Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe Mistress

I recently posted about wanting to change my current Mountain Bike (MTB) to a hardtail (i.e. no rear suspension) in Facebook. Many offers and advices come in and i thank Shang Leong for being ultra generous with his offer and Azwin to check out with Adira (both my mates in RMC). I even seek the learned Ro-Lance, my wife's partner's husband.

I set myself a max of RM1,000.00 to splurge on. Yeap, not much actually considering a good shock or mediocre groupset will set me that much of money already.

I also have two old MTB that i want to sell off. One is my first MTB which i bought when i was 15 or 16 using hard saved Angpow money. The LeRun Vesuvius served me very well.
My First Triathlon Race : PD Tri
It brought me into a few races before i turned into a pseudo-roadie. I decided not to let sentimental feeling rules me and went ahead to decide to sell it off. Fixing it back, which i initially wanted to, would cost me just a couple hundred less if i were to get a new bike.

After that, i had a Giant Rincon, which was bought over from Bacin. It was  a major upgrade

The Rincon was a size smaller for me, but being a guy that "if life gives me lemon, i make lemonade", i rode it for a good year before trading it for a Specialized HardRock with Bandit and converted it for wifey to use.
My first "long distance touring" - KL-Lumut with Bandit and Doc Amir
Then an offer too good to be true, an "upgrade" from those boring hardtail i had; in comes the Fuji Explorer III. Bought as a full bike and then cannibalized and splitted it with Bandit where he took the wheels and everything that comes with it and i took the body and whatever is on the top. This bike continue to serve me for many many years until last week.
Powerman in Putrajaya
The backup plan as i looked at these bikes that has served me all these year was to just upgrade with the limited budget i have. The shock on the Fuji has to be replaced. It has went over it's lifespan. The rims are threatening to break into pieces as the wall are already thin over the years of usage - with one instance that i pedalled out of Teratak Tekala without a brakepad, but metal to metal to slow the bike down, all 16km of it. The Truvativ Firex crank has a few teeth chipped off and the bottom bracket is screaming to be replaced. Lets not even go into other items that has already seen better days.

Then, i walked into the local bike shop (LBS) i frequent. A no-nonsense typical chinaman bicycle shop that has more junk than bikes on sale. Truth to be told, this is where i source all my MTB-ing needs. I know that the frames here are mostly Taiwan OEM made and with strange names and brand. I also know what i am getting myself into. But when i saw the white frame hanging at the corner with a very familiar name written on it, i could not resist.

A quick check on the build quality and lightness and a quick googling on the iPhone tells me that the geometry of this "copy" is similar, if not the same as the original.

That wrapped it up.

I told the LBS owner to quote me for a complete bike. Most important is that i want an upgraded shock from the last i had. Since i am changing the frame, i told him i want hydraulic disc and nothing less than that. That was my basic criteria and i told him i don't mind a rojak bike where the groupsets are mixed and matched.

I told him i want a bike for trail and mountain-biking. I am building this bike for the single purpose of weekend riding in the trail and for Sabah Adventure Race (SAC) 2011.

With that and with a quotation already 30% more than budgeted, the LBS owner went to work. I did a quick mental calculation and i know it will be at least 50% more than what budgeted simply because the other smaller parts will make up the final prices.

Yesterday, i went to collect it, not after myself and Bandit went to harass the LBS Owner and he has not started the work yet. Then i told him he promised me today (i.e. yesterday) and i am riding with Bandit today as it's a public holiday. He then recalled he promised me today and got right to building the bike.

At 7.30pm, i went anxiously, not knowing what to expect, but i was pleasantly surprised with all the parts he put in. While the best way to say it was he literally put anything he can find in the shop, it was no "simply" build bike.

Here are some photos which i took, after i reached home, with Wifey updating Facebook that i brought back my "4th Wife". The pics will also tell most of you interested to know what i build and it's technical items. I am no big fan of technical specs, so pardon me for that.

As you can see, this is a very basic MTB with slightly better than beginner parts but not hardcore enough to be with the big boys. I can't complain with the budget that i set aside (and busted) to get this ride. It weight circa 12kg and i can easily bring this weight down to about 10kg by simply losing 2kg off my 82kg frame now. I am never a gram-granny but i appreciate that the bike is at least 3kg lighter than my previous Fuji and just slightly 1.5 kg more than my Orbea Ordu. Put in two water bottle and it easily weigh the same as this MTB.

One of the critical component is of course the drivetrain. The 22-44 Deore HollowtechII crank paired with the LX 11-34 cassette are build for XC and climbs. While there are a 10-speed variant available, i decided not to opt for it due to cost and if i ever need a 36-granny, i might as well come down and push the bike (and it's what Bandit agrees!)Completing the drivetrain is a pair of sealed bearing Wellgo metal pedal. I have no intention of going clipless.

Next item was what i always wanted which is a hydraulic disc. I settled for the Tektro Draco, which is most probably equivalent to a Juicy 3. It is basic disc and i figured out if i ever want to upgrade later, i will be able to tell the differences. Going with the brake caliper (dual piston, wow! now i seems like i am having some 4-pot caliper brake system!) is a pair of Shimano 160mm disc. Decent enough for me. Holding the disc is a pair of DT Swiss EX5.1D which apparently a good XC wheelset - in Red and make the bike looked more...pretty.

Completing the wheelset is Hutchinson Scorpion Airlight 2.0. I am a fan of Ritchey ZMax but unfortunately the LBS has no stock of these. No complains here as well because part of the fun of MTB-ing is to find what suit us and hit our sweetspot! One man's rubber is another man's wipeout!

The front fork is a RST F1RST (corny name incorporating the brand name into the model name as well). It is a AIR series where the damping is by Air and has rebound and lock-out control. The model i had is with 100mm travel and 6-preset damping (soft to lockout) and customisable AIR damping. Technology is now available at a cheaper price and i am not going to complain about it. More so this fork comes in at 1.5kg only! Beat that!

Holding the cockpit is an ultrawide riser bar. I had opted for this than the usual length bar because i want a bit more stability and less twitchy. With shorter handlebar, every single movement is amplified, with longer ones, they are more forgiving for beginner like me. Azonic (another Taiwan brand popular in the mid 90's) were fitted with Bontrager 110mm stem and had the diamond-surface Bontrager grip to complete it.

As the frame was already my size (18inches or L, i previously rode a 17, which was a bit smaller for me and need a loooonnnggg seatpost), things all fall into perspective. With the general bike fittings all sorted out and almost perfect, i can't complain more. Oh well, maybe the Cannondale white-red seat could do without the brand name ;-)

The Test Ride
Venue : FRIM, most trails.
Rode with : Bandit, escorted by Kam and Mahesan (Somehow my outdoor life evolve around the RMC 91 batch!)
Total Distance : 10-12KM.
First impression of the bike was good. While i rode it the night before to test out the shifting and ensuring everything is tight and in place, having it wide in the open is better. First 30minutes without Bandit was used to test how the bike behave on the tarmac. Gear shifting were smooth and suspension lock-out works great. Without the rear suspension sucking up some of the power transmitted, every power cranked was delivered to the wheels. Good pickup and better cruising! Going downhill on the tarmac i noticed a flaw with the installation, the rear wheels were bopping about and a closer check ruled out an untrue wheel. It was because the tires were not centred corrected, common when a new tire are fixed and inflated too fast without checking the position. Nothing major a deflating and adjusting can't do.

Once i was with Bandit, we headed out to the usual FRIM trail with intention of going up Steroid Hill. Once on the trail, i felt the suspension working. Very responsive as it soak up those trail bumps while keeping positive contact with the trail. With a MTB this light, the next worry is the front portion lifting up when i pedal uphill hard. With the trail up Steroid coming up, i was still on my middle crank and not utilise the 34-granny yet. The bike gave a very positive feel on the climb and the tires gripped pretty well. I had no real chance to see how the hydraulics will perform yet.
Going up the steepest portion of FRIM was a very pleasant experience as i managed to climb up sans granny-gears. The geometry of the bike offers a good usage of the thigh/quads. Only time something unexpected happened was me dropping the front crank to the 22 and the chain fell off. Lost the momentum and took a couple of 10meters before i regained the ability to climb smoothly again.

The cheap pedal worked like a charm. I guess it help as i was on PVC pedal and a beat up allow pedal in the two previous bike.
Along the way, we swapped bike for a moment as SAC requires us to do a biathlon as well where one member will run while the other bike. It is very important that we can manage to control and ride each other's bike.

The next thing was to test the brake. Coming down the other side of Steroid (we did not do steroid, but went around Bukit Putus instead), i went almost full speed downhill and tested the brakes. One finger was sufficient, with normal pressure on the lever slowed the bike down and with a firmer pull, halted the bike. I am impressed and now know why people spend on their hydraulics!
The bike on the downhill gave me extra confident with the suspension soaking up the bumps and the tire gripping the wet mucky ground. The brakes lend more confident and the riding position allowed me to move backward over the saddle to lower the gravity for stability. I smiled and grinned like how i did when i first bought my Le Run 20 years ago. Memories!

As we were wrapping up the ride, Bandit suggested that we go into the Aromatic Trail for some singletrack action. It is to see if the bike could balance on "edgy" trails. I know better that the ability to balance is not the bike, but the rider. So, it is more of HOW the rider adapt to the bike and be ONE while going over singletrack. Kiara on my mind.
Apart from a few not so confident slip as i rode over slippery tree roots, it was pretty alright as i now realised my inability to ride in a singletrack proper was always because of my bike setup previously. Kiara technicality aside, i think i am starting to enjoy trails such as these again.

The test ride ended on a good note. I am fully satisfied with the bike and the Rojak setup. It is what i can afford and what suits my purpose now. Obviously i don't need a RM5K bike if my intention is just to ride XC and trail with no serious DH action. I must say i am very happy!

And may i introduce to all of you, my *Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe Mistress. Ms. Rojak.
*Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe because this is not an original Orbea frame, but a good copy and made in Taiwan. It is like an Asian trying to be an Eurasian-Spanish. :)


  1. Walauwei!!
    Tht's a might long a$$ post! ;p
    So much details..Ican imagine u and Unka goin on and on abt bikes. He jz spurgled like 11K on a new titanium mistress too!

  2. He rides like the wind..its ok to spend 11k! I am just 10% of him, man wise!

  3. Hahah..don't say that bro. Your bike went on a serious diet bro, it's light! You should have called me earlierlar. I have a Diamondback ApexSL (07) frame lying around in my storeroom.

  4. U.Leong - the diet wasn't planned actually and came as a bonus, i was expecting a 15kg monster as i allowed the LBS to determine what he wants to put in reasonably.

    If i change the bulky seat...i might lose another 500gram ;-) but what's the point?

    DiamondBack...wow. My MTB has never gone further than Taiwan made bro!

  5. JOM! Sg. Long, Kajang.. :)


  6. Wow! such a details post here. Though your bike seems on a serious diet bro. The diet wasn't planned actually and comes as a bonus. I love Daimondback. It's really comfortable bike.