Tag Archives: cycling

Kyoto winter!

Last winter I chickened out and got out of Kyoto a few times with stops in the USA, Cairo, and Malaysia.  This winter, I am being brave and staying here the whole winter.  It will be my first complete winter in years and years!

All of my apartment windows are opaque, so I don’t see the weather until I open the door to check.  This morning I got a nice surprise and a fun ride to the lab. Yay for snow!

Do I need a new bike? Probably not…

Do I need a new bicycle???

Probably not.  But I think I’ll get one anyway.

Since 1995 I have owned 4 bicycles.  In Tuscaloosa, there was the awesome Schwinn Flyer.  I’m not sure if it was original or not, but it was slick.  It was hip before hipsters.  That bike served me well to get between my office and apartment but never took me any further.  And I cannot even remember what happened to that bike when I left Alabama.

The Schwinn was something like this.

The Schwinn was something like this.

When I reached Washington DC, it was clear that I was going to need another bike. Washington was (still is?) a great place to cycle. With lots of bike paths, wide roads and relatively polite drivers, getting around by bike was often better than using the car.  So, I headed down to REI and got a shiny Bianchi mountain bike.  At the time, I had no idea what I was getting but I got lucky and loved that bike.  The highlight of the Bianchi was riding it for 200-plus miles along the C&O Canal from Cumberland, Maryland back to my apartment on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  But, while I was on a work trip to Mexico someone scaled the backyard fence and stole the bike.

The replacement, after one bought and returned within the “no question return period” (that got a lot of questions from the shop), was the Gary Fisher Tasajara.  What is a Tasajara?  I don’t know, but the bike has been with me since 2000 or 2001 and been ridden in Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia, Washington DC, Japan and Korea.  Now some of the gears are bent, I need to buy its third chain soon and am feeling that I want something a bit more suited to bike touring as I prepare mentally and physically for two upcoming trips (Kyoto – Hokkaido – circum Hokkaido, and Vladivostok – Istanbul).

The trusty Gary Fisher on the beaches of Peninsula Malaysia contemplating the South China Sea.

The trusty Gary Fisher on the beaches of Peninsula Malaysia contemplating the South China Sea.

So, I am busy bike shopping now and it seems to have come down to three choices.  These bikes are specially designed for touring and have some special features suited to long distances, carrying gear, simple to maintain and repair, flexibility without suspension, and durability.  In no particular order:

The Giant Great Journey 1. Only available in Japan. How cool is that? Bike shop says its indestructible. But they would say that. Downside – cannot test ride first. 😦

The Jamis Aurora. I don’t see any downside.

The Kona Sutra. Good name. Downside – it has disc brakes.

Watch this space for an update soon!

I got a new bike!  Its the Jamis Aurora!!! Its great!!!!

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As it turns out, I like cycling too!

It seems that I like cycle touring.  I’ve done 3 so far.  In 1999, I cycled the C & O Canal from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington DC.  In 2012, Nate Badenoch and I cycled from Kyoto, Japan to Seoul, South Korea.  In 2013, I cycled with two friends from Kota Baharu to Kuantan, Malaysia.  There are more trips planned! Stay tuned.

More to come soon……..IMG_8017

Bike route mapping in KL

Everyone said that trying to cycle in KL was for the insane.  The drivers are crazy, the roads are in bad condition and you’ll get run over.  I ventured out onto some relatively quiet streets but I felt hemmed in by highways and more highways and ramps and didn’t dare to get onto the roads.

Then I slowly started making cycling connections on Facebook and found myself on 5 or 6 KL and Malaysian cycling Facebook-groups.  My first encounter with really riding around town was with the guys from the Roadlink bike shop in Bangsar.  I joined them for a Sunday morning ride through the heart of KL.  We visited Dataran Merdeka, Bukit Tunku, Hartamas and Bukit Damansara.
You could ride through town after all!  But it felt safer in a group!

First ride around KL with the Rodalink Bangsar guys

First ride around KL with the Rodalink Bangsar guys

Then one day there was a story in the local newspaper about a guy who was making a map of cycling routes in KL.  I couldn’t wait to call and went over to meet him. Jeff gave me several blank copies of his map and asked me to fill in where I ride.  Unfortunately, his map didn’t extend to where I live and I was still timid to ride much around town.

And then he started with his survey rides.  I have joined several of the Saturday morning rides. Usually there are 10-20 cyclists who join and ride around checking and verifying routes that Jeff thinks might be good for cyclists.  This week, I did my first post-dengue ride around Sentul and Chow Kit.  We rode on busy roads, crossed railroad tracks, circled river islands, saw an otter in the river (!!!!) and had a great time.

I can’t wait to see the final product of Jeff‘s efforts!