The shortest, closest mountainpass loop to home—Palintang Pass has become one among cycling routes I ride most frequently. Starting from Alun-alun Ujungberung on East Bandung, the pass featured 10 km climb with 900 m of elevation gain to the peak, beautiful view of Mt. Manglayang and Mt. Palasari, rough gravel descent across cinchona plantation, as well as another 1.4 km climb with 130 m of elevation gain as finale punch. With total elevation gain of around 1,200 m for the full loop, it was a torturous rite of passage for me as a newbie, 7 years ago; even after all these years, riding the route is still quite demanding.
After 7 years, however, I had grown familiar with all of the little details, like the favorite song we played and listened over and over again—so much, in fact, that the appeal of the mountainpass had faded. Thus, in recent time, the route had become my last preference for cycling.
It was, therefore, an epic twist of fate—God’s joke punchline—when, on the last weekend of June, I rode the route twice; and learned yet something new along the road.
The Saturday Ride
“I was thinking about riding Palintang Loop,” Faisal Akbar told me.
We were rolling down the road side by side from Eurad Pass peak, soaking ourselves with the fresh air of the trees and the mountain, when I learned the unbelievable fact: as a Bandung cyclist, he hadn’t ridden it already. I told him he should do it soon; and that I’d be ready to go with him.
Just the day after, the same fact striked: it was Rizky Subangkit, who reposted the image of a fellow cyclist rolling down Palintang’s rocky descent on his Instagram, and commented how it looked like a nice gravel route. This time, not only I urged him to give it a go; I promised to take them there myself, too.
Being the one with penchant for event organizing, it was Faisal who eventually hatched a plan. Unlike what I had in mind, though, he made the invitation public, which resulted in numerous cyclists joining the ride. I remembered consulted with @medcorpsbike about health protocol concern, but Faisal’s plan was nice too; basically, each of us was expected to ride at our own pace, and only regrouped in few certain spots. Departing from Alun-alun Ujungberung at 7 am, we were scheduled to reach Lembang by 2 pm—the relaxed timeframe even when I was riding the route with fellow MTB-ers of Koskas Bandung. As such, I was expecting a leisurely ride.
I was wrong.
These gravel cyclists pedalled at brisk pace along the climb. I was still able to ride past them to take some pictures, but then catching them up took significant effort. With neither Faisal, Rizky, or myself constantly at the helm, the group made unscheduled break at Warlos Palintang—the place we originally plan to avoid stopping at, due to its potential of health protocol-breaching crowd. On the positive note, it was here we coincidentally met Bayu Wahyudi, the senior cyclist who took me on his cycling adventures during my first year of cycling—still rocking that signature Babahbike. There’s a sense of nostalgia when we talked; I’m glad to see him healthy, and still riding.
“Great endurance,” was how Faisal described the guys joining our ride—a well-fitting description, remembering how most of them maintained relatively spirited pace through remaining climb, all the way to the peak. Downhill, they charged forward with confidence, even when the road turned to slippery, skittish gravel. We all went high speed along Cibodas road, all the way to the bottom of Maribaya valley, where the group’s endurance once again showed; a short stop to take few pictures along the climbing road resulted in me being left far behind.
We reached the Lembang-Maribaya junction at 11 am—3 hours faster than scheduled. Half of the group split here, while I rode with half other through Bengkok 1 descent to Bikesystem. I only dropped by for few minutes, though; another ride along the same route awaited the next day. As I pedalled my bike along the road back home, I could sense fatigue set in my legs. The gathering clouds on the sky reflected the thought looming over my mind’s horizon: if a supposedly relaxed ride was somewhat tiring, how would a ride with climb-addict Asep Hadian be? Would it be a suicide mission—especially with tired legs after the day’s ride?
The Sunday Ride
“Where are you going this Sunday?”
That was the mid-week surprise message from Asep Hadian: he was coming to Bandung, and asked me to ride with him—his usual partners Ahmad Subki and Syahroni Arai were unavailable. He also asked me to find a route, with specific brief: a minimal 30% of gravel road, minimal 1,000 m of elevation gain, and a timeframe that allows him to get back to hotel at Dago Pakar before 11 am. It was clear to me; only Palintang Pass came closest to fit the bills.
As Sunday inched closer, though, anxienty grew thicker; after all, this guy rides to work 80 km each day, and eats gran fondo with 2,000 m of elevation gain on weekend. How would I keep up with him—especially with the half-worn legs from the Saturday ride? Eventually I told myself not to try to keep up; I’d just let him blast away while I grind the climb slowly behind—it really eased up the pressure.
Eventually Sunday came—and the ride was surprisingly delightful.
Starting 6.15 from Alun-alun Ujungberung, we rode side by side, talking about myriad of things along the climb. Brisk-yet-leisurely pedalling meant we could keep constant pacing without any breaks; only rarely we made stop to take pictures, check the maps, or simply readjust bar bag’s straps… and suddenly we reached Palintang Peak well before 8 am—the kind of timeframe I had only achieved on sprightly solo rides before—strangely feeling resfreshed instead of beaten up. Like early morning mist, the anxiety had drifted away by then, replaced by heart-warming delight.
Following the climb was the flowy descend across cinchona plantation, which chunky, loose gravel section was quite a challenge for 35c tires he was riding. Thankfully his bike-handling skill made up the slack—and the segment was nowhere near 30% portion as he requested :D. As we got to the rural road across Cibodas, we were back to our brisk-but-leisurely pacing—it was 8.15 in the morning and we were approaching Lembang already! With my legs felt surprisingly fresh, I proposed us to take a detour to the Eurad Pass, so he could rake in more elevation gain he was searching for.
A turn to smaller rural road in Cibodas, followed by thriller -33 gradient descent and +21 gradient climb, brought us to Eurad Pass road, which was surprisingly crowded; gone that serene, sacred ambience of the lush forest, sadly. Still, we moved in constant brisk-but-leisurely pacing, getting past streams of walkers and other cyclists, until we reached the peak. It was still 9 am in the morning—I’ve never reached the peak as early before, even without the detour across Palintang Pass.
From Eurad Pass peak, we rolled back to where we came from, and made the turn toward Lembang. Originally planning to have a breakfast on the city, Mr. Asep came up with the idea to drop by Warung Taiwan—a cyclists’ favorite stopover in the area. What a wonderful plan! So we made the turn, parked our bike, and ordered some meals—the brown sugar-avocado and the iced grass jelly was truly a nice treat for me! Looking at the clock, I was astonished to see it was still 9.46. The memory of me, struggling my way from Palintang to Lembang at 2 pm, on my early years of cycling, seemed so distant…
A cyclist across the table preached to his friends about the importance of mental toughness to tackle long climbs; yet, there we were, just done riding two neighboring mountainpasses and 1,400 m of elevation gain in less than 5 hours—and I felt nothing tough about it.
After finished with our meals, we rolled our bike slowly along Pramestha route, before bidding farewell and parting ways in Dago Atas. As I coasted my bike back to home, I finally figured out what made that morning speedy climbs especially refreshing and enjoyable instead of feeling tough and demanding. Yes, it had nothing to do with mental toughness; it was simply the joy of riding with a good company.