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

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Review: Specialized Sierra Women Helmet

This is a 2nd helmet that I got for my daughter. The 1st was not much of a protection. The reason I must have this for her was because she has started to ride on a road and no longer riding around my apartment. Also, as she changes her bike to a bigger size so does the speed. We have looked around for children helmet in Penang and none that suits her head or not enough protections. Most of the children helmets selling in Penang are toy helmets that come from China. This is not something that worried parents would want.

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Until we came to Specialized shop and saw this helmet. This is actually a women specific helmet for a few reasons. It is 1 size system based on women’s head sizing. Layman’s term is 1 size fits all. This is quite true as I put on the helmet for my daughter, it stay fits. It doesn’t move from side to side or front to back.

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Second selling point to this helmet is Ponytail-ready HairPort SX fix system. This is also important to her as she keeps long hair and her ponytail can easily get thru between the mirco-adjustable dial and helmet.

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The Tri-Fix design comes in very handy for me and her. Her 1st helmet I have to make the adjustment on the straps from now and then, just to keep it fit. Now, it is trouble free for both of us.

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The 2 fingers Headset Dial can easily adjusted by her. Basically, she can put on the helmet all by herself without me helping at all. But, it is always recommended to check on them occasionally especially the younger ones.

As mentioned in my previous blog that Malaysia weather is superhot and humid. Good ventilation is very important. This helmet has 24 vents to cool down the head which I find it quite effective after a long ride. I noticed my daughter’s head is not soaking wet comparing with her 1st helmet.

Is ~280g heavy? Well, I don’t hear my daughter complaining about her neck after an hour ride or more. I guess, this is very subjective manner too.

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Again, the safety features are same as my Specialized helmet. It covers all these:- CPSC, SNELL B90A, CE and AS/NZS.

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I really can’t find fault with this helmet besides all the good only.

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: 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: Showdown between Topeak, Lezyne and Specialized Bike Hand Pump

Topeak vs Lezyne vs Specialized. So, which pump is for you?

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Do you want a pump that fits in all your lifestyle and wallet? You are doing Road bike (RB), Mountain Bike (MTB), City Bike and etc? If your answer is yes, then Topeak RaceRocket is what you need as the pump serves up to 120psi. Also, it is meant for RB and MTB tires.

Or, your ride is limited to MTB only and you want something that can inflate your tire fast during a race. Then Lezyne Alloy Drive HV is most suitable for you as it is a high volume pump.

Lastly, a pump is just a pump and you don’t care much of your application as long as it is light weight and cheap. Then the Specialized Air Tool could be your choice.

Pump

For a full review of each pump, please click the link below.

Topeak RaceRocket

Lezyne Alloy Drive HV

Specialized Air Tool MTB

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.

Review: Bike Servicing in Penang

What prompted me to write this blog was actually triggered from my previous experience with a bike shop here. I believe you can find bike servicing in any of the bike shops in Penang. The questions are; how’s the service, are they technically good and what is the price? So far I have gather some inputs from my friends and my own experience in these bike shops. Some I may not have info so I am leaving it as Unknown. Most of them provide pretty much standard service such as bike washing and gear tuning with nothing else removes.

Please take note that the prices and services may change without notice. Do check with them again before sending your bike/s in for service. Also, this price is mainly applicable to hardtail MTB only. But, some shops have the same price for all bikes.

Cyclon Cycle Ind (CCI) Penang (04-263 1688)

CCI provides 2 types of services and they are:-

Normal Service: Standard Service

Price: MYR35

Premium Service: Headset, Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease.

Price: MYR65

Service: ****

Technical Expertise: ***** (if Kamal/Gary servicing – based on friend’s experience)

Price: ****

Smart Cycle Penang (016-477 8860)

Only 1 selection

Normal Service: Standard Service plus Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease

Price: MYR50

Service: ****

Technical Expertise: ****

Price: ****

Kah Kean Trading (04-646 4311)

Only 1 selection

Normal Service: Standard Service plus Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease.

Price: MYR50

Service: ***

Technical Expertise: ***

Price: ***

Giant Prima Tanjung Penang (04-890 9040)

Again, 2 choices to choose from.

Normal Service: Standard Service plus wheel tuning if out of tune

Price: MYR40

Premium Service: Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease. Headset will be removed if deem necessary with no extra charge.

Price: MYR80

Service: ***

Technical Expertise: ***

Price: ***

KSH Penang (04-229 9117)

2 choices to choose from.

Half Service: Standard Service plus Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease

Price: MYR65

Full Service: Headset, bearings, Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease. (2 days service)

Price: MYR120

Service: ***

Technical Expertise: **** (based on friend’s experience)

Price: **

Specialized Penang (04-643 3560)

They also have 2 types of services which are the Premium or Gold.

Premium Service: Standard Service.

Price: MYR80

Gold Service: Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease.

Price: MYR120

Service: ***

Technical Expertise: ** (***** if Faizal handles the services)

Price: *

Lim Cycle Penang (016-404 6404)

2 choices to choose from.

Normal Service: Standard Service plus Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease. But, bike is not wash.

Price: MYR50

Premium Service: Headset, BB30, Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease. And, bike polish.

Price: MYR70

Service: Unknown

Technical Expertise: Unknown

Price: ****

BMC Penang (04-656 5001)

2 choices to choose from.

Normal Service: Standard Service plus Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease

Price: MYR35

Premium Service: All the above plus Crankset and Headset for cleaning and grease

Price: MYR90

Service: Unknown

Technical Expertise: Unknown

Price: **

Pro Cyclist (PC) Penang (04-827 7811)

3 choices to choose from.

Normal Service: Standard Service

Price: MYR30

Premium Service: Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease.

Price: MYR80

Premium Service: All the above plus remove headset for cleaning and grease.

Price: MYR120

Service: Unknown

Technical Expertise: Unknown

Price: **

H&H Cycle Penang (019-448 5839)

Only 1 selection

Normal Service: Standard Service plus removed sprocket and chain for cleaning and grease. Crankset and headset is removed if deem necessary for clean and grease but no extra charge.

Price: MYR60

Service: Unknown

Technical Expertise: Unknown

Price: **

KT Cyclone Penang (04-228 1289)

2 choices to choose from.

Normal Service: Standard Service

Price: MYR35

Premium Service: Headset, Crankset, Sprocket and Chain removed for cleaning and grease. And, bike polish.

Price: MYR85

Service: *

Technical Expertise: Unknown

Price: **

There are many bike shops in Penang that can do repair or servicing but these are the top shops. I am going to send my bike in to CCI for premium service this week. I will keep you all posted about my experience with the shop.

Review: Specialized Shop in Penang – Update

So… I took my brake pads to the shop today and told them about the incident. The store manager was reluctant to replace new pads for me. He wanted to clean it and then file the pads. I told him it won’t work and I wanted new pads! The oil was soaked into the pads and that was no point cleaning! He started to question if the piston was leaking oil or cable dismount. I told him it was cleaned just the pads that was oiled but he insisted to see my bikes.

So, I drove home 25km to get my bike to proof to them. Finally, they replaced new pads for me as it was clearly their mistake when bleeding the brakes.

At least they keep their customer happy for future return. Just may be…

Review: Specialized Shop in Penang

Recently I had my MTB sent in for a brake service in Penang Specialized shop. It was just a normal flushing of the brake oil as I don’t get much grip anymore. I would have done it myself if it is Shimano brakes but the Magura MTS is a bit tricky to bleed/flush them. So, for MYR80 which I think it is reasonable. But, I ended up MYR140 for the brake service. According to them, they have to skim both rotors as it was uneven. Okie… And they changed my rear brake pads too which I remembered I just changed not long ago. So, I thought that’s a bit more than I expected.

The thing got me really ticked off is that they have oiled my front brake pads and they didn’t replace them. Luckily I wasn’t riding to Penang Hill with a 30 degree gradient downhill which could easily get me crash. This is really a safety issue here.

I am going to see them tomorrow if they are willing to replace it for free which I believes they should.

Shopping for kid’s bike

I didn’t know it was so hard to shop for kid’s bike. My daughter and I were shopping for a new bike as her birthday present. She has outgrown her current 20” bike and she has been giving me a lot of hinting of wanting a MTB. Wait, wait, wait… Not any MTB, it must have front suspension, gear changing and XC kind of bike. Kids nowadays know how to request.

So, out we went to try out Trek, Specialized, Ghost and XDS. They are pretty much fall under the same category for that kind pricing. As usual, the China brand will give better specs such as more gear ratio, hydraulic disc brakes, more aggressive looks and color.

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She doesn’t look excited with XDS

The Trek store has recommended us to get an adult 26” bike just because they don’t carry any kid’s bike. Come to think of it, it does fit her with the Trek Skye SL with 13” size. But, according to another shop, it is still best for my daughter height (132cm/4’4”) to get a 24” bike for better control. I will probably need to compare the geometry with the 24″ bike. What’s your take?

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Luckily there are a few shops in Penang we can try out the 24” bikes. We have tried the Specialized HotRock, XDS bike and Ghost. The Specialized 13.5” size is consider slightly larger for my daughter but she will soon outgrow it again. This will be her 4th bike and I thought of getting her a 26” will help me to save some upgrades in future. I am not sure now. I guess not all things can be saved.

And wow, I didn’t know kid’s bike can cost as much as an adult bike yet not giving out good components.

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I am still comparing and reading review now. I do hope that she will have something before her birthday.