Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 - The year in review

This has been an interesting year with many things working out for me.
But it started with a sour note with the passing of my father.
In honor of his death, I did not celebrate Chinese New Year and my wedding anniversary.
On the positive side, I managed to chalk up a good pay rise and this was followed by a salary adjustment a few months back.
Speaking on personal pursuits, the year began with plenty of photography outings. Things came to an abrupt end sometime in June when I had a bust-up with a member of a peer group.
I learned that if you make a living out of a past-time, you would do everything to protect it. Even if it is at the expense of your peer's integrity.
One of the guys in this group also took advantage of my contacts in Canon to get some goods at discounted price. Way I see it, while you are at it, whack all you can.
I took a break from photography and continued with my outdoor pursuit.
This led me to the peak of Mount Kinabalu with my wife Michelle and brother in-law Vincent.
To me, it was a proud moment.
Following that, I resumed my interest in cycling my folding bike.
We started exploring our options and ended up in places like Pulau Ketam, Malacca, Tanjung Malim and Ipoh.
Cycling takes my mind off many things and it felt great to stay fit.
Career wise, I don't have anything to complain at all.
Things are working out for me because two years ago around this time, I was contemplating to move on with my career.
Seems that favouritism, oppression, double standards and racism became an issue at the old work place.
And I'd always wondered where the people who gave me such a hard time would end up.
Well, recently, I found out that most of these pretty folks are now congregated in a scum pool.
They are working in a lifestyle pullout of a business newspaper. I never knew shit could stack up so high, but there you have it.
I also found out that the very guy who gave me 20sen to fuck off during a company annual dinner in Bangsar is now on Facebook.
I wanted to send him a message and ass-rape him, but my buddy whom I spoke to about this told me to fuck it because he is not worth it.
Yeah, I guess when you are ric and famous, you become a monster.
People tend to lose themselves. So, I let it be.
Sometime in the middle of this year, I rekindled my friendship with an old friend.
Our mission is to train a bunch of King Scouts from Victoria Institution.
So far, so good, we managed very well with the experimental batch. There's more to come and yes, I am back in Scouting, now, as a trainer.
I can't say much for 2011 because its just way ahead.
As it is, I am blessed with the companionship of my wonderful wife, a pack of Huskies, my knives, folding bikes and toys!
All I can look forward to: is to many cycling outings and resume my interest in capturing bugs on camera...

Powershot G12 gone kaputt!

In the workshop: my Canon powershot G12
I picked the Canon powershot G12 as a successor to my ageing powershot G10.
This was two months ago and yesterday, the camera died on me.
Seems that there were some tell-tale signs. One of it was its inability to focus at long zoom length.
When the camera failed to function yesterday, I knew that it was going to go kaputt.
Lucky for me, my powershot G10 is still there to back things up.
I sent the camera to Canon's service centre this morning and was told that it would take five to seven working days to get it back.
For a two-month old top-of-the line point-and-shoot camera, it was really disappointing to learn that it was so fragile.

The Killer Queen

No cat is safe from this pooch...
There was a huge commotion on my backyard yesterday evening.
Sir Naughty, our six year old male Siberian Husky was restless as there was something hiding behind the pandan leaves that is growing wild there.
In the past, several stray cats have fallen prey to our dogs.
This time, an adult female cat which was nursing five kittens were the unlucky ones.
Just as I was opening the rear gate, our dogs leapt into the pandan leaves and the next thing I heard was some loud hissing.
The cat was finished.
It took less than five minutes for the dogs to finish off the adult feline.
This was followed by the kittens.
Our dogs killed without mercy.
In a single day, I picked up six carcasses and disposed them.
The stray cat population in my neighbourhood is getting out of control and the dogs are their only natural control agents.
With the huskies' highly attuned instincts, the cats stood no chance.
Our girl did most of the work as the boy worked hand-in-hand to flush out their prey.
At the end of the ordeal, our dogs were scarred from their encounter with the female stray cat.

Hulu Langat Training Ride Series 3

The hill section heading towards Kuala Kelawang in Negeri Sembilan

Michelle with some of our friends about 3km before pekan bt 18, Hulu Langat
Michelle and I did our second training ride in Hulu Langat yesterday.
It was raining like mad and riding in the rain is something which I am not really fond of.
At the first 7km, I pushed myself and got a two-minute lead ahead of the reast.
Then, a road cyclist overtook me at the 8km mark.
Later, a lady cyclist on her 'Mini-Cooper' bike shot past me.

I'm not taking a swipe at her, but throughout the rides, this is one of the most reckless cyclist I've come across.
She tends to ride on the middle of the road and makes unscheduled stops to take photographs.
What poses a danger to herself and other road users is the fact that she parks her bike on the middle of the road.
In a distance ride, safety is paramount. If you ignore that, you might wind up in trouble
After cycling non-stop for 9km, I slowed down and Michelle had finally caught up with her 16"
Dahon Curve D3.
Right behind her was a guy in his 26" mountain bike.
We rested at a break area, mid-way to the second check-point along the training route.
Three other riders had to turn back and the guy on the mountain bike complained about feeling nauseous.
We stayed behind to accompany him before deciding to head back to pekan Bt 18 in Hulu Langat.
Although we did not complete the ride (another 7km), we felt good that we didn't go flat on the hills.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The big bite valve cover

Camelbak's big bit valve cover
I spent two agonising months in search of a Camelbak big bite valve cover for my Octane 24 hydration pack.
Went to nearly every bicycle shop in town including some outfitters in Singapore and came up empty-handed.
Then, something really unexpected happened.
I made a pit-stop at a bicycle shop in Putra Heights.
Noticed that they have a range of Camelbak stuff on sale and tried my luck by asking the counter person about the bite valve cover.
"Ah, yes, we have.. Like this one ah?," said the shop owner.
I was utterly speechless.
The discovery made my day. I grabbed the opportunity to snatch the valve cover as it was a vital component in my hydration pack.
Now, my quest is complete and I can rest easy till something else crops up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SRAM Dual Drive

High tech component - the SRAM Dual Drive transmission system
I'm no bicycle expert and certainly am not a gadget snob.
It took me a while to realise that some of the Dahon high-end folding bikes with 27-speed transmission are without a triple chain ring.
This is achieved with the SRAM dual drive system - a combination of a group set and a hub gear. 
With the system installed on your bike, there won't be a quick release system for the rear-wheel.
And after ploughing through tonnes of information on the internet, I learned that the SRAM dual drive was an ingenious way to save space and give small bikes the performance of a bigger bike. 
This means, more power for hills, straights and even the rough terrain.
So far, the Dual Drive system is available on some of Dahon's premium bikes, namely the Speed TR, Speed TT Pro (replaced by the Vector X27h), Jetstream EX and Mu EX. 
It would be really exciting to see Dahon's new range of 2011 folding bikes in the months to come..

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hulu Langat Training Ride Series 2

The foldie gang at the Kuala Klawang - Semenyih junction in Hulu Langat
Veteran folding bike rider Uncle Bil Choy made a clarion call for all the folding bike club members on keeping fit after the Putrajaya 50km onslaught two weeks ago.
He called for a training ride in Hulu Langat and conducted a ride last week. It was first in a series of training rides in the area.
I found this to be really useful as a measure to increase my stamina and endurance for long commutes and rides.
The hilly part enroute to the Hulu Langat reservoir proved to be a testing ground.
I made it all the way to the bt 14 junction, but on the way back to the starting point, I found that my legs were strained beyond its limit.
And just as I decided to rest, I watched as other riders rode past me.
My legs had turned to a mush of goo. I could hardly feel it and when I pedalled the crank, I can feel it trembling.
That was how unfit I had become of the years of eating and drinking.
Although I don't smoke, I can feel my lungs burning with each breath drawn.
Despite all that, I managed to complete the 31.8km course in about two and a half hours.
As far as the ride is concerned, it was a satisfying outing cos I got plenty of exercise.
Well, having given it much thought, I should ride every week and this would keep the unsightly bulge on my stomach down as well as control my high blood pressure.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speed P8 - further upgrades...

My Dahon Speed P8
After nearly two years of riding my Dahon Speed P8, the 2009 model has gone through a bit of upgrades in terms of accessories.
I love the design geometry of the bike and would certainly keep it even if a new bike follows.
Its a smooth bike to ride and as far as technology is concerned, certain features on this machine is way ahead of its time.
My only grouse is the 8-speed gear and some dudes actually showed their pimped Speed P8.
They've added twin or triple chainrings to give it more speed for hill climbing.
This can be achieved by modifying the bike to accept a front deraileur and additional shifter.
I studied this thoroughly and found that the Speed P8 would best be a training bike.
There were thoughts of adding a SRAM double drive hub, deraileur and shifter to the Speed P8, but this would rob it of its identity of a folding town bike.
The only upgrade that I can think of, is a pair of new MKS exim superior pedals. And best of all, this one comes in Black!

Small bikes in a big world

My boss on her Dahon Curve D3

Hitting the road with my Dahon Speed P8

When you invest on a folding bicycle, there are two sides of the coin.
You must know what you are getting into and if you are ignorant to the specifications of the bike, you might just end up purchasing a lemon.
To give you a better perspective, there are many variants of the folding bike with prices ranging from RM400 (cheap Le Run bike which you can never find off the shelves) to RM20K (high-end super-duper foldie).
In that respect, Michelle and I are owners of a basic (Dahon Curve D3) and medium range (Dahon Speed P8) bikes.
Over a course of one year and twelve months, I learned that there were plenty of shortcomings when I wounded up with an 8-speed bike.
The Speed P8 is excellen for short commutes and a leisure ride.
Now, here's the best part: Michelle and her 3-speed Dahon Curve D3 had proven than even sceptics can be wrong.
Her bike is a 16" foldie with an internal hub gear.
At the top end, she could go as fast as 15km an hour. That's it.
Our bikes can give distance, but not speed.
And when it comes to tackling hills, you've got to have legs of steel to pedal non-stop.
I learned this when we rode in Putrajaya.
Since I rode my Speed P8 more frequently, I noticed that my stamina has improved.
With the distance thrown in, the only aspect that we are looking at would be endurance training.
Not an issue if we ride regularly in areas with hills.
As for Michelle, I have plenty of admiration for her sheer spirit for riding the 3-speed bike in a series of long-haul events.
She proved to the larger bike riders that foldies can go literally 'anywhere'.

Dahon front touring rack

Dahon's original front touring rack
I nearly returned a Dahon front rack which I purchased some months back.
Reason being was it couldn't fit onto my bike.
So, after giving it much thought, I had the Rodalink mechanics to fix it. Initially, I was very happy with the fact that the rack could fit nicely on my bike.
But when I rode it in Putrajaya two weeks ago, the right side mounting just popped out.
Later, I discovered that the nut used was a few milimetres short.
The solution, a longer nut.
So, I went back to Rodalink and asked for a longer nut.
After getting what I wanted, I went home to fiddle with the new nuts and wallah! It fits!
No more issues with the rack fitting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

MOH Putrajaya 50km Health Ride

Setting up at the MOH's parking lot in Putrajaya this morning..

Michelle, reaching the 25-km checkpoint at the PICC in Putrjaya

We made it!

Our fellow folding bike rider Wey Pang had circulated news about a 50-km Kayuhan Kesihatan in Putrajaya on Dec 12.
It was a working day for me and I had made some arrangements with my colleague to finish up the advanced pages so that I could come in after the ride at 2:30pm.
I registered Michelle and I via email to one of the organisers Encik Azahar who was kind enough to take my call after a fax I sent over to the MOH had failed to transmit.
So, we got up really early this morning for the event in Parcel E in Putrajaya.
There was some confusion as to where the final registration and flag-off would take place. After circling around the Government buildings ( I am familiar with Parcel D with my dealings at the Home Ministry), we finally met some cyclists who took part in the event and was directed by one fo the ride officials to a carpark at the side of the building.
With all the hoo-haa, I had a feeling that things would turn out in a slip-shod manner.
But, despite the shortcomings, there were some plus points.
The breakfast pack was decent, chilled isotonic drinks and mineral water was distributed at the finishing line.
My only grouse with the ride organisers was the fact that they were not concerned at all about slower riders.
Not all the participants were top-notched, highly-trained road bike cyclists.
And since this was a Kayuhan Kesihatan or Health Ride, the emphasis should not be on speed.
What made matters worse was the fact that some tail-enders were left to fend for themselves as the sweepers had abandoned them.
This was apparent at the 21-km mark where no one was left to man the course.
I had to ride with a mountain biker from Shah Alam to the second stage checkpoint at the Putrjaya International Convention Centre.
Michelle, who was left behind, had a more harrowing tale.
One of the foldie riders Jackie had encountered some problems. She had muscle cramp and as she was agonising in pain, the sweepers took no heed.
Lucky for her, there was an ambulance on standby who ferried her to safety.
And at a certain stage, one of the ride officials had told Michelle off by turning back to the starting line.
What pissed me off was this: on the entry forms, it was clearly stated that ALL bicycles are allowed to take part in the ride.
With a smaller wheel size and poor gear ratio, its pretty much expected that foldies would be much slower in tackling the straigth stretch and climbing hills compared to larger bikes.
Even some roadies and mountain bike riders had trouble keeping up with the lead pack.
I found this to be really sad as the ride was aimed to promote healthy living.
All that jibberish that was read on behalf of the Deputy Health Minister can be flushed down the toilet bowls.
Compared to the Putrajaya Interpark rides, this event was poorly managed. Perhaps the MOH should look into categorising the rides instead of turning it into a race.
Sweepers should not leave anyone behind and fortunately, no one was hurt or got lost during the 50-km course.
Michelle and I managed to do only 35-km as we were diverted to take a shorter route.
Lucky for us, there was a very helpful ride official by the name of Mr Woon who took care of us.
As for all those shitheads in their souped-up road bikes, they can go ride of a cliff.

Bangsar District Scouting Centenary Camporee Part 1

Last-minute preparation by a Tsun-Jin Rover at VI on Friday night

Kids practising for their Scout's Cultural night

I made a bee-line towards Victoria Instutition on Friday night to meet up with the organisers of the Bangsar District Centenary Camporee.
Met Assistant District Commissioner Chai Jiun Har who is also my wood badge trainer and saw a bunch of kids practising for their cultural night on Saturday.
My co-trainer Bob Lew told me about some potential danger lurking at the school's campsite.
This is apparent with the 2nd KL boys especially the Senior Scout who are kicking so much shit about their sovereignity and tradition.
Bob and I are training some kids from Form 2 and 3 for their merit badges.
Tales of bullying, intimidation and isolation became even more apparent when I saw a few of the Form 4 boys at the school.
Seems that the best course of action is to completely discard the older boys as they are beyond redemption.
Coming back to the camporee, I also met up with Bangsar District Commissioner Kenneth Soh who is the man behind the event.
Soh and Chai were instrumental in setting up the pace for the scouting event and attendance was also encouraging.
There were about 200 Boy Scouts and Senior scouts who took part in the three-day, two-night camping activity.

Speed P8 gets a tune-up

Rodalink mechanics attending to the bike..

It's been more that a year since I purchased my Dahon Speed P8 and its never been serviced since it left the bicycle shop where I bought it.
I've been troubled by some squeaky noise coming from the bike's handlebar and thought the bearing cone may be damaged.
So, after much deliberation, I took the bike to Rodalink's branch in Bandar Botanic in Klang to have it serviced.
The mechanics at this outlet took more than two hours to fine-tune the problem.
Handling was much better when I rode it in Putrajaya today, but there were still some noise coming out of the front section of the bike.
They also fixed my front touring rack, but the right hand side came out after I found out that the screw that attaches it to a mount was not long enough.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lencana Usaha - Broga 6km Hike

Hiking up Broga Hill

This was the toughest section of the hike

The Boy Scouts and their testers

Bob and me at the second peak

The boys, successfully completing their journey test

Slow and steady was the pace of our 'Patrol X' experimental troop for a three-year King Scout programme initiated by Datuk Bob Lew, my ex-schoolmate.
We planned it in such a way, the boys would have to go through a series of training and tests before they could qualify for King Scout assessment.
So far, we've had a decent run with four boys from Patrol-X.
They've been committed and our first series of merit badges conferred to the boys were their Lencana Usaha which was completed yesterday.
This includes a 6km hike which I had designed to incorporate a mini-expedition to scale Broga Hill.
The programme includes map reading, bearing marking and taking geographical information on the location.
Bob was instrumental in rounding up the boys which he had hand-picked.
With patrol-X progressing to their first Boy Scout merit badge, there were some resistance from some older boys in Victoria Institution's 2nd Bangsar Troop.
Some of the seniors demanded to be trained. This is something that I would not condone because their level of committment has never been assessed.
Besides that, their clickish behaviour is something that I would not tolerate.
At the end of the Broga hike, the boys were also issued with their personal Mora knives as a reward to their effort.

Singapore part 2

At a food court in Waterloo st

A discovery: the Adstragold microbrewery at Chijmes

Nick Chia's T3 Bicycle shop in Upper East Coast

Green move: Singapore MRT allows folding bicycle in its train service

Nick and his wife at their bike shops in Upper East coast road, Singapore

Barely weeks after a quick run to Singapore, I had to accompany Michelle who attended the OSEAH exhibition in Suntec City convention centre.
For me, my mission was to locate the Com Shop, a place where I used to get my radio stuff.
The store had moved from Sim Lim square to the Upper East coast road which is roughly about a 25-minute bus ride from Victoria Street.
I picked up my Icom V-85's battery pack for my extra radio set and a speaker mike to go with it.
The next day, I spent much of my time searchinig for electronics and visiting the Velocity sports mall in Nouvena junction.
Later, I went back to the Upper East Coast road and caught up with Nick Chia, owner of T3 Bicycles whom I haven't met for years.
We caught up for lost times and after three days and two nights in the island republic, its time to head back to KL..

Putrajaya Interpark Ride series 05

Michelle and I at the starting line in series 05 of the interparks ride

This was oneof the toughest section of the entire ride

The fifth interparks series ride in Putrajaya was a memorable affair.
Like usual, Michelle and I woke up really early to join in the ride a day after our Ipoh city ride.
We did an 18-km loop around Putrajaya and was taken to some really cool locations around this planned administrative city.
In the first leg of the ride, one of the lady cyclist had crashed at a sloped corner.
I saw the lady lying unconscious with blood flowing from her face.
Later, we found out that she suffered a fractured arm and lacerations on her face as she crashed after losing control of her bicycle.
To sum it up, the ride was enjoyable and this time, Michelle won a helmet at the lucky draw.

Ipoh ride

Mrs Samo riding along the Kinta river

At the Garden Villa during the launch of Ipoh's lost heritage exhibition
I've successfully completed the Ipoh ride on Nov 27 after a careful reconnaissance trip made earlier in the week.
There were some additional riders who joined us in Ipoh and two of them, local boys, had taken lead around Bandar Bijeh Timah.
One suggested that we go against traffic which I objected as the ride leader.
We started from the Ipoh Central train station towards the old town and had breakfast after linking up with three other riders.
From there, the folding bike adventurers proceeded towards Ipoh's new town and a visit to the lost heritage exhibition launch at Garden Villa, some 15-minutes away from the train station.
We concluded the ride after lunch and took the 2pm ETS train back to KL.