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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Cycle For Life 2103

Cycle for Life Logo (Triathlon Malaysia)

Logo courtesy of Triathlon Malaysia

The final organized ride of the year for my riding buddies and I was a 125km / 78 mi charity event in aid of St. John Ambulance and Mission for Missing Children.

The route ran clockwise from Setia Alam to Kapar, and then north to Kuala Selangor.  There we turned right onto Jalan Rawang and followed it through Batang Berjuntai before turning right again onto Jalan Batu Arang for the southward leg back to Setia Alam.

Cycle for Life Route

It wasn’t a particularly big group that gathered in the Setia Alam Welcome Center parking area at the crack of dawn.  About 350 of us were at the start to listen to the pre-ride briefing from Chan Chee Seng.

Chee Seng was a familiar face from my past.  The last time I met this accomplished sporting figure (he represented Malaysia in swimming at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, went on to become a successful coach, and then launched a second sporting career, becoming the first Malaysian to participate in the Kona Ironman World Championships in 1995) was about forty years ago.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Most of the usual suspects in our group did this ride.  Raj, Mark, Chris, Marco, Keat, and a friend almost ready to roll.

Photograph courtesy of Raj

Photograph courtesy of Raj

Marvin, Griffin and Chon were also there.  Gary rode too, but he didn’t make it into the start line photographs.

Photograph courtesy of Chon

Photograph courtesy of Chon

The first 65 km / 40 mi were as flat as the proverbial pancake.  Just one highway overpass to get over as we hummed along at 35 kph / 22 mph.  We grabbed bottles of water on the go (how pro is that?) at the first water zone at the 40 km / 25 mi point.

Photograph courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

Photograph courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

This was the road we were on between Kapar and Kuala Selangor.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

We hit the first of the lumps on the route after 65 km / 40 mi, as we entered Batang Berjuntai.  That sudden 20 meter / 66 ft climb took so much out of us that we had to stop at a 7-11 for a break!  Where we were joined by a fellow rider in need of some rest and refreshment.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Marvin and Chon caught up to us at the 7-11.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

We had been told that the next water stop was after 90 km / 56 mi.  So we were surprised to come across it just 7 km / 4 mi later.  That didn’t stop us from partaking of the PowerBars and bananas on offer.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

As well as enjoying a touch of Mother Nature.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Most of the excellent photographs in this post come courtesy of this gentleman.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

He was on his bike with his DSLR camera in his right hand, taking photographs as he rode.  Fantastic.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photographs courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Perhaps the organizers moved the stop so that we could refuel before the route turned really hilly.  Which it certainly did.  We had about 225 meters / 740 feet of climbing in the next 20 km / 12 mi.

Then there was a respite for 15 km / 9 mi before we came to the part of the ride that we were all dreading.  The Dragon’s Back.  100 meters / 330 feet of elevation over 5 km / 3 mi, with a 12.5% pitch on the last climb.

The profile looks like this.

Cycle for Life Dragon Back Profile

This is the view back down the last hill.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

By the time most of us got to the Dragon’s Back it was noon.  It had been a warm, albeit overcast, morning to start with.  The temperature kept rising throughout the morning, and by midday the heat index was pushing 34° C / 93° F.  Everyone in our group had to battle cramps at some point during the ride.

The remainder of the ride was thankfully flat.  Even so it felt like a long 11 km / 7 mi to the finish.  I suspect that more than a few riders were grateful for the assistance from the St. John Ambulance volunteers during and after this ride.

Cycle for Life St John Ambulance 01 (Cyclinghappy)

Everyone in our group made it to the finish on their bikes rather than in a support vehicle, despite the heat and the cramps.  This was the longest ride to date for Chon, Gary and Raj. So they more than any deserved their finisher’s medals.

Cycle for Life 2013 Medal

“Hey, I Put Some New Wheels On, And Suddenly Everything Is Right” **

Ride regularly with a large enough group and you can count on seeing something new on a weekly basis.  A pristine pair of shoes, a shiny helmet, sometimes a new bike (I’m looking at you Chris).

Lately it has been new wheels.  First Mark showed up with a pair of 50mm deep Sonic carbon wheels.  Admittedly a borrowed pair, but still.  Then Marco bought a pair of 38mm Sonic carbon wheels.  A week or two later Shahfiq rolled up on a set of carbon Sonics.  Ken was next.  It seems that the group has managed to buy up the entire stock of Sonic carbon clinchers in Kuala Lumpur.

Our conversations became centered on the difference that those Sonics made.  Rides became “effortless.”  “Sonic boom” entered our shared vocabulary as a way to describe the impact the new wheels had on average speeds.

I have only ever ridden on Easton EA90 SLX wheels.  My steel Alchemy came with those wheels.  I like them.  So I stuck with them for my other bikes.

The appearance of all those new wheel sets on my friends’ bikes made me think about getting some new wheels too.  I wanted to stay with alloy wheels.  I’ve seen a number of broken carbon wheels but have yet to see a broken alloy wheel.  I was keen to get something that was more aerodynamic that the Eastons.  And I was sold on the advantages of running 25 mm wide tires on a wider rim rather than the 23 mm tires I was using with the Eastons.

Lots of online product reviews and some e-mail conversations with Boyd Johnson later, I placed an order for a set of Boyd Vitesse alloy clinchers.  The Vitesse wheels met the requirements I was interested in.  Additionally they are hand-built, and come at a reasonable price.  I ordered the version with 24 spokes on the front and 28 spokes on the rear.  The standard spoke count of 20 front / 24 rear is recommended for riders below 81 kg / 180 lb.  I hover right around 81 kg, so I took Boyd Johnson’s advice to go with the more durable higher spoke count.

On the day I placed my order, Nicole Johnson confirmed that the order had shipped, and gave me a shipment tracking number.  Greenville, North Carolina, the home of Boyd Cycling, is 15,800 km / 9,800 mi from Kuala Lumpur.  So I was a bit nervous about how well my wheels would stand up to the trip.  The United States Postal Service did a good job.  The carton arrived in very good shape.  Just a crease on one corner to show for the journey from Greenville to Miami, Florida and onward to Kuala Lumpur.

Image2

The contents were safely cradled within braces inside the carton.  The wheels arrived undamaged and as true as the day they left the Boyd facility.

Photograph courtesy of Boyd Cycling

Photograph courtesy of Boyd Cycling

I tried the Vitesse wheels out with new 700 x 23 Michelin Pro4 Service Course tires on a ride to the Chamang waterfall.  The wheels rolled smoothly and silently (more to come on the sound of the freewheel).  There were no creaks or pings from the spokes.  One sign of a well-trued, well-tensioned and well-stress relieved wheel set.

These wheels felt stiffer and seemed to hold their speed better than my Eastons.  However I needed more than 75 km / 47 mi on the Boyds before I could form a definitive view on stiffness and speed.

What I can say is that I under-inflated the Pro4 tires.  The 23 mm wide rim meant that the tires have a lower profile than they do on the narrower Easton rims.  So they are even more prone to pinch flats if under-inflated.  I had two pinch flats on my maiden ride on the Vitesse wheels.

The next outing on the Boyd Vitesse wheels was on the Samila Century.  I wanted to try the wheels with a wider tire.  I had a pair of rarely-used 700 x 25 Bontrager Race All Weather tires that I bought in 2011 for a ride on the cobbles of Flanders.

The wire-beaded Bontragers aren’t the lightest tires at 400 grams each, but they were the only 25 mm tires I had.  As it turned out they were a good tire to have for a very very wet Samila Century.  The wheels felt just as stiff, and were just as silent.  The ride quality on the 25 mm tires was much improved over that on the 23 mm Pro4s.  There was a lot less harsh road surface feedback with the wider tires.

I am tempted to say that it took less effort to get the Boyd Vitesse wheels up to speed, and then to hold that speed.   I did after all get up to and exceed 60 kph / 37 mph for 8 km / 5 mi or so, albeit drafting behind a lorry.  It may be just wishful thinking, but these wheels did feel ‘faster’ that my Eastons over the 145 km / 90 mi course.

Since the Samila Century I have taken delivery of a new pair of tires.  My wheels are now shod with 700 x 25 Michelin Pro Optimum tires.  I rode the 74 km / 46 mi Shimano Challenge on the Pro Optimums.  These Michelins are considerably lighter than the Bontragers, at 215 grams on the front and 240 grams on the rear.

“Effortless” may be pushing it, but the Boyd Vitesse wheels do seem to take less effort while climbing.  They continue to impress me with their stiffness.  Somewhat surprisingly for wheels that are 28 mm deep, they feel less twitchy at speed than the 25 mm deep Easton EA90 SLX wheels do.

Now about the sound of the freewheel.  Some reviewers feel that the Boyd freewheel is too loud.  The 2013 Boyd hubs have four oversized pawls, versus three pawls in my Easton hubs.  Perhaps that is why the Boyd freewheel is louder than the Easton freewheel.  Not excessively so in my view.  Experience with my Easton hubs tells me that putting some grease in the hub will quieten it if necessary.  I will leave my Boyd hub alone.  I like the sound it makes.

Photograph courtesy of Boyd Cycling

Photograph courtesy of Boyd Cycling

I also like the look of these wheels.  The black Sapim CX Ray spokes make a nice change from silver spokes.  To my eye the single-color logos are an understated touch.

Rear.

DSC02449

Front.

DSC02450

The full view.

DSC02448

I give the Boyd Vitesse alloy clincher wheels a “Thumbs Up” rating.  My customer experience with Boyd Cycling was outstanding.  I would buy from Boyd Cycling again, and I would certainly recommend Boyd Cycling to my friends.

** Thank you Paolo Nutini for the slightly amended lyric to “New Shoes.”