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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Shine a Light, Shine a Light *

I thought about cycling technology during the ride along the Shah Alam Expressway the other night.  Specifically about how much bicycle lights have evolved since I last bought one.  My thoughts were prompted by how the spot cast by my headlight paled next to that coming from Chon’s headlight.  I had also noticed that Mark’s rear light was so bright that I had to avoid looking directly at it.  Not an easy task when you are on his wheel.

The first bike lights I bought, in 2008, were from Cateye.  They came in a set.  They looked something like these ones.

Cateye Light Set

I say something like these one because these are the current models.  The HL-EL 135.  I don’t remember my headlight having three LEDs (light-emitting diodes) like this one.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that Cateye designed this headlight to be seen by others, and not to help the rider see what is in front of them.  To their credit Cateye makes no secret of this in their 2012 Headlight Chart.

In 2009 I started riding regularly at night with the West End Bicycles 6.30 group.  I needed a brighter headlight.  So I bought a Planet Bike Blaze headlight and Superflash rear light.  Again as a set.

Planet Blaze

The headlight and rear light were noticeably brighter that their Cateye equivalents.  The only downside was that the headlight run-time on two AA batteries was only five hours at high output.

In 2010 I bought my first road bike.  A second downside of the Planet Bike headlight became obvious.  The headlight and mount were bulky.  This wasn’t a problem on my hybrid bike because my hands were usually on the handlebar extensions.   On my road bike however the headlight took up space on my bars where I wanted to put my hands.  So before long I bought another headlight.  A Niterider MiNewt Mini-USB.

Niterider MiNewt

The Niterider MiNewt had three advantages over the Planet Bike headlight.  The MiNewt was one third the size of the Planet Bike.  It could be mounted on my helmet, thus freeing up space on my handlebars.  Lastly it was the first bike headlight that could be recharged via a USB port.

I must admit that the separate light and external battery pack is not as convenient as an all-in-one unit.  NiteRider do provide a velcro strap for attaching the battery pack to the stem or head tube.  They also include a 1 meter / 39 inch extension cord so it is possible to ride with the battery pack in a jersey pocket.

In 2011 I bought my second road bike.  By then Niterider was selling the MiNewt Mini.150-USB.  As the name implies, the output had increased to 150 lumens from the previous 110 lumens.  There was also a flash mode.  Best of all the run time was unchanged.  Brighter being better, I bought one.

Note:  Bicycle light manufacturers often use lumens as the measure of light their equipment produces.  Some use candelas.  A few use lux.  Unfortunately there is no regulation or consistency in the bike light industry with respect to how light output is measured and reported.  Caveat emptor applies.

Light output is not the whole story either.  The shape of the beam is a big determiner of the effectiveness of the light.  A broad beam may not properly light the road or path ahead.  A focused beam may light up close objects, or those farther away, but not both at the same time.  Beam shape and pattern are a function of bulb angle and shape, reflector shape and lens shape.

What is the current state of play as far as bicycle lights are concerned?  Niterider sells the MiNewt Pro 750.  It has five times the light output of my MiNewt Mini.150, four light levels and three flash modes.  If you don’t want a light with a separate battery pack you can buy the Lumina 650.  The Lumina 650 puts out more than four times the lumens of the Planet Bike Blaze, and it is rechargeable.

Systems with external battery packs put out the most lumens.  Chon’s headlight is an SSC-P7.  It can pump out up to 1,200 lumens, though at the expense of run time.  Chon tells me that the run time at 1,200 lumens is ridiculously short, so he runs his headlight at 600 lumens.  Still plenty bright.

SSC P7

What’s the brightest bicycle headlight on the market today?  That seems to be the Lupine Betty R12.  This light has a claimed output of 3,600 lumens.  Better yet, in a review of LED bike lights, mtbr magazine measured the actual output of this light at 3,625 lumens.  In comparison, the xenon bulbs used in High Intensity Discharge car headlamps (the ones with a bluish tint), produce about 3,000 lumens.

As with all things top-end, the Lupine Betty R12 comes at a price.  About USD930 / RM2,900 online.

Finally, Mark’s rear light is a Cateye Rapid 5.  The main LED looks to be just as bright as the one in the Planet Bike Superflash.  However the Rapid 5 has five LEDs in all while the Superflash has three LEDS.  The Rapid 5 has four modes.  The Superflash has two modes.  See what I mean about bike light evolution.

Cateye Rapid 5

I am tempted by the latest bright and flashy.  I think I’ll stick with my MiNewt Mini.150 and Superflash.  I am going to pull my Tacx Lumos lights out of storage tonight though.

Tacx Lumos

These mount in the handlebar drops.  Each light has a white LED for forward lighting.  There is a red LED for visibility from the rear.  And there is a button-activated amber LED that is a turn-indicator.

Tacx Lumos On

I don’t need no high-output headlights!

* Title courtesy of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Is This a Cycling Blog or a Food Blog??

I haven’t eaten any satay since I came home to Kuala Lumpur almost six months ago.  I mentioned satay in Another Place to Eat three days ago.  We stopped for satay last night.

Karma?  Coincidence?  You decide.

Tuesday and Thursday nights have become KESAS ride nights.  I wrote about this route, along the Shah Alam Expressway to give the road its proper name, in Another Uncle Wiggily.

WhatsApp is our current messaging medium.  My mobile phone starts pinging with weather updates from 5pm or so.  Confirmation that the ride is on comes at about 7.30pm.  Between then and the 9pm start time the messages are usually of the “I’m on the way” and “Stuck in traffic” variety.  It was no surprise to get a message from Chris at 8.50pm, telling us that Chon and he were close by.  What was unusual was his second sentence.  “Satay ride.  Chon is hungry.”

It turns out that there are two choices for a satay stop.  Both are Sate Kajang Haji Samuri outlets.  The first is about 10km into the ride, at the Taman Kinrara Rest & Service area.  The other is on the opposite side of the expressway at the Awan Besar Rest & Service area.  About 19km from the start.

Chon chose the nearer one.

Sate RR-Kinrarakinrara1

Kajang has been traditionally known as the “Satay Town.”  There was a time when you had to make the 20km drive south from Kuala Lumpur to Kajang to get authentic Kajang satay.  These days there are numerous stalls and shops selling Kajang satay.

Sate Kajang Haji Samuri is a Malaysian equivalent of a fast-food chain.  They have twenty outlets.  Three in Kajang and the rest scattered around the Klang valley, Seremban and Port Dickson.  If the quality of their satay is consistent across all their outlets, they are doing something right.

We had chicken satay.  It came piping hot from the grill.  Tender and juicy, with the right hint of lemongrass in the marinade.  A key part of a good meal is the kuah satay or peanut sauce.  This one was good enough to eat by itself.  And in a nice touch the kuah satay and the sambal, or chilli paste, for the sauce came separately.  So each of us could add as much or as little sambal to our individual bowls as we wanted.  I skip the sambal completely.

We also got a generous serving of cucumber and nasi impit, or compressed rice cakes.  These are the traditional accompaniments to satay.  There was a time when ketupat instead of nasi impit was served with satay.  The difference being ketupat is cooked in a woven palm-leaf pouch, while nasi impit is cooked in a far less labor-intensive plastic pouch.

Satay During Kesas Ride 03

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Happy days for Gary, Chon, Chris and myself!

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

As an aside, the short zip on my Not Possibles jersey may have been adequate for Dutch weather, but it didn’t work so well last night in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.  Especially as we averaged about 32kph getting to the satay, and the same afterward to burn it off.

That satay was worth the effort!

Another Place to Eat

Life in Malaysia is all about food.  So it stands to reason that cycling revolves around finding new places to eat.

Last week Mark had noticed a particularly well-patronized stall on the Kampung Sri Kundang route.  So we set out from Bukit Jelutong just before dawn to check that place out.  Our hope was that we would get most of our riding done before it got very hot.  The sun had other ideas.

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So we kept the pace relaxed along the Guthrie Corridor Expressway and Jalan Kuala Selangor.  Mark slowed down as we made the left turn at Kampung Sungai Pelong.  He thought we were close to the stall he was looking for.   Sure enough, it was 300 meters down the road.

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Sate Sri Subang has made a name for itself as a place to get good satay.  Satay is an archetypal Malaysian dish.  In my days of business-class travel on Malaysian Airlines, courtesy of my employers, the beef and chicken satay served onboard was always a highlight.

The satay grill comes to life in the evenings.  In the mornings the offerings are nasi lemak and nasi dagang.  Nasi lemak is available everywhere in Malaysia.  Nasi dagang is a dish more commonly found in the northern states of Kelantan and Terengganu.  It was no surprise that the ladies running the stall this morning were from Kelantan.  Immediately identifiable as such by their Kelantanese dialect.

Having been denied our nasi lemak last Sunday, we had our minds set on some today.  As we waited for our nasi lemak to be plated up we were tempted by a range of savory and sweet items laid out on the table.

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Being weak-willed when it comes to food, we added curry puffs, pulut panggang, and kuih koci to our plates.

We will be stopping at Sate Sri Subang again.

So now we have two breakfast options during our Guthrie Corridor Expressway rides.  A stop at Sharif Roti Canai in Kampung Sri Kundang is compulsory though.  We haven’t found a better teh halia anywhere else.

Beat the Heat

Chris and I rode to Kampung Sri Kundang and back this morning.  We got on the road at 6.50am.  Just as it was getting light.

We made our usual stop for roti canai and teh tarik halia.  We have recently added soft-boiled kampung eggs to the breakfast list.  Fresh from the backyard chicken coop.  I will take a photograph of the bright orange yolks next time.

We were hungry.  Everything smelled so good.  It all tasted so good.

By the time I thought to take a photograph – this was the scene.

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The sun was out on our ride back to the 7-Eleven at Bukit Jelutong.  We got there before 10am so the thermostat was not yet on maximum.  We were sweating anyway.

A delivery truck pulled up.  We stood so close to the open doors we were almost inside the truck.  It was exactly what we needed.

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2011 BP MS150

BP MS150 2013

I will be riding in the 2013 BP MS150 from Houston to Austin.  This is a charity ride  in aid of multiple sclerosis research and treatment.  If you would like to donate to this worthy cause on my behalf please click on this link:

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

My first BP MS150 ride was in 2010.  I wrote about that ride in Austin or Bust.  I registered late for that ride and had to scramble to get onto a team.  One outcome was that Tom and I didn’t get space in the team tent for the overnight stop at the Fayette County Fair Grounds in La Grange.  Instead we stayed in a motel that was a 40 minute van trip away from the fair grounds.  I am sure we were more comfortable on proper beds in our air-conditioned motel room than we would have been on camp beds in the team tent.  Especially as it rained hard that night.  However we paid for it by having to be up and ready to leave the motel at 5am to get back to the fair grounds in time to start with everyone else.

I signed up early for the 2011 BP MS150.  By then I had moved to The Netherlands, and was no longer working for Hess Corporation.  The team captains were kind enough to let me join the Hess team anyway.  They were even nicer to allow friends of an ex-employee onto the team.  So Barbara, Dane, Laura and Tom would be in Hess colors with me.

I flew into Houston a few days before the start of the ride.  I visited the new Hess office at Discovery Green and called in on Patrick Cummings, one of the team captains.  The first indication that this experience would be quite different from the previous year’s came when I heard that we would spend the night in the VFW Hall at the Fayette County Fair Grounds in La Grange.  No tent pitched on grass for us!

The ride started as it did the year before.  My West End friends and I rode out at dawn from the Jack Rhodes Memorial Stadium in Katy.  Tom and I chose not to wear jackets so we shivered for an hour or so.  By the time we got to the first rest stop it was warming up in the patches of sunlight.  There were still some jackets and arm warmers in use though.

MS150 2011 Rest Stop 01

Our lunch stop was in Bellville.  That was when I got the the second indication that the Hess team did the MS150 a little differently.  There were Hess volunteers and a Hess tent at the lunch stop.  We had an alternative to the sandwich lunch on offer for everyone else.  The wonderful Hess volunteers were handing out chicken and spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-A-Fil.  And Snickers bars and iced drinks.

This is Tom, Laura, Dane and I at the Bellville stop.  The patch on Laura’s jersey signifies that this was her tenth consecutive BP MS150.  Fantastic!

MS150 2011 Bellville 08

One of the other stops before La Grange was at Industry.  The guys from West End Bicycles were manning a bike service tent there.  We hung out with Daniel and the team while we ate our bananas before continuing west.

MS150 2011 West End Industry Stop

One of the most appealing things about this ride is the encouragement all the riders get from the communities along the route.  It seems like entire towns turn out to cheer us on.  And some do more than simply clap and wave.

MS150 Band

Laura, Barbara and the rest of the West end crew rode into the Fayette County Fair Grounds at La Grange at about 2pm.

MS150 2011 Laura and Barbara

It was pretty hot by then, so we were grateful for the Hess volunteers who were on hand with cold water and iced towels as we got to the VFW Hall.

That was, dare I say it,  just the start of the pampering that we received at the overnight stop.

In 2010 we queued for thirty minutes with everyone else for the communal shower trucks.  In 2011 we lounged in folding chairs with a cold drink in hand while waiting for our turn in the Team Hess shower truck.  After which we handed our sweaty cycling gear to a friendly volunteer to be laundered.  Note the jerseys drying on the line behind Laura and Barbara.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Showers 02

Feeling a bit tight and sore despite the hot shower?  Get a massage!

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Massage

We spent the rest of the afternoon waiting for our turn to be kneaded, and chilling with drinks and munchies on the patio behind the VFW Hall.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Patio

We were eventually roused from our seats and coaxed into our freshly laundered jerseys for the obligatory group photo.

MS150 2011 Hess Group 02

Then it was dinner time.  Courtesy of the crew manning this beast.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Barbecue

The barbecues come big in Texas!  And the food that came out of this one was delicious.

Well-watered and fed, we started thinking about sleep.  As I mentioned earlier, no tent pitched on the grass for us.

MS150 2011 VFW Hall Main Room

Air-conditioning and indoor toilets if you please.

There was no excuse if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  And there was no excuse if you weren’t well-fed by the time you got on your bike in the morning.  The Hess volunteers served up a delicious breakfast from the kitchen next to our sleeping area.

The BP balloon lit up the pre-dawn sky as we waited for it to get bright enough to continue on our way.

MS150 2011 La Grange Start Balloon

The decision to be made at the start of Day Two was whether to take the Bechtel Challenge Route or the Pfizer Lunch Express.  The Bechtel Challenge takes riders through Buescher State Park and Bastrop State Park.  We chose not to take the Bechtel Challenge Route in 2010 because the hilly roads were wet and potentially dangerous.  There were no such concerns this time.  The Challenge adds about 17 km / 11 mi to the ride but it was well worth doing.  The road wound through scenic loblolly pine woodland that is 18,000 years old.

Sadly Bastrop State Park and the surrounding pine forest were the scene of a devastating wildfire in September and October 2011.  This was one of the most destructive single wildfires in Texas history.  Bastrop State Park suffered significant damage affecting 96% of the park.  The Challenge route was not an option during the 2012 BP MS150.  However I am happy to say that the road through the park has reopened, and weather permitting, we will ride the Challenge route again this year.  Albeit through an altered landscape.

We skipped the opportunity for even more pampering from the Hess volunteers at the lunch stop in Bastrop.  We did the usual for the West End crew.  No matter what team we were riding with, we congregated at the Whataburger for a burger, fries and a milkshake.

It was about 55 km / 34 mi from Bastrop to the finish line at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.  We made one last stop at the Moose Family Center of Austin.  The Moose Lodge is about 5 km / 3 mi from the Texas State History Museum.  A perfect place for the West End gang to regroup so we could roll through the finish together.  Sophie and Alisa joined, Tom, Barbara and I.  We missed connecting with Laura and Dane.  They thought they were late getting to the Moose and had ridden on.

MS150 2011 Moose 01

It is quite a thrill to ride that last kilometer or so through spectators three and four deep on both sides of the road.

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We took advantage one last time of the superb care – read cold drinks and snacks – provided by the Hess volunteers at the finish.  Then Tom and I headed toward the State Capitol.

MS150 2011 Glory Shot

I am looking forward very much to my third BP MS150.  It is going to be a treat to reconnect with my West End friends.  Who like me have been spoiled by the Team Hess treatment in the past.  Who like me can’t imagine riding the BP MS150 with any other team.  And who like me are depending upon your generosity to raise as much as we can to put toward the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis.

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

Whatever the Weather

My Not Possibles friends in Den Haag rode the Joop Zoetemelk Classic yesterday.  By all accounts it was cold and windy, with a high of 8°C / 46°F.  My West End friends in Houston are just about to start the Tour de Houston.  It is a balmy 17°C / 62°F in downtown Houston now.  It was 34°C / 93°F by the time Chon, Mark, Marvin and I finished our ride in Hulu Langat today.  Houston wins the best biking weather award for this weekend.

We rode from Kampung Batu 18 along Jalan Sungai Lui to the T-junction with the B32 and the B19.  Logically enough Jalan Sungai Lui follows the Lui River along the valley floor.  At the junction the only option is to turn left onto the B32 road.  The B19 is still closed 5km from the T-junction because of the landslide that dropped a section of tarmac into the reservoir.

Genting Peres Route

The B32 takes you to the border between the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.  The border is at the top of a 10km climb that rises from 170 meters / 560 feet above sea level to 500 meters / 1,640 feet above sea level.  It was very misty at the start, which meant great views once we got about a third of the way up the climb.

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Genting Peres isn’t the steepest climb in the area.  Nevertheless we appreciated the stop to take photographs.

Genting Peres Photo Stop

Photo courtesy of They Wei Chon

It was still hard work, especially after we broke through the mist into bright sunshine.  I am sure I leaked the equivalent of a Camelbak Podium Chill bottle by the time I got to the summit.  Mark and Chon are waiting for Marvin, who got extra credit for doing the ride on a 29er mountain bike with knobbly tires.

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I explored a bit, and found these decorative blocks at the base of the “Terima Kasih.  Sila Datang Lagi / Thank You.  Please Come Again” sign behind the guys.  Not bad for a sign that most people whizz past in cars.

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The plan was to go back the way we came to Kampung Batu 18, and then ride on to Sungai Chongkak Recreational Forest for a nasi lemak and teh tarik breakfast.   It was a hot and humid second half of the ride.  The thought of packets of tasty nasi lemak sustained us through the 6km climb to the restaurant.

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“What?”

Our disappointment was palpable.  Our mood was not improved by the very mediocre roti canai we ended up with at Kampung Batu 18.

There was one saving grace for all of us.  The thick undergrowth between where we always park and the river has recently been cleared.  So we could get to some cool water to wash the sweat off our faces and arms.

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There was another plus for me.  ISKY 2 has stopped ticking.

Tick Tick Tick

It stands to reason that as soon as ISKY 1 stopped creaking, ISKY 2 would start ticking.  As with the apparent source of the noise from the purple bike, the ticking seemed to come from the bottom bracket of the orange bike.

Hoping to benefit from past experience, I started my hunt for the source of the tick with the rear hub.  It was in a better state than the one on ISKY 1 had been.  It still needed to be cleaned and re-greased.  The freewheel runs quieter now. But the ticking persisted.

The next step was to remove the cranks and take a look at the bottom bracket.  The bearings looked fine, apart from needing a good clean and some fresh grease.  I did discover this though.

Disc Spring

This disc spring sits on the drive-side crank spindle.

There is a new disc spring in place of this cracked one now.

ISKY 2 is still ticking though.  But, unless I am imagining things, not as loudly as before.

The optimist in me thinks the ticking will just fade away.

The realist in me knows that there is more work to be done.