Monatsarchiv: Februar 2009

Yabitsu in rain

Headed out for a quick ride today, hoping I could complete it before the weather was forecasted to get bad again.

My plan was to redo my virgin ride with Positivo Espresso in July 2008. Back then, we went over Otarumi, via 515, 412, 513 to Miyagase Lake, then up to Yabitsu and down to Hadano station. 105km in total. Back then, I also had to cover a bit more distance at either end, to get to MOB’s place, and then back from Noborito to MOB’s place, and back to my home. These 140km nearly killed me at the time. I had never felt so crashed out after physical exercise and got a flu the next day.

How times change. Today I flew up Otarumi, setting a new best time of 14:40. Working myself through to Miyagase was a delight and just no comparison to the pains half a year ago. At Miyagase I felt no urge to take a rest and opted just for a short toilet break. And going up Yabitsu exerted painful memories, but no actual pain.
Except that it started to rain, which was not so pleasant in just 3 degrees Celsius. Going up at a modest pace kept me sufficient warm not to mind. New best time of 52:10 to the peak. But going down in cold rain was not fun, as I got really soaked.
Back by train from Hadano, in wet clothes. I wished the train compartments would be warmer! But it was still bearable – I had overdressed for the ride which I regreted on the Tamagawa but was really glad for going down and on the train. I think I survived without catching a cold.

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A Solo Reverse Winter Paul Jason

For any who remember the one ride back in the summer of 2006 that we took with Paul Jason, that says it all.

Who was there? Michael K., Juliane, David J.? Laurent? Jerome? Tom?

For the rest of you, … I went up the river and out to Itsukaichi, started to climb the Akigawa, turned left at Honjuku to stay on the main route, turned left again at the traffic signal above 400 meters, climbed to the tunnel to Uenohara (approx 650 meters elevation) and descended the other side to the South into the valley, turned left and climbed up and down through the infamous Uenohara „golf course hills,“ up the back side of Wada Touge, and then down the front of Wada and home (Asagawa, Tamagawa, yawn), 140km+ and plenty of hills.

The Golf Course Hills. I usually try to avoid them, en route to Tawa and Tsuru, unlike Tom, who seems to enjoy them (presumably Ludwig as well). There is one ridiculously steep stretch, climbing up to the entrance of the first of the two golf courses when you approach from the South. They aren’t nearly as bad in the cool weather, approaching from the North. There was some road construction — needed to ride over a few gravel patches, but nothing too bad.

Why anyone would have built a golf course on this terrain is beyond me … must have been during the bubble of the late 80s.

The club house is a remarkable example of classic Japanese bubble era golf course architecture — see the odd round building on the hilltop toward the left/top/rear of the photo, ignore the roof in the foreground:

Ura-Wada was spectacular, as usual. Third time I have climbed it this year.

Taking a photo of Mt. Fuji from the viewpoint was the perfect excuse to get a rest after too much 12/13/15% grade on the climb. Unfortunately, it was hazy enough so you cannot really see Fuji.

There was some serious construction about 80% of the way up the front side of Wada to keep the hillside from falling onto the road — gates at the top and bottom of Wada (front side) were closed, and no cars could pass but cyclists were allowed through — ideal conditions for going up/down Wada, except for the patch of 100 meters or so where the construction is. The witch’s house was all closed up.

… another ride tomorrow, shorter, starting at 7:30AM from my house with Jerome.

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Weekend Ride?

Well, I don’t know if it is the return of rain and cold, the bleak(er) economic news, or last weekend’s flurry of posts leading up to … no real group ride, or maybe the proliferation of „off blog“ emails … but something seems to have tamped down the activity on the Positivo Espresso blog.

Saturday forecast is for sunny, high of 9 and low of 4 degrees, with NW winds in the morning shifting to NE in the afternoon (perfect to ride into a headwind going up the Tamagawa in the morning and again coming back home). Sunday forecast is for a high of 14 and low of 3, but shifting to cloudy and 30% chance of rain.

I want to get in two rides, leaving reasonably early (7:30?) both days, unless I get a call this afternoon/evening giving me a green light to plunge into some kind of 72-hour 3-ring circus to get something closed by month-end. If I can get in a relatively full day ride on Saturday, then I might not ride on Sunday, or might do something shorter.

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Pedal power gathers speed

Both MOB and David mentioned to me recently that they thought there were a lot more cyclists on the road these days. Seems they are right and this is not only true for Japan.

Pedal power gathers speed

By Robin Kwong in Taipei

Financial Times, February 17 2009

Eric Lin wakes up at the crack of dawn nearly every Saturday to bike for hours in the hills around Taipei with his friends. His mountain bike, a Champion One model from Taiwan’s Merida, had set him back T$32,000 ($933) and is a far cry from the 45-year-old software engineer’s first bicycle, a grey, no-frills affair that had cost his parents just T$600.

Mr Lin and his friends are among the fast-growing ranks of cyclists in Asia who are fuelling a renaissance for high-end bicycle makers by paying upwards of US$1,000 for the latest models.

The industry, which has expanded rapidly over the past few years, is proving resilient to the economic downturn, thanks partly to the ability of bicycle makers to market increasingly expensive, sophisticated bikes to the masses.

Even as most industries suffered from falling consumer demand at the end of last year, bicycle retailers in the US and Europe were still enjoying robust sales as late as October and November, according to a market survey by CLSA, the Asian brokerage. Even as the global economy slows, bicycle sales this year will still be likely to match 2008’s, says Jenny Huang, Taipei-based analyst for brokerage CLSA.

One particular bright spot for bicycle makers is that „Asia [sales] is picking up nicely“, she says.

But whereas American names such as Schwinn or Specialized used to dominate the industry, the most sought-after bikes are now largely made and marketed by Asian companies, in particular Taiwanese brands such as Giant, the world’s biggest bicycle company by revenue, and its cross-town rival Merida.

Merida, which has seen profits more than double in the past four years to T$1.3bn in 2007, said it had a record month in December in terms of both shipment volumes and average selling prices. It is now planning to expand its sales network.

Giant said its December sales were up nearly a third from a year ago. That fact was borne out by nearunceasing activity at its factory in Taichung, near the middle of Taiwan, which makes high-end models in relatively small quantities.

There, workers work overtime on assembly lines, shaping and welding aluminium frames to meet a backlog of orders. Outside, lorries shuttle in boxes full of parts, such as hand-brakes from Japan, and leave with 40-foot containers, each filled up with 250 bicycles inside.

In the past, nearly all of those bikes would be made under contract for other brands, but now Giant sells more than two-thirds of its bikes under its own brand. The balance is shifting geographically as well. While Europe and the US are still its two biggest markets, Asia now accounts for 40 per cent of Giant’s sales, with nearly a quarter of that in its domestic Taiwan market.

The development of local market was instrumental in the birth of Asian bicycle brands, said Bonnie Tu, Giant’s chief financial officer. „It took nearly 17 years of lobbying municipal governments to build bicycle paths“ and other initiatives to make the sport popular in Taiwan, she said. Now, Taiwan’s example is being followed by other Asian countries, such as South Korea.

To capitalise on this boom, bicycle makers began experimenting with innovative ways to expand the range of the bicycle’s appeal.

Owen Chang, who runs Giant’s research and development centre, says the key was offering hybrid models that add style and comfort to high-performance professional bicycles, or introducing entirely new elements to the humble bicycle.

This has meant inventing folding bicycles that can fit inside a car boot. Or, as in Giant’s City Storm bicycle, enlisting the aid of British designer Michael Young to create a limited-edition line. „It’s creates a difference that allows us to sell the City Storm for $1,000, whereas regular city bicycles only sell for around $200,“ says Mr Chang.

In spite of the opportunities for growth, Ms Tu admits there are likely to be fewer people who can afford $1,000 bicycles as the global economy worsens. „We are preparing for [a slump]. The whole industry is very cautious right now,“ she says, but adds that sales are still holding up and orders now coming in for the peak selling season in spring are „so far, so good“.

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The Climb Calculator

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TOM dethroned (finally!)

Dear All:

I knew it had to happen…I have only seen this guy in action a couple of times but each time I was awed by his superior pedaling technique and impressive „born-hillclimber“ physique…this guy is a natural!

Congratulations Ludwig…you’re Positivo Espressso’s new King of the Mountains!! I’m herewith placing the KOM crown onto your head and you may now ascend the throne! Don’t forget to update the Togebaka column on the right…

I’m amazed you were able to keep your heartrate around the 160 level…definitely the fruit of strenuous exercise which I have in vain tried to replicate, however, my poor heart’s beat goes up to 190, sometimes even hitting 200 whenever I try to better my own record…

Keep working on that form Ludwig and you’ll continue to metamorphose into a real KOM champ…how about entering one of this country’s many HC races…Kusatsu? Utsukushigahara? Norikura? See you around…this is beginning to get exciting!



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Haruichiban Ride ?

Last year, I did a most exhilarating ride on February 27, the day of the first strong southerly wind of spring…the air felt steamy and I remember it got so hot that I welcomed the sudden rainshowers cooling me down. Tomorrow, I might go out to YABITSU to savor and brave those haruichiban elements again!

On Sunday, I’m planning to do another Miura Loop. Since I’m not taking a train, I will leave home rather early and may start from the Tokyo-wan side. If too cumbersome to connect with all of you, I may go on my own and meet you at some point halfway the Peninsula.

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We are thinking of a weekend ride, circling one time Miura Hanto next weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. Actually Saturday would be my preferred day, but it seems that this will depend very much on the weather forecast.

We can have two meeting points, an early one along the Tamagawa for David, Tom, Ludwig and Jerome to assemble and another one at Enoshima bridge for those who live closer to the sea (me) or wish to go the first part on the train (me as well). Tom proposed 9 AM for the Enoshima meeting, not sure about time and place for the Tamagawa early meeting.

Perhaps we start with the West coast first and also take a short look at Jogashima before riding up North again on the East Coast. It is then up to everybody how far to ride into the city or to hop a train back home.

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Since some some weeks I have this strange idea to start the creation of a new team outfit for this year’s season and since some weeks less I am in contact with F2P in Singapore to find out about possible options. And all that despite all the considerable time and effort I had last years which brought nothing but blood, Swiss and tears. And of course a lot of colors to our otherwise boring and meaningless, gray existence. Well, it was mainly orange I have to admit.

There are three major reasons why I thought about having new team outfits:

  1. The 2008 short sleeve jerseys were nice, but a little bit tight for some (most) of the team members. This is because they are based on so called „pro-cut“ specifications, i.e. these jerseys are made for guys and girls who do not only ride like pros [just as we do], but also look like cycling pros [which most of us don’t]. I send F2P some photos of typical Positivo Espresso riders [I will mention no names, but my one was included] and, well, they didn’t said it that clearly, but, how can I explain …. well I also had to swallow …. but basically they recommended something called „fun-cut“.
    But better to own a jersey which can be used than one to hang in a frame on the wall.

  2. As the 2008 jerseys were the first design we made, there were certain strategic mistakes incorporated which are closely interlinked with the problems outlined above under (1). To cut a long story short, I was many times mistaken for Sydney Greenstreet and Tom was asked to sign autographs with „Akebono„. Even Ludwig would have looked like previous German Kanzler Helmut Kohl. So I got some strategic hints from F2P this time how to do a design that makes as look, smarter, faster and slimmer.

  3. Finally we had no matching bib shorts for our fantastic team jerseys. In 2008 I rode a lot of times with the Positivo Jersey and the NFCC bib shorts – the best shorts I ever had and coincidentally manufactured by F2P. So I thought it would be nice to have some comfortable, good looking bib shorts as well.

  4. And we didn’t had a long sleeve jersey as well, which meant that we could not sport the Positivo Espresso logo during the cold season. Yes, we could also use wind stopper jackets, rain vests, team socks and condoms imprinted with our logos but at some point one has to draw a line and say: Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish.

So, I had some discussion about possible designs, minimum lot sizes and options and I came up with the following ideas for 2009:


Well I didn’t want to change the overall theme so drastically so I stayed with the same colors as last year as a principle theme: orange, light and dark gray. I also left the „flag bands“ at the sleeves as they are very good looking and can be used handily to explain the international background of the team. I added the Haiku from Beat Takeshi on the back side, please check here for the explanation.

In order to make as look faster, smarter and slimmer I put the flamboyant orange of the front and back and the grey on the side panels and shoulders.

The joke on the side panels about dogs, pedestrians, cars and bikes was nice for 2008 but should not be extended in to this year.

And we can also easily make a long sleeve jersey out of this as well.


A continuation of the same theme as on the short sleeve jerseys to have a unified outlook. Please note that the so called base panels are all uniform dark grey (so called „carbon grey“), they come only in eight base colors and cannot be imprinted with logos or patterns. At least not at a reasonable cost and also not without loosing durability.

The design emphasis our mights legs and people we will pass along the road will be terrified in awe and respect. Please also note that the long awaited „Traffic light bug“ sticker is now integrated on the back side for everyone to see. From behind, of course. These are extremely comfortable bib shorts – I wrote that already I know, but I would like to emphasize this again.

I still need to work on the long sleeve jersey design which I will do within the next days.

Please let me have your honest feedback, we can still work very much on the design. We need to place an order of 20 items of each of the basic types (so either SS jersey, LS jersey or bib shorts) and then we can have a minimum lot size of 5 or 10 or the other two basic types. Obviously, the more we take, the cheaper it will get. So please let me also know which types would be of interest to you.

To give you an idea of the cost involved :

– Short Sleeve Jersey app. 8.000 Yen
– Long Sleeve Jersey app. 9.500 Yen
– Bib Shorts app. 8.500 Yen

The last time I have paid upfront the complete order of 20 jerseys, however this time I would expect some help in this regard from the Positivo Espresso Hard Core Team members.

It would be nice to have the jerseys ready for the Fuji Hill Climb event at the start of June. Or Itoigawa? Hurry up guys.

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95 %

I was thinking about doing some track training with Hiroshi in Kawasaki but I couldn’t reach him on the phone. Damned, I should have called much earlier! Because of the track, I canceled also the Shirokuma ride with TCC. And I didn’t know that Tom and Goro planned to take on Miura Hanto. AND I was idling around in the morning, so finally I was leaving the house at noon. What now?

So I had to decided fast and I decided for a fast, short and itense Otarumi – Tsukui trip which would bring me back home hopefully before darkness.

With a strong tailwind, everything was going according to plan. In no time I reached Sekidobashi on the Tamagawa and continued along the Akigawa towards Takao station. I have ridden this road now so many times, I wonder why I even bother to write about. As I was late, I decided to skip the break at the Takao 7-Eleven and charge Otarumi immediately. I didn’t planned to go for a good Togebaka time but I also didn’t wanted to slack. And then I saw a Nalsima rider about 200 meters in front (two legs this time) and of course I wanted to catch him, which I did. I stayed behind him for a while as he was going faster with me in his back but when he lost his power, I overtook him and then I saw another rider about 100 meters in front. And I also caught this one, although I was running out of steam. But once in front I didn’t wanted to be overtaken so I charged on until the very end. 15:06 minutes, not my best time but very good for this part of the season. And already after a little bit more than 2 hours on the bike.

There was no traffic on route 20 and going down to Sagamiko was fun as always. As I know the road now well I am going a little bit faster and more risky. Along road #515 / #517 and #412 (Doshi Michi) I continued until the point where one take a left turn at the Sunkus Combini. This time I found the right fork to the spectacular hanging bridge over lake Tsukui and the small and nice road along the slopes of the lake on the North side. Beautiful – thanks to Hiroshi and David to introducing me to this one.

Then it is a little bit boring to ride through Hashimoto and I don’t know where the „tank road“ is. After a little bit more than three hours I took the first break at the 7-Eleven in Hashimoto close to the military ground.
In no time I was on the bike again on Kan-One and continued in direction Tamagawa. I have never seen Kan-One as congested as today – OK, this was also only the third time I rode there. But sometimes there was no speed riding possible as I had to pass lines of cars waiting in front of traffic lights.
Still there was tailwind and some of the downhill parts were fast and finally I arrived back at the Tamagawa. From there it took me another 45 minutes home through Yokohama, going fast on a second power wave.

Overall it was a very fast trip in good weather with very few breaks. When I checked the Ciclo data tonight, I found out that the total trip time was 4:44 hrs, whereas the riding time was 4:29 hrs, meaning I had only 15 minutes of breaks, including traffic light stops and .. everything. 95% of the time out there actually riding on the bike is very good. So I good curious and checked the other two trips I had made, virtually taken the same road [one 3 km exception]. The riding time was 4:38 hrs and 4:30 hrs, so almost identical, however the total trip time was 5:54 hrs and 5:49 hrs respectively. In other words, one hour of breaks more … what a waste of time.

So let’s try to keep the breaks a little bit shorter if we do want to cover longer distances in winter/spring season.

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