Monday, December 6, 2010

Jan 2011 Trip

Dates will be Jan 21st to 25th (Fri to Tue). Sunday uplift will be more of a hassle as the many local riders will also be headed up the hill. Hopefully the cable car will be in full operation by then, which will provide alternative means of transport up the hill.

Please take note of the following:

(1) Read the following requirements:
Penang setup requirements

Given additional erosion over the past year, 160mm front fork would be the minimum to clear all the technical obstacles you will encounter.

Bring spare hangar for your bike, spare brake pads, make sure your bike is in good shape.

(2) I will be travelling till the 19th. So riders are required to bring over their bikes and luggage to my place on the 20th, the earlier in the day the better. Luggage should be square-type and sturdy, so that we can stack them properly in the van. All loading into the van should be done by 9pm, as we will be doing an early start on Friday morning, in order to get in 1 ride on Fri afternoon (21st).

(3) Hotel choice and roommate choice. Please state if you have any budgetary concerns. We can either stay at Gurney Hotel (4 star $100), G hotel (5 star $120), or Waterfall (3 or less star $30). The pricing is the estimated price per room without sharing. At the first 2 hotels, the carpark will be monitored by CCTV so less worry for us as the bikes will be stored in the van overnight. At waterfall hotel, unless the bike is very clean, they don't like you to wheel the bike into the room.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3rd Penang trip using the DH Van

Locked in dates - Jan 14th (Thu) to Jan 18th (Mon).

Wow... it's been a long 3 months since the last Penang trip, what with work and family commitments using up more bandwidth towards the end of 2009. Weather also played a factor, as I wasn't too keen on sloshing down muddy steeps during the peak of the year-end Monsoon season. But the biggest factor for date selection was Ron's work schedule - as his leave would only be approved in the Jan timeframe. BK wasn't able to make it for this trip, even though he wasn't flying (dayjob). Had to do reservist or something like that... which consists of going into the airbase and looking busy during office hours...

The drive up was good (again). We didn't get stuck behind super slow traffic when the N-S highway occasionally narrowed to 1 lane due to roadworks. Most of the roadworks in the N direction seems to be completed, but we could see some jams on the S bound side, but that's to be endured on the way back. This drive up, we only stopped once to get a bit of diesel and grab a quick lunch. We made such good time that we managed to check into the hotel just a bit after 3pm.

1st Day: Due to a bit of miscommunication with the lorry driver, he didn't have a suitable vehicle to carry us up, so we quickly made our way to the cable car station and YES! this time we made the 4.30 tram. ************FYI - the cable car will be shut down after the Chinese New Year (projected 28th Feb'10) and undergo upgrading for 10 months. Hopefully it will result in more reliable and frequent uplift services for rider nuts like us. Even then, most of the best trails end up either at the Youth Park or close to the Botanical Gardens. A 7km slog on a DH bike from that area back to the cable car... is a serious slog. I'm just saying. Anyways, it would be so super cool if we could requisition a dismantled ski lift from one of the western or Japanese ski resorts and install the base at Youth Park.. ok ok I'm digressing************

The trail was super dry. Prior to reaching 84, there was a nice fast singletrack section which had Ron gushing - "Singapore's Woodcutter is the freebie lite version, this one is woodcutter deluxe".

HA! By the end of 5 days of riding, I had subsequently exposed Ron to - Woodcutter Super Deluxe, Woodcutter Premium Deluxe, and Woodcutter Hors Categorie....

As per normal for Penang hill trail newbies, we took the easiest way down (via the 39 switchbacks). Since we were working with a super dry trail and better light (unlike the approaching dusk the previous trip), most of the time we chose not to ride the concrete singletrack and just let our bikes soak up the offroad terrain right beside that. Hidden among the grass were 1 ft high rock blocks and various grades of ruts - but Ron's Float 36 and my Fox 40 could eat it all up. That said, I've ridden with Ron for a few years and we have a good read on each other's riding abilities and tendencies. So I knew he would follow closely to the lines I was carving and his bike handling skills was able to handle some of the sketchier sections. Relying on suspension alone would not have been enough, so Ron was showing me that he was up to the task of a very steep learning curve on Penang hill. *bow bow*

2nd Day: From the cable car station at the peak, this was our 2nd day riding down to 84. We took our time heading down as we wanted to work on some of the more technical sections. Like the 12ft drop just before 84. We talked through the mechanics and the best line to clear the drop and then just let it rip! What a rush.... since I was more familiar with the trail, I worked on clearing the whole section leading up to the drop in a smoother fashion as there's smaller drops with immediate sharp and steep turns right after the drops - before we get to the 12 ft drop.

Here's some picture samples from our 'practice' run:-
Near the tail end of the super snake where you need to keep some speed and flow to muscle through the tight rooty gap.

Ron able to clear this rock section on 2nd try

Ron taking a picture break - notice that yours truly doesn't show up often, as other riders tend to take crappy pictures (at least compared to the ones I take OF them *shucks*)

Only on our 2nd run through did we have enough confidence of the rickety bridge and our riding skills to clear it in one shot. Notice my psychedelic riding gear.

From 84, same as the last trip - a we did 6 to 3. This is the GPS profile of the trail starting from the top.
Definitely a good way to introduce new folks to Penang hill by traversing over to No 3 - the international DH race track. Almost at the end, I shouted at Ron to follow me through a crossover to a slight knoll. Right at the top from there, there's like 2 8-10 ft drops in sequence. I didn't want to give Ron a chance to think or get cold feet, so I slowed a bit to make sure he was right on my tail - then I led him through the drops. Wooo haaa... I picked a shitty line and had way too much speed for the 2nd drop, ditto for Ron, and we careened merrily almost out of control down - but we held on to our line and made it through! Yeah!

We were in such good spirits and shape (aka not too many big crashes), that I decided to let Ron try out the "New Trail" from 84. Yes, the trail that drops from 460m back to base in under 1.7km. The trail that makes 8 inch rotors feel wimpy. The trail to rule all trails.

Let's just say that we survived our 2nd trip down the hill. Sorry for the lack of photos, as I fully expect to crash at some point along this trail due to fatigue buildup so no camera carried along.

3rd Day: Sat - CK was able to join us today... so we did No 7 after 84.

No 7 is a very sweet DH track, as it has quite a bit of everything in a continuous flow - if one can hang on for dear life. Rocks, big rocks, steeps, roots, superfast eroded singletrack, mixture of everything at the same time etc etc. Right at the drop in to 7, there was a family of hikers with 2 teenage girls. There's an easier way to drop in, and another what-the-shit entry. Since yours truly was leading the way, I couldn't possible disappoint the watching audience, yah? So I took the what-was-I-thinking way and then hoping that I would only crash after getting out of their line of sight (else too embarassing lah!). *phew* Ok, so I didn't crash and I caught some ragging from the other guys. All in good fun.

The morning was not over, so Ron and I called for a ride to do the 84 "New Trail". CK had to leave for home, so the 3 musketeers became Batman and Robin, or Batman and Superman... or whatever.

We survived the trail again *phew* and made another trip back to KSH for bike repairs. Same thing as the day before, as the trail has a tendency to cause big hits and some hard crashes.

4th Day: Time to join the local DH gang(s) and we ripped No 7 again. Ripped as in let Ron and I get a headstart on the local guys first, so that we won't be too far behind when they get to the base. *hahahah* We also pushed up to No 3 as the 2nd ride of the day. So that's 4 days of seriously intense riding in a row. *phew* As someone else has said to me before - "Better living through chemistry" - thank goodness for industrial strength painkillers which I gobble down every evening.

5th Day: Yes, bruder. We rode for 5 days in a row. Call us crazy, call us hardcore, or just call us suckers for punishment. We took on the New Trail again. And this time Ron had a major part failure 1/3 of the way down - brake line broke upon impact with tree. So super Ron ran down the trail, slip slidding more like it, with his bike. Me? I then took my time, all competitive pressure off, as I focused on clearing the various sections one by one. The part that still licks me is the 4 storey 'drop'. It's about 4 storeys high (as can be guessed from the name) and maybe one to 2 room length long if looked at from the base. It's just freakin' steep, is all anyone can say. Covered with roots and leaves and oh yeah, another 2 ft drop near the end when your arms have already turned to mush from braking for dear life. CRASH. Again. Oh well... next time.

It was yet another amazing trip... 5 days of non-stop high intensity adrenaline riding.
Now I just need to source me some 10 inch rotors.....

Monday, October 12, 2009

2nd Penang trip on the DH Van

Locked in dates - Oct 22nd (Thu) to Oct 26th (Mon).

My wish for dry weather was answered! Omens were good as we went through customs at 7am with no waiting - an easy drive up with BK and GF, took a few leisurely breaks to punctuate the monotony of the drive, and we still managed to check in at the hotel before 4pm. The good weather and easy traffic on the drive up helped put us in good spirits - enough that we were psyched to get in a ride that very afternoon.

1st Day: So as per SOP when taking newcomers to Penang hill, we took the cable car up at 5pm (just missed the 4.30 tram), started riding at 5.30 and took the easiest way down (via the 39 switchbacks). It's still a very challenging ride for trail newbies, as it's still a decent variety of terrain. But not so much that it became overwhelming. That's for the next couple of days as new riders get used to the scale of Penang hill *evil laugh* By the time we got back to the van, dusk had fallen yet all in all, it had been an exhilarating start to our riding 'holiday'.

2nd Day: Friday the 23teenth. Time for BK to lose more trail virginity - Penang hill, the hill that keeps on giving.... ;) So for today we did 6 to 3 (from 84). 6 starts off with a sequence of 5!! 4 to 5 ft drops. A quick recce showed that the easiest route would be left/right/right/right/left. There are short runoffs of 1 bike length or less after each drop, where most of the effective braking is done. Your truly crashed upon completion of the 5th drop as the arms had turned to jello and there wasn't enough strenght left to muscle the bike through an off-camber turn right at the end. BK had an intimate encounter with a tree stump after the 2nd drop, resulting in a bloody gash on his upper chest. He may have done that on purpose, as he garnered a lot of sympathetic enquiries from female admirers over the next few days.... sneaky, eh? :)

After the drops, comes the steeps with tree roots and more tree roots. And yet more tree roots... never-ending tree roots. The purpose for this self-torture was two-fold - [1] in theory it should be easier riding down to No 3 rather than pushing up from Youth Park and [2] we need some tree root training for the "NEW TRAIL" from 84. Suffice to say, there were a lot of crashing, sliding and moaning.... but hey, just remember to tell yourself - no pain no gain.

Then on to No 3 - the official DH course for Penang hill. Fun fun fun. Every rider loves this trail, especially on weekdays when there's next to no hikers and it becomes a high-speed course with a few technical parts thrown in for good measure.

3rd Day: Today CK was able to be our 'tour guide' to the "New Trail" from 84. An easy pushup from 84 brought the riders to about 460m elevation... then over the course of just over 1km, we descended close to sea level. Saying that it's steep would be an understatement. We had actually started riding down from the usualy 703m elevation, so we became pretty exhausted we rode the "New Trail" for the first time. Super steep, tight, twisty and rooty - one had to really believe in his bike and tires (used 2.5 Stick-E Nevegals). An amazing riding experience, to put it mildly.

4th Day: 4th day of riding in a row, no need to be a hero. We dropped off at 84 instead of the top and started riding the "New Trail" immediately. Did much better than the day before but nonetheless, exhaustion still set in somewhere in the middle of the trail. Guess 40km of cumulative downhilling is A LOT of downhilling.... Anyways, the day was still young and yours truly then drove the riders to Mt Erskine - now a high speed course with lotsa jumps. Heck, even if you don't want to jump, once you go above 40kmh, even small dips will make you catch some air. We mostly watched the locals practice at a new jump site where you had to clear at least 2.5 bike lengths if you didn't want a flat landing.

So now the 'template' has been set for 'newbie' riders to Penang hill, if they are going to be as garung as BK. If not, then we will just have to do more of the easier trails to acclimatise new riders to the trail conditions.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Penang trip write-up

Anvil's Blog


No excuse not to go riding, real riding that is. Something I have been putting off for awhile Not the usual monotony that the flat landscape and hiker crowded trails in Singapore has to offer..... 8 hours of smooth driving to Penang lull me into thinking "its just another trail, another ride"


Apart from the first day of riding, rain was a constant companion which no doubt made the riding a tad more difficult than if it was dry. Steep sections smoothened and slick from all the rain has more slick roots at every pedal stroke; ready to get you. Some sections felt more like skiing rather than biking.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aug 09 Post-trip review

So 3 intrepid Singapore riders set out for Penang on Aug 20th, armed with 2 DH bikes (Glorious Giant + Chumbawumba F5) and 1 AM (El Cheapo with his 36 Talas). It was the smoothest drive up to Penang - EVER. No rain, no traffic, beautiful weather.... totally lulling us into complacency about the 'technical' horrors that await us on Penang Hill. The following is a short and sharp recap of the subsequent riding experiences.

(1) The first technical section, dropping in from Viaduct Road, is now a rooty slidefest. Kent Ridge has nothing on this, so it was an excellent wake-up call, albeit a bit of a jaw dropper one.

(2) The main runs from the top of Penang Hill to the base are anywhere from 10 to 14km, so there is a tremendous variety of terrain to cover. Erosion by mother nature has created numerous sections with their own special technical features, each requiring a different set of riding skills and ways of looking at possible lines. Gullys, rooty high speed, drops drops and more drops, rocky outposts both sizeable and ridiculous. Only a small sample is shown here.

(3) Any subsequent trips with new riders to Penang Hill will have at least 1 day of 'recce' riding, as there is just too much information/terrain to absorb. Ride leader will have to be extremely patient, so remember to tip him well.

(4) The level of technical difficulty cannot be understated, as this is not exactly a man-made DH course with proper entries and exits to technical features. One just has to up the standard of riding - or else portage quite a bit. Portaging downhill is such a waste of elevation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bike setup requirements

(1) Minimum 5 inch travel bikes, in good working condition

(2) Minimum 2.1 tyres (will be going through some serious rock gardens... don't play play)
*AMENDMENT 26/10/09* Should be 2.35 tyres or bigger. Due to high levels of erosion, bigger tyres with lower pressures are needed for rock gardens, drops, steep rooty sections.

(3) 8 inch rotors - for the front at least. Ideally, both front and rear. I have spare adaptors for 8 inch rotors (various, IS to POST, POST to POST etc), so can loan that out to you guys first if you don't have it already.

(4) Shorty / stubby stem

(5) Suitably short seatpost (will usually drop the seatpost pretty much all the way - so some rear suspension may have an interrupted seattube which would prevent your normal long XC seatpost from coming down all the way).

(6) Almost forgot - PROTECTIVE GEAR. Elbow, knee/shin guards. I've also taken to wearing 'armoured' shorts, which has extra foam protectors for hips, thighs etc. Before that, I had blue blacks on the hips, despite doing ok breakfall during a spill.

I will be bringing along the floor pump, shock pump and a couple extra tubes. Best that you have extra tubes for yourself.

(7) *AMENDMENT 26/10/09* Clipless pedals with platforms are a must (e.g. Shimano M647, Crankbrother Mallets etc) Clipless pedals alone not suitable for the steep technical terrain.

(8) *AMENDMENT 3/3/10* If you have a few pairs of cycling shoes, should not use your nice-looking ones, as they will get trashed with each run. For example, a brand new pair of SIDIs will look like it has been microwaved with putty after Penang hill.

Planning dates for Penang trip

Guys, this blog will be used for spreading info, answer your FAQs, address concerns, work out logistics and discuss bike setup requirements.

(1) Currently we have a 3 week timeframe from Aug 24th (Mon) to Sept 13th (Sun). The impetus comes from Ron, whose workplace is shutting down for that period of time for renovations. Since Ron doesn't have much of a chance to get block leave at any other time of the year, and I've been telling him how good Penang downhill is for like gazillion years, his dates thus become our dates :)

So minimum, we will have Ron + me. Please use the comments page to post the dates that work for you within the stated timeframe and we'll see how we can accommodate as much as possible.

(2) I'll like to keep the group between 4 to 6 people for the purpose of driving up in the van. That number includes me. With 4 people and 4 bikes, everything should it in easy including personal luggage. With 6 people and 6 bikes, it'll get a bit tighter as I want to keep all the bikes in the van itself, not on a roof rack or bike rack outside the vehicle. Chances are good that we'll hit rain at some point during the 700km drive... so unless one of you want to volunteer your bike to experience 120+kmh wind and rain blasting at it.....

(3) My preferred dates would be to Thu to Mon. From experience, the drive can take anywhere from 5hrs (in a very fast car) to 8 hrs (with traffic jam here and there). So Thu will be for driving up, starting around 8am, so that we can avoid the worst commute jams around the KL area and subsequently across Penang bridge. Fri, Sat, Sun will be ride time. If my body hasn't been too bashed up, then Monday morning may do 1 more ride, then eat, go back to hotel to bathe and nap, and start driving back around 2pm, reaching Singapore before 10pm.

(4) I'll probably have one of drivers to also be a van driver - to split the driving duties, doing 1.5 to 2 hr shifts each time. The huge van takes some getting used to, so I dont' want to have to orientate/train too many people.