Evening Rides Around the Neighborhood

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO250
“Evening Ride” Cedar Park, 2020

Lately I’ve been going on evening bicycle rides around the neighborhood. They are so relaxing since I take it pretty easy. And I love the granny gears on my bike. It’s like magic powering up those hills. 😊

I spent a little more time removing one last sticker from the frame and now it’s nice and clean-looking. There’s still some gummy residue which is really hard to remove completely, even using Goo-gone and my motorcycle degreaser. But it’s looking good! I just left one Kona sticker on the seat tube, and an International Space Station sticker on the fork. I’d love to find some new Kona stickers for the down tube, but want to keep it simple, such as plain black lettering.

Since we don’t drive much during the COVID-19 lock-down, I use the bicycle to collect the mail from our neighborhood mailbox. The panniers can hold a lot, which was fortunate today since a big yearbook-sized package arrived for Koa. But no problem! I loaded it into the pannier and then went on the rest of my ride.

It’s nice to ride at sunset (I try to be back before dark) since I often get to see the clouds lit up nicely. I also get to see lots of birds, but I don’t have my binoculars. I want to get a handlebar bag or basket so I can have them ready to use without having to get off the bike. I can’t simply reach back to the panniers for the quick grab, which is needed for birding. The problem is, fitting a bag on the butterfly/trekking bars is a little more complicated than on drop bars or a straight bar. Oh well, maybe I can find a bag laying around the house that I can modify to fit the butterfly bars.

In the meantime, I’ll just bring my camera for cloud photos. The clouds don’t fly away nearly as fast as birds do. 😁

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO200
“Cirrocumulus” Cedar Park, 2020

From Mountain Bike to Hybrid/Trekking Bike

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/4, 1/900 sec, ISO200
“Comfort Bike” Cedar Park

Way back in 2000 I bought my Kona Blast hardtail mountain bike (OMG it’s been 20 years?!) and have been enjoying it ever since. I’ve been tweaking it little by little and now it’s a strange, goofy, hybrid franken-bike, but I still love it. The Kona Blast (they still make this model) has always been an entry-level mountain bike, and serves as an inexpensive and solid platform to upgrade components to your liking. Most people get rid of the RST forks, which are simple spring type, but I’ve held onto them and I think they are fine for the mostly road-riding I do. In fact, I had no worries taking my drill to them in order to make holes for the fender mounts.

My first upgrade to my Kona was the addition of an inexpensive rear rack and makeshift bag for the rack. I put my camera, headlight battery pack, cellphone, and bike lock in here. I also put on a generic kickstand. I couldn’t live without it.

Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 10mm, f/8, 1/80 sec, ISO320
“Mountain Bike” Round Rock, 2013

I am now on my third seat, which I like. It’s a super-simple and thinly padded seat by Retrospec. I replaced the stock seat (which was painful) with a plushly padded gel seat from Serfas (see photo above), but that one hurt after riding for a short while as well. I then ready about how harder seats might actually be better and more comfortable for longer rides, and I have to agree! The harder Retrospec seat is really great. It’s kind of like motorcycle seats in that respect. Most motorbike stock seats are optimized for the showroom, not for long-distance comfort.

Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/320 sec, ISO400
“Retrospec Seat” Cedar Park, 2013

I then decided to convert my Blast into a more commuter-style bike by replacing the WTB mountain bike tires with Continental Town and Country tires. The new rubber allowed me to inflate them to a maximum of 60 psi. That pressure plus the smooth tread made for a much faster (and quieter) bike on pavement. This made a HUGE difference! With the old mountain bike tires, once you stop pedaling, you lose speed pretty quickly, but with the road tires, you just keep flying along. It’s awesome.

I also bought some soft panniers for more cargo space. The bags still work great to this day (I usually just use one side) for carrying my bike tools, picking up the mail, or as cargo bags for trips to the library.

Photo info: Panasonic DMC-TS2, 7.8mm, f/4.3, 1/250 sec, ISO80
“Panniers” Cedar Park, 2013

About this time, I found that my neck got sore quickly because I was leaning over so much and had to crane my neck back to see forward. It was very uncomfortable. To help with this, I changed my handlebars from the stock bars to a butterfly/trekking bar. I love these things! I’m able to change the positions of my hands so that there’s less fatigue on them. They also look really nerdy, but I like them! (The photo above also shows the butterfly bars) They let me sit a little more upright, which helped with my neck, but not a whole lot. I therefore decided to raise the bars up even more by replacing the stock stem with an adjustable one which raised the bars quite a bit. It helped a ton and I could ride with less pain.

Photo info: OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. E-PL1, 14mm, f/3.5, 1/60 sec, ISO1250
“Butterfly Bars” Cedar Park, 2013

Next up was adding some Planet Bike fenders. I actually don’t ride in the rain very much so I don’t get to experience the benefits that fenders provide, but I’m sure it’s kept me clean when I ride thru gutters and stuff.

Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/400 sec, ISO400
“Fenders” Cedar Park, 2013

Finally, I added a Lerway stem extension which raises the bars another 3 inches. for an almost completely upright body position, much like a cruiser bike. It’s so comfortable and makes riding much more enjoyable. Sure, it’s looking even more bizarre, but I crossed that line a while ago.

But speaking of aesthetics, I am wondering what to do about the body graphics. I used to have it covered with random stickers, but have since removed almost all of them. I’d love to get a nice, simple, modern Kona decal again and keep it at that.

For the future, I’d love to get a handlebar bag to keep my camera, phone, and maybe my birding binoculars in. While riding around the neighborhood, I see a lot of birds so it would be nice to pull up and get a better look at them! I can put the binocs in the pannier right now, but I can’t reach around and get them without getting off the bike. Also, I used to have a cheap bike computer (speedometer/odometer) on my bike but removed it for some reason. I can’t believe I would throw it out, but cannot find it. So, that would be nice.

So, that’s it with my Kona Blast. Still in love!

Run and Bike

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO3200
“Sunset Cycling” Cedar Park, 2020

Today I went for a lunchtime run, and immediately I could tell my legs were a bit tired and the muscles were stiff. From our house, whichever route I take is downhill so it’s a nice, gentle way to warm up and assess my physical (and mental) condition. Yesterday was a rest day so I wasn’t too worried about straining myself, however, I made a note to take it easy. I don’t want any injuries!

I’m reading the book The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure through the Wilds of New Zealand by Anna McNuff and I kept thinking about what a bad-ass she is and how she dealt with physical down-days on her journey. Super-inspiring and motivating! That positive energy definitely helps with my mental state, and although my legs might still be tired, I don’t let that get me down.

I ended up running 3.43 miles, which I am pleased with, and my pace of 12:19 /mi wasn’t as slow as I expected. And besides, it was beautiful outside!

Not surprisingly, the run’s momentum carried with me into the evening and I went for a short evening bicycle ride around the neighborhood. I remembered to pack my camera and was rewarded with a really nice sunset. You know, it’s really nice having a cargo rack and panniers on my bike – I can get the mail, carry my phone and camera, and still have plenty of room to spare.

The ride was great and I saw lots of people out walking, running, and playing safely. Lots of waving too! Although we’re living in a pandemic situation right now, people seem to be keeping it together. I really like our neighborhood.😀

I hope you had a nice day!

Socially-Distanced Exercise

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO200
“Bike and Bluebonnets” Cedar Park, 2020

Our local guidelines for living under the COVID-19 lockdown state that we are permitted to go outside for exercise, such as jogging or bicycling, and I’ve actually been doing both. Since we are supposed to stay at least 6 feet away from others, I only run on the neighborhood streets where I can easily avoid the sidewalk or go to the other side of the street. And when I go bicycling, I stick to the roads so there’s plenty of distance from pedestrians out for their walks. (I pulled my bike off the street so I could take the photo of the bluebonnets!)

For the most part, everyone has been very friendly – plenty of waves and “hello”s. Which is nice, because the reports of increased incidents of racism towards Asian-Americans have kind of kept me on-edge when I see others out in the neighborhood. Our city is pretty diverse and tolerant, but it only takes one person, right? Anyways, let’s keep it nice and cool, shall we?

Kokoro Tabi (こころ旅)

I have been enjoying Kokoro Tabi on TV Japan lately. (It’s listed as “Journey of the Heart across Japan”) The show is basically about a bicycle rider reading letters from people, and traveling to places in Japan related to the letter. The rider is actor Hino Shohei and he and his small crew (camera man, audio man, etc) plot their course on the map and ride, ride, ride! To me, it’s really interesting. And very Japanese. What I mean by that is that the show is very introspective, slow-paced, and really peaceful. It’s part documentary, part travel show, and part human-interest. I only wish I could understand Japanese better so I could get the details, but I still understand maybe 15%… and the biking and scenery are really cool. I also like Hino Shohei’s clothes and cool glasses! The glasses come apart at the bridge, but are held together magnetically there. And the earpiece wraps fully around the back of his head, so he can wear them around his neck when he doesn’t need the glasses. It’s pretty neat. Anyways, if you have TV Japan, I highly recommend this show!

A video sampler:

Some photos from the website: