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Specialized KEG Storage Vessel

An article titled 6 of the best: saddle bags, which appeared recently on bikeradar.com, reminded me of a post I wrote last year about how to carry everything that you need while on a bike ride.

When I wrote that post, I was using a Silca Seat Roll Premio under my saddle to carry a spare tube, tire levers, a CO2 regulator and gas cartridge, patches, a multi-tool, and cleaning wipes.

I’ve recently switched to using a Specialized KEG Storage Vessel instead of the Premio.

KEG Storage Vessel

Photograph courtesy of Specialized

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Premio.  Far from it.  The Premio is an excellent piece of kit, and there will be times when I use it again.

When I go on overnight credit card tours, my Apidura Saddle Pack takes the place of the Premio, so I need an alternate way to carry a spare tube, tire levers etc.  I could put them in the Apidura, but opening the Saddle Pack mid-ride is not particularly convenient.  I have used a top tube bag a number of times, but found that the bag gets in the way when I am out of the saddle.

The KEG sits, out of the way, in the bottle cage on my seat tube.  It has the additional advantages of being extremely easy to open, it does not need to be removed from the bike like a saddle roll, and items can’t fall out like they may from a saddle bag.

Items inside the KEG are held securely by a pocketed “tool wrap,” which also prevents rattling.

KEG Storage Tool Wrap sigma sports com

Photograph courtesy of sigmasports.com

There are always a compromises when it comes bicycle components.  On the minus side, the KEG occupies a bottle cage, leaving me with room for one water bottle instead of two.  Which is not a problem, as there are lots of places to refill my bottle where I usually ride.

On the plus side, I have lots of exposed seat tube where I can mount one or more rear lights.

The Specialized KEG Storage Vessel is now my preferred way of carrying flat tire repair essentials.

I give it Two Thumbs Up

 

Eating Our Way to Melaka

Melaka Banner Johan Sopiee

Graphic courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Mark and I decided that it was high time to break out the Apidura saddle bags and go on an overnight bicycle trip.  We chose Melaka as our destination, because it is a reasonable distance from Kuala Lumpur, the roads are generally good, and the eating along the way and in Melaka is excellent.

After some canvassing, we had a group of six.  Alan and Chee Seng could not stay overnight, so their plan was to ride to Melaka, and then get to Tampin KTM station for the train back to KL.  Johan S., Ridzuwan, Mark and I would spend Thursday night in Melaka.

We were all excited about the trip.  Bikes and saddle bags were set up the day before, and some of us struggled to get to sleep the night before.

We started from where I live.  We were on the MEX Highway by about 6.15am.  The adrenaline levels are a bit high when riding on MEX.  It is a highway after all.  Though at that early hour, there isn’t much traffic leaving KL, so the riding is not too fraught.

We made a quick pit stop at the Seri Kembangan R&R.

Melaka MEX R&R Alan

Photograph courtesy of Alan Tan

As expected, given the wet weather of the preceding days, we got rained on as we left the R&R.  Fortunately the rain wasn’t heavy, and it didn’t last long.  We did have wet roads until we reached Dengkil.  A benefit of the Apidura saddle bag is that it extends back far enough to block the spray coming off the rear wheel.  It is like riding with a rear mud guard.

Dengkil was where our first planned food stop.  There is a roadside stall on the corner of Jalan Aman and Jalan Mutiara 1J.  We stop there for breakfast whenever our rides take us through Dengkil.

Melaka Dengkil Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had a visitor looking for handouts during breakfast.

Melaka Dengkil Cat Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

From the Dengkil bypass we rode along the busy Putrajaya–Cyberjaya Expressway and the Nilai – KLIA Highway before turning right onto the quieter Jalan Besar Salak at Salak Tinggi.

Melaka Rolling Johan sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Our next stop was at the Shell station in Sepang.  70km / 43.5mi done.  110km / 68mi to go.  It was supposed to be a short stop for drinks and the loo, but soon after this picture was taken . . .

Melaka Sepang Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

this picture was taken.

Melaka Flat 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

My front tire had gone soft while we were at the Shell station.  This was the culprit.

Melaka Flat 2 Alan Tan

Photograph courtesy of Alan Tan

An advantage of Two-Way Fit™ rims is that the tire bead stays locked to the rim after a puncture.  A flat tire doesn’t roll off the rim.  A very useful quality when you get a flat while speeding down a winding descent.

The associated disadvantage of 2-Way Fit™ rims is that it is difficult to get the tire off the rim, and even more difficult to seat the tire properly when reinflating the tube.  Thank goodness for the air pump at the petrol station, which generated enough air pressure to quickly seat the tire.

Happy smiles as we finally got going again.

Melaka Sepang Rolling Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

We rode out of the Shell station onto Federal Route 5, which runs along the west side of Peninsular Malaysia, from Skudai in the south to Ipoh in the north.

Our intermediate destination was Cendol Azmi in Port Dickson.  Which serves some of the best cendol I have ever had.  Mark and I have been there a number of times.  We talked up Cendol Azmi over the 25km / 15.5mi to Port Dickson.

So imagine our collective disappointment when we go to Cendol Azmi and found it closed.  What a letdown!

We settled on Sukand’s Food Station, across the road from Cendol Azmi.

Melaka Port Dickson 1 Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

To Sukand’s credit, their cendol was pretty good.  As was the three-layer air bandung.

We debated having lunch in Port Dickson, but decided to hold out until we got to Kuala Sungai Baru, across the state border in Melaka.  Mark and I had eaten at Kuala Seafood during previous cycling trips to Melaka.  That restaurant was a highlight every time.

We stopped to buy Cokes at Pasir Panjang, about halfway between Port Dickson and Kuala Sungai Baru.  We then picked up the pace over the 20km to Kuala Seafood.  2pm had come and gone, and we were hungry.

So imagine our extreme disappointment when we got to Kuala Seafood and found it closed.  What a bummer!!

There weren’t many options for food.  The few restaurants in the vicinity had sold out of their lunch offerings.  We settled for some mediocre fried rice, just to fill out stomachs more than anything else.

We had 40km / 25mi to go to Melaka.  Alan had been talking about getting coconut shakes once we got there.  Melaka is known for good coconut shakes.  Alan said that Klebang Original Coconut Shake was the place.  Having been disappointed twice already, we made Alan call Klebang Original Coconut Shake to make sure that it was open.

It was.

Melaka Coconut Shake 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And the coconut shakes were good.  Good enough for us to drink a second round of shakes.

Melaka Coconut Shake 2 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

This place is worth visiting again.

Melaka Coconut Shake 3 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

By the time we left Klebang Original Coconut Shake, my patched inner tube was failing.  I gave it a good pump up, and Johan S., Mark, Ridzuwan and I headed to our hotel.

Alan and Chee Seng were heading back to KL that evening.  They first rode to Jonker Walk and Dutch Square for obligatory tourist photographs.

Melaka Alan & Chee Seng 1 Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

And a refreshing recovery beverage.

Melaka Alan & Chee Seng 2 Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

The rest of us checked in to the Hallmark Crown Hotel.  I had booked the hotel sight unseen.  Welcome to the Internet Age!  The price was right – about USD25 per night for a double occupancy room, including buffet breakfast.

We weren’t expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised when we got to our rooms.  Which were clean and comfortable, and had air-conditioning and a mini-fridge which worked.  Plus there was lots of hot water on the shower, and the free wifi signal was strong.

Showered and changed, we walked to the next food destination on our list.  The Makko Nyonya Restaurant.  Another repeat visit venue for Mark and I.  Fortunately for the two of us, Makko was open!

Fried eggplant with chilli, beancurd skin rolls, cincalok omelette, chicken rendang, curry prawns with pineapple, and chendol.

The 180km / 112mi bike ride was worth it for this meal alone.

While we were stuffing our faces at dinner, Alan and Chee Seng had made it to Tampin, and were on the KTM Komuter train back to KL.  Comfortably so.

Melaka Train Alan Lee Chee Seng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Chee Seng

Not to be outdone in the food stakes, Alan and Chee Seng had supper in KL.

On Friday morning the four of us attacked the hotel buffet breakfast.  An observer would have thought that we hadn’t eaten at all the night before!

Then it was out turn for tourist photographs.

Melaka Tourist 3 Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

Melaka Tourist 2 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had, briefly, considered cycling back to KL.  Riding to Tampin and taking the train seemed like a more reasonable thing to do.

Melaka Lebuhraya AMH Johan Sopiee

Photograph courtesy of Johan Sopiee

40km / 25mi of pedalling got us to the Pulau Sebang (Tampin) KTM station.

Melaka Tampin 3 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We loaded our bikes and ourselves into the last carriage of the train.

Two and a bit hours later, we were at the Bank Negara KTM station in KL.  It is a short ride from there to where I live.

It was lunch time, so we made a side trip first, to Santa Chapati House on Jalan Sarikei.  A fitting end to our two-day adventure.  It was, after all, an eating trip with some cycling thrown in for variety.

Melaka Santa 1 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Thank you Alan, Chee Seng, Johan S., Ridzuwan and Mark for your enjoyable company.  We had a lot of laughs and good riding.  To be repeated for sure.

Footnote

The graphic at the top of this post is a mashup of our coconut shakes and the logo for a anti-littering campaign which was launched by the Melaka state government in 2014.  A take on the “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign started there in 1986.

 

Udang Galah Tour – Petaling Jaya to Teluk Intan

teluk-intan-banner-itbm

Graphic courtesy of ITBM

Two days after completing the Cendol Tour to Melaka, four of us embarked on a credit card tour to Teluk Intan.  This time Mark and I had Marco and Lay for company.

Everyone was on road bikes this time, all sporting Apidura saddle bags.

ready-to-roll-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We started the ride under the sun, the moon, and clouds.  It looked like we would have nice weather for our ride.  Looks can be deceiving!

moon-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We rode from Ara Damansara to Denai Alam.  Once on the motorcycle lane alongside the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, we cycled past the Lagong toll plaza to Exit 3501.  There we joined the LATAR Expressway toward Ijok.

Our first stop was at Sin Loong Kee Noodles in Kampung Baru Kundang.  Steaming bowls of beehoon and mee, accompanied by strong coffee.

That breakfast set us up nicely for the ride along the rest of the LATAR Expressway toward Ijok.

latar-marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

At this juncture it was still overcast and relatively cool.  It didn’t stay that way.  By the time we were riding through Bukit Rotan on our way to Kuala Selangor, the sun was out, and the heat was on.

getting-hot-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We stopped in Kuala Selangor for a photograph by the Selangor River.  And truth be told, a bit of a rest.

kuala-selangor-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Then we were on the hunt for something to drink.  Which we found at a roadside stall advertising ‘kelapa wangi’ (fragrant coconuts).  You pick the coconut that you want, or just let the vendor choose for you.  Four or five swings of his cleaver, and the top of the coconut is off.  Add ice and guzzle.

The sun was unrelenting.  By 1.00pm the “feels like” temperature was 40° C / 104° F.  We were in Sekinchan, and had covered 101 km / 63 mi.  It was time to stop for lunch.

We sat in the KFC in Sekinchan for seventy five minutes.  Half of that time was spent eating.  The rest was spent sipping drinks and summoning up the willpower to leave the air-conditioning and venture back out into the furnace.

We got as far as Sungai Besar before we needed another dose of air-conditioning.  This time in McDonald’s, where we chilled our insides with lime sundaes.  The green food colouring in the lime topping might have been flourescent, but there was nothing wrong with the taste.  Those sundaes hit the spot.

mcdonalds-lime-sundaes-marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Back on our bikes again, we were starting to get worn down by the double whammy of the broiling heat, and the frequent stretches of rutted, poorly patched, and pot-holed roads. We were expending a lot of energy negotiating around and over the holes and bumps in the road.  A raised or depressed manhole cover is just an irritation to a driver, but it is a hazard to a cyclist.

After a particularly bad section of road north of Sabak Bernam, where even the patches over older patches had themselves been patched, we pulled over under some trees, beside a small Indian shrine, to rest our tired hands and forearms.

indian-temple

It was nine and a half hours since we left Ara Damansara.  That dead straight road ahead of us seemed endless, disappearing into the horizon.

We had roughly 25 km / 15.5 mi to go.  Not a lot.  But we were getting to the end of our reserves of energy.  We were at that point where every kilometer seems to take an age to cover. The distance markers at the roadside were becoming more of a hindrance than a help. Seemingly mocking our slow forward progress.

We covered just 15 km / 9 mi before we needed another stop.  The Shell petrol station at Taman Aman was a haven of air-conditioning and cold drinks.

As the distance between us and the Yew Boutique Hotel in Teluk Intan fell to single digits, the sun finally dropped low enough in the sky so as to make the heat less oppressive.  At this point the distance markers were in partial numbers.

Teluk Intan 3.5 km

Teluk Intan 2.5 km

At 6.00pm we made the left turn onto Jalan Mahkamah, and then left again onto Jalan Mahkota.  We had arrived at the the place that was the reason for making this trip to Teluk Intan.

The Restoran D’Tepian Sungai.

The udang galah (giant freshwater prawn) restaurant right on the bank of the Perak River, where the participants in the BCG Tour to Teluk Intan had feasted.

BCG Tour Teluk Intan Udang Galah

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

We wanted to order our food ahead of time, so that we could come back at 8.00pm knowing that we had a table, and that our food would be ready.  Just as the proprietor was telling us that the largest of the udang galah, the Grade A ones, were finished – “Boo”, a supplier pulled up with a fresh delivery – “Yahoo!”

We made one last stop before the hotel.  The Menara Condong, or Leaning Tower, is the iconic structure of Teluk Intan.

we-made-it-2-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were back at the Restoran D’Tepian Sungai at 8.00pm sharp.  Waiting for us were 2 kilos / 4.4 lbs of those Grade A udang galah, prepared three different ways.  500 grams / 1.1 lbs of batter fried squid.  And a couple of steamed crabs.

It sounds like a lot of food.  It was.  But we consumed all of it!

dinner-remains-3-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

You would have thought that everyone was full after eating all that.  Think again.

Teluk Intan is noted for its chee cheong fun.  The best is reputedly made by Liew Kee (Ah Lek) Chee Cheong Fun.  Which is not far from the Yew Boutique Hotel.

We took a few night shots of the Menara Condong on the way to the chee cheong fun shop.

menara-condong-at-night-marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The chee cheong fun shop looks like a maximum security prison.  There are no tables and chairs.  Strictly takeaway only.  Nevertheless, the queue was long.  The place is famous far and wide.

There was talk of a few drinks before calling it a night.  That turned out to be talk only.  Once we got back to the hotel all thoughts turned to sleep.  And dreams of cooler weather for the ride back to Petaling Jaya.

Apidura Rackless Packing Systems

apidura-banner-prettydamned-fast-com

Graphic courtesy of prettydamnedfast.com

A couple of my cycling buddies are experienced bike tourers.  As in riding across China, or riding from the Malaysia – Thai border to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, carrying all they need with them on their bicycles.  They own touring bicycles. Touring bicycle frames are differentiated from ‘standard’ road bike frames by having

  • A more relaxed geometry to provide a comfortable ride and stable handling
  • Mounting points for the attachment of mud guards, carrier racks, panniers and three water bottles, and
  • More clearance in the frame to accommodate 28mm or wider tires

As the rest of us followed their progress enroute, and heard their post ride stories, the thought of doing a bike tour ourselves started to appeal.  After all, if The Tandem Men can ride around the world unsupported, we could surely do a multi-day ride, albeit something much less ambitious.

Those thoughts coalesced into a plan to spend four days riding through southern Thailand. For our first foray into the world of self-supported tours, we decided on the ‘credit card’ variety.  We would carry basic cycling gear and clothing, then pay for things like meals, supplies and overnight accommodations as we travelled.

This lightweight approach would allow us to ride our road bikes.  All we needed were some ‘rackless’ touring bags.  Leslie pointed toward Apidura for the bags.

I had first come across the Apidura name in a feature on the Rapha website.  Rapha had partnered with Apidura on a series of rackless packs.  The feature made interesting reading.

Apidura was founded by Tori Fahey.  An experienced cycling tourist, she took some time off work in 2011 to race in the Tour Divide (a 4,400km continent-crossing race from Canada to Mexico).  In an interview published online in The Guardian, she says “It was through my trip from Canada to Mexico that I discovered pannier and rack systems and my revelation from the trip was that I was never going to use them again.”

So, in 2013, Apidura was born, producing storage solutions for people looking to travel the world by bike, race across continents and carry all they need to do so.

Today Apidura produces a range of packs and accessories.

apidura-full-range

Graphic courtesy of Apidura

I bought three items, all of them the dry versions designed to keep water out, even in a sustained rain.

Saddle Pack Dry (14L)

apidura-saddle_pack_dry_14l_straight_on_bike

Photograph courtesy of Apidura

Handlebar Pack Dry (14L)

apidura-handlebar_pack_dry_14l_straight_on_bike

Photograph courtesy of Apidura

Accessory Pocket Dry (5L)

apidura-accessory-pocket_dry_perspective_on_bike-1

Photograph courtesy of Apidura

All five of us on the southern Thailand tour had Apidura saddle packs.

s-thailand-tour-3-apiduras-on-ko-yo-island-2-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

s-thailand-tour-3-apiduras-on-ko-yo-island-marco

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The Apidura saddle packs meet four important criteria:

  1. They are easy to pack, and then to compress and close.
  2. They attach simply and securely to the seat post and saddle.
  3. They do not adversely affect the handling of the bike.
  4. They are waterproof.

We tested the waterproofness early on, when we were caught in a torrential tropical downpour.  It was so wet that our brakes were almost useless, and it was too dangerous to keep riding.  Despite the deluge, not a drop of water got into the packs.

s-thailand-tour-1-torrential-rain-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

I was the only one with the handlebar pack and the accessory pack as well.  The handlebar pack was just as easy easy to pack, close, and attach to the bars.  The accessory pack clips neatly to the handlebar pack, and together have negligible impact on bike handling.

The only thing to watch for with the handlebar pack is that it doesn’t press on the cables in front of the bar enough to actuate the front brake.  That happened to me, and the only solution was to lighten the load in the handlebar pack.

Apart from that niggle, the Apidura packs performed brilliantly.  The large 14 liter / 3.7 US gallon capacity saddle pack accommodated a full set of cycling kit, a pair of sandals, a pair of shorts, two tee shirts, a small foam travel pillow, toiletries, a spare inner tube, tire levers and a multitool, and a rain jacket.  With room to spare.

One trip is not enough to satisfy a fifth criteria, that of durability.  The materials list from the Apidura website, however, points to products designed to cope well with the rigours of bike touring in all conditions.

Dimension Polyant VX21 is the main body fabric. This 4 layer laminated fabric offers a combination of superior waterproofness, light weight, ultra high abrasion and tear resistance, and low stretch.

Ultra-durable hypalon is used in high abrasion, high stress areas to provide additional protection against friction and puncture.

Woojin buckles are used in the fastening system for enhanced reliability.

HDPE structural support to reinforce the shape of the pack, ensuring that it does not interfere with the ride.

I must report that I managed to separate the top and bottom parts of a clip on the handlebar pack to which a strap from the accessory pocket is attached.  I pulled too hard on the strap to tighten it.  Fortunately Marco was able to maneuver the two parts of the clip back together again.

While the Apidura packs are clearly built tough, care must be taken when tightening straps.

So far so good though.  I think I speak for all five of us when I say that we are very happy with our Apidura packs.  I recommend  them highly to anyone interested in a rackless packing system.

apidura-logo

Logo courtesy of Apidura

Southern Thailand Tour Day 4

 

s-thailand-tour-4-hat-yai-skyline

This was the view when I opened the curtains in my 28th floor hotel room.  It was nice that we did not have to get up before sunrise on this last day of our bicycle tour.  We planned to be on the road at 9.00am.  Which gave us time for breakfast in the cafe behind us before we changed and packed our stuff into our Apidura bags.

s-thailand-tour-4-lee-gardens-hotel-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The route from Hat Yai to Padang Besar is mostly straight southward for 46km / 29mi before a turn to the east at Sadao for the last 13km / 8mi.

s-thailand-tour-4-route

Philip took the lead once we were on Route 4, and he proceeded to pull us along at an average of 36kph / 22mph for fifty minutes.  I was more than happy to stop for a drink by the time we had covered 30km / 19mi.

It isn’t hard to find places serving drinks on the road side.  There are the more upmarket chains like Amazon Coffee, which often have shops in petrol stations.  Or just look for a hut displaying drinks, and perhaps a sign.  Like the one we stopped at.

s-thailand-tour-4-drink-stop

It had comfortable seating in the shade, icy cold drinks – one of my all time favourites is Thai iced tea, and as you can tell by the mobile phones in our hands, free wifi!

s-thailand-tour-4-cold-drinks-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

After giving us thirty minutes to catch our breath, Philip and Leslie stepped on the gas again to Sadao, where we made the turn onto Route 4054 to Padang Besar.  If you stay on Route 4 you arrive at the larger border crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam.

s-thailand-tour-4-turn-to-padang-besar-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

It was a hilly 11.5km / 7mi from Sadao to Padang Besar.  That didn’t stop Philip and Leslie from maintaining a fairly torrid pace as we rolled over 130 meters / 426 feet of climbing. We were in Padang Besar in twenty three minutes.

Leslie wanted one last meal in Thailand.  He saw a place that he liked the look of, and we all went in.  Marco and I needed a fan and something cold to drink more than something to eat.  The others ate an early lunch.

It is a couple of hundred meters from that restaurant to the border crossing.  First we went through Thai immigration control.

s-thailand-tour-4-padang-besar-thai-border-crossing-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Then through Malaysian immigration control.

s-thailand-tour-4-padang-besar-malaysian-immigration-marco

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

And we were back on home soil, just minutes from where we had left our vehicles.   Our cycling adventure was over.  What a fabulous adventure it was.  The riding was good, and the company was even better.  These four days will live long in my memory.

Thank you guys for a wonderful time.

s-thailand-tour-4-padang-besar-home-leslie

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong