Monatsarchiv: Januar 2009

Red Light Poetry

I just bought „Showa Japan“ written by Hans Brinckmann (Tuttle) and managed to read until page 72 when finally I came about something interesting. A haiku, written by every body’s darling Beat Takeshi, commenting subtly on the state of minds in Japan:


[Akashingo / minna de watereba / kowakunai]
[The light is red – but / if we all cross together / it won’t be scary]

I do not want to start a discussion whether is is just or not to cross red lights – I basically believe that everybody has to make his decision on his own. But I like this haiku very much and I believe that it deserves a place on the 2009 Team Positivo Espresso jerseys.

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Inside a saddle bag

After being married for more than 16 years I never stop to marvel at the complete chaos which can be maintained within a women’s handbag. My wife owns a great variety of bags and all of them, even if not used for months or even years, are full with all kind of stuff. So I wondered, can the same be said about saddle bags?

In order to answer that question, I posted a thread at the TCC website and asked for comments what kind of stuff should be in a saddle bag when riding out. The answers were most interesting, you can read the details here.

Below is an intermediate summary of the results

Some hex keys and plus/minus drivers are a must.

Punctured tire

I believe this is regarded as the number one problem on rides so everyone has at least tire levers, spare tires and patches with them. The info about the easy patches was particular helpful, so I will use them only for temporary repair in the future. Also I have bought some tire patches from park Tool in case there is some serious damage to the tire. But I don’t think this has as high a priority as a punctured tube.

Pumps or CO2 Cartridges

I have to agree with some of the comments, that working with CO2 cartridges can go wrong and that one only has one chance. I remember a particular incident where three of us thought be would have 5 cartridges to inflate a punctured tired and we failed nevertheless (in fact we had only four with us, two were empty on the valve, another one blow the first tube, and we forgot to close the valve when we screwed the last cartridge on).

The valve itself I use is very small, so from a volume point of view I guess the cartridge solution has a point nevertheless.

One more disadvantage is, that you cannot take the cartridges with you on a flight. Neither in your suitcase, nor in your hand baggage.

My personal feeling is: I had pumping, so I would prefer the cartridges but overall it is a very balanced issue.


This is a point I completely overlooked. But broken spokes happen from time to time on a ride and if you have a wheel with only a few of them, it is rather impossible to continue to ride. (like my G3 Campa Zonda wheels). Of course the reasonable choice is to buy a wheel with 28 or so spokes (with standard replacements at every bikeshop in Japan) , but they look so …. boring.
I think it is a good idea to pack a tool/wrench and a spoke on a ride, but for me that is impossible, as the bloody Campa spokes are different left and right AND rear and front, so this would mean four replacement spokes. No way.


Standard types can be bought at most of the combinis, so I don’t think that they are really necessary. (also some of them tend to leak and to clean the acid in your saddle bag is comparable to the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Latex Glove

This was the most surprising idea. The only time I got in contact with them was for rectal cancer prevention. But I guess that is something you perform rather seldom on each other during a ride out in the country side.

Good Luck Charm

Of course. How could something like this been have possibly overlooked? Small types, made out of carbon or titanium are preferred. Otherwise an arrow or an 絵馬 with the pleas written on them for every ride are also decreasing the risk of accidents, punctures and general poor performances. Should always have a small bell attached to.

Electrical Tape

I think this is also a very good idea. A German craftsman if called for to a house, would invariably carry a set of tools with him, such as screwdrivers, hammer etc. with which he would work on a problem.
However, when I was living in (countryside) China, a plumber would normally come without any tools but always with a roll of duct tape. Believe me, there is no problem in China which cannot be solved with the appropriate dossis of duct tape. Leaking water pipe? – 100 meter of duct tape will do the job. Broken light on your car due to crash? – duct tape first. High unemployment rate in the cities? – duct tape over the mouth if protesting.

Even the Beijing Olympic stadium design, as one can clearly see, was inspired by random wrapping of huge duct tape over a standard stadium.
So electrical tape is a very good idea. In can help if the handlebar tape unravels because one is too stupid to do that properly. And probably it can be used to repair tubes, tires, tie spokes together, provide first aid and silence your wife and kids.

In Japan there is a wide variety available and I bought some in nice colors (yellow, grey, red) for 37 Yen a piece at the local home depot equivalent. I used it as a finishing tape on the handle bar – the stripes provided with the handle bar tape are ridiculous short. Looks great now. Actually very Chinese.

Finally I found Edogawakikomans idea very good to have a wad of freshly printed 10.000 Yen notes in a brown envelope printed „LDP“ on it in the saddle bag; in case something goes seriously wrong. Better to buy a new bike with them instead of wasting time with repair.

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To expand a little on David’s traffic-accident theme, here is a thought-provoking short animated film about two-wheeled traffic accidents (motorcycles, scooters) produced by my little brother.

500 miles is not enough…

A motorcyclist enjoys his freedom … some moments later he fights for his life.

Better (but heavy) version can be downloaded here.

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Let’s Be Careful Out There

Today’s Nikkei Online reports, „overall road accident deaths [in Japan] for 2008 dropped 10.3 percent from the previous year to 5,155, falling for the eighth year in a row.“

„The number of pedestrian victims went down by 222 to 1,721 and driver or passenger victims by 303 to 1,710. Traffic deaths involving motorcycles came to 990 and those involving bicycles 717, the survey said.“

I was suspicious that the article did not say whether cyclist or motorcycle fatalities were going up our down. The NTA website had a link to a spreadsheet with the raw numbers (through end of November 2008), and I was relieved to see that, through that date at least, the bicycle fatality number was down 5% from 2007, and it looks like 2 out of 3 cyclist fatalities were over 65 years old. So the odds are not too bad, at least for the next 18 years or so.

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From our intrepid correspondent Billy M.

„Without our fearless leader, who had exerted too much pace of a very different kind until the wee hours, we set off at 7:05 like ronin – bereft of their Lord. Ben and Chris turned back at Tama and Alex decided to break all known records in reaching the Source of the mighty Tama Gawa. A clearly determined David was soon knocked out through key components dropping off.

That left M and M. Big German M set the pace and manfully provided an excellent shield for most of the rest of the ride. It was a terrific day of sunlight, though at zero do crossing our favourite hill, which Big M did quite a bit faster than Billy M.

An attempt to find the new road of last week, with the steep bit that killed Alex, proved too much for us. We did find the tank road ok, and all was going well until I joked to Big M that a one legged cyclist (with a very smart shiny chrome mechanical leg) had beaten us up a hill. That was too much for Germanic pride to take. With a parting cry of „I have excess energy to burn off“ Big M went in hot pursuit of the chrome legged man.

Bereft of the comforting sight of Big M’s bottom I plodded on home, getting back by the magic hour of 1:00 pm. Luckily I was in the ofuro before the clock chimed.

(For those who have not wasted hours learning Japanese „Billy“ is the term used to denote the person who comes last!!)“

From our intrepid correspondent David Litt.

„Well, a group did show up on the street in front of my house, we met Michael Kraehe at 8AM at Tamagawahara-bashi, Chris and Ben headed back early, and 4 of us (Michael K., Michael H., Alex K and I) made it to the turn off to cross the river and head for Takao. Alex said goodbye to just go up to the end of the path and turn around, … and a minute or two later my rear derailleur, which had not been shifting smoothly, stopped working completely — a severed cable at the brake hood lever. So I turned around and only the „2 Michaels“ headed on toward Takao.

(I did the same ride backwards yesterday — out One-kansen and the North side of Lake Tsukui, and a slightly longer loop, out Doshimichi and over Rte 76 to Sagamiko. Snow flurries on the hill outside Takao, and damned cold without any sun, but a good workout.)“

Photo from my Saturday ride — on Route 76 North of Doshimichi:

The same view on a much nicer day in mid-November:

Meanwhile earlier in Tokyo our not-so intrepid correspondent Jimmy Shinagawa was found wanting..

"My dinner at Aquavit ran on later than planned and my pre-ride preparation took a turn for the worse at Lebaron around midnight.. nursing a mild hangover after not enough sleep was not how I had hoped to spend Sunday, but so be it. Until next week."

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Blown by the wind

I decided to go out for a ride on Saturday as the weather for Sunday looked a little uncertain. With hindsight that was probably a mistake as Sunday turned out to be perfectly blue sky and only modest wind, while on Saturday I had a partially clowdy sky and a lot of wind. At first, that was a nice thing, eventually it forced me to cut my trip a little short.
As I had heard so many bad things about route 246, I decided to try it out to work my way into south-westerly direction. Indeed, there was plenty of traffic, and very fast one, but maybe not as bad as I had heard, perhaps because it was Saturday morning. I had a nice tail wind so I even dared to take a few over the overpasses at 40-50km/h when the lights had stopped the traffic behind me.
The 467 from Yamato to Fujisawa was equally smooth, albeit only one-laned. 1h40mins and almost exactly 50km into my ride I arrived at Enoshima. An average of 30km/h red lights included – not bad.

From the beach, Enoshima looks almost like Mont St. Michel… I rode onto the island to explore it a bit. In the all the years in Japan, I had never been on Enoshima, and actually only once on the beach in front of it.

The entrance to the shrine mount looked tempting, but as I still had quite some distance in front of me and wanted to be back home early to make it to an orchestra rehearsal that evening, I decided to postpone a visit until another time.

Heading on route 134 on the coast towards Zushi, I found myself in a surfers‘ paradise. 
I had to wipe my eyes several times before I really believed it. Yes, there were literally hundreds of surfers in the ice-cold water or braving an ice-cold wind into or out of the water.Well, if Californians can surf in summer in a relatively cold Pacific, why can’t Japanese prove that no water is cold enough? This spectacle extended for many miles along the coast, and into a few more bays. I felt a lot better about cycling in the snow having seen this. I would never be that crazy!
Now on the Miura Peninsula, I had my tail wind back and was cruising south on route 134. The main road is not particularly scenic and there was rather a lot of traffic, so taking a few detours onto the coast was all the more rewarding.
Arasaki was particularly scenic.

From Misakiguchi to Misakimachi, the road turned into one large parking lot. It wasn’t much fun working myself through it. Misakimachi itself was quiet as the traffic was not going into town, and I enjoyed the view of the rather large port.
The bridge over to Jogajima did not look particularly inviting, nor did the island itself when viewed from the port. So I skipped it, wondering what I may have missed.
But quickly something else required my full attention. Now heading east on route 215 along the coast, the wind was becoming nasty. It was getting stronger and started coming in gusts from several directions. I found myself fighting head wind at a creeping 20km/h or breaking while going downhill because the gusts were moving me on the road like the waves had been moving the surfers on the sea, only less predictable and less enjoyable.
At the port town of Minamishitauramachimatsuwa (that’s a mouth full – no kidding!), I took some reprieve by taking a detour through the radish fields of Tsurugizaki. Actually, almost all of southern Miura seemed to be one giant radish field. Yet here with a view of the ocean, it looked particularly beautiful.
Through the somewhat isolated and desolate fisher village Makuchi I returned back to onto route 215 which was now leading me north. Eventually I succumbed to what had by then become almost a storm that was blowing sand from the beaches onto the road. At Miura-Kaigan, I conveniently caught a Limited Express back towards Tokyo.
Getting of at Keikyu-Kamata, I was hoping for a smooth ride up on Kannana. Things started promising as there was nothing like a storm in Tokyo. Apparently a little bit of head wind, but having just braved gust and gails, it felt like tail wind to me…  But I soon ran into an obstacle of a different kind: another parking lot extending for a few miles on Kannana. Eventually I passed the sight of a car crash that was already being taken care of by police (apparently no injuries), and beyond that I had a relatively unhampered ride back home.
On another day with hopefully better wind conditions, I must do also the east side of Miura Peninsula.

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2009 Mt.Fuji Hillclimb…lottery!

According to a reliable source (GORO), participants in this year’s edition of the Mt.Fuji Hillclimb will be chosen by lottery (just like the immensily popular Norikura HC in August). Fortunately for us, there is allegedly a special quota of foreigners…
WHEN: JUNE 7 (SUN), 2009
APPLICATIONS: MARCH 2 (MON), 2009 (only thru Internet)

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Pedro’s Toothbrush

I came across this brush for cleaning the rear cog of a bicycle at Bic Camera in Yurakucho after having lunch at Muji Meal yesterday. Please note the fine print bottom left.
Well I guess you need teeth like a horse to use this brush.

How to use the tooth brush and avoid dreck all over your frame…neat & tidy and no splashing!

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Entry-level bike

My assistant has got excited by our adventures described on this site and would like to buy a road race bike. Any recommendations for an entry-level bike that she can buy easily in a shop in Tokyo?

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Out of costume

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