Thursday, August 09, 2007

Too Hot to Handle (Part 3)

I went back to Penang Hill again but this time I wanted to explore one of the many motorbike trails that head down the mountain. I located what looked like a very new motorbike trail and down I went. I was warned that these trails would be mossy, broken, rocky, muddy, etc. but this was brand new. The hair-pins turns had obviously been recently cut into the hill. It wasn't long before I came upon construction. They were still building this path. The directed me toward another nearby path so I took that one instead. This one was old, over grown, narrow, mossy, bumpy, muddy, etc. … my kind of trail!

It was not that steep so I had no fears about my wheels heating up too much. Because I got flats the last two times I rode down Penang Hill, I thought maybe it was because of my tire pressure. My theory is that rim heats up and increases my tire pressure from 60 psi to like 100 psi. This time I decided to let out some air so my tire pressure was about 40 psi. As I rode down, I stopped occasionally and checked my tires to make sure they were still soft. I thought I could detect them getting harder as my wheels got harder but they were still soft so no worries.

There were many smaller trails leading off to the left and right going up and down the hill but I stayed on the main path which eventually dumped me back onto the road that I usually take down the hill. I was about ¼ the distance from the top of the mountain now.

So I decided to continue down on the road and find one of the trails that lead off the road. As I'm heading down the hill, I can hear my rim heating up. My spokes make a "Tink! Tink!" noise as it heats up and cools down. So I stopped and felt my wheels and they were too hot to touch, even with gloves on so I took a 15 minute rest and let them cool. I was determined not to get a flat tire this time, unlike the last two times I went down this road.

There is a rest stop half-way and that is where I always get a flat-tire and on this trip, I realized why. It's because it gets REALLY steep right before the rest-stop. I should have let my wheels cool before attempting this steep section because it happened again. My front tire suddenly got soft. I did not fall because I was going slow at the time. I thought if I go slower, it would give my rims time to cool.

I got a flat and walked down to the rest stop and fixed it. That was my last inner tube so I could not afford another flat. Note to self: always bring two inner tubes.

This time I tried a new tactic. I had bought more than enough water for this trip so when I stopped to let my rims cool, I flipped my bike over and spun the wheels and poured the cold water over them cooling them. I would later learn that this is a bad idea. Rapid cooling of your rims will cause them to fatigue faster. I could hear "Tink! Tink! Tink!" as the metal cooled and pulled at the spokes.

About 10 minutes after leaving the rest stop, it happened again. My front tire let out a loud hiss and went soft. I had cooled my wheel with water but they still got too hot and my brand new inner tube died. I noticed that all of my inner tubes rupture at the valve. It must be a weak-spot or perhaps there is a stress there.

As I'm walking down, I see other mt. bikers pass me and they all have disc brakes! Not one of them has normal rim friction brakes. It's time for me to get disc brakes. I'm sick of getting flats. I'm sick of taking several 15-minute rest-stops to let my rims cool. I want to fly down this hill from top to bottom without stopping.

It was a long painful walk down. It is hard enough walking down but walking down holding back your bike is twice as hard. I just wanted to let go of my bike and let it "ghost ride" down the hill.

At the bottom I tried to take a taxi to Georgetown to the best bike shop in Penang, CCI, but nobody wanted to take me. The police had put up road blocks to check taxis to make sure they are using their meter. About 90% of the taxis in Penang do not use their meter even though it is the law. They offered to take me to a closer bike shop but I refused. The quality of parts and service has always been too low at the 20 other bike shops I have visited. I'm loyal to CSS. They do good work and have the highest quality parts.

I took my wheels off and waited for the bus but finally one of the taxi drivers said he would take me for RM 20 and I agreed.

I report all taxis that do not use a meter so I secretly snapped a picture of his dashboard with his identification information to report him later. He used a meter on this trip even though we had agreed to RM 20. He took me on the most convoluted way to the bike shop to avoid the road blocks. I'm guessing his fellow taxi drivers reported where the road blocks are. I didn't know where I was half the time. When we arrived, the meter said RM 30. He had gone such a long route that the meter was higher than his raised price. If he had gone the normal route, the meter might have said RM 10.

Repairs and upgrades will cost about RM 1000. Here is what I'm having done.

  • Disc brakes - not hydraulic because I'm told it will get too hot with my kind of riding
  • New fork - I need it for the disc brakes
  • New stem - mine was bent
  • New head-set - mine was broken
  • New cranks - My pedal hit a rock with tore my pedal out of the crank half-way
  • New inner tubes plus spares

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