Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cycling to work series 03 - Part 2

When the day is done..
My target was set at 05:30pm.
That's my que to leave the office and head straight towards the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
But there were some technical issues.
The lamp assembly on my Cateye HL-EL520 broke. So, I had only one set of lights left.
That was not a big issue as I was taking full advantage of the daylight to move.

Shortest route possible
I began with a short climb on Section 16 towards Section 13 in Petaling Jaya.
After clearing a slope, it was a smooth downhill roll towards Section 14 as I made my way towards Jalan 222.
The trick is to get across the Federal Highway via Jalan Templer and connect with the motorcycle lane.
There weren't many motorcyclists on the road as it was a public holiday and my journey was really smooth.
It took me about 20 minutes to get from Menara Star to the highway. I did good with the timing on an average-speed of 23km/h.

Dangerous stretch: the widow-maker near Sungai Way
Resting underneath a flyover
Dangerous places
Its not all rosy along the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
There are several hotspots along this area and if you are not careful, there is a very likely chance for you to get hurt.
One of the worst stretch is located along the Guiness-Anchor brewery.
There is a bad patch here and speeding motorbikes can be seen thrown off-balance.
I took a break at the area before continuing my journey towards the Subang Jaya exit.

On final approach to USJ 26
Total time and distance clocked
The nick of time...
Earlier, my wife had offered me a ride home.
I declined because I wanted to complete the cycle to work experience.
That said, the journey home was shorter than expected.
From SS13 in Subang Jaya, I began a slow and gradual climb towards USJ 1.
At a distance, the Summit USJ building was already in plain sight.
From this point, its a simple 7km ride towards the end of Persiaran Kewajipan.
After clearing a few traffic lights, I can see my car workshop at USJ19.
By the time I cleared USJ21, I can see a new shopping mall taking shape in USJ26.
The last push was a short climb on the Putra Heights flyover towards USJ24.
With the momentum from the downhill roll towards a Petronas station in USJ 23, home sweet home was already in sight.
I completed the ride in over an hour. 
My wife was already waiting to head out for dinner.

The future of cycling to work...
I think I can make it a point to cycle to work on public holidays as the dress code in the office is not strict.
Panniers bags would certainly come in really handy to store some spare clothes as well as extra lights and recovery gear.
So far, the Speed P8 had held up really well and my Schwalbe Big Apple tires are well into its third year of service.
Compared to the Jetstream EX, the P8 was a rougher ride. I missed all the comfort of a full-suspension ride...

Cycling to work series 03 part 1

Car free public holiday
Its Awal Muharam and Monday don't feel like a work day.
Fresh from my ride in Raub, Pahang, I had to set up my Dahon Speed P8 for a ride to work.
The plan is to get to the office via Persiaran Kewajipan's inner road and head towards the Federal Highway.
Now, last Friday, cycling to work was pure torture.
The SRAM Dual-Drive II sytem on my Dahon Jetstream EX had failed.
I knew that there was no other choice than to count on my trustworthy Speed P8.
This is one bike that is built like the Hercules C-130H 'Charlie', tough, robust, able to haul cargo and survive long-distance trips.
For the record, I have circumnavigated the world on an RMAF C130-H30 and this plane can really take the punishment!
That said, after rigging up the Speed P8 with two Ortlieb frontroller panniers, I was on the road.

A test of endurance...
The Speed P8 was making some creaky noise.
It came from my chain and I guess that it was dirty and in dire need of cleaning.
Othewise, everything had turned out the way it should be.
On the average, I was doing 20km/h with the high gear on this bike.
It was a smooth as silk and it took me about 35 minutes to get to the Federal Highway motorcycle lane.
While I was making a turn towards Persiaran Tujuan from USJ1, I saw three cyclists on the road.
One of them was confused and made a U-turn towards USJ 2.
Then, in the distance, I heard someone yelling my name.
"Hey Sam! I am Victor!"
So, it turned out that the guy is Victor Loo from USJ Green Riders.
These are a serious bunch of cyclists whom I have met at the Putrajaya Interparks Ride a coupla times.
I wave to them and turned towards USJ4 and began my climb at SS19.
With only 8 gears, the chore was simple - grind and spin.

A slow day on the highway
The motorcycle lane on the Federal Highway is designed in such a way, you can access places like Shah Alam, Klang, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur with your two-wheelers.
But, as a precaution, always ride on the left-hand side of the lane. The white line closest to you is a guide.
So, there I was, at an intersection, setting up my camera.
While I was at it, I noticed a roadie gliding by.
It took me less than 45-minutes to reach Sungai Way and while I was preparing to climb towards the back road near Tukang Basikal Fook Sang, I noticed a middle-aged man on a Yellow-coloured Brompton folding bike.
I waved at him and yelled: "Good morning!"
The man replied my courtesy as I crunched away on the bike, pulling further into Jalan 223.

signs everywhere: at the Subang bike lane...
 The hunger..
My attempts to fill up my tummy was unsuccessful. Most of the coffeeshops were closed. 
From the Federal Highway, I turned towards Jalan 222 and cruised towards Section 14.
It took me about 1:30:00 to reach Section 16 and the last push was a climb towards Menara Star in Phileo Damansara.
My legs were already sore from the Raub ride, but since the Speed P8 was performing, climbing the short slope in Jalan Datuk Abu Bakar wasn't that bad.
As soon as I hit the office, I changed into my part working attire and went to to do the day's chore.
Later, I had lunch at an Indian restaurant near the office and continued with the day's worth of work...

Finally! At my workstation
In proper perspective..
Well, I reached my office just on time to carry out my work. There's a long day ahead and plenty to be done.
The bike blended well with the environment and since I had to close my pages for the regional edition, I had set my target to leave the office by 5:30pm...

Oh no! Not again...

Another lock failure..
I took a trip to Rodalink in Sri Hartamas today with my cycling buddy Billy.
We checked out the bikes and while we were at it, I saw a lonely Tern Link Uno.
Curious about its handlebar latch lock's integrity, I tried to open it.
To my shock, it came out easily.
The stop-pin in the latch did not engage at all.

An actual latch on the Tern Link D8
Learning from past experience...
When I discovered this, I told the technician at the store.
He immediately told me that one of the Marketing manager from K2 Asia was nearby.
I wasted no time in getting the guy to look into this.
The man, who witnessed the lock failure told me that the pin was broken.
My question is this: "How the hell can you sell something brand new that is broken?"
If the earlier lock failure on my big boss' Tern Link D8 was purely an isolated case, then surely, the rest of the Tern bikes are okay.
I tested another bike at random and the problem is apparent.
"Oh, I have emailed Tern in Taiwan and am awaiting for their response..", said the K2 guy.
I told him that my big boss was so sporting, all he wanted was a replacement bike. He didn't even mention any legal action against the dealer and manufacturer..
If K2 Asia would have any good business sense, they will recall the faulty bikes before any more cyclists are hurt.

The issue is not with me...
I don't have any beef with K2 Asia or Tern.
Its just shocking and disappointing to find that such a good quality bike has its flaws and it was so obvious that the lock pin was not broken which the marketing guy had insisted in the beginning.
I also told him that I am not buying any Tern bikes in the near future and that what happened before my eyes had convinced me that the slightly offset handlebar latches can be a danger to unsuspecting cyclists if the lock pin did not engage.
So, if you own a Tern, please check your latch and make sure that it locks securely before you go for your rides...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kayuhan Raub 2011 - Part 3

The rear echelon...
Kampung Jelu and Kampung Pampong continued to claim the weak.
By the time I've cleared this villages, I was cycling with two boys and right ahead of me, was Michelle and a dude riding a Strida. 
This is strongest of the lot.
While maintaining my pace, I noticed that the rear hub of my bike was beginning to drag, slowing down movement to a phatetic speed of 15km/h. 
I noticed that Raub is not all flat. 
There's plenty of undulating terrain that will rob you of your energy.
Back in Kampung Jelu, I had a chain-slip. This was where Iost Michelle.
The two boys ahead of me was complaining of thirst while an adult cyclist experienced cramps...

Michelle was far ahead in this section at Kg Pampong

My new friend: Abang Din Misai
The unexpected company...
I was making my way towards Dong and Gesing.
And elderly man rode beside me and told me that all four 'basikal nyamuk' (small bikes) had dropped out. 
He told me that he loved to be in the rear-end of the pack, making sure that all is good.
The man rode with me throughout the last 42km of the Raub ride.
He introduced himself as Din.
We exchange courtesy by formally introducing ourselves and continued cycling.
The KORE i-beam seat was taking a toll on my ass. It was starting to hurt really bad, but I continued cycling.
Abang Din Misai, my moustachioed guardian angel kept me motivated.
He's a local guy and knew a lot about Raub's cycling tracks.
So, with this guy, I don't really have much issues completing the ride.

Last of the cyclists being loaded onto a truck
Abang Din, making a downhill glide

 Dropping out..
I finally caught up with two guys on their fixie bikes and the dude on a Strida.
They were resting on the road while we slowly climbed towards Dong.
I've been to this area on a camping trip many years ago, the landscape had changed so much.
Much to my enjoyment, I got to soak in the kampung view and witnessed plenty of agricultural activities like small-holders tapping rubber, ladies drying up cocoa beans.
We rode towards the Dong village centre where the cyclists re-grouped for a push towards Cheroh.
By this time, the uphill climb had taken a toll on the fixies. They were flat out.
A Ford Ranger pick up truck was on hand to sweep them and bring them back to the finishing line.
I continued with Din Misai who guided me.
"Ah, kat depan, ada dua bukit, pacak and panjang..."
He was giving me a visual idea about what that lies ahead.
Indeed, there was a long climb towards the Cheroh junction.
I crunched gears on the SRAM DDII which was showing signs of wear and tear.
The rolling resistance is beginning to take a toll on my legs.
"Sikit lagi Sam! Wah, tak sangka basikal nyamuk kamu ni boleh tahan memanjat..," said Din Misai.
This guy, he was strong. To him, the 62km loop was just practise.
Din also told me that he is an avid outdoorsman. 

The final push...
By the time we hit Cheroh, we had about 12km to Raub.
My bike was dragging so bad, I had to stop and rest.
At a grocery shop, I bought a bottle of 100PLUS for Din. A ride Marshall on a motorcycle was waiting.
When we cleared Cheroh, there was a couple of climbs ahead.
This was the point where I was dead-tired.
I asked the Marshall if I can get a tug, a few times along the way, which he agreed.
So, the last leg was a bit of a motorized tug. The SRAM DDII was giving way, making the ride even worse than ever.
We took a short-cut towards Raub Lake Gardens and made a grand entry.
At the finish line, I've asked the Marshall to help snap a picture of me and Din Misai, which he had gladly obliged.
Abang Din was the second-last man standing on the gruelling 62km ride.
I made my way towards the event area and blasted the bike's airhorn a few times, indicating that it was all over...

Mission accomplished..
Last men standing: Me and Din Misai
One for the album: the last finishers of Kayuhan Raub 2011

Hills or no hills, I must say that my RM80 for this ride in Raub, Pahang was well-spent. The organizers did a great job in ensuring every rider's safety. Kudos!
Even though Michelle did not complete her ride, she has happy with the fact that she managed to go at least 70% of the course.
The hospitality and generosity I've experienced with the locals in Raub was amazing.
Its people like Din Misai and the entire community that would make me mark Kayuhan Raub 2012 as one of the main events in my cycling diary...

Kayuhan Raub 2011 - Part 2

Early risers..
The alarm rang at 05:00am.
I checked what I was carrying on my Ortlieb hip pack and was very concscious of the weight that I am lugging.
Since our bikes were already set-up, all there's left to do, is to pack the riding gear, recovery kit and enough water and light food.
We were about to experience 62km of Raub's finest cycling track.
So, after locking up our rooms, we rode into town.
The first order of the day, was to find food.
This wan't hard because we've located a corner coffee shop in Raub's pasar minggu.
There, we had Nasi Lemak, which is enough fuel for the ride.

Getting ready to leave the hotel...

Nasi Lemak for the soul...
Meeting some old friends...
We were pretty early at the event ground and met some old friends from KL and Bentong.
First, was a lady whom we rode with earlier from Bentong to Hutan Lipur Lentang.
She rode her Dahon Matrix folding bike while the rest of her gang were on their road bikes.
Next, was a bunch of cyclists we met during the Hari Raya/Merdeka ride. 
One of the ladies were quite friendly. Another lady that was with her was rather stuck-up.
While waiting for the ride to be flagged off, we listened to the organizer's briefing.
These guys did a great job by ensuring that the cyclists were well-informed..

Off we go!
After the air horn was blared by an official from the Pahang Cycling Association, we made our way towards town.
It was a loop-ride and the first section led us to Pintu Padang.

Team Jetstream
Michelle, entertaining a group of curious boys...
Who says Raub is flat?
There were roughly about 150 cyclists in this event.
The number was manageable and as the first pack broke away, the middle flock was moving slowly climbing a slope at Pintu Padang. This section of the ride claimed its first casualties. 
I saw a guy riding a Strida folding bike on the ground. His partner turned back for him and that was the last I saw him.
At this point the ride, my Jetstream EX's SRAM Dual-Drive II was holding up. I was able to crunch the lowest gear at a 10% gradient climb.
It was slow, but surely, I made it to the top. Michelle was already waiting...
By the time I caught up with my wife, we made our way towards Ulu Gali and Kg Jelu. 
At this point, nearly 40% of the cyclists had dropped out.

Kayuhan Raub 2011 - Part 1

Chores, chores, chores...
We've packed our cycling gear the night before and was really anticipating a smooth ride in Raub, Pahang.
I bathed the dogs early in the morning and took advantage of the hot sun to dry them up.
After a late breakfast, we loaded up the bikes, our Dahon Jetstreams onto the car and lugged our gear for an overnight stay in Raub.

Bad news..
My cellphone's incoming message alert was blaring.
Fred Fernandez, my Editor had informed me about the death of a collegue on the fifth-floor.
A 57-year-old Assistant Chief Sub-Editor was killed on his way home after a trip in Singapore.
The guy died after he succumbed to his injuries two hours later in the hospital.

Settling in at Raub
We arrived in town at 04:30pm.
The order of the day, is to find a light meal and we did just that. On the GPS, Kari Ayam Sempalit came highly recommended.
My buddy Billy also told me to check it out. Turns out that this is a corner Indian restaurant in town. 
Before we could savour our meals, it started to pour heavily. Took nearly half an hour for the rain to stop and by the time we got seated, it was already late in the evening. 
My tummy was rumbling and Michelle and I shared a plate of Nasi Kari Ayam.

Expensive meal: The Kari Ayam rice

Traffic jam on the Karak highway
Slaughter of the innocent..
 I can't believe the hype of the Kari Ayam Sempalit.
A plate of rice with piece of chicken costs RM7.20. By far, this is the most expensive meal we've had in Raub.
Although the taste was acceptable, I think the pricing just sucked beyond redemption.
Raub is also famous for its Kari Kepala Ikan. But I guess with the super high pricing, its better to eat in KL...

Registration and goodie bags...
We've reached the Kayuhan Raub 2011 Secretariat and I was greeted by Encik Salim, one of the organizers.
We picked up two nicely-done T-shirts sponsored by Wah On bicycle shop and some schwag from the event.
Immediately after picking up the stuff, we drove back to town and checked-in at "Nice Stay" hotel.
The place is not bad and had no issues with guests keeping folding bikes in the rooms.
My only grouse is the smelly bathroom. Stale water from the drain really stank up the place.
After resting a bit, we decided to head out for dinner and look for some bananas.
At the lobby, we met Melvin Tang, Strida Malaysia's distributor.
We told him about the heavy rain and flash flood and took off immediately in search of some bananas..
Strange it seems. We had no luck in locating the bananas. So, we wound up searching for food.
I saw a restaurant opposite our hotel. It was tucked away on a hill slope.
Thinking that we might score a decent meal, we checked it out. And it turned out that the 'restaurant' was a girlie joint.
I noticed a bunch of Ah Peks drinking beers with their China lady companion. This rang the alarm bells as I whisked Michelle away.
We drove a kilometre down and found a place serving laksa and noodles.
Later, we had dinner at Raub's hawker centre.
The fare wasn't bad at all, for RM33, we had a damn solid meal.
I met Melvin back at the hotel, engaged in a conversation with him and later called it a night.
On the hotel's cable TV, the Walking Dead Season 2, chapter 6 was showing. I hit the sack after finishing my favourite Zombie drama...

A decent bowl of Kari Laksa

We're just happy with a simple noodle treat...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cycling to work...

Desperate times calls for drastic measures...
I sent my car in to Mr Siew's workshop in USJ19.
Fearing the radiator would blow-up, I took every precaution.
When I got to his workshop, I told him to give me the diagnostics.
My only ride to work, is my trusty Dahon Jetstream EX.

SRAM Dual Drive II and water..
Lessons learned from previous outings: Never dunk your SRAM DDII internal hub gear.
While pushing the bike to my car, I noticed that the rear wheel wasn't free-rolling.
It resisted every move and this proved to be painful in the 23km ride from USJ19 to my office in Section 16, Petaling Jaya.

Break at USJ4
Futile resistance
I think the internal gears on the SRAM DDII had been jammed up.
This made climbing the undulating terrain from USJ19 to SS19 really tough.
I must admit that after taking a break from cycling for nearly two weeks and the lack of sleep had really slowed me down.
With the sun directly above my head, I took short breaks at every 5km intervals.

Taking a short rest underneath a flyover in Sungai Way
Pounding the legs
The 'tight' feeling on the rear wheel presisted throughout the ride.
After 10km of cycling, I can feel the strain on my thighs.
When I reached the old Trebor building at Jalan 222, Petaling Jaya, my thighs began to suffer cramps.
This was remedied with a dash of Deep Heat cream.
All through the ride, the pain persisted...

Sharing the road with bikes and cars
The final push
My cellphone was screaming and I knew that the office was trying to reach me. There's work to be done to close the pages for an early weekend print run.
What that would typically take about 1 hr 30 minutes had doubled.
The heat, the pain, the resistance. 
All three became a factor and since I wasn't really pushing for time, I was already planning to get the bike to the workshop.
One car down and one bike short.
If the mechanics can fix the bike in time, its bound for Raub in Pahang this weekend. 
Otherwise, it will be spending some time at the workshop while I cycle my Speed P8.

Made it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Switching to "Plan B"

When it rains, it pours...
I noticed that my car's air-conditioning unit was blowing hot air.
"Aiya.. Not again, cooling coil rosak!", I was thinking aloud.
Then, just a kilometer away from my office, I noticed that my thermostat's gauge had breached the red-line.
This is not good. The car is reaching stalling point.
I switched off the air-cond unit and slowly drove the car to my office.
Enroute to the underground carpark, the car was beginning to slowly stall.
Lucky for me, I found a place to park and the car had ceased immediately.

A busted auto-fan...
The first course of action was to ring up my workshop in USJ19.
I gave my mechanic Mr Siew the symptoms.
"Ah, you fan kaput already la... Check under the hood, if its not moving, just add water to the coolant tank, then, you drive and if the engine cease again, arrange with your insurance company for a tow..."
Wear and tear happens. 
My car is reaching six years of age and seeing as it is, these are the symptoms of ageing and lucky for me, I could actually drive it to my office.

Age has caught up with the Samo-mobile...
Execute Plan 'A'
Okay, here's my plan: tonite, I will drive the ill-stricken Samo-mobile home.
Under the cover of night, at least it won't overheat so easily.
I will empty everything in the car, wait till tomorrow morning and drive it to my workshop in USJ 19.
The car may have to be left there overnight, and since we are going to Raub in Pahang to cycle on Sunday, I plan to carry my Speed P8, or my Jetstream EX to the office.
Seeing as it is, I think the Jetstream would be a viable option.

Plan 'B'
After leaving the car at the workshop, I will commence on my normal route to the Federal Highway's motorcycle lane. 
There, I will head out to Jalan 223 and work my way towards Section 13, before making a turn towards Section 16 and wallah!
On returning home, the simple plan is to head back to the Federal Highway and turn towards Subang Jaya...

Journey to Land's End

A brain wave...
I was driving to work on a typical day.
Everything was totally routine. Go to work, do work and go home.
Then, looking over the dashboard, I saw the bike lane sign on the Federal Highway and started imagining a ride from USJ 26 to Tg Piai near Kukup, Johor.
This will take more than a week to achieve with a distance of 408km one-way.

Plotting a route...
I started looking at Google Maps.
This is my favourite point of reference and I drew a route from my home towards Land's End in Tanjung Piai.
The programme pointed me towards Seremban and Jasin.
If you pick this, it would be a much shorter distance. But there are plenty of dangers lurking ahead.
To achieve this, I plan to cycle at least 80km a day.
There are a lot of small towns on the West Coast especially along Selangor.
The crossing to Negeri Sembilan would be short, even shorter in Malacca.
On the first day of this journey, I plan to stay a night in Port Dickson.
The next day, I will continue my journey across to Malacca and stay a night in Muar.
The following journey will take me to Batu Pahat and Pontian, that would be the last staging point before hitting Kukup, one of the Southernmost town in Johor.
In total, I will be crossing at least four statelines and push as far South as possible.
To end the journey, I might head to Johor Baru Sentral and load up the bike onto a train headed back for Kuala Lumpur.

The route map
Making it happen..
I am looking at a timeline in March 2012 to carry out this journey.
Not sure if there's anyone joining-in, way it seems, this would probably be a solo-ride.

Check your Tern's handlebar latches

I received an SMS this morning from Ah Wai Kor, my big, big, boss.
He told me he have had a bad start cycling his spanking new Tern Link D8 bike.
Wai Kor chose an Orange/White bike as his pick and cycled it for a few rounds before he crashed.
Being a true sport, he said: "Ah, nevermind.. Nevermind.. This evening, I will go riding again.."
IF that had happened to any other big wig, my ass will be fired.
Why? I was the person who recommended him the bike and he bought two.

The damaged latch cover

Lock failure: The pin did not engage
Latch failure
Ah Wai Kor had asked me to take a look at his Tern.
I wasted no time and drove to his residence.
Outside his home, his driver told me what had happened. The handlebar disengaged while he was cycling.
My big, big boss had hit the ground hard. 
Using his hands, he broke the fall and also injured his lips.

Injured: Ah Wai Kor showing off his wounds
Return and exchange...
I rang up my contact from K2 Asia and told him about the failure.
It was a brand-new bike, barely a day old.
Lucky thing was the rider wasn't hurt really bad.
I brought the bike to Rodalink in Desa Sri Hartamas and got it exchanged with a new bike.
So, if you have a Tern Link D8, check your handlebar's latch. Make sure that its secure before you ride.
Also, check your seatpost. Seems that the factory-settings are also a bit loose....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obvious advantages of a folding bike in touring

What a mouthful title!
Yeah, in this continuing series on touring foldies, I would like to touch on the advantages of a folding bicycle, especially when it comes to its compact size and portability.

Even when folded, the Dahon Speed P8 took very little space with its pack racks
Portable mobility
Bikes with wheel sizes at 20" are the most ideal for touring.
You can set it up easily and it doesn't really take up a lot of space in a stow-bag or even an airport safe baggage.
In the case of local travel, a padded stowbag is enough to withstand the rigorous bus and train ride.
If you want to shave on weight, a carry-on cover would do the job.
As far as weight issues are concerned, a typical mid-range foldie would weight about 12kgs.
I don't think this is too heavy to lug around....

Unlike full-sized bikes, foldies can be stashed and stowed in your room.
Just be courteous to people around you when you carry the bike into your motel room.
There are places that prohibits bicycles in their premise. 
With the folding bike, this is hardly an issue.

Our foldies in Thailand
Transport and storage
If you want to commit in an interstate travel on buses, its adviseable to invest in a padded carry on bag for your bike.
These can be found in most bike stores and the typical price for a good stowbag is round RM230 - RM300.
For air travel, its bes that you invest in a semi-hard luggage. 
Some seasoned travellers pack their foldies in a hard case to prevent damage.
If you have to dismantle the wheels, make sure that sensitive parts like the drivetrain and derailleurs are protected.
All you need to do, is to wrap it in packing foam.
For the less-sophisticated traveller, they would pack the bikes in a bike box. 
The risk of damage is apparent this way.