Saturday, May 21, 2022

First Impression of a New Toy


Jupiter Bike Discovery X5 350W Pedal Assist eBike

A little backstory since I have been woefully absent from blogging for far too long: last year I contracted with a new publisher to write a book on what it's like to cycle in your senior years. Granted there are a lot of cycling books out there, but this one will (presumably, I know how things go when you're writing and it often goes in a whole other direction) look at it from the perspective of someone who isn't a hard-core cyclist. Just someone who rides for fun, enjoys it, and is looking for ways to make it a bit more fun and comfortable as the twilight years start making everything hurt.

As a part of that, I'm trying out some bikes I otherwise wouldn't have. An electric cargo bike. A couple of road bikes. An electric cruiser. An electric town bike. A single speed with no power other than my aching and aging body.

A couple of days ago I took delivery on one of the test bikes. Well, two, actually, since my editor and publisher thought that since this bike folds and is more portable than my other bikes, the Spouse Thingy might want to play with one, too. I admit, I was not as excited about this as I've been about other bikes. It's tiny; it looks like a toy. It's got a smaller battery than I'd like. The wheel size and the wheelbase is short, which gave me a few concerns about stability.'s a bike and I'm game.

So today I got out before the heat could convince me to stay home and play a stupid number of hours on Animal Crossing. The battery was fully charged, the tires had been properly inflated after bike assembly, and it was more ready to go than I was. I made the deliberate decision to not stray too far from home for the first couple of miles, just in case, decided to ride at pedal assist level two, and off I went.

Gotta admit, for a first was fun. There are some drawbacks to it; there's a bit of a delay in the pedal assist kicking in when starting from a dead stop, which is fine for me but I could see it being an issue for someone with bad knees. The grips have this texture on them that left a literal impression on my palms, and was a bit uncomfortable--but I can fix that with some fingerless cycling gloves. There is no bottle cage mount, which really isn't a major issue given the battery range, but if you're like me and drink a lot, you're going to want a water bottle.

The upside: the throttle is very responsive, so that delay in pedal assist isn't a major deal. Just crack on the throttle to get going, start pedaling, and it's all good. A $10 handlebar extension can provide a spot for an easily reachable bottle cage. And I can wear gloves; I usually do, anyway, for no reason other than if I go down, I want the gloves to get ripped up and not my hands.

My concerns about the battery range are not out of line. It's advertised as having a 30 miles range, and I presume that's with a rider that weighs quite a bit less than I do, and only using PA1 with zero throttle. At PA2, averaging 12mph (which is slower than I get on the road bike without any sort of assist), I went 12 miles and ended with 35% of the battery left.

That reading was while still in motion. When I stopped, the gauge jumped up. I presume that's what it would have left if I dropped to PA1 and were a thin person. I expected a shorter range, but hoped I would hit 10-12 miles with half the battery left. was fun. The seat is reasonably comfy and I may try riding leaned forward quite a bit for a couple miles to see if it would work on my road bike (I'm guessing not; it's meant for upright riding.) And because I had no water with me, I used that as an excuse to stop at Starbucks...and the feeling of locking up this $700 bike (at's more on the manufacturer's site) compared to locking up a $5000 road bike is significant. I didn't worry about it at all while inside, while I always sit where I can see my bike out the window otherwise.

I could see this becoming my go-to-Starbucks bike. I'll need a backpack to haul my computer, but being as upright as it is, that's not a problem.

Hopefully next week we'll get a chance to fold the bikes up and determine how easy it is to haul them somewhere else to ride.

Gotta admit, so far I am not unhappy with how it rides. 12 miles is not a real test, but it's a decent start.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Ok, so I lied

I truly did think I would be back on the bike on January 1st.

It only took 4.5 months to really get going. There were a few false starts, a lot of that owed to bike, hip, and knee pain (arthritis sucks) but it took signing up for the DetermiNation Cycling Classic to get rolling. I'm not sure why it worked, but once I'd taken a few (shortish) rides, the want of getting on the bike more often took hold. I set a goal of 200 miles to be done between April 16-May 16, and hit that yesterday.

I might have gotten closer to 300 if not for several days I just wasn't home to ride; we took some time off work and did fun things together, so no regrets about it.

I had hoped I'd have the Trek I ordered last September for this ride--it was expected end of April--but that's been pushed back to next January. By then, I may not want it. I mean, I will want it, but there's no need to buy it, really. Mostly because I stumbled onto a Domane+ ALR and it's got everything I wanted from the AL5. And more.

Yes, it's technically an ebike. But the beauty of this thing is that it rides like a dream without using the pedal assist--you don't even need to keep the motor and battery on the bike--and it's balanced well enough that the additional weight isn't a big deal even if you have the battery in place.

I'm doing 99.5% of my riding without using the assist. That remaining .5% is when I turn it on for the sheer fun of it. Thing is, I don't really go any faster, it just takes some of the drag off my legs. There's no throttle, so there's also no getting away without pedaling.

Why did I think this was a good option?

The aforementioned arthritis. I have it in my spine, hips, neck, and at least one knee, and it's not going away. This way I have peace of mind knowing that if I get into trouble 10 miles from home, I can turn it on and get home.

And damn, my HR gets up no matter what I do. Even riding with some assist, I'm hitting 150. I struggle to get that on my other bike...probably because I'm not spinning as fast.

So we'll see. But so far I am super happy with the decision to get it, and I am having a freaking good time riding again.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Ok, now, I really have NOT been riding...

Not long after my last post, life took a nosedive into an emotional hell, and I could not make myself get on the bike, not even to just sit on it.

Just a day after I wrote the last post, one of our cats began horking up his toenails, and a couple of days later he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Life became about trying to make him comfortable and getting him to eat, and my focus shifted from anything outside these four walls to both cats. Buddah, who was dying right in front of me, and Max, who was 19 years old and nearing the end as well.

Nine days after his diagnosis, we had to let Buddah go. I might have been able to get back on the bike after a few days, but then Max started peeing all over the house. I thought it was a UTI and I wish so badly that it had been...but instead we discovered he had a soft tissue sarcoma, and had weeks to live.

We lost Buddah on October 7th; Max died on November 13th.

Friday the 13th in 2020. I should have expected it.

In any case, between the need for constant care in the last days of their lives, and then the brutal emotional aftermath--and it was brutal for me--I just did not give a flying fark about riding.

But I'm ready to get back to it.

Somehow, I still managed to meet my minimum 2020 miles goal for the year, but I fell a little short of my 2300 goal. 

For next year, the minimum is 2021, and I'm shooting for 2300 again...knowing that if I had kept riding I would have pushed past 2500, so I know I'll have that in the back of my head and I know I'll want to hit that.

I ordered a new bike, an upgrade from my Domane AL2, a Domane AL5. It's a significant jump in the groupset, from a Shimano Claris to a 105, and is quite possibly the last bike I'll need. Oh, I'll want an Ultegra I'm sure, but I won't ever need it. And I opted for an aluminum frame over carbon for the same reason. I don't need carbon. I'm just a recreational rider, never will race or even go on group rides, so it's good enough.

So. Back at it on January 1, 2021.

Here's to hoping next year doesn't suck like this one did.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I really have been riding...

 Writing here, not so much. Riding, though, yep. With the fires blanketing much of California I've done way more miles inside on the trainer than I wanted--enough that I started to hate it--but in the last couple of weeks I was able to get outside.

Today, though...smoke. Ugh.

All through the summer I did a couple of virtual riding events just to keep me going, but September was dedicated to riding for the Great Cycle Challenge, raising money for childhood cancer research and treatment. I set two goals: raise $2500, and ride 300 miles. For most people, that 300 miles might not seem like much, but it was a stretch for me and I honestly wasn't sure I could do it.


Yesterday afternoon--following a 25 mile ride in the morning--I finished off the last 5 miles on a brand new single speed. 

I also surpassed my fundraising goal, hitting $2800 last night.

So September was a decent month on the bike for me. For October I've committed to a 150 mile virtual to raise money for the American Cancer Society, specifically for breast cancer. Normally I would walk a multiple day event for Komen or (as planned this year) Pledge the Pink, but with those events canceled, I am really digging the virtual events.

I'm thinking about doing as many of those 150 miles on the single speed as I can. The gear ratio on it is just a tiny bit tougher than the gear I normally zip around town in on my Domane, so it's a decent workout. And it'll make those 150 feel like 200 or more, so, bonus.

And that Trek FX I bought in May, the shiny carbon? I think I've put all of 50 miles on it. It's just not the comfortable ride I hoped for. It's not that I dislike it; I'm ambivalent about it. Ambivalent enough that I'm seriously considering selling it.

I gave the Townie to a friend who will love it as much as I did, so I'm down to 4 bikes. Well, 4 and a half, but I'm thinking about selling the Halfbike, too. 

Onward to October...

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Back to inside...

I had this set up for my indoor put-put rides. Teh trusty Townie 7D, not really meant for fast fitness rides but more for cruising and with baskets on it, shopping.

My intent was to just pedal slowly and watch crap on TV, but then my hip seized up on it, reminding me that recumbents do not like me and the crank forward on this is, apparently, like a recumbent as far as my body is concerned.

It's been fine for shorter rides and tons of fun outside. But after 20 minutes...ouch. And that was an ouch that lasted for over a week and kept me from riding at all.

So, I parked it in the garage and brought the road bike in. This week the weather is turning HOT and I am a delicate flower, so I presume my riding will be done inside to prevent my death or from me curling up in a tight ball at the edge of the road while I cry like a little girl.

What I did not expect?

This is so much more comfortable on the trainer. And quieter. I still need a mat under it because it rocks a bit when I really get going, but this morning's test ride was quite nice.

Part of that might be owed to slapping a slightly wider seat on it. It's not at all cushy, but I don't feel like my sit bones are being massively wounded while I'm on it.

So, yeah, I clearly have a fat ass.

One short 25 minute ride is not enough to really decide that this is THE seat, but I didn't feel like squirming around and didn't hit 5 miles and wish for either a magical fairy to sprinkle numb-butt dust on me nor did I decide holy hell I need a break.

Along with swapping the seat, I added speed and cadence sensors so I at least have a better idea of how fast and far I'm going. I was just timing it on the Townie and I know I was off by quite a bit, simply because I don't think I was pedaling fast enough.

After about 5 minutes I also put a fan on the floor in front of the bike, because inside riding is hot. Go figure.

I did about half an hour just to test it out, and will probably do another half later. Or longer. I have a whole bunch of series to binge and I am years behind on most of them.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Yep, I did it again

After a leg injury that kept me off the bike for a couple of weeks, I picked this up:

Trek FX Sport 4 Carbon.

I decided I wanted a fitness type bike, one that won't be the ride-as-fast-as-I-can thing, but the one I'll ride when I'm out with the Spouse Thingy. And when I'm not trying to sprint.

New Bike Day is Best Day, so of course when I picked it up, as soon as I got it home the skies opened up and it rained like a mofo. On one hand, argh. On the other...time to put on the bottle cages and Gramin mount.

I've now had the chance to put about 40 miles on it. It's still a bit breezy out but unless I'm heading right into it, not too bad. It took a few miles and getting off and back on to get the seat angle and height right where I wanted, but now that it's dialed in...not too shabby.

It rides quite a bit like my road bike, which is a good thing. I wanted that same feeling but with a flat bar, which gives me a fair shot at figuring out which one I like the most. And while it's way too soon to tell, right now, it's pretty well tied up. I like them both a little too much to be natural.

The fitness bike is a little slower, though part of that right now is trying to ride with the wind pushing at me--and I can feel it. But even when riding where I'm blocked from the wind, I can feel how much the change in position (which is surprisingly not that much) puts me into a but more resistance.

And oddly, my hands hurt more on this, but that might just be a matter of getting used to it. The grips are ergonomic and cushioned, but my hands don't get to move around as much (though I did switch up and use the inner part of the handlebar for a while today, gave me a little relief.)

What I haven't done is swapped back and forth between the two bikes yet, and I won't for about a week. I want to give this one a good breaking in...and also want to change the saddle on the road bike.

I've had a Specialized Power Pro with Mimic on it, and at first it felt all right, but over the miles I started having some serious pain right where my left sit bone hit the seat. This wasn't even a get-used-to-the-seat thing; this was agonizing and left me literally bruised. I spent a few minutes describing the pain to someone who knows a thing or two and who works for the company, and he thought I had a saddle too narrow for the distance between my sit bones.

Now, I was sitting there groaning internally because it's not a cheap saddle. And I wasn't about to pony up for a new one. But because he's the one who hooked me up in the first place, he arranged to have the next size sent, and when it gets here I can send the other one back.

If that doesn't work...well, the one on my fitness bike is (seemingly) comfy so I can order one of those.

In any case, I'm digging the new ride and am now pouting because tomorrow it's supposed to rain. Hard. With a lot of wind. I could ride in the rain, but I don't want to on a new bike and besides...I'm delicate. Tomorrow's miles will be done inside while I catch up on The Crown...which I am WAY behind on.

Priorities. I has them.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

I go zoom

Yesterday I discovered the joy of sprinting. On the bike, I'm still not a runner and have accepted that I never will be. I'm still not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I hit a speed higher than I ever got on the screaming neon pink electric bike using pedal assist 3 in 7th gear--and to me that felt like I was flying.

Just to get some fresh air, we pulled the bikes out of the garage yesterday afternoon and headed out for a short ride, and after a bit the thought poked at me: go faster. Or at least try to. Let's embrace the notion of high intensity interval training and just...go.

So I went.

Normally I ride at about 13mph, which is a vast improvement over the 8 mph I started at last year when I bought the gray hybrid. And again on the little blue Townie. Like I said, I'm slow. Thirteen feels respectable to me, and it's a casual kind of riding. Just enough to get my HR to about 140. I figured I have some wiggle room with the HR now and can push to 150-155 without worrying that my heart will explode, so I pushed up to 15. Then 16. And that felt pretty freaking good...until I changed gears and realized the chair was rubbing against the front derailleur.


The Spouse Thingy suggest I move off the little chain ring to the big one and play with the rear cogs to find the same ration...but I don't have the same sweet spots there. Still, I switched gears and headed off again, and did the same sprint/slower/sprint/slower thing. Just as I was running out of gas--a 180 calorie lunch is not enough, boys and girls--I looked at the bike computer to check my HR and saw the speed.

19 mph

Yeah, not FAST for most riders, but fast for me. I literally have not topped that on the pink beast, even using pedal assist. My top on that is 17. I could go higher; I could use the throttle and hit 24, but never wanted to. I got a weird little thrill out of hitting 19 under my own power, even if it was only for a bit over a quarter mile.

Now I need to see if I can adjust that front derailleur so that the chain doesn't rub, and if I can't I'll have to take the bike in and pay someone else to turn a few screws (I should be able to, it's a matter of patience and paying attention to tiny gaps, and I'm not sure I have that kind of patience.) If I don't and try to ride on the little cog, I can totally see the chain coming off when I shift, and with my luck it would startle me badly enough that I'll wipe out.

And apropos to nothing...that new saddle is amazing. Between it and switching to the Pearl Izumi Pro shorts, I'm now super comfortable on the bike.

The downside...I have outgrown the pink beast, and honestly, it makes me a little sad because it was my absolute favorite toy of all time. It's not going anywhere; it's still fun to ride for kicks, and once DKM is ready to start riding, it'll live in her garage for a while, so she can play with it and decide if she even likes riding.

Now if only today's rain would let up and the wind would die down...

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Happy New Saddle Day

Ok, I gave the stock seat on my Domane a good 300 miles, and while it was okay, I couldn't do more than 10 miles at a time before I had to get off for a bit. And even during that 10, I found myself moving around a lot, trying to alleviate pressure points.

So I spent the bucks and got a Specialized Power Pro with Mimic, and holy fark, what a difference.

(Yes, I put a Specialized saddle on a Trek bike. I'm evil like that.)

I put it on this morning, and as soon as I headed out, I knew there was going to be a huge difference. I usually start out with an "ouch" that settles into, eh, okay. This time I just sat and rode. My sit bones hit where sit bones are supposed to, I didn't feel pressure or pain, and didn't move around at all.

I gave it 7.5 miles, kinda slow, just getting the feel for it and a new pair of gloves. By the end of the ride I knew I needed to lower the nose of the seat about a millimeter, but other than that, yeah, this seat is worth the cost.

Tomorrow's ride will likely be twice as long to give it a good test; I've already adjusted the nose and am ready (presuming I don't go out here again this afternoon...) but I have a feeling it's going to be a fairly comfy 15.

Saturday, February 15, 2020


I didn't get back on the bike until yesterday. My shin was all kinds of ouch, feeling like a sunburn being rubbed by sandpaper every time I took a step, so pedaling was probably going to drive me a bit nuts. I listened to the little voice in my head that said to wait--which was helped out by several days of heavy wind--but yesterday was bright and beautiful and I just kinda had to.

It felt good. But I got a few miles into it and noticed a click that occurred with every pedal rotation. My first worry was that I'd done damage to the bike when I went down last week. My second was that if I kept riding, something was going to give and I'd eat asphalt again. So I stopped, and spent some time slowly back pedaling to see if it was the chain or the cogs, or what.

I noted one little blip on one cog, one tooth, but wasn't sure. So I ended the ride at 5 miles, which was fine for the first one after a week.

This morning I put the bike up on the work stand and tried again. I didn't know if I'd be able to figure it out--I'm still way too much of a newby--but I hoped I would at the very least be able to get some video and articulate to the bike shop what the issue was. And I found that same little blip, but I could not replicate the click.

I rotated the pedals forward, backward, fast, click.

So, I too the bike down, decided to go for a ride to see what was what, and right at 10 minutes, the click started again. It was with every full rotation of the chain, I thought, but when I stopped and tried to back pedal, no click.


I decided to take a minute, think, get a drink. And as I held the metal water bottle, turned a little, I heard it. Ice cubes against the metal...

I'm a moron.

Friday, February 07, 2020


A couple days ago, while we were out on a planned 10 mile ride, I tried to go up a sloped curve--the kind typically found at the entry to someone's driveway. I've gone up this exact spot a couple hundred times over the last 3 years, no problem, but this time I didn't quite approach it at the right angle, the tire caught, and I went down like a sack of potatoes.

Just =boom= onto my left side.

It was a good thing I wasn't alone, because I needed help getting up. Getting old, it sucks. If not for the bike still begin firmly between my legs I could have just rolled over and crawled up onto my knees and then up, but I was kinda stuck. And everything hurt. But, the Spouse Thingy helped me up, I made sure I could still move essential body parts, and we then slowly made our way to Dutch Bros where I could sit and assess how I really felt.

Nothing was broken, but my entire left side was not happy with me. And in that moment, more importantly, the bike was okay. We took fifteen minutes, shared a drink, and then finished the last 3 miles of the ride.

Got up the next morning and holy hell. Ouch. All over. And as the day progressed, the bruises began to show. My right index finger must had gotten caught under the brake lever, because it's a lovely shade of red. My left shin must have hit the ground first, given there's a nice softball sized bruised rearing its lovely head, and it's a bit swollen to boot.

My left shoulder, left hip, and my neck are all reminding me that they, too, were unhappy with meeting the ground.

Still...I was mostly miffed about not being able to ride. I mean, I could have, but it wasn't a great idea.

Now today I'm sitting here, looking outside because it's a gorgeous day, trying to decide if it's worth getting on the bike and piling onto the pain. My left shoulder especially is telling me it's still not happy, and my shin hurts every time I walk.

But I kinda wanna.

We'll see.

Oh, and I still keep reaching for brake levers that aren't there. Muscle memory is a hell of a thing.