Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scratching itches together

Pic courtesy from En Route

Planning is FUN!

There is something addictive about bicycle touring. Reading about Mike Khor's itch to tour again after his amazing European trip on his blog Wheelsopher, got us boys together to plan for our next big ride at Christoph's new home today.

The Bolaven Plateau, located 1000m high up in Southern Lao, promises a ride that is unforgettable. ChrisT who has done this in 1997 still remains awed. It is a must do for all of us with any taste of adventure. Amazing waterfalls, gradual climbs and descends, challenging unpaved roads and the best coffee this side of heaven. Throw in the kindness and charm of the lovely Laoatians, one must be daft to miss making a trip there, if given a chance.

Weather wise, the rainy season ends Sep so thats when we plan to hit the Plateau. Still undecided on which bike to use as some of the unpaved roads, especially after the rains, can be daunting. The Surly LHT seems like an obvious choice but we forsee a lot of travelling on planes, trains, buses and perhaps even Tuk Tuks (motorbike taxis) due to the difficulty of reaching remote Pakse.

I'm plumbing for my Bike Friday Expedition as it seems the perfect weapon for this mission. Wide tires, exceptional gearing, generous carrying capacity with front and rear racks plus the world famous folding ability into a Samsonite.

So far 4 of us, Chris, KG, ChrisT and I have signed on! Mike, care to scratch this itch together with us?
Pic courtesy of Factoidz.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Belting Up in Cambodia

I've often wondered what is the perfect drivetrain for conditions like Cambodia. Hot and dusty during the dry season and wet and muddy during the rainy season. Many of the bikes used at COSI Orphanage disintegrate under such hash conditions, with a reported life span of 6-8 months of regular use with the traditional chain/sprockets drive system.

On my last trip, I was fascinated when I came across a Bridgestone Albelt bicycle when the kids were playing. It was parked non-descript with the other bikes and what caught my eye was that it had no chain. Instead, it uses a belt system cleverly matched to a 3 speed Nexus hub.

The belt system is not new to the world of foldies and the Strida, designed by Mark Sanders, incorporates it from day one since 1987. Its benefits - greaseless, maintenance free and quiet in operation, seemed perfect for the Cambodian conditions.

Lion riding a Strida - seems that way from this pic!

I didn't have the chance to take the Bridgestone Albelt for a ride but I would stick my head out to say this is much more suitable for the the kids at COSI. Sure, it won't give the direct feel or power delivery system of a traditional system and may squeak a little from time to time, judging from my 1 year ownership experience of a Strida. However, I will postulate that when dust and mud are part of your daily riding experience, this is the obvious choice. Even better if its fully enclosed.

Belting up in Cambodia seems the only way to go!

Harsh but serendipitously beautiful - the Cambodian countryside.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An unexpected reunion

Probably the only 16" folder that can be ridden while checking one's nails! A bit of skill helps too.

Where is the other fork? Easiest bike to change a flat tire...

Every minute a plane comes to land at Changi International! And note the large no of ships docked out at sea. Not the best beaches understandably...

Here during the monsoon season, planning for a ride can be a touch and go affair. It poured kittens last night and our morning ride today was uncertain as the roads were still wet. It was no wonder that Chris and I, on our Bike Friday Tikits, were the only ones at our usual start point at East Coast Parkway at 0815, enroute to Changi Village.

This was the first time that my Tikit had the privilege of riding with another Tikit and we took the opportunity to shoot some pics. The morning lighting was perfect and we had lots of fun with the lens when a passe of foldies came cruising by.

From a distance, Chris spotted them and exclaimed, "Hi-end foldies approaching...." and that got me excited. Lo and behold, they were none other than Rich and his wife Jenny, on a Dahon Helios and a Giant Halfway respectively. Just a little while later, Keong showed up on his Dahon Vitesse.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Changi Food Centre and I tucked into my fav Nasi Lemak washed down with fresh lemon juice. There, we met up with roadies Jimmy and Peter as well who seemed undetered by the weather, which did not looked promising earlier on.

It was really great to ride with the usual ECP guys once again after a long break and this unexpected reunion of sorts was truly an enjoyable bonus. Seems like we were all determined to ride despite the possibility of heavy rain, and that speaks volume about this bunch's attitude to all weather riding!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Birdy in Angkor Wat


One problem of having Foldinitis is when the marvels of the great temples of Angkor Wat, somehow do not quite take my breath away compared to spotting a foldie gliding effortlessly in front of my eyes. Well to be honest, I have been to this world heritage site a few times and even took part in a race on my Brompton once.

Nevertheless, I was walking past the ancient ruins of the Elephant Temple when a silver Birdy cruising in the glittering sun stopped me in my tracks. The distinct parallelogram fork gave it away instantly. It was a good thing my Canon Ixus 120 IS was at hand and I managed to get a quick shot of this rare bird, feeling very pleased with myself. But what really made my day was when Yoji turned around a couple of minutes later and landed right in front of me.

It was my joy to have a friendly chat with this Japanese foldie rider who has ridden an impressive 1000km and just came from Pakse, Laos. It was with great reluctance when we had to part - he flying on his Birdy and I, back to my tourist mini-van to join the rest of my super-fun Oz team. Yoji, if you are reading this, ride safe and God’s blessings on your adventure.

That chance meeting really gave me a big itch that needed to be badly scratched. Scouting around the various bike shops in Siem Reap, I saw an old Panosonic foldie with 20” wheels screaming, “Rent me! Rent me!” A mere US$1 was all it took to get it for a day’s use.

It was pretty neglected like most things in Cambodia and the worn out tires were severely under-inflated. One had a Schrader valve while the rear had a Dunlop valve and it took a while for me to figure out the Chinese made foot pump.

With a bike, what required 10 mins of sweaty walking to get from my fav hotel, Auberge Mont Royal, to the Old Market became a mere 2 min breezy moment.

It was also a delight to cycle along the river in the coolness of the morning. “Old Pan” came in very useful when I had to take my son shopping for gifts and it was really cool to pull up for lunch at the Red Piano (Angelina Jolie fame) two up.

After lunch, we treated ourselves to an incredible "out of this world" invigorating $2 foot massage (30 mins), getting there courtesy of "Old Pan".

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat are definitely must dos for everyone with some sense of adventure and for those like us with Foldinities, we should take a leaf from Yoji.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cambodia with no bikes

I shall be in Cambodia for 2 weeks for my annual visit to COSI Orphanage and thereafter to Siem Reap with my Australian church. This time, I'm not bringing my bikes due to lack of luggage space. This is the first time I'm travelling without my foldies and I feel like I didn't bring along my "legs".

Fortunately, I have left "Blackie", a Bridgestone foldy that I bought in 08 and I hope its still in working condition. Phomn Penh sells plenty of used bikes from Japan and I got mine at US$60 only and left it for one of the boys to use.

I guess in Siem Reap, where the famous Angkor Wat is, I will try to get rental bikes but somehow, it wont be the same as having my own foldies. So apologies for the lack of postings for the next 2 weeks but I will get back online when I can.