akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Sunday 13 June 2021

Super Randonneur 2020

With the road bike I’ve found something interesting and at the same time quite challenging: Audax rides. It is a self-support non-competitive endurance riding, over scneic routes (including hilly ones) throughout the country. Many of these rides are crossing multiple states along small towns, usually off the beaten path. In Malaysia the awesome folks of Audax Randonneurs Malaysia (ARM) are the authorised organisers of Brevet rides, sanctioned by Audax Club Parisien (ACP).

There are 200, 300, 400 and 600km rides organised throughout the Brevet calendar year. These are timed rides, meaning that there are cutoff time that the participants (Randonneurs) need to observe. The routes are predetermined with a few checkpoints scattered throughout, including perhaps a secret checkpoint just to make sure no one is skipping some part of the course*. The rides are roughly timed with an average pace of 15km/h. As an example, for a 200km Brevet the time limit is 200/15 = 13.33 hours, simplified to be 13.5 hours. 

With SR Adnan at Morib for our BRM600

For the brave and courageous souls who complete each of the distances of 200, 300, 400 and 600km in the Brevet calendar year, there is an accolade bestowed upon them - the coveted Super Randonneur Award. As I am writing this, those numbers appear not as unattainable as I would have thought a few years ago. I still remember how intimidating it was to ride a 200km Brevet. The rides are all by no means easy, even after having finished them multiple times now. What I’m saying is that they are now less terrifying as it used to be. Some experience and lots of preparation play big roles in that, I suppose.

Together with Adnan, a fellow Perpatih member, we did all 4 rides to earn the title for 2020 season. It was an awesome journey along the 1,500km that we rode. The roads were scattered with our stories full of drama, hardship, camaraderie as well as fun times amid the adversaries; with breathtaking sceneries and weather spells, both favourable and discouraging, as the backdrop. I’ll recollect and put in this blog later the stories for keepsake, insyaAllah.

The rides I completed for SR2020 award:

eventtime, hourscutoff time, hourscourse distance, kmroute
BRM400Nov 201927:0027:00408.7Muar - Tanjung Piai - Muar
BRM300Dec 201918:0520:00288.6Sitiawan - Taiping - Kuala Sepetang
BRM200Jan 202011:2013:30198.6Nilai - Morib - Nilai
BRM600Aug 202039:3040:00599.7Morib - Bahau - Segamat - Batu Pahat - Merlimau - Morib

*full rules of riding in here: https://audaxmalaysia.com/the-rules/

Images are owned by ARM

Monday 7 June 2021


I switched to road bike riding since January 2017. Not exclusively, but significantly more of riding on tarmac with a road bike and close to zero offroad riding. I do still have my Surly Troll for occasional offroad rides, but sold off my Trance X4 to my neighbour.

Since moving to Seremban, I’ve been riding with the awesome people of Perpatih Cycling Club. They ride both offroad and on road. And most of them own proper bikes for both types of riding. While riding on the road for night rides, they’d take out their road bikes and zip along the tarmac and LEKAS highway (while it was still okay) and I’m on a 26er with slicks. Sluggish due to the weight, and my fitness of course.

It took me quite some time to come to terms with an undeniable truth: the best experiences are with using proper tools. I have been subscribing to the notion of MTBs are do-it-all machines. Yes, they are. But do-it-alls are jack of all trades, master of none. Except for this case, they are excellent offroad machines. While they can be converted to a touring rig or for riding on tarmac, there are trade-offs. With trade-offs, the full capacity is not being realised to be enjoyed. And that’s what I think I’ve been missing out on. 

So with this, I decided to get myself a road bike. With a decent budget, I set out to get a full carbon fibre road bike. After visiting many shops, I stepped into Cyclomotion Wangsa Maju and asked for a CF road bike. They told me that they’ve sold out during their recent sale. One of the guys in the shop suggested another bike that they’re clearing out if I’m interested in. The other guy mentioned that that one is with a titanium frame, not CF as what I wanted. My eyebrows lifted up and my sloppy shoulders were upright and I asked for the bike details. Long story short, a few weeks later I got myself a Charge Skewer Ti bike with 11 speed Ultegra 6800 groupset from them. I’m not going to reveal the price I paid, but its retail was RM11.8k.
Charge Skewer Ti - with stock parts, Jan 2017

It has been more than 4 years now. At the time of writing, data from Strava shows that I’ve been clocking 17,880km on the road bike while the Troll has only seen 995km of riding. Granted, the Troll is an offroad rig, of course it wouldn’t go as far. Both are fun bikes, but I guess the Skewer makes cycling more accessible for me. Plus the fact that cycling on tarmac doesn’t require much time for post ride cleaning, even after riding in the rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take in one and ditch another. I do still enjoy offroad outings, but most of time (at least for now) I enjoy riding on road much more. Again, it is more accessible. I had once taken Troll riding up Bukit Putus just for the fun of it. It turns out that it is no fun at all. Its place is not on the tarmac, I learned. A mountain bike shines offroad covered in mud splatters and whatnots. Cycling on the road is best experienced on a road bike. It is that simple.

Of course, just like mountain bikes, there are different types of road bikes for different disciplines of cycling on the tarmac (touring, Audax/randonneuring, TT, racing, etc.). We’ll talk about that later if I’m up for it.
Jan 2021, with some upgrades

Ride on! 

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Build Your MTB

I answered a question on Quora a couple of weeks ago, fresh from (re)building the XTC to be used by my neighbour for an upcoming short local ride.

For me, part of the joy in mountain biking is building the bike itself. From getting the parts right through to the actual assembly. I savour every moment. Except the hand cleaning at the end of each session.

Much of my knowledge about MTB assembly is from a good friend, BC Kelolo. I reached out to him before setting off on my first of many, many adventures and he unreservedly gave me good advices and tips. Over the years, I accumulated some more through my own readings, research, discussion with fellow riders and numerous trips to LBSes.

MTB evolves at a dizzying rate. I personally can't keep up with most of the tech (innovative or equally useless). Unfortunately due to this, there is a very steep learning curve if you're to dip your toe in building/assembling your MTB. So I only keep track with the ones that are particularly suited for my riding, $ and whatever I can easily source locally. There are one or two things that caught my attention, usually those which are practical and interesting to be tried out. And if my wallet could agree with them.

Many good riders I know are also good bike mechanics. The reverse may not be true, though. Anyways, knowing at least the basics about your machine would be good for you as a rider. Trust me on this.

Related links:
My answer on Quora - How do I build a mountain bike, from just the frame all the way to the trail?
Modern MTB - Spoilt for Choice
BC Kelolo's Anatomi Sebuah Basikal Gunung
My first adventure

Tuesday 5 July 2016

22.05.2016 Troll's First Offroad

Troll's first taste of dirt

I wanted to know how it feels to ride the Surly Troll offroad, as it was meant to be. As a multi-purpose machine, I have ridden it for short rides to the market, around Seremban, and a long ride. Never before offroad.

I transfered parts from XTC to Troll after Fajr. It took me about 1½ hours to complete the transfer, some tuning and clearing some snags.

Drivetrain is 9-speed SLX with LX crankset as it has been on the Troll. I decided not to use the rigid fork; I used the Epicon instead. Unless I have a bigger front tire (2.3 at least) and tubeless, I'd try out the rigid fork.

riders at Pylon

At 8:00-ish, I cycled to TBS for the offroad ride with fellow Perpatih gang. With Remy, Kak Wan, Saiful and Abang Lias, we went into TBS offroad via Kacang. Then we ascended up to Pylon before resting at Leman Dawi with many helpings of its free refill Cendol. I cycled back home soon after we reached our morning rendez-vous point i.e. Petronas station at TBS.

me and my Troll

My Surly Troll is fun and I could feel the difference compared to the XTC. Troll is a bit heavier than XTC due to the frame material. I do feel a bit relaxed when descending. The other thing that I really felt was that the Troll's handling is snappy. It just kind of do what I intended to do without delay. Turns are crisp, and much more focused. More impressions after few more rides perhaps.

More photos in here.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Tech: SRAM's 11s NX

Yet another 11s offering from SRAM, this one is an entry level grouppo for the masses (with a lot of mass, of course)

After churning out their GX range, SRAM released the NX groupset which is cheaper than GX. While GX is with an option of running either 1x11, 2x11 or 2x10, they set this one out as a 1x11 offering. However, unlike the previous 11s from SRAM, NX does not require the XD Drive freewheel body. Hence it is without the 10T in the cassette.

The cassette in NX range is PG-1130, with 11-42T range and more than half a kilogram weight (538g to be exact). In front, the chainring offered are 30, 32, 34,36 & 38T. The crank is Boost 148 compatible , and also available for fatbike (4") as well as a plethora of different BB standards. This may be a cheaper option for getting 1x11 onto the fatbike, but you do have to consider the weight penalty to pair with the already hefty bike.

MTBR has put up a X1/GX/NX comparison chart - weight and price (USD). Check it out.


photo taken from here.

Thursday 12 May 2016

28.04.2016 Solo Mini Tour: Seremban - Sungai Pelek - Seremban

If Plan A is a no-go, proceed with Plan B. Else, proceed with Plan C.

Lemonade with extra pressing sort of thing.

the view of Sungai Sepang on board the ferry. On the right is Selangor, Negeri Sembilan on the left
I took an annual leave on a Thursday and was ready to spend that day for a Masterclass wheelbuilding session. As Murphy's Law kicked in, at midnight I was informed that it has to be postponed (yes, not cancelled. Yeay!).

I was already in no mood to go to work, so I consoled myself to resort to Plan B i.e. a 42km mini tour from Sungai Pelek to Seremban via Lukut and Siliau. To get to Sungai Pelek, I'll be taking the bus from Terminal 1 in Seremban (cycling to T1 from home).

original route:

I took my sweet time prepping the bike after the rest of the family went out for school. For the first time I tested the bike bag that I had bought last year after the Labis to Seremban short tour. All okay, I set out to Terminal 1 at 9.00 am from home.

I reached T1 and went straight to the ticket counter to ask for the bus schedule to Sungai Pelek. I was told that there is none. 
Duhh... how uncharacteristic of me to not check for sure beforehand for such an important detail.

breakfast stop at Jalan Labu
Well, there's an impromptu Plan C, which is a bit crazy and unthinkable. Some sort of a gamble, but still doable. I think. While slowly pedaling out towards Jalan Labu, I thought 'hey, I've never been on Jalan Labu. This would be an adventure'. An adventure indeed. And I'm glad I did.

The very reason for the original mini tour is to get on board the infamous short ferry cruise crossing Sungai Sepang, the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. That's the essence of it. And it is a very, very short ride. Not much of a drama, actually. So now the route has been extended extensively, I'm getting into the 'it's the journey that matters' state of mind.

The original route would have me pedaling about 42km, and with the additional adventure of about 60km (per Strava), the total is substantially extended to about 100km. Perhaps the longest I've ever pedaled in a day!

Not much preparation was made except on the bike that morning. A simple pack-up-and-go ride. Not even a proper breakfast (remind me not to do that again next time).

At 10:00-ish, I was on Jalan Labu and stopped for breakfast as soon as I spotted an eatery. After a plate of fried rice and iced tea (my current favourite drink), I continued on and headed towards Nilai on the spanking new road of Ainsdale after getting underneath the PLUS highway. It was already hot, but not to the point of getting exhausted and dehydrated. It was an okay kind of hot.

biggest pumpkin seen the whole day
Aunty Aini's near Nilai
Jalan Labu (route 362) towards SMAPL is a nice route. Perhaps due to a weekday morning, there were not many vehicles but still there were quite a number of lorries every now and then. At a T-junction, I veered right towards Nilai (N38) and carried on until I came at another T-junction where I turned left towards Sepang on route N28. Not far from Kedai Basikal Lasak Nilai, I stopped at a fruit stall for replenishing lost minerals. A cup of cold (diluted) coconut water did some work, and I moved on.

not in Thailand

I reached Salak and turned left at a T-junction towards Sepang on route B48. By that time there were many vehicles on the road as it was already nearing lunch time. I reached Sepang town at about noon and stopped for another cup of coconut water. I gave a call to Pak Ngah of DETC Bike Kitchen at Sg Pelek, asking if I could come around and say hi. Unbeknownst to me, I thought that Sg Pelek is not far from Sepang. It is actually about 12km. Seems a short distance by car. Hehe.

nearing Sungai Pelek town
Just a little after 1:00 pm, I was already there and greeted by Pak Ngah's warm smile as always, and a few of his bikes on the ground of his backyard. Immediately he offered me a seat at the Bike Kitchen and he went inside his house. A couple of minutes later he had a jugful of cold sirap selasih on a tray for us. This was followed by two bowls of cold sagu dessert. Delicious is an understatement.

with Pak Ngah at DETC Bike Kitchen
I have always admired Pak Ngah's generosity, be it in his sharing stories or knowledge or even the simple serving of cold drinks. Thank you, Pak Ngah. I pray that Allah would bestow upon you and family good health and wealth, and many more bikes (and fishing too).
one for the road - photo by Pak Ngah Ishak
At about half past two, I made a move and went out back towards Sg Pelek town for my lunch and solat. The small town and its nice masjid was quiet at that time. The weather was hot, but not too hot that I couldn't bear to go out. A little headache, yes, but not daunting.

lunch stop at Sungai Pelek town
After solat, and with the verbal instructions from Pak Ngah on how to get to the jetty, I pedaled slowly under the hot sun. There is not a single marking on the jetty. If you knew, you knew. Judging from the situation, I guess the ferry has never stopped getting back and forth with passengers since the morning. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday, and I was in the ferry with two others on their motorcycles. Over at the other side there were a couple more waiting for their turn. Also there were a husband and wife with their mountain bikes, just came back from their ride in Port Dickson.

unmarked lane to the jetty
jetty on the Selangor side
ready to disembark at Negeri Sembilan
Troll on the ferry
Mel and Penny
In our short exchange, Mel told me that they moved to Sungai Pelek from their place in KL some time ago. I get acquainted with his wife Penny as well. It was a brief encounter while they embarked the ferry with their bikes; and as soon as I was about to get ready to disembark, the ferry had already made a turn to the other side.
So I stayed for another cruise to get to Negeri Sembilan and enjoyed the view of Sungai Sepang with healthy mangrove trees on either sides. Not a bad thing to have a double dose of the essence of the trip. With no extra charge.

Now with the second leg of the whole thing in front of me, I started pedaling in Kampung India out to route N4 towards Chuah and moved further on to Tanah Merah. I took a right turn to route 5 to get to Lukut. Quite a  boring route and the day was getting hotter. Mel told me that Siliau is a good route, so I was really looking forward to that.

at Chuah
To be frank, I was getting a bit tired by then. What with the little headache and muscle cramp setting up, it is too easy to give up. However, I stayed dehydrated and made sure I have enough water. I stopped at a petrol station to replenish water, and get some salty chewables to aid the muscle cramp. That was in the form of Mor Far Kor. It worked, seriously. Gradually the niggling soreness died away. While the distance to Siliau got shorter, my motivation grew bigger.

At the T-junction of routes 5 and 53, I went to the left and headed to Siliau passing by Lukut town. As I get nearer to the Seremban - PD highway, the surrounding became familiar. Not boring, rather exciting. I turned into the Springhill housing estate for a change of view and hoping for lesser rolling hills. Well, there were a few but not that bad.

at Lukut towards Siliau and Seremban
Not far after exiting Bandar Springhill, I carried on riding along route 53. A quick stop just before the underpass of the Seremban - PD highway to check on my phone. It was running out of juice, so I decided to end the tracking on Strava and switched it off completely.

Very soon, I came around Siliau. And yes, the route is nice. There are many trees lining up the road. As it was already the end of the work day, the road got busier. Lorries were plenty. Buses too. I kept on pedaling steady while glancing once in a while on my side mirror assessing the traffic.

I reached Mambau, which is very familiar. My wife's late aunt's house is in Taman Kelab Tuanku. It is not far to the roundabout towards Seremban. By this time I was already feeling hungry but didn't stop for anything. The next stop would be the final point of this whole thing - home.

I passed by Hospital Tuanku Jaafar in Rahang and pedaled towards KGV. From there I went to Jalan Keliling and to Kolej MARA Seremban and got to Jalan Dato Muda Linggi (aka route 51 aka the road to Ampangan) via Jalan Penghulu Cantik. One of my favourite stretch of inner road in Seremban.

Not long after that I reached Ampangan and up the hill at Taman Bukti before concluding the 100+ km journey at 7:00 pm.

All in all, I enjoyed the ride. Simple as that. I learned a thing or two. I was on roads I haven't been on before. I finally did some things that I have wanted to do for a long time. A bonus too, for pedaling more than 100km in a day - my first. It was great.

But no, I won't do it again.
There are many more routes to be ridden on.

Captured routes on Strava:
1. home - Terminal 1 - Sg Pelek

2. Sg Pelek - jetty - up to Siliau (hp ran out of juice)

Photos are in here.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

20.03.2016: Spartan Race Super 2016

Sunburn, muscle soreness, skin abrasion and headache from March Equinox heat. All trumped by the high feeling of brotherhood and togetherness.

Venue: Canary Gardens, Bandar Bestari Klang.

Team NCUK.Whattt?
Capt Izham
(and team Bekamer, Zakuan, on his favourite couch at home)

The seven of us, whom we had known each other back in our college days in Shah Alam formed a team for the Super leg of the Spartan Race. An eclectic mix of triathletes, marathoners, CrossFitter and other mid-life crises outlets achievers.

Izham, Hairul and myself took part as individuals in the Sprint leg October last year in different heats. In our quest towards achieving the Trifecta (finishing the Sprint, Super and Beast courses), we decided to team up and enjoined by others as well.

What's beneficial in being this team is that we got the privilege of getting in the early heat, taking advantage of Izham's early registration. Indeed, it is quite an important one as the date coincides with the year's March Equinox, set to be the hottest day of the year. The best of it all, we were reunited after more than 20 years since college, and I'd say the bond is strengthen right there along the course with brotherhood and camaraderie.

muddy barbwire crawl
The objective of this leg was met; we stayed (strolled) together from the start until the end. All the way along the 13 km trail and trenches over (and under some) 20+ obstacles.

I prepared more of my upper body strength primarily doing pull-ups, chin-ups and biceps. Basically with the aim of clearing the rope climb obstacle which I failed miserably during the Sprint event. The other obstacles requiring upper body strength are the walls. 8 ft., 10 ft. and inverted walls. Overall I did better than Sprint in general although it could be better. I cleared the walls with a little help, but perhaps with 80% of my own effort. Believe me, to get that 20% more is quite a daunting task. For that I thank my team members for their literal support.

I'm happy to report that I was only a feet away from hitting the bell on the rope climb. Didn't manage to clear the obstacle, but almost there. Miles better that not being able to even lift myself up during Sprint. Hats off to Hairul and Ashraf for their victory against the rope's bell.

I found myself in a much better shape against many of the obstacles also featured in Sprint event; in part because of familiarity, but most of it due to the time spent at the gym and around the track at Kombes Paroi. The other thing that made it much more bearable is that we didn't run all along the course. Yes, we walked. Hehe. Of course, finishing the whole course in 5 hours is nothing much to shout about. Alas, we did it. Together.
*except for maybe the last few obstacles where Hairul sprinted off to catch up with the time; he had to get back home ASAP to fetch his boys for their afternoon events.

There were a few more additional obstacles not featured in Sprint leg; among them the Tyrolean Traverse, of which I had the same fate with my rope climb. Almost hitting the bell, but my hands just could not bear the grip anymore and I gracefully fell down on my back to the smelly bed of mud. Another one in my list to be cleared off during the Beast leg later this year.

Izham's pair of Salomons gave up on him from the 3rd kilometer on the course. We had to resort to on-the-trail McGyver fix. It lasted up until the 12th km, which is not bad at all. We went in the muddy trails, over numerous trenches and through the course obstacles, stopping at several places to refasten the makeshift broad lacing made out of the cordon tapes.

There was a circulation issued by the Meteorological Department notifying the general public on the heatwave and March equinox a few days before the event day. Coincidentally, the event date is on the March equinox so it was making quite a stir among the participants. Taking cue from the worried cries on social media, the organiser announced that they are going to fortify the 6 water stations along the route. That in itself means that we won't have to bring along our hydration belts/packs on our waists/backs. Cold water and Lucozade were provided in adequate amount (well at least for our morning heat).

We finished at about 1.00 pm, and marched straight to the photo booth for the team's victory photo after collecting our medals. Before getting to the shower area, we collected our Finisher t-shirt and bags. In the end, I decided not to have shower at site, but to get a proper shower at my hotel room in Klang as I have arranged earlier for a late check-out.
trifoota featuring Izham's Salomon
The t-shirt and bag collection were two places where the organisers failed quite miserably. We were handed a simple cutout red ribbon upon getting our finisher medals as a token for exchange at the t-shirt counter. Immediately I thought that it is a bad idea as it can't be controlled especially when I could easily pick up about ten of those red ribbons on the ground right there and exchange for equal number of t-shirts.
Of course I didn't, I'm a Spartan. Albeit, some did and poor Spartans for the later heats were left with bigger sizes to collect (as mere souvenirs or maybe repurposed as a wall decor). The sizing for this time is much different than the Super. The M size that I had last time was a bit tight, so I opted for an L. Fortunately my former teammate Sudi was around and he told me that it is a bit bigger compared to before. So I got myself an M size t-shirt, and it fits me just nice although a bit short.

two-third of the trifecta
I got my bag at the chaotic bag counter quite easily as I could spot it from the outside, hung by the wall together with a friend's. Different story for many fellow Spartans though. Some found theirs appallingly laid outside the bag tent, and some separated from the bags checked in together, and some unlucky souls had their belongings lost.

Overall I think this Super leg is a mix of improvements from the previous Sprint but marred by lagging in some of the things they did okay before. I'm hoping that the next event - Beast - (which by default is a must due to the allure of completing the Trifecta) would be an avenue for the organiser to prove their mantle in getting things right if not better.
And of course on my part to get much better in clearing the obstacles, with minimum burpees to pay.


more photos in here.

Spartans wash their clothes themselves

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Gear Calculator: Compare your next possible drivetrain

I've found a gem!

Okay, here it is.
Go to http://www.ritzelrechner.de/ and have fun.

I have been collecting data and putting them onto an excel spreadsheet and hoping that one fine day I could publish it here for your convenience. It shall be a comprehensive tool in aiding us finding the best possible drivetrain by way of comparing the gear ratio spread which would suit our riding style.

While reading this post over at Bike Rumor, I found the link above posted by bikeshop.nl in their simple comment.

*it goes without saying that it pays to read everything and explore the links to get useful information.

That 2014 post by Tyler Benedict in Bike Rumor actually came from a forum discussion at MTBR, which originally posted by Daryl Smith; a gearing table for selecting chainring for XX1 drivetrain way back in 2013.

The handy Gear Calculator is copyrighted by Dirk Feeken.

What I like most about it is the Compare two Setups bit. In the image above, I compared my current 3x9 versus 1x10 with OneUp (40T). Click here to play around with the setup.

3x9: 22/32/44T with 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30-34T
1x10: 34T with 11-13-16-19-21-24-28-32-36-40T

You can visually assess the gear steps and also other parameters such as the speed at a given gear ratio and cadence (90 in the above example), tire development for a single crank turn for the gear ratio and wheel/tire size, and many more display options.

What blew me away is how updated the calculator is. In its Sprockets drop down list, SRAM's new 12 speed Eagle is there as well. Listed cassettes are from 9 speed up to 12 speed. If you wanted to see how a custom sprocket setup would fare, no sweat; just drag away the unwanted cassette sprockets from the graphical display and move it out of the line-up. Pretty versatile.

Internal gears are also listed. Have a look at the 'Gearing' list. Rohloff, Pinion, Shimano Alfine, Sturmey Archer and Brompton are a few among them. There's also Singlespeed as well.

For me, this convenience is blessedly an answered prayer.
Thank you Dirk.

Monday 7 March 2016

Drop That Post!

Basically influenced by Dino's experience  with his manual dropper on his steel hardtail, I jumped at the opportunity to own a rather exotic dropper post offered by a friend's friend in Shah Alam. One of the best in the market though a bit dated and basic, Thomson Elite Dropper is golden (in finish too!). Anyway, due to restriction in $ and time, I delayed the purchase for a month. Luckily for me, the seller is not in an urgent sale.

I know that I don't have to think twice to own a Thomson given their reputation for quality and performance. Still, I read some reviews and watched youtube clips about it before getting my hands on this piece of top notch marvellous mechanical wonder. Simple, practical and best of all, it is maintenance free. I guess by the time I paid COD for the item its 2-year warranty period has lapsed. Not a bad thing for the price I paid, I'd say.

Primarily dropper posts are normally found (and perhaps expected) on Enduro bikes. Its weight at about 500-600 grams in a set comprising lever and cable/hose is a hindrance to have it installed on lightweight XC setups. I decided to put it on my already heavy Trance, hoping that it would add to the fun enjoying (mild) downhills.

I installed it the night before an offroad ride at Panchor. It didn't take me a long time to install (it's still a seatpost). I find that Thomson's simple saddle clamp design in particular makes it easy to adjust the position of the saddle - fore/aft and horizontal adjustment are dead easy.

there's still enough room for a bell,
but my thumb won't be able to reach it
However, my handlebar is now a bit cluttered with clamps at both ends; 4 on each - grip, brake, shifter and remote lever. There are 4 cables and 2 hoses sprouting out from the handlebar now, which is quite an overwhelming sight if I really look at it. Anyway, I wouldn't be bothered with it for now unless I want to revamp the whole drivetrain/brake/fork system as my next expensive tinkering/upgrade while getting the overall weight down a bit.
For now, call me Captain Handlebar.

A simple test ride around the neighbourhood past midnight after the installation was quite good. I love how the lever works. Press it down, and with my body weight the post drops all 125mm down in a smooth fashion. Press it again and the dropper goes up at a rate which is quite gentle to the bum (and balls). Depending on the rate of how the lever is pressed, the rate of the dropper going back up can be controlled. That means if I want to have it partially up, I just have to press down the lever up to a point where I needed the post to be. Simple and practical.
simple remote lever

Alas, there is one more item added on the handlebar, and one more decision to make on the trails now. Do I need to bring the post down? Should I bring the post back up? People who are using single chainring are now claiming that they are having one less burden of thinking about the front shifter (as well as the weight benefit). My Trance setup currently has everything. Triple front shifter, remote lockout for the fork, remote lever for the dropper seatpost, brakes and 10-speed rear shifter. I purposely didn't install a cyclometer on Trance to keep it as a fun bike. No need to bother myself on the ride data and such; rather relegated it to Strava on my smartphone (if it works correctly).

busy cockpit
Having the service of the dropper post on an offroad descend is a bliss. It is simply awesome. I am now talking about the dropper post in general. The benefits are as mentioned by Dino i.e. better control of the handlebar and the bike in general while descending. In order to lower my center of gravity during steep/technical downhill, I don't have to bring my butt to the back past the seatpost as much. This reduces arm stretch. Hence, reduced fatigue as well as having better play of the elbows. There is now a 125mm clearance on my bum to negotiate the bumps while descending so no worries on the saddle hitting my rump. The result: I could go faster. And I did, I think. That certainly brought more fun to the already fun Trance. Worth the dough and the weight penalty.

Now, about the weight...

Thanks for dropping by.
Enjoy your rides!

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Take A Step Back

While we are getting lost in our obsession and passion towards upgrading and adding our rigs, take a step back and remind ourself why do we take up cycling in the first place.

Take your time, and dive deep and rethink.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Get the Rear Edge - Alternative Cassettes

Below is the lowdown on the alternative cassettes to give you the range for gear ratio on your MTB drivetrain, be it currently by Shimano or SRAM. Assuming that other things remain constant (chain, front chainring ratio, tire size, crank size, etc.), let's look at the possible range that you may employ for your rig.

range: 11-40T
toothcount: 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-34-40
material: steel (11 through 28), hard anodized 7075-T6 aluminium (34 & 40)
weight: 322g average
price: USD130

1. low gear 40T without having to resort to 10s cassette modification (One-Up at USD80, Hope, etc.)
2. smooth transition between gear range
3. could achieve lower overall weight

1. highest gear is with 11T

e*thirteen - TRS+
range: 9-42T (10 speed), 9-44T (11 speed)
10 speed: 9-10-12-14-17-20-24-28-35-42
11 speed: 9-10-12-14-17-20-24-28-32-38-44
weight: 300g (10 speed), 320g (11 speed)
price: USD279 (10 speed), USD309 (11 speed)

1. 9T high gear instead of SRAM's 10T
2a. low gear 42T (for 10 speed) without having to resort to 10s cassette modification (One-Up at USD80, Wolftooth at USD79.95, etc.)
2b. low gear 44T (for 11 speed) without having to resort to 11s cassette modification (One-Up at USD80, Wolftooth at USD79.95, etc.)
3. comparatively lighter weight (excluding the XD Driver) compared to Praxisworks' 'equivalent'.

1. requires SRAM's XD Driver
2. price for 10s is more than double of Praxisworks' (however, it is not exactly apple-to-apple comparison as you won't get the advantage of 9T high gear).

Well, it is up to you to decide which one is best for your gearing needs. Bear in mind that it all depends on the gear ratio to be made available for you on your bike. Your riding style and strength are the factors dictating your gear ratio choice.

True, the free-market economy brings about choices for the consumers to get the best to suit their needs, but it is good only for those who know what they need. The above are represented for you to make that informed choice, and I hope that this would somehow help you to get what you need.

You may want to consider the combination of:
1. available gear ratio
2. overall drivetrain weight
3. overall price

Happy hunting!

*respective prices are as at the date of this post
**images taken from Praxisworks and e*thirteen websites

Saturday 20 February 2016

01.02.2016: Ulu Bendul II with Yad and Pak Din

I let go to Yad several bike parts and a pair of used Cross Ride some time ago. He planned to come over my place to remove the cassette from his current wheelset and install it to the new one, and collect a pair of shifter mounts that I had kept for him.

I thought that it would be worthwhile to go for a ride as well, and I threw the idea of going up to Jeram Toi (via Bukit Tangga of course!) and have a simple breakfast picnic. Much like we did when we went to Hutan Lipur Lenggeng last time.

slowly uphill all the way
Well, the plan didn't materialise as Yad thought we were only going to Ulu Bendul like we did before. It is still a ride nonetheless, while being a familiar one and less taxing. So we went, together with Pak Din, being his maiden ride this side of Negeri Sembilan - on a burly bike. We took the Bukit Putus old road and steadily climb up the gentle gradient like we did before.

near the peak at Bukit Putus old road
This time at Ulu Bendul we went a little bit further up than our previous spot. We had our simple breakfast while our feet soaked in the cool water and butts resting on the rocks. Spent about half an hour of cooling our bodies in the river, and off we went back to my place.

...and stop by at a stall for a round of Rojak and Cendol.

Simple pleasures. Alhamdulillah.

As for Jeram Toi and Bukit Tangga, that'll be another trip at another time insyaAllah. Looking forward for that.

More photos in here (facebook album).

Thanks for coming by.
Enjoy your rides.

En route to Ulu Bendul we saw this big relic by the roadside at a shop. We spent quite some time pondering over to satisfy our inquisitive and appreciative minds for mech things. A simple research later I learned that it is a Traction Engine (aka Steam Tractor) built by Richard Garrett & Sons of Leiston, Suffolk, in England.

Richard Garrett & Sons:

Some beautifully restored RG&S machines:

This one is similar to the one that we saw: