Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Ride From East Coast Park to Bukit Timah MTB Trail

(Photo: STRAVA Map)

In 2012, I did a short write-up on Singapore Green Corridor when it was opened to public (Build Mountain Bike Trail along Singapore Green Corridor). Two years later, I revisited the trails and explore the safest path to BT Mountain Bike Trails from East Coast Park Connector. The safest way to ride from East Coast area to Bukit Timah MTB park is via East Coast Park (ECP) PCN, Marina Bay and Singapore Green Corridor (Ex-KTM railway line). Along the way, you can make a few stops for refreshment, such as Satay By the Bay; Festival Market at Shenton Way; Alexandra Village Food Centre; and Binjai Park Coffeeshop at Bukit Timah. 

(Photo: Marina Bay Sand)

The distance starting from East Coast Park Food Centre to Marina Bay Sand (MBS) is about 13.4km.  If you are on recreation ride, you may want to stop by at Satay By the Bay (12.5km) for refreshment. During this ride, we decided to stopover at Festival Market and drop by Satay by the Bay on the way back home.

(Photo: Festival Market)

We stopover at Festival Market along Shenton Way for watermelon juice. Most of the stalls were closed on Sunday, as CBD businesses mainly catered for office workers. We craved for Chendo, but the stalls were closed and we settled for watermelon juice. 

(Photo: Green Corridor Nearest Entrance from City)

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station where the Green Corridor end (or start) was fenced up. You WILL NOT be able to access the Green Corridor if you entered from there. Trust me, we stuck inside the fenced section for almost 45mins. The nearest entrance (see above photo) into Green Corridor is along Kampong Bahru Road (near Bukit Purmei) just before the overhead bridge (crossing AYE). Check out the Green Corridor access point at Link to SGC

(Photo: Green Corridor Street Art under the Bridge)

The total Green Corridor distance starting from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is about 15km to 16km. You will ride pass under few bridges, of which two were painted with striking street arts. The above photo illustrated one of the best.  

(Photo: Green Corridor at Alexandra Industrial Park)

We decided to stopover at Alexandra Village Food Centre for Lunch. Once you pass Treknology Building (Trek dealer), look out for exit point at Alexandra Industrial Park (Block 1010). Refer to above photo, exit the Green Corridor Trails and navigate your way to Alexandra Village Food Centre. Estimate about 200m ride.

(Photo: Alexandra Village Food Centre)

The infamous Lau Phua Chay roasted pork and duck rice at Alexandra Village Food Centre,  awesomely yummy. 

(Photo: Roasted Duck Rice)

(Photo: Roasted Pork Rice)

The essence of these dishes was the roasted pork sauce. Ask for more sauce!

(Photo: Singapore Green Corridor)

After a good meal, we were recharged and continued our ride towards Bukit Timah MTB trails.

(Photo: Bukit Timah Train Railway Section)

When you see Bukit Timah Railway Station, you are very near to the entrance of Bukit Timah MTB Trails.

(Photo: Entry to Bukit Timah MTB Trails)

After about 33km of ride from East Coast Park Food Centre, we finally arrived at the entrance of Bukit Timah MTB Trails. I was ready to shred the trails. After BT ride, we rode another 36km along Green Corridor, MBS and ECP home. The total riding distance is about 69km in total.

(Photo: SIngapore Green Corridor)

After BT ride, we stopped over at Binjai Coffeeshop for ice lemon tea. While riding along the green corridor, we met photographers shooting nature; hikers; trail runners; family with dogs; and mountain bikers like us. If you are in to beat STRAVA timing, you will forget about the existence of those people you met. If you are in for leisure ride, try to enjoy the surroundings (under brazing hot sun). Otherwise, you may be bored to dead along the flat and unsheltered trails...

(Photo: Satay at Satay By the Bay)

On the way back, we stopped at Satay By the Bay at Garden By the Bay to have a quick fixed of satay craving. They made the best satay in Singapore.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fuel for Riding - Oatmeal Chocolate Coffee Cookies

The consumption of high energy gels for endurance ride is quite common among serious athletes. In my opinion, those gels are addictive and provide diminishing return. The after effect is unpleasant, similar to taking drugs. The energy boost usually last for short period (1/2 hr), without continuous consumption will deplete your energy faster than norm. Wonder what chemicals were added into those gels.

Tried taking bananas and apples in between rides. The effect was good, and it is all natural. The challenges are storage constraints; weight; and perishable (banana) due to heat generated by our body. Personally, my best natural fuel for endurance ride is Oatmeal Chocolate Coffee Cookies. I will share the recipe here...

(Photo: Oatmeal Chocolate Coffee Cookies)

What You Need
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate 
1 cup hot water
170 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup wholewheat flour
1/4 cup instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups oats

Get Ready

1. Heat oven to about 180 degrees C

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper

3. Add raisins to a small bowl then cover with hot water. The hot water helps the raisins to become plump and juicy. Set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes.

Prepare Wet Mixture

4. In a large bowl, beat the room temperature butter and sugar with a hand or machine blender until creamy (2 minutes)

5. Add one egg and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract then beat until combined (1 minute)

(Photo: Prepare Wet Mixture)

Prepare Dry Mixture

6. In another bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, coffee powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

7. Add the oats then stir until well combined.

(Photo: Prepare Dry Mixture)

Prepare Cookie Batter - Mix the 2 Mixtures

8. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in thirds, beating after each addition until incorporated.

9. Drain the raisins then gently press down or squeeze them to remove any extra water. Stir them into the cookie batter together with the chocolate chips. (Use a spatula or spoon for this, not the mixer).

(Photo: Cookie Batter)


10. Drop dough by one tablespoonfuls about 1 inches apart onto baking sheets. The recipe can make about 50 coin size cookies, which make it easy to keep in zip-lock plastic bag and securely store inside hydration bag compartment.

11. Bake cookies 10 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown, the centre is still soft.

12. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 10 minutes then move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

(Photo: Ready to Bake)

(Photo: Oatmeal Chocolate Coffee Cookies) 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Point 1 - Podium 2 Pedals

If you are looking for light, tough, grippy and reliable pedal, look no further than Point One Podium 2. The pedals are entirely built in USA. The pedals have been tested in many world championship races with positive results. Similar to many good companies, Point One listened to customer feedback. The new Podium 2 pedal is designed to rotate more freely than it predecessor Podium 1. Each pedal comprises of 4 sealed cartridge bearings; heat treated 4140 chromoly steel axle; grippy hollow 7075 Aluminium M5 studs; concave (10mm–8mm) thick platform (100mm x 100mm); and weigh only 285grams (pair).  Besides the ability to turn more freely, Podium 2 platform is thinner and lighter than Podium 1. I was fortunate to be among the first batch to receive Podium 2 from Point One. Podium 2 is one of the best flat pedals money can buy. Point One is aware of the need to service pedals regularly especially for hardcore riders. As such, Podium 2 is designed for ease of maintenance.

(Photo 01: Point 1 - Podium 2 Pedals)

Photo 01 illustrates Point One Podium 2 pedals. I have tried many other branded flat pedals, most of the studs cannot survive more than 3 BT rides. Podium 2 studs not only survive 6 months of regular rides, it also survive winter rides in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Refer to Photo 02, all you need is 4mm and 6mm allen keys to dismantle the axle. Rotate the two allen keys in opposite direction; the smaller 4mm allen key will be blocked in place by the platform, allowing you to unscrew the axle with the larger 6mm allen key.

(Photo 02: Remove Axle)

Refer to photo 03, one of the Podium 2 axles was in tip top condition after 6 months of regular abused under extreme conditions. 

(Photo 03: Podium 2 Axle)

Refer to photo 04, the other Podium 2 axle was not so fortunate. It was heavily rusted after 6 months of regular abuse under extreme riding condition.  The lube was totally gone. Possible explanation are: (1) faulty rubber seal which allow water to enter; (2) axle was not lubed properly in the factory; and (3) excessive used of Mucoff after ride. Further investigation shows that the rubber seal looks ok. Excessive use of Muc-off would have caused the same problem on the other pedal. My only conclusion is the factory may have forgotten to lub the axle during assembly.

(Photo 04: Rusted Podium 2 Axle)

Refer to Photo 05, removed the rust from the axle by using sand paper. Spray lubricant at the inner core of the platform to remove rust debris left over by the axle. Clean with cloth thoroughly. 

(Photo 05: Remove the Rust by Sanding)

Photo 06 illustrates the Podium 2 axle after the rust was removed by sand paper. Lube the axle thoroughly and remember to put the rubber seal over the axle. Ensure the rubber seal is positioned properly on the axle before inserting it into the platform. 

(Photo 6: Podium 2 Axle after Rust is Removed)

Refer to Photo 7, the bearing can be removed with proper tool kit. In this case, I rotated the bearing with my fingers to sense for abnormal vibration. Fortunately the bearing rotated smoothly. I simply clean away the dirt and lub the surface before inserting the axle. Screw the axle into the platform by using 4mm and 6mm allen keys. 

(Photo 7: Podium 2 Pedal)

Lub and install the podium 2 pedals onto the crank. As good as new, no more squeaking sound. Good to go :)

(Photo 08: Point1 Podium2 Pedal)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Adjust SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur

The most common adjustment need to be done regularly for mountain bike is rear derailleur. Periodic maintenance and adjustment will enable our rides to be smooth and fault free. SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur is designed for ease of maintenance and adjustment. All you need to remember are 4 adjustments:
(1) b-adjust screw - to adjust the space between pulley and socket (Photo 01)
(2) H-limit screw - to adjust the outer limit of the smallest socket (Photo 01)
(3) L-limit screw - to adjust the outer limit of the largest socket (Photo 01)
(4) Barrel adjuster - for fine tuning (Photo 02)

 (Photo 01: SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur b-adjust screws)

(Photo 02: SRAM XX1 Barrel Adjuster)

(1) Adjust space between pulley and socket
Shift the chain to the largest socket. Refer to Photo 03 & 04, use a 3mm allen key to adjust the space between the pulley and socket to about 13mm. Too wide space will cause delay in shifting, whereas too near will cause harsh shifting. Play with the distance (12mm to 15mm) to identify the ideal space for your bike. If you are unsure, adjust to recommended 13mm spacing.

(Photo 03: SRAM XX1 b-Adjust Screw)

(Photo 04: Ideal Space Between Pulley and Socket = 13mm)

(2) Adjust outer limit of the largest socket
Ensure the chain is on the largest socket. Adjust the L-limit screw (see photo 05) with 3mm allen key to align the pulley with the largest socket. I usually spin the crank with one hand and adjust the L-limit screw with another hand concurrently. Adjust the L-limit screw until you hear and see the chain run smoothly over the largest socket. Once that happen, the largest socket will be aligned with the pulley. The chain will fall out of the largest socket if the L-limit screw is over adjusted, or gear down to the lower socket if under adjusted. 

(Photo 05: SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur High-limit Screw)

(3) Adjust outer limit of the smallest socket
Shift the chain to the smallest socket. Adjust the H-limit screw (see photo 06) with 3mm allen key to align the pulley with the smallest socket. I usually spin the crank with one hand and adjust the H-limit screw with another hand concurrently. Adjust the H-limit screw until you hear and see the chain run smoothly over the smallest socket. Once that happen, the smallest socket will be aligned with the pulley. The chain will fall out of the smallest socket (between smallest socket and bike frame) if the H-limit screw is over adjusted, or gear up higher socket if under adjusted. 

(Photo 06: SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur Low-limit Screw)

(4) Fine tuning
Spin the crank and play with the rear shifter to see if the chain shift smoothly and precisely across all sockets. If there is any delay in up or down shift, fine tune it by rotating the barrel adjuster (see photo 07). The barrel adjuster basically adjust the tension of the shifter cable.

(Photo 07: SRAM XX1 Barrel Adjuster)

If you perform the above 4 adjustments correctly, the gear shift should be smooth and precise. If you still unable to get it done despite performing the above 4 steps, you may need to tighten or replace the shifter cable. Otherwise, the hanger or the derailleur cage may be twisted. Other possibility may include loose chain, test it with a chain gauge (seldom the case if you have set up properly in the first place).  

(Table: SRAM XX1 Rear Derailleur Troubleshooting)

The above table illustrates the problems, possible causes and remedy actions (Source: SRAM Service Manual).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hikers Intrusion Into Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trails

Conflicts between hikers and mountain bikers are universal. Singapore faces the same challenges as any other countries, trying to satisfy the needs of both hikers and mountain bikers. Despite a little red dot, Singapore Nparks had done well in preserving nature. Urbanisation and ambitious plan to increase the population to 6.9 millions by 2030 has taken a toll in nature. Hikers and mountain bikers fighting for the shrinking pie has become more intense. One fine example is Bukit Timah Nature Reserved.

Over the years, Singapore Nparks has built and upgraded a vast network of hiking and mountain bike trails. Some of the hikers' trails include Kampong Trail, Green Corridoor (unofficial shared trails), Hindehe Quarry, Dairy Farm areas and many others. The only designated mountain bike trails in Bukit Timah area are BT Mountain Bike Trails (MTB only trail) and Butterfly (shared trail). Other legal mountain bike trails include Kent Ridge and Ketam Bike Park. Unofficial mountain bike trails include T15, Gangsahill, Scorpion (illegal) and Woodcutter (illegal).

(Photo: One of the rock section at the upgraded BT Mountain Bike Trails)

In 2013, BT Mountain Bike Trails had undergone intensive upgrading. The new trails had become more technical and less forgiving, with many rock sections, drops, tight switch-back and narrow single tracks. The reasons for excessive use of rocks are to provide better drainage system and minimise soil erosion and water ponding during raining season. The trial design caters to wide spectrum of disciplines: the downhillers looking for challenging DH tracks; the freeriders looking for pump tracks; and the XC riders looking for technical climb. The please-all design comes with a price...the trails has become less forgiving and require certain level of technical skill and fitness to enjoy. As the trails have many rock sections, drops and blind spots, it has become risky to ride even without hikers intrusion.

(Photo: Near miss in BT Mountain Bike Trails)

In September 2014, Bukit Timah hikers' trail was closed for upgrading and more hikers started to intrude into BT Mountain Bike Trails. Many hikers are senior retirees, other hikers include families with kids, trail runners, average hikers, tour group and school children & teachers. Incidents reported include (1) hikers resting on the downhill rock section at double black cobra; (2) hikers gathered at the blind spot just before the downhill berm; (3) riders' crashed and injured himself while trying to avoid hikers; (4) near collision; and (5) primary school students and teachers hiking along mountain bike trails.

(Photo: Hiker Hit Rider in BT Mountain Bike Trails)

Confrontation between hikers and mountain bikers had been reported. In one occasion, two senior hikers beat a rider with sticks when being told to avoid mountain bike trails. In another incident, one rider was hit on the helmet by a hiker. The hiker continued to verbally abused the rider.

Hikers intrusion into Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trails has become an area of concern not because of "illegality" per se, but the real danger of serious or fatal accident due to unforgiving and dangerous nature of the newly constructed BT mountain bike trails. There are lots of rocks, drops, single tracks and blind spots, which make the ride itself quite risky even without hikers. Despite warning signage erected by Nparks and education via various interest groups and forums, defying hikers not only ignore the warnings, but destroyed and illegally removed them. The only way to minimise mishap is strict enforcement by Nparks and continuous feedback from fellow mountain bikers. 

Ride and stay safe kakis.