Monday, April 27, 2015

Nepal In My Thoughts and Prayers

A photo posted by Ken Koh (@adventurenomad) on

I've been filled with a kind of helpless frustration watching the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal.  I cant sleep and can't get the situation in Nepal out of my mind.  I just learned that a friend has lost his home.  I guess what is so disturbing is that for the past 30 years that I've been coming to Nepal, it has remained largely unchanged: The same buildings, temples, narrow streets, etc.  Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal have had a timeless feel.  While the rest of the world charges on towards the 22nd century, Nepal struggles to keep up with the 21st century.... and that was its appeal.  Returning each time to Nepal (well, at least outside of Kathmandu) has always made me feel at peace... grounded... my escape from an all too modern life.  The next time I return to Nepal, will it have changed?  Sure, ancient buildings will need to be repaired or replaced by modern structures, but its the heart of its people that will persevere, and their resilience which will see them through these difficult times.

If you want to help out, don't pack your bags unless you have a specific skill that is needed there, otherwise you will just be another person to feed and shelter.  It's not a bad idea to donate to an organisation like the Red Cross which can distribute funds to where it is needed most.  Another way to help out is to not shy away from Nepal when it has recovered.  Tourist dollars will be most needed, and the mountains remain a stunning landscape, and unforgiving beauty.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Specialized Epic vs. Epic WC

This is a discussion on the Specialized S-Works Epic vs. the S-Works Epic World Cup, and maybe help you to decide which one is right for you.  I'll be comparing older models and not the current 2015 bikes, but you might find the information still relevant.

My 2012 S-Works Epic is the best bike I have ever ridden (it's the bike that won Olympic gold in 2012), but it was heavily used, and I needed to replace the bike in 2015.  In 2014, Specialized split the Epic model into two sub-categories to fit different rider needs:  The normal Epic for marathon riding, and the WC (World Cup) for fast XCO type courses.  The WC is stiffer, has slightly less suspension travel (95mm vs. 100mm) and is strictly a 1x drivetrain as it does not have a mount to attach a front derailleur.I got a deal on a 2014 Epic WC and went with that.  The 2015 Epic WC hasn't changed much from the 2014 model that I ride, but the 2015 regular Epic has some pretty significant changes from the 2012 model that I rode, including a new upside down fork, 2x11 drivetrain and the addition of a dropper seatpost.
The late Burry Stander signing my 2012 Epic frame
The frame for the 2014/15 Epics saw a significant change from the 2012/13 models to intergrate what Specialized called SWAT (Storage water air tools) into the frame.  I really like this, especially the ability to hold 2 full sized water bottles, even on a size Small frame.  But in order to do this, they had to make some geometry changes.  My Specialized bike fit, (courtesy of Specialized Asia Pacific), saw me on a size Small 2014 frame, with a longer stem and offset seatpost, compared to my 2012 Medium frame Epic with a shorter stem and a non-offset seatpost.  The weight of my Size M 2012 Epic, with some tweaking was 10.0kg (without pedals).  My size S 2014 Epic WC weighs 9.6kg (without SWAT kit, without pedals).  Note:  My WC is modified with the 2013 S-Works crankset to enable me to fit a 30T  (or 28T) chainring. 

Specialized Asia Pacific's VJ Varada dialing in the fit on my 2014 Epic WC
I crashed my Epic WC the first time I rode it, as a result of an improper suspension setup and an over enthusiastic rider ;)  The 5mm difference in suspension travel between the WC and regular Epic doesn't sound like a lot, but you can really feel the difference in drops and rock gardens.  It is a much firmer feel, and combined with the quicker steering geometry of the WC, I find myself slower than my old Epic going down drops.  The WC shines if I'm blasting through twisty singletrack.  Compared to the regular Epic, I can feel better acceleration and power transfer from its shorter, thicker chainstays.  Its a flickable bike that favors an aggressive riding style.  The WC is built like a fighter jet.  It wants to turn.  Pressure on the handlebars or lean, and it will turn.  This is a bike that needs constant attention, and on days when I'm not riding well or had too much to drink the night before, I'll find it twitchy.   It's not really the bike for long days when you want to put the bike into auto-pilot and cruise.  
Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup 2014
I like to think of my regular Epic as a bomber jet.  It is stable, forgiving, confidence inspiring.  It is a bike that wants to go straight when something deflects it off course.  At the top of something gnarly, and I find my vision closing in on my front tire, I can trust my regular Epic to get get me out of trouble.  Yes, it is slower turning, and slower to accelerate, and if I'm racing on an XCO type course where I'm only riding for about an hour and a half, and every second matters, I would prefer to take my WC over the regular Epic.  
Specialized S-Works Epic 2012
The bottom line is that for most of my riding, I prefer the regular Epic.  The Specialized Epic for 2015 sees some very exciting changes, and look awesome.  Hopefully, I'll get to ride one over the next couple of weeks, and I'll update this post if I have anything to add.

Update Mar 19:  I got a chance to ride a 2015 S-Works Epic today.  Everything I said about my 2012 remains true with the 2015 version, except the 2015 is even more stable, and stiffer.  I don't know what it weighs, but it is surprisingly light, considering it has a dropper post, 2x11drivetrain and RS-1 fork.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

EVEREST: Realizing The Dream 2

Please join me at the National University of Singapore Mountaineering Club on Friday 30th January 2015 at 7pm at the SRC (Sports and Recreation Club) Conference Room, where I'll be giving a talk on climbing Everest.  I'll talk about gaining the experience you need, as well as how to physically prepare your body for the challenge in the most time efficient way possible to get you to the top of the highest mountain on earth.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I'm On Instagram!

I'm happy to revive my Instagram account - Not happy about how I came to have so much time on my hands (laid up with a broken collarbone), but Instagram has given me a chance to take a fresh look at many of my old images. They have rekindled forgotten memories, and I have to admit, fitting my images into the square format is a nice challenge.  Here are some images from my Everest expedition that are already on my Instagram account.  Follow me on Instagram (link on the right) for more!

Friday, December 12, 2014


While out-of-action with a broken collarbone, I thought I'd go through some of my favorite images and rework them in black and white.

#blackandwhitechallenge Day 1/5. Taken in the Gobi Desert during a 250km ultra-marathon called the Gobi March in 2005. Our team of 3 was hot on the heels of Team USA, but we would eventually lose to them, finishing 2nd in a very small field. It was my job to be the team photographer, so the guys offered to lighten my load in order for me to run ahead, snap a few shots, and then run to catch up. - Taken with a Pentax Optio 43WR, 95mm (35mm equiv), f/9.3, 1/200, ISO50. 
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 2/5.  Joanne descending into the mist on the Via Feratta, Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo Malaysia. Jo is one of 5 amazing women who climbed Mt. Everest in 2009. At the invitation of Mountain Torq, we were allowed to climb freely on the Kinabalu Massif without the need of guides. Taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3, 24mm equiv, f/4.0, 1/50, ISO80.

#blackandwhitechallenge Day 3/5. This amazing woman is my wife, Laura, during the inaugural Tour de Timor Mountain Bike Race in 2009. We were rookies and did not really know what we were doing. It was the first day of the 5-Day stage race, she finished dead last, and the medics sent her to the hospital in Bacau for what looked like heat exhaustion. She started the next day though, and finished the race strong. That was the start of her mountain bike career. Today, at nearly 50-years-old, she is Singapore's current XC Mountain Bike Champion. - Taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3, 24mm equiv., f/4.5, 1/800, ISO80. 
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 4/5. Megagrit! - Pauline cranking out some Wall Ball Sit Ups with a broken foot at Crossfit Singapore. I'm inspired as I begin my own rehab for a broken collarbone. Taken with a Nikon D7000, 12-24mm at 12mm, f/4, 1/60, ISO1600.
#blackandwhitechallenge Day 5/5. Summit, Mt. Chola (6168m), China. This is one of my favourite shots in color, but the b&w contrast and vignette adds some drama to the dawn sky.  Taken with a Panasonic LX3 at 24mm equiv, f/2.8, 1/500, ISO80