Friday, January 30, 2015

The "Chilli Api" : Tern Link N8

The competition is heating up...

What that would be a docile bicycle distributor is now cranking-up their efforts to compete with a rival and a new player from the North to dominate the beginner and intermediate-level folding bike market.
After five years of enjoying the publicity and limelight, the guys who are responsible for bringing Tern Bike into Malaysia are finally giving the customers a run for their money since the Dahon agency was taken away from them.
Otherwise, they would remain in slumber and the mistakes from the past are still haunting them till today.

The low-down..

Okay, what on Earth is the "N"-designate on a 20" Tern folding bike? 
I was told by the head-honcho over a simple lunch meeting that the N-bikes were meant for the Japan market where riders need a "smaller" frame.

A compact package: the Link N8
Pricing factor: a winner! 

The Tern Link N8 is priced below RM2K.
This makes it a highly desirable bike to own for beginners who are working on a tight budget.
What's nice, is the fact that good components are used for the bike.
Schwalbe Kojak tires are stock-standard on the Link N8 and for the city commuter, a set of SKS fenders are fitted onto the seat stay and fork assembly. This is handy if you are riding in wet areas.
Tern didn't cut any corners with the N-spec bike by giving their customers Shimano components 
You'll find a Shimano Tiagra rear derailleur and a Shimano non-series 8-speed single shifter on the bike.
What I find a bit jarring, is the crankset and the pedals. Other than that, the bike is faultless.

A versatile and compact bike: the Link N8

Set to soar

What I personally like about Tern bikes: especially the Link platform, is the fact that you can accessorize the bike for any riding levels.
Put a cargo rack on the rear, you are in business for a multi-modal commuting ride or even bikepacking trips around Peninsular Malaysia.
Based on the decent component package and a good pricing factor, I think the Link N8 will enjoy a good and captive audience here in Malaysia.

Where to buy? 

Head down to Johnny Ng's My Bicycle Shop in BU4 in Bandar Utama. Call him at 016-632 2599 for an appointment to view the bike. In the Klang Valley, Tern bikes are sold 
at Rodalink outlets in Desa Hartamas, Bangsar, Bandar Botanic and Putrajaya.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Smitten by Archery

The "early" days..

I recall being a casual laborer for some older boys back in school when it comes to setting up target buds, an easel and putting signs to warn other people that an archery practise is going on at the school field.
In the years that I was in secondary school, I managed to shoot at least five times.
This was "on the behest" of the archery club's head honchos, who in turn, were actually entertaining their peers with some choice recurve bows.
Best of all, the arrows were short of landing on the target bud and went straight into the ground.
School days was fun, but the kids were taught the wrong techniques and used outdated equipment.

"Glamping", where it all begins again.. 

Ugh! I hated the word: "Glamping". But when the shit hits the fan, that'll do.
I was tasked to run a teambuilding event, but the company has no budget and made it really difficult to get things started.
So, the other alternative was an outing with an outdoor products distributor who invited my team to attend their "Glamping" event.
And it happened.
I didn't give two fucks about sleeping in a tent with an air mattress and my role in this particular event, is to make sure that everything goes as planned.
Part of the activity set for the second-day of the event was archery.
The company's archery division had set up a short range with two sets of bows and arrows.
And while the crowd was away on their tour of the Putrajaya Wetlands where the Glamping event was held, the guy in charge of archery had allowed me to give their 10-meter outdoor range a try.

Posing at a standee at the camping ground

The tents
And it all came back.. 

The organizers supplied two sets of 30lb bows. 
It was really hard to draw, but, with a little bit of experience, releasing the arrow onto the target bud was a matter of correcting the path of the arrow's flight.
So, that said, while the others were away, I managed to shoot three rounds and found that it was not that hard to put the arrows into the target area.

Trying out the bow 
Not bad for an old man.. 
And so my journey begins.. 

I must say that I was hooked on putting the arrows on the target bud and went for a few rounds at the archery range till late in the evening.
That inspired me to do more research on getting a set of bow and arrows to learn and improve on archery.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beautiful bikes for big people: Tern Node D16

The Node D16 24" folding bike
A quiet entry..

Tern's new Node D16 folding bike made it's way to our bike store's shelves almost unnoticeable.

It arrived sometime in early January and response has been really warm for this 24" folding bike.
As a matter of fact, the Node made its debut in August 2013 at the Eurobike show and is meant or tall and large-sized cyclists.
You can see the similar frame geometry on the Node if you compare it to the Tern Link D8 and the discontinued P9 bikes as it is a "larger" bike.
And as far as handling is concerned, the Node is one sweet bike to ride. It's sturdy and solid and is perfect for beginners.

What's cool? 

The Node D16 is a 16-speed bike capable of handling any terrain thrown at it. It has a 11-30T cassette which is decent enough to cruise around town, your neighbourhood and even for bikepacking rides.
To ensure years of fun under the Sun, Tern did not cut any corners to package this bike with decent mid-range components.
And for a pricetag of RM2,400, you get the good stuff like Shimano shifters and rear derailleur.
There's even a piece of chainspotter (which is crude compared to higher-quality components) that protects the bike's frame and at the same time: prevents chain slips when you are shifting gears.
The stock-standard tires are the Schwalbe Kojak 24x1.50 tires. These are great for pavement riding, but if you want more out of it I would recommend an upgrade to the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme or Big Apple.

The Spartan rack

Cargo rack

Definitely, a bike for keepsake..

There are endless possibilities with the Tern Node D16.
All you need to do, is add some cool accessories such as the Biologic cargo rack and spartan rack and your bike is ready to do some light and medium touring.
What's nice about this bike is it's compact size when folded. If you commute regularly, the bike can be fitted into a carry-on cover. Though most "city riding experts" would consider this 12.8kg bike "heavy", I'd say that you don't have to lug it everywhere with a bag. Best of all, the 24" bike is so versatile, you don't even need to take the train if you live in the city centre.


The Tern Node D16 is available from Johnny Ng's My Bicycle Shop in BU4, Bandar Utama and most Rodalink outlets in the Klang Valley.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tales of the Dahon Jetstream - Part 2

Post-expedition years.. 

The Jeram exploration ride
Spare all the offroad "biggies" that we had indulged ourselves in, we managed to throw in a couple of day-trippers around the Klang Valley, Pahang and Perak.
Since we were no longer considered as members of the "inner-circle" we are pretty much on our own and that is never an issue. 
Living up to it's name, the Jetstream is a versatile folding trail bike that you can pack, stow and transport -- literally to anywhere around the globe.
Although the bike is bulkier than most standard folding bikes, it's made to perform.
Rather than making it compact, Dahon produces the Jetstream with a solid handlebar stem and the EX variant is one of few folding bikes that features a VRO syntace steering system.
Unlike the P8, the EX is more robust and solid when it comes to handling.
But all these came with a price.
It's easier to pack a Dahon Speed P8 and TR onto a regular-sized Dahon Airporter for air transport than with the Jetstream.
In order to fit in the bike, the handlebar stem and wheels had to be dismantled.
Another thing is this: if you noticed the frame geometry, the handlebar stem is shorter than any other folding bikes in Dahon's stable.
The top tube is angled to give it a higher ground clearance as most folding bikes tend to have a lower centre of gravity.
There are no seatpost pumps and to protect the chainring, a guard is placed on the downtube.
To me, the Jetstream is my compact getaway bike and with the full-suspension feature, it can go anywhere at a moment's notice.
In late 2013, we began to explore part of the country by packing the bikes in our car. Most noteable was Taiping where we rode to Port Weld and explored the area.
We also rode to Pantai Jeram from Kapar to look at the trails there.

Port Weld with team Jetstream

Along came the Maxxis tires..

The folded bead before installation
Maxxis DTH on the front fork

Our Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires that came standard with the Dahon Jetstreams provided comfort and peerless puncture protection.
After wearing out the threads, it was time to get a replacement.
The first thing on my mind were the 20" Schwalbe Mad Mike tires. These are proven dirt tires used by BMX bicycles.
Sadly, they are not available in the country and the people here favours the Schwalbe Big Apple.
Our alternative choice were the Maxxis DTH (Down Throw Hammer). These are tires with foldable beads and offers a certain degree of puncture protection.
What's impressive were the M-shaped threads that are grippy and at the same time, has a lower surface resistance.
We tried these by cycling up the Selangor Dam and found that the road-holding qualities are excellent.

Bling-blings for the Jet

Aye-Ups on the Jetstream EX's cockpit area

We started equipping the bikes with Cateye headlights. 
But these weren't enough to endure the rigors of lengthy night rides on the trail.
To get things going, I have outfitted Michelle's P8 with a Sigma Powerled Pro LED headlight.
These are lights powered by rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries.
The lights are great, but there is big flaw on it.
After a couple of outings the mounting bracket broke into pieces. There were no spare parts for this particular accessory and what is more disappointing was the fact that the people who bring them into the country could not give a fuck.
I turned to Australia's Aye-Up lights and have no bad things to say about them.
After a few major expeditions, these low-maintenance lights became my primary source of illumination and since they are powered by Li-io cells, the battery life is commendable.

Indonesia: the breaking point..

Riding on a re-surfaced road in Sumatera

Thule's solution to carrying luggage on the Jetsteam EX
The weakest part on the bike: the Ashima PCB brake levers
The Jet, fully loaded..
Riding in the rural setting, Indonesia

I took the Jetstream EX to Indonesia for a 240km ride from Dumai - Pekanbaru.
Due to the unreliable road conditions in Eastern Sumatera, the Jet was my choice pick to ge the job done.
I had the bike fitted with a Thule Pack 'n Pedal rear luggage rack. These proved to be a vital part of the expedition as the entire weight of the bike's luggage was held together by a piece of flimsy aluminium tube and several pieces of plastic.
Even with a lot of spokes, the bike's kinetic pro double-walled rims could not take the brunt of the weight.
One of the spokes snapped. Despite that, the Jet just kept on going and going and going.. 
Having survived the 200km journey, the one thing that I did not expect was the horrific baggage handlers at the Dumai ferry terminal.
These guys had literally destroyed my Ashima PCB brake lever. It snapped when the workers had tried to pry the bagged bikes and the months that ensued became a thing of agony.
I have say that Ashima has a lousy customer service and their distributor in Malaysia is of no help.
That said, the EX was taken off the active duty list as most of the rides were mainly done on the larger Tern Eclipse S18 bike.

Shimano Zee hydraulic brake system and Rockshox Monarch SL: the Jetstream Life Extension Programme (JLEP)

Ready for more action: the retro-fitted Dahon Jetstream EX

Rockshox Monarch SL rear suspension

Absolute braking power: The Shimano Zee brakes

The Ashima PCBs have to go. That is a fact and I have spent months in search of a suitable replacement.
My first choice were the Shimano Saint downhill hydraulic brakes.
These are not available in the country.
Later, I traced a shop that sells the Shimano Zee hydraulic brake system. These are quad-piston hydraulics with ample stopping power.
 But, the brake lines were white in colour. Bummer! That said, after an exhaustive search, I managed to locate a shop in Serdang that sells the Zee in black brake lines. Problem solved. I also found a pair of 160mm, six-bolt Shimano ICE rotors. 
They have to be installed to pair with the Zees as the Ashima PCM Air Rotors are rendered useless. The next step, was to replace the ageing SR Suntour Epicon E rear suspension. These are smaller 165mm shocks that are not easy to find.
My first choice were the Fox suspension, but these are nowhere to be found, especially in the 165mm configuration. But, luck was on my side as I managed to secure a Rockshox Monarch SL suspension. 
I first had the brakes installed and the broken spoke fixed before assembling the Rockshox Monarch SL rear suspension myself.

Was it worth spending so much for upgrading parts? 

Well, look at it this way: I gave the Jetstream EX the best I could get because it's bound for the foothills of the Himalayas and the Mongolian Steppes.
I wasn't going to waste money on cheap components and watch the bike disentigrate over a short period. Simiarly, I am in the process of upgrading the Jetstream P8's components starting with the rear suspension.
Way I see it, there will be more adventures in the horizon and we are aiming for it with our retro-fitted Dahon Jetstreams. It will be an utter waste to keep a good bike as such as a trophy..

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tales of the Dahon Jetstream - Part 1

The Proud & The Few

Dahon's Jetstream P8 and EX

On a head-count, there are fewer than 100 Dahon Jetstream P8s in the country.
Introduced in 2008, the folding bike is full-suspension ride with an actual suspension fork and a pneumatic suspension fitted onto a swing-arm on it's seat and chain stays.
The Jetstream P8's rear suspension has a 2" travel, which is good enough for some light trail ride and off-pavement cycling.
Even scarcer than the P8, is the 2011 Jetstream EX.
There are fewer than 10 in Malaysia and was one of the most expensive folding bikes ever to be sold here under the "EX" line (Extreme Luxe components).
Dahon's Jetstream EX was discontinued the same year, but the Jetstream P8 remained in Dahon's stable until today.

The early days

I picked up my Dahon Jetstream EX from the dealership and had it rigged as a trail bike.
Tested to the fullest, the EX was used for training (Genting Peras) and exploration ride. 
Straight out of the box, I got the bike which was equipped with a set of Ashima PCB hydraulic disk brakes, a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 20x1.65 tires, the German-A Kilo fork (the fork kit alone retails at USD$600), a KORE seatpost and saddle.
At the time it was produced, the Dahon Jetstream EX was revolutionary. It was way ahead of its peers. The only thing that sucked, was the SR Suntour Epicon rear shock. The version that was fitted on the bike has a fast and slow rebound adjustment and a lock-out lever.
And for two consecutive years, Michelle, my wife and I rode at the Penang Campaign For a Lane (CFAL) event, covering a distance of 84-km round-island.
For what's worth (I paid full retail price before the EX was sold at half it's retail value at an outlet sale), the bike had served its purpose.
Even on an extreme bike like the EX, the components were just above average. The main problem came from the Ashima PCB hydraulic disk brakes (which proved to be a real hassle in the later years) which was poorly tuned. Right from the start, the bike suffered from brake drag. I had the problem remedied by an authorised dealer in Kuala Lumpur who changed a damaged piston on the brakes.

A stock-standard Dahon Jetstream EX
With the brake issues fixed, I continued to ride the EX around the country.
Most impressive, was the bike's ability to be folded and transported on a train. 
I've done a couple of bikepacking trips on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the bike's overall weight of 10.8kg wasn't a real issue.

Riding off the pavement
Endurance, performance and reliability..

The furthest I took the EX, was on a 194km solo ride from USJ - Bagan Lalang - USJ. I literally cycled from day to night.
Despite the hardship and test of mental strength and endurance, the EX had lived up to it's expectations. 
It was easy to engage the bike's 27-speed drivetrain which hardly fails. I think Dahon had done a good job by using the SRAM DualDrive II system on the Jetstream EX. It yielded a full-range of gears and was tested to the fullest during some offroad rides that was conducted in a series throughout Peninsular Malaysia.
The bike was built for trail rides and it did just that. The frame is as tough as nails and the components held together during the exploration rides.

The EX lived up to its mark as an ultra-long distance ride
Michelle and her Jetstream P8, which is also her favourite bike

At an offroad trail in Rawang

There has been a lot of negative perception of the folding bike and this ride proved many armchair critics wrong
2011 - 2012: The Golden Years of Offroad Exploration

I must say that Master TT Siang, a folding bike enthusiast and a mentor, had done a great job in opening new routes for offroad exploration rides.
We did a ride from Rawang to Sekinchan and back, covering a distance of 150km with 75% of the journey conducted on offroad sectors.
On the same year, we also explored Kampar's tin mining trails and followed-up with another leg of the exploration ride from Sabak Bernam to Teluk Intan in 2012. And throughout the year, the Jetstream P8 and EX had became a bicycle of choice.

The team in Sabak Bernam
Cycling towards the Bernam River
In Teluk Intan
Riding along an oil palm plantation in Sabak Bernam
The end of an era..

All good things said and done, 2011 - 2012 was the best years we've had on our Jetstreams.
But like any other expedition, all good things must come to an end.
Siang, the expedition leader, has his own following and is pretty picky about who he wants to lead due to an earlier incident where a group was split up by overzealous cyclists.
I can't blame him for shying away from the limelight as the modest man is an accomplished cyclist in many ways.
As far as 2013 and 2014 was concerned, we saw less of Siang and his wife Angela and concentrated on riding our 24" Tern folding bikes. 
In the background, Michelle and I continued to ride the EX and P8 on numerous occasions - basically, on our own.
Even the original crew that I rode with from 2011 - 2013 had split up. They've kept to themselves and that was that.. We never heard from them again...

Next: minor upgrades -- making the Jetstream even better..