Saturday, July 31, 2010

Caught tubeless!

What was to be an easy and relaxing Sat morning ride today ended with a big bang literally. I took my son's XO5 out for the usual 12km ride with the aim of evaluating its running condition. Somehow, its hard to expect a teenage kid to maintain his school bike.
After pumping the under-inflated tires to 70/75psi, the first few km went smoothly enough except I noticed the rear tire had a small lump which gave the bike an irritating ride. Upon reaching Mt Henry Bridge and with the beautiful view of the Perth city skyline in sight, a gunshot suddenly went off. Bang! The loud sound was amplified as I was under a bridge and just as I suspected, it was my rear tire that gave way.

Closer inspection revealed that the lump was caused by a broken tire beat, which in turn caused the tube to burst. All the extremity of the hot and cold weather must have taken its toll. Fine and well if I brought a spare tube, but I was unprepared and tubeless.

This resulted in a long morning walk back home which was pleasant enough, and an offer of help by a passing cyclist brought a smile to my face. I've since replaced the tire with a new Michelin Dynamic 700 x 32c which is a very cushy and comfy hybrid tire.

So much for going out riding and getting caught tubeless...
Update - I have bought another Dynamic for the front as well and these are really fat 700c tires. At 32, they are still not as wide as the 34 original Ritchie tires. Talk about a plush ride on the XO5!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mamachari -The perfect CPF (cycle, park & forget) bike

Pic fm

While its always a pleasure to ride and own well-engineered bikes, there are times you simply need basic transport to get you from one point to another and most importantly be theft-proof. To be precise, the bike must not be worth stealing. I've been toying with the idea of getting a Chinese Flying Pigeon, but the double top-tube frame is simply too big for me.

I've rented a Japanese style Mamachari bike years ago in Chiang Rai, Thailand and always rememered how surprisingly well it rode. Smooth, reliable (no gears) and supremely practical with its front basket and centre-stand. It's outstanding user-friendliness just stayed with me till today. Tokyo by Bike spells out why the Mamachari is Japan's most popular bike.

While pottering through a traditional bike shop in Pontian last weekend, I spotted 3 used Japanese Mamachari looking for new owners.

After thinking about it for 2 days, I made a trip to buy one. Its hard to justify another bicycle sometimes and the vehement objections from the fairer sex can get scary. I wanted the model with the 3 speed Nexus IGH but unfortunately, it was a bit faulty and settled for a single speed. Less troublesome I reckon in the long run.

It came with a traditional dynamo front lighting system, build in frame lock with 2 keys, full fenders and rear rack. I added a front basket and changed to new tubes with Schrader valve. The original ones were Dunlop valves which can be very troublesome to pump.

The total damage was only US$68 and I was happy as Larry. There is a shop in NZ selling used Mamachari at US$250 upwards so I can't complain! I have a dentist appointment tomorrow in a HDB heartland and will ride my Mamachari there. My search for my CPF bike is finally over!

Ps 1: Grateful thanks to Ben and Pru for helping me bring back my 9th child all the way from Pontain. You guys are the best.

Ps 2: Pics courtesy of CW.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An old town on the move

My last visit to Pontian Kechil must have been in 2002 where I cycled back from Malacca and spend my last night here. Things have changed a lot with the obvious development of the reclaimed land area. Our Hotel Pontian is situated there with many new shop houses, a new bus terminal and even an upcoming harbour for boats.


People too seemed more affluent especially when we had our hotel breakfast - more than half of the guests there were "plus" size. Fortunately, we noticed the culture of cycling around town is still alive and vibrant. We took the opportunity to shop at one of the many traditional bike shops. I was tickled pink to find that in a baby rocker, the "baby" put there by the shop owner was that of a bike seat. That speaks volumes of where his passion is.

CW and I bought old fashion bicycle bells - and I fitted mine immediately on the BF Expedition. The sound was really very loud and rich as you can hear from the video here. Was also fun to ride around and chat with the local bikers. One of them had a 20" Durian coloured cream bike with a modern dynamo hub plastered proudly with badges of Johor. He purported that his unique colour really glowed at night and we were happy to take him at his word.

I also visited the 40 year old crumbling Princess Hotel (stayed there 2002) and its still in operation. US$10 for a room but be warned, very basic with aircon. Maybe.

It was great to walk around the old part of town and explore the rickerty fishing jetties.

As dark clouds loomed, we decided to take a bus back to Johor Bahru. Somehow, cycling in a monsoon was not so appealing. Upon seeing our bikes, the bus cowboys got all excited as this was their chance to earn some pocket money.

Although the bus fare was a mere US$1.80, we paid US$10 for 2 of our bikes after some serious haggling. What clinched the deal was the bikes could fit into the huge cargo bay without any dismantling. If I brought my foldie bag, my Expedition would probably have travelled free.

All in, a most interesting cycling weekend destination. I just hope in the midst of modern development, they will somehow allow the charm of the old town of Pontian Kechil to linger on.

Pontian Expedition

Map from Jan Boonstra Spore Cycling

BF Expedition at its best - touring!

It rained so much on Saturday early morning that flash floods occurred in Singapore. Even in late morning, the rain continued, though easing. Great for sleeping in, not for riding. I was prepared to cancel the trip but this would be the first time coming back to this region that I would not have done a ride. The determination of CW to go and stretch the legs of his Surly gave me the needed push, even to ride through wet weather.
Fitted the fenders on my BF Expedition, threw a few things into the water-proof Orb and off we went at 1pm only to realise that I brought the wrong size spare tube. O well, we had a patch kit. The ride to the causeway was easy enough with the rain graciously on hold.

Clearing customs in the Singapore side was no worries but the new immigration system in Johor, Malaysia led us on through a long maze of flyovers and spitted us out a good distance from the causeway. Fortunately, all of custom officers we met were very polite and friendly. One of them kept commenting, "Friday, Friday!" not that he knew anything about foldies but that got all of us smiling.

The ride through Johor Baru was a bit hairy as there are no bike lanes and at most parts, we had to ride on the highway. Though cars, motorbikes and trucks were zooming past, they seemed to give us a wide berth.

We decided to get off the main road and take the quieter road to Gelang Patah, a small town near Pontian. Development has gone on full steam in this area as part of the Iskandar Region and everywhere, there were new housing estates replacing the jungles much to CW's disappointment. He used to MTB there in the good ole days. Thus, we ended up a bit lost but arrived at Gelang Patah 5pm in time for afternoon tea. The good thing about Malaysia is the numerous coffee shops around providing great snacks and drinks.

As it was getting dark and with 38km to go, we picked up the pace. I realised how unfit I was as I struggled to draft behind Chris Surly LHT at 25-28kmh. All those cold Australian winter weeks have taken its toll on me legs.

Just at the shire of Pekan Nanas, we nearly fell off our bikes in excitement when we spotted the Shimano factory. This is where they build the wheels that set the bicycle world in motion. The security guard must have thought he met 2 cyclists just out of a mental institution as we snapped pics and behaved with so much awe and "reverence".

We pulled into Pontian at 735pm feeling quite tired (at least I was) and checked into the Pontian Hotel, supposedly the best one there for US$38. A good feed of Chinese food with rice just by the breezy seaside followed by a nice massage was the perfect end for our expedition.

I was out like a light when I hit the comfortable bed oblivious to anything and anyone. I reckon a 100km ride is the best sleeping pill, rain or no rain.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pontian Wonton Mee anyone?

Singaporeans are known to drive for miles just to eat their favourite dish. My buddy CW lives and breathes Wonton Mee (noodles with BBQ pork and dumplings) and when the Pontian Wonton Mee Franchise came to Singapore, one blogger wrote that now, there is no need to drive 80km to eat that.

Well, CW and I decided to cycle up to the Malaysian coastal town on Saturday to see if we can locate the original Wonton Mee shop. I'll be using my Bike Friday Expedition that has been in the bag since Jan for the 80km trip.

Join us for Wonton Mee?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A slow morning with fast riders

Today's breakfast meeting was a very special one. It was great to enjoy a leisurely moment over tea and Indian pancakes (Thosai) with Heng and Paul. These 2 riders are among the top fastest folding bikers in Singapore. When you consider they are around 50 yo, that makes it even more unique.

Heng has 3 road bikes and 3 foldies and still holds the fastest downhill speed of 64km/h on his Dahon Speedpro TT. Although he enjoys riding his foldies, he has moved to road racing internationally and he wanted to talk to me about the upcoming Australian Audex in Oct. This is a 1200km race from Perth to Albany in 4 days. Just reading about it makes me exhausted!

Paul of course is no stranger to LTF, and has recently acquired a bright orange Pashley Moulton, the Aston Martin of small wheel bikes. He also has a Brompton with Stelvio Light tires. I have ridden on quite a few trips with Paul and it can be too demoralising for me, especially when climbing hills.

The usual torrential monsoon rains came halfway and our breakfast dragged on to lunch. But my Tikit and his Brompton were not complaining as they kept each other company on this slow morning.

Three's company...

Vacations for couples are meant to be private times - for reconnecting and renewal of relationships. However, my passion red Carry Me managed to tag along to Phuket, Thailand with the Wees recently.

I'm glad my "child" played her role in enhancing the romance somehow by ensuring Datuk Wee's early morning fitness. She also transported him around town to get snacks and to interesting places for his daily photo fix.

You can read about her little adventure here. Three can be good company.

Pics from CW's blog post.

*This song by Celine Dion is dedicated to each of your special someone. Their understanding and support of our passion to give us that "visa" to cycle off is much appreciated and valued.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Left low and dry at the Pinnacles

Singapore is renown for its skyscrapers and I wanted to check out the latest offering - the Pinnacles at Duxton. This is an impressive 50th floor high public housing that has just been completed right in the heart of the city. Its design has won many awards but it was the view that promises to be magical.

Pic taken fm Flickr Simon Photography

I rode my Carry Me there hoping to take some shots of it in the sunset, high up in the clouds. In my mind, I was picturing what angles to shoot it from etc and the soft lighting was almost perfect. Alas, when I was at the ticket office to pay the $5 entrance fee, the security staff said I couldn't bring the CM up to the Skybridge as it was a bicycle.
Despite folding it up into its most compact upright stance and promising not to ride it, they refused to budge, stroller-size notwithstanding. Rules are rules! Thus, my little excursion was scuttled, leaving me low and dry. O well, we live and learn.
ps: This blog post depicts the awesome scenery 50 floors up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Roadwalk-ing 7000km!

Big stomachs & short legs are hindrances for cycling

I'm a firm believer in personal chemistry when it comes to friendships. Roadwalker and I certainly seem to have that in fizzles and it was a great privilege to ride with him this morning along the beautiful ECP, together with Keong.
We met in Aug 2008 at a foldie bike meet in Singapore where he was riding a Strida. RW has since changed to riding a Birdy LX and I was shocked to learn he has put 7000km on his snow white foldie just riding around Singapore over 2.5 years. Considering he also has a Pacific Reach and a road bike, and did only a few overseas trips, it is quite a feat.

RW has a most gentle disposition and is a talented graphic designer. It shows in his choice of the Birdy, a truly beautifully German designed foldie with unique parallelogram front suspension system. He has just installed a small but ingenious front rack capable of taking 2 Orteliebs and still fold. One would expect a bike with such high mileage to be pretty scruffy, but RW's Birdy looks like it is just out of the showroom thanks to his meticulous care and attention. So far he is on his second set of Marathon Racers and chain.

He showed me his little notebook of cycling where he pens down his thoughts and musings ever so neatly. Unfortunately for me, its written in Chinese but his pictorial illustrations and patient explanation fascinated and illuminated me.
"Good grief! I'm rather porky but good thing my bike is light as a feather..."

One of a weight weeny trying to shave off grams on his carbon fibre bike while he himself was "sumo-rish" brought lots of chuckles over our Nasi Lemak breakfast this morning.

RW has also been a great friend to me as we journey together through the ups and downs of life. I look forward to celebrating his 10000km acccomplishment and somehow, I sense that will come sooner than later.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 1 John 4:11