Wednesday, April 30, 2014

First impressions: Tern Eclipse S18

Enter the Road Warrior...

Built to survive: Tern's Eclipse S18
I am taking some time to set up my latest touring bike.
And its a 24" foldie.
When I first heard of its existence, I've pretty much made up my mind about acquiring two more 24" bikes to complement my current range of 24" bikes including the Eclipse X20 and P9.
Out of the box, it's ready for inner city commutes and a ride in the countryside.
This is also a long-range bike that is built with comfort in mind.
It's also a worthy successor of the Eclipse P24h which was meant for touring if you set it up with racks.

The saddle has to go...

Well, the first thing I got rid of, were the Biologic Phia gel saddles.
I replaced it with a KORE saddle while the other bike enjoyed a Selle Royal gel seat. These will be kept as spares in my inventory.

The new KORE saddle on my Road Warrior
Widest tires in its class..

I've ridden the Eclipse S11i sometime back and found it to be really smooth rolling and comfortable on short and medium distance rides.
But it had some issues with the SKS fenders that seems to twist easily on the fork and underneath the seatstays.
Tern has improved this by using a larger and wider fork on the S18 and fitted it with a set of SKS Aluflex XXL spoilers. And they looked really good and functional.
Even the tires are larger than the Schwalbe Big Apple. 
On this bike, there's the Big Ben 24 x 21.5 tires that are made with a textured surface. Puncture protection on this low-pressure tire is said to be one of the best around.

The Schwalbe Big Ben 24x21.5 front tire, wide, comfortable and tough
Biologic's latest portage rack and the Spartan front rack

Tern is selling its Road Warrior with a set of luggage racks.
You get the Biologic Portage 24 and the Spartan rack to carry your front and rear pannier and the Portage system is Kickflix compatible. This means endless possibilities for the cyclist who wants to enhance the bike's luggage and cargo carrying capabilities.

Anytime, anywhere: The Portage 24 rack is specially designed for Tern's 24" bikes
All the bells and whistles you will need for the road..

While the components for the bike are mid-range parts, Tern did not cut corners by giving the Road Warrior a set of Valo 2 front light which is capable of delivering 150lumens of illuminaton and this is powered by the award-winning Joule 3 dynamo hub.
For added safety, a Spanniga LED rear light is integrated with the Joule energy system. This means you can leave home without worrying about returning late at night.

The Valo 2 headlight

Biologic's Joule 3 dynamo system is an award-winning design..
The first ride...

I took this bike out for a photoshoot and found it to be really smooth.

Of course it was tuned by Master Johnny Ng of My Bicycle Shop and I don't think anyone around can do a better job.
The Big Ben tires are really comfortable, taking off all the bumps and knocks during the ride and there's more to come as I have plans to ride the Road Warrior on long-distance excursions.
This bike will also be our standard mode of transport in our tours around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Project Road Warrior

An exciting prospect..

I was on the lookout for a folding bike that is perfect for the purpose of touring and long distance overland trips.
Last year at Eurobike, Tern Bicycles announced their latest 24" bikes: The Tern Node and Eclipse P18 and S18. With that, the Eclipse P9 was dropped from the line-up.
In March this year, I saw for myself the first time: An Eclipse S18. 
This bike is built like a tank and the guys at Tern really worked hard on getting it right.

The two-tone coloured S18

The Road Warrior
Replacing our Dahon Speed P8 and TR

I've had my Dahon Speed P8 for more than six years.
Its been used for social rides and touring around the country and Thailand.
As far as the Dahons are concerned, they are the best 20" folding bikes we ever had.
There's little to worry about its hardiness and reliability.
In short, the Speed P8 hardly failed me.
But the technology is old. In six years, a lot has happened.
That said, I found that the Tern Eclipse S18 is a worthy successor of the Dahon Speed P8 and TR.
So, we retired it from active rides for the time being.

A bike that fits the bill

The Tern Eclipse S18 is an all-inclusive bike.
It comes with a set of racks and all you need to do, is to mount your panniers and you are good to go. There's no need to worry about lighting as it came complete with a set of headlight and rear lights.
And speaking of Green energy, the lights are powered by the very efficient Biologic Joule 3 Dynamo hub that I have tested extensively.
For me, it's the perfect bike for touring.
This totally eliminates the need of getting a Surly Troll or Long Haul Trucker for our future excursions.

Waiting time and delivery

I was informed by Kevin Foong of K2 Asia that the bikes are here along with the Eclipse P18s that were shipped from Taiwan. From late last year till now, the wait was not too long.
To secure the purchase, I paid up front and the remaining balance when I collected the bikes.
We bought two S18s for our tours and future project.
I am pretty happy with the quality, fit and finish of the bike and after unboxing them, I had the bikes tuned by Master Johnny Ng of My Bicycle Shop.
I trust him to set up the bikes as he is very experienced with folding bicycles especially with Dahons and Terns.
The first upgrade I carried out was replacing the S18s stock saddles to a Selle Royal and a Kore saddle.
After doing that, I am very happy with how the bikes are set up.
The next thing is to run it in and there's plenty of opportunity to do it over the next few months before we embark of our Tour of Langkawi in August.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Battle of the fitness trackers

Motivation on your wrist..

I came to know about fitness trackers via tech domains such as CNET and ZDNet. 
The first wrist-worn fitness band that caught my attention was the Nike Fuel Band. I read about it on the Outside magazine.
It tracks your daily activity and such and the info can be uploaded onto a training page. Well, that's Nike and its very expensive.
Now, above it all, there's a product called Fitbit that became famous with their model Flex wrist-worn fitness tracker.

Fitbit Flex

How does it work? 

The Fitbit Flex is actually a sensor pod which is fitted onto a wrist band. You wear it and it measures your steps as you walk. The little pod is also built with a wireless connectivity feature where all the activity data recorded can uploaded onto its user interface dashboard on Here, your steps are recorded and goals are set to achieve your daily goal. The Fitbit flex can be programmed and also paired with a WiFi enable weighing scale. This means that you can customize a weight loss programme through what you eat and how active you are. It also tracks your sleep which made it really interesting. When set on sleep mode, the fitness tracker actually records your movement during sleep, how many times you get up and actual sleeping hours.

Fitness trackers available in the market... 

Fitbit Flex

This is perhaps one of the best fitness trackers available.
It's simple, no-frills, lightweight and impressive in terms of performance.
Straight out of the box, you will find the Flex, a wireless dongle, charger and a spare band (Large sized).
Setting it up is rather easy, just create an account on 
The Near Field Communication (NFC) allows the Flex to communicate with most NFC-enabled Android and IOS smartphones.
It's waterproof, so, you can wear it anytime.
The cool part is when you achieve your goal, an array of LED lights will flash from left to right and a miniature motor in the Flex pod will vibrate.
The Flex has a battery life of a week and has to be charged via pod dock with your USB slot. 
But, the Achilles heel on the flex is the fact that it's band breaks down easily and the part that sucks is the fact that you cannot purchase replacement bands locally. 
Its priced between RM375 - RM450 depending on whether you source it from Ebay or from on-line shopping sites such as

Jawbone UP

Jawbone UP

This is a favourite among runners, cyclists and swimmers.
It packs a premium price of RM500 a pop and is sized to fit. This means you have to get the correct size to fit your wrist.
Used with an IOS smartphone, you can plug it onto your phone and upload all your fitness activity data.
The only downside on the Jawbone is that it too tends to breakdown from wear and tear.

Garmin's fitness tracker: the Vivofit
Garmin Vivofit

The world's leading GPS manufacturer Garmin came up with their own version of a fitness band called Vivofit.
This is sensor pod with a display window carried on a wrist strap.
It's also a fitness tracker that does not depend on charging as two button cells that powers it would last for a year.
Set-up is pretty simple with the Garmin Express software (PC) and all your activities will be uploaded onto The site has been revamped to accommodate the Vivofit including other GPS-enabled sports tracker such as the Garmin Forerunner.
The Vivofit is priced at RM499 and comes in five different colour.
Compared to the Fitbit Flex, the Vivofit lacked the NFC capabilities and its app is only compatible with newer Android phones (OS 4.4 and above).
The lack of a vibration motor also puts the Vivofit one step below Fitbit's Flex fitness tracker. Hopefully, this would be a standard feature if Garmin ever comes up with an improved version of the fitness band...

New Balance 990v3

Seeking a worthy replacement..

I take footwear very seriously.
Why? Because I spend the whole day at work wearing it.
My criterias: comfort and performance.
And I was pretty disappointed when New Balance had discontinued their NB1521s. 
I replaced my 1520 two years ago with the 1521 that succeeded it.
Eventually, it was taken out of New Balance's inventory...

A visit to Taiwan

I was told that there are plenty of shop selling New Balance shoes. 
One place in particular sold the US-made NB 990s.
This is version 3 of the footwear and it has some really remarkable features.
What I love about it is the 4E width.
This means, guys like me who has a broad foot is able to wear it with much comfort.
I took the plunge by paying NT$6,900 (about RM720) for a pair of the 990v3.
This shoe runs wide and fits like a glove.

Speaking of comfort, it yields plenty of cushioning and stability.

Likes and dislikes

The 990v3 is a well-built shoe.
It's entirely made in the USA and is meant for running.
I've cycled through many New Balance shoes over the last 10 years and so far, the most expensive pair in my keeps is the NB2040. These would go for nearly RM2k a pair here in Malaysia.
On the 990v3, the NB logo is reflective and this worked very well.
What I don't particularly like, is the white sole which gave it that "schoolboy" look.
Other than that, I don't have much bad things to say about this shoe!

Friday, April 25, 2014

First impressions: Motorola Moto G

Forged from the fire of a dying star.. 

Not Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, but Motorola's entry-level smartphone, the Moto G.
I picked one up from Brightstar Distributors for use in my Tour of Southern Thailand.
Why? Because I am too lazy to remove the SIM card from my HTC One X+ which is also seemingly "outdated" by today's standards.

Value for your money: the Moto G 
The Moto G runs on the latest Android OS
Motorola was ailing and was bought over by Google and eventually went out on its own.
They've seemed to have lost a significant market share to Apple and Samsung.
I for one, am never a fan of both companies.
The introduction of the Moto G sparked my interest in trying out Motorola's hardware.
My main purpose is to take advantage of its data connectivity and this phone outshined most of its competitors in its class..
It has two SIM slots, a fast quadcore processor and an amazing battery life.

The pricing factor...

Back in the days, a dual-core smartphone would cost nearly RM2K. Today, you can pick up one at 1/10th of the cost. Thanks to the rapid development of microprocessors and if you factor in the specs on the Moto G (1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor), it has enough computing power to put many tasks on your hand.
And if you are a heavy Google user, the integration from desktop to your pocket is seamless. All you need to do, is to synchronize your Google account with the phone and you are in business.
The apps that does the trick is the Motorola Migrate. It transfers all your contacts and apps from your old phone to the Moto G.


For a phone that costs less than RM800, (Even cheaper on some on-line stores), the Moto G does pack some punch.
It has a sharp 4.5" screen, lag-free transition from one home screen to the other and is able to do a bit of multi-tasking with other apps running.
The only flaw I see, is the lack of space in its internal memory (8GB & 16GB models available), but Google made good by adding 50GBs of cloud storage space with its Google Drive apps.
The camera is also pretty decent. It snaps some really good photos in daylight and has a real strong flash. Compared to the Samsungs, the Moto G's flash is commendable. The results were stunning! The only Achilles hell on the camera is the fact that it doesn't have a self-timer that you can set for selfies.
Other than that, its user-interface, effects generating capabilities are above par compared to other smartphones of its class...

Sample gallery


It's not hard to transit to this smartphone although it lacked of certain high-end features such as the NFC, external memory slot, but the excellent performance of the Moto G pretty much made up for these little shortcomings.
For a phone that costs less than RM800, it does its job flawlessly. I used it to keep in touch with the world and fed live updates on my tour in Thailand and it does just that with amazing results. What's more: you get the Android KitKat OS which is the latest and the integration of software and hardware on the Moto G is seamless and flawless. 
I would pack this as a secondary phone for travel without the need of switching SIM cards because it has two slots and if Motorola would come up with more good phones such as this, they are certainly here to stay...

ToST III - Part 8

Leaving Hat Yai...

We had half the day free.
Some of the guys had decided to sleep in while a few of us headed to the city area in search of late breakfast.
The hotel offered food at its restaurant and pub.
This is just an average fare and since we've had so much to drink the night before, it was just right to load up on coffee and some light snacks.
Sin suggested the porridge shop near the old Lee Garden hotel on Niphat Uthit 3. 
The place is very near to the Emperor Hotel where we stayed on ToST 1.
It took us less than 15-minutes to get there and we got down to business by ordering some porridge and steamed chicken.

A view from the hotel's window...
Late breakfast
Prepping for the long haul back to Kuala Lumpur..

I've put a broadcast on what time to meet before departure.
From the breakfast place downtown, we rode back to the hotel, parked the bikes outside the lobby and went back to our room to pack.
While chilling out, I managed to re-pack some of my stuff including a couple of food and toiletry items.
I like the travel-sized shampoo and body shower gels that are sold in Thailand. And at one particular wholesale mart, I found them cheap.
While we were resting in our rooms, Pat broadcasted a distress call over the Facebook messenger. He had a flat tire again.
The bike shop fellas really screwed up his Surly Long Haul Trucker.
And by 12:30pm sharp, all the guys were gathered around the lobby. 
We rigged up the bikes and rode out towards the Tune Hotel in Hat Yai where we had our lunch at the Koay Teow Lueah (Boat koay teow) shop. 
For the third time, this became our regular makan place.. 

The tasty and spice Kuay Teow Lueah 

The owner of the shop preparing his noodle dish...

Riding to the train station.. 
A successful tour with the 2008 Dahon Speed P8

Roger, keeping an eye on the bikes...
Inside the sleeping berth on coach L8, Express Langkawi
We unloaded our panniers and started working on bagging the bikes.
This time round, I decided to carry my trunk bag and panniers. The Speed P8 was much lighter on the carry-on cover.
At the train station, I collected 100 baht from everyone to pack dinner. This, with some light snacks and drinks was purchased from the Robinson's department store nearby.
Michelle and I worked on this while the guys waited at the train station..

Waiting at the LRT station in KL Sentral 

Job well done! 

Setting up the bikes for the ride to Michelle's parent's home.. 
Enduring the 14-hour train ride..

Given the choice, I would prefer the bus service. They don't take that long to get to Kuala Lumpur from Hat Yai. Its also pretty comfortable and the travel time is much shorter.
On the train, we need to lug our bikes and luggage to a platform where two coaches and an engine awaits.
It departs at 4pm Thai time and arrives the next day in KL Sentral at 06:30am.
The good thing about this trip was the return tickets that we bought in advance. 
This means, no fart face and stares from passengers whose seats we had taken up.
But the fact remained that people actually smoke in-between the coach and when you take up the front row (So that we can keep an eye on the bikes and luggage), you have to put up with people coming and going through the door.
We are immune to this and endured the long ride to KL.
Strange as it seems, the air-conditioning was not cold on the ageing coach.
As the train approaches the Kuala Lumpur railway station, we parted ways with Pat and Sin.
The remaining ones alighted at KL Sentral.
I waved goodbye to Andrew Ng and Roger excused himself to visit the toilet.
Michelle and I lugged our bikes to the LRT station and boarded the ride towards the Paramount station.
We parted ways with Roger and wished him good luck on this trip to Cambodia in the following week.
When we got off at Paramount, we set up our bikes and rode to Michelle's parent's home in SS3, packed up again and drove back to Subang Jaya.
Upon arrival, our dogs were happy to see us with their tails wagging.
The ToST III has been an interesting trip.
We've enjoyed Thale Noi the most and the stay in Ranot and Sathing Phra was an eye-opener.
Towards the third-quarter of this year, we will be planning a fourth tour of Southern Thailand and are looking forward to realizing it...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

ToST III - Part 7

The journey to Hat Yai..

We've had a great time in Songkhla. 
This time, we had a proper and working air-conditioning and great food.
We met up at the motel yard and prepared the bikes for its journey to Hat Yai, which is roughly about 40km away.
The plan was to have breakfast and we discovered that there is a road parallel to Songkhla's route 407. 
This inner road exits at the 408 intersection and while we were cycling to look for food, we found a Chicken rice shop and decided to have our makan there.
It turned out that the owner had worked in Japan for 10 years and spoke fluent Japanese. He tried to strike a conversation with Sin Tai Lim and it was quite amusing.
And on the quality of food, I must say that this shop has one of the best chicken rice around Songkhla.
During our stay in Songkhla, we discovered a few good eating places and the usage of a bicycle had opened up plenty of avenues for sight-seeing. You won't be able to see such places if you drive or in a tour group.
After the good fill, we rode down the 407 and began our journey towards Hat Yai on the 408.

Dawn in Songkhla


The chicken rice stall

A decent breakfast
Helmet failures.. 
First puncture..

Mid-way down the road towards the 408, Michelle said her rear tire felt funny.
I told her to pull over and checked the pressure. 
It was slowly leaking air.
On the Dahon Speed TR, you would need a special tool to remove the nuts that is holding the wheels on the fork.
This is a tedious affair and it's very time consuming.
I removed the wheel and took out the inner tube. Felt around and found a piece of wire that pierced the outer wall.
There were pebbles and glass fragments embedded on the tire wall, but this was not enough to go through the puncture-protected layer.
In my humble opinion, the Schwalbe Big Apple tires are the best touring wheels around. You can't ask for more. Although it rolls rather slow, the Big Apples would get you there and back.
I set in a new inner tube, inflated it with my Biologic seatpost pump and we were on our way.
The one thing that annoyed me was the fact that some of the guys went out on their own and were waiting some five kilometers away.
I was also quite pissed off when they made no effort to call us with the Thai cellphone line.
Lucky for us, we located them at a coffee shop, chilling out from the heat.
All of them were having their brew, I walked off and got myself an iced coffee from a stall at the end of the row.

Fixing the flat
Resuming the journey
Into Hat Yai...

We were cycling on the 408 and on the other side of the road, the landscape was totally alien to me. 
It took me a while to realize that we were cycling on the same route when we did the ToST I last year. 
There were a couple of rolling hills along the way and this was no issue as we maintained our speed at 13km/h and slowly climbed and rolled down towards the junction leading to Hat Yai's city centre.
At mid-day, the sun was up and it was getting really hot.
After taking a right turn towards the Sena Narong Military Hospital and Route 4 leading to Hat Yai's Big C hypermarket.
From there, Pat led the way and got lost. I seriously didn't know what the hell he was doing, cycling in circles.
We made our way towards Niphat Uthit Road 1 and found a Vespa dealership that also sells bicycles.
Here, we met the owner Khun Paul who was nice enough to talk to us. The guys spent some of their Thai baht here by purchasing some bike gear.
I bought two Blackburn lights and the most decent find was a Blackburn Super Flea. This was a score as it's not available in Malaysia.
We also installed a double kickstand that cost us about 650 baht (RM65).
I was quite annoyed by one of the store clerk when she demanded my full name and phone number. 
For the kickstand, I paid her with coins and made her count every single shilling.

An advertisement for the Songkran festival in Hat Yai

Leaving Songkhla
Rolling into Hat Yai
Pat, leading us nowhere.. 
Every Baht counts.. 

Installing the double kickstand

At the Vespa dealership

With Khun Paul at the bicycle shop
Bicycles, bicycles, bicycles...

After checking-in at the hotel, we visited another bike shop in the downtown area.
This was the trendiest store in town, and also the worse bike service dealership.
We met the owner last year, but he couldn't recall ever seeing us.
Michelle said she was annoyed with the fact that the guy was completely oblivious to our presence and the fact that we spent so much money shopping at the store.
"What an ass! Stupid businessman..," she said.
I wasn't really bothered with the guy's business model. We didn't spend at all and as the day became hotter, Pat decided to leave his bike for service, something which he had regretted.
The shop specializes in Surly bikes, but the quality of their service really sucks as Pat had his bike returned with a double puncture. It seems that the moron who tuned his bike had fucked up the rim tap in the wheels.
We continued riding around Hat Yai and decided to get back to our rooms for some rest.
The guys went out on their own and we met up for dinner later in the day.

At the trendy bikes store downtown..

Sin, with a girl who works at the Roasted pork shop
You can't separate Pat from good food!
Dinner at the Elephant restaurant.. 
A hundred and two bottles of beer throughout the tour!
We had dinner at the usual Elephant hot pot restaurant.
Sin made the order and we splurged on the good food and beers.
Our beer consumption had totaled to 102 bottles throughout the journey and after a good fill, we staggered back to our rooms to get a good night's sleep..