Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Rubber Finally Hits the Road!

After a normally long hiatus, this post is where the rubber hits the road - I have finally bought my bike(s)! What was previously rhetorical sharing on what would be the ideal bike and my historical relationship with bikes, I have bought them, ridden them, am in process of upgrading them and therefore have lots to tell!

I did not want to start with an ideal bike. To a certain extent, I felt that I could not justify spending too much on my first two-wheeler, especially if the body has not worked up the fitness to deserve one. Countless hours spent shopping at various bicycle shops and reading profusely on forums and blogs resulted in one affirmation - it had to be either a Dahon or a Tern.

Why? My first experience with a folding bike needs some measure of assuredness - I needed to know what good looks like. I am not obtuse to riding less-branded bikes but first I needed to feel the finesse of a dedicated folding bike specialist. A low end one would do - and in this regard Dahons were generally more affordable than the Terns. In addition, having a respect for history and elders, I wanted to support the father first rather than the son.

One fine day, in one of my various stopovers at Rodalink Bangsar, I chanced upon some Dahons on sale. The one that caught my eye in particular was the Dahon Vybe, both available in steel and aluminium frames. I wanted a tough bike, and I have been known not to be too gentle with them, so I though steel would be the ideal choice, even more so as it was the cheaper of the two. WI thought the trade-off with it being heavier wouldn't matter too much as I would mainly be lugging it from folding into the boot and vice versa, and not really lugging it around on trains and the like (splurging on a Brompton would be tempting on the latter point, but oh man the cost!). Moreover, I liked the white frame with black detailing of the Vybe C7 rather than the black frame with white detailing of the Vybe C7A. Saving approximately RM500 ringgit from its original price, I thought it was a rather good bargain too! And so the deed was done!

First Photo of the Vybe C7 at Putrajaya

I justified that the savings that I had made should be spent on accessories for the bike, and oh boy did I exceed those savings (by almost a factor of 2!) I started understanding women's needs to accessorise immediately upon the purchase! I wanted the bike to be practical right from the start and therefore the first concerns was how I would carry stuff. I loved the solid look and feel of Tern's Cargo Rack, which looked much tougher than their Portage Rack, both from Biologic. I do have dreams of attaching panniers to them one day, and the Cargo Rack seemed like a good move to future-proofing the investment.

Tern Cargo Rack

 Secondly, tools were required for maintenance. I chose Topeak's Aero Wedge Pack that would fit under the seat. In in I out Topeak's Racerocket MT Pump which fits just nicely, as well as a Schwalbe 20" spare tube. For comfort, I affixed a Selle Royale gel-padded seat for my rather ample posterior.

Topeak Aero Wedge
Topeak Mini 20 Pro

On a separate visit to Rodalink, I quickly added the Tern Luggage Truss with a Biologic Tour Bag which was on 20% discount. The Tour Bag is a real jack-of-all-trades for me, easily fitting many things including water bottles when required. It unhooks easily yet is sturdy when clamped to the Luggage Truss (mine is in black). There is also a key lock at the luggage truss that avoids the Tour bag being taken away, although this should only be used for short periods. For longer periods, the Tour Bag can be attached to a shoulder strap and carried away. It also has an internal waterproof lining that avoids getting your things wet.

Tern Luggage Truss

Biologic Tour Bag

I then thought I needed an even bigger bag, and having the Cargo Rack, the recommended bag was Biologic's Commuter Bag, which can clamp onto the Cargo Rack easily using the KLICKfix bracket system. It also has a 3Point shoulder strap converts into additional straps onto the rack to stabilise heavier loads, especially as it sits on the Cargo Rack vertically. 

Biologic Commuter Bag

I have tested the bag at my maiden trip going from my house to Bangsar Village to get dinner (lots of stops due to really tough hills). Went to Basil to get takeaways for 5, and it fit nicely into the Commuter Bag. I should, however, put them in a plastic bag before putting in the Commuter Bag as some gravy actually spilt when in the bag. The some of the padding can be detached (velcro) for cleaning. Some of the spilling could have been due to some rather fast rides over the speed bumps and 'kona baring'!

Waiting for the food at Basil with Commuter bag and Kabuto

To complete the accessories, I bought a white OGK Kabuto SP3 Extreme Sports Helemet which seemed to provide the best padding as I thought the typical Road Bike helmet seemed somewhat flimsy.Thus is the first stage of using the Dahon Vybe C7 and completing it with accessories. From Bangsar, I have been going for occasional 6km bike rides around the Bangsar and Kiara. Subsequently I had started riding around the UNITAR area in Kelana Jaya with a typical route of approximately 7km.

Next up - I did get an ideal bike!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Quick test ride of Moulton TSR-9

Brought my sister and her husband to Van's Urban Bicycle Co. at Kampung Tunku last Wednesday and had the opportunity to test ride the Brompton 6-speed, Tyrell FX and the Moulton TSR9. The Brompton had a leisurely feel, the Tyrell was like an impatient racing feel - it just wanted to jump off the blocks and speed! The Moulton, I must say, was a class of its own, as the rider and bike became one, inseparable. The dual suspension made a difference, but the frame balance between rigidity, response and fit was unparalleled. I now dig what Moulton buyers feel. One day...

Quick test ride of Birdy

Fully-modified Birdy with COLOR carbon wheel set and FSA Carbon crank. Took it for a spin, sweet ride with a balance between stiffness and response. Dual suspension.

Quick test ride courtesy of GW Cycle Boutique Plus, Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam

Saturday, 21 February 2015

My Ideal Bike

After so many months of desktop research, sporadic visits to bicycle shops and reading as much as I could, it was time to first decide what would be the ideal bike for me. I had a couple of particular criteria that would really narrow down my choices:

  1. The bike would have to be foldable due to:
    • convenience - can put in the boot and ride whenever I felt like it, and without needing a bike rack
    • coolness - I just simply buy in into the whole folding bike genre philosophy, and do not see myself as a MAMIL (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra), a phenomenon especially prominent with Road Bikers
    • posture - foldies are usually require an upright stance, which is compatible with more leisurely pursuits, and I intend to mainly cycle alone
  2. It would ideally be able to do some off-road:
    • I fancy the idea of being a prepper, and in emergencies one could just get the bike out and go to just about any terrain
    • to be able to do off-road, it would need to have either a front-fork suspension or full suspension
    • Off-road would also require a pretty good range of gears, more akin to an MTB than a Road Bike, but most ideal would be a hybrid between them
  3. From most of my readings, if the bike were to be foldable and have off-road capabilities, then one would have to go to established folding bike brands:
    • Pure folding bike companies would be preferred, as their total design concept would be to have the ideal fold and therefore the quality of the components involving the fold and more importantly the frame design should be much higher
    • Quality Dual Suspension would be preferred, firstly to withstand the state of Malaysian roads which may be a good training ground for off-road adventures!
    • Quality components would be required to handle both road cycling and light to heavy off-road use
Having painted myself into such a tight corner with such difficult requirements, there were only 3 bikes that would come close to meeting my expectations:

Often touted as the Rolls Royce of full-suspension foldable bikes with off-road possibilities, the Dahon Jetstream EX 2011 model would be the ideal bike for me. Dahon is arguably the highest seller of folding bikes in the world, and certainly one of the oldest and most established. The Jetstream EX has a German A GA Force Kilo A Air Shock front suspension with a Suntour Epicon Air with lockout and damping adjustment, with SRAM Dualdrive II 27-speed hub with SRAM X9 Rear Derailleur. I must say I was greatly influenced by Sam Cheong's Samosaurus Chronicles coverage of the Jetstream EX and his wife's Jetstream P8. It was also through his blog that I read about Debby & Carrey's off-road pursuits which included pushing the Jetstream EX to extremes until it failed!

German A GA Force Kilo A Air Shock


Unfortunately this bike is no longer on the market. According to Samo there were only 10 units that were brought into Malaysia. The original price was also close to RM10k if I am not mistaken, with a second-hand unit that was going for RM4.8k on though no longer available. I was also tempted after finding it online on an indonesian website with an encouraging price of USD1.4k but do not have the budget at the moment. If anyone does purchase through this website please tell me!

2. Airnimal Rhino Black 'Wild Thing'

While the Dahon Jetstream EX has been marketed as a trail bike, the Airnimal Rhino is a full-on off-road full suspension foldable ensemble. With Manitou Marvel 80mm front fork suspension and a Rock Shox Monarch rear suspension supporting a hovering frame design, the Rhino Black seems to be an equal (to the Jetstream EX) if not more ideal bike for me. Its Rohloff Speedhub 14-speed 32h Rear Sealed Gear Hub has a gear range of 19 - 101 inches.

In addition, it has two fold options as well as cases that corresponding to them. In addition, the frames can take one config of 20" and two configs of 24", its geometry designed to have the handling of a standard road bike, as well as a fold design along its centre line to provide stiffness. I have not actually experienced an Airnimal, the closest being my visit to My Bike Shop (MBS) in Singapore a couple of months ago when they showed me an Airnimal Joey frame and its vertical fold.

First Fold

The Airnimal Rhino actually comes in three configurations - the White which is a lower-spec off-road config using an 8 speed Alfine hub and Airnimal 48T Crank weighing 14kg (UKP1899), the Black using the 14-speed Rohloff (as above) with Airnimal 52T Crank weighing 13.6kg (UKP3299) and the Road with a 27-speed Shimano Tiagra-Ultegra-Deore drivetrain with FSA Gossamaer Triple-crank and Pro LT Dropbar combination weighing in at 11.5kg (UKP2199). So price-wise, even more out of reach for me - takes a special kinda bonus for me to splurge on this beauty.

3. Montague Paratrooper Pro

Montague is the only company I found that only makes full-sized foldable bikes. Its Folding Integrated Technology (FIT) was reputedly funded by DARPA for designing a bike that can be transported by a paratrooper (hence its name?). Montague focuses on two lines of bikes, the Pavement Bikes (FIT, Boston 8 and Boston), the Multi-Use Bikes (Navigator, Crosstown and Swissbike X50) and the Mountain Bikes (Swissbike X70 and X90, Paratrooper and Paratrooper Pro). The Swissbike and Paratrooper models all use the same frame, and I have a preference for the matt-black finish of the Paratrooper Pro (notice that all of my 3 choices above are black or dark framesets!)

The Fold

Between the Jetstream EX, Rhino Black and Paratrooper Pro, it seems that the Paratrooper Pro could probably take the most off-road punishment, having the geometry of a classic Mountain Bike and having a standard MTB Front Fork suspension (and therefore having many options and easier-to-find replacement). Unlike Jetstream EX and Rhino Black though, it is more of a hardtail frame design and is therefore not a full suspension bike. It does seems to feel like the most durable though - I had seen one at Van's Urban Bicycle Co. shop at Kampung Tunku, PJ and man, it feels amazing. With the price just north of RM4k, it is the most affordable among the three choices.

Thus I have presented my ideal bike choices. Like life though, one often does not start with ideals. My next post will outline my first 3 bike purchases and why (here's a hint - it's none of the above!). Stay tuned for the next installment, which hopefully will not take a month like the time between this post and the previous one.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Hitting the Books

Being somewhat of a nerd, I always read around a subject before attempting it. My re-introduction to cycling was no different. Taking a break from my desktop-warrior research into folding bikes and the world of Dahons, Terns and Montagues, I poked around Amazon to see what I could read on my Kindle (see, nerd).

I was first looking for something that would make me get up an go. Being committed to an urban-riding philosophy, I did not want to become another semi-fitting lycra-wrapped overweight cyclist with the latest Oakley on his nose-bridge. I wanted to ride in normal clothing, wearing normal shoes or even slippers, much like I used to in my teenage days. Neither am I Messenger-bag toting London or New York-ish rider whizzing through the streets with purpose. I just wanted to take my time riding, and preferably alone most of the time, hearing the wind in my ears, before being engulfed by my heaving and shortness-of-breath sounds that would likely happen very soon afterwards.

It was refreshing then to discover Grant Petersen's book so aptly-titled "Just Ride". The reviews from Amazon made it clear that it was for "the rest of us" cyclists, me most possibly included. It has been compared to Michael Pollan's foodie books, and it is perfectly what I was looking for. Full of practical advice easily understood by noobs like me, Petersen's writing style is also honest and hard-hitting where it needs be. After reading this, and finally getting the right price, I went out and bought my Dahon C7S from Rodalink Bangsar and did that - Just Ride!

My beloved wife then bought me another Kindle-download - and this was a very different book. Robert Penn's "It's All About the Bike" title is a play on Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike" book. Penn's tome traces the Welshman's journey to building his ultimate bike which takes him all over the world to see how his chosen bike-parts were made. During that journey we are educated on the origins of each part of the bicycle, ending up with the manufacturing process of the said part. Detailed, and peppered with the typical wry British humour, Penn's book was a good antidote against Petersen's also-enjoyable hard-nosed utilitarianism.

The third tome is currently in my son's possession as he is also picking up the cycling bug. My intent is to look more into bicycle maintenance, and Howard Zinn's works tend to come on top of the list. At Kinokuniya Orchard Road however, I found Zinn's works too dry and the diagrams too technical and wanted more of a dummies guide. Even the Dummies book did not satisfy my search. Perusing the shelves further, I chanced upon Dorling Kindersley's "Complete Bike Book" by Chris Sidwells, although printed 9 years ago, remains the most comprehensive reference for all things cycling. It was the only book I found to have a reference to foldies, and numerous other types of bicycles that I did not know existed.

So there's the round-up the the books I have been reading on cycling. Some of the other books I am considering are below:

Any book you'd like to recommend me to read?

Take care.


Friday, 2 January 2015

The Start of Exploring Foldies


The very concept of a folding bicycle was intriguing to me; I had always been more of an urban cyclist, and to the surprise of many I actually like to cycle in the city and suburbs. There is a different sense of adventure, of even urgency that would be missing from coasting down a meandering bucolic path. It may have to do with the fact that I was very much a city boy, born and bred in the Klang Valley for most of my life. To cycle in the city was a matter of... survival. A slightly perverse sense of high...

I had bought a bicycle rack that attaches to the back of my Kia Sorento for weekend rides at Lake Gardens. The preparation of hooking up the rack and transferring 3 bicycles (one Proton T-Blaze rigid frame Mountain Bike which was my father's, which he received as a result of previously co-owned a Proton retail outlet, an XDS aluminium-frame single-speed boy's bike purchased from Bangi and a Toys-R-Us pink Barbie girls one) from their suspended hooks at the car porch, which usually takes more that 30 minutes, more often than not discourages the thought of even having the excursion. A folding bike, now that's a different proposition! From my desktop research, it only takes some 20 seconds to fold a bike and carry it into the boot! The possibilities beckon...

Folding bikes have had a long history, and it is a little too long to relate it here, but here's a link for those who'd like to know. I focused instead on conducting extensive research both online as well as visiting various shops that had been checked out online. One of my most often referred-to blog site is Sam Cheong's excellent "The Samosaurus Chronicles", probably the most exhaustive folding bike blogs there is, and a Malaysian one to boot. It was through his site that I developed a keen interest for Dahon and Tern bikes. Today, the Dahon name is synonymous with folding bikes after coming out with its first production in 1982 by Dr. David Hon, a physicist; Tern is owned and developed by his son, Joshua Hon; fortunately, the legal dispute between the two companies (one of the impact was that Dahon bicycles were released, for a period of time, as Dr. Hon) was settled and we can now enjoy superb products and new models from both companies.

Polygon Urbano 3.0
Rodalink Bangsar
The only time I really had to visit bicycle shops were lunchtimes, in-between meetings or sometimes on the way back home, so that was what I did. The first was the closest to my father's house in Bandar Baru Bangi called Ogen Cycle, where I saw the Polygon Urbano 3.0 (black) which was pretty appealing, more so than the various XDS folding bike models that they carried, and it even came with a carrying bag. Closer to my house, I had visited Rodalink Bangsar and was impressed by the range of folding bikes that they carried, inlcuding Polygon, Dahon and Tern. Early on, I had my eye on a Dahon Jetstream P8, mainly because of its dual-suspension system although its almost RM4k price was disconcerting. My infatuation with Dahon bikes began.

Dahon Jetstream P8