Monday, December 24, 2007

Images from Butterfly Trail

If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved: in silence and in hope shall your strength be.  (Isaias 30:15)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is the tree all right?

'Hit 2 trees today.

A sapling (doesn't sound macho enough) skinny (nope) young tree with great growth potential. This time though, I made sure Freddy snapped a pic.

"Is the tree all right?" he asked with some concern.

The 2nd time. Don't ask me how I managed to unclip from the pedals and leave Cloe (the bike) standing there. It's called talent. (Actually, Cloe unclipped herself from me and I kept going, flying sideways into the bushes. Yeah, that's it.)

Today is one of those days I am glad I am not on Shimano SPDs. I would have been satay / shish kebab (see below).

I also got snagged by rattan. Now that hurt.

Freddy came to the rescue (again). Freddy is so nice. Ride with Freddy. Don't ride with me. I only send thunder, lightning, and rain to those around me  :-P

But seriously, thanks, Freddy  ^ _ ^

Friday, December 14, 2007

Swing that Fixie

I wonder if it will work even better if they make it two-wheel-drive  :-D

Swing bike maker bent on it catching on

A hinge allows the cruiser to do things other two-wheelers can't.

By Jerry Hirsch
Los Angeles Times
December 12, 2007

Ryan Beers rides his bike down a stretch of Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City with the front wheel on top of the curb and the rear wheel down on the street.

It's a neat trick that's impossible for a normal bicycle but a breeze for this oddity called a swing bike. And San Diego entrepreneur Beers is intent on reviving it.

"I had to rub my eyes. It is almost like a horse sidestepping," said Shel Coburn, as he watched Beers' tricks, including his ability to not only turn on a dime, but to also circle on top of a dime.

Beers is one of the founders of Americas Bike Co., a San Diego start-up that has reinterpreted the briefly-lived, banana seat, chopper handlebar swing bike of the late 1970s as a modern beach cruiser.

"It spices up the boardwalk and makes a regular bike seem boring. It really attracts a crowd," Beers said. The 27-year-old former BMX bike racer, with the help of silent partners, is investing $1.2 million in the business, which also includes a line of classic cruisers.

In a standard bicycle, the rider can go only in the direction that the handlebars turn. However, a swing bike has a hinge on the tube that connects to the seat. This allows the rear end of the bike to move independently from the front.

"It allows you to dodge things in the middle of the road, ride on two different levels and do all sorts of wild things," said Shepard Bassett, an Olympia, Wash., resident and one of the many swing bike fans who congregate on the Internet. Bassett still rides a version of the bike he made as a teenager in the late 1970s after seeing television advertisements for the original swing bike on the Donny and Marie Osmond variety show.

"I still ride my bike every chance I get," said Bassett, 46.

Beers, the former manager of a San Diego bicycle shop, got the idea of bringing the bike back after seeing someone ride an old Sting Ray-style swinger along Pacific Beach two years ago.

"We sat down and designed a more ridable, functional swing bike that would be a cruiser and we made sure they were durable," Beers said.

The bicycles are manufactured under contract at a factory in China. They retail for $349. Beers sells the bicycles online at and through seven dealers on the West Coast, including WheelWorld Bicycles in Culver City and Woodland Hills.

"Its cool and styling. We are getting a lot of looks and people are testing them," said Mike Moore, manager of the Culver City store.

Moore said the first buyers will be people looking for something trendy to ride along the beaches of Southern California.

Enthusiast Bob Hufford, a Springfield, Mo., computer programmer, said the original swing bike sold for about $100. It came with instructions for organizing slaloms and obstacle courses as well as teaching riders to do tricks such as the famous curb ride that Beers executed, and, of course, the wheelie.

Hufford said the early bikes disappeared in the late 1970s, done in by a wave of bicycle safety consciousness. "I think because of the inherent danger of this type of bicycle, dealers were probably freaked out by it," said Hufford, who maintains a website devoted to the bicycle style:

Mothers, he said, probably were concerned that their children would crash while trying to accomplish some of the tricks. The hinge on the seat tube makes the bikes less stable than traditional cycles, Hufford said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not examined the new cruiser-style version sold by Americas Bike Co., but spokesman Scott Wolfson acknowledged that bikes rank among the top products for recalls and malfunctions.

He also noted that the commission advocated the use of bicycle helmets. None of the bikini-clad women or other riders in Americas Bike's promotional materials and web videos wear helmets.

Other companies have ridden down this road before, trying to bring back swingers but failed because it was to small a niche, Hufford said.

So far, Beers' company has made about 600 of the bikes and sold less than 100.

But the swing bike is just one of his product lines. Beers expects Americas Bike's better sellers will be its classic style Rasta line of cruisers decorated in Caribbean yellow, red and green and with paint marijuana leaf accents and a soon to be unveiled lines licensed cruisers in college, fraternity and sorority colors and logos.

Swing bike fans Hufford and Bassett are hoping that Americas Bike will succeed.

"I am glad they are manufacturing the swing bike again," Hufford said. "People will find that they are really fun to ride."


Ah, San Diego! I remember that lazy summer with Scooby. Endless beaches and boardwalks; eye-candy bikinis; warm, clear waters; an unexpected book-exchange on a bus through UCSD; tequila, tequila, tequila; Fatburger; Tijuana, friggin' "Mexican Zebras" (stop laughing!); enchiladas, carne asadas, chimichangas...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Water resistant

On a (very) recent 2 AM to 4 PM ride, where the rain got progressively heavier and heavier northwestwards from East Coast:

Jurong Kecil Road, approaching Bukit Batok.

[Two cyclists, utterly drenched. BEN charging up the slope leading past Toh Tuck.]

BEN [screaming at the sky]:  Is THAT all you got? You call this a storm? Ha ha! Ha ha! [maniacal laughter]

HON SHIN:  Oei! Oei! Oei! WHAT are you doing??? Are you asking for trouble?


Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) does it better though  :-D

Ride on!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sedili Kecil Coastal Ride

Do not trust the weather forecast. It drizzled heavily at 4:45 AM at Rail Mall.

A map of my route. Official map here.

On the Bahtera Express, enroute to Sebana Cove. The old geezer in the white tee and blue shorts is an idiot; oblivious to everyone around him, he persisted in showing off his kung fu moves on the crowded deck. Despite being warned, he knocked into Ivy, my Specialized Stumpjumper, several times. If he stepped on my bike, I would have falun gong-ed his ass overboard.

  Indo Falcon Shipping
  Tel: 6275-7393
  Fax: 6276-1753
  Malaysia: 607-826 6688

The Hammar automatic hydrostatic release is pretty cool. If the ship sinks, fat asses do not need lifejackets to float water pressure will activate a sharp knife that cuts the rope, allowing the life raft capsules to float free.

Hon Shin looks at the hills in the distance and contemplates his fate.

The weather rapidly warmed up to a scorching 101° F (38.3° C) once we left Sebana Cove. After filling up my Camelbak H.A.W.G. with 1.5 liters of water, bringing its total weight to 14.26 lbs (6.48 kg), at the Petronas gas station outside Desaru, we pursued our respective routes: I made a sharp right, heading eastwards towards Tanjung Balau, while Hon Shin took the inland route. Hon Shin's ride report, along with GPS tracks, and many more pictures, can be found here.

Barely a kilometer eastwards, the heat is but an unpleasant memory; its stuffiness dissipated by the sea breeze. This road has recently been repaved. Smooth asphalt, rolling hills, and low traffic, all make it a joy to fresh legs.

The last hill before the roundabout at Tanjung Balau. If you pedal on this gravity climb, you can get some air when you crest the hill. Landing at 46+ mph (73+ km/h) on slicks can be tricky though... Ensure that your medical insurance covers Malaysia.

Roundabout at Tanjung Balau.

There is a food center and accomodation under a mile (1.5 km) straight ahead (east). Right (south) brings you to Desaru. Here, I headed left, northward.

Balau Bay Resort
Tanjung Balau, 81900
Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: 607-822 8020

Weekday rates
RM$160 Standard Room (no hot water)
RM$235 Deluxe Room (with hot water)

Weekend rates

Heading north along the coast towards Sedili Kecil. This quiet road is my favorite part of the ride.

Approaching storm clouds.

View from a shelter.

Storm clouds over Hon Shin's inland route.

Gazing in the distance, I had an intimation of what it must be like to be Jupiter, hurling rain and thunderbolts with impunity  :-P

Riders of the storm.

After the rain.

A public beach a couple kilometers before Sedili Kecil. Some areas are filthy with litter — which is a crying shame. I spent some time picking litter from the grass (to get a better shot) before giving up.

Bridge to Sedili Kecil. The authorities took a long time to complete constructing this bridge. Before this, you had to pay a boatman to ferry you across Sungai Kecil.

Where I had breakfast on my previous trip. Tip: look for the public phone.

Road temporarily closed for the passage of self-propelled Ramly Burgers... um... Moo Moo Cows.

At the northern end of Sedili Kecil is Mutiara Motor Resort. Look for the big bird.

Mutiara Motor Resort
Tel: 607-891 8605
    607-331 9099


3 PM: I was contemplating riding 7.5 miles (12 km) north to meet Hon Shin at Sedili Besar, but then it started to rain again; so I decided to get all comfy in a shelter waiting for Hon Shin while the monsoon rages outside.

Perhaps this might be a better vehicle for future rides in the monsoon?

Just as I was fantasizing about a nice, hot cup of tea, Hon Shin shows up. I had to shout several times before he heard me through the rain. As it was still relatively early in the afternoon (3:40 PM) we decided to ride 22 miles (35.5 km) southwards and bunk over at Desaru.

A trail leading to an isolated beach.

A rather deep pothole by the road.

Despite stopping to take pictures, we reached the Tanjung Balau roundabout at 5:36 PM. During the latter part of the ride, I kept remarking to Hon Shin that the vegetation (lallang) was starting to look edible to me. That probably explains why he acquiesced to a 1.5 km detour to Tanung Balau food center for a bite. (Well, that, and I haven't renounced cannibalism yet  :-P  )

We each had a plate of nasi lemak.

Note: this is an idealized version of what it should look like. The reality is far from it. There was only one piece of chicken and it was roughly half the size of a McDonalds Chicken McNugget. Then again, what do you expect for RM$3 (SGD$1.29 or USD$0.89)?

Scaring the locals, I ordered another teh tarik and a bowl of mee bandung while Hon Shin caught forty winks on the table.

Then it was a slow 3.75 miles (6 km) to Desaru.

The walk-in rates for Pulai Desaru Beach were a trifle high for 2 chaps on an overnight bike ride.

Pulai Desaru Beach
Bandar Penawar 81900,
Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: 607-822 2222
Fax: 607-822 2223

Weekday rates
Standard RM$450
Deluxe   RM$650

Weekend rates

The Desaru Damai Beach Resort proved financially more prudent.

Desaru Damai Beach Resort
Bandar Penawar 81900
Kota Tinggi, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: 607-822 4600
       607-822 5600
Fax: 607-822 3600

Weekday rates
Standard RM$130
Deluxe     RM$150

Weekend rates

Day 2: Batu Layar Beach: 9.6 miles (15.36 km) south of Desaru.

Evolution in reverse.

Batu = rock.
Layar = sail.

They thrust out of the ground in thin slabs.

The rocks have interesting striations on them.

We cover the remaining 20.3 miles (32.48 km) quickly, even managing to stop for ice-cream along the way. About a third of a mile (0.5 km) in, this is the only hill on the 2.9 mile (4.6 km) road between Sebana Cove Marina and Highway 92.

Pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana) cling to the bushes on the hilltop.

Unfortunately for the masochist in me, the hill in the distance is not part of the route.

Back to Sebana Cove Marina.

Sebana Golf & Marina Resort
LB 505, Kota Tinggi Post Office
81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor Darul Takzim
Tel:  607-826 6688 Ext 774
Fax: 607-826 6677
        607-826 6054

Palm trees guard this marine vista.

The marina.

For those who dive.

Ais kaceng, the deluxe version. It's a pity that they were stingy with the syrup though.

The Bahtera Express, waiting to take us back. Met another cyclist onboard (Hello, Henry!).

Total distance:  cyclo-computer 136.5 miles (218.4 km)
Total elevation climbed:  Altimeter 3620 ft (1103 m)
Temperature range:  73° F to 101° F (22.7° C to 38.3° C)