Behind the Scenes: Velo Malaysia
Velo Malaysia is a self-shot adventure film by Jack (Friction Collective Director and Camera Operator). Why would anyone dream of cycling 1000 miles across seriously challenging terrain and climates? Our thoughts exactly, which is why we asked Jack, and friends Tom and Tim a whole bunch of questions before they embarked on ‘Velo Malaysia’ this year.
Friction Collective: What’s Velo Malaysia all about?
Jack (below): For me it’s about escapism. There’s nothing quite like the utter peace and quiet I get in the vast space between my ears when concentrating on threading a bunch of beautiful corners together or slowly heaving myself up a ridiculous incline. Then it’s about the experience, nothing comes close to seeing a country on a bicycle, you’re so connected to everything around you, yet nothing passes too slowly and there’s always something weird round the corner. Because of that and my love of making films, I had to combine the two; to create a film where the audience understand the ridiculous nature of the adventure, it’s by no means hardcore or deadly serious, but it’s tough and hilarious and puts you in situations that unless you laugh, you might well cry. For me, that is the essence of the Velo film series, it’s about captivating the audience with drama and suspense that then, like most of our days, just end up in a fit of laughter at someone pissing in a coconut.. or similar.
TOM (below): Our way of sharing a cracking country and its challenges with the folks back home. Plus a chance for me to cycle somewhere sunny!
TIM (Below): Jesus. Aside from a 950 mile cycle across Malaysia? It’s 30C+ temp, 1000m of climbing, culture, adventure, love and life.
Friction Collective: Why Malaysia?
Jack: The jungle!! We experienced our first taste of proper tropical jungle in Vietnam and fuck! It’s an awesome place. Hot, sticky, loud and not a single thing in there wants you to stay alive. Especially as a Caucasian, it’s the most alien place I’ve visited on this planet so far and I just want more! Also, the food looks great, the roads look beautiful, it has a growing cycle culture and we’ve heard it’s a beautiful country.
Tom: Three weeks is a short length of time for a cycle tour; but it’s a realistic length for those with commitments – be it family, career, budget etc. One of our main objectives from these trips is to show people you can do something fantastic within a short space on a tight budget. Malaysia kinda hit the mark here, along with its incredibly diverse culture to match.
Tim: The process for selecting places for our adventures goes through a cycle of think “crazy” and then get smaller with more practical considerations. We started this round off with: Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Cuba and Georgia as main contenders. Things like climate, safety and cost can knock a couple off the list but then it comes down to preference of the group and what experiences we want to open ourselves up to. Malaysia was a clear winner consistently hot, cheap when you are out there, amazing roads, diverse nature and full of culture.
Friction Collective: What are you most looking forward to?
Jack: Days and days of endless cycling.
Tom: The sun… The unknown obstacles awaiting at the next bend in the road and overcoming these. It’s like real life cranked to 11. But seriously…the sun.
Tim: The climbs and the air conditioning of the hotel rooms.
Friction Collective: What are you dreading the most?
Jack: Days and days of endless cycling. And Tim’s singing.
Tom: Jack’s snoring, Tim’s singing.
Tim: The climbs and Jack’s snoring.
Friction Collective: What’s in your kit bag?
Jack: Not much at all in terms of day to day essentials, I seemed to have swapped most items out for cameras. This time I’m bringing a very high tech but tiny drone with me, that will help boost our production in this coming film. Along with some better sound equipment.
Tom: Not much. This tends to be a bit of a competition between us all of which I intend to defend. A highlight include my trusty old hat, which I take on all tours – it’s cultivated it’s own colony now.
Tim: Ear plugs (see answer to question 4). I’m also carrying a set of cycling and non cycling clothing. 1 set of underwear….yup, one! DEET and a lot of sun cream. I’ll also have a small notepad to write up the journey.
Friction Collective: Where are you planning to stay during the three weeks?
Jack: Wherever Tom takes us! He’s been meticulously planning our route and is self appointed Ray Mears on these trips, whacking out his maps (and luckily, unlike Mears, not his left nut) more readily than an orienteering badge boy scout. It’s an awesome part of the trip because he’s so damn good at it, we just go where Tom points, I follow with my nose buried in the camera and Tim uses his frankly unadulterated lung capacity to blare terrible 90’s pop tunes.
Tom: Hotels/ ‘Homestays’ – they are so cheap; ~ £4p/night each, saves on lugging any camp gear too – one of the perks of Asia. They’re also cheaper than hostels; where most Western backpackers go and use as a meeting place…which is totally cool if you’re after that. But it kinda segregates you from the real mix of the country. Plus, I’ve got Jack and Tim. Yay.
Tim: Anywhere that will take us and our bikes. We are easy to spot so hopefully the places will pick themselves to an extent.
Friction Collective: How did you get into cycling in the first place?
Jack: I can trace the routes back to sitting on a duct taped piece of foam on the top tube of my dads bike as a 5 year old, shouting encouragement at him as he heaved us both up the ridiculous hills of Wiltshire. Since then it was in my blood and mountain biking was my first love. Once my testicles got tired of being continuously slammed into various pieces of my bike, I decided maybe road cycling could be a good alternative. Helped by the contagious perpetual energy of Tom. I still pride myself on owning every discipline of bike though and whether its MTB, BMX, Single speed, Road, Touring or shit-faced on a Boris Bike. I’m hooked.
Tom: I’ve been a swimmer since forever, briefly making Nationals. First bike love came at 10, tearing it up on my xc mountain bike; roadies were the enemy of course. This soon progressed into competitive triathlon, specialising in long course. Just like that, I became a fully fledged road perv too.
Tim: As a kid I was constantly playing in woods building jumps and generally messing about on my bike but I was never a cyclist. The thought of the 3 mile ride down the road to the next village normally made me feel like a panicking Bear Grylls. Recently though my efforts on the bike have largely been thanks to Jack who really showed me the light. Now it takes up nearly every second of my life.
Friction Collective: Tell us about the team, who are you going with?
Tome: Jack and I met many years ago whilst working at a…quite frankly, barmy summer music ‘festival’. The rule was if you wanted more crewing shifts, you had to cycle (my rule); cue lots of midnight racing, homeward bound. The music was opera, so we bonded over the bikes.
Tom: No man has ever been a more perfect embodiment of a great big, oversized puppy than Tim Unbridled energy for exercise, feed him continuously or he’ll get grouchy, his excitement for absolutely everything is infectious. We’ve only been riding bikes together for a few years, yet in that time, mostly down to his unwavering commitment, we have put in enough miles to cross America, twice.
Jack: Tom who is a road biking monster, swims faster than a fish, could outrun an Ethiopian and has the humour of a 6 year old. Say ‘poo’ loudly whilst pedalling behind him up a steep hill and he’ll break out in such a fit of giggles you’ll beat him up…probably.
Jack: Tim, I only really got to know from the (Velo) Vietnam trip last year. He promptly established himself as the comic of the group. Primarily for his antics; not jokes. Truthfully though, he’s exactly the kinda guy you need on tour. Plus due to his gigantism, is naturally the one who draws the most attention from the locals and the wildlife. Both are absolute legends and I couldn’t pick anyone else I’d rather top and tail with on a Cockroach infested mattresses for the next 3 weeks.
Tim: We are a tripod. First off we have Jack, mentioned earlier for his addictive fascination with all things two wheels and engineless, and also his snoring abilities. Jack is someone I’ve very used to cycling with (having ridden nearly 3000 miles with him last year). Tom is a friend from the last trip who I met through Jack. Without him neither of these trips would have been possible. He’ll hate me for saying this but he’s like the dad of the group. He has an uncompromising ability to organise and lead a trip. Plus I think he might be the closest thing physically to perpetual motion.
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