Review: Trek Emonda SL6 Roadbike

Today, I am reviewing the Trek…

EMONDA SL6…

 

BIKE SPECIFICATIONS

Frame:                  Ultralight 500 Series OCLV Carbon, DuoTrap S compatible

Fork:                      Emonda full carbon

Groupset:            Full Shimano Ultegra 6800

Crank:                   50/34 (compact)

Bottom Bracket: BB90

Cassette:             11-32, 11 speed

Seatpost:             Bontrager Ride Tuned carbon seatmast cap

Handlebar:         Bontrager Elite VR-C, 31.8mm

Stem:                   Bontrager Pro, 31.8mm, 7 degree, w/computer & light mounts

Saddle:                 Bontrager Montrose Comp

Wheels:               Bontrager Race Tubeless Ready

Tires:                    Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite, aramid bead, 700x25c

Weight:               7.4kg (with 2 bottle cages), 52cm size (excluding pedal); Trek website posted 56cm – 7.43 kg

About EMONDA

Every company has their own way of defining their carbon strength and technology. For Trek it is called OCLV or Optimum Compaction Low Void and it is patented. It is actually breaks down into 2 areas – Optimum Compaction and Low Void. In short, it is Trek processes of how they cut, mold, heat and compress the carbon. All Trek OCLV carbon frame is given a limited lifetime warranty. Emonda models comes with OCLV 300, 500 and 700. The SL6 is OCLV 500.

Emonda is not new anymore and it has been out since 2014. But, it was a newly added model into their lineup. The bike design is definitely meant for a purpose – climbing (and I would said endurance too). From the picture below, you can see the massive downtube that helps in climbing.

The tested bike was equipped with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset. There aren’t many bike companies would give out a complete groupset. Many times there are doing a mix match components to gain maximum profit. There is a slightly cheaper version that comes with Shimano 105 groupset. I am a bit of reserve of that… so, go for Ultegra and you won’t regret it.

 

Another thing worth to note here is the seat tube. It defied the conventional way of designing. Part of the seat post “extended” out from the frame. The purpose? To reduce the weight of the seat tube as it can designing it thinner.

All cables are all internal routed and nicely hidden. Whoever cleans the bike will definitely appreciate it.

Since cables are hidden away, can you do without cable tie also? With the DuoTrap S Compatible, you can now. So, no more messy cable tie for your speed and cadence sensor. The sensor is now nicely tuck into the frame.

A complete bike without pedals but with 2 bottle cages and stock wheels weights 7.4kg. It may not be an ideal weight as a climbing bike. Probably it was due to the heavy wheels. Published spec for the wheels are 1720g. Changing to carbon wheels probably can shed off 300-400g but that increases the price of the bike. If you are weight wheenie, get the Emonda SLR 10 that weighs 4.88kg only!!! And, it is a large frame with 56cm! Moreover, it is on sale now.

This is the weight of the bike without the wheels (of course, tires and tubes too).

This bike comes with 2 colors – Matte Dnister Black or Matte California Sky Blue. What I had tested was the Sky Blue. Ain’t she pretty with the high profile wheels?

THE RIDE

I believe everyone question now is can this bike climb as what it claimed. Personally, I find it average on climbing. It may be due to 2 reasons. 1) I picked the wrong time of the day to cycle as it was superhot (37C) to cycle and probably not my best performance. 2) It could be due to heavy wheels. Why? As the temperature cools down, I managed to gain speed and earned a Personal Record (PR) on one of the segment. It is a 3.6km path with small rolling hills. Secondly, each time when I was off the saddle and pedal, it did sprint. So, that tells me the bike is very stiff during the climb.

A bike is good if it can perform uphill, downhill and flat. Basically we wanted it all-rounded.  What about downhill and flat then? I definitely love the handling when coming down the hill and through each cornering. It has a superb handling and again, I have another PR. The steady frame and the 25mm tires helps a lot. On a flat road, I can feel that I need to put on a bit more effort but still manageable.

This bike is definitely set for endurance and comfort. The headtube length is 140mm for the tested bike vs 128mm for my Cervelo S3 and a chainstay length of 410mm. Also, the stack is 547mm. All these couple with 25mm tires, it was really a pleasure for me to ride that day. It was so comfortable that I can’t feel much of the road vibration even with a long stretch of road constructions during my ride. That earned the endurance title from me.

The wheels aren’t so bad as it didn’t flex so much when I was standing and pedal. Though it is heavy but a much better wheels than the 2 Mavic wheels I had tried on.

Beside the wheels, the only other thing I dislike about this bike is the handlebar. It is too wide for me. I find it not suitable for Asian size but this can easily settle by changing it.

Make sure you do fitting before deciding which size fits you well. Every single brand will have their own way of sizing. Trek personnel is happy to explain and get you fitted.

The price tag for this bike is RM12,499 before discount. The SL6 Pro comes with Vision Metron 40 carbon wheels. The 40 is indicating the 40mm depth and it weighs 1,490g without the quick release. The price tag of this bike? RM15,499. Is RM3k worth the upgrade? Hmm…. Probably, because you can’t get RM3k for carbon wheels. How it perform? You may have to test it out on your own as tested bike comes with standard wheels only.

Verdict

If you are looking for comfort and long ride that doesn’t taxing you. Also, most of your rides are rolling or climbing hills such as Cameron Highlands, Fraser Hill, Bukit Hantu or Peres. Then, this bike is definitely for you. Otherwise, you may want to consider Madone.

Trek Shop

There is a Trek concept store in Penang. It is called Treknology and you can actually borrow and test ride the bike. The criteria’s are simple. 1) You are genuine buyer that wanted to test out the bike before buying. 2) You are out in the group ride with them and you do not have a bike. They can lend you 1. You just need to bring your own pedal and spare tube during the ride.

There are 6 models that you can borrow and try it out. All you need is to fill up this form. And… Get a friend who knows Trek personnel very well to borrow the bike. Well, these are expensive bikes and they need to make sure you do take care of the bike and return in 1 piece. Oh… this program is also available in KL if you reside there.

Enjoy your ride… (I know I did :))

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Review: MTB Hydraulic Brake Service

It has been awhile my MTB had a brake issue. Somehow the brake fluid was leaking thru somewhere and left me with no brakes. Not many people in Penang know how to service or have the tools to service the Magura brakes. Most of them know how to service Shimano, Tektro and Sram Avid only.

As far as I know, there are only 2 shops in Penang Island that know how to do this job. They are Specialized and H&H Cycle. The reason being so is because Specialized and Cannondale higher end bikes use Magura brakes. I tried to service the brake on my own but I could not find anyone who sells the bleeding kit. So, I have no choice but to send to H&H Cyle for service. Why H&H? Well, my last service in another shop almost got me killed. The chief mechanic wasn’t the person who performed the bleeding but another person. My brake pads were oiled and the brake wasn’t filled up properly. The brakes were softening after a few rides which didn’t serve me any good.

So, this time I gave it a tried to H&H Cycle to service the brake. I find the owner very pleasant and helpful and I got my brake serviced within a few hours. It was cleaned, filled and feel right when I applied the brakes. Well, the 1st few braking was making noises as he sprayed some cleaning device on the pads. Once the pads were bedded the noises were gone. I felt more confident when I did a downhill at Mt Erskine on the same afternoon.

How much does it cost? RM40. This is pretty much standard cost here unless you do it on your own. Let me use it for a while and I will update here again. Stay tune…

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H&H Cycles

1-1-26, Tingkat Mahsuri,

Bayan Lepas, Penang

Tel: 019-448-5839

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC – Update

Ok… I am slowly getting my daughter riding in different terrain. 1st, it was flat tar road just to make sure she knows how to shift the gears and which gear to use. 2nd, I took her to a hill with 4 to 7 degree climb. And now, I am exposing her to cement trail in Penang with about 5 degree gradient but rolling and uneven road. This is MPPP trail which i have blogged about earlier.

MPPP Trail

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She seems to handling well with the bike and the 50mm fork travel did help her a bit. Her max speed going downhill was 26.6km/h and if it is not because me stopping her, she would probably did faster than that. Her average speed going downhill wasn’t that fast as it was her 1st time tried out the trail but she did about 13km/h.

Coming down with speed control by the dad

Coming down the trail with speed control by the dad

Overall, I think the Specialized Hotrock with wide handlebar helps her in maneuvering the trail quite well and with the front suspension absorbing all the uneven roads did help her in handling the bike. I will let her ride this trail a few more times before moving up another step for her in riding a single track cemented road. That’s my objective before I am moving her to pure off road which I can hardly find in Penang.

Other post about Hotrock:-

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC – Update

 

Review: What to check when getting a used bike

Lately a friend of mine from Kuala Lumpur asked me to pick up a bike in Penang. It is a used Pinarello FP2. This was a 1st time for me to look into used carbon bike but not a 1st time getting a used bike. When I got my Cervelo Soloist was easy because I know the owner and everything he gave me were new or slightly used only.

There are some general rules about them and they are pretty much the same everywhere. These are the basic things you will need to do before calling up the person for bike viewing.

  1. 1st of all you need to know the size of your bike. Different brands will have different geometry and best if you can try them and to feel them. Normally, it is easier to try a used bike than getting a brand new bike out to try. Generally, you want to look at the top tube length to get your reach.
  2. There are many types of frame material. The most commonly sold are carbon, steel and Aluminum. Of course there are others. Know what you want 1st.
  3. Know the weight of your bike if you are weight weenies.
  4. Love the design of your bike since you are going to look at it every time you take it out to ride.
  5. Setup a meeting with the owner to view it.

Things to check when getting the bike:-

  1. I normally look at the cassette and Chainrings 1st to see if it is heavy used and this will also tell if the person really take care of his bike. The left picture shown below is the cassette teeth were sharpened and it had been heavily used. The one on the right is new or hardly use. Same theory applies for front Chainrings.

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  1. Next I will look at the frame to see if there is any major damaged. For aluminum bike this is not so critical but do check for dents. Carbon bikes you will need to take extra precautions to look thru every part of the bike. Flip the bike over if needed to see if there is any crack. Of course, I am not train to look for hairline crack either. If there is any chip paints which is quite normal and it is up to you to accept it.
  2. If he allows, take out the seat post (if carbon only) and check for cracks.
  3. Spin the wheels to see if it is out of true (wobbly wheels).
  4. Lastly, test ride the bike. Pay attention to any unusual sound especially the bottom bracket (BB). If yes, you will hear “tuck-tuck” sound. Do cornering or up and out from your saddle and paddle hard. If the bike gives you an uneasy handling, it could be hairline crack on the carbon or it has been majorly used.
  5. Try the shifting if it is smooth. It could be RD damaged, shifter problem, etc. So, perform a shift by shift (changing 1 gear at a time) and rapid shift (push all the way in if it shifts 3-4 gears at once).
  6. Make an offer to the person.

This is the bike I got for my friend and some minor paint chipped.

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Review: 2014 Cervelo S3

Finally, the wait is over… I am blogging this beauty machine from Cervelo. It is Cervelo S3 and it is an aero road bike.

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I got my bike just a day before Christmas. So, it was the best Christmas present I ever got for myself and am really happy about it. The design and the color of the Cervelo S3 is definitely a head turner. People will stare and some will stop and ask about the bike. This is a 2nd Cervelo bike I owned. The 1st was Cervelo Team Soloist which I have blogged about earlier. This time round, I got the carbon frame and my 1st carbon bike after having or had the other 3 bikes.

Nowadays companies are trying to maximize their profit by making a full range of bikes or either they are cash rich. Cervelo is one of the few that are still concentrating on road, tri and time trial bike. To maximize the profit, the bike is Made in China.

Bike Specification

Frame:       Cervelo S3 Carbon

Fork:           Cervelo FK42

Groupset:   Shimano Ultegra 6800 11spd (except crank)

Crankset:    Rotor 3DF BBright 52/36

Bottom bracket: Rotor PF-30

Cassette:    11speed, 11-25

Seatpost:    Cervelo Carbon, Aero

Handlebar:  3T Ergonova Pro

Stem:          3T ARX Pro

Saddle:       fi’zi:k Antares

Wheels:      Mavic Cosmic Elite S

Tires:          Mavic Yksion Comp

Weight:      7.3kg (51cm) without pedal

Bike Components

This bike is a total redesigned for 2014 model. They maintained the aero frame for the front and incorporated the R-series for the rear. As can be seen in the pic below, the seat stay is copied from the R-series which provides a better comfort and ride quality.

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The bottom bracket has been redesign based on BBright technology which they developed and make it as open standard.  They make the non-drive side 11mm larger than the other side and this oversize effect making the frame stiffer and lighter.

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The bike comes with almost a full Ultegra groupset except for the crankset and BB. So, taking off the crankset, the groupset weights about 1.5kg. The total weight of this bike with pedals and 1 bottle cage is 7.52kg only. The weight mainly contributed by the heavier wheels which is 1770g for a pair without tires and tube.

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This set of wheels is slightly heavier than my previous American Classic 420 Aero 3 by 250g. Is it that significant? I don’t believe so on the flat but I felt there is a flex when I was going uphill and out from my saddle.

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This bike is able to take 25mm tires but when I put in the Continental GP 4000s II, there isn’t much clearance between the tire and seat tube. I wrote to Cervelo and asked if 25mm tires can be put and the answer was can but not Continental tires. 😦 Judge for yourself if you think 3-4mm is sufficient (the seat tube is curve inside).

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But it has a lot of rooms for 25mm at the front (the pics below are with 23mm tire).

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The Cervelo S2 and S3 are having the same frame except for the fork and the components used. The S3 fork is slightly thicker and larger which translate to a stiffer fork for better climbing. The components for S3 are better and lighter also.

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Cervelo has been using or partnering with 3T for many years. The dropbar and stem used are 3T Ergonova Pro and ARX-Pro. Both are aluminium and weighs about 265g for the dropbar and 140g for the stem respectively.

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All the cables are internal routed which are nicely hidden as in my previous Soloist. I read in the forum that some folks can even hide their Di2 battery pack.

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The Ride

The bike geometry of this bike and my Team Soloist has changed even with the same size I got. The more significant changes are the chain stays length. It has increased from 399mm to 406mm but that didn’t slow me down a bit. I will explain a little bit more later. The longer chain stays does provide a better ride quality for me. The Stack and Headtube length has increased 8mm respectively. So, it is more upright sitting (if you still have spacer). I feel these changes are providing a more comfort ride especially we are not getting any younger, so a more comfortable bike to ride now. If you are coming from an old S2/S3, you may want to do a bike fit 1st before getting the bike since they have different geometry now.

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Ok, why I said the longer chain stays didn’t slow me down a bit. For those of you who follow my Strava; you can notice there is a stretch of straight and flat road in Penang and it is about 900m long. It is called the Teluk Bahang Sprint. On my old bike I can only do ~37-39 km/h for about 400-500m of that stretch only. With the new S3, I was surprised that I did a 45-47km/h and spin for ~800m long before I am all out. Also, I have reached a top speed of 51km/h. Yet, better still was a recovery ride for me after I got a motorbike accident.

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Headwind? Not a problem with this bike. Seriously, when I rode at Teluk Bahang Sprint with strong headwinds, I can still sprint. The only thing held me back was my legs. Wish I can ask them to shut up. 🙂

As mentioned, the bike is very comfortable that I was still fresh after I rode for 130km and able to go for a swim with my daughter on a same day. With my Team Soloist, I won’t be able to do that even with 120km ride as my hands were numbed, legs were tired and body sored. So far this is the best bike I rode comparing with Cervelo Team Soloist and Boardman’s Team Carbon.

Coming from compact crankset to 52-36 chainrings, I find them slightly more effort is needed but not the end of the world. I have yet to try the steepest hill in Penang but it was manageable with the 2 smaller hills here.

The only thing that this bike is lacking of is climbing. It is not the best climbing bike I rode. I have tried the BH Ultralight and it is really able to climb like a mountain goat. The 2nd best I will go for is Boardman’s Team. The S3 does need to take a bit of extra efforts even with the lighter frame than Boardman. That could be probably due to the chainrings as well.

Cons

Ahh… the most heard complain is the bottom bracket. Somehow, it was noticeable in every S series bikes and you can read it a lot in the forum. The “tuck tuck” sounds can be very annoying especially you are riding alone and in the woods. The sound can be heard only when you are exerting force onto the crank especially when going uphill. During the flat road it remains very quiet. I wasn’t that upset because I already expected this before I bought the bike. Some were recommending putting Loctite or changing to ceramic bearing to solve it. So, it is not unsolvable but I just ignore it for now.

The wheels come with the Yksion Comp tires. I would strongly recommend that you change out the tires to any brand but this. I had 2 punctures within a week time and both times were caused by a small sharp rock that protruded inside the tire. I would understand if this is an old tire but I just had 370km on it only. I finally gave up on this tire and changed to Continental GP4000 SII 23mm.

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Conclusion

This is definitely a very fast bike and if you have pair strong legs, this baby will fly. The bike is stiff enough for sprinting yet it is comfortable like you are riding a HT MTB on a road with wide tires. It can be a good bike for triathletes as you need the energy for the run after you have biked.

Lastly, if you like getting the attention, then this bike is definitely for you. Enjoy…

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC – Update

This is just an update from my previous posting of Specialized Hotrock after my daughter has done more rides on it.

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I took her to Pearl Hill for the 1st time couple of weeks ago and she seems to enjoy it very much. It was a 100m climb in 1.7km only, so average gradient is about 4° (at 1 stretch it was about 7° climb). She seems to be managing it quite well for her 1st time. Of course her gear was set to the lowest gear available which was 22-34 setting. She did stop 2 times to rest but I have to admit she is not fittest kid around the block. Great was that she completed the whole ride to the top of the hill.

Coming down was her dream as she had a blast of letting go the brakes. The daddy (me) have to keep remind her to slow down as it was her 1st and I wasn’t sure how well she can handle. She did about 24km/h downhill and she handled it quite well. I believe she would go faster than that if it was not for me.

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Overall, I believe Specialized Hotrock is good enough for kids her age to climb up hill and easy to control during downhill. Below is the total distance and time.

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My next objective is to bring her to cemented trails with uneven roads during her school holiday.

Other post about Hotrock:-

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC

Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC – Update

Review: Nanoo-12 Folding Bike

I never thought that I can see myself on a foldie but this was my 2nd occasion riding a foldie (1st ride was in Genting Sempah). Nanoo is an Italian design but made in Taiwan. Well, who doesn’t make in Taiwan nowadays.

The distributor in Malaysia has brought in 2 models; Nanoo-12 and Nanoo-14 which is a 12.5” and 14” wheel respectively. The Nanoo-14 has larger wheels and comes with disc brakes. What I am reviewing today is the Nanoo-12 and it comes with 7 colors.

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This bike is made with 1 or 2 purpose. It is easy for people who use it for commuting or recreational riding. Why? It is light, small and easy to assemble. I can assemble the bike within 25s (took me 22s to fold back) and that was my 2nd attempt doing that. I’ll bet that anyone can reduce the time to half when they mastered it. I have tried to assemble a conventional type of folding bikes and it will take at least a minute. Also, those are not easy for you to carry around or up and down from a bus or commuter train. Nanoo-12 weighs about 12kg but it doesn’t feel heavy when carrying it or you can just wheel them around like a shopping cart by just holding the handlebar grips.

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Assembling the bike is easy. It only takes 4 steps.

Step 1 – Release the handlebar latch and extend out the handlebar. Then lock the latch.

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Step 2 – Push out the seat post away from the bottom chainstay (middle pic).

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Step 3 – Slowly extend down the bottom chainstay and then tighten the nut.

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Step 4 – Just extend out the pedal. (The pictures below are showing how to store the pedal when it is not in use. Just pressed pedal towards the crank and then turn 90 degree to store)

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Bike Specifications

Frame:         Aluminum

Crankset:    56T 5-Arm Full Alloy

Rear Derailleur:   Shimano Tourney

Cassette:     7 speed, 11-24T

Brake:          V-brake

Wheelset:   12” aluminum wheels

Tires:           12.5×2.25

Weight:       ~12.5kg

Price:           MYR1988 (retail price)

In terms of the frame design they are nothing like the conventional bicycle with the 2 triangles. They break every rules of a bike design but it is still stiff and comfortable bike to ride around. It has internal cable routing that routes the brake and gear cable through the top tube.

The front chainring is nonstandard and it is huge. It is even bigger than a standard road bike chainring but coupled with the 11-24T sprockets it is still ride able for speed and climb.

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Shimano Tourney is probably one of the lowest ranges of group set and this is good enough for non-avid riders. I had a few miss shifting and that could be probably due to new cable was installed. That can easily solve by tighten up the cable.

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It is using a normal V-brake but it does get a good grip when coming downhill fast.

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Riding

I have tested this bike in 3 conditions:-

Recreational Ride

I find this bike fit in this category very well for a few reasons.

#1, I can fold the bike and bring into any cafe without any problem. It is small and it can stand by itself without taking much space. Some cafés do not mind bringing in the bike to the shop.

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#2, joining fun ride with bunch of foldies group or charity event. On my recent tripped to KL, I joined a foldie group called Elite Cycling Team and it was a fun ride. Basically, they rode slowly, stopped for photos and regrouped. Normally, this event involves 50 or more people. So, no point bringing roadbike (RB) or mountain bike (MTB) for the ride.

#3, riding with your child/children. I brought this bike to cycle with my daughter and she was on her 24” MTB. We did ~17km in 1hr with an average speed of ~15km/h. Throughout the whole ride, I don’t feel tired and it was a pleasant riding for me. The max speed was ~25km/h and I think it can still push faster if I wanted to.

Recreational

During the ride with my daughter, I was not wearing my cycling pants and I can ride for an hour with no butt sore. I guess this bike is truly meant for commuting as you are probably dressed up nicely in a slack or jeans without the padding.

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If I brought my 29er to any this ride, it will be overkilled and ended up I will be bored. So, this bike suits for this type of riding.

Climb

I thought I will be doom when doing a 5-10 degree gradient climb with such a big chainring but I was surprised that couple with the 11-24 sprockets it can still climb easily. I managed to climb Pearl Hill in ~13 mins which I normally took ~10.5 mins with my 29er. So, small wheels don’t mean a lot slower.

Coming down from a hill is a bit challenging due to its small wheels but it is not that cannot managing at all. This is partly due to the short handlebar also. I just had to slow down a bit to gain better control.

Distance Coverage

This is the last test to see how far I can go with such a small wheels and will I be totally worn out after the ride. So, I went all the way to Teluk Bahang and covered ~32km with rolling.

Dam

I was surprised the overall time taken was about the same as I did on my MTB. It was only 15 mins slower for this bike. The average speed I did today was 22.7km/h and managed to clock 55.4km/h during downhill.

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The ride was quite pleasant as the 2.25” tires helped to absorb pretty much all the uneven roads vibration and soft saddle helps too. I wasn’t tired at all when I got home but today weather was exceptionally nice and cool also.

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One thing for sure is the bike is capturing all the attention pretty much from all the cars that past by me. They slowed down and either looked at me or the bike. One way or the other. 🙂

Conclusion

At this price range, you may be seeing Brompton, KHS, Java or may be Dahon. If you are looking for practicability to do your commuting, in and out from a subway or bus, then Nanoo is the bike that you need.

If you want a bike to grab attention, then Nanoo is also the most unique among all. It has very small wheels and unique frame design. When I was riding at Pearl Hill, again people were staring at me and the bike (maybe I was too big on a small bike). But, I did hear people were saying it was a cute and small bike.

You want to easily fold them and transport in your car, then this can be done within 20sec.

But… if you are any taller than 172cm (5’7”) I would not recommend as the handling is getting tougher. Although, they mentioned it can support up to 100kg and 200 cm (6’6”) tall person. The top tube of this bike is very short so it is not suitable for taller or larger person as the handling can be quite clumsy. I had asked a friend of mine who is 181cm (5’11”) tall and having him to cycle the bike was a bit funny. But this bike is definitely looking cute on petite size girls who want differentiation and stylish bike.

If you are an avid cyclists or looking for extreme exercise then it is better to get a RB or MTB.

So, where to get them? I have Googled a bit and looks like Nanoo Malaysia Sdn. Bhd is the exclusive distributor for Nanoo Folding Bicycle in Malaysia. The showroom is in 3 floor of Midlands Park Center, Penang. Contact # is 012-558-0680 (Philip Chan).

Review: Boardman’s Team Carbon

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The Boardman’s Team Carbon is an entry level of their carbon bike and it is British brand but Made in Taiwan. I believe majority of the bike companies are asking Taiwan to make bikes as they are like a bike hub nowadays. The Boardman’s are pretty diversified company like Specialized or Trek. They sell bottle to carbon bottle cage to everything that a rider needs every day.

They have MTB, cyclocross, road and Hybrid bikes. What I am reviewing today is a road bike and it is a 2013 model. The 2013 model has a matte black frame with a striking Boardman wording on its aero frame.

I had a few short rides (~40km) to get myself accustomed to the bike and on a final run I used it during the CFAL event (~84km) to test out the ride.

CFAL1 CFAL

Bike Specifications

Frame:       Unidirectional carbon monocoque

Fork:          Carbon Steerer

Groupset:   Shimano 105

Crankset:    FSA Gossamer Pro compact, 34/50t alloy rings

Cassette:     10 speed, 12-25

Bottom Bracket: Pressed-fit BB30

Saddle:       Fizik Arione

Seat Post:   Boardman Carbon

Wheelset:   Mavic Aksium Race

Tires:         Vittoria Zaffiro

Stem:         Boardman Pro

Handle bar: Boardman Pro Alloy

Weight:       8.6kg small frame (18.96lbs)

Price:          MYR7250 (retail price)

Components

For a bike that cost slightly more than MYR7000, it comes with Shimano 105 groupset which is already costing MYR1800. The wheelset cost MYR880 and the saddle cost MYR390. That goes almost 1/2 of the bike priced already. This is considering a great bargain.

This bike comes with full Shimano 105 except for the crank which is FSA. The Shimano 105 is definitely not light comparing with its rival. It is 285g heavier than the SRAM Rival (minus the crank).

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The rear brake is placed nicely behind the seat stays to have better aerodynamic.

The drivetrain setting is exactly the same I had for my previous bike. It is a compact crank with 12-25 cog which is meant for speed and it is still good for climb.

Vittoria tire is another weight contribution to the bike. It weighs 340g each and comparing with Continental GP4000s which is only 210g.

The Mavic Aksium Race is definitely not the lightest wheel that you can think off. It weights 830g front wheel and 965g rear wheel or total is 1795g. This is almost the same as the groupset weight which is 1790g after minus the crankset. But, it is a good training wheel to strengthen your legs.

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The Ride

In terms of fitting, I will have to say it is not my best fitting as this bike does not belongs to me but the reach and ride I can still handles it pretty well. My previous bike top tube length and stem is 530 and 100mm respectively. The Boardman’s measurement is 540 and 110mm. So, overall is 20mm more. Surprisingly I didn’t have any back or shoulder ache.

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This bike is very stiff as I gained a lot of Strava personal records pretty much of the whole course. On a flat and climb it just gained speed as it was like asking for more. The only thing that lacks of response is the off the saddle pedaling. This could probably due to its longer chain stay (410mm) yet it is not stiff enough. Also, it could be the wheels.

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The Team Carbon is very stable during a straight run (thanks to its long wheelbase) and with the aero frame it just gaining speed. There is a slight difficulty in controlling the bike during cornering at higher speed. It may not be as nimble as my previous bike as I had to slow down a bit. Ok, may be the size is not right for me too.

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Now, I can make a comparison and review both the Shimano 105 and the SRAM Rival as I had used both of them. I can now concluded that shifting experience is much better on 105 as it takes less effort to shift and engaged faster too. Also, it was much quieter during the shifting. But, I prefer the hoot on the Sram as it nicely fit into my hand and reach for the brakes. The braking for 105 is better also as it grips on the wheel when pressed. The full 105 is just 380g heavier than Rival.

Since this is a very stiff bike which means all the vibrations will absorb through my hands and feet. The 1st few times I tried this bike I had no issue at all as I rode 40+km only. It was when I covered 84km ride both my hands and feet were numbed especially on a rougher roads. Fortunately the seat post is carbon as it absorbed pretty much of the vibration.

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The wheel is probably the only complains I have. It could be out of true or it is just very soft as it was rubbing the brake pads when I was pedaling up hills or off saddle. It was waste of energy and time there. If it is really out of true then I am very surprise as the bike was hardly ridden. It was ridden less than 10-20 times only and all of them were short distances (<40km).

Conclusion

Boardman’s Team Carbon is a very good race bike as it is stiff, aero bike and a climber yet it didn’t make a big hole in your pocket. This is definitely a good entry level carbon bike for any person new to roadbike.

If I do get this bike the only thing I will change is the wheelset as it flexes so much. Other than that, it is a pretty good bike.

If you are weight weenies person then this bike may not be for you or you will need a lot of upgrades. Total weight is 9.18kg which includes pedals (256g), Lezyne bag (115g), Cateye safety light (61g), Cateye headlights (94g) and Cateye Micro Wireless Meter (26g).

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Review: Specialized Hotrock 24 XC

Finally, I have decided to get my daughter a 24” wheel size instead of 26”. After trying out some bikes and I feel that fitting is very important. I had a wrong fitting once on my road bike and I suffered throughout my entire ride. Also, I have read up a lot of review and articles online they recommended kids with height in between 4’5” to 4’9” (135cm to 145cm or 9 to 11 yrs old) to cycle on 24”. I guessed we can’t save on everything.

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There are a many aspects why is size important.

Reach

If it is too far, it will jeopardize their handling. I saw how my daughter wobbled thru the handlebar when pedaled from a stop position.

Frame Size and wheels

Bigger bikes (like 26”) have longer wheelbase and little kid like them will need extra strength to pedal thru an obstacle like tree brunches.

Weight

Bigger bike is heavier. Again, they will need an extra effort to cycle. I read an article stating that 1kg saved on kid’s bike is equivalent to 2.5kg saved on adult’s bike.

Cranks

Adult cranks are normally 170 – 175mm long. Kid’s bike is around 160mm.

Shopping for a 24” bike in Malaysia can be quite difficult. Not many shops here carry mid/high end kid’s bikes. Asian culture is more calculative when coming in spending this kind of $. Most parents will not spend more than MYR600 for a kid’s bike. In fact, one of the shop customer asked me how much was the priced for the bike and when I told him that time he got shock. He told me he wouldn’t spend that much for it.

This was supposed to be my daughter’s birthday present. She ordered a Trek Superfly 24” back in May but it never got it here. So, we have to ditch that brand and look elsewhere. Like I said, not many brands here unless we special ordered it and that also didn’t come through. We have looked at Specialized, BMC and XDS bikes and it took her 2 hours to decide getting the Specialized over BMC.

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Well, kid’s bike is definitely smaller and components used are also lower end comparing with the adult bike. But, the price does not scale down with size. I paid MYR1350 for my daughter’s bike and that bike cost as much as my 1st entry bike (XDS MX-896) I got for myself 2 years ago.

So, what are the features?

Frame:        Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, double-butted and formed downtube/toptube, externally relieved headtube, forged dropouts w/ replaceable hanger, disc mount

Front Derailleur (FD):  SR Suntour, 8-speed

Rear Derailleur (RD):   SRAM X3, 7-speed, long cage

Shifter:        SRAM X4 Trigger Shifter, 8 Sp (we opt trigger shifter over grip shift)

Brakes:         Die-cast, alloy V-brake

Fork:            SR Suntour XCT-JR-24-MLO, 50mm travel

Crankset:    SR Suntour, 7-speed Junior, 160mm arms

Chainrings:   42/32/22 steel, replaceable outer ring, w/ chainguard

Cassette:     Shimano MegaRange, 7-speed freewheel, 14-34

Tires:             Specialized Fast Trak Sport, 24×1.8″

Pedal:             Composite platform

Weight:         12.60kg with 50g bottle cage

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The Built

The bike looks very solid and I will say the design is comparable with the adults design. It is double butted top and bottom tube for better stiffness and reduces weight. The frame has a disc brake mount hole ready for upgrade at any time.

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Unfortunately, the looks and ride said differently. On the 1st day we took the bike back, the front hub was whistling when my daughter was riding. Also, the back cassette was wobbling when the wheel was moving. So, I had to bring it back to the shop for repair. It turned out that the bike was in the box for too long as the rubber covering the hub is rubbing against the axle without any play. With little grease, the whistling is gone. There is nothing they can do about the wobble cassette as it is a nature of freewheel. 😦

The total weight of this bike is 12.60kg with 50g bottle cage and pedals. Not sure how will this compares with other brands. I just know the BMC weighs ~600g lesser than Specialized.

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The Components

For this price range of bikes or 24” MTB pretty much offering the same components as others. There are definitely 1-2 manufactures are giving better components. For Specialized bike, they used a better RD which is SRAM X3 whereas other using Shimano Tourney which is the lowest range for MTB component. By just comparing the component pricing, the SRAM X3 is something similar to Shimano Altus/Acera range.

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The original shifter comes with this bike has a very low quality and my daughter could hardly twist and turn the SRAM 3.0 grip shift. I am not sure how this compares with Shimano Tourney in terms of functionality but the price is about the same. So, I assume they are same range. My local bike shop upgraded the shifter to SRAM X4 for free. Just to ensure I do not go over to BMC. 🙂 SRAM X4 shifter is slightly more expensive than Shimano Acera and cheaper than Alivio. So, sometimes you have to demand for better parts. 🙂 The grips will have to change also and they changed to Specialized Bodygeometry grips  which I think is not suitable for kids at all.

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My personal preference is to have lightest gear available for daughter so that she can climb steeper hill easier until she gets stronger. So, the Shimano MegaRange suits my requirement. The smallest chainring is 22 and largest cog is 34. Normally this type of setting can only be found at a higher end bikes like Trek Superfly 24 or the Giant XTC 24. Most of bike manufactures give the smallest chainring is 24 and largest cog is 28. So, with the ratio of 1.54 vs 1.16 will definitely help especially going uphill. Anyway, cassette can always be replaced when she is stronger.

The brake lever for this bike was designed for little fingers like my daughter. She can reach the lever and press on it without difficulty.

The cheapest thing come with this bike is probably the FD. I tried to Google for the price and there is no result at all. It could be custom made part for bike manufacturer installation only.

The crankset comes with 160mm long which is suitable for kids at my daughter age. Lots of bike shops pushed me for a 26” bike which comes with at least 170 to 172.5mm length and that’s not suitable at all.

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Another uniqueness feature is the pedal. Though it is plastic pedal but they made it in a way that it has pins for nonslip when pedaling. Not sure if it hurts when it hits the shin like the adult pedals.

Both of the wheels come with quick release for easy access. I am currently asking them for a quick release for the seatpost also.

Finally, the fork is spring coil with preload adjustable and with mechanical lockout. It has 50mm travel. From the technical spec, this fork weights about 2035g and the lightest 24” XCT fork is just 50g lighter only. A lot manufactures use these forks but they didn’t mention which model.

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The Ride

The bike was tested in 2 conditions. 1 that was completely flat road and 1 with some climb. So far we have not tested on fire road or off road condition as I want her to familiarize with the gear shifting 1st.

An immediate improvement I see her on a flat road was that she can ride much faster with average of 5-6km/h more than her usual. Her max speed was 28.4km/h comparing with about 18km/h on her single speed bike. We did a 17km ride with just about an hour.

With the MegaRange cassette she climbed small hills like mountain goat. And, she is able to climb 7-10 degree gradient slope without coming down and pushed. She had to do some off saddle pedaling at steeper part.

With the SRAM X3 RD and the X4 shifter she is happily pressing the trigger. The way she changing gears looks so easy for her with just a click. Anyway, the shop did lube the cable during installation. That probably helps too.

Braking is another important area for kid’s biking. Without able to reach it or press it, it serves no purpose. The Hotrock brake lever is soft to press and based on my daughter’s feedback it is very powerful too.

My daughter just loves the 50mm fork as she is doing drops after drops. The highest drop she managed to do was ~15cm or 6”. I am just wondering what if I introduce her to air fork. She will probably do DH jump. 🙂

From both rides, I do notice she gets less tired than her usual rounds and drank lesser water (obviously) too. That also explains she can go longer distances with much faster time.

Conclusion

There are a few aspects I feel this bike can improve further. I believe kids do not need 3 chainrings. 1 or 2 should be sufficient for them. Probably a 22 and 32 is good enough or just 1 chainring – 24/26. Having too much chainrings also create an issue when she has to change from 1 to 2. I noticed the chain was very loose and with no tensions it just won’t engage to 2nd gear.

Change the Revo Twist for your children sake. It is so hard to engage.

In terms of price point and features, the only bike that can come close with Hotrock is BMC SE24. I do believe every brand have their own good bike like Trek Superfly, Cannondale Race or Giant XTC. It is all depends on the price point, availability and components they give. But, definitely try to get the highest range model else any China brands are good enough. The reason is because they do spend on their R&D to come out with a kid’s bike.

Update

Well, there are 2 things I would like to update about my daughter’s bike. 1 is the quick release for the seat post. I finally got it after months and months of chasing them and finally they have it. Actually it was a simple mistake/understanding. The clamp size is 27.2mm and they kept insisting it was 25.2mm seat post until I told them give me one 27.2mm 1st and I will try it out which it fits.

Secondly was the kick stand that they gave. I have to wait for months also before I got it. And, once I got it my daughter can use it for couple of months only and it broke. The bottom part of the stand was made of cheap plastic and it can’t hold the ~13kg bike with water. So, immediately the stand gave way and broke. I brought it back to the store for exchange or warranty claim and they told me this can’t be claim but he will try… So, let’s wait and see if they can do miracle for me.