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My Local Bike Shop (LBS)

Wikipedia defines local bike shop or local bicycle shop as a small business specializing in bicycle sales, maintenance and parts.

To become my local bike shop, the business has to meet a few more criteria.

  1. It has to be not more than 5km / 3mi from home.
  2. The staff are there because they love it and really want to be there.
  3. The staff are knowledgeable and keep up to date on the latest technology.
  4. The staff provides exceptional customer service.
  5. The shop provides value for money.
  6. The staff do not unnecessarily upsell, when a simple repair will suffice.
  7. Points 2 to 6 come together to create a “je ne sais quoi” that makes me want to go back there.

My first LBS was West End Bicycles in Houston, Texas.  The story of how I found West End Bicycles, in 2009, is here.

lbs-west-end-bicycles

Photograph courtesy of West End Bicycles

West End Bicycles has been in business for thirty one years now, and long may they prosper.  I moved away from Houston in 2010, but have been back a few times over the years to ride the BP MS150.  Most recently in April 2016.  Every time I visit Houston I make sure to call in at West End, which is my favourite LBS to this day.

I moved from Houston to Den Haag, The Netherlands.  It took me a year to find a group of like-minded cyclists to ride with.  By which time my bike needed a full service.  David Porritt introduced me to Tom Schouten Wielersport.

lbs-tom-schouten-wielersport

Photograph courtesy of Tom Schouten Wielersport

Like West End, Tom Schouten Wielersport is an owner-operated bike store.  Tom was always there to talk to and connect with his customers.

The personal touch matched the quality of service provided.  My bike felt like a new one when I got it back.  All the cables had been replaced.  The hubs, bottom bracket and headset had been cleaned and greased.  The wheels had been trued.  It had new bar tape.  It was cleaner than it had been since the day I took delivery of it.

The only downside?  It cost me €175 / USD187 / RM833.  Enough to convince me to attend a bicycle maintenance course!

There were a few other bike shops within a 5km radius of the Benoordenhout area where I lived.  Which would not be considered unusual in cycling-mad Holland.  Van Herwerden and Mammoet Rijwielen were two that I used on occasion when I needed an inner tube or a bicycle light.  Tom Schouten remained as my go-to LBS when my bike needed work that I couldn’t do myself, like replacing a broken spoke.

In 2012 I moved back home.  My first ride in Kuala Lumpur was with a group from Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.

lbs-vans-urban-bicycle

Photograph courtesy of BaikBike.com

It was during that ride up to Genting Sempah ride that my bike developed a nasty creak.  Read about getting that creak fixed at Van’s here.

Van’s Urban Bicycle Co. met most of my criteria for an LBS, except the “local” part.  The shop was in Petaling Jaya.  More than 15km / 9mi, through city streets, from where I lived.  Six months later the shop had moved to Kampung Tunku, which was even further away.

As time went by I gravitated to a group of road bike riders, rather than the folding bike riders that Van’s catered to.  Those roadies introduced me to Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.

lbs-meng-thai-bicycle-centre

Photograph courtesy of Meng Thai Bicycle Centre

Like Van’s, Meng Thai Bicycle Centre ticked all the boxes, sadly except for the accessibility one.  The shop is in Kota Damansara, about 20km / 12.5mi away.  To make things worse, the traffic on the way there is usually terrible, and once there, parking spaces around the shop are very difficult to come by.  Which is a shame, because Husher and his team at the shop have that je ne sais quoi.

About a year ago Lee and another mechanic moved to their new branch in Kota Kemuning.

the-tandem-men-out-meng-thai-all-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The drive there and parking is much easier, but the Kota Kemuning shop is 40km / 25mi away.  Though I must admit that, despite the distance, that shop is relatively easy to cycle to from where I live.  Up onto the MEX Highway, and then onto the KESAS Highway to Kota Kemuning.  Nevertheless, Meng Thai Cycle is not local.

There is one bike shop that is a 6km / 4mi ride away from home.  I went there twice.  Once to address a mechanical issue, and once to buy an inner tube.  Both times I came away disappointed.  I didn’t feel that the mechanic knew what he was talking about with respect to the mechanical issue, and I was charged 30% above the market rate for the inner tube.  I will never go there again.

They say that good things come to those who wait.  A new bike store opened 2.5km / 1.5mi away in December 2016.  The Bike Artisans.

lbs-the-bike-artisans-2

Photograph courtesy of Adrian Goh

Jeff Liew has certainly given his bike shop a generous dose of je ne sais quoi.  Helped in no small measure by the drool-worthy bike frames, kit and accessories carried by The Bike Artisans.  Brands include Pegoretti, Stelbel, Look, Cervélo, Slide Away, Moulton, Black Sheep Cycling, PEdALED, Warsaw Cycling, Apidura, Kask, Tacx and MCFK Carbon.

Jeff is clearly passionate about the products in his shop, and he is happy to chat about all things cycling.  Lim is the in-house mechanic.  I am very happy with the shifting tuneups he did on both of my bikes.

And despite the high-end gear in the shop, an inner tube sells for the market rate.

I’ve found my Kuala Lumpur LBS.

lbs-support-your-local-bike-shop

Graphic courtesy of redbubble.com

Flying the Colors

I thinned down my collection of cycling jerseys when we came home to Kuala Lumpur.  Among the jerseys that I kept were my local club jerseys.  The camaraderie that those jerseys represent makes them near and dear to me.

“Club” sounds a bit formal.  “Group” is a better word.  My first cycling group was West End.  So named because our rides started outside the West End Bicycles shop on Blossom Street in Houston, Texas.  The shop owner, Daniel Murphy, told me about the group and the rides that they do.  There are Tuesday and Thursday evening rides that start at 6.30 pm, and Ted’s Taco Ride on Sunday mornings.

I met Daniel not long after I started cycling.  In my days of riding my Trek 7.5FX hybrid bike in my baggy shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes.  My first ride with the West End group was spectacularly unsuccessful.  I got dropped within the first few kilometers.  Dropped so badly that I lost sight of everyone’s tail lights.  I didn’t know the route so I had to go home.

The next ride went much better.  Largely due to a few riders hanging back to make sure I didn’t get lost again.  I can’t thank them enough for that.

The West End group introduced me to riding further than 16km / 10mi in one go, how to change a flat tube, what to bring with me on a ride, and the culinary delights of Jax Grill and Doña Maria.

West End Bicycles sold these jerseys.  I know about Frank, the dearly-loved and sadly-departed shop cat.  I don’t know anything about the dog in the shop logo though.  I can tell you that the West End group lives up to the motto on the collar.  Fast and Friendly.

West End

There have also been a series of 6.30 jerseys.  Including this one, which I no longer have.  I donated this jersey, along with others, to an aid organization in Den Haag.  Perhaps someone is still sporting this jersey somewhere in South Holland.

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

It took a while to find a group to ride with in Den Haag.  All the Dutch cycling clubs that I encountered were very serious.  In the typically Dutch way they were very well-organised and had excellent facilities.  They were also geared toward the competitive rather than the recreational cyclist.  Some even required that you met a qualifying time for membership.  Ride 40km / 25mi in an hour for instance.

So a year had gone by before I heard of the Not Possibles.  A group made up largely of expatriates living in the Den Haag area.  Weather permitting, the Not Possibles meet outside the DAKA sports store in the Leidsenhage shopping center on Saturday mornings.  The route for the day often depends upon the prevailing wind, and is usually about 40 to 60km / 25 to 37mi long.

Th group was described to me as one that rode at a pace between 20 to 25kph / 12.5 to 15.5mph.  I learned on my first ride with them that this was not strictly true.  They averaged about 25kph / 15.5mph for the entire ride.  Including the slow rolling start from Leidsenhage, the stops at traffic lights and the slow rolling through built-up areas.  I spent most of my first ride with the Not Possibles frantically trying not to lose sight of the tail end of the group as it sped through the trees in the dunes.  This struggling on the first ride was becoming a bad habit.

A few months after I hooked up with the Not Possibles we decided that we needed group jerseys.  This is what we came up with.

Not Possibles

The Not Possibles introduced me to routes north, east and south of Den Haag (west was not possible because the North Sea gets in the way),  riding in the rain, harnessing a tail wind for 60km / 37mi and taking the train to get home, and the delights of apple pie and coffee at the Coffee Club.

I hooked up with a group of cyclists within a few days of arriving in Kuala Lumpur.  As soon as my bikes arrived I was off on a ride with the Racun group.  “Racun” is the Bahasa Malaysia word for “poison.”  In this case the name refers to how people are poisoned by the cycling bug.  One bike becomes two bikes becomes three bikes.  Every bright and shiny new accessory becomes a must-have.

The name is especially appropriate because the Racun group are linked to Van’s Urban Cycling Co.  Where new temptations are constantly presented.  Like the new Knog Blinder Road light.  I am not the only one in the group who is sorely tempted by this light.

The Racun group has introduced me to the world of folding bicycles, urban night rides, breakfast at Sharif Roti Canai, and orange + green apple + lychee juice.

Van’s was sold out of the original yellow and black Racun jerseys.  Fortunately for the new joiners a second batch of jerseys was made up.

Racun

The jerseys may be different, but they represent the same things.  A love of cycling, fun and friendship.  I fly these colors with pride.

2013 BP MS150 Day One

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BP MS150 2013

The lead up to this year’s BP MS150 ride from Houston to Austin was faultless.  Barbara collected my rider pack and Hess jersey for me.  Malaysian Airlines and KLM got me to George Bush Intercontinental Airport as scheduled.  Tom and Donna were waiting outside Arrivals for me.  The Omni Houston Hotel at Westside had my room ready.  Most importantly Fedex had delivered my Ritchey Break-Away bicycle to the hotel.

The first thing to do was to put the bicycle together.  My bike came with a Ritchey torque key that fits the 4mm bolts on their bars and stems, as well as the bolt on the hinged clamp that anchors the flanged joint on the down tube.  Steve Dodds at Bicycle Doctor USA had told me to pack an 8mm Allen key to install the crank with.  I also packed 6mm and 5mm Allen keys for the seat post and saddle mounting bolts.  Four Allen keys and a pump were all I needed to get the Break-Away ready to ride.

The plan was to do the Thursday evening ride with the West End 6.30 group.  That would have been the perfect shakedown ride for my brand-new bike, if not for the rain that afternoon.  Instead Tom and I made do with a quick 8km / 5mi loop around Memorial Park on Friday.  If that short spin was anything to go by, the Ritchey Break-Away was going to serve me very well.  The ride quality was everything I expected from a titanium frame.  The SRAM Force group set shifted precisely.  The brakes had good modulation and stopping power.  I didn’t expect problems during the ride to Austin but we stopped at West End Bicycles to get the bike inspected anyway.  It is worth getting an official inspection sticker.  If I did have a problem during the ride I would receive free labor for repairs.

The weather when I arrived on Thursday was unusually cool.  When we started the ride from the hotel at 6.30am on Saturday morning it was unseasonably cold.  It was 4°C / 39°F.  That was a record low temperature for April 20th.  The previous low was 6°C /44°F set in 1901.

Needless to say in my group I was probably the least appropriately dressed for the temperature.  I was riding with Barbara, Laura, Dane, Joe, Skip and Tom.  Everyone was cold, but I was chilled.  It had warmed up by the time we got to the lunch stop at Belleville, but not enough for me to take my jacket off.  Barbara and Dane kept their arm warmers on, unlike  Laura and Skip.

BP MS150 2013 Bellville Group

Relatively normal temperatures for the time of year were restored by the time we got to the stop at Industry.  West End Bicycles was operating their customary service stand there.  Complete with yummy snacks.  There was time for a post-cookie fist bump with Tom before we hit the road again.

BP MS150 2013 Industry West End 02

Fayetteville is always a treat to ride through.  The residents come out in force to cheer the riders on.  And ring bells and blow whistles and generally carry on.

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Welcome 01

We had an additional treat in store for us at Fayetteville this year.  Skip knows a lady who runs an antique store out of a converted gas station.

BP MS150 2013 Antique Shop

For MS150 day she bakes all sorts of cakes and cookies which she lays out for anyone who wants some.  Not everyone knows about this though.  So hooray for Skip and his insider knowledge!

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Munchies

We had about 30 km / 18.5 mi to go to La Grange.  Dane headed out ahead of the rest of us.  His plan was to get to the VFW Hall early enough to reserve prime sleeping spots for us all.  We wanted a row of six camp beds near a wall socket.  We all had electronics that needed recharging.  We didn’t get the row we had hoped for, but we were near a coveted wall socket.  This is Tom watching Dane get sorted out after their turns in the private shower truck that Hess provides for its team.

BP MS150 2013 VFW Hall

This year the Hess bar featured recovery drinks made to order.  Just the ticket after a hot shower and before a massage.

BP MS150 2013 La Grange Recovery Drinks

We are all spoiled by the excellent support that Hess provides to its riders.  Air-conditioning, private showers, indoor toilets, an open bar, ear plugs in case the snoring gets too loud.  I’m not sure how we managed when we rode with other teams and had to endure conditions like this.

BP MS150 2013 Life on the other side of the tracks

Tom, Skip, “Sideshow” Dane and I went for a wander around the Fayette County Fairgrounds to stretch our legs before dinner.

BP MS150 2013 Dane 'Sideshow Bob' Schiller

We had ridden 160 km / 100 mi.  That made it my longest Day One in the three times I have ridden the BP MS150.  I was still a bit jet-lagged and very ready to call it a day as soon as I had finished my dinner.  Day Two wasn’t far away.

The National MS Society is still accepting donations linked to this ride.  The society is depending upon your generosity to raise as much as possible to put toward the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis.  Please click on the link below to make a donation to this worthy cause.

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

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.

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.

79051-1745-004f

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

Welkom in Nederland

On Tuesday 20th April 2010 I did a last Tuesday ride around the streets of Houston with the West End Six Thirty group.  Our bikes (my road and hybrid bikes, and the biker chick’s cruiser bike), along with the rest of our belongings, had long since departed Houston bound for  Rotterdam.  I had Tom B. to thank for loaning me a bike for the Tuesday ride.  On Thursday I joined the group at Jax for the post-ride meal.  On Friday I collected my passport and visa at the Netherlands consulate, dropped our car off at the freight company, and took a taxi to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to catch my 3.30pm flight.

On Saturday morning I flew into a damp and chilly Amsterdam Schiphol airport.  Den Haag, our home for the next few years, was no drier nor warmer.  I had arrived with a suitcase full of what I had been wearing the week before in Houston.  I had shorts, t-shirts and sandals.  What I should have packed were sweaters, scarves and boots.  My first purchase in the Netherlands was a Nike sweatshirt.  I would have bought gloves too, but the shop assistant told me that winter was over!

The weather stayed pretty ugly for the next few weeks.  Usual Dutch spring weather in other words.  It was five or six weeks before it warmed up enough for me to consider a bike ride.  By then I had found Bikes For Rent.  I reserved a bike for the weekend.  Then I crossed fingers and toes hoping that the weather would not revert to wet and windy.  Fortunately Saturday dawned dry and reasonably warm.  Warm enough for my tropical blood at least.  I rode away from Bikes For Rent on a three-speed Johnny Loco.

Johnny Loco Three Speed

I had a map of the bike route to the beach.  The map was helpful but I soon found that the bike paths in the Netherlands are very well signposted.  The cycling infrastructure is really very good.  The bike paths are very well marked and maintained.  “Yes” everyone checks for bicycles before opening car doors.

Bike path

Cyclists even have their own traffic lights.

Bike light

The path to the dunes and the beach took me past the Scheveningen water tower.  Built in 1874, the tower contains 1 million litres of drinking water and has the largest storage capacity of all the water towers in the Province of Zuid-Holland.  It is still in use today.

The bike trail towards the Scheveningen Pump House

It wasn’t the brightest of days so the North Sea looked pretty raw.

The North Sea

I didn’t expect to see World War Two gun emplacements facing out to sea along the dunes.

Eastward view

On the way home through Scheveningen I saw a few more signs of just how much the bicycle is the go-to mode of transportation for many in the Netherlands.  I’ve seen bike racks before, but these two boys on the right took racks to another level.

Surfboard racks

You can leave your bike in a guarded bike parking areas like this one for less than €1.

Guarded bicycle parking

The route back home took me past the Vredespaleis or Peace Palace.  Andrew Carnegie donated USD1.5 million in 1903 (the equivalent of USD40 million today) to fund the construction of the Vredespaleis.  Today the building houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library.

The Peace Palace

This was a very nice welcome to riding in the Netherlands.  I couldn’t wait for my road bike to arrive.

Eat to Ride, or Ride to Eat?

I learned the hard way that avoiding the bonk, or going hypoglycemic, on a challenging event, requires that I eat to ride.  Both before and during the ride.  Fortunately I don’t do many rides that require eating on the bike.  An activity that demands enough confidence, or stupidity if the roads are bad, to take your hands off the handlebar, sufficient dexterity to fish around behind your back to find your energy bar or gel or whatever, and gills so that you can continue to breathe while chewing and swallowing.  All the while pedaling so you won’t get dropped.

It is much more fun, civilized even, to ride to eat.  Houston’s West End Bicycles Six Thirty group introduced me to the delightful practice of riding as an excuse to eat.  After our Thursday evening rides we would gather at Jax Grill or Romano’s Pizza to “replenish our glycogen stores.”  I have already written about the mid-ride breakfasts at Dona Maria which give Ted’s Taco Ride its name.  Good company, a bit of exercise, good food and lots of laughter.  What a winning hand!

So it was “hip hip hooray” when I discovered that Den Haag’s the Not Possibles end their Saturday morning rides at the Coffee Club in Leidsenhage.  Appeltaart and the occasional uitsmijter are the foods of choice in Den Haag.  We have been known to linger over a second koffie verkeerd, purely for health reasons of course!

Malaysians live to eat.  That is indisputable.  So naturally every ride here involves eating.  Either mid-ride, or after the ride, or both.  Even the rides that require you to eat to ride, like the Broga 116, end with food of some description provided by the organizers.  The meal of choice for the Racun Cycling Gang and the Cyclistis is often the humble roti canai.  With a teh tarik to wash it down with.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

The best roti canai are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Everyone who has ever had one wants another.  And another.  And another.  This was during a ride to Kundang.  Specifically to eat some roti canai at this roadside stall.  Shahfiq is taking an e-break.  I am starting on my second roti.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

The eating is only part of the experience.  Watching your roti canai being made is entertaining too.  Which you can do now too, courtesy of this video by Mark Wiens from his blog Migrationology.  As a bonus you will see teh tarik, the quintessential drink to go with your roti, being made.

I’ve been looking through Mark’s blog as I wrote this post.  His write ups and photos are making me hungry.  Good thing there is a ride this evening.  I need an excuse to eat a roti canai or two.