Monatsarchiv: April 2009

As seen in London


The above photo was taken on Shoreditch High Street by Emma Beddard.

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COLOR

It is difficult to find a good book about a subject in which one is not interest at all. At least at first. One good example is „Playing the game“ by Ian Buruma which is even about two topics I am not interested at all (cricket and India) and is nevertheless a very good book, another one is „Flaubert’s parrot“ by Julian Barnes (the life of Gustave Flaubert) . Next in line would be „Color“ by Victoria Finlay, which is even a more fantastic book about a topic seemingly so uninteresting that one takes it for granted: colors and how one makes them to paint, dye and do other things with them.
Every year, when spring comes to Japan, I start to see some new colors of flowers and trees when riding out on my bike. Plum and cherry blossoms for sure, then later camelia (tsubaki), the arrival of Ajisai equals the arrival of the raining season, later than Higanbana and my favorite Kosumosu in autumn, meaning that the nice cycling days will be over any time soon. How could it possibly happen that I developed a feeling for that, being a true engineer by heart. Should I not adhere rather to the different shades of grey, defined by the volume of added fly ash and portland cement in bare concrete surfaces of slope protections?

Anyway, on Monday, when riding out colors in Japan were at it’s best. I started at the Kan One from Tamagawa, where on the left side of the road there is this building which looks like it is experiencing severe kidney’s disorders. Every time I pass by I want to take a photo, every time I don’t want to stop and pull out my camera … is there some way to make good photos while riding without stopping, any hints?
The tank road then was covered by a blanket of fallen cherry blossoms. Then, as usual I lost the way when I try to find the small road to the North of Tsukui lake and instead and by chance I ended up climbing to Shiroyama lake, David has posted about. This is indeed a nice climb and can be easily added to our Sunday routine as following :

MY MAP FOR 20 BEAUTIFUL KILOMETER THROUGH HASHIMOTO

I then found the entrance to the Tsukui lake road and continued along to Doshi Michi and Miyagase lake. After a short lunch at one of the better soba shops there, I started the climb up Yabitsu. The weather was beautiful, the roads were empty but there was a nasty head wind.
I desperately wanted to do a fast time up, which I did, but the best part was that apart from two stretches when the real climb starts, I could feel that I could hold the climbing tension. Especially the last part, from the tea house at the river to the top of Yabitsu was very good and I was exhausted but happy when I reached the top.

Without break I continued the descent to Hadano, then further boring 30 km to road #1 at Ninomiya, through Odawara and then further on to Hakone where I took the second break of the day. It was already 4 PM and I wondered if I should really climb up to Moto Hakone at lake Ashino or if I should give up. But hey, I have given up the idea to combine Yabitsu with road „#20 from Hakone to Atami so many times, that I really wanted to do it this time. Yabitsu and road #2, being the most beautiful cycling roads I know, and the combination of both surely must have been something similar to total cyclorgasm.
Alas, it turned out to be more of a combination of two favorite dishes from my childhood (cherry jam and pickled cucumbers). I was going up slow to Hakone, this took me more than an hour as my legs were heavy after having spend seven hours on the bike already. The weather stopped to be nice. No more blue skies, temperature dropped to 10 degrees and I had my wind breaker even on the climbs. Finally reaching the highest point of road #1, the surroundings were covered in mist. And it is different to climb alone than to have a huge support from the Ekiden crowd like in January.

No time for a break in Hakone, up to Hakone pass where the headwind was even more nasty. Instead of going 40 – 50 km/hr down road 20 to Jukoku pass, I crawled at 20 – 30 km/hr because of the blloody cold wind. Then down from Atami Toge to Atami. Seriously, every time I am going down and I start to have cramps in my hands from constant braking, I wonder how I could ever went up here. This is the OWI 2.0 killer hill, for sure.
I had dreams of arriving during sunset in Atami, but the weather was not like that. Hoped the Shinkansen home, which took, including baging the bike, less than an hour.

A colorful trip with many facets in the end.

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A 1.0 on the open Wada Scale

Yesterday, when I was climbing up Yabitsu and I was going steady and fast despite some headwind, enjoyed the ride and crossed bridges named „Hell swamps“ I wondered: Why are some climbs so easy and some are so different to complete? And the suffering has nothing to do with the distance, the elevation difference and the average gradient.

So I came up with the idea to setup a new unit , which gives a better idea of climbing pain. THE OPEN WADA INDEX [OWI]. An Open Wada Index of 1.0 describes the pain inflicted on oneself while arriving on top of Wada Toge after making a decent effort to chase one’s personal best time. This is of course a highly individual index, but I guess it serves well to compare other climbs to one’s own experience of Wada Toge. Which after climbing many mountains in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chichibu, Yamanashi and Shizuoka, is still one of the more challenging climbs the Kanto area has to offer.

The index is open, because all climbs that are harder than Wada can be rated with a number higher than 1.0 and there is no upper limit for this. A typical Saturday ride by Tom, including more than 250 km of distance, more than 10.000 meter of climbing and passing through various strictly forbidden tunnels, roads and forest fires would perhaps score as high as 30 on my OWI scale, if I ever would be so foolish to undertake such madness.

Here is my OWI rating for some of the more common mountains and hills on our weekend rides:

  • OTARUMI TOGE : 0.80 Not a difficult climb but one has to be faster than 15 minutes and the rest of the pack. Every time. [Takao approach]
  • JEROME’S HILL : 0.82 Even faster. Full power from the start to the end not giving up. I am even more exhausted on top then for every other climb. [Itsukaichi approach]
  • TOMIN NO MORI : 1.10 A very long climb with a very frustrating straight stretch close to the end. [Itsukaichi approach]
  • YABITSU : 0.50 This is not a climb. This is like a weekend spend on a river. {Miyagase approach]
  • MATSUHIME : 0.95 Long, but not unreasonable from Okutama. The approach from the other side would be more in the range of 1.2
  • ATAMI TOGE : 2.00 Rode down yesterday and wondered how I could ever went up this one. An ongoing nightmare in 2005 with Juliane and David.
  • KOBU TUNNEL 1.10 The last climb is OK, but going through the golf club hills is doubling the inflicted pain [Uenohara approach].
  • YANAGISAWA 1.45 Long, long, long through the deserted landscape of Okutama. Not sure why, but not so attractive to me [Okutama approach].
  • SHOMARU 0.85 The first two kilometers are always killing me but once I have found my rhythm this goes quite well. The end is also always more far than one thinks. [Hano approach]
  • HAKONE 1.60 Still and after all the years, one of the most difficult climbs I know, also due to the traffic congestion and the gradient [Odawara approach].

As one get better, faster, develops more stamina, the OWI does not change if the roads are regulary experienced. If not the memory is playing tricks: One of the hardest climbs I regularly did was a small hill on the coast of lake Hamanakako close to Hamamatsu, where I rode my 60 km laps in 1998/99. This must have been a climb of perhaps 30 meter elevation gain, otherwise the lap was more or less dead flat. But still, this hill was killing me, so thinking back about this time, I would easily award it with an OWI of 1.0 or more.

But last year I was riding in Hamamatsu just for fun and I didn’t even notice the hill.

So, what are the Toge of Kanto with your lowest and highest OWI?
MOB experiencing an OWI of 3.0 in front of an enthusiastic crowd at one of his first solo races ever in Ashigara [dead flat course].

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David Almighty?

Well, maybe not. And my climbing is certainly no faster than in the past. … but I did at least feel almighty cycling on spectacular roads on Saturday that were entirely closed off to traffic (until late April, I might add).

If you’ve ever seen ‚Bruce Almighty‘ with Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston, you may remember that, when God (Morgan Freeman) bestows Bruce (Jim Carrey) with his powers for a week, one of Bruce’s first acts is to clear a path through the cars for his commute, a kind of „part the waters“ adaptation, very Old Testament. So I needed to ask myself, how had I managed to make all the cars disappear? (Bruce also makes his dog pee in the toilet in their apartment, and miraculously expands Jennifer’s chest size, … before he starts trying to listen to other people’s prayers and the movie takes some predictable turns and goes downhill.)

Of course, for me it was just the delightful Japanese desire to stick to schedules and plans even when reality suggests an alternative approach. Here it was the most glorious day of the year imaginable, and roads were closed for „winter.“ After riding to the Chuo Line and hopping the train to Otsuki, I rode Rte 20 up to the SE entrance of Sasago Tunnel, then turned onto the old road for the climb up to Sasago Pass and the old tunnel (elev. 1095 meters). About half way up a road with suspiciously few (no?) cars, I found this.


At the top, based upon posts by Tom S. in past years, I was prepared for an eerie, haunted tunnel, deserted except for ghosts of samurai past. … Instead, I found a remodelled tunnel with a smooth surface, completely dry, and with a few hikers at either end. Still unlighted, and so would be very, very dark at dusk.


After descending the other side toward Kofu/Koshu and Rte 20, I found the climb up the Hikawa (Day River?) toward Kami-Hikawa Dam and Kami-Hikawa Pass. Again, I eventually arrived at a gate that blocked the road. This is what I faced at the parking lot near the top (approx elevation 1600 meters — Ludwig/Tom territory!!!):


Pretty much everywhere on the lower slopes were sakura in full blossom, obscuring the view of the trucks coming out of the NW end of Sasago Tunnel at Kai-Yamato.


My bicycle looked very content, resting under the blossoms at a view point on the long climb:


The climb from the South to Kami-Hikawa is long and at times steep, but the grade is variable — nothing Wada-like, at least not for very long. But it was getting hot without much shade for some stretches, and my right ankle was in some pain (minor sprain last weekend — unnoticed from normal activity but very much noticed during/after these climbs!). I felt I might be experiencing a kind of alerted, distorted perception.


But I did make it up, above the earthen dam and reservoir, and down the other side, which is steeper — a road stapled to the side of a mountain as you descend from 1600 meters to 865 meters where you join Rte. 411. The descent also was behind closed gates, with NO TRAFFIC.

Just above the junction with Rte 411 (which goes UP to Yanagisawa Pass, and DOWN to Enzan), I stopped for udon and an opportunity to wash hands and face.

I thought for a few seconds about turning right and heading up to Yanagisawa … but realized I would be riding home to Oume in the dark, and that my legs did not have much left anyway, and so descended toward Enzan. At around 550 meters elevation I found a turn off (barely marked) for a road along the edge of the hills toward Katsunuma and Kai-Yamato. I took that very nice road, past fruit orchards and flowering trees, until it turned into the official „Fruit Line.“ I made it to Rte 20, then backtracked to Katsunuma Grape [Capital] Station (Katsunuma Budou-kyou Eki?) and took the train to Tachikawa, riding from there home.

On Sunday, Jerome and I started at 7AM, rode via Oume (Aurore) and Okutama-ko, over Matsuhime and back to Sarubashi. After stopping for lunch at the traditional restaurant, next to the old bridge, we hopped on the train to Hachioji and rode home from there – back by 5:10PM. Jerome had fresh legs, I did not, but it was good to make it up Matsuhime on another glorious day.

Jerome wore his new NFCC kit, complete with jersey, bib shorts and wind vest. In Kosuge, he found himself riding down a street lined with sakura — one of many we passed.

We met a couple, Takahashi-sans, who said they live in Okutama, and so they can cycle these areas only a few minutes after leaving home. We passed them on the climb up to Okutama-ko. They passed us when I had tire trouble. Then we passed them as they must have stopped at the lake. Then they passed us as we filled our water bottles near these Sakura. … and we chatted a bit. They headed up the hill first. Then Jerome. Then me. I did pass Mrs. Takahashi at about the 1050 meter mark, as she had gone too fast on the lower slopes and run out of gas temporarily. She did make it up, and here is a picture of the happy couple at the summit.

A great day of cycling for all!

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TRANSALP TRAINING TIPS

for those of you worrying about getting in shape (pear is a shape remember!!) for the summer, take a leaf from the training manual of a transalper. Caught here by an undercover photographer sent to spy on the secret training camp in Malta. Total commitment!

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C A R E

Laurent has started a charity project for the benefit of CARE and asked me for our support and to spread the word:

"I am trying to raise as much money as possible for specific projects run by CARE International. CARE is a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty through education and training to encourage self-help, social inclusion and economic opportunity. CARE also delivers relief in emergencies.
Some of you receiving this mail know that Societe Generale is partnering with CARE on 3 concrete projects in Peru, Mali and Bangladesh.

I have decided to actively raise funds for these projects by entering a fund-raising bike ride from Paris to London organized by SG in June (NB: We'll get on a boat to cross the Channel between France and the UK. I'm not planning to cycle under water, and the guy who used to part the seas isn't around anymore!). I think I will be the only participant from Asia and I am counting on a lot of support from friends in the region and elsewhere.I would also like to start an SG Asia team for future years!

You can help me by contributing financially either directly to me, or via my website http://www.aiderdonner.com/laurentdepus You can also help by promoting this around yourself, to your friends, colleagues and family. Please help me reach as many people as possible.

It takes only a few minutes and every contribution counts.The integrality of your donation will be delivered to CARE. I and SG will cover all the expenses of the event itself.

I started yesterday with a 1000 EUR target but from the wonderful and immediate response of many people, I will be able to increase this target very soon. The sky's the limit.

Thank you in advance for your support!"

http://www.care.org/

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Hat Trick

Triple Crown, Hat Trick, Three Strikes (I hope not), Gold/Silver/Bronze, Win/Place/Show, 3 point shot, 3-point field goal, 3 time loser, whatever, … events that include a series of „3“ have always had special significance in the world of sport. So I was delighted to get in 3 rides over the past 3 days.

— Friday morning, Jerome and I played hookey and left very early (6:45), went up the Tamagawa and then took Yoshino-Kaido/Oume-Kaido to Okutama-ko and rode to the far end of the lake. We were thinking about going back over Kazahari, but Jerome was suffering after effects of his no-training marathon run. We turned around and parted ways at near Tachikawa. I hopped a train and was at the office just after lunch. With the commute home at night, 160 km riding … and an unusually high (for me) average pace up to Okutama-ko and back to Tachikawa (approx 29 kph — some light, but favorable winds?).

–Saturday, Michael and I got a late start (ended up meeting at 9:30AM at the Kawasaki side of Tamagawaharabashi), went out Onekan-sen, along Tsukui-ko forest road, out to Sagami-ko and Rte 20 to Uenohara and Sarubashi. We started the climb to Matsuhime Pass from the South, but parted ways at around 650 meters elevation, as I needed to turn back in time for the train from Sarubashi to meet my „mongen“ (Japanese for curfew — in this case, a scheduled telephone conference instead of the usual spouse-imposed limit). My legs were anything but fresh — I think I pushed too hard on Onekan-sen! I got a fast train to Tachikawa and rode home from there — 140+ km.

[mob’s note]

After David and I parted on the approach to Matsuhime, I continued to climb to the top. This is a long climb of more than 20 km and 900 meters up and all in all it took me more than one and a half hours to complete it. It was the first time I did Matsuhime from the South side, except for an abandoned try with David and Tom after the great Tamagawa floods in 2007. One can see from below the road winding up in endless serpentines and it is quite discouraging.

On the way down to Kosuge a light drizzle started which I choose to ignore. I told David that, if I feel OK I would give Kazahari a try. Well the weather situation was turning for the worse, I felt so lalala and it was getting late. So, what to do? Kazahari, of course, I needed some topic to blog and brag about at the next Davis Planning Meeting.

The light drizzle continued until elevation 800, when it became a very heavy drizzle and then, at app. 850 meters, it turned into full scale rain. I hadn’t packed even a windbreaker so I was getting wet fast. I hoped though that either I might climb over the clouds at Kazahari and/or that the weather would be better on the other side of the mountain. In any case I was very motivated to ride up fast and this is what I did.

Neither was the case, I descended in the rain and the rain and drizzle continued down to elevation 400 meters. Then the roads were dry again.

I stopped at the 7-Eleven (the other one, you know) and bought, among other things:

– a T shirt size LL
– a pair of socks 25 – 28 cm
– a towel
– packs of self-heating adhesive patches

At Itsukaichi station I undressed, put my wet clothes in the bike bag and covered my cold body with warm patches as best I could before jumping on the train home. 175 km. 2,700 m of climbing. Much money spent on clothing.

–Sunday morning I dealt with other matters, then headed out around 1PM. After a conversation with Laurent who I had not seen in quite awhile, I again headed out Onekan-sen.
Just before Tsukui-ko, I turned north off Rte 413 and climbed up to Lake Shiroyama and Hon-zawa Dam.

This is a very nice, quiet road and short climb through woods and with views over Tsukui-ko to the Southwest. The top of the climb is around 300 meters elevation — 80 meters higher than the hill we usually ride along on the North side of Tsukui-ko.
It has the disadvantage of being a „dead end“ to the West — no way to keep going Westward out of town without coming back down.


But it is a great option for a shorter ride out of town, and there is another way down the hill toward the East/Northeast. The lowest stretch of the road needs repaving, but once you get into the climb it is a smooth, deserted road. This would be well worth „repeat“ climbs (2-3-4 times in one ride for training), with more variation in the grade than some other really short climbs.

If others try and like it, perhaps it should be added to the Touge-baka? It is a detour that could easily be added on to half-day (or less) rides. This new discovery, plus the beautiful Cherubim bicycles from Hashimoto shown at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show earlier this year, make me think that I may have underestimated the charms of the Tsukui-ko, Eastern Sagamihara, Machida, and Hashimoto (which I believe I previously referred to as „the armpit of Kanagawa Prefecture–located amidst endless suburban sprawl).

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Positivo

‚FASSA BORTOLO‘ ex-pro mechanic Nagai-san owns and runs the best bike shop in Tokyo – Positivo

The Cervelo went today for a little TLC and a compact crank..

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POSITIVO ESPRESSO 2009 SEASON TEAM OUTFIT

After a longer break and some communication with F2P I finally found the time (and the renewed pleasure) to work on the Positivo Espresso Team Outfits for the 2009 season. F2P pointed out some inconsistencies in the designs which I corrected. I tried to address as much as possible the comments from the riders that have been forwarded.

So here is the latest design for the short sleeve jersey.
There was much more interest for the short sleeve jerseys than for the bib shorts, so I am intending to make this the main item for 2009. F2P also agreed to reduce the required minimum lot size, therefore we can finally start the production if everybody is OK with this design. I would like to add some comments

  • The main colors (orange, light grey and dark grey are the same as for the 2008 design)

  • These colors are also matching with the colors of the bib shorts, so 2008 jerseys can be worn with 2009 bib shorts.

  • There has been a long discussion about the slogans on the back. In the end I concurred with some of the opinions expressed, that SLEEP. DRINK. EAT. RIDE YOUR BIKE. is somehow the established vision of Positivo Espresso and should be included on the back.

  • I still like the Japanese[The light is red – but / if we all cross together / it won’t be scary] but I can also understand that there are strong feelings against it. I left it on the jersey, but minimized the size and put it on the collar. This has also the advantage that you can not read it in it’s entirety – which makes it some kind of secret message.

  • We will have a full length zipper on the front.

  • The general cut will be not PRO CUT but FUN CUT which seems to be more suitable for the majority of the riders that would like to have a new jersey.

And here is the latest design for the bib shorts.
Please note that only the orange part can be printed. The design is more or less as the first one. However, I have removed all Positivo Espresso logos except the one on the lower right leg, as we have more than enough logos on the jersey.

I liked the comment about the ladybug very much and included one on the back. This one is then called „Shingomushi“ in Japanese, meaning „Traffic Light Insect“, or, if written with different characters „Ignoring Traffic Lights“.

I will send an e-mail to all riders who expressed their interest with some more details. In case you are interested, but you didn’t got a mail, please let me know. You can also order a jersey if you are not a member of Positivo Espresso. We will also discuss the jerseys must likely at the „Davis Touring Planing Meeting“ on April 14th. That is, if I am allowed to speak up.

If there is something you would like to comment on the design, please let me know.

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Cent Cols Challenge


The Cent Cols Challenge involves climbing 100 Cols in ten days, cycling nearly 200 kms per day with an average of 3,000 metres of ascension on each stage. The first edition will be held on the 13th-23rd September 2009. The intention is for this to become an annual event. It will be held in the French Alps for the first three years. Thereafter it will be held in different mountainous regions for three years at a time.

Crikey.

Unfortunately it’s SOLD OUT. Phew!

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