us—me, @andrei_yusup, @dnugrahad, @danikardana, and @isnain2142 himself—met near Banjaran. From the start of the ride, I settled on my own pace, sliding far behind early on, and rode past them one by one along Pangalengan climb. It was a good practice, I think, as it put me in safe distance from each other—so much that it was perfectly fine for me to open the mask and enjoy free breathing.

From our first resting point in Pangalengan, @isnain2142 decided to make a detour to Rumah Pengabdi Setan—the creepy house that was once used as movie set for a local horror movie. What interested me, however, was the road across Kertamanah Tea Plantation, which hilly terrain was a sight to behold—a true inspiration for a soul living most of his lifetime in a crowded city. Once again I settled on my own pace, though I couldn’t truly immerse myself in its beauty; this time, the rest of the team was way too far ahead.

Gambung Pass

From Rumah Pengabdi Setan, we rode through the town road, and made a break at a convenience store, before making the turn to our main destination: Gambung Pass. Everyone was thrilled with the epic view of Rahong pine forest, and especially the tea plantation that followed—the hilly, carpet-like plantation extending to surrounding mountainslope, is a landscape poetry; a beautiful work of art. Even so, the team just charged forward, so once again I settled on my own pace, enjoying the view, the sweeping wind, and the gravel road—this time, assisted by @andrei_yusup.

As the climbing road crossed to the lush forest of Mount Tilu, I was reminded the other reason I fell in love with the mountainpass. Old, moss-covered trees, gentle mountain breeze, lively singing of the cicadas—the whole forest chanted prayers of the indwelling spirits. How I wish I had more time for leisure pedalling, and truly immerse myself on such heavenly, soul-fulfilling serenity…

It’s a pity that the team seemed to be in a rush instead of truly enjoying the nature, especially since, to me, we spent too much time smoking and snacking along the way—including at the warung at the mountainpass’ peak. Personally, I’d rather slash down that mundane smoking/snacking time, instead of skipping the precious wonders down the road. Well, each to their own, I guess…

From the peak, the road turned to beautiful twisty descent across forest and tea plantation. Leaning hard into corners here was even more thrilling on my new Surly Midnight Special. I didn’t mind going full speed here—after all, it was how a mountainpass descent is best enjoyed! Eventually we all split on main road junction in Pasir Jambu. I realized, the question about new normal in group cycling was no longer hovering over my head; it was, instead, the memory of the tea plantation, and the lively forest, that lingered there. Pedalling steadily back home, I promised myself to visit Gambung Pass again, and spend more time enjoying the beauty, soon…

Cycling Trip Stats:

  • Distance: 125.7 km
  • Total Ascent: 1,770 m
  • Max Elevation: 1,661 m asl
  • % Unpaved: 0.7%
  • % Singletrack: 0%
  • % Rideable time: 100%


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