Monatsarchiv: September 2009

Where have all the flowers gone?


Put in another long ride today. I started at Hachioji, then moved over to Itsukaichi by Akigawa Kaido and climbed up Umenoki as a warm-up. I thought. This is much too hard for a warm-up, very similar characteristics to the Wada climb: First a slow approach along a river followed by a steep and brutal climb to the top. Much harder than from the North side. Therefore OWI : 1.0.

Along the Yoshino Kaido I rode to Okutama, but then made a turn on route 184 and discovered to my dismay that an identical long tunnel to the one of the 411 road side shortly before Okutama is also existing on the other side of the Tamagawa. Complete nonsense. After a break at the station I gave Yanagizawa Togebaka a try and made it in less than 2:10 hours thanks to the good weather and some tail wind. Being 10 kg less heavy than last year also helps a lot. Please check the Togebaka section.

A quick run to Ensan was followed by …. surprise .. a train ride to Otsuki. Yes, no fruit lines and Sasago horrors today, instead an attack on Dosaka and then home to Hashimoto via Doshi Michi.

A real loop, something that looks like a loop on the map not these balloons with attached strings (as part of the way and return is the same).

Summary: 154 km or riding, 2.800 m of climbing, still massive construction works everywhere and, yes, the absence of Kos(u)mos(u) this year is significant as Tom remarked?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Sag‘ mir wo die Blumen sind …..

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Chichibu Delayed

I wanted to try to get in a big ride today, after rain on Saturday, and hearing about Michael and Domenic’s great ride on Friday.

With an early start, I figured I could do the ride planned for last weekend — and make it to and up the Green Line — or maybe do something like Michael and Domenic … but go a bit further, maybe end up at Karuizawa via the same forest road from 15-20 km South that I enjoyed in July. Despite the best of intentions to ride at or soon after 6AM, some mechanical problems caused me to turn back after less than 10 km to go home and get a temporary fix, and then I ended up riding around near Y’s until after their 9AM Sunday open.
On my way after 10AM, having done plenty of shopping, and installed a new seatpost clamp.

I tried a new way into Chichibu (for me — old hat for Tom and probably some others). Instead of taking Nariki Kaido I made a right turn and ended up going parallel somewhat to the North, on Rte 193, zigged right on Rte 70 and zagged left on tiny Rte 350 — which goes up the valley toward Takedera and Nenogongen.

Rte 193 was a nice alternative to Nariki Kaido — less traffic, and a wider lane with shoulder.

Of course, there were some Chichibu sized „rollers“:
I took a right turn about 7-8 km before Nenogongen and climbed over the next ridge to the North and down to Rte 299, just East of Adano station. I headed East down 299, looking for the turn off for the climb up to the Green Line … until I realized after 4-5 km that I must have started already East of the turn off, and retraced my steps up Rte 299 toward the West.

I climbed up to Takayama Fudo — a temple on the ridge. After a climb through a nice cool forest, the road became slippery, to the point where my wheel spun repeatedly and I needed to walk. The lower climb:
After getting to the temple, at 650 meters elevation (last part VERY steep — reminiscent of Kazahari Rindo — I had the typical Chichibu experience, leaving the temple and still needing to climb UP to get onto the ridge, then traveling on the ridge and climbing UP (complete with switch backs) to get to a higher part of the ridge.

Anyway, there were lots of spectacular views, of ridge upon ridge stretching into the distance, and lots of ups and downs on the road in order to arrive at Karibazaka Pass (818 meters). Then a descent back toward 299 at the mouth of the tunnel, and the climb up to Shomaru Touge, where I enjoyed some quick udon thanks to Sato-san, Saito-san and Suzuki-san at the Okumura Chaya, and then started a long slog home.

The usual boring home ride along the river, with (almost) no natural beauty and (almost) nothing memorable to look at:



A nice 200 km+ ride, with 2100 meters climbing, the last stretch home in the dark to arrive at 645PM. Good night!

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Late Summer Days

Lately I did a lot of mileage by commuting between Yokohama and Tokyo. This should bring me into shape for the upcoming Cycle Messenger World Championship in Tokyo. Actually I like riding in the city as there is always something to see and to discover, as opposed to riding along the Tamagawa or some suburban roads (pachinko parlours on the left, car dealers on the right). But I started missing long climbs.

So Domenic and me agreed to meet early at Ome station and venture out into the highlands of Chichibu and Gunma yesterday. I left the house before 6 AM as the trains to Hachioji are getting very crowded after 7 and I was surprised how cold it was; it felt almost like a day in late October.

Domenic was on the same train when we arrived in Ome and I showed him around. That means, we shopped at Aurore bakery and at the approved 7-Eleven.
Domenic first followed my example to buy a still wa,rm royal milk bread but couldn’t followed my second example to eat it completely within three minutes.

And off we rode.

We followed the standard approach to Yamabushi Toge, stopping at the holy fountain to replenish our water bottles. The bridge next to the small shrine has been renovated and the waterpipe with the holy water has been diverted. Actually, one can not see where the water comes from, theoretically it could also be possible that it is just diverted from the trunk pipeline to Tokyo and not from a natural source at all. One day we have to climb up and check this.

Yamabushi Toge, which we mastered quickly was followed by a fast ride to Chichibu city on road 299, not pleasant but short. We continued then along road 140 in direction Mitsumine and took a short rest at the Laurent 7-Eleven, the last chance to eat something decent before serious climbing was forecasted.

Quickly we reached Takizawa dam and rode up the very impressive loop over the towering viaduct in front of the dam. It has been a while since I rode up there with Ludwig during the winter season, but this time in a very agreeable climate and under blue skies with some clouds as if painted it felt even better.

The road is then followed by a series of new tunnels, constructed 2003, 2002, 2003 and 2001. These tunnels provide easy access to a series of other tunnels which were constructed to provide shortcuts to the existing road which was basically perfect already. There are no villages, no signs of human activities except for road and slope maintenance works until the huge secret mining operations unfolds in front of the eyes of the unsuspecting rider.

Not too many Japanese know this, but from the shafts of this mine, wells are constructed into the belly of the Japanese underworld and since centuries Okonomiyaki sauce is pumped up by ardent workers. A dangerous undertaking indeed and many poor souls died in this effort for the sake of the nation; one can see their graves further up the road and once a year on September 16th, a priest comes and spread katsuobushi (bonito flakes) over their tombstones.

However lately with new trends in eating habits spreading rapidly through the country (Seven Elevens and Maid cafes in particular), the consumption of Okonomiyaki has been greatly decreased and many mines have closed down or reduced operations. This one is the only one still pumping the sticky brown liquid up and distributing it over the secret pipeline network to the downtowns of the two Kans (Kanto and Kansai, that is).

One can still see the old post office where envelopes were sealed and stamps were glued with the help of the sauce and the large wooden dormitories where the workers used to live only 20 or 30 years ago.
The dormitories also looked today like they were hold together by bonito flakes. I tried to convince Domenic that these were a good investment opportunity and probably cheap to acquire. One can convert them easily into luxury apartments and sell them off one by one.

Enough of business, we were there for the elevation meters and steadily we made our way up to Haccho Toge and tunnel at 1,255 meters.. On the top we were greeted by a splendid view of the mountains on the border between Saitama and Gunma.
We then continued to take to same road down to Shigasaka Toge (road 299) and secretly crossed the borderline to Gunma prefecture. Fond memories of my own border crossing 20 years ago lingered in my mind ….. „Goodbye, moon of Deutsche Demokratische Republik, goodbye…“

Once in Gunma, actually a first for me on the bike, we rode along the „whatever“ river on road 462 in direction Honjo. It is hard to imagine, but there are even less people living in Gunma than in Chichibu it seems. We stopped at a vending machine where we probably assured double the summer season income of the village compared to last year by buying three soft drinks.
And finally after many beautiful sights and still below the beautiful Gunma skies we arrived at Waseda Honjo Shinkansen station. While the roads, tunnels and bridges we have ridden so far were completely useless, leading from nowhere to nowhere, the reason why this Shinkansen station was constructed defies every sense of human logic. At least I assume that the huge parking place behind it and the signboards announcing the vague intentions of the urban development board to construct apartment houses there sometime in the not foreseeable future, where erected after the Shinkansen station was finished and not the reason for the construction itself.

A complete mystery that can only be explained by Japanese politics.

As we were wondering all the time by the huge number of construction works. It seems that the LDP cannot wait until the end of the fiscal year in April 2010 to spend the complete budget, but due to the forthcoming change in government has intensified road works by the factor 10 to make sure that all funds are used up before another party takes charge.

A very nice trip in September, with weather like in October and construction activities like in March.
I was home before seven thanks to the Shinkansen network leading me directly to Shin Yokohama. Domenic made it home in time to start his part time job as bar tender in the evening on time.

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Gotham Street Justice for Bike Thief

Felix Salmon, the finance blogger for Reuters (formerly for Portfolio.com) is also a bicycle commuter in Manhattan. His many finance reports are interspersed with occasional adventures of a cyclist in NYC — difficulties getting permission to take your bike up to your office in the elevator and such. Today, he links to a video of what happens if a thief makes the mistake of trying to drill off the lock that is securing a bike messenger’s sole source of livelihood on First Avenue, while the messenger and his friend are enjoying a meal at a nearby cafe.

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Positively Cross!

Guys,

Im in the process of having some decals made of the Positivo Cross. These come with a application sheet and are the same type of decals that manufacturers use for frame graphics or helmet graphics. I will be using it for the later. They are weather proof and will not fade as they are made from polythene and do not require a lamante or laquer over the top, although this will offer an extra level of protection.

The size will be around 30mm * 30mm and will come with application sheet. The Logo will only contain the black and red of the cross with no writing. There is no background colour so backing will be the colour of what ever you decided to attach them to.

If your interested please let me know and the amount you want and I can work out the cost from per decal from there, they shouldn’t be too expensive around 300-500 Yen per decal.

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Brevet anyone?

I signed up for this 400 km ride sponsored by Audax Kanagawa, a „Brevet“ of the type used to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris (next scheduled for 2011). The sign up (via Sports Entry) is easy, but requires Japanese language skills or assistance.

Start is 9AM on Saturday Sept 19, at Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, with an 8:15AM pre-ride briefing. Finish is … no later than Noon the next day, but hopefully much earlier! The route includes some territory we know well (Yanagisawa Pass), but also some new territory for me, going around the West/South side of Mt. Fuji. It looks like there may be some special gear requirements (reflective vest, lights) given that one will be riding well into the night so I’ll need to read the Audax rules carefully … Deadline for sign up is Sept 12 — this week. 2500 yen for non-members (for that price, I expect only minimal support — mostly just checkpoints).

Michael tells me that TCC bulletin board is discussing a similar Brevet in Chiba for October. Follow-up Note: The TCC discussion of autumn Brevets in Chiba is here — and includes helpful information about carrying food, some of the more unusual rules (double tail-light requirement, headlamp on helmet requirement — for 400km+ Brevet and useful to read a map at night), need for accurate odometer to follow cue sheet, etc.

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Chichibu Interrupted

Joined David and Jerome on their Chichibu ride after seeing the Positivo blog posting. Given my lack of mileage this summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my legs. The last few longer rides have been quite tough for me. The Masters Swim program has been very good, I am seeing weekly improvements, it doesn’t do much for power on the bike though. So I set out with some trepidation, not really sure how I would cope with the pace, the climbing and the mileage.

Dominic, David, Jerome & I left David’s house at 6am. We made very good time by setting a fast pace and were in Ome in about an hour and 45 mins. With the Aurore bakery closed at that hour we headed to a [Higashi Oume] 7-11 (Positivo semi-approved; TCC approved) for breakfast and to fill the water bottles.

We set off up Route 53 and made short work of the rollers on the way to the turn off found by Tom recently. Stephen joined us [at the entrance to the Tokyo Hill Climb course] and we were soon on our first climb of the day to 450m, and then onto the ridge. Which wasn’t flat. Tough work, but we were soon descending proper and then beginning our second proper climb of the day [to Nenogongen, at 650 meters+ elevation]. Much to our delight, well, trepidation really, we found the last 300m of the climb to the hill top monastery to be over 22% gradient and even with a triple crank I had to jump off and walk for a few minutes.

We soaked up the scenery at the top, snacked a little then began our descent. Given the gradient, brakes were in use continuously, and it was probably the heat from this that caused Dominic’s rear tire to explode. He did a fine job controlling his bike, especially given the rather nasty drop off into the forest at the side of the road. Unfortunately, in stopping the bike he managed to put a hole in both the sidewall and the main part of his tire. We rallied round with suggestions and soon had it patched up. Unfortunately it was to blow within moments of setting off again. We had to descend very slowly with him – moral support and all that – to the main road, and then to the nearest station [Nishi-Agano].

With Dominic packed off on the train with a stiff upper lip, Stephen decided it was time to head home. I felt the call of a return at this point very strongly, but given our location I thought it was a shame not to soldier on.

David and Jerome led us up another climb, this time with a more manageable gradient. This was in fact a great climb, although as I suspected my power isn’t what it was, but I was able to make a good steady tempo up to the top.

Watanabe-sans Soba restaurant! Positivo approved of course. Although after a short discussion, the Watanabe’s have been renamed Sato and Saito. For future reference. Perhaps one day we might find out their actual names, but where would the fun in that be.

So. How was the soba? Erm, the yakiniku was just great thanks. Genghis Khan special for three hungry cyclists.

Lunch eaten it was time to head home. 650m above sea level and all downhill home. Bloody great riding. The ‚rollers‘ into Oume were quite energy sapping this time round, but we but we blew through and were soon Tamagawa bound.

Jerome and David made short shrift of the headwind and I hung on to their wheels as best I could whilst we sped along.

Stopped at the Tamagawa 7-11 for sugary drinks and a few other items to see off the 30km home. I was struggling big time at this point and I wasn’t looking forward to the last section home. Jerome headed home solo whilst David volunteered to lead and boy, did I need it. Tucked in behind, stuck to his wheel at 30km/h+ as he soldiered into the not insignificant headwind. I thanked him profusely, bade him farewell and the gritted my teeth for the final 10km.

Home at 4:30pm, 2 hours later than planned, but mechanicals are what they are.

180km, 1750m vertical, with 8 hours of riding. Not too shabby.

Garmin connect details can be had by clicking here.

[David L.: I added a few notes above and photos below.]

[On top of the Haraichiba-Naguri Rindo ridge:]

Nenogongen (formally known as OiRinZan-UnDouIn-TenRyuuJi), a 1250+ year old site (founded based upon an event from the year 832 — something about a birth occurring in the year of the child, month of the child, day of the child, etc.).

[Some more photos below of the arrivals at Nenogongen. Jerome was grumbling that a passing driver had pushed him to the side and he had needed to dismount. I actually made it up the steep section! … and all the way other than one brief place after the steepest of it and the last turn, where the road was wet and my tire slipped badly, forcing a brief dismount.]

James smiles near the top (It’s all good!):

Dominic, at this point still on fully inflated tires:

J. Bernard Hinault:
Stephen C.-Roche:

[More photos from the cafeteria at Shomaru Touge (a/k/a „Okumura Chaya“, though operated by Mrs. Sato and Mrs. Saito) — hungry cyclists with gaunt cheeks, and closer-to-normal expressions. Please note that there is now an Italian restaurant within 1 km of the North side of Shomaru Pass, the „Garden House“. Is it Positivo Espresso approved? I think not, at least not yet — we owe our support to Mrs. Sato and Mrs. Saito, for their many kindnesses. They told us that their restaurant has no running drinkable water, then need to fill PET bottles at the spring below Yamabushi and bring them up in their car. So next time you visit, pick up an extra 2 liter bottle of holy water at the spring by the shrine and bring it with you up the hill — a much better training exercise!]



[David L. again: It is remarkable to get in almost 1900 meters of climbing in a ride where one never goes higher than 650 meters elevation. This demonstrates the nature of Eastern Chichibu–lots and lots of steep little valleys, fairly jagged ridges and almost nowhere flat!]

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Click, Click, Click…..BANG!

Over the last 2 weeks a click sound emanating from my bottom bracket has been getting worse and trying to resolve this issue nearly cost me over ¥60,000.

Now any sane cyclist when they here are sound around the drive area of the bike will automatically draw the same conclusion as I did, “The bottom bracket is either lose or need greasing and packing”.

But after doing this twice and still not being able to resolve the issue I decided it was time for Pinarello to take a look at the bike. The mechanic who looked at it I would trust with my life and I was a little shocked at what he did to my beloved Carbon Pinarello FP3.

Putting the cranks in the vertical position, he put one hand on the stem the other on the seat post and his right foot on the pedal, he turns and looks at me with an angelic smile put his full body weight down on the pedal and flexed the frame about 5cm off its centre….before I could protest he flipped the bike to the non drive side and did the same.

Next the forks and bars, which flexed a good 3cm! All the time keeping an air of innocence and calm…. I however was close to creating body count or curling up in a small ball in a corner whimpering. (I think it was the later as I think I blacked out)

But with a few softly spoken words he announced that the frame was perfect, and seeing that the blood had drained from my face patted me on the shoulder and informed me that it would need a lot more than that to crack or fracture the frame. So he went about the bottom bracket before as I had and yet again re-greased and packed the bottom bracket.

Next morning off I went again and within 5km the clicking was back, GOD! Now it’s getting to the point where I am ready to ditch the FSA Carbon Crank and ceramic bottom bracket and shell out ¥60,000 on the Dura Ace 7950 set and then burn and purify the FSA as it is obviously possessed by evil spirits!

So this morning I’m working on the new bike and putting the bottle cages on, half way through I realized that I should put some Loctite on the threads as they have a tendency to loosen up when you are constantly taking the bottle out and putting it back in and decided to do the ones on the Pinarello too. Halfway through the job a friend calls and asks if I can meet him at the station… So as I have the bike ready I jump on the Pinarello and head down to the station… HANG ON!

No clicking and creaking! It turns out the cause of this terrible noise was the bottle cages flexing and rubbing against the frame and transmitting into the cranks. I return home, clean off the debris and grime for the underside of the bottle cages, add some Loctite and a little grease between the cages and the fixing points and low and behold… SILENCE!

So if you have a problem and you can’t fix it… Check the bottle cages, they be evil!

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Sunday ride to Chichibu

Jerome and I will leave my house 6AM Sunday. We plan (subject to amendment, revision, clarification and alteration) to ride to Oume and then into Chichibu. I would like to try the quiet route along Tom’s „brand new“ (well, newly discovered) Haraichiba-Naguri Rindo and head North from it Rte 299, then climb up to the Green Line, along the Green Line to the NW and back South via Yamabushi Touge and along Nariki-Kaido. We could add on Ikusabata/Jerome Hill for the return if time permits. The plan is to be back at Futakotamagawa by 2PMish, no trains.

Let us know if you want to join at the start … or along the route.

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Least/Most Bicycle Friendly Country?

On the Transalp, one of the nice things was how courteous most of the drivers were in Germany and Austria … and only a bit less so in Italy. When they saw a bicycle coming, they got WAY out of the way, not just assuming the cyclist would keep going in a straight line but really wanting to avoid any close proximity in case the cyclist swerved. This contrasts to Japan, where the drivers are generally polite, but the roads are narrow and there is little margin for error. And the U.S., where suburban moms in big SUVs barely notice you in mid-mobile phone conversation as they brush you over onto the edge of the road … but the road may have a nice, wide shoulder.

At least when Lance Armstrong rides around Austin Texas with his friends, the police don’t arrest him, as cyclingnews.com reports happened recently to Walter Perez of Argentina, Beijing Olympic gold medal winner in one of the Madison track events, when he joined a group ride down one of the few „rideable“ streets in Buenos Aires. (Note to self: avoid extended business trip to „B.A.“ — just remember Mark Sanford).

There is no video of the ride itself, but tempers were hot during the arrest.

What is the LEAST bicycle friendly place you have ridden/lived?

David L. added … then there is THIS story from Wisconsin … always watch before you start up when the light changes … don’t assume the car will actually stop just because there is a red light.

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