Monday, February 28, 2011

Going compact

The olde faithful - 2009 Curve SL

Production snag: 2011's Curve SL
Small bicycles can grow on you.
If the need for speed is never an issue, you might want to consider a 16" two wheeler.
For starters, the choices are limited.
I must say that after seeing my wife on the Dahon Curve D3 (3-speed internal hub gear) and her abililty to ride it for a 10km uphill course, I was really impressed.
To further strengthen the versatility of the Curve, veteran rider TT Siang and his wife Angela proved that the little Dahon can be used literally anywhere.
So, with that in mind, I began researching this year's Dahon Curve SL.
The 2011 model is really sexy.
Its painted black with some really top-notched components.
Personally-speaking, I love the colour scheme. Not that it matter, but I still love a black bicycle.
The Curve SL won't be seen soon as there were some hitches at the production line.
What is currently being offered now - are the remaining bikes from 2009.
Its similar, but lacked in the wow factor on the 2011 Curve SL.
What I love about this bike is the fact that you can pack it anywhere you like.
As far as handling is concerned, I have tried Michelle's Curve D3 which is pretty smooth.
That said, its now a matter of waiting..

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Building a bicycle recovery kit

Topeak's pocket ratchet, chain tool, Rescue box and tube patch

The chain pins and 'magic' chain link in its holster

A set of chain pins on the Topeak chain tool

"Better safe than sorry".
That has been my motto to overcome any situation thrown at me on the trail.
With my Dahon Speed P8, I always pack a set of tools on my saddle bag.
And on my seat post, there is a permanently bolted set of Topeak Alien 3 tool and the only thing missing there, is a large nut.
This was taken by a cyclist back in October. I still haven't recovered it back.
To think of preparedness, its really sad to know that there are folks out there who are utterly shameless when it comes to borrowing tools from other people.
Anyway, back on the subject, I have assembled a 'rescue box' with some extra chain pins and 'magic' link.
When I first purchased the box, it came with a metal abrasive and some self adhesive tube patches.
That was the entire package. At first, I thought the chain pins and links were missing. It was stated as 'optional'.
The pins itself, are not cheap. The good ones costs about RM10 a piece while 'normal' ones for 9-speed chains are sold at RM3 a piece.
If you experience a broken link, the chain pin can be inserted and broken off to form the link.
Another rescue tool is the 'magic' link.
A pair would cost about RM22.00 and the cheapest is sold at RM14. That is a huge saving!
When I ride, there's always a chain tool and a mini pocket ratchet in my saddlebag.
Since I don't depend entirely on other people, I tend to carry extra tyre tube patches.
So far, the mini ratchet has served its purpose.
Parts that are screwed on with torx or philip nuts can be easily removed.
I have yet to use the chain pins or link, and if there is a need to do so, its always there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to training..

Riding along with a group of roadies in formation

Michelle and I had pretty much drawn-in the conclusion that we need to be consistant in our training rides in order to tour places like Chiangmai and Cambodia in the near future.
There are two aspects in which we are most interested in pursuing.
One is strength - we find training in Hulu Langat pretty useful as the hills there are not easy to tame.
The other is endurance - this we would find in Tg Karang - Sg Besar.
Last Sunday, we did a 'quick' ride in Hulu Langat - covering a distance of 11.6km in 39minutes.
We managed to trim 5 minutes from our usual timing with an average speed of 21km/h.
Our folding bikes are limited in terms of speed as the Schwalbe Big Apple tires are really sluggish on tarred roads.
The best we could do was 22km/h at a consistant cadence of 80rpm/hour.
Rather than taking a rest at a farmhouse some 800metres away from the Kuala Kelawang - Semenyih junction, we headed straight for the top of the hill.
Maintaining speed, momentum and energy became the main concern in this stage as the last 200metres was a sheer struggle, but Michelle and I made it.
We felt that we could do better by reducing the travel time by another 5minutes.
On Sunday, there are more and more cyclists on the road. Some are familiar faces with their high-end road bikes.
While cycling back to Nam Wah coffee shop where we have our breakfast, a pair of hybrid cyclists overtook us.
From the looks, these guys are also there for the training stint. There was a young guy and an elderly man on their hybrids.
One of them pulled alongside, gave us a dirty look and sped off.
We later caught up with them and Michelle gave them a ride of their life on her Dahon Speed TR.
At Nam Wah coffee shop, the same guys were having breakfast. They couldn't believe their eyes that a small 20" bike can go the length and distance as their hybrids.
Way I see it, the future is set with our Dahons.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Morib - Tg Sepat Ride

Morib is roughly about an hour's drive from where we live

The flat road to Tg Sepat

A decent late breakfast at Yik Kee Bak Kut Teh

Touring riders from abroad heading South
Tuesdays aren't the typical day where we get up early to hit the road for a bicycle ride.
Its was also a public holiday, so, I took the initiative to plan a ride in Morib, Selangor. 
This place is roughly about an hour from our home in Subang Jaya. 
Having done a reconnaissance drive some months back, I felt that the 17km ride to Tg Sepat would not be stressful.
The fact that the route was totally on flat ground gave the advantage of speed cycling with high gear.
A large chain ring on the Dahon Speed P8 yielded a top speed of 25km/h. 
This was not as fast compared to some roadies who were seen on the road. They were easily doing 35km/h with their bike's larger 700cc wheels.
Along the route, we saw a couple riding their touring bikes. 
I greeted them with a "Good Morning" and one of the cyclists returned with a smile on her face.
They where headed towards Banting from the South.
We took about 45-minutes to get to Tg Sepat from Morib - covering a distance of 18km.
Michelle and I rode around town and checked out a mushroom farm.
Later, we had breakfast at a bak kut teh stall which was endorsed by a Chinese dude spotting an afro hairstyle with a sackload of medals on his chest.
Earlier when I researched Tg Sepat on food, I found a blogger's bad comment on one of the outlets in this fishing town.
He seems pretty pissed off and after seeing his profile, this guy turned out to be a stringer in Malacca. 
We ate at Yik Kee bak kut teh and the fare was pretty decent.
After breakfast, we rode around town and made our way to the Baywatch restaurant, snap more shots and rode back to Morib.
Even at 10am, the heat and humidity was overwhelming.
On the whole, I would rate the Morib - Tg Sepat ride as 'moderate' with heavy traffic and bad air. There were lots of open burning and for folks who suffer from respiratory problems, this route would not be good.
One of the things that we observe is an early start. For a 3-hour ride covering a distance of 40km - return trip, the best thing is to start cycling at 07:00am.
Well, we hope to check other routes like PD - Malacca in the future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Putrajaya Interpark Ride Series 7

At the starting line this morning

A folding bike rider and his Dahon Eco 3

Inspiring moment: a really large dude making his way up the PICC hill
I have always looked forward to the Putrajaya Interpark Ride Series. 
This is my first outing for the year and I had a swell time cycling some 30km in the administrative city. 
As usual, I packed my stuff and head off to the venue early. This time advantage helps a lot in setting up the bike and answering nature calls especially early in the morning.
While waiting at the starting line, an elderly man came up to me and said: "Ah, you are Samo! I follow your blog!"
We had a conversation and I was told that he was from the Putrajaya Easy Riders group.
He said folding bikes - especially Dahons are getting popular.
Later on the route, I saw one of his buddies riding a black Dahon Eco 3.
In the series-7 ride, there were two climbs - one at the PICC and the other was directly behind the Ministry of Finance.
For me, the PICC ride was a piece of cake after the weekly training stint at Hulu Langat. I tackled the gradient with ease on my low gear.
Now, the toughest of the lot, was a hill behind the MOF.
I was riding on the left-hand side of the road, changed to low gear and started climbing when a guy had suddenly stopped in front of me.
My immediate reaction was swerving away from him to avoid a collision and as a result, I lost my balance and fell on my side.
My left knee was pretty banged up and when I broke my fall, I also banged up my right elbow.
I picked up the Dahon Speed P8 which was not damaged and pushed it to the top of the slope and took a brief time to recover.
Although still hurting, I cycled to the checkpoint where the cyclists were given a bottle of water and some food.
Some bananas helped in diverting the pain.
By 11:00am, the ride was over.
At the main event area, I spoke to a man who had road rashes on both his knees. The cyclist said he had a close-call and also made mention of a rider who collided with a lamp post.
Series 7 as it seems, had claimed a number of casualties. 
I guess its mainly because there are more cyclists than the usual.
The minor accident I was involved it could have been avoided if the cyclist in front of me was fit enough to climb.
As for the busted knee and elbow, I guess this one won't hamper me from the weekly training rides on Sundays..

Suspect SMF 2.0

A folding knife which I am proud to carry
Nearly two years ago, I proposed to Josh Lee of Strider Knives to work on a new 'Suspect SMF' folder.
This new version would be different from its predecessor and several changes were made before the design was finalised.
With collaboration from Starlinegear, the knife entered production and was delivered to a handful of people in high standing.
I dropped out of the order list as the cost became too high for me to bear. But remained committed in seeing the project complete as I took down names of the buyers. 
Strider Knives made a lot of effort by producing the folding knife with carbon fibre handles and a Starlinegear goat bead added class to the limited-edition folding knife made available only to a handful of people.
Time as passed and recently, one of the knives was offered on sale. 
I made mention of it and was surprised by Keith Crowder as the benefactor of the Suspect SMF 2.0 which was sent to me in the last days of 2010.
I had Keith to thank for this priceless gift and I'm very proud to be a part of it.
But my joy was shortlived as it was detained by the Malaysian Customs on Jan 01.
I made an appeal to the Home Ministry for its release and after a month of waiting, I rang up the Customs in KLIA and was told that no permit was needed after I explained to the officer who took my call.
What happened next, came as a big surprise.
I paid a small fee for processing the Customs papers and the knife was released unconditionally.
That said, I think the good vibes and smoke from my Suspect brothers and sisters have worked..
Today, the Suspect SMF 2.0 is in my keepsakes - an item that I would treasure for the rest of my life..

CKE Bushcrafter

Craig's Bushcrafter and 4" Nessmuk

Field-grade prefection - The CKE Bushcrafter
I've known Craig Wheatley for some time and have been observing his talent as a knifemaker.
The Canadian craftsman has built a solid reputation in making good field and wilderness survival knives.
Six months ago, I commissioned Craig to make me a 4" bushcraft knife and a Nessmuk.
I wanted it simple and practical and also specified the blade length and handle material.
For this, I settled for Green canvas micarta which is a grippy and comfortable blade that yields plenty of cutting power in prolonged use.
As for steel, I settled for the 154CM stainless.
The Malaysian weather is not suitable for high-carbon steel which is easier to sharpen.
In the months to come, I will post some field trials with the bushcrafter knife.

Dahon Pango Folding helmet

The Pango folding helmet survived two long-distance rides
When news about Dahon's Pango folding helmet had hit the scene late last year, it became an instant sensation.
This innovation was introduced here in Kuala Lumpur last month at the Dahon Folding Bike Club's second meeting.
It coincided with the launch of 11 new bikes and was a promotional gift item with a few high-end models.
Priced at RM350 a pop, I was hesitant to snatch one.
But things took a turn when I bought Michelle her first 20-inch folding tourer - the Speed TR.
The Pango was thrown-in as a package. 
So, I worked out an arrangement with the dealer for a black-coloured helmet (there are only two  in Malaysia).
First-impression I had was the helmet is simple enough to be folded and stashed.
However, it has some flaws.
People with small heads would find the Pango ill-fitting.
As for me, the helmet was actually a bit loose.
Padded foam inserts made it a snug fit and some adjustments on the helmet's strap made it secure.
My only grouse is that it doesn't come with a tightening mechanism for the back of the head.
To get the most out of this folding helmet, I removed the mesh on the top and back of the Pango for better ventilation.
And at 450grammes, this is not a lightweight head protection wear.
The only fanciful and 'wow!' factor is the fact that if folds neatly for storage.
To sum things up -- the Pango is a helmet which you would actually love or hate. For me, its slowly warming up as I am really liking its portability...

Sissy bicycles

Folding bikes for sissies?
Some numbnutted shithead left a comment on my post.
It read: "What a sissy bike. Don't they have real bicycles in Malaysia?".
Way it sounds, I am dealing with a zip-popping juvenile.
The only way to get around this is to delete the post.
I don't know how people would perceive small bikes as sissy and spending that much money for a road-worthy touring foldie, I would hesitate even saying that.
Well, some people need to grow up and parents should not leave their kids unattended on the internet. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Betong, Thailand - part 4

Michelle at the Thai border checkpoint

Cycling back into Malaysia
The last chapter in our folding bicycle tour of Betong was easy to pen down.
We have arranged for a truck to transfer us from Winter Flower Garden Resort  to the CIC complex at the border.
There was a slight pricing change for the ride which I had agreed with the driver. He wanted a little bit extra from the charter rate we had agreed a day earlier.
With a good night's rest, we departed from the resort at 09:00am local time. 
I had the opportunity to wish the rest of the team farewell before shooting off to the border.
By the time we got there, the sun was already up and for us, there's a short ride to complete before reaching the Malaysian side.
We spent about 20-minutes at the Thai CIC complex to clear our travel papers and rode back to the carpark where we stowed our vehicles. 
Parking for three days was RM24, which nobody had complained as the cars were there as we left it.
We drove to Kuala Kangsar for lunch and Ipoh for tea.
The drive back to KL proved to be a slow drag as vehicles converging into the Klang Valley were literally crawling from Simpang Pulai to Slim River.
Traffic was nearly at a standstill along the stretch.
We reached our home at 20:00hrs and was relieved to see to dogs wagging their tails.
Its good to be home after a short break.
The trip organizer Siang and Angela had done a great job by setting up the accommodation and   planning the riding route.
Cyclists Uncle Meng and Mr Keong were also great hosts as they provided some really great hospitality at a family-owned farm.
Also, a special thank you to Patrick Lim who hosted dinner on our last day in Betong.
Way I see it, there are potential for a return trip sometime in July during the fruiting season.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Betong, Thailand - part 3

Michelle at the hot springs

Enjoying our happy hour beers!

A group photo at Patrick Lim's grand uncle's place near the WF Garden resort in Betong...
Our last day in Betong had dawned. 
Time to part ways with Wei Ling and Debbie who had to head back to KL because they had to work on Monday.
Before we split, we had breakfast again at the same makan area near the hotel.
After chatting with some coffee and Chinese crullers, we made our way back to the hotel, checked-out and rigged up the bikes for a ride to the hot springs.
The other duo was headed towards the border checkpoint.
We started early with the advantage of a cooler day. Riding under the hot sun is no joke,
From Betong town, it took us about 20 minutes to reach a police checkpoint. The gradual climb had proved to be tiring, but our Hulu Langat fitness and strength training actually helped a lot.
We rested for a few minutes and rode to the hot springs. At this point, even a simple 8km ride would be a test as our Dahon Speed P8 and TR were laden with panniers.
Cycling uphill on a gradual slope proved to be a test of our strength and endurance.
Nevertheless, we made it all the way to the hot springs where we rested.
The day before, Wey and I met up with Patrick Lim, another cyclists who also hosted dinner at his grand uncle's farm near WF Garden resort, where we were headed to.
Our plan was to meet up in the hot springs and take a ride uphill to the resort.
While we were at the springs we bumped into a family who owns 'Tukang Basikal Fook Sang' in Sungai Way, Selangor.
I met one of the brothers during my pre-departure preparation and was told that the entire family would be in Betong.
We chatted a bit before heading off to a restaurant there for lunch. And based on recommendations, the pak chum kai (steamed chicken) was amazing!
Our ride to WF resort came in at about 2pm local time and the drive up the dusty trail was something that caught me beyond my wildest imagination.
We reached the resort around mid-day, chilled out at the canteen where Michelle and I had loads and loads of beers.
During our stay, I negotiated with a driver on getting all four of us to the border checkpoint the following day and had agreed on a price.
The rest of the day, we chilled out at the resort, took a short ride to the hills.
Later, we had dinner at Patrick Lim's grand uncle's place - which was a simple night ride and retired after a bloated tummy full of good food..

Betong, Thailand - part 2

Unloading the bikes at the Piyamit Tunnels

Rolling downhill

At the Betong junction
After a good rest, Michelle and I did a walking tour of Betong.
We checked out some good eating spots around town and had breakfast in a shop located about 300 metres from our hotel.
Earlier in the previous night, we made an agreement with cyclists Wey and Ming to leave for the Piyamit tunnels in the later part of the day.
When we were done with our breakfast, we met up with two other cyclists Wei Ling and Debbie who were part of 'team B' in the group.
Later, I caught up with Siang who was seen preparing his ride with three other cyclists.
Their plan was to ride up the Piyamit tunnels towards the Winter Flower Garden Resort which was located within the vicinity.
On a hindsight, I planned a 4WD drop from Betong to Piyamit which is located about 18km from town. 
Given our present level of fitness, I don't think we wanted to kill ourselves just to reach there.
I negotiated with a driver and the cost to transfer six people and bicycles to the location was 800baht.
The pricing was decent, so, we jumped at it.
It took us about 25-minutes to get to the Piyamit tunnels. Michelle and the rest of the girls toured the attraction while Wey and I looked after the bikes.
While I was there, I met Mr Loh (The Star's canteen operator) and his family.
It was a surprise for me to meet the entire family whom I am well-acquainted with.
The ride down from Piyamit to the Betong hot springs was challenging.
Certain sections of the road was covered with sand and if you speed down too fast, braking suddenly would pose a danger.
This was apparent when Wey had a puncture nearly half-way down the hill.
So, we decided to pull over at an archway to conduct the repairs.
It was there where we met up with Siang and company who made their way up. They were about 3km short of reaching the Winter Flower Garden.
After a short rest, team A proceeded as we slowly pushed our bikes down the steep slope.
We continued downhill for another 3km before breaking for lunch at a roadside stall.
Tomyam soup and some traditional Thai food had raised the morale of the team.
There, we also discovered that Wey's tire tube was punctured by a loose spoke. It was quickly repaired as we made our way back to Betong.
I too was having an unpleasant situation where my rear brake line was cut.
When we reached the outlying area of town, we stopped at a pro bicycle shop where I got the brake line changed.
Wey and the rest purchased some spare bicycle tubes at cheaper than dirt prices at a family own bicycle shop in one of the Sois in Betong.
On the second day, we did good time by touring the Piyamit tunnels one way and that was downhill.
The ride towards Betong from there was pleasant. It took us about an hour or more to complete the ride from the hot springs.
Later in the night, we had a simple dinner before calling it a day.

Betong, Thailand - part 1

Ride organiser TT Siang and wife Angela preparing their bikes

Michelle (far right) and the girls

At the Malaysia-Thai border marker
I felt privileged to be part of a light touring ride to the Yala Province in Southern Thailand.
Organised by veteran folding bike cyclist TT Siang, the ride took us from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak to the town of Betong.
This obscure landmark is located about 8km away from the border checkpoint and was a smooth downhill roll for most of us.
It took Siang at least three months to carefully plan the trip with logistics and accommodation and I would say that he and Angela did very well in executing it.
On the first day, we made a rendezvous with Siang and a few other people and rode across the border.
In Betong, we were greeted with recumbent cyclist Uncle Meng and his brother Keong.
From our hotel, we cycled to Mr Keong's farmhouse and was treated to a hearty lunch. 
The food and company was great. 
We made our way back to our hotel in mid-town and proceeded to dinner at an 'all you can eat' BBQ dinner later in the evening and called it a night.