Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An orange sunset in Pakse

It was a most comfortable flight on Lao Aviation from Siem Reap to Pakse, Laos. The twin propellor plane was only 20% filled and we had plenty of attention from the crew and plenty of seats to choose from. The 55 min flight was scenic, hugging the Mekong and providing lots of views of the mountains that await us.

Clearing airport immigration was very casual and relax. This after all is Laos, PDR which rightly stands for Please Don't Rush. The van took all four of us and our bikes to Sang Aroun in 5 mins for US$10. Not cheap considering it was so close. The town of Pakse was founded in 1905 by the French and is a very agreeable laid back town by the riverside. It has decent restaurants and we found the food cheap and good!

We wasted no time to assemble the bikes and it was surprisingly a breeze. 10-15 mins tops. Travelling with foldies really light up our faces. We took an evening ride to test our bikes and was greeted with the most brilliant sunset which lighted the whole sky orange. With the Mekong as our backdrop, it was an artistic extravaganza that only our Creator can paint. We stopped and just soaked in the view and felt something inside us stir.

My stomach is getting better but still not 100%. Grateful that toilet bowl runs are over, for now. Early ride tomorrow to Paksong. Its 50km uphill all the way!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Toilet bowl diaries in Siem Reap

We are now at our fav hotel in Siem Reap, the Auberg Mont Royal. What a surprise it was when I got in last night by bus and was received with a big hug by the owner, Mr Prim.

The 2 foldies travelled with us very easily at the back of a pick-up and thereafter by bus. We met up with3 friends and had nice Khmer dinner except I couldn't eat very much as I'm getting the runs for a few days now.

Really need prayers for my stomach to settle as meeting the Calvary aka Mike and Wei at SR airport tomorrow morning at 9am and then flying off to Laos.

Saw 2 very fierce touring bikes from Germany at hotel lobby. The owner was on a 4 week tour of Cambodia and said each bike cost him 3400 Euros. Black with Rolfholf hub and Marathon Extreme tires, front and rear racks. Inspirational to say the least. But sadly, my best friend now is the toilet bowl... Sigh.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Charmed by Kampong Cham

An excursion into the sleepy town of Kampong Cham proved a delightful discovery for me. Wife's purpose was to do clinical assessments but mine was to explore a new Cambodian provincial town. 120km away from Phnom Penh and sitting idyllic along the Mekong River, Kg Cham is certainly off the tourist radar for now.

This area of Cambodia is where the Cham people live and they are predominantly Muslims. Interestingly, the Malaysian state of Kelantan recognises them and give them rights to citizenship and Bumiputra status. People here are extremely friendly especially to tourists. What still seems to stand out is the French colonial influence seen in the many crumbling but distinct houses and buildings they built some 70 years ago. There is also the fame Nokor Bachey temple ruins, that is similar to Angkor Wat but without the hefty admission charges. Prices here are certainly cheaper than the capital city where our VIP room at the Monorom 2 VIP Hotel costs only US$25 and where basic rooms start at only $15.

I took a rental bike out for a morning ride and enjoyed it thoroughly! Best fun for $1 I reckon and enjoying the cool breezes along the Mekong Riverside was the perfect start to a day. The town of 50000 was already bustling especially the markets and it was certainly fascinating to still see horse drawn carriages along the road.

But what caught my eye was a Surly Traveller Check locked up at the Mekong Hotel carpark. It had S & S couplings. Providence had it that I passed it by this morning and Taylor from Arizona, the owner was just setting off 100km today to Kratie, famous for the Irrawady Dolphins. We enjoyed a great chat as always between touring bicyclists. Locked next to his bike were 2 top end touring bikes with Rolfhoff hubs and unique belt drive system that got me salivating.

Before we left Kg Cham, I spotted another tourer heading out of town. I cant wait for my adventure to begin in Laos next week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Travel with foldies rocks

My two Samsonites containing a Bike Friday Expedition and a Dahon Speed 8, modified to 16 speed, travelled to Phnom Penh tonight with no issue whatsoever. It fitted into a small Nissan Sunny sedan to Changi airport, Singapore and checking in was hassle free on Jetstar.

I'm always afraid of corrupted customs officials at the Cambodia side as they are always finding ways of lining their pockets. Fortunately, 2 Samsonites with a princely value of more than US$2000 on a luggage trolley did not arouse any suspicion and it sailed through the greedy guys without any hassles.

Even taking the taxi to Blue Tongue Hotel in an old Toyota Camry was a breeze. Travelling with foldies this way really rocks!

Monday, December 13, 2010

An early Christmas greeting

I shall be saying goodbye to Perth for 2010 as I fly straight to Cambodia in the next few hours. Will drop briefly into Singapore to pick up two Samsonites containing my transportation for my epic Bolaven Plateau ride in Laos. As usual, I will be in Cambodia for my annual visit to teach and spend time with the beautiful children of COSI Orphanage. Two years ago, I bought a used Bridgestone folding bike from Japan which I called Blackie for them. It would be nice to see how she is, if she is still around.

Hence although its a little early, its only proper for me to wish all of you a very blessed and merry Christmas. Amidst all the flurry and activities of the holiday season throughout the commercial centres of the world, it may be worthwhile to ponder the true meaning and reason for Christmas in the ancient city of Bethlehem.

My young friend Ryo, 9 years old, wrote this on Bethlehem for his school project which I think is very informative.

In Bethlehem, Christmas is celebrated by many churches holding special prayers and services. There are about 20,000 tourists from Jerusalem who cross into Bethlehem at this time. All hotels are super booked and restaurants are enjoying peak times. In the evening, orchestras and choirs play Christmas music in many types of languages.

2000 years ago, a very special baby was born in a humble manger there. All the focus on the season is upon him. Why?

When asked if he could interview anyone in the world, who would it be? Larry King, the famous cynical CNN presenter replied, "Jesus Christ." One of the greatest military leaders in history, Napoleon Bonaparte, described Jesus in these words.

“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

The story of Christmas hinges upon this baby sent by God to save mankind. His life made an indelible impact upon history. His purpose -to help us get back into a relationship with our maker. His message of love so long ago still reverberates loudly today and it is this message from Bethlehem that gives hope and light to our broken world.

Perhaps I should plan for a foldie ride around Bethlehem over Christmas one day. It should be a most special time. May you and your family enjoy a Christmas filled with love, joy and peace wherever you are. Ride safe this 2011!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revisiting being unequally yoked

Definitely unequally yoked - fish needing bicycles

Recently, I had an enquiry about my unequally yoked tire combination of putting a fatter tire in front and a narrower one behind from Matt, who visits LTF. He too was looking for that balance between good handling, safety and performance and fitted the same Big Apple/Supreme combination on his Dahon.

Its been 2 years now and after more than 2000km on this set-up, I think this is the way to go if your riding involves more just road riding. While the bike paths of Perth are generally very good 95% of the time, meaning paved and tarred surfaces, there are moments when I simply need to go off the beaten track.

We did a ride to Fremantle yesterday and I was conscious of any non-road surfaces I had to traverse. The first one was when we hit a 300m wooden portion of the river path between Applecross and Attadale. I've always taken this forgranted with the Big Apple in front as this tire simply demolishes all obstacles the route gives it. All the ruts and gaps of the wooden planks were rolled over without any problems in comfort. This would make a 120psi Stelvio road tire absolutely miserable.

Then, there were two off road excursions I had to take. I was riding in front of the pack and somehow missed the usual bike path due to being mesmerised by the natural beauty before me. Rod shouted at me when I realised my folly and had to cut across the field to be on the right path. With the Big Apple, it just did the job like an SUV without any fanfare. The second off road excursion came on our way to Fremantle from Point Walter where we got lost and had to take a short cut through a grassy park. If I had the original skinny road tires on, I would have had to push the bike.

Another advantage is coming up and down from kerbs and this set up allows for that. It makes riding very unencumbered indeed. The Supreme rear tire has always transfered the power easily with no drama and makes for a spirited ride. The Supreme is marketed as the best tire Schwalbe makes although one tourer from Crazyguyonabike seemed to have had some problems with it.

On the road with medium tire pressures at 60psi/75psi, my Speed Pro can still cruise at a very decent speed in great comfort, not to mention mountain goat like sure-footedness. Road debris like branches and dangerous ball-like fruit are not a worry too. Yes, its not as fast as using Stelvios and this set up won't work for anyone who's goal is maximum speed. Its a bit heavier as well and changes the feel of the Speed Pro. But its a worthwhile compromise and opens more possibilities in your riding.

The long and short is being unequally yoke for my kind of riding works beautifully and although there are skeptics out there, I know that at least Matt seems to be in this fold.


Nutty Milo Slice - Its always a joy to share our morning tea and Ken brought along some Nutty Milo Slice which his wife made. It was really yummy, sweetish and full of mixed nuts including sunflower seeds, macademia, almonds, pumpkin, oats, cashew and honey. Such a healthy snack for cycling that I had to have seconds. Here is the recipe if you are keen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to get killed in traffic!

These NYC bike messengers must be the craziest riders on the planet. Watch how they carve and weave their way through traffic, with such skill and bravado. Way to go when you are truly tired of living!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Brompton by EcoVelo

The Brompton is my first folding bicycle and hence, like any first born, it holds a very special place in my stable. I was very intrigued to study EcoVelo's very comprehensive report on the advantages of a folding bike, especially its space savings which enable foldies to do multi-modal commuting seamlessly.

EcoVelo focused on the Brompton and its article is perhaps one of the best review of any bike I've read covering its history, design, performance, built quality and even options available. Add to that EcoVelo's award winning pics and it makes for an absolutely satisfying and informative read. The reviewer who owns 3 Bromptons has this to say.

"While there are other interesting folding bikes on the market that offer viable alternatives to the Brompton, in my view there’s yet to be another folder that brings together a clean, compact fold and excellent ride quality in such a compelling way."

I largely agree that it must be one of the best foldies around today despite it being over 20 years old. It has many committed devotees worldwide and their zeal is almost cult-like. That speaks volumes to its brilliant design and of course, the piece de resistance - its superb compact folded package. At my last Mandurah 50km ride, I took my Brompton and it had no problems keeping up with a Dahon Speed Pro, a KHS MTB with slicks and a Giant Hybrid despite its limited gearing.

However, there are different foldies out there that are more accomplished in other areas such as performance, handling, brakes, rider fit and comfort and most importantly for me, the ability to carry panniers for touring. That said, if you only can have one folder, do largely commuting and folded size is critical, I too would choose the Brompton and that has nothing to do with it being my "first born".

Note: 1st 3 pics courtesy of EcoVelo.

Update 4 Dec: Vik in his blog The Lazy Randonneur, posted a story about a guy who toured the Pacific Coast 1000km on his Brompton.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Put your records on

Rarely do I see a music video made of a sultry singer gliding on bicycle with so many of her friends on the same... having fun. Very easy going tune with lyrics about letting your hair down and finding oneself. Saw it on Copenhagen Cycle Chic. Enjoy this from Corinne Bailey Rae!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lovethefold is 3 years old!

I still remember when my son turned 3. On the morning of his birthday when he just woke up, we took him for a birthday treasure hunt around the house. Looking at the delight on his face when he found and opened each present still brings a big smile in my heart to this day. Being able to discover new things about the world and oneself, turning 3 is indeed a very special time of a young boy’s life and perhaps even for LTF, my online “son”.

One of the pleasant discoveries I have made recently is that readership has increased 50% from 2000 a month to over 3000 now. When I started writing about folding bicycles, my aim was and still is to get people on to bicycles, especially foldies. I am humbled that more people are visiting LTF and hopefully, discovering the joy of cycling.

Being on a bicycle adds so much to our learning and experiencing life to the fullest through meeting and making new friends, often very interesting folks.

Being out in the fresh air and soaking in all that nature has to offer - the cold, the heat, the smells, the breezes, the sun, the rain and even the insects all make one feel truly alive.

Not to mention being able to be at the right place and right time to see with our very own eyes, the beautiful tapestry of clouds in a blue sky, a flock of birds in perfect formation and even that perfect golden sunset. These are special snap shots given to us by our Maker that are imprinted in my memory and forever carried with me as I journey through life.

Although I have not been on any new tours this year yet (Bintan does not count), my plan to ride the Bolaven Plateau in Laos is finally set in concrete. End Dec will see 4 of us fly into Pakse to enjoy great riding with magnificent waterfalls to enjoy and coffee plantations to savour.

Before that, I will be in Cambodia for my annual work with the orphans and hope to do some riding especially in the chaotic streets of Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat.

Disappointingly, I only bought one bike this year – a used Japanese Mamachari commuter which I enjoy using to the markets when I’m back in Singapore. Most times, my domestic helper uses it to for her errands, relishing the privilege of riding rather than walking. My 16 year old Bridgestone and 8 year old Brompton got new brake and gear cables thanks to Chris and the Tikit got a pair of new Kojak rubbers. I will endeavour to do better next year and am looking at something with the Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub, but it does get a bit crowded with 9 bikes!

I plan to bring my Surly LHT over to Perth soon to do some touring here in Western Australia next year and there are plans for a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun as well. These and other exciting plans all add to the unfurling of little “presents”, which make for the anticipation of many delightful tomorrows.

Once again, my grateful thanks to you for "cycling" with me online through the journey of life on the saddle and if LTF somehow adds a little bit more colour into your world wherever you may be, then I cannot be happier. Wishing you lighted paths in the days ahead...

Pic taken from Green Living Blog

By your words I can see where I'm going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
Psalm 119 v 105

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why I ride

This is a very beautiful poem cleverly written by a Mary Bernsen, who submitted it for a photo contest at Eco Velo. I think it truly captures the joy and delights of cycling so well. That pic is also absolutely inspirational. Can't wait to get back on the saddle.


The view is different from the handle bars.
When my legs start moving, clarity of thoughts start flowing.
The busy pace of day-to-day is forgotten.
The senses begin to awaken.

The view is different from the handle bars.
I feel the chill of the morning, the heat of the mid-afternoon sun, and the breeze at night.
I smell the sweet scent of the flowers, the newly mowed grass and the wet pavement.

I hear the insects buzzing, the birds chirping, and the air whispering behind my ears.

The view is different from the handle bars.
Strangers become acquaintances and new friendship emerges.
Scenic locations are discovered and unknown paths are explored.

My soul rejoices as the sense of wonder waits in every turn.
The wind gently strokes my face, and a smile begins to form.

The view is truly different from the handle bars.

Mary Bernsen

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Brommie Yummie

I have been corresponding with a folding bike shop in New York City called NYCE Wheels and they pointed me to a very interesting folding bike club called Brommie Yummie started by a Steven Huang. Here, fellow foldies apparently ride around the Big Apple in search of good eats.

Really sounds like my cup of tea or more aptly, my bowl of noodles. I think there is no greater joy than exploring for yummy food on the saddle with like-minded folks. Don't you think?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When there is a will, there is a way.

Ben & Pru, "welcome" relatives of ours are here for the hols and of course, one of the must-dos for anyone visiting Perth is a bike ride. Trouble was that there were 4 of us and only 3 full size bikes. Laying around my backyard was a kid's BMX bike, left here by one of our young friends. Ben immediately suggested that he could use it so ALL of us could ride together. I was shocked.

With some adjustments to the seat post and handlebar, and a layer of very thick skin, it was actually quite ridable for Ben. We went to Heathcote, some 8km away for the great views and managed a very decent 20kmh. Ben, being an excellent racing biker, had no worries adapting to the very smallish bike albeit the comical stares. The "sacrifice" he made for his wife was truly admirable.

Bearing one another's burden is a trademark of good buddies so I volunteered to ride it for a while to share the "shame" while Ben hopped onto my Brompton. I found the kid's BMX quite fun actually to ride and was surprised it rode decently though spin out came rather early being a one speed bike with a wobbly rear tire.

All in, the four of us enjoyed a lovely bike ride along the Canning River proving that when there's a will, there is certainly a way - getting strange stares and giggles notwithstanding.