Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 World Car Free Day

A lone warrior.. 

I just got home from a 205km ride.
Took me two days over the weekend to explore the possibilities of touring down South with my rather new 24" touring bike. 
Which turned out to be pretty okay if I had observed the golden rule of timing.
Barely recovering from the long-ride, I've got less than six hours sleep to continue with a commute to the workplace.

All points bulletin broadcast

Prior to the World Car Free Day ride, which fell on a Monday, I've posted a Global message on the Prestige Editorial system at work to invite potential riders.
My colleague Jacob was the only executive on our Metro desk who cycled to work.
I had Melizarani, a rookie Sub-Editor who had agreed to cycle to work for the first time as well as doing a first-person account on her experience.
Other than that, I had also done a write-up on the World Car Free Day, explaining to the public what it was all about.
I also interviewed some fellow cyclists about the event to get fair comment.

The article appearing on Sept 22
Madly committed to the cause..

So, there we were, rolling out on a Monday morning and it was a working day.
I contacted Melizarani who told me that she wanted to do the short distance of 7km from Sungai Way to the office.
It was not a big deal, so I agreed.
We met at Tukang Basikal Fook Sang, a traditional meeting place for the cycle to work programme that I had set years earlier.
I arrived at the bike shop and met Mr Yong, it's owner. We chat a bit and later, Melizarani came by and set up her bike.
My role as a chaperon, was to guide her on the Federal Highway bike lane to the office in Section 16, Petaling Jaya.
Along the way, I told her about what lies ahead and all the pitfalls.
The girl was very attentive and seeing that she's new, I kept a close watch on her.

My gurl wasn't too happy

She gets a denta bribe.. 
At SS19 in Subang Jaya

The Federal Highway Bike Lane
Arriving at the office

These bike gloves have seen better days
Some called it torture, I call it "cycle to work".. 

I've taken my bike to work on many occasions.
Cycling to work is something very few people would commit to.
Why? There's a lot of hassles.
I tried it and loved it. Given any chance to do it, I will.
So, on the average, I cover a distance of 43km round-trip.
While on the road with Melizarani, I coordinated with The Star's pixman P.Nathan to get shots of her cycling.
The last push was climbing the hill on Jalan Datuk Abu Bakar on Section 16.
On the average, the gradient was between 5.8 - 7% gradient. If you are unfit, it spells trouble.
After clearing the hill, I told Melizarani to steer off the steel gratings. 
And while rolling downhill at 48km/h, she hit one of the indented gratings and lost control of her rear wheel.
Fortunately, she regained control and steered her bike out of danger.
If she had ridden on a sleek 700cc wheel, it would have spelt trouble.
But her foldie's rather wide and large wheels took the impact.
After a short climb, we arrived at the office.
I had some work to finish and spent about an hour there before leaving the office.

At Johnny Ng's shop in Bandar Utama
A satay treat!
Home sweet home.. 
Beyond the office...

I had to pick up some sample T-shirts from Mr Yeo, Johnny Ng's customer who is a designer and a premium item supplier.
From Section 16, I rode towards the ramp near Sungai Ara.
There, I climbed a motorcycle bridge and rode towards a kampung area near Bandar Utama.
I spotted a makan stall and had my lunch there.
Later, I rode towards BU 4 and met Johnny at this shop.
Seated at the lazy chair was Master Urban Cyclist Sin Tai Lim who is currently grounded from cycling due to a back injury.
I collected the sample tee from the shop and observed an old-timer who sent in his folding tricycle.
He wanted to fit a cyclometer and fix his headlight on the trike.
The said person is a famous personality who had recently took up cycling.
My cue to leave when it started to look it was going to rain.
From Bandar Utama, I cycled towards Kampung Cempaka near SS2 and made my way across the LDP to SS3.
The trick was to cycle like a bat of out hell to the Federal Highway bike lane and I did really good time.
By 6:30pm, I was already at USJ7 and decided that it was best to have an early dinner at the food court.
I had satay in mind and patronised Satay Retro which is owned by a friendly Malay guy.
There, I ordered sup tulang and whacked the satay before heading back to USJ26.
On the whole, the ride was smooth. I clocked-in 51.6km throughout the day and was glad that nothing happened during my journey.
Speaking of participation, well, it was rather expected that only the mad people would make an effort to wake up early and cycle.
Even if its not a World Car Free Day, I would make it a practice to cycle to work whenever I can.. 

Something new for the touring foldie: Tern Verge S27h

This time, they got it right...

There aren't many 20" folding bikes out there that are meant for the long-haul.
Noteworthy are the Bike Friday New World Tourist, Pocket Llama and Pocket Companion. And lest we forget: the Dahon Speed TR and P8. These are bikes that can be rigged for long excursions. 
Despite it's size, the folding bike packs a bite like a desert sidewinder.
Back in 2011, Tern introduced the Link P24h. 
This bike has the gear range for many things that spells "long distance".
But, due to "gear slips" and the occasional chain drop, the bike didn't really hit it big time as a touring bike.

Verge platform, above and beyond

Tern is serious about making bikes as an clean source of transport.
Last year at Eurobike, the company launched it's heavy-duty 24" Eclipse S18, dubbed as the "Road Warrior".
Now, similarly, the Verge series of bikes (based on Tern's award-winning frame design) has a new bike that complements the larger Eclipse S18.
The Verge S27h was introduced at Eurobike this year and it turned a lot of heads. It's also designed in collaboration with Velowerks of Switzerland, a custom bike manufacturer founded by Thomas Loech, who is also a technical consultant with Tern.


The Verge S27h spots large wheels and a heavy-duty rim.
It comes complete with a dynamo hub that powers it's stem-mounted Valo headlight (which is also an award-winning design). 
This means, you won't have to spend money on lighting as the Joule 3 dynamo hub provides clean power to illuminate your ride in failing light situations.
To make it even more versatile, the bike has a disk brake system, which is the first in the Verge platform.
The adjustable Andros stem allows rides to customise their ride position.
For luggage, there's the Biologic portage and spartan racks.
Just slap-on a set of panniers and you are good to go!

Tern's latest 20" bike meant for serious long-distance cyclists

Folds compact for transportation


Departing from the older Neos "Trinity-drive" is a refreshing start at building a folding bike for the purpose of touring.
Like the Dahon Speed TR that uses a SRAM Dual Drive II system, the Verge S27h is seen with a click box (A signature component of the SRAM DD) and a single chainring.
I found hardly any faults with the SRAM Dual Drive system (with the Dahon Speed TR and Jetstream EX).
The Verge S27h features a 27-speed drivetrain which enables the cyclist to take on any terrain and with load.
I am pretty sure that this would work on a compact bike offering such a wide gear range.


Good stuff don't come cheap and the Tern Verge S27h comes with a pricetag of 1,669 Euros (close to RM6,900 excluding Duty, Sales Tax and GST).
So, having said that, this bike is certainly meant for those who knows what they want. And I seriously doubt it if we would ever see it in Malaysia due to it's pricing factor.
If I make it to the Taipei Cycle 2015, I am certain that I will get to give it a test-ride.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taiping Foldies Ride - Part 3

Port Weld revisited..

We arrived at Port Weld from Matang in a short time.
The group was cycling in a single file, an orderly manner towards the town area in Port Weld.
Our host from Taiping did a good job leading the ride as well as keeping tabs on safety and staying on the route as planned.
In Port Weld, we were taken to some really interesting places. Some, I never knew existed..

A well-organized group
While we were at the outskirts of town, one of the riders had a puncture.
He had his tire changed at a local bike shop.
After he was done, we rode towards the fishing village where they took group photos.
The plan was to have lunch at a mee udang shop, but it was closed.

Processed seafood

The first railway station in the country

Port Weld

Yun, making a statement
Lousy noodles and a chance meeting..

We decided that it was best to have lunch at Mee Udang Mak Jah, that was opened on the day.
The guys made a beeline to get their orders taken and a plate of Mee Udang costs about RM8.
Mine had some rancid-smelling shrimps and it was so bad, I only at the noodles.
While we were chowing down, Mr Gan, a cyclist from Penang came by with his wife and son.
He said there was another group of cyclists from KL that were on their way to Port Weld.
We didn't meet them and after engaging in a conversation, we rode out towards the Matang Forest Reserve.
Encik Azam, the leader defacto of the Ipoh Foldies group had linked us up with the Matang Forest Reserve's forestry officer for a tour of the facility.

At the Matang Forest Reserve

Taking an educational tour of the managed mangrove forest

At a charcoal factory near Port Weld
Ending it with some fun stuff..

We were led back to Taiping by En Jamell's crew through Aulong, technically, a straight line from Port Weld to Taiping.
It was a short ride back to the Prison's bungalow where I had prepared some prizes for a lucky draw.
By the time we got there, it was already mid-day.
The group had pushed all the way back and everyone was accounted for.
En Jamell gave a short speech while we thanked Johnny Ng from My Bicycle Shop for lending his support, Le Run Industries for sponsoring some prizes for a lucky draw.

Jamell handing out a prize to a winner from the draw
Another lucky winner!

Hosing down the dirt and road soup

Johnny cleaning up his ride..
All's well ends well.. 

We parted ways with the Ipoh Foldies who went straight back to their hometown and spent some time catching up with fellow cyclists.
It was a good ride and we managed to enjoy the kampung scenery.
Later in the evening, we rode out to the Larut-Matang food court to savour some char koay teow and mee goreng mamak.
For the rest of the KL crew, it's an extra night in Taiping before heading back to Kuala Lumpur the next day..
Azam, the leader of the Ipoh group is mulling another ride and a workshop for beginners with support from the Youth and Sports Ministry. 
We at The Malaysian Foldies will see that it happens.. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Taiping Foldies Ride - Part 2

Jamell and Megat
Early morning chores...

Yun and I were the first to rise. 
We had a mission: get food for the rest of the crew.
The night before, Encik Joned, the man who is in charge of the Bungalow, said he will come in first thing in the morning to switch off all the main lights in the facility.
"En Sam tak perlu bimbang, sini selamat," (You don't have to worry about safety) he assured.
I put one and one together and slapped myself on the forehead.
It's opposite the Taiping prison, one of the most "secure" buildings around.
I started the car and drove towards town.
Not a soul on sight.
My hunch was to get to the old train station because there is a mamak store there.
And we were spot-on.
We packed nasi lemak and teh tarik for the guys.
By the time we got back to the Bungalow, the guys were still in slumber.
Johnny and Mohd Radzi must be really tired.
En Joned came later with his family to make sure that everything was fine.
Then, it started to pour.
We ate breakfast in the dining hall and while we were at it, Mr Loo and his buddy Yong came all the way from Penang.
He asked for directions and I told him that it was best for him to load up on food before the ride.
I met Loo at Johnny's shop sometime back.

The Ipoh gang

Setting up for the ride

Signing an indemnity form

My part in this ride

I helped to coordinate and link-up with the foldies from the North.
One of my concern was safety.
Prior to the ride, I got Mohd Radzi to help out in getting insurance for the participants from KL on this ride.
This is so that we are covered in case of any emergencies.
To absolve us from all legal binding related to accident on the ride, we made the cyclists fill up an indemnity form.
We made it very clear that it was cycling at one's own risk and that the organizers are not responsible for any bodily harm.
While discussing about the route with Jamell's team, I also coordinated with Encik Azam who represented the Ipoh group.
All in total, there were 30 people from the North.
We just made the numbers and I also managed to get some support from Le Run Industries who donated some Tee-shirts and bicycling gear for a lucky draw after the ride.
I personally contributed some gifts for this event and Johnny did his part by handing down some trinkets.

The turnout

We were very impressed with the Taiping and Ipoh cyclists who turned out in a large number.
The Ipoh Foldies are possibly one the most disciplined group of cyclists I have ever met.
And they have no ego nor attitude problem like most of the riders from the Klang Valley.
After setting up their bikes, Jamell gave a short briefing about the ride and we set off towards a 52km loop around Taiping.
As Johnny had put it: "Just enjoy the ride.."

Cycling along the kampung route in Matang

These kids are disciplined and well trained

Taiping's foldies leading the way
The ride

We rode on a gloomy day.
It was fantastic because the weather was cooler than the usual.
Jamell's team led us towards the Lake Gardens and Changkat Jering before turning into Matang.
We rode past some kampung houses and I can't help notice the architecture.
Later, we came across a joss stick factory.
I grabbed the opportunity to snap some photos and Johnny was awestruck by a Godzilla-sized joss laid at a shelter.

The spirit of Malaysia lives in this wooden kampung house near Matang Gelugor

A worker loading up a giant joss stick 

Johnny with the Godzilla-sized joss in the background
From the joss stick factory, we weren't too far from Ngah Ibrahim's fortress.
This is now the famous Matang museum and it's really worth a visit if you are in Taiping.
The cyclists re-grouped at the museum.
Some went to check out the exhibits while others took a break before resuming the ride to Port Weld.

At the Matang Museum

The bikes

How tin was discovered in Perak

A diorama during the Japanese occupation in World War II
Jamell's team had made sure that the group had sufficient time to discover the Matang museum.
I saw Johnny seated at one corner, entertaining calls from his customers. He had to close his shop on a Saturday to ride in Taiping.
Yun and Mohd Radzi, on the other hand, were busy chatting with the guys from Ipoh.
After the re-grouping in Matang, we cycled towards Kuala Sepetang which was formerly known as Port Weld..

Taiping Foldies Ride - Part 1

Fellowship of the Foldies...

I met the ring leaders of the Taiping Foldies Fan three years ago in Penang.
Their honcho Jamell, is an avid cyclist and is well-known throughout Taiping.
We met earlier this year and planned a ride in Taiping.

Route planning and logistcis

Together with Johnny Ng of My Bicycle Shop, I planned a trip to this historical town to link up with the Taiping and Ipoh folding bike enthusiasts.
We put this up on the Malaysian Foldies Facebook page and response from the KL cyclists were just lukewarm.
Initially, it was a bikepacking ride. I contacted KTMB and told them about having a group discount and learned that the Ekspres Langkawi schedule has been revamped.
Instead of departing from KL Sentral at 08:45am, the train leaves at 10:00pm.
This screwed-up everything that we've planned and left us no choice but to drive up.
I spoke to Johnny about this and he didn't mind the long drive.
He was committed to see this happen.

Getting on with the plan..

And when the day arrived, I drove up to Taiping with Mr Cheng, a folding bike enthusiast who brought along a Brompton S-6 bike.
Cheng had agreed to share the cost of car-pooling and met me at the One City mall for pick-up.
He runs a business supplying sanitation products for companies and business outlets and turned out to be quite a decent person.
I learned that Cheng is an avid runner who takes part in international marathon and triathlon events.
We talked a lot about food and cycling and arrived in Taiping late in the afternoon after a pit-stop in Ipoh.
Our destination was the Prison's bungalow that can accommodate more than 20 people at one time.
There, we waited for Johnny and Mohd Radzi Md Nor to arrive from KL.
While we were there, I took Cheng around Taiping town for a ride and showed him around to the good makan places.
Sometime later in the day, we met Jamell who was hanging around at a bicycle shop in town.
We checked out some goods at Ah Hock's bike shop, a well-known outlet in Taiping and I was told that Yun, another foldie dude is arriving in Taiping town.
From Ah Hock's bike shop, we cycled over to Yut Sun coffee shop, a famous Hainanese food and beverage outlet in Taiping.
There, we had coffee and caught up with some small talk before Yun updated his time of arrival.

With Cheng in Taiping town
At the new railway station
Electric train undergoing test at the station

The Larut-Matang food court
Nightfall and waiting for our main players..

We caught up with Yun at the Taiping Mall.
He rode from Batu Gajah alone on his Doppleganger folding bike.
We then proceeded to have dinner at a hawker centre and while we were there, Megat @ Tok Chiru came by.
I met the man when I cycled alone in Taiping a couple of years earlier.
At the food court, we chat a bit before heading back to the bungalow so that Yun can settle down.
We agreed that it's best to take down the mattress on the first-floor of the bungalow and set it down at the living room.
Just after midnight, Mohd Radzi called. They got lost, so, I told them to wait in town.
While we were waiting at the Bungalow's gate, we noticed that the prison guards were keeping an eye on us.
Mohd Radzi called to inform us that he and Johnny were at the edge of town and were also very hungry.
They've endured a three-hour drive to Taiping.
We linked-up at last and went for some supper. Taiping after dark is as good as a ghost town.
Near the hospital's junction, we found a stall selling kuey teow goreng kerang and settled for makan there which turned out to be an awesome treat.
Yun and I led the duo to the Bungalow to settle in for the night before the ride next morning..

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to cycle to work - Part 02

Continuing my story on cycling to work, here are some suggested steps that you can take to commute with a bike.

Good timekeeping enables you to get into the fray without wasting valuable time

Step 4:  Manage your time

Bear in mind that cycling takes double the time you would take compared to driving or riding a motorcycle to work.
So, be sure to give yourself the time advantage.
It pays to leave early and beat the morning traffic.
In the constantly hot and humid Malaysian weather, it's best to leave before the Sun is right on top of your head.
Getting on the road early also gives you ample time to clean up and change at the office.
The same would apply for leaving the office. 
If need be, try not to ride in the dark.

Road debris will eventually find its way to your tires..

Step 5: Learn to recover your bike from mechanical problems and flats..

Make it a point to learn all about handling mechanical issues on the bike. 
A rule of thumb: the simpler the bike, the less time you are going to waste troubleshooting.
Also learn to recover your bike's tire from a flat.
This is a hands-on learning experience you will never get from browsing the internet or veiwing YouTube.
And never assume that you will never experience a puncture. That's simply an arrogant presumption.
Weight is never an issue when it comes to commuting. So, on your saddlebag, be sure to pack your bike tools, patch kit, spare chain cutter, chain pins, magic link and a spare inner tube.
Do invest in a good hand pump as you are gonna needed it to inflate your tires.
If you use a Presta valve, get a Schrader adaptor because the fastest way to inflate is at a petrol station's air pump.

Food in the tummy converts to energy..
Step 6: Load up, hydrate!

Before you roll out, be sure to fill up your stomach.
Strenuous conditions can lead to dire consequences when you are on the road.
Also make it a point to carry a bottle of water regardless of the distance that you are going to cover.

Cyclists are not the only road users

Step 7: Obey ALL traffic rules..

When you are on a bicycle, you are 100 times more vulnerable to the oncoming traffic.
Observe all safety and traffic rules.
Do not assume that motorists would give way. Be on the defensive and be patient when you are crossing intersections.
Also learn the proper hand signals to indicate turning so that motorists can slow down to allow you a safe passage.
Do not jump the traffic light at any cost.

Cycling in the dark is a risky task

Step 8: Be seen 

Invest in a good headlight.
Don't be stingy. 
Lighting up enables other motorists to see you from a distance.
Helmet lights are a plus and blinkers on the rear of you bike states you mean business.
Also avoid wearing dark clothing when you are on the road. High visibility gives the cyclist the advantage of being seen.

Take shelter from the rain if necessary

Step 9: Wait it out.

Not every day is a sunny day.
There are times that bad weather would ruin your ride.
So, try not to force yourself to cycle in the rain as poor visibility can result in accidents and bodily harm.

Step 10: Safety first..

Unless you are sure of the risks, never engage the road alone.
Make it a point to cycle in routes that are not off the beaten path.
If shit happens, be prepared to ditch your bike and belongings. You only live once.
Wear head protection at all times, leave an emergency line on your phone and make it a point to pack a small first aid kit in case of falls.
And if you are unfit to ride, do not push yourself. Train.
Cease your ride if you are unwell and when you hit the road, always inform someone you know..

Well, there you have it, I hope I've covered all the basic stuff. Stay tuned for more!