Trails: Tanjung Bunga – Teluk Bahang Trails – Penang

Most of the trails that I have been to in Penang are either cemented single trails or pave road. But, what I am going to introduce today are mainly roads that suitable for road bikes or MTB. What?!! MTB on a road? Yes, I have once asked by a friend of mine from Kuala Lumpur why people in Penang ride MTB on the road. Well, I guessed for 2 reasons. #1: We are cheapo to get 2 bikes, so we use 1 bike to serve dual purposes – Road and Off Road :). #2: Penang is a very small island. The whole perimeter covers 85km only, so for a road bike to cover this distance is a very short ride.

Pearl Hill Path

This is the road I have trained a lot and my regular exercise path. There are not many roads or trails you can cycle in northern region of Penang. The peak of this hill is 181m from sea level but the path that starts at 35m. Total distance of this path is ~2.2km with a gradient of 5°-10°only. So, normally I would do a few rounds of going up and down just to train my stamina and lose weight at the same time. There are old and young people who do hike up or cycle up the hill in the morning and evening period. At the top of the hill, there is a small hut for people to enjoy cup of tea in the morning or catching up with your old friends.

How to get there? It is actually opposite of Copthorne Hotel and then follows the pictures below.

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You hardly see any cars here but quite a number of cyclists or hiker.

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This is at the top of the hill.

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Batu Feringghi Path

Ahh… this is a breath taking way especially if you ride in an early morning. This is the road that you ride along the beach which you can see the beautiful skyline in the morning and cool breeze. It is something like you drives along the Highway 1 in California but of course it is not as beautiful as Highway 1. This road will lead you to the Batu Ferringhi Beach where all the 5-6 stars hotels located. The newest in the group is the Hard Rock Hotel and Lone Pine Hotel. During evening this place comes to alive with lots of street vendors.

Hard Rock Hotel

Hard Rock Hotel

I would recommend this road for tourist or cyclists (road bikes or MTB). This is not an extreme difficult path but you do require having some stamina to pedal for ~11km from Straits Quay Mall to Batu Feringghi. Along the way, there are some small hilly roads that are not any higher than 35m height. To be safe, ride in a small group for at least cars will notice you.

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For those of you who have lots of energy still, you can continue pedal to Teluk Bahang Dam (the biggest water reservoir in Penang Island) then to the peak of Teluk Bahang. The peak is only 214m and the place is named “800m”. The name “800m” is actually the distance from the peak to one the fruits farm in Teluk Bahang. When you reach here, you have already cycled 22.5km. Most of the people would turn back and go home.

To get there:- continue pedaling from Batu Ferringhi until you see this roundabout and turn left (9 o’clock).

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But… if you choose to continue forward, you will get a different view of Penang. You will have a nice and cozy downhill ride to Sungai Pinang which is additional 5.5km. You will come to a very small town with just 2-3 rolls of houses. I would say a very peaceful and quiet neighborhood. Here you can refuel with some noodles or energy drinks (100 Plus, Revive, coffee or whatever).

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So, in total distance, you will cycle for 56km and “two 214m hills”. Have fun with you ride!

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Review: XDS MX-896

So far all of my rides are limited to mountain bikes (MTB) only. These are the bikes I have ridden long enough or still riding to give some comments.

1)   XDS 2012 MX-896

2)   Merida 2012 TFS-900

3)   Specialized 2013 StumpJumper Comp

XDS MX-896

My 1st bike

My 1st bike

XDS

This is a China made and the factory is in southern part of China, Shenzhen. XDS bikes have very striking colors, nice design and normally gives a better components than others for this kind of price range. It is definitely bang for the buck if you have limited budget or don’t want to spend much (read Which Bike To Pick For A Beginner).

The XDS was my 1st MTB and it was a very good training bike for anyone who does not want to spend so much for a bike. As I mentioned, for this price range (~MYR1400) you can hardly find a bike with hydraulic disc brakes and 27 speed. Normally, these ranges of bikes come with V-brakes or cable disc brakes and 24 speeds.

Features

  • Alloy frame (14.5kg for 16” frame)
  • Shimano Acera 27 speed gears
  • Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes
  • Suntour XCT V4 spring suspension (Travel: 100mm)

The bike geometry suits Asian size very well as we normally have a smaller body frame. Their measurement is very close to those bigger brands like Giant or Merida.

Through the months, I have used the bike for exercising and my weight lost programs (read How I Got Into Cycling). The bike performs well on a flat road, paved hilly roads and I have even used it for Penang round island. It is a bit on a heavier bike but with the 26”x1.95″ tires helps. Well, don’t expect much on a good rolling especially a bike that cost ~$1400. On a flat road, it can still easily bring you up to 23-25km/h on average and with drafting someone behind it can easily achieve 28-30km/h. This is mainly due to the heavier wheel sets and cheap hubs. The wheel sets does not turn very well even with a free turning but it was not so bad until you cannot ride at all.

The energy transfer from the crank to the rolling of a bike may not be superb comparing with a RM4-5k bikes. You can feel the resistance on the bottom bracket but this will help to build up your legs muscles and lose weight.

Some of you may ask if 27 speeds are sufficient especially nowadays bikes come with 30 speeds. For an average person or above, you can throw them any bike and they can still cycle. I had a bit of struggling when I 1st used it but I wasn’t any sportsman, weight 93kg and my height is 173cm!!! So I survived through with the bike and it should not be a problem for anyone too. Anyway, the 27 speeds Shimano Acera is good enough to get you up a hill with 10-15°gradient. The front derailleur shifting is a bit tacky but it can be easily overcome it by continue pressing on it until it change.  The rear derailleur is smoother in changing but sometimes you will have to press on it before it changes too.

I have used this bike a few times on off roads and cemented single trails. It can still get you to where you want to be but the Suntour XCT spring forks may not play very well in this condition. Both the forks may not response at a same time and it may cause the bike to imbalance especially going downhill.

The Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes works well. It uses mineral oil instead of DOT oil. If it is DOT oil you will lose the braking power when the oil heats up. Tektro may not have the stopping power that you may have experienced with the more expensive Shimano Deore brakes but it is there when you needed it. Some of the users complained about the braking noises/squeal but it is easily resolve by changing the stock brake pads.

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Before I retired the bike after 5 months of pedaling, I thought of gave it another go. The little rear hub finally gave up on me and started to wobble. This could probably due to constant uphill and with my heavy body weight. Instead of upgrading the components, I upgraded the bike.

Summary 

Overall, this bike is a good for normal exercise, cycling in the park with your children and occasion 50-70km ride on a pave road. I would recommend this bike for a beginner or someone who doesn’t want to spend much for the 1st bike. But, I wouldn’t recommend this bike if your intention is to go for hardcore riding as the build of the components is not meant for it.

Stay tune for other’s bikes review…

Which Bike To Pick For A Beginner?

So, you have wanted to start cycling and you are in a dilemma on which bike to pick. Mainly there are 3 types of buyers here:-

1)   You do not want to spend so much.

2)   You have limited funds.

3)   You have the $$$ to splurge.

You do not want to spend so much

Well, in this category of people, I believe that you have the money to get any average bike that you want. But, you are holding it back just in case you hated cycling in future and you do not know what to do with the bike. Or, you are very thrifty with your money.

I was in this category when I started to shop for my 1st bike. It wasn’t a tough choice for me because I have set a budget of MYR$1500 for a new bike. And, that includes a helmet, bike and cycling pants.

For this range of bikes, you can find XDS, Raleigh, Exitway and Volcano. But, bang for the buck, I picked XDS Model# MX-896 as my 1st bike and it was a very good training bike. It was a bike Made in Shenzhen, China. It comes with Shimano 27 speed gears, hydraulic disc brakes, XCT fork (spring suspension) and quick release for the wheels and seat post! Also, the local bike shop (LBS) threw in a bottle, bottle cage and lights for the bike. It was a bargain!

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Some may argue why I am wasting money to get a low end bike and upgrade in the future. Should have gone for a mid to higher end bike. I believe I have made a right choice in doing that and some of my friends agreed too. Why? After riding my XDS bike for 750km off road and on a road. I found that it has limitation in off road as the fork stiff up in a bumpy road, hard to pedal up on a steep hill (bicycle weight and cheap bottom bracket), geometry, etc. And, I had a complete different feeling when I borrow my friend’s bike. From here, I learnt to understand a bike more and their limitation. So, when you have plans to upgrade in future you will understand more about your bike and how to configure it. You will definitely appreciate your new bike more.

Don’t get me wrong about XDS bike. I used it to train my stamina and lost a lot of weight! Read my blog in How I Got Into Cycling. It is a good bike for you to do a day to day commuting and leisure cycling. But, that particular model was just not meant for hardcore pedaling.

So, set a target price that you are willing to pay for. The higher the amount, the more choices is open up for you.

You have limited funds

So, you have limited funds but you want to get an above average Joe’s bike. A used bike is always another option. There are many websites you can purchase a used bike from. Such as bicyclebuysell, ebay, LBS, Mudah, Lelong, etc. A friend of mine got a great bargain for a Giant XTC with Shimano XT derailleurs (rear) and crank, Epicon air spring fork, Avid hydraulic brakes and so on for a price of MYR3300. And, it was in a very good condition. A new bike like this will easily cost MYR4500 and above.

One thing you have to be very careful when getting a used bike. Check for cracks (if you are getting carbon’s bike), ask if you can test ride the bike making sure it rides smoothly, shift gears to ensure it still works, test the brakes, watch out if the wheels bending, check if the rear hub is wobbling side to side, etc. Best if you can bring someone who has knowledge about bike.

You have the $$$ to splurge

Well, I don’t think I have to say much here except for this: GET WHAT YOU LIKE! If you can, test ride the bike to ensure the bike fits your body geometry. Or at least get on top of it.