Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bali Rides Again

Destination: Bali, Indonesia
Activity: Mountain Biking
Season: Mid-June through Mid-September
Operator: Guided, with bali-rides.com
Cost: Low to Moderate

Back again to Bali for some mountain biking.  I'd been cooped up for the past few weeks video editing at my computer and needed to kick start my training and get some biking in. A change of scenery is great motivation, so I contacted Ramang Kristian of Bali Rides to see if he could fit me in for a multi-day ride.

Mt. Abang to Telaga Waja River Ride.  Photo by Bali Rides/Ramang Kristian

Ramang arranged 6 days of riding for me.  3 days on, a day rest, followed by another 3 days of riding.  It was a no-hassle trip.  Bali Rides arranged everything from the airport pick-up and drop-off, all meals and accommodation.  Bali Rides' airconditioned rooms were all full, so I stayed in the non-airconditioned bamboo hut - Simple, rustic and comfortable, although a little noisy in the early morning.  One balinese massage was also included in my package.

Bamboo Hut at Bali Rides B&B

Each ride was about 42km, and mostly downhill, but had an average of 550m of total climbing.  Technical difficulty ranged from the easy, but scenic Ubud loop, to intermediate trails like the Abang to Mengwi trail, easily the best ride in Bali with small techy drops, swooping singletrack, and breathtaking views.

Riding the beginner Ubud Loop trail through rice padi fields and coconut trees.  Photo by Bali Rides/Ramang Kristian.

Costs are low to moderate, depending on where you come from.  A day ride will cost IDR1.1 million (USD$78, SGD$110), which includes the guided ride,  hotel pickup and dropoff, lunch and snack, and full-suspension bike rental (Specialized carbon Epic 29ers or carbon Stumpjumpers - really good rental bikes!).  Multiday rides are all custom arranged.  Contact bali-rides.com for a quote.

I just wanted to ride, so I didn't shoot any photos or video this trip.  But here's a video from my first trip with Bali Rides.  The riding is pretty typical, but we chose to stay at different hotels to get to see more of Bali:


Bali Rides from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mountain Biking Telluride to Moab: The Ride

Continued from the last post:

When we got to Moab, we met up with some friends and did a couple of rides.  It always seems that we don't spend enough time in Moab, because before we knew it, it was time to depart for Telluride, and begin the trip trip that we had come all this way for: Riding two hundred something miles from Telluride to Moab, using San Juan Hut Systems huts along to way, so that we could ride with light packs and enjoy the riding!

A photo posted by Ken Koh (@adventurenomad) on


San Juan Hut System is the only destination (ie. Telluride to Moab; Durango to Moab) hut to hut based system in the US.  It allows a biker to really get deep into the backcountry by eliminating the need to carry tents, sleeping bags, cookware and food for 7 days of riding.


Oh, yes!  This is one ROWDY Ride!

If you've ever thought about doing one of these rides, this short video should give you a good idea of what to expect:


Mountain Biking Telluride to Moab from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.


Having done the similar Durango to Moab ride a few years ago, we kind of knew what to expect.  While there's still a fair bit of dirt road and a little paved road, this ride had more singletrack.  In fact, so much more singletrack that we simply could not ride all the singletrack options.  Lucky for us, they were options, and when weather or our bodies had enough, we could take an easy dirt road ride to the next hut.




I've been to Moab 4 times over the years.  Once in the Spring, once in the Fall, and twice in Summer.  I definitely want to return, because there's just so much more riding to do, but I won't be going back in Summer.  It's too hot and just too crowded.

If you were deciding on which of the two hut to hut rides to pick, I'd say go with the Durango to Moab Ride if you're riding for the scenery and views.  If you like more technical riding, pick Telluride to Moab.  Either way, you won't be far wrong.  One of these rides definitely belong on every mountain biker's bucket list!

Mountain Biking Telluride to Moab: The Drive Up


It's a long way to get to Moab - It's along trans-pacific flight, followed by a long drive from California to Utah.  We've found that by following the bodies natural sleep cycle, and by getting a lot of sunshine during the day, the drive up can be a good way to acclimatise as well as take in a lot of the sights.

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, enroute to Moab, Utah.
Arriving into the USA after a big transpacific flight has always been a pain, but arriving into Los Angeles this trip has been my most pain free so far, thanks to the new ESTA immigration clearance, available for selected countries.  As usual, our plan was to get out of the airport as quickly as possible, then drive for as long as we could, usually a couple of hours before needing to stop for sleep.  Our destination this trip, was Moab, in Utah, where we were heading up to do some mountain biking.  We've found that due to time zone changes, we are usually up very early, by 3 or 4am, and so we make use of that time taking the bikes out of their boxes and assembling them.  We hit the road about 5am, or just before daybreak, and stop for breakfast along the way.  By breaking up the drive, can taking in a lot of sunshine, we adapt faster to the new time zone.  We took in as many sights as possible on the drive up by heading out onto Historic Highway Route 66... 

A photo posted by Ken Koh (@adventurenomad) on

The next day, we made it to Panguitch, Arizona, where we got to ride Thunder Mountain Bike Trail, which was an unexpected treat!  Great riding, really awesome scenery!  After the ride, we took a drive through Bryce Canyon National Park, and took in a short hike.

A photo posted by Ken Koh (@adventurenomad) on

The highlight of the drive up to Moab was Page, Arizona, which we reached the evening after leaving Bryce Canyon NP.  We stayed for 2 nights and visited Antelope Canyon, Waterholes Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.


The evening after we visited Antelope Canyon, we reached Moab.  By this time, we were fully acclimatised and ready to ride!

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Use the iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) for Backcountry Navigation

The new iPhone 6 and 6+ (pictured) have larger and better displays for map use in the field and significantly better battery life.  Changes to Airplane Mode introduced in IOS 8.3 make it easier to manage battery life.  We are eaisly getting 6-7 days or more of normal backcountry use without recharging.  Photo from adventurealan.com
I use my iPhone for navigation.  With good mapping software (I use Gaia GPS), an external battery pack to extend the life of the iPhone, and maybe a spare iPhone as backup (my wife's iPhone),  I've never found the need for anything else.

This is a great article by AdventureAlan'sUltralightBackpacking, whose thoughts mirror my own on how to use the iPhone for Backcountry Navigation.  Click this link to jump to the article.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

3 Basic Nutritional Supplements for Expeditions and Adventure Travel

The first rule of supplementation is - Real food first.  This means you should try to get your nutrition from fresh, natural, whole food.  Supplementation comes in to fill in potential nutrition gaps, which could happen if you are travelling and not quite sure of what food is available, or on expedition where fresh, whole food may not be available.

Yumm!  Liver Tablets, Probiotics and Fish Oil
I'll tell you what works for me, but I'm not a doctor, or nutrition expert, so please do your own research or seek medical advice before consuming any supplements.  Here are 3 basic, but key, nutritional supplements I take, whether at home or traveling to some adventure:

1.  Fish Oil
Fish Oil is a common term which refers to Omega-3 Fatty Acids, specifically EPA and DHA.

The body uses fish oil in many ways, including: Development and protection of the brain; cardiovascular protection (also 'thins' the blood by making it more 'slippery'); balances out Omega 3 and 6 ratios (our modern diet contains an unbalanced ratio of too much Omega 6); has anti-inflammatory properties; and helps protect against skin issues (psoriasis) and allergies.

The human body cannot make EPA or DHA, so you have to get it from your diet.  The best sources are cold water oily fish, like sardines, salmon and anchovies.  A rising problem with consuming these fish is that they may accumulate toxins like mercury dioxins and PCB.  If you are far from the sea, grass fed cattle is another source.

Fish oil in supplement form is usually molecularly distilled for purity, then recombined to ensure a consistently potent product.  To ensure I get my quota of Omega-3s when I travel, I take a single capsule of Now Foods Ultra Omega-3 daily, which provides me with 500mg of EPA and 250mg of DHA.

2. Probiotics
The human body is full of bacteria, both good and bad.  Probiotics are the 'good' or 'helpful' kind.

Researchers are still figuring out the many uses of probiotics.  They not only help the digestive system, but it is thought they also enhance immunity by shutting out bad bacteria. They also easy symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, Eczema and other allergies.

Sources of probiotics include kefir, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles.  Beneficial probiotics also exist in the soil which, with modern cleanliness, we no longer consume.

Because they are living foods, I supplement with 'shelf stable' probiotics that require no refrigeration and travel well.  I use Garden of Life Primal Defense which is a strong, broad spectrum probiotic supplement, which contains both colonizing and transient soil based probiotics which may be beneficial, but through modern cleanliness, we may no longer consume.

3. Desiccated Liver Tablets
Sometimes called "Nature's Multi-vitamin", the Desicatted Liver Tablets I take are made from pure, grass-fed beef liver that has been de-fatted, and then freeze dried.

Liver is a rich source of heme iron, which is a great blood builder.  Exactly what is needed on a trip to high altitude.  It is also a rich source of amino acids, minerals, B-vitamins and Cytochrome P-450.  It may also extend endurance as demonstrated in the following experiment:


Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1951 Jul;77(3):488-91
'Dr. B. H. Ershoff took three groups of rats and fed them controlled diets for a twelve week period. Group one ate a basic diet fortified with vitamins and minerals. Group two ate as much as they wanted of the same diet plus B vitamins and brewer's yeast. Group three ate the basic diet but had 10% desiccated liver added to their rations.
Then the doctor placed the rats one by one into a drum of water, out of which they could not climb, it was either swim or drown. The group one rats swam an average of 13.2 minutes. Group two, an average of 13.4 minutes. Group three, however, were still swimming at the end of two hours.'

I take 2 Universal Nutrition Uni-Liver Tablets each morning.  High on Mt. Everest when my stomach could not function well, it was one of two supplements that I would swallow with my instant noodles (the other was fish oil).  I'm not sure if that was enough to get the endurance boost, but it was worth a few grams of protein and enough for the summit.
I order these supplements from iherb.com.  For international orders, they are hard to beat for selection, price and shipping.  Get $10 off your first order with my discount code KOH756.

Sources: Web MD, Michael Colgan, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Dave Drapper