Wednesday, May 25, 2011
ariffjunior | February 27, 2011 |
Driving the roads of Kuala Lumpur is no easy feat. The numerous cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles cutting in and out of lanes makes commuting a daunting task in the capital city. On the road accidents are a common sight, reckless driving and speeding are the causes of the high road death toll each year. Undoubtedly, Kuala Lumpur is not a safe place for cyclists to be pedalling around the intensity of KL traffic.
However, it has become a common experience to be driving down the highways in the city, and spotting a crew of cyclists on aesthetically colourful bicycles streaming down the highways at night. These riders survive the roads pumped on adrenaline, riding their brakeless, muscle powered vehicles, down the roads of the city centre to as far as Port Dickson.
These bicycles appear to be your conventional road bike that you may see on the Tour de France. However, Fixed Gear bicycles or ‘Fixies’, are generally used in track cycling in velodromes. Fixie bikes were made popular on the roads in the mid-2000′s by mail messengers in New York and London, and became a trend in the Hipster sub-culture.
If you look closely, these bicycles have only one gear, meaning, that the only assistance going up a slope is the strength of your leg muscles. They also have no freewheel mechanism like any other bicycles, which restricts you from coasting when you’re tired. Many of these cyclists choose not to have brakes on their bikes, as with the ability to lock the pedals by pedalling backwards, they are able to flaunt off with a skid stop.
So, Why would anyone choose to ride a bicycle that can’t get you up hills, doesn’t allow you to coast, and has no brakes?
I find Sheldon Brown‘s article to have the closest objective explanation:
When you ride a fixed gear, you feel a closer communion with your bike and with the road. There is a purity and simplicity to the fixed-gear bicycle that can be quite seductive. Somehow, once you get past the unfamiliarity, it is just more fun than riding a bike with gears and a freewheel.
Riding a fixed gear on the road is excellent exercise. When you need to climb, you don’t need to think about when to change gears, because you don’t have that option. Instead, you know that you must just stand up and pedal, even though the gear is too high for maximum climbing efficiency. This makes you stronger.
Most cyclists coast far too much. Riding a fixed-gear bike will break this pernicious habit. Coasting breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up. Keeping your legs in motion keeps the muscles supple, and promotes good circulation.
It is hard to express the feeling of riding a Fixie without actually riding one. Many of us have ridden a bicycle before, but I compare riding a Fixed gear close to the emotion that you felt when you first got off your training wheels – Pure freedom and joy.
I spent the month observing this growing subculture in Kuala Lumpur. To really explore what’s it all about, I had to get a Fixie. I was able to get my hands on a beautiful aged Raleigh frame, restored with the simplicity of neon green spray paint, which throughout the month I started to intimately call it my ‘Shrieking Monkey’.
It did not have the aesthetic charm of the other bicycles found in the scene, but it rode like a dream. My first attempt to ride a Fixie was to answer the question: How do you stop with no brakes? I was taken by my friend Ashed around his neighbourhood of Taman Melawati, to test out the multiple hills and probably ride to an expected death. It was around midnight, we both had no helmets, no lights, and ofcourse to be authentic, no brakes. I was presented with my first hill, and to be honest, it was not humble in size. I asked Ashed nervously, ”How the fuck do we get do we get down this?”
He showed me the most essential braking technique while riding a brakeless fixie – The emergency stop. It requires the rider to step on the top of the back wheel, using the sole of his shoe or slipper as a friction to slow down and eventually stop the wheel from rolling. It was unorthodox, but very effective. I made it down the hill safely.
After that ride, I was hooked. The sheer rush and exhilaration of riding around the vast area of Taman Melawati, exploring the back alleys and car parks, and riding beside the speeding cars and motorcycles was a new experience of adventure that I’ve never imagined. I spent the next couple of days and nights feeling comfortable on riding on the bike and I was ready to try out Kuala Lumpur.
It was Thursday night, Ashed and I were at a penthouse party at an upmarket apartment facing directly the brightly shining KLCC. It had the perfect ingredients of a great party, friendly acquaintances, beautiful women, and free flow alcohol. I was distracted from these conveniences, as I was anxious in riding around KL with his friends, who some, were part of the BRNWRCK crew.
“Well some of them coming from Shah Alam, and some from Petaling Jaya” He said.
“Your joking? Thats a good twenty to thirty kilometers of highway!” I replied, imagining a bunch of fixed gear cyclists pedalling tirelessly down the treacherous Federal Highway.
It was around midnight when he received the call, we were going to go meet them at the base of KLCC. We sheepishly left the party with protests from the host, but assured we’d come back later (which we didn’t), and grab our rides from our cars to meet them at KLCC. When we arrived, I was in awe of their rides.
Riding a bicycle around the Kuala Lumpur created a new perspective of the city, we cruised down the strip of Bintang Walk, rode down the quiet roads of Titiwangsa, dodged speeding cars and motorcycles down the highway past Tawakal Hospital, and eventually reached Danau Kota for drinks at a Mamak stall, an area just five kilometres out of the city centre.
It was like an assembly point of Fixie riders, there were about twenty of them from the Wild Dogs Brigade. I’ve learnt that these people take their hobby seriously, the detailing of their bikes go right down to their saddles:
At a glimpse of the guys on the table, they seemed like intimidating individuals. A whole variety of bike riders from hipsters to those from the Hardcore Punk scene. However, they were friendly either comparing the bikes, talking about bike parts, and comparing tattoo’s.
At the table, one guy was telling us about an Fixed Gear event happening in Malacca on Saturday, which most of the KL crews would travel down and with some riders coming from Singapore. It was must go event to really see the measure of this subculture in Malaysia.
It was getting late, four am to be exact. A couple of guys were yawning through idleness, I’ve learnt that these riders don’t sleep at nights anymore, the pure adrenaline of cruising KL roads was keeping them as insomniacs. We soon rode off through the back roads of Danau Kota, passing by Chinese Crematories, derelict buildings, and areas that I never knew existed.
It was exhilarating, the mixture of the muggy breeze and dangerous terrain was a passive adrenaline boost into the bloodstream. Like Ecstasy without the rat poison, like Erimin, but you remember the night before.
There are a couple of prominent Fixie crews in Malaysia; RatsKL, Wild Dogs, BRNWRCK,Harufixed, and Southern Fixed represent the Fixed Gear culture in the country. Their blogs show off their riding skills, and showcase events such as the ‘Critical Mass’ rides that are organised every last Friday of each month to promote non-motorized commuting.
It was a hot day on Saturday, spread with blue skies, seemingly fit for a large scale cycling event. We drove down following the large convoy of cyclists from KL. It was expected about a hundred Fixed gear riders were going to be present on the day. Cycling Nation was the perennial event to showcase the Malaysian Fixie scene.
Historical Malacca seemed perfect for the event. The city, renowned for being bicycle friendly, due to the flowery bicycle taxis, the picturesque scenery of its colourful buildings, historical streets, and cruising down the canals of Malacca strait presented a great day for cruising the town.
It seemed that many of the fixie enthusiasts envisaged this imagery, and there was close to a hundred cyclists in attendance.
The variety of bicycles were vast, as each fixed gear presented different concepts of how its ridden. Trick bikes, speed bikes, cruisers, and at large boasters. Many of these bikes were impressive, and not cheap. A Fixie can cost up around six thousand Malaysian ringgit with all its customised handle bars, wheel seats, chains, paint work and frames. It is serious investment to look good, and to feel good.
The event organised presented maps to the riders for the best treks around Malacca, and showcased short films and several competitions spanning from best track stands, fastest sprinters, and best skid stops.
The trend has been a growing interest in conversations, with many debating about their growing presence in Malaysian society. Many have commended cyclists in their choice of environmentally conscious commuting, but believe their presence create more danger on the hectic roads. The lack of bicycle lanes and facilities in Malaysia is a safety issue that should be acknowledged by local authorities in ensuring the safety, and encouraging the people, with non-motorized transportation.
The Fixie scene is largely growing, and the subculture seemingly permanent in KL. The ever growing population of bicycle riders in Malaysia will see the country slow down, smell the flowers, and ride a bike.
About the Author: Ariff Azmi is a Assistant Producer at NTV7 for 7edition news. While he's not propagating what he wants Malaysians to be brainwashed on the news, he is chief-monkey editor of Shriekingmonkeys and a social media whore.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The cool of Mat Sikal (or Fixies) — TSB
MAY 24 — ‘Mat Sikal’ certainly made some news last week. Dubbed as the offsprings of ‘Mat Rempit’, because they ride bicycles instead of motorcycles. ‘Mat Sikals’ are mostly made up of school students who ride out in big or small groups at midnight around the pekan, Bandar or bandaraya.
I have seen some of them on my rare night out in the city. What fascinated me the most are their colourful bicycles, modified creatively from old, used frames with single-speed or fixed gear transmission, otherwise known as ‘Fixies’. One must admit they do exude a certain ‘cool’ of youth rebellion and non-conformity.
Something that we, well maybe some of us could relate to.
As it turned out, most of us do not want to relate ourselves to them.
Without a doubt, rebellion comes with traits of recklessness, daredevil, extremism and brashness. I do not deny that Mat Sikals disregard the most important thing — safety.
You can do without lycra skin tight shorts and body hugging jerseys but even the Mat Rempits wear helmets. Needless to say that most of Mat Sikal’s bicycles are fitted without brakes too. Apparently it’s ‘uncool’ to use brakes and much more ‘challenging’. You either use your foot or back pedal to slow down as your bike comes to a halt.
While it certainly sounds cool — if you’re cruising at 12 km/h, I’d like to see them doing that on a descent.
Mat Sikals are also called nuisance much like their big brothers, Mat Rempits. They often cruise the main roads of Kuala Lumpur late at night in big groups while deliberately taking up half the lanes, annoying the hoots out of motorists.
I read a feature published by a Malay daily about ‘night cycling’ last week. They interviewed some of the ‘Fixies’ who roam the road on midnights. Notice how I term them as ‘Fixies’ and not Mat Sikals? So what is the difference? They are technically similar. Although Fixies are the term used by Hipsters for their bicycles.
The urban crowd dictates that fixed-gear bicycles are now ‘hip’ again therefore ‘Fixies’ are must haves for those aspiring to be the ‘cool’ Hipster. History has shown that every cool movement will spread all over the world even without viral social media campaigns. The Fixie is a prime example of this. The other is Uniqlo. But that’s a different story.
I would expect that most hip, urban Malaysians will be influenced by the ‘Fixie’ movement. Why wouldn’t they? It’s definitely cool to be riding your fixie in the ridiculously warm weather while wearing skinny jeans, printed Uniqlo T-shirt and Wayfarer in the middle of Jalan Ampang? They’ll just pretend it’s New York or London.
Some of the older ones are not about to be excluded from this coolness too but the heat gets to them, of course. So they started something called midnight fixie cycling. They claim that it’s also much safer since there are not many motor vehicles for them to negotiate with.
Alas, some of them still forgot the most paramount safety measure — helmets and brakes. At least they’re not hogging the roads, right?
A friend of mine, a triathlete was pretty annoyed by this new ‘phenomenon’ that took the media by storm. He decided to write an open letter to an English daily to voice his dissatisfaction. He stated some of the things that I wrote above which sums up that Mat Sikal’s or Fixie’s disregard for safety and proper riding ettiquete are giving cyclists a bad name.
Ok wait. Is there another type of cyclists?
Let me try to define this for you. For cycling enthusiasts, they take their rides seriously. Feather light, carbon fiber frames with skinny tyres fitted with 11-speed Italian-made gear transmission (with brakes). It’s sleek, sexy and fast. The prices can probably buy you a Perodua Viva or Proton Saga (Face-Lift edition). Most of these bicycles are designed aerodynamically for speed. The same bicycles you see professional cyclists race up the mountains in Tour de France.
They clad themselves in skin-tight cycling apparels, state-of-the-art helmets and carbon sole shoes. Yes, money can buy you the best indeed.
Nevermind if you’re slow. As long as you look fast.
These cyclists are called Roadies and they definitely ride faster than your usual Mat Sikals or Fixies. They live by the code. An etiquette of putting safety above everything else and that includes riding in a proper double or triple files in groups. I’ll give you an example on how fast they can go — 60 to 70 km/h on a descent in big groups — and yet uphold safety while doing that. Even then, crashes are inevitable.
Injuries (or death) do occur with road cycling.
So, I completely understand where Roadies are coming from and they take pride in their expensive bicycle investments.
A counter-letter came from a Fixie enthusiast in response to my friend’s letter a day after. He claimed that ‘Fixies’ are actually a very responsible lot. Those without helmets are not allowed to ride in their group. They advocate a single brake or pedal brake to be fitted to their bicycles too. And he strongly denied that Fixies are giving cyclists a bad name. Fair enough.
Here’s what I think though. This whole debacle is really about recognition. Mat Sikals or Fixies or Roadies are all passionate about what they do and they want to be validated by it. It’s only human to expect that. And I’ve not even included the Mountainbikers and the Foldies in the equation.
The other form of recognition that all cyclists long for is from motorists who share the same roads. While cyclists may practice utmost safety precautions during their rides, there is always a worry that an inconsiderate or irresponsible motorist who would just disregard safety on his part.
Let’s face it, Kuala Lumpur will never become bicycle friendly like Belgium or Holland. It’s high time that cyclists in Malaysia must be protected. We actually have a National Cycling Assoication but none of us are quite sure what they’re doing. When I was involved with the organisation of Tour de Langkawi many years ago, one of the biggest goals was to create awareness on cycling as a lifestyle in Malaysia. I think we’re starting to see that coming up in a big way.
And that means, we’re going to see more Mat Sikals, Fixies and Roadies on our roads. Looking at it positively, we should strive to achieve mutual respect for each other while advocating safety first. I believe it can be done.
A few days ago though, I read a proposal by a State government to create a programme for Mat Sikals to channel their passion and skills in a better way. Sounds awfully similar to the attempt of turning Mat Rempits to Mat Belia.
Why are they still missing the point again?
Putting a structure to these exhibitionistas would cramp their style and take away the cool factor. I’d say let them be and pay them incentives to wear helmets. It would cost a lot less to do so too.
* TSB has been a roadie for 9 years but recently sold his road bike to focus on being a runner instead. 2 marathons and several half marathons later, he still regrets selling his bike. TSB runs and rides to eat which explains why he can’t fit himself into Uniqlo apparels.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.
* taken from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/the-cool-of-mat-sikal-or-fixies-tsb/
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 6:58:15 AM PT
by Josh Horowitz
If it works for the gang at Discovery Channel (the actual TV company, not the former cycling team), then it’s good enough for us here at Pez. Since we’re on the off-season theme, Josh has decided to tackle some of his pet peeve off-season training myths and give his perspective. The truth or old-school bahooey? Read and decide for yourself.
I can already tell you that I’m going to get some flak on this one, perhaps even from my fellow Tool Box writers. But I have some strong feelings about winter training techniques, the misconceptions and hard to die old school attitudes, and it’s time to get it out on the table.
Bear in mind, that there is more than one way to skin a cat. These are training techniques that, through my research as well 19 years of racing and training experience, I believe to be flawed. Some coaches may have found effective ways to incorporate these techniques into their training program and that is just fine, but for me there is no better way to throw away your training time than by following these outdated methods. So enough with the disclaimers, let’s get to work.
Myth #1: Riding a fixed gear improves pedaling efficiency and leg speed.
I might as well get the big one out of the way first. Fixed gear bikes are a great toy for tooling around town, cruising the beach, or propping up for all to see outside the coffee shop, but they have no place in a serious road cyclist’s training routine, unless your primary goals are riding on the velodrome. Here’s why:
• When you practice high cadence training on your road bike you are forced to recruit the muscle fibers that are necessary for quick contractions in the pattern required to keep the pedals moving. However, on a fixie, the pedals are always spinning in perfect circles at very high speeds no matter how sloppy or inefficient your stroke is. Your muscles aren’t required to act, they are really only required to react.
• Riding a fixed gear is the exact opposite of riding PowerCranks, whose advantage has been proven repeatedly on this very site. PowerCranks require your muscle fibers to fire throughout the 360 degree pedal stroke. You are required to push across the top, push down in the front, pull across the bottom and pull up in the back. Your pedal stroke may slow temporarily, but the muscular foundation becomes so solid that it only takes a few weeks of high cadence on your road bike to turn the strength you built on the PowerCranks into power.
• Compared to a fixed gear, even on a regular road bike, your muscle fibers are forced to fire in a very efficient manner. At the very least, you’ll have the experience of pushing down and, to some extent, controlling the movement throughout the pedal circle. On a fixed gear, the bike is literally doing all the work for you. You’re really not teaching your legs anything but to get tossed around at ridiculous speeds. Think about a gym member who takes indoor cycling classes which utilize a large heavy fly wheel. They may get their legs whipped around in crazy circles at a cadence of up to 140 rpm, but have you ever seen them achieve this on a real bike? Trust me, it doesn’t translate.
As a final proof, I offer you up this most recent example. Every year, I finish my season on the track. Last night I wrapped things up with the Points Race at Elite Nationals. Even though I geared up to a 50 x 14, due to the increased competition (Garmin Chipotle, Health Net, Rock Racing), I still spun out at about 150 rpm on some of the sprint laps. When I jumped back on my road bike today, however, I felt like I was chopping broccoli. My legs became so accustomed to the forced circles of the track bike that they became lazy, losing the ability to do the work themselves.
Just like with anything in cycling, skills are extremely specific. If you plan on racing on a fixed gear then it makes sense to train on one. If you plan on racing on the road, train on your road bike or, even better, do you winter base on PowerCranks, teaching your muscles to fire in absolute perfection and coordination, and then switch to your ride bike just a few weeks before race season. Save the fixie for the high school kids riding in tight jeans.
Myth #2: Small Ring Only!
As recently as four years ago, I knew coaches and riders who still adhered to this outdated winter training principle. I’m not sure how common it still is today. This is a really simple training concept - put it in the small chain ring on October 1st and don’t shift up until February 1st. Since I didn’t create this technique, and I don’t use it, I can’t tell you exactly what purpose it serves but I can take a guess and I can also tell you why it’s not such a great idea.
My guess is that it was a way for coaches to keep their riders from going too hard in the off season. The idea is that if the rider can’t go into the big ring, he won’t be tempted to hammer the group rides or participate in the club sprints. I also figure the theory is that an entire winter of high cadence, riding will result in a perfect pedal stroke by the time race season comes along.
Here’s why I disagree with this principle. Leg speed can be easily developed at any point in the season. You could even do a heavy load of leg speed training immediately before a high priority race. The reason is that it doesn’t tax your muscular system, your heart or your lungs. In essence, it is really training your brain.
What you can’t do at any point in the season is train strength. Training muscular strength will temporarily slow you down, cause fatigue and require several days of recovery. Can you think of a time of the year where quick recovery and road performance is not at all important? At what point in the season can we afford to destroy our muscles without worrying about getting hammered into the ground at the local race? I think you see where I am going here.
So if you’re my client, it’s the small chain ring that gets tossed out the window during winter training, as you’ll be pedaling at 70-75 rpm (ideally on PowerCranks) for the whole winter. Your legs will feel like blocks of cement and you’ll be struggling on the Friday coffee ride. Then, before your first race, you’ll do two weeks of high cadence and when you’re standing on the podium, I can guarantee your teammates who saw you struggling two weeks earlier will be calling for a blood test.
Myth #3: Long Slow Distance
It won’t be long before I hear the Shofar blow over the cycling club e-group as the troops are rallied to meet for the Long Slow Distance rides up the coast. I have to muffle a scream every time I see 6 hr per week weekend warriors heading out for their 3 hr long slow weekend ride.
Even if you had 45 hrs per week to ride and you plan on doing 21 day stage races, I still wouldn’t recommend this style of training. But if you only have 12 hrs per week to train and you’re wasting half of it rolling down the avenue at 16 mph, you’re losing valuable training time. As I’ve always said, you have to get the most out of every second you’re on the bike. We have another word now for LSD or Long Slow Distance. It’s called JM: Junk Miles.
Originally it was thought that since high stress training breaks down blood capillaries and since capillary density means more blood to working muscles, it is advisable to avoid any high stress training in the winter so to nurture the growth of those capillaries.
However, there’s a new concept now in European endurance training. It’s called MP: Motor Pacing!
Sounds a little more intriguing than anything with the word SLOW in it, right? The concept behind MP is that it teaches your body speed and keeps you firing at an extreme endurance intensity, just below anaerobic threshold. Essentially, it is what some call zone 3 and they do it for up to six hours a day. If you have a loving spouse who doesn’t mind driving along at 28 mph, three hrs a day, causing massive traffic jams everywhere you go, then you’re all set.
For the rest of us, you can simulate this on your own. The challenge is the focus it takes to keep the pace just right. These rides are done just above endurance pace and just below anaerobic threshold. You must concentrate the entire time to make sure you don’t go above or below. I strongly recommend doing these rides on your own with a heart rate monitor or power meter as your guide.
Here in Los Angeles, we have this amazing phenomenon. When I leave my house at 9am to head North on the PCH, there is a blessed tailwind. Then, right around noon when I grab a snack and head back, the wind magically turns around with me. The end result is six glorious hours in the saddle with an average speed of close to 25 mph. Not bad for a solo ride. You might not have anything quite like this where you live, but see if you can come up with a ride that incorporates these principles. One warning though. It is very easy to become overtrained if you spend too much time in Zone 3. Make sure you are recovered completely between workouts and keep track of your resting heart rate in the morning.
As the mercury plummets to 63 degrees here in Los Angeles, I wish you a happy start to your winter training.
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services and any coaching questions you may have, check out his website at LiquidFitness.com
*taken from http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?id=7831&pg=fullstory