Saturday, January 1, 2000

Downhill Racing - In The Land of Kimchi and Chaebols

The jumping arts aren't as well-developed here in Korea as in the West or Japan. DH races are held in conjunction with the XC races, a little less often than once a month from March to November. There are no DS races yet. There is no BMX scene whatsoever (although there is a very small group of freestylers), and one BMX shop that I know of, which is in Ilsan. There are occasional trials competitions and a handful of riders.

I race DH here in Korea, in the pro class, along with one other expat. This doesn't mean we could race pro back in the US, but it means we've won in the only other DH class here--beginner. So there are only two classes, and the race courses, which are absolutely easy, are the same for both classes.

Some courses are just simple dirt roads, and I avoid those races because I'd rather just ride some great singletrack around Seoul. In the pro class, there are about 25 racers nationwide, and twice that in the beginner class. There are no separate categories for age, although sometimes students have their own category. Races usually cost 10,000 won and include lunch. You can hop on someone's shuttle for practice runs. Starting times and races tend to be disorganized; although the situation is improving, the race dates themselves always seem to change.

Courses, which are usually not designed by DHers or even cyclists, are changed at the last second, often without input from the racers themselves, in violation of UCI rules (in one case all the racers were at the starting line for the seed run and no one told us the track had been rerouted onto another track two-thirds of the way down...surprise!). Anyway, a good time can still be had, since all the racers know and help each other, and you'll be going up against the Korean national team members.

It's strange that there are no challenging DH race courses at the advanced level, because Korea, and especially Seoul, is full of full-on descents, with steeps, ledges, big rocks, chutes, hucks, berms, and so on. Oh well. If you want to race DH here, almost any bike with DH tires will do. Perhaps bringing a triple chainringed freerider is the best bet for an expat who is only going to be in Korea for a year or two, since there is only one lift-served singletrack (Phoenix Park ski resort, Kangwon Province) in the entire country, and few shuttle options. You'll spend a lot of your time pedaling or pushing uphill. Korean trails are typically not undulating, but rather all up or all down, and steep, which is perfect for freeriding or DH.

Park Sung-min, who runs a little shop in Suwon called MTB House (1 hour south of Seoul by subway), and who is one of the top DHers in the country, can be contacted for current DH info. Limited English, but a good guy and a good resource.

Article and photo reproduced with kind permission of Steve Danyo

Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

Driving into Sg Lembing was like a drive back in time. That row of houses on stilts as we entered this ex-mining town looked very antiquated, if not eerie, in the moonlight. Wooden buildings outnumber concrete ones easily by 5 to 1. You are quickly hit by the still and stale air the moment you step out of the air-conditioning comfort of your car. What strikes you most are the many Chinese association halls representing different dialect groups, of which the Hakka one was to be our temporary abode, like it was for many immigrant Chinese tin miners many years before.

With my family in tow, I was accorded the privilege of one of the 3 rooms available and be spared from the many �gas turbines� that were geared for full blast later that night. But privacy was not a privilege that came without a penalty �the room was like an oven, even with a stand-alone fan at maximum power and the sole window as wide-opened as could be. In contrast, the crowded open hall was so much cooler with all the ceiling fans turned full blast. Well, you win some, you lose some.

As always, nobody slept well on occasions like this. Heat and humidity aside, the hall seemed to see streams of travellers dropping by in the wee hours. Sounds of screaming kids probably woke up everybody hours before the official wake-up call at 6.30am! Consequently, by 7.30am almost everybody had had their breakfast and all geared to ride. Later, we just hung around watching the local folks went about their Sunday marketing at the open-air market nearby.
After the obligatory photography session, we hit the road by which time it was close to 9.00am. And the sun looked like it was going to give us a real good roasting anytime soon.

'Primal' Retribution
The ride started promisingly enough with that extra 6km to the �ghost town�. It branched off from the main road after a couple of km and broke into a fire-road with tall lallang and shrubs on both sides. But what was left of the �ghost town� was nothing more than a few abandoned wooden structures. One of the abandoned structures had become a �weekend� home for a local who had cultivated some fruit trees in the vicinity. He claimed that wild animals visited the place at night, animals like tigers, tapirs and leopards.

The skeleton on Matt�s jersey (yeah Primal) provided the other 'ghostly' effect . Apparently, he had forgotten to appease that ghost for he was punished with a 2-inch nail in his rear tyre. And he would have 2 more flats before the end of the day was over!
A 5km-road ride later, we arrived at the last watering hole at Kolek. By this time, the sun was high above and roasting us. We were led into an oil palm estate. There was a river to our left and you had to fight strong desire not to jump in!

Panadols - A Panacea for Killer Hills
We exited the estate onto a logging track. It was highway wide that you could ride 10 abreast! Shade came at a premium and God blessed those who came without sunblock. Immediately flashing in my mind was the roasting we had at Gua Musang last year.

The only difference was we had slightly more shade this time. Passing the videocam to James was also a smart thing to do. It easily lightened my load by at least half a pound. Then came that killer hill which reminded me of our very own �Ugly Sisters� trail back in the Klang Valley. Only this had no ruts. Riding it would be a sheer waste of energy if not foolhardy, given the hot sun. My head was already throbbing like a disco. In the distance I could see Uncle Boh, Danny and Teres shifting down to the 4th chain-ring? one after another. Smart thing to do under the circumstances. And so I followed suit, and then watched in awe as Mrs. Sadist casually rode past while we huffed and puffed.... pushing our bikes!

At the top of the climb, I immediately popped a couple of Panadols into my mouth before my brain exploded from the heat. Sitting in the shade was of no help as the air was very warm and stifling. I could barely breathe. You had to move about to keep cool. Only Mrs. Sadist didn�t seem bothered by the heat. And the climb!....... Matt and Alesi soon appeared and plonked down in a heap next to us. But Mrs. Sadist was quick to move us off our butts to get going again. By then the speedometer had registered 29km. Good, only 15km or so to go.

Like a well-choreographed movie, the interesting section of the ride began after the torturous climb. It was mostly rolling, all hills rideable with the ruts, rocks and stones adding to the fun quotient. More importantly, we had shade. (A can of ice-cold coke would have been bliss.) A couple of fallen logs laid (purposely?) right across the trail provided the gung-ho ones with endo opportunities. Uncle Boh got itchy with one of them and was rewarded with some airtime and change of skin colour. We had so much fun, we didn�t even notice the many paw prints that everyone else saw until that fork with a shallow stream in the middle. Yeah man. Big prints, in all shapes and sizes, possibly those of a tapir, elephant or maybe even the King of Malaysian jungles, the tiger! Better not venture too far ahead of the pack.

Found our Pot
The sun must have gotten to us when five of us succumbed to Mrs. Sadist�s urging to carry on with the ride to the Rainbow Falls, the highlight of the trip. But we were still rational enough to vow to stick together, do it at a leisurely pace, not more than 20kph max. Not that this self-imposed speed limit was necessary during the first 3km of hell. I don�t know about the others, but I was managing an �impressive� 6 or 7! But three of the faster riders broke away from the group upon reaching the first descent, leaving James, Uncle Boh and I to smell their dust. Seems that vows are made to be broken.

Enough of heat and dust after some 9km of sheer torture, the 3 of us ventured off a single track to the river bank where a couple of guys were fishing, hoping that they could give us a ride out on their truck. But hard luck, they weren�t leaving anytime soon. So we pushed on until we reached those chalets where we took a break before turning back. Thankfully, the sun was clouded out by then and it even drizzled for a couple of minutes! Then a van overtook us and I could see Batman grinning from ear to ear inside! James found his second wind and broke away leaving Uncle Boh to be my sole outrider. But after a short while even Uncle Boh got tired of the pace. Soon I was pedaling alone, almost giving up when the track turned downwards for the next 3 km or so back to town. Yippee! Speedometer registered 64km. Chong, Danny and Matt got back by truck and they clocked much less! And with that, James, Uncle Boh and I declared ourselves rightful champions of the day for logging the highest mileage. Hip hip hooray! OUR pot of gold despite not making it to the Rainbow Falls.

About Sungai Lembing
About 48 km north-west of Kuantan is Sungai Lembing, an old mining town where one of the deepest lodes mines in the world was once active. Historical relics of European architecture can still be seen at every turn.

courtesy of Peter Choong

The MTB scene in India

The Mountain Bike scene in India is promising, but currently it is not how it should be. India is a land with all types of terrains and riding opportunities for different riders, but sadly it has not excelled in the field of mountain biking as much as it should have been. The major bicycle manufacturers in India, are not keen on introducing 'properly equipped' mountain bikes for the Indian market. Thus the scene is not pretty at the moment.

The Mindset

The general mindset among the Indian people is that, once you graduated from, it is below one's dignity to ride a bicycle. Consequently a person wants to get an motorized vehicle to show rich he is. In some parts of India, riding a bicycle shows how poor a person is, as he cannot afford a motorized vehicle. Such mentality has to be changed. The people have to be made aware that riding a bicycle is not a thing what poor people do, but the pleasure that you get out of it that matters.What we at XS : Mtb Club are trying to do is to promote the sport, here in India, so that more people would know that a sport such as mountain biking exists in India, and can be done with ease.

Bike Shops

Bike Shops here only sell Indian-made bicycles. A few shops in the country stock imported brands, and that too are road bikes for road riding is much more popular here. The mountain bikes are the type of bikes that existed in USA or Europe in the early 90's. They are equipped with old Shimano Tourney-type gears with index-friction shifting levers. The suspensions are locally made with simple spring mechanism. A few good bikes have recently come out in the market, which offers full-suspension system. The concept of an aluminum mountain bike is still unknown here.

Riding opportunities
XS-Mtb Club is located in the city of Pune in the province of Maharashtra which is 150 km from Bombay. Pune is nestled in a valley and is surrounded by a hills and mountains. The terrain is part of the Sahyadri Mountain Range. There are amazing trails in Pune, which offer you everything from long XC rides to hair-raising descents. The whole province of Maharashtra has great places for all types of riders. But, North India is the place to ride, if you are planning to come to India on a mountain bike trip. One can ride in the Himalayan Range as well as places like 'Leh', 'Ladakh' and 'Himachal Pradesh' There are great trails which are considered to be some of the best in the world.


Extreme Sports: Mountain Bike club is the only organization in India dedicated to promoting the sport of mountain biking. We have been riding from the past 8 years now and have enough expertise and experience to conduct mountain bike races and tours which we think are the best ways to promote mountain biking in India.

What we need is international support from American / European or other developed Asian countries to promote the sport of mountain biking in India. There is a huge market for mountain bikes in India, and once the sport catches on, there will be no looking back.

The above article was written by Sami Makki, President of the Extreme Sports: Mountain Bike and BMX India. He can be contacted at: B-36 Abhimanshri Society, Pashan Road,Pune - 411 008. Maharashtra. INDIA.Tel/Fax: +91-20-5671305 E-mail:

A Lady With A Mission

Suck It In And Spit It Out - Bukit Kiara Kuala Lumpur

If there were a bunch of the craziest and zaniest bikers that could ride on the face of this sorry earth, then the guys from PCC would have won it hands down.

We had this tryst with Kiara last week that tested our skill and patience to the near extreme. Something like a scene from On The Edge, a bunch of locos actually went down through some pretty steep drops astride their trustee mounts, the only thing separating their almonds and the top tube was a piece of flimsy padded lycra.

Hats off to the guys. Some of the drops were like Vertical Limit less the ice. If my bike could turn hysterical, it would have, without a doubt. Me? I'm just a sorry excuse for an XY chromosome and a piece of chicken meat in disguise as an off trail biker. But really, I am as guilty as sin in this department but give me a couple more thousand tries with a safety net like the one you see in the circus and I'll be Evil Knievel any which way you want me to, for a day for free ;-)

BRAIN FREEZE! I guess it must have been 50% psychological fear, which hit me real bad. Don't ask me where the other 50% come from coz I'm still recovering from my jet lag at Kiara. I bet it affected more of the other riders as well. It so numbed my legs that both of them were in danger of being amputated for frostbite. Previously coming from mountain climbing and �caving� backgrounds, I expected some kinda cheap thrills like the one you get from rollercoasters at the amusement parks but this was totally unprepared for. Just like Kuwait expected Saddam.

Of course Kiara had its own personal joys but this time we hit it real hard and it gave us no quarters in return. Too many ruts, embedded hazards, steep curves, extreme switchbacks, steep drop offs and you've got a lethal cocktail of a full Tequila bottle and no salt or lime and just plain fish dish. Hard riding to the end.

I bet some wanted to quit judging from the expressions but no pain no gain eh Paisan ? The previous ride we had at Pangsun was no less strenuous but definitely lacked the technicality of Kiara. Perhaps Kiara needed a lesson in humility, when the proper time comes. But till then I'll accord the Lady the proper respect it rightfully deserves. Through my somewhat insane theory, I'll let other riders go through Kiara until it softens up just like in caving where the reccee cavers go in and out until the cave floor actually opens up a bit to let the bigger cavers through. Incidentally, James did mention about the hole in the ground which we encountered early on which served as a jungle latrinefor emergency banking facilities. Cool dudes, coz it looked just like it was meant to be. In caving we have some passage ways which may just be a dead end chamber but serve The Purpose truly well in case of bowel overflow. Deja vu.

Obviously after the actual ride, is the time when you know you have completed it and while sipping that cool 100Plus, you could actually look back and be pretty smug about the whole shebang. I don�t know about the rest of the locos but MTB riding seems to me more than just stamina-ride-push-drop-speed-climb, it is also about self-discipline, self-control, perseverance and most importantly patience. This is where one realises one's own limitations and work at adapting, improving and changing oneself where necessary in order to reach a higher level of self. Self discovery seems apt for want of a better term. For me simply, having fun is the ultimate attainment.

So, do I chicken out of future rides with that bunch of certified locos?, This geek is gonna shout a positive yeah and pray he has adequate insurance .

As for sheer thrills, it doesn't get any better than this. Believe you me.

Now if only Leica made bikes ;-)

by Izzy aka LeicaNut

Reprinted with kind permission of Perfect Cycling Companion (PCC) Cycling Club

Dragon & Pheonix Bikers

Mountain biking Mt Kinabalu

Mountain biking in the highest mountain in South East Asia - Mt. Kinabalu.


Mountain Bike Lhasa to Kathmandu

Spoke Notes

Free in Red China... by Peter Snow Cao

The Highest Road in the World

The Highest Road in the World- Mountain biking the Indian Himalayas

Vietnam Challenge

Vietnam Challenge Vets Challenge Highway One by Bike


Korea - another new country and culture. ......... just another day as a world traveller.

One lap around Jim Thompson's Grave

One ride around Jim Thompson's grave (West Malaysia) by Patrick Brunson

Northern trails

Ride our routes, developed for Mountain-Bikers by Mountain-Bikers, exploring the most spectacular and varied scenery............... reaching the infamous Golden Triangle.


Borneod? Cameron McRae will tell you more.

Janda Baik-Kenaboi.

Janda Baik-Kenaboi. Where? Somewhere in Pahang, West Malaysia. John Adnan thought it was a benevolent widow's mud fest.



The Borneo Mountain Bike Festival 2001 2002

The Extreme Tour of Rajang
Wall Climbing in Bau
Trail Blazing Rajang Valley-Mountain Biking Adventure '99
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WG Cycle Bike Shop
International MT Kinabalu Mountain Bike Race
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Indonesia Mountain Biking Page


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Pete and Ed Books
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