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Monday, March 30, 2009

Setting Up a Semi-permanent Place for BikeTrials Training

For the longest time, I have been repetitively watching a lot of competition videos from and one of my favourites was the Bar-H Bash Competition, where they rode man-made sections. That gave me the idea and the yearning to want to set up a mock section similar to that at home.

And so I began collecting wooden pallets, starting with those, which I took from the BikeTrials demo by Walton, Ben and Nelwin; organised by Syarul. I managed to collect enough to set up a section that allowed me to train and hone the basic skill sets of BikeTrial.

The section set up in my house.

Ever since then, I have been thinking about finding a public place that is more accessible to all, to set up a semi-permanent location for training BikeTrials. I have benefited so much from practicing on it, and I think others will too.

I mooted the idea to Syarul earlier this month (March 8th) and ever since then, we have been looking for the ideal location. My plan was to use wooden pallets, logs, tyres and other man-made objects to create mock sections, designed to be ridden using the various BikeTrials skills and techniques.

Having a training location like this will enable newbies to fast-track their learning, guided by more experienced riders. Riders with any type of bikes will be able to test their mettle on these sections.

The following are images I have captured from the videos I downloaded from, an American BikeTrial site although outdated, still has a lot of resources promoting trials. Check out the following man-made sections in the Bar-H Bash Competition held in 2006.

Now imagine, if we were to have a permanent place to set up BikeTrials sections like those shown in the above images... Wow!!! LOL...

The plan would be to have a wide variety of sections set up with the intention of challenging riders to pit their skills against the obstacles. And if the BikeTrial community grows big enough, we can have our own little competition where we can invite riders from other places or countries to participate... :-)

So if you have any ideas to contribute or empty land (accessible and not too far... LOL) you want to loan to us to set up a BikeTrial training ground, please let us know... LOL. The ideal location would be the grounds around an old abandoned warehouse, an abandoned car park or a park where they will allow the set up of all these "obstacles".... LOL

Until we find the perfect location... lets keep on riding... :-)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Things I learned from participating in a BikeTrial Competition

First off, why did I participate in a BikeTrial competition? Firstly, I want to see what it feels like to ride a section other than the ones I setup myself... LOL. Secondly, I can learn so much from so many riders by just watching them ride a section, and then trying myself. Thirdly and most importantly, it is just so much fun!!!!

Here is a list of things I learned from participating in the Round 1 of Singapore National BikeTrials Competition this year:

1. Favourite or "chocolate" foot

When first starting to learn track-stand, you have to determine which of your feet is your "favourite" or "chocolate" foot. This is the foot that you place on the fore pedal. My favourite foot is my right foot. I was only able to track-stand consistently with my favourite foot in front. After training for a while, I managed to get comfortable with having the left foot in front, albeit inconsistently.

What I learned during the competition was that being consistent with track-stand using either foot was critical to riding the sections. Because sometimes, you cannot control which foot you need to use for a dab, especially when you loose your balance.

If you are not comfortable with the foot on the pedal, recovering from the dab could be very expensive... LOL. That is, utilising an extra dab to get your favourite foot on the pedal to get back to riding.

During a dab, the position of your bike could be in all kind of weird positions, which may be difficult to adjust, maneuver or recover from. So train yourself to recover from a dab with your trial bike in as many varied positions as possible.

In conclusion, it is important to train yourself to recover from a dab using either foot on the pedal and with the trial bike in any position.

2. Walk The Section Before Riding

I learn from watching the more experienced riders that walking through the section before riding is very important. Half the battle is already won if you can determine the perfect riding line prior to starting on the section. It will also enable you to fully utilise the 2 minutes allocated to finish riding the section.

When walking through the sections try to do the following:
  • Identify possible difficult parts of the sections that will require extra effort and energy to ride.
  • Identify when to use a dab if necessary.
  • Identify rest points along the sections. Use your tires or pedals to rest if necessary.
  • Identify and evaluate the techniques to be used for riding the section.
  • If possible, see how other riders ride the sections and adapt it to your style and skill level.

3. Slow down and Don't Panic

I have a big problem with this. Maybe it is the adrenalin... LOL. You just have to tell yourself to do it. I suppose more competition experience will help here. But I doubt it... LOL.

4. Rest

Take the time to rest while riding a section. Relax, 2 minutes is longer than you think... Hahaha.... yeah right! This is why when walking the section, you need to identify the rest points, where you can use the least amount of energy to rest by using the pedals or tires. (For UCI competition rules, you can't use the pedals to rest.)

5. Breathe

I always see the experienced riders taking hard and deep breaths before they ride a difficult part of a section. The correct way to breath would be in through the mouth and out through the mouth? (Can someone confirm this?)

Anyway, my problem is that I forget to breath when I ride... LOL. This affects my stamina and I am usually exhausted by the time I reach one third of a section... LOL. Som good news is that since then, I have improved quite significantly... LOL. So learn to breath... Hahah.

6. Understanding Bike setup

Understanding how to setup a bike properly for a section is critical. What I learned during this particular competition was that when riding "natural" (natural means sections built from the natural terrains - grass, moss, logs, roots, rocks, etc.) deflate your tires reasonably according to your weight. This will enable you to get more tire surface area contact with the ground, thus giving you more grip.

In my case, I deflated my tire too much and received a puncture on the front wheel when I missed an extend and landed on the edge of a rock as I slipped... LOL.

Another tip I learned was to loosen the screws on the brake lever brackets holding it to the handlebar. This is just in case when you crash your bike, having a loose bracket will prevent your aluminum brake lever from breaking off (and thus ending your competition if you dun have a spare).

7. Understand the Rules

Knowing the BikeTrial rules is definitely important for any rider intending on competing. I definitely need to have better understanding of the rules. Maybe after I get myself trained as a Observer... LOL.

I still need a lot of training in all the above areas. There are probably a lot of other things which I am not aware of, but this is a start.

The competition really made me realised how much more things I needed to learn and I am only referring to the basic stuff. Forget the rest, balancing on "natural" terrains is a big challenge for me. Mostly, I trained on hard concrete and tarmac ground. I was totally not used to the varied combination of loose, wet, slippery and soft ground.

In any case, if you are a beginner like me, I hope that the above points will help you ride better... If you have more points to contribute, please feel free to post your comments. Cheers... :-)

BikeTrials History in Bukit Komanwel Park?

Today, 4 Malaysians (Syarul, Helmi, Wyatt and me) got together to share, learn and ride trials. This has got to be the largest gathering of Malaysian BikeTrials riders (with three trial bikes - Echo Pure, Neonbike and Adamant) in the history of Malaysia ever!!! LOL.

This is indeed a great start to BikeTrial in Malaysia. Lets hope the community will grow from 4 to the hundreds!!!!

Wyatt currently rides a brand new Da Bomb's Tora Bora. Now he wants to sell the XC bike to buy a second-hand trial bike... LOL. He is really stoked and is determined to focus all his energy on learning BikeTrials... :-)

Helmi is the proud owner of the Adamant, which he bought from Syarul a few months back. He is a quick learner. From what I heard from Syarul, Helmi could climb steps almost immediately... LOL.

Syarul explaining to Wyatt about the finer points of track-stand on his Neonbike.

Wyatt getting ready to take a ride on a trial bike for the first time ever.

Wyatt took the Neonbike for a spin. He tried the hydraulic brakes and was shocked at how sticky the brake was... LOL.

We are planning to ride again next Saturday, but yet to decide on the location. Will update later... :-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

10 Reasons To Start BikeTrials

It has been more than a year since I started taking an interest in BikeTrials. Personally, I know of less than 10 persons in Malaysia, whom are interested in BikeTrials, and even less if I count those who ride trials. BikeTrials has been around for so many years the World over.

It is also a cycling sport that is sanctioned by UCI (International Cycling Union). Our neighbours bordering us, Singapore and Thailand, have a much bigger BikeTrial following, with Singapore leading the way. Why is it that out of a population of 27 millions, I know less than 10 Malaysian trial riders?

Here are 10 reasons why I think cyclists in Malaysia should take up BikeTrials:

  1. It is a great way to excercise and stay healthy; body, mind and soul!
  2. It is the ultimate individual sport on two wheels. Some event organisers are calling it a great spectator sport, because all eyes will be on the rider and machine.
  3. You will learn and master the art of riding and controlling a bike like never before.
  4. You can ride trials anywhere and anytime, rain or shine! 5 square feet will give you so much fun!
  5. You will be part of a select group of people that will help to spread and propel BikeTrials to the rest of Malaysia.
  6. You will be able to make so many friends.
  7. You will capture the imagination of all your non-cyclist as well as cyclist friends, whom will look at you in a totally new light... possibly "shock and awe"... LOL.
  8. Your seat-less bike will always be the center of attention where ever you go.
  9. You will never get tired of explaining what BikeTrial is... LOL.
  10. You will be so so so filled with personal satisfaction whenever you can achieve a new move or technique.
I am sure there are more than 10 reasons. But I will leave that to your imagination.

If you have decided that you wanna give BikeTrials a try, I gotta let you know that it is not going to happen over night. You should be prepared to dedicate time and effort to it. Watch BikeTrial videos over and over, again and again and again. Train, practice and train... :-)

So where to start... how about here? Btw, learning trials with friends is much faster and more fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Worldcat Riser Handlebar

Well, there it is, installed... :-)

Tried to install the handlebar last night but could not remove the sponge grips. The basketball pump needle, which I used to insert between the grip and the handlebar to inflate/cushion the grip for removal, broke.

So, this morning I took the whole bike to a bike shop and borrowed the high-power air pump. The grip was really stucked to the handlebar. The shop owner helped and we managed to get them off, and everything installed shortly thereafter.

So how did the Worldcat riser handlebar feel like? I am definitely no expert on handlebars, but it certainly felt better than the Echo flat handle bar. My body was not lurched forward so much and less effort was spent on extending the bike or lifting the front wheel... Sweet... :-)

Pivoting was very much easier and smoother when transitioning from the front to the back and vice versa. The Worldcat handlebar was about 1 and a half inches shorter than the Echo, but that did not affect the control as much as I thought it would have. All in all I am very pleased with the handlebar.

Another valuable lesson learned... :-)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Worldcat Riser Handlebar and some Brake Pads

Hu hu hu. Today, I received a package from Walton of Attitude Bikes, Singapore. I was in desperate need of a new set of v-brake pads for my Monty 221PR. The old pads were worn out and I had some close calls when the pads slipped a tad a couple of times in the past couple of days.

I sent my SOS to Walton yesterday and he promised to overnight it over to me (and to pay him later when I see him the next time). And just now about an hour ago, I received the package... :-)

In my last post I wrote about the possibility of trying out a riser handlebar to replace the flat handlebar on my Echo Pure, well, I must confess that I could not resist. In my SOS to Walton, I requested for some pricing on the Monty Riser Handlebar, both second-hand or new. Turned out that there was this Taiwanese manufacturer that made an exact copy of the Monty Riser Handlebar. The brand name was Worldcat.

The Worldcat Riser Handlebar. Looked almost exactly like Monty's.

The brand new brake pads. I wonder if Sean would be interested in the green ones to match the colour of his Echo Pure rims.

And now, I am holding the Worldcat handlebar in my hands.... I can't wait to go back home after work to install and try out the new handlebar! I will post an update here later.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Of Stems and Derailleur Hanger

When Sean and I first bought our Echo Pure trial bikes back in Mar 2008, the stems on the bikes were only temporary ones on loan to us, as ours had not arrived yet.

A couple of months later, the new stems arrived in Singapore but we could not picked them up. When Syarul was in Singapore last December for the 4th round of the Singapore National BikeTrial competition, he helped to pick them up for us; but he never had the chance to pass them over to us until that day when I was riding with him in Bukit Komanwel... LOL.

All this while, I had been training on the 20" and have not been riding the Echo. The last time I rode the 26", I broke the derailleur's hanger. I tried to hop onto a platform but slipped on the rear wheel and landed on the derailleur. Paid RM35 to get a new hanger... felt like I was ripped off... cause when I first bought the el cheapo Shimano derailleur (with the hanger), it only cost me about RM45. LOL...

The broken derailleur hanger.

The new hanger after installation.

Anyway, the stems were of different length. All this while I had been using the long 150mm stem, so I decided to try the 130mm stem (Sean's). It felt really uncomfortable and it required more strength to lift the front wheel. Pivoting backward required more effort but pivoting forward was much more easier.

The Bazooka 150mm stem on loan to me by Peng and the new 130mm for Sean.

The long awaited new 150mm Echo stem.

After changing back to the 150mm stem, it came across to me that maybe the handlebar will make a big difference in the overall feel and control of the bike. The Echo's handlebar had no "riser" and was pretty much "flat". I remembered riding a friend's 26" Monty 231 Kamel 08 model, the bike felt extremely easy to handle and control.... almost as easy as the current Monty 20" which I am riding now.

The Echo handlebar is really flat with the 150mm stem.

The older model of the Monty riser handlebar on my 20".

Hmmm... would a riser handlebar affect the handling of the bike that much? I simply have to find out! I guess I am still trying to find the perfect bike setup that's suitable for my size and weight on the Echo. When I have time, I will probably remove the Monty riser handlebar from my 20" and try it on the Echo... LOL

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Practice, Train, Practice

Yesterday... I practiced, trained and practiced.

Ever since the tournament in Singapore on March 8th, I have wanted to really step up to the next level. But it is just so difficult! 

I just have to be Relentless! Right?

Friday, March 20, 2009

BikeTrial at Bukit Komanwel Park

Last Saturday, I was riding in Bukit Komanwel Park with Syarul. It was a fantastically hot day at about 2pm, but at 4pm it was raining cats and dogs!!! We had to take shelter at the food stalls.

We had never been there before. We found some fantastic steps and ledges to try out. The sun was beating hot and we could not ride long. We found a fantastic place that any biketrial rider could never ever resist!!!

Unfortunately, both our biketrial skills were not good enough to ride those boulders to kingdom come... LOL. At best, I could only get up onto two boulders... after that I chickened out... LOL. We could only admire them and one thing for sure was that, we were more motivated than ever to hone and better our skills!!!!! I will bet anything that our friends from Singapore will just go nuts over this!

Personally, I have set a target for myself, to be able to ride those boulders by year end. I have already identified some of the skills that I will need to learn and control before being able to enjoy riding those boulders... LOL. I will write about these required skills in another post... LOL.

Around 4pm, Syarul and I had to get shelter at the food stalls. The rain were so heavy that we could not even sit down at the table. The high wind and rain were pelting the canopy to high heaven.

The stalls' cooks, waiters and even some of the customers were pretty curious about our bikes. All was not lost hiding from the rain, we managed to educate a few people on the finer points of biketrial... LOL.

Just another day in biketrials Malaysia... :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How To Prevent Hand Blister When Riding BikeTrials

I have been having major blister problems on the palms of my hands whenever I ride. I have sweaty palms and wearing gloves does not help.

Normally, after about 20 minutes of riding, my gloves would be soaked with sweat and the skin on my palms would be soft and wrinkled. That's when the hardened skin of the blisters would get soft and the new blister which had formed underneath the old one would get irritated. The constant chafing made it worse and the irritation gets pretty unbearable.

I "googled" and found some remedies for joggers, hikers and walkers, whom suffered from major foot blisters. Most of the remedies concerned wearing proper shoes, using antiperspirant or applying powder. There were also some recommendation on using bandage strips or blister block adhesive tape.

I had none of the above at home but the blister block adhesive tape gave me an idea. I decided to look for some masking tapes and tried them out.

The cheap masking tapes.

I found that the above cheap masking tapes worked very well to a certain extend. The tapes helped to minimize the blister irritation and chafing when wearing gloves and riding. Instead of just 20 minutes or less of riding before I get the blister problem, I can ride at least 2 hours before the irritation gets unbearable. Btw, Syarul, a fellow BikeTrial enthusiast, can vouch that this remedy works... LOL.

The masking tape applied at the sore points before wearing the gloves... LOL.

After riding, the masking tapes were still in tact but soaked in sweat.

My blister problems were mostly on my right hand, just below the last three fingers and part of the thumb that gripped the bike handle. If you have the same problem, try it. I am sure you will appreciate it... as it means more riding time... LOL. Cheers!