Amazing Naked Machines


I accept that most people reading this won’t ever considering riding a motorcycle.

That’s okay, because motorbikes aren’t for everyone, and it’s as dangerous as you believe it to be. We don’t try to convince people who have their mind made up about two-wheelers, we just go out and ride as “safely” as we can.

But oh, what a great time it is to be a biker with so many amazing machines being released recently, especially during this week’s EICMA motorcycle exhibition in Milan and in prior weeks.  With the Class 2 (401cc and above) population of riders doubling in the past 10 years to about 15 thousand, there will be more people riding such beautiful machines on Singapore roads soon. Continue reading Amazing Naked Machines

The Black Widow

I was done with the modifications to the Ninja 250, then a jealous act of vandalism marred the black fuel tank with an ugly scar. I can never understand what would make people so jealous that they would whip out a key or coin to scratch a brand new vehicle that has done them no harm. My bike was hardly 4 months old!

So with a trip to the Paint Extreme workshop, where the tank was repainted and decaled with a Kamen Rider logo 仮面ライダー, the Black Widow was born.

My Kawasaki Ninja 250R – Black & Red Edition

One of the most unexpected things I received in the army was a motorcycle licence. Back in 1996, I was drafted into a recon company and required to learn how to ride a bike. And it wasn’t until 2007 that I decided to finally get a civilian bike licence, after so many years of thinking about it. I took a little longer than expected to finish my Class 2B course (I took a break of two years between lessons due to a heavy travelling), and then moved on to get the Class 2A licence.

In July this year, I finally received permission from the CEO of the house to have my own two wheels. Then it became a question of which bike to get.

Now in Singapore, most Class 2A licence holders will go for a Honda CB400 (Super 4) as the licence allows you to get a bike up to 400cc. I had no desire to get a bike that everyone was riding on the roads, especially one that we used as the training bike in Bukit Batok Training Centre. Due to Honda’s dominance of this category, bike dealers now bring in very few other streetbike or sportbike models in the 201-400cc range.

The stock Ninja 250R in black, which is what my bike looked like when I bought it.

After shopping around, I decided to go for the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. An extremely popular model worldwide (apparently it is Kawa’s bestselling model in the US), this bike is hardly found on the roads here due to people’s preference to get the Super 4. It was also half the price of the Super 4 when new (I hear too many horror stories of second hand vehicles to bother with used).

Much has been written about how the Ninja is a great little performer – it’s light, it’s nimble, and the 2008 redesign is just plain sexy. Honda launched the new CBR250 around the same time with more modern parts (ie. a digital speedo), but the Ninja has the edge in looks.

For the first two months or so, I was focused on just breaking in the bike. Then I discovered the wonderful/terrible world of bike modifications. By nature I’m not a car or bike nut, nor did I modify my Corolla Altis very much apart from changing the rims and audio system. But motorcycles have an amazing capacity to be modded and the Ninja is no exception. You can do small mods or extreme stuff like changing all the fairings (the plastic body which gives it its overall look).

I did most of my mods at Unique Motorsports at Kaki Bukit Autobay, and AHM Performance (a few doors down from Unique) helped to order and install the Koso digital speedometer. The Ninja mod project was like a big Gundam airbrushing assignment – how to bring out the best parts of the machine without going overboard.

My Ninja, after all the major mods which turned it into a black and red beauty. The old rear mud guard was removed and replaced by EvoTech Tail Tidy, and the bulbous stock signal lights replaced by tiny Rizoma lights. I also repainted the rims, which is a stronger visual option than just pasting rim stickers (which can peel after a while).

The worst thing about modding is how addictive it is – once you do a small mod, you think about which other parts you need to mod. The best thing about bike mods is that it is relatively unexpensive when compared to car mods – the total cost of my Ninja mods is still lower than a complete set of Ah Beng car tyre rims.

Driven metal red grips, Motovation bar ends, ASV brake and clutch levers, EvoTech brake fluid reservoir. Sorry for the distracting sun ray, but you must agree such photo angles don’t come all the time.

Red bolts and gold engine oil cover to add small accents to the side of the bike. I changed most of the visible nuts and bolts to red.

Another dash of gold with the rear brake fluid reservoir. I’ve thought about changing the stock exhaust but the legal ones are all not too pretty, and they don’t really improve performance for the money.

I also changed the brakelines into braided steel red colored ones.

The Über-cool Koso digital speedometer. You can’t get this here as demand is pretty low, so we had to ship it in from Germany (even though the product is made in Taiwan). Koso also makes a special Ninja 250R mounting board and plug & play wiring kit for easy installation. I guess most people who own this bike can’t wait to get rid of the ugly, old school analogue dashboard. 

 A clearer view of the handlebar area. I also added red and gold bolts to accentuate the dashboard area. You can also see the small analogue clock from which is specially machined to fit Ninja 250Rs.

 The Immortal Graphix tank protector pad took some time to source, as most of the designs on the market are just plain tacky or just plain. 

 The rear seat was replaced by the original Kawasaki rear seat cowl accessory. It makes the bike look cooler as a single seater, but it does make it less comfortable to ride when I’m carrying a backpack to work.

Full Armor Gundam

Full Armor Gundam 05

I purchased this Full Armor Gundam FA-78-1 Master Grade set because Hobby Link Japan was selling it at 40% off at 3000 yen (S$45). I regretted it soon after because it became obvious why this relatively new release (2010) was being discounted so heavily both online and at local retail – the original color scheme of dark green, bright orange and white was not aesthetic and this Gundam was based on the retro RX-78 instead of the more modern/aggressive One Year War version.

But I saw that there was potential in the base design – it had a very rugged heavy armored vehicle design philosophy like my Votoms Scopedog and the decals had a good military feel to them. This Gundam just needed a better color scheme.

Full Armor Gundam 08

So after many days of mulling and color testing, I gave it the Iron Man War Machine treatment – gunmetal grey, copper, dull chrome and some champagne gold on the cannons just to make it a bit more “rich”.

I glued down all the detachable armor parts because they kept coming off anyway (thanks to Bandai’s useless gel sticker approach) and also because I don’t really like the retro RX-78 design underneath all the armor parts. I ordered the waterslide decals from HLJ and spent a long time (over 6 hours) pasting as many as I could – I like decals and you can also call this the Full Decal Gundam hur-hur.

In closing, I’m pretty happy with the end result! If you’re not going to paint this set, I don’t recommend the purchase due to the poor base color scheme. If you are, I think there are many opportunities to make it a really cool Gundam based on your personal color preferences.

Full Armor Gundam 02

As I was taking photos this morning, there was an opportunity to do these mood shots as the morning sun blasted into the living room.

Full Armor Gundam 03

Full Armor Gundam 06

The only downside to using the champagne gold (chrome silver + gold leaf paint) is that the white decals don’t come out so prominently.

Some history on the Full Armor Gundam from the Gundam Wikia.

As the RX-78-2 Gundam continued to score victory after victory against the Zeon forces in the One Year War, the Earth Federation Forces engineers began to devise several different upgrades to supplement and further increase the combat capabilities of the Gundam. The upgrade program, called the Full-Armor System and Weapon System (FSWS), developed several options packs to increase the Gundam’s already considerable power. One of these designs was the Gundam Full Armor Type, which vastly increased the Gundam’s firepower and armor.

However, due to the Full Armor Gundam’s massive increase in weight, it suffered a sharp drop in mobility which the new thrusters could not sufficiently compensate for. It was deemed that the loss in speed and maneuverability would be unacceptable and the Gundam Full Armor Type never left the development stages. The Gundam Full Armor Type would never be built, and only existed on paper. Although the FA-78-1 Gundam Full Armor Type was deemed to be a design failure while it was still in the planning phases, the Earth Federation continued to design new upgrades to for the RX-78-2 Gundam under Full-Armor System and Weapon System (FSWS) program.However the plans for the unit would later be used as the basis of creating the FA-78-2 Heavy Gundam.

The death of the Transformers

I had little choice but to watch Transformers 3 : Dark Of The Moon. The kids wanted to watch it, and I wanted to watch it.

For them, it was part of the essential pop culture ritual of their childhood. It’s the Star Wars of their generation.

For me, it was to see if Michael Bay would redeem himself from the mess that was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

Continue reading The death of the Transformers

Isaac’s Gundam Avalanche Exia


This is the second High-Grade Gundam set that Isaac and I worked together on. The Gundam Avalanche Exia 1/144 is a recent release by Bandai from the Gundam 00 series and for a small model, has a magnificently complicated design. I do wish I could have painted it for better aesthetic effect, but I’m saving the airbrush for bigger models with more details and decals.

As I continue to assemble more Gundams, I have increasing admiration for the artists  who come up with these designs that mesh together art and robot mechanics.

Of course, you could say that all the Gundams look the same (I thought the same just a year ago), but take a closer look and you will be able to appreciate how the designs have evolved over the years from the very first RX-78. Essentially all Gundams are based on a samurai design, which is always cool Open-mouthed smile.

Now if only the guys who designed the atrociously ugly, insectoid Transformer movie robots understood it like the Gundam designers.






A journey with the Space Battleship Yamato



For better or worse, I tend to go overboard with my hobbies. What was supposed to be a dalliance with photography turned into a full-time job. My love for tinkering of PCs has kept me working with, and currently, in the IT industry. And about a year ago, I started to get fascinated with Bandai model kits and now I have more paint bottles and unopened model kits than I can keep track of.

I’ve been trying out various grades of Gundam model kits to develop my airbrushing and assembly skills. But when I found this Space Battleship Yamato 1/500 scale model kit, I knew that this would be the one kit to pour all my learning into.

Now let it be clear that I don’t really like battleships, whether they are WWII models or even Star Destroyers. It’s more fascinating to admire the small planes that take up space on a carrier (eg. Tomcat, Phantom etc). And I remember building a few ship models when I was in primary school and hating the whole gluey mess along with ridiculously small parts.

But the Yamato is different. For one thing, this formed part of our childhood memories. Our generation of boys watched dozens of iconic Japanese cartoons when they aired randomly on SBC’s Channel 8 during the 1970s and 1980s. With little to do in the house in those days before the Internet or Xbox, one could spend hours just watching different anime dubbed in Mandarin. And the unique mix of a traditional Japanese warship with futuristic space cruiser elements really sticks in the mind for decades.


Bandai cashed in on the Takuya Kimura movie vehicle late last year with this new plastic model kit that stretches across 70cm in length. Before I started on the kit, I looked around the Internet to see how others had built their versions. Without painting, the kit looks like a big piece of flat plastic. OK, many different pieces of plastic.


But I also wondered how much “realism” or weathering effects to give this baby. As I’ve gotten more into this “gunpla” hobby, I have observed that too many people spend big money on kits and airbrushing systems without understanding the basics of aesthetics.

For example. I would look at some of the showcase models at some of the hobby shops in Singapore and shake my head at the over-Gundam shading done on beautiful models. Less is more, folks. In my case, my background in art and photography does help me visualize the final look of my kits.

Now while I would prefer a cleanly painted and glossy robot that looked like it just stepped out of the factory, the Yamato demands a dirty or aged look. The anime and movie are set in dire times for humanity, and the Yamato first emerges from its underground factory, breaking through concrete and mud. A flat coat of paint would not give the Yamato the character it deserves – so there was not much choice but to give it gradated airbrushing and further washes of grey to bring about the post-apocalyptic look.



This project took about three months, or perhaps eight to ten man days. A lot faster than the last Votoms Scopedog project that took nearly a year thanks to prolonged procrastination.

Overall, I would say that the Yamato is relatively easy to build until you come to the small parts. On some turrets, some plastic pieces broke off (combination of thin plastic parts and several layers of paint) and I either glued them back or just threw them away. The nice thing about a “weathered” look is that you can always claim it was “battle damage” when it comes to missing or broken parts.


On one hand I was terrified of losing the tiny turret parts (there are about 34 turrets if I counted correctly). On the other hand, pressing them into the main ship body really caused my fingertips to hurt, and a few other hull parts cracked in the process.

The other difficulty I had was deciding what shade of medium blue to use. The red was easy – just go for a screaming red tone like a Ferrari. The blue was tough because if you go for the default blue that the plastic was moulded in, the whole ship looks too dull. A lighter blue would allow for more details to be called out, but would not contrast well with the red lower hull. Personally I think I could have used a deeper shade of blue but what the heck.

The other odd thing I noticed was during the final panel lining stage, using black enamel paint to wash over the base acrylic coats. With the semi-glossy red portions, it was easy to remove excess wash with thinner. With the dull blue portions, the enamel paint was very hard to remove with enamel thinner so I had to work fast and use it to create more weathering effects like vertical streaks across the hull. Perhaps I had to coat the entire ship with a glossy coat before I did the panel lining.

Oh well, live and learn. Enjoy the pics, taken with my trusty Canon 5D. Which I had trouble taking in my cramped HDB apartment because this ship is just so long!






Living a disciplined life

nike plus sportband

Gadgets can change your life in the most unexpected ways.

Last Christmas, I bought myself a Nike Plus Sportband which works with a Nike sensor in your running shoes to track your pace and distance.

I bought it because I thought it might help me do better at my IPPT fitness test in March but it went much further and transformed the way I’ve been living my life in 2011. Here’s what happened:

Previously, I would use online maps to decide the distances that I would run around the Bishan area. The trouble was that I did not have a fixed running schedule, so there would be weeks or months between each run. And that I could never go past the 3km mark because my mind was telling me that the distance was long enough.

After all, the only reason why I ran was to ensure I would pass the annual 2.4km test for National Service.

The Nike Sportband changed my approach to running because it keeps a constant log of all your runs and speeds “in the cloud”. And with every upload of data, you can share your latest run on Twitter and/or Facebook. You can see this as either showing off to your friends, or asking them to keep you accountable on your running regime. And because it measures your running pace, it makes you feel embarrassed if you drop below your usual speed.

Over the past seven months, I found myself running three times a week, and at least 5km each time. That’s phenomenal by my own standards, because apart from my dragonboat and army days, I could never bring myself to go exercising regularly. At one point in April, I actually ran over 10km, which was the first time in 15 years. To date I have clocked about 288km since last Dec and by God’s grace, my knees are still feeling fine.

At the same time, as I dragged myself out of bed every other day at 6am, I began thinking about how to lead a more disciplined life. Where I used to relish in an unpredictable life, I now desired more order, more control and more awareness.

– I sleep earlier now and have largely stopped playing PC or console games so I can have enough energy to run. Doing up a Gundam model can take months instead of days as my sleep comes first.

– I’m trying my best to practice my violin so my teacher doesn’t give me his weary look every Monday. But man, scales and arpeggios are more tiresome than work! 

– I began to go to work earlier so I could get some emails done before 9am.

– I started an aquarium which required me to do constant water changes and daily feeds (It’s been a really tough hobby as I’ve had two or three batches of fish die on me, but the latest bunch of tetras seem to be doing well)

– I drove less and walked more, to add more calories burnt every day.

– And recently, spurred on by a finance discussion with old buddy Weizheng, I decided to cut excessive bills like my Starhub broadband account (I went from 100mbps to 30mbps with a recontract), and started to balance my budget for each month with Excel and an expense tracker on my phone.

It could be that I’m getting older and being more careful about my health and expenses. But I do attribute a lot of the changes to the daily discipline and clearer thinking (running clears the mind, my friends) unwittingly enforced by the Sportband.

In an ironic twist, the Sportband didn’t help my 2.4km run very much. In fact, my timing actually got worse compared to last year. That’s because I’ve gotten so used to running longer distances at a slower pace, I really struggled to run briskly during the 2.4km test!