Saturday, June 30, 2012

Batang Kali Bikepacking Ride - Part 2

Calm after the storm..
The rain stopped and timing was just perfect to ride out.
Rather than climbing, the journey out to Hulu Yam Baru was a smooth roll.
We took the route to Hulu Yam Lama and had  a brief tour of the village.
I also wanted to show the guys the Lam Mee stall in this particular part of the world.
The ride was really smooth and I guess that most of the bikepackers had enjoyed the village setting.
We reached Hulu Yam Lama and the guys feasted on the Lam Mee.
After a fill, we proceeded to the Batang Kali station via the KL-Ipoh trunk road. 
There was a short climb on a flyover towards Batang Kali town as we slowly made our way back to the train station..

Having lunch..
The Sendat falls

Riding out
A plan..
The ride to Sendat falls and back to Batang Kali train station was a short distance affair.
My concern was not to strain the cyclists too much.
That is because there is a return trip to KL Sentral on the train.
If the guys fall asleep, a million things can go wrong.
When you go bikepacking, you need to take care of your personal belongings as well as your bike..
We completed the ride at about 3.30pm.
Most of us bought a return ticket to Sentral.
My plan was to jump on the LRT and head to the Taman Jaya station.
Toh, who offered the car pool had parked at this LRT station.
We boarded the Komuter without a hitch and took on a smooth ride back to Sentral...

At the KL-Ipoh trunk road

The Batang Kali station
One for the album: The bikepackers at Batang Kali
We parted ways when the train arrived at KL Sentral.
Toh later gave me a lift home.
On the whole, the bikepacking trip was a success.
With Batang Kali as a good start, we might extend the trip to Ipoh soon!
As for the day-long affair, we've had good company and an easy ride...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Batang Kali Backpacking Ride - Part 1

The forum's activity..
Since 'Malaysian Foldies' has gone live on Facebook, there were some encouraging responses.
This is an offshoot from the Forums and so far, we have more than 200 members. 
The active ones have never missed a single ride organized for the domain.
Which goes to the case of a recent bikepacking ride from KL Sentral to Batang Kali in Selangor.

From the uninitiated, there has been a lot of complaints about KTMB's Komuter service.
Yes, its a fact that bicycles are not allowed onboard.
But things are changing.
With a folding bike which is properly bagged, you can now commute and travel around the Klang Valley and to towns as far as the Singapore and Thai border with your bike.
Hence, the exercise is to promote travel with a bicycle and for newcomers to experience bikepacking.
I've done this numerous time and when it comes to organizing a ride as such, there are logistics involve.
So, I planned the meeting place in KL Sentral and from there, we travel to Batang Kali and ride towards Hulu Yam Baru.

Destination: Sungai Sendat
I've been to the Sungai Sendat waterfalls near Hulu Yam Baru.
This is a picturesque tourist spot which is packed during weekends.
And its also a straight-forward 12km ride from Batang Kali train station.
The return fare from KL Sentral to Batang Kali is RM9.80.
I was lucky that CK Toh, one of our regular folding bike kaki had offered to car pool to KL Sentral where we met six other riders.
On this trip, I cycled with Andrew Ng and his wife including old-timer Sin Tai Lim and television personaly Chris Ng for the first time.
The regulars were Roger Teoh, Radzi and Toh.

Blending in: the foldies and commuters enroute to Rawang
We started the journey from KL Sentral to Rawang before switching onto a train to Batang Kali.
Lucky for us, the timing was impeccable.
We arrived in time to wait for another 30minutes before the connecting train to Tg Malim arrived.
It takes about one and a-half hours for the commuting journey and we reached Batang Kali at 10am in the morning.
After setting up the bikes, we rode towards Hulu Yam Baru.
To my surprise, the rural road had lanes which is wide enough for bikes to cycle.
Traffic was a breeze as we cycled towards our destination.
At Hulu Yam, we made a stop for tea and packed our lunch.

At the Batang Kali train station

Near the Genting Highland alternative route
I had my Jetstream EX's Ashima PCB brakes fixed and this was the first time the bike was taken on a train.
So far, no issues on boarding the train and traveling to Batang Kali.
While we were at KL Sentral, the group did attract some attention from the onlookers.
The foldies and their bikes became an ice-breaker.
From Hulu Yam, it was a breezy 6km ride to Sungai Sendat.
There were several climbs along the way, which was not bad as most of us had no issues riding the hilly road.
And to my joy, the picnic area around the falls was not crowded.
We found a hut to settle down and parked our bikes.

No sweat: climbing the slope to Sg Sendat

Arrival at destination
 After the short ride, I worked out an appetite and had my packed lunch.
The rest of the guys went on to survey the falls.
And for some strange reason, the weather started to play up.
It rained and we took shelter on the hut before calling it a day..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Training, training, training..

Getting soft..
Michelle and I had managed to get a place at the CFAL4 ride in Penang this coming September.
Now, that said, the climb to Balik Pulau and Titi Krawang is a feat that one could only achieve with the proper training.
So, we decided to ride in Hulu Langat Bt 18 in Selangor again to get our long-distance legs going.
The course is a straight forward 82km loop around Penang island.

True grit: Michelle and her three-speed Dahon on Dead Man's Climb
 Back to basics
I made arrangements with Starmetro Cycling Team captain Kevin Tan who dragged along our Assistant Chief Photographer Glenn Guan to cycle at Pekan Bt 18.
The plan was to cycle down the Semenyih Dam and back.
But when we pushed off from the starting point, Michelle said her front tire developed some problems.
It swelled up and was wobbling.
She asked for the car keys and rode back to the Police station where we parked.
Kevin, Glenn and I continued.
I also met Mr Sam Choy's group of foldies at Pekan Bt 18 and there were about 10 of them who were cycling to Pekan Titi in Negeri Sembilan.

Made it! At the junction
 The Curves needs its service..
We left our small Dahons idle and it was collecting dust and Husky fur.
Michelle's Dahon Curve D3 had a front tire blowout sometime back. I fixed the problem by replacing its damaged inner tube.
That obviously didn't help as she had to ride her injured little red bike to the starting point.
While she was at it, I rode behind Kevin and Glenn.
We reached the farmhouse and just ahead of it: 'Dead Man's Climb'.
I remember this clearly as an elderly man died while cycling the last 800 metres to reach the Kuala Klawang - Semenyih junction.
This place has changed a lot. 
There's a communication tower that enables Celcom users to get a clear signal.
I gave Michelle a ring to tell her on where to meet when we ride back.
Kevin, who rode his Tern Verge X20 for the first time, said he wanted more climbing action and proceeded to the 10km uphill ride.
I waited there and while I was at it, a pick-up truck pulled over.
The driver got down to set up a support base for their cyclist.
Minutes later, Michelle was making her way up Dead Man's Climb.
Barely moments after that, a fat guy who was clad in black was struggling uphill.
He pulled over at the support car.
By the looks of it, I guess he must have been a VVIP customer of some bigwig at NAZA who tried out cycling.
Later, we rode back to the 18th mile village to have our breakfast and called it a day.
We will continue to train in Hulu Langat as a means to prepare ourselves for the CFAL4 ride.
But before the next session, I will have to send my Curves for a tune-up. The brakes are gone!

The Jet's fully set to go!

A quick turnaround..
Chris Khoo from Zero2Hero Asia rang me up.
The broken piston on my bike was fixed.
Then, his boss Darcy sent me an email.
My eyes literally flew out of my skull's socket when I saw the pricing.
Its one-third the cost of a Shimano XT brakeset.
I voiced out my concerns to Chris who later referred to his boss.
Then, I received a follow-up email from the owner of Zero2Hero.
He said Ashima will honour the part replacement and all I need to do, is to pay labour charge.
That's half the amount and a relief to my pocket.

Something about Herbert..
Okay, this is another thing. 
I met one of Z2H's tech dude Herbert some years back.
He's a decent dude and is also one of the most polite tech at Pedalspot bike shop in SS2. 
Thinking that he did pretty well, I was surprised to meet him at Z2H's boutique workshop. 
As a matter of fact, he's the guy who worked on my Ashima brakeset.
Herbert's in some jam with his employer at Pedalspot and I offered some advise as to how to face the issue. 
As for the brakes, he did a decent job.

Tools readily available: A bleed kit, PCB spanner and tool
 A bleak legacy and a daunting task..
The last guy who was in charge of Ashima brakes in Malaysia did a crappy job. 
After a period of neglect, Z2H has an uphill task to restore the trust and confidence among the Ashima users here.
So far, I was the third customer who sent in their bike for service at Z2H.
Since the guys did a decent job with the brakes, I guess there is no need to get the brakeset replaced.
Herbert said the 'swell' and pressure build-up in the rear brake was caused by a faulty piston.
Now that the front brake's piston also broke, both the parts were replaced.
Apart from that, I also bought a set of Ashima PCB Bleed Kit and a set of tools to go with it. So, that said, if I have any issues with the PCBs again, the guys to lookout for are at Z2H.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Confessions of a titaniac

There's no turning back..
I purchased my first set of titanium utensil by Snowpeak from Tripleaught Design back in 2003 and there has never been a dull day with these implements.
Back in the days, a titanium Spork (combination of spoon and fork) was sold at USD$8.95 a piece.
I also bought a Snowpeak 450 double-walled titanium mug and a 750 trek solo titanium cookset.
It was a heavy start-up investment, but titanium is built to last.

The titanium spork

This little bugger has traveled far and wide..
 The utensils and cookset are compact enough to be hauled in daypack and all I need: is a stove to complement it.
So, the Optimus Svea 123 that I have been using for years had served me well with the 750 cookset.
That said, the Snowpeak titanium gear will see a lot of Cyclocamping trips..

Hope for the Pancake

A third opinion..
 The cleaners broke my fucking brake lever. 
They got away with it, I have to pay.
Now, the decision weighed: Pay RM570 for a brand new (well, last year's model) Shimano XT M755 brake set.
I saw these at Rodalink in Bandar Botanic and was pretty impressed with the fit and finish.
Yesterday evening, I received a phonecall from Danny Teo, my contact with Schwalbe and Le Run Industries.
He told me to ring up Chris Khoo from Hero2Zero Asia to follow-up on the Ashima PCB brake lever.
I did just that and was really surprised with the response. 
He told me to bring the bike over for a look and said that they have just taken over from an Australian dude to deal with Ashima and Rholoff.

Klaus the tech dude and Chris at the workshop
Respectable professionalism
So, I took my wounded Jet to the new workshop in Lorong Batai off Jalan Damansara.
Apparently, these are the same dudes who offer training for Mountain Bikers who were featured in
I told Chris the problem with my Ashima PCB and showed him the broken lever.
Now, the turnaround time for the service is five working days.
As for cost, I am not sure how much I have to pay for the replacement parts.
Hopefully, I won't have to fork out a thousand bucks for doing so..

Zero2Hero's workshop

The bikes queued for service
 Later, I chatted with Chris who had just started work with the company for three months.
He told me that once he could address the matter, he would get back to me to quote the cost of replacing the damaged brake lever.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

El Capitan's new bike

Questions, questions, questions...
Our cycling team Captain Kevin Tan was doing some serious research on a folding bike.
Then, he came up to me and popped the ultimate question: "Eh Sam, Brompton bicycles good ah?"
I told him that he should give it a try.
There is a bike shop in Damansara Perdana that sells them.
A couple of days later, he came back to me and asked for a second-opinion.
I told him that what he needed, was a folding road bike.
Hence, the Tern Verge X-20.
For starters, Kevin stood at 6' and is pretty heavy.
He also tried the Brommie and didn't quite like the way it handled.
And to get a comparison, he also tried the new HASA Minimax Titanium which he said was really flimsy.

The final say 
So, I made some arrangement with the K2 Asia rep. 
I told him that I am bringing a VVIP customer to the Tern Boutique and concept store in Bandar Botanic, Klang, which is damn fucking far and a pure waste of petrol.
Now, I emailed the guy in the morning and when I reached the store, I was surprised to find Ben, the awesome mechanic from Rodalink Putrajaya tuning the bike.
I watched as he tweaked the machine.
Since the Verge X-20 came without pedals, he mounted a pair of cheapo one on the bike for the tryout.
I didn't expect Kevin to commit at all.

Meticulous: Kevin and Ben fitting the bike
 The Verge X-20 has a retail price of RM10,060, making it one of the most expensive folding bikes around.
I gave it a try and it handles really well. 
Frame lock-up was really solid and the ride was also very smooth.
 It takes some getting used to when it comes to shifting with the double-tap system.
After taking it out for a spin, Kevin did the unthinkable. 
He paid for the bike and arranged to have it sent to Rodalink in Sri Hartamas.
There are fewer than five people in Malaysia who owns the Verge X-20, now, Kevin is one of them..

Kevin, sharing his thoughts on the bike

Sold! Kevin and his new ride
 The growing number of Tern owners in The Star
Other than Ah Wai Kor and Nice Guy Eddie, Kevin is now the new Tern bicycle owner.
I managed to convince them, well, despite the fact that Ah Wai Kor had crashed his bike and smashed his face - to get a Tern bike.
Now, the irony of it all is the fact that I don't even own a Tern. Hahahahah!!!!
Having said that, I do see the trend picking up as a few of my co-workers are considering Tern as their first folding bike..

Southwest to Tg Sepat - Part 4

The definition of 'fun'
There's no doubt that folding bicycles are getting popular.
Compared to three years ago, more people are taking their bikes on the road.
From its infancy to maturity, folding bike touring has taken a new perspective in terms of mobility and range.
With a properly-rigged bike, the journey can be endless.
In our case, we've done fairly well on our Dahon Speed P8 and Speed TR.
And for the record, very few people have gone touring on a folding bike. That is a fact.
Tg Sepat in this case, is the perfect staging point for longer rides - especially towards Port Dickson and Malacca.
I see plenty of potential in this route with the exception of the Jenjarom - Banting stretch..
And when it comes to touring, our main aim is to have fun.
Making the ride enjoyable meant having planned the routing and breaks meticulously.
Our time in Tg Sepat had come to an end and its now back to our home in USJ26.
Having found the correct routing, we should not go off-course like we did the day before.
Before we set out, breakfast was in order.
And based on the recommendation from the owner of the Vietnam coffeeshop, we tried the Fish Kut Teh guy near the Chinese temple.
Now, here's a trivial thing: If you want to eat Bak Kut Teh in Tg Sepat, better be early.
There's competition as busloads of foreigners were racing to chow down their Bak Kut Teh.
We sat down at a table and waited for a young man to take our order.
He recommended shark meat to go with the Fish Kut Teh which I rejected.
So, finally, we managed to score a bowl with all the usual stuff and started to chow down our breakfast.
By 9am, Tg Sepat was already packed to the brim with foreigners.
We made our way back to our room and started to pack up and leave..

A foreign bus in Tg Sepat

Decent: the seafood Bak Kut Teh
  Before we check out, I worked on Michelle's Dahon Speed TR.
I lubricated her chain with some Teflon grease to make the ride smoother.
So far, the TR had held on very well, even on offroad environment, but Michelle said she preferred the Jetstream P8 as its more comfortable.
Once I was done, we dropped the keys and began to ride out of Tg Sepat..

Giving the chain a little clean-up

Found a place to chill!
Riding out of town

Our favourite photo spot in Morib
Pedal power!
We were averaging between 20 - 25km/h from Tg Sepat to reach Morib in 45-minutes.
It was getting really hot with the Sun directly over our heads.
I told Michelle that we shouldn't waste time to cycle to Banting.
Since we had quite a fill at the Bak Kut Teh shop, there's enough stored energy to push all the way to Banting, which is 23km away.
Morib was no sweat as we worked out way to places like Tongkah, Simpang Morib and Kanchung Darat.
When we reached Banting, a man driving a banged-up piece of junk had suddenly swerved out. I engaged my airhorn and by the look on his face, he wasn't really pleased. Fuck him.
We took a little more than an hour to reach Banting town and as we made our way toward the evil Banting bridge, I noticed a signboard that says: "Cendul Banting".
Now, having tried another stall further down the road, I was thinking out aloud: "Well, which is the 'real' Banting Cendul???"
I signaled for Michelle to pull over and we had a taste of this icy dessert.
Now, we had the 'kosong' (without glutinous rice and some red toad egg-like thing) with the Cendul and it tasted great.

The evil Banting bridge

The old way: a worker using an ice-shaver

Another Cendul stall!
I spent some time snapping some shots of the Cendul guy.
He didn't mind being photographed.
And a week earlier, some senior guy from the editorial floor actually criticized me on my photos.
"Eh Sam, you don't know how to take pictures la, your photos are lousy!," said the old-timer.
I told him that I am not a photographer and his reaction was: "Ah! Those cameraman, they simply snap only la! A good photo comes from the eyes of a reporter!"
What the fuck was this guy talking about and why did he insulted the photographers? 
He suggested that I take a short course in photojournalism without examining my background. What a prick!
Anyway, moving on, when we were done with the Cendul, we moved on the Banting bridge.
Michelle seems to be more energetic compared to the previous day and the first 500 metres was a climb.
With a heavy load, I was crunching my gears. But that was no sweat because our training in the hills of Hulu Langat actually helped.
I learned the proper climbing technique from the gurus back in the days and the skills had proven to be useful.
As we rolled down the Banting bridge, Jenjarom and its death alley is just a 7km stretch..

Climbing the Banting bridge

Taking a break at the Caltex Station in Jenjarom
 The heat, the heat, the heat...
We did okay from Tg Sepat to Jenjarom.
As the Sun rose above our heads, I signaled for a halt at the Caltex station in Jenjarom.
This is a crucial staging point in the ride.
My cyclometer had clocked-in 120km. The GPS recorded the same.
We have roughly about 30km to go in the journey home.
The decision was to ride towards Kg Jenjarom and turn to Jalan Sukepi and Jalan Kebun.
It will be a short and bumpy ride ahead.
Well, ironically, another group had set out on the same route, especially at Jalan Kebun.
What made me laugh was the fact that some of the riders had suspension folding bikes and they were pushing their rides on the unpaved road. What a bunch of pussies!

A lovely stretch: the kampung road near Jalan Kebun
As rough as it can get: the offroad section

Connecting to the home run: Jalan Kampung Lombong
 I think its a sheer waste of time modifying a full-suspension bike and pushing it on the gravel road: fearing damage. 
If this is so, the guys have no business on the trail. They might as well ride their Birdies on the race track.
The road to Jalan Kampung Lombong was straight-forward.
Just follow the sandy road and right at the end of it, we found the underpass on the Elite Highway.

The home-stretch..
We cleared Kg Lombong with no issues..
What looms ahead: is the seven villages in Puchong located along the Klang river. 
Total time spent on the road is roughly more than four hours and we have covered quite a bit to reach the bridge that connects Puchong to Subang Jaya.

Riding along the Klang River

Underneath the ELITE Highway

Home at last!
It didn't take much effort to cycle back to USJ26.
We stopped by the Petronas station near USJ24 to pick up some ice to make some iced Oolong tea.
After leaving Tg Sepat at 9:30am, we arrived at our home in USJ26 by 2:30pm. 
Rather than using the KESAS Highway motorcycle lane and Kota Kemuning, we have success in paving a route using Kg Lombong which is significantly shorter.
To sum it up, it was a fun trip!

Ride statistics

Total distance: 153.2km
Average speed: 10.7km
Maximum speed: 47.8km
Time: 14hrs:16mins:47sec (2 days)
Number of punctures: 0
Number of stops: 10

Southwest to Tg Sepat - Part 3

A different perspective on Tg Sepat
 We've rode to Tg Sepat on many occasions and I must say that staying a night in this village is a memorable experience.
After getting some rest, Michelle and I took down the bikes and rode around the town square.
We went to a restaurant for dinner and since there are a quite a number of seafood, we settled for a place which is located at the edge of the town.
So, we landed at Hock Heng Huat restaurant.
The dishes here were standard. We had Horr Chien, Fishball soup which was just below average and the curried shark fillet.
Dinner came to RM56 including a bottle of beer.

Cruising in Tg Sepat...
 After a fill, we rode towards another section of the village.
I had my Manfrotto light tripod and my Canon Powershot G1X for a landscape photography tryout.
So, we ended up at a fisherman's jetty and I found a decent place to set up my camera and tripod.
The night was really windy with waves pounding the breakwater.
And as usual, there were scores of local tourists from all over the country who were eating at two of the most popular makan places in the village.
When I was done, we rode back to the Homestay to take a break...

At the breakwater

Tg Sepat's famous landmark: the Lover's Bridge
 Late night in Tg Sepat
We tried to get some shut-eye, but a house across the street from our Homestay was blaring out music at full-blast.
Not satisfied with the below-average quality dinner, I suggested to Michelle about taking a walk around the village's town square.
She agreed and we were on our way - cruising down the streets of Tg Sepat.
The first thing I noticed about the music was a wooden house with speakers stacked to its roof. Man, the dude who owns this sound system is serious about his hobby!
And there we were - taking a leisurely stroll.
We found a nice Malay cafe serving good burger and the one thing that caught my attention was the sight of a woman frying char koay teow. 
There's not much activity in this village except for people chilling out in coffee shops.
And that's exactly what we did.
I found another char koay teow stall at Lorong 4 and wasted no time in ordering a cup of coffee and a plate of fried noodles.
While I snapped some shot, there was a commotion in the background. 
Apparently, an old-timer was kicking a fuss. I didn't take his picture and way I see it, what the fuck was his problem?
Anyway, I acted oblivious to his behavior and went on with my coffee. 
The char koay teow here is pretty decent. It costs RM3.50 per plate and I can see that everyone was enjoying themselves.

Enjoying a plate of char koay teow with a nice cuppa

Sleepy hollow: Tg Sepat at night
 Later, we walked down a couple of rows and found 'Vietnam Coffee' at a shop whose neighbour is the famous Tg Sepat 'Fish Kut Teh'.
There was a nice long bench and table where we sat and as we chilled out there, I ordered a small plate of char koay teow.
A lady came by to take our drinks order and we had iced Vietnam coffee.
This costs RM3 a glass and is damn sweet.
The shop owner came by and I ordered a glass of iced coffee black.
He was puzzled as to why we don't want excessive sugar.
"Eh, very bitter la!," he said.
I told him that it was okay. 
Then, I asked him about his famous neighbor and if there is anyone in town that can rival his Fish Kut Teh.
"Ah, you must try my cousin's place next to the Chinese temple down the road.." 
On the char koay teow, Michelle loved the first stall.
My choice was the second stall. 
Why? Raw cockles! Springy and crunchy like clam sashimi! And best of all, it costs RM3 for a single serving.

We need Vietnam coffee!

Char koay teow done right: Stall no 2 rocks!
 We chilled out at the shop till we finished the coffee and walked back to the Homestay.
By this time of the day, the activity in town had halted.
I noticed that the music lover too had switched off this sound system.
That said, time to catch some sleep for the ride back the next day...