Determined to spend Christmas his way Steve Thomas becomes the first biker ever to ride down the Kuala Lumpur Tower, one of the tallest buildings on the planet.
“Why?” they ask, again and again. Well, at least some do, others just say “Wow!” Me, well, I’ve never been one of the “why” community, they tend to be the conservative sort that just do not see the point in doing things differently. So what exactly am I talking about? My recent “ride” down the Telekom Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It was Christmas Eve and heading in to dusk – and I had a late plane to catch. Yet there I was, with a bike, on top of one of the world’s tallest buildings (4th tallest telecom tower). To be honest I hadn’t really given the whole thing any serious thought, I never do – but it was at this point that I really ought to of at least considered the three letter why question, and maybe even of answered it to myself, but no.
Things were not quite as anticipated you see. For a whole two years I’d eyed this project, and dearly wanted to become the first biker to ride down this most impressive of buildings, and now here I was some 400 odd meters high in the sky and facing the ride on my life. I’d tried every possible link in order to track down someone who may just be confused enough to allow me to attempt the feat, and had all but given up. Then one fated afternoon, at a travel show in London, I was introduced to the towers manager. This was an opportunity too good to miss, so within seconds I’d hit him with my plan; “Bicycle, down?” Came the disbelieving response. He all but dismissed the idea on the spot as some life threateningly deadly and silly idea. But with a few weeks worth of follow up e mails the no melted into a maybe, and then in to an agreement to meet in KL with the towers insurers and safety guys for a possible attempt on the ride.
Before that evening all I knew was that there were going to be a whole load of steps, though from the stair plan document I’d seen they looked to be wide and fairly shallow, a piece of cake I figured. Huh, the plans they’d shown me were for the turns, not the steps, and the first I knew of that was when I was presented in front of an assembled crowd and pointed down towards one of the hairiest and longest staircases in the world!
“Okay, you go now?” Grinned the staff. But from where I stood the task looked more or less impossible. Not only were the concrete steps incredibly steep, they were real shallow, and the whole stairwell was only just over a bars width wide, it was like facing one huge great drainpipe to hell, or potentially a concrete coffin. How could I explain to the crowd that it was just too steep – and that my short travel full suss trail bike was simply not the tool for the job, well I couldn’t really, could I?
With a huge gulp and a sweaty brow I launched myself into the abyss of the tower, rattling down the steps like a pinball. This was steep, insanely steep, though with the short flights of stairs their wasn’t really much room to hang back, so it became a case of hold on tight and hope for the best. It was fast becoming clear that the steps were not the only problem. Every 20 or so bumps I was faced with a 180 degree turn, which was so narrow that the bike couldn’t even fit long ways into the gap. After a while I perfected the stair hop jam turn, riding up against the wall and flipping my wheel round as I dropped on to the first step of the next rung, dicey, but the only way around things.
By the half way mark I’d taken a couple of near endos, a back drop or two, and my arms were shaking like crazy with the constant rattling around. I was also sweating like a pig, as there was simply no air in the great concrete box. Even so the only way out was down, and so the show went on.
Some 2058 steps, and an amazing 421 meters later, with a flat rear tyre, and I burst through the main exit doors of the tower to the applause and congratulation of the staff and assembled tourists. Two years after first seeing the tower and now I’d finally ridden down it, and without a single “why?” all day!