Monatsarchiv: Mai 2011

Look back in anger

While the Positivo Espresso Japan Chapter was attending the Tokyo – Itoigawa „Race“, all members of the Bremen chapter plus associated friends opted for a start at the Velothon Berlin Race 2011 last Sunday.

It is a good things to have fixed things in life. Just like the seasons are constantly changing, spring-summer-autumn-winter ( a much better and detailed description by Chancy Gardener can be found here), we welcome recurring events that provides us with reference points: Oh, it is already April and I forgot the birthday of my aunt Christa again! (February 28th). Last year in May I had already 4.000 km in my legs! Before the war everything was better and I was faster (Angola Independence Uprising 1976)! When it comes to cycling, my personal reference point was the JCRC Saiko race, held every year in early November close to mount Fuji. I attended that ridiculous race over a whooping distance of 20 km every year between 2003 and 2009. It was always the same: Riding in the grupetto for 19.8 km, then sprint for the finish. My best finish was 14th in 2008, followed by the celebration of the JCRC D class „serise“ champion title 2008. The worst finish was in  2007 when I started under a pseudonym and crashed. Even if you cannot understand Japanese, that shouldn’t be so difficult to find out.

Now living again in Germany, I have the pleasure to have found my reference point very soon: The Velothon Berlin Race. It is May, the weather becomes nicer and I travel to Berlin and stay with Kathrin, Fabian and her family in their posh uptown apartment. Even the Waldorf School scheduled their summer school party to coincidence with the race on the same weekend. Theoretically I could have visited the party as well, but I was there last year where the overall theme was fluffy and soft: No, I don’t mean parents in human lifeforms as lawyers, therapists and CEOs of bio-software upstarts acting awkwardly in corduroy trousers and Levis jeans jackets behind grills, females of all ages, playing recorders (Blockflöte) of all sizes, no. I mean that last year the theme was to sell mobiles, aviaries and other self-made objects made out of wood and wool, whereas this year, according to Kathrin, the theme was wood and metal, which resulted in the promotion of many blunt and brutal objects: battle axes, flails (Morgenstern) and halberds were among the most sought after goods. Fine, but there was still no beer available on the school grounds which prevented a proper preparation of the race.

Another subject about I also wanted to write about and which doesn’t fit into this post as well as in any other: When I was in the catholic Kindergarten in the late Sixties, the one that led me to the catholic primary school Marktfeldstrasse (you know, the one that shared the school ground with a municipal primary school on the other side, having a thick white line drawn across the whole yard in the middle and dare you bloody heathens from the other side to set foot on our scared grounds)….well, in this kindergarten the material of choice were wool and pearls. One of the few things I remember from this time is that for endless hours I worked on doilies and other handicraft stuff. We never ever had a summer party on the kindergarten grounds and to this very day I suspect that the teachers were supplementing their meager income by selling doilies made by innocent children.

Sorry, I got lost in the nooks and crannies of my life.

On Saturday morning at 6:30 AM, after a very long and exhausting week in the office in my new capacity as dean of international business at the HIWL, we assembled our family in Bremen, loaded our team car and headed out for Berlin. The female part of my family headed straight for the skating rink while the male part was dropped at the Brandenburg gate to register for the race. The whole organisation is quite impressive. Many bikes, wheels and spare parts are sold by mobile hawkers to desperate riders who seriously believe that better material would result in better race performance. Here we met Fabian and had French fries (terrible), a proven technique of essential fat-loading before any race.

We headed straight for the Kyllmann-flat of the B family where the kids were ready for the Waldorf school party. Fabian had flown in from Stuttgart in the morning and not content with the exhaustion of the race has chosen to a) sell ice cream at the Waldorf b) to have a rehearsal with his band c) play a gig with his band at midnight and d) manage a team of window cleaners in his apartment among other things. I tried to shift (a) to my son Henri as I believe he should gather some experience with „One Euro Jobs“ in preparation of his adult life but I wasn’t able to convince him.

We fixed all the bikes for the race and then Fabian was out on his rehearsal, so Henri and me went shopping at Bio Lüske, the fabulous  grocery where one can buy bio-bananas and protein bars for proper cycle racings. After that I rode to the Grünewald station to meet Fabians brother Anselm and his vZ friends for the proper Grünewald/Wannsee training ride. I was ten minutes late, but all others were even later. In addition there were some mechanical problems with the bikes (or cleats) and we discovered that Anselms Trek bike double-function as bucket, as it perfectly stores and discharges rainwater.

About  1 1/4 hour to late we finally started to ride. We had a faint idea of where we could go, but we needed some shortcuts to find the proper road. For some reasons we choose to ride on sandy horse trails through the dense forest with our racing bikes. We had one sherpa from Berlin with us, but he also had clearly no idea where we were. Personally I wished that the Berlin wall was still standing to prevent us from riding incidentally into Poland (and perhaps starting a new war). But somehow we found a nice road were many other cyclists were doing the same thing as we did (riding their bikes, of course). We didn’t exhausted ourselves, but when another middle age cyclist tried to overtake us on one of the few hills, we showed him his limits. There are things in life that can be accepted, if they have to, but this one was clearly one step over the edge.

Back home, we had a nice dinner prepared by 1/2 vZ, talked about the best strategies for race preparations and found out that all these preparations should have started at least two months ago so there wasn’t too much we could do now. Henri wanted to see the soccer cup final on TV, incidentally hold in Berlin on the same day at the 1936 Olympic Stadium), so he escaped to the TV possessing figure skating part of the family.
Kathrin asked me, if I would prefer a fluffy, soft and big pillow (Version Waldorf 2010), or a hard, small and long one (Version Waldorf 2011) which double-serves as battle axe for the night. I have stayed in many places but never ever have I been asked this very sensitive question. When it comes to staying at place other than home, two things are extremely important for me: Fluffy, soft and big pillows and showers that emit hot water at high pressures. Thank you, Kathrin.

But even a nice pillow couldn’t make me escape from waking up early the next morning and getting ready for the race. Fabian and me had breakfast, while the rest of the family was still sleeping. We met two of his friends, Christine and Dr. Kongo-Bob (aka as Bernhard R) at the station and rode by train into the city. The train was full of bikes and I had the opportunity to marvel at Christine’s self made Iphone handle bar adapter which I am sure will be displayed at Bike-hacks one day. 

Dr. Kongo-Bob also owned a nice bike, Hercules brand (Hello Günther Sachs!) with Campa components, that was stored for centuries in a container in the jungles of various African countries and retrieved for this race. I wouldn’t trust tubeless tires that haven’t been used for 20 years, but hey, if they survived Lumumba and Kongo Müller, who am I to doubt?

mob, Christine, Fabulous Fabian and Dr. Kongo-Bob (f.l.t.r.)

Fabian, Christine and Dr. Kongo Bob attended the 60 km race that was started early, while Anselm, 2 vZ and me were scheduled for the later 120 km race. The riders are assembled in start blocks along the road (Strasse des 17. Juni I guess) and then led during approximately 200 meters of neutralized race through the Brandenburg Gate guided by roller skaters in front. If not many of them would crash into the pillars of the gate and ultimately destroy it, something that couldn’t been achieved by armadas of T-34 tanks, but yes, modern carbon bikes can achieve that.

I had plenty of time to ride around and take a look at the sights of the city before lining up in the B block. It still amazes me how close is everything and how many famous buildings can be seen in such limited space. For some reason, perhaps because I am a civil engineer by profession, I still like this one best. As engineer of course, we like tragic stories and collapsing new and old buildings.

I rode to Brandenburg gate to cheer up my team mates when they did the first 150 m of the race and still needed any support they can get. I had already designed my supporting cheers:

„Don’t give up now, Fabian! Stay on the wheels of Christine!“ and
„It’s time to slowly prepare for the finish sprint now!“

but I couldn’t found them. After the race they repeatedly told me that they had attended, but still some doubts linger in my mind.

By the way, if you are interested in cycle racing, please start reading here. So far only bullshit.

Riders are divided into start blocks of about 1.000 attendants each by proving the assumed average speed of their ride to the organizers with their race applications. To avoid any misunderstandings: This is not the realistic average speed for this race or any average speed that one has achieved at this race in previous years. This is the average speed that one can write down in the application form in January when one still nurtures dreams of megalomania. Last year I wrote 36 km/hr which landed me in block D (A being the fastest, F being the slowest). This year I noted „faster than the speed of sound“ which brought me in block B. Block A I guess are the „faster than the speed of light“ guys.

These guys are are faster than a speeding bullet.

This time there was no national anthem played so the start of the race caught me somewhat unprepared. Alain Raposo has taught me the proper technique for using elbows and shoving my way to the front. So even with the neutralizing zone I found my way to the front of the B group. Once the race was on, I used every occasion to jump on the fast trains. The speed was awesome, this race was much faster than the D block last year. At some points we were speeding with more than 50 km/hr through the city. I felt pretty good and I was happy to see the head of our group. Definitely we were the first D group so it was now a matter to stay with this group for the rest of the race to achieve an average speed of more than 40 km/hr and stay below 3 hours riding time. Within 20 minutes I identified two or three riders who seemed to have the same performance levels as I believe to have. I kept them as benchmarks, so when I lost contact, I accelerated to bring me back into their range. After 20 minutes or so we entered the Grünewald training ground from the day before and encountered the first small hills. The group was fast in the flats, but on the slopes the speed decreased to 25 km/hr and I had no problems to stay with the fast guys.

The first crash happened to my left on an uphill slope. I guess that a rider got out of the saddle to give more punch, but then the pace decreases for a moment before the punch kicks in then. Other riders behind that were cruising on probably touched the back wheel and crashed then. I was lucky to escape because it happened just in front of me to the left. The guys in front then never get slower so it is important to circumvent the crash site and accelerate immediately in order not to get lost.

But I could close the gap again and was almost in front when we rode along the Drake Street close to the Kyllmann block. I expected to find Kathrin and the kids waving and shouting support from the side, but nobody was there. Instead some drum bands were lined up on the sides of the road and their rhythm led to another accelerating of the about 100 rider strong grupetto. Also not bad. After a while we came into suburban Berlin and the roads got wider and better. Still there were many traffic islands that provided ample opportunities for crashes. But overall at this point I have to say that the B group riders were much better disciplined than the weaker D group riders last year.

After an hour I noted that I got weaker and I was wondering if I could stay with the fast field for the whole distance. We had covered much more than 40 km within the first hour so we were clearly on a good path. Again, one had to be constantly on the alert to stay with the field and sprint to the front when one was at the end. The speed was also very fluid, sometimes the grupeto was moving at 36 km/hr and it was very easy to ride, then suddenly one was moving at 45 km/hr without any clear reason. The constant accelerating and gap closing slowly took it’s toll (missing „Tempo Härte). It was a very similar situation to what I have experienced one week before at the cycling marathon in Bremen where I could survive for 130 km. But here the speed was even faster and my heart rate was frequently above 170 BPM.

After about 1:10 hr we arrived at a roundabout where the street width was very limited. The whole gruppeto alomost came to a stand still at the entry. There was no danger although as the stop was advised well ahead. Suddenly I noticed that somebody hit my back wheel with brute force, but because of the slow speed I didn’t crashed and stayed on my bike. However I immediately noticed that something was wrong with the bike and I shouted in frustration „Hey, who was that as***le that hit me from behind?“ Nobody came forward, I moved to the side and when I inspected the bike, I noted that the rear wheel was completely untrue, not only rubbing with the brake pads but also with the chain stays. Ludwig may recall our very last trip when I tested and destroyed my Shimano Ultegra rear wheel – similar situation. That was actually the reason that I bought this strong, conventionally built, 28 spokes 3 times crossed DT Swiss wheels (in European white !). To no avail: I didn’t had a spoke nipple wrench with me and I could ride on like that. After trying to find out with the organizers where a service station or wagon could be found, I was told that the next one would by about 2 km away in a village called Nudow. So I took my helmet off, opened the rear brake completely and rode on the pedestrian walk with speed of 15 to 20 km/hr. The B field was long gone. Other groups from the C block, then from the D and E blocks overtook me as I continued to ride for about 11 km until I finally arrived at the entry to Nudow. I even saw one of the St. Pauli stealth riders again, that were attending the cycle marathon in Bremen. Perhaps there were even three, but they are so well camouflaged that you can be lucky if you notice even one of them.

In Nudow I stopped at a corner and asked a steward if he knows where the service is located. No idea, please ask the police. I asked the police, no idea as well, so I rode through the whole of Nudow (87 meters) without finding it. Very frustrating. I had lost so much time that by now even not so fit looking riders from the E block had overtaken me. I resigned myself to finish the race riding 20 km/hr when I saw a larger manned post by the end of the village. Again I asked a steward: Where is the service point? He had no idea. Another guy next to him said, but perhaps this guy can help you? Turned out, this was the service guy, positioned with a tool box, a repair stand and a flag with the logo of his bike shop (Stadler) just 3 meters away.

That luckily was a pro guy. He worked very fast with the spoke wrench and had fixed most of the untrueing within very short time. Nevertheless he told me that the rear rim was beyond repair. He trued the wheel as good as he could and re-adjusted the rear brake. At least the bike was rideable again, although the braking performance wasn’t very good any longer. It was clearly dangerous to ride in a group without full control of the bike.

I started to ride again at about 30 km/hr but not very motivated, when a fast F group overtook me. All the fast B to E groups were long gone, so instead of hanging around with the losers and straddlers of these groups, a fast ride with a F group was very much appreciated.

The speed was fast but not too fast, about 36 km/hr average I would guess. Four guys with orange jerseys from team globetrotter were leading the pace and easy to identify. Amazingly during the following kilometers I saw lots of crash victims, ambulance cars and riders lying on the road. As it was very hot, I guess that some of them also suffered from heat strokes. Some of the crashers were lying where the road was perfectly straight, not the typical danger-points such as roundabouts, traffic islands or curves. Strange.

I stayed with this group for the next 40 km or so, overtook hundreds of riders, until we reached the Tempelhof airfield. I looked at my speedmeter and noted that even without counting the breaks, my average speed was down to less than 33 km/hr, so I definitely wouldn’t reach a finishing time of less than 3 hrs. Combined with the strong wind on the runway and the effects of not haven eaten properly so far during the three hours I collapsed completely.

I decided to ride on my own, take some photos and to generally take it easy. I had also back pains. Later at home I noticed that the handle bar had started to rotate in the stem fixation. Normally I ride with my hands gripping the top of the brake hoods. Due to the rotation of the handle these have moved downwards so that my body was positioned much lower than usual. That hurted. So the last 15 km or so I rode at a leisurely 25 – 30 km/hr pace, got overtaken by some faster F groups and some single riders and then I was on the long last road leading to the Brandenburg Gate. 

This is probably the part of the race that I like best. I asked one of the others not so competitive riders to take a photo of me and then rode through the finish, rode through the Brandenburg Gate and then to the event area to get organized. Later I learned that my time was 3:40 hrs, which is about 45 minutes slower than last year. My team mates in the 120 km race started in F and G and finished about the same or faster. At least they had more fun. So in this respect the race was a little bit disappointing. I checked the wheel in the meantime and if I need to buy a new rim, I can still reuse the spokes and the hub so at least I don’t have to buy a complete new wheel. Probably I can do the lacing myself with the trueing stand I have bought, although the rear wheels are a little bit more tricky than the front wheels.

But otherwise it was a very nice trip to Berlin again. Later we sat in the garden of the Kyllmann block, played with the children and reflected about the day. After the stress and the tension of the race it was so relaxed. Obviously it is an important part of cycling to make a physical effort, than do the same spiritual effort to reflect about to achieve a balance of the body and of the mind.

Well, this being said, it is nothing special anyway, just cycling.

Next year, we will all assemble again in Berlin to set a new reference point. I am very much looking forward to the event. Only the Transalp is in the way now. So in fact, this is not a look „back in anger“, but a look forward with much joy. However, site access research has shown that titles referring to popular themes or words provide so much more hits. The most popular PE post is „A tale of two towers“: So, dear students of the dramatic arts, excuse me for luring you onto this site. And start cycling nevertheless.

Sport against violence – Scherz Dental (dental joke): Coolest jersey award
Eisenkampfschweinkader wasn’t bad either.

Just now after checking facebook, I learned that Positivo Espresso member Marek attended the Velothon as well, 60k version. Join us, next time, Marek.

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bremen, Faggin Toppolino, Mob, Rennen

Toms Bullhorn Conversion

Avid readers of the Tokyo Cycling Club Forum might have noticed that PE rider Tom has asked for advice on how to convert his trusted Ti Vlaams workhorse into a solid commuter bike.

The notion of converting a 1.000 €+ bike into something for commuting into the city is hard to understand for somebody who lives outside of Japan. I for example would not leave my bike alone in the streets of Bremen unless it is a) a very old and not good looking bike and b) locked to solid objects by more than three means and c) I am drunk and I don’t care any longer about important things in life. However I fully understood that the parameters in Tokyo are different. In this case I assume that the bike will be stored in Tom’s office under his desk during working time.

The much discussed conversion plans included, among other during plans, a single speed drive and a bullhorn handlebar inspired by Travis Bianchi. Details can be found on the TCC thread.

Unknown by Tom I sneaked into his garage last night and secretly took a photo of the newly converted bike for the sake of the PE blog followers.

I think that the final design is both, intriguing and challenging. The design also provides an option for turning the stem 180 degrees to attend alleycat races in Tokyo.
Good luck Tom, we hope you will survive.

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bremen, Mob, Sex. Lies & Vids, Tom

Rad Marathon Bremen 2011

The first bicycle event ever I attended in Germany was the Rad Marathon 2010 organized by RSC Rot-Gold Bremen last year. I got lost, rode 262km instead of the planned 215 km and finished in nine hours. Yesterday I had another try of this event, that David called so amply „a sprint brevet“.

Well, the good thing about riding events in Germany is, that it is so easy to attend them. No hassle to fill out online application forms and transfer money in sealed envelopes with stamps in three locations. Just be there on time, pay 20 Euro, collect the stamp card and ride to the start line. That’s it. The organizing team, the RSC Rot-Gold Bremen is composed of rather middle-age to senior members, similar to the demographic structure of a village in the mountains of (Northern) Niigata. Apart from the aspect of competition, that has the nice side-features that the wives of the mostly male members were still educated in the fine art of baking cakes, making sandwiches and providing all other kind of extra food that makes life so enjoyable. Many of their members therefore opted not even to attend the races any longer, but stay in the start area, eat and drink and offer encouraging comments to those who dare to race.

I got my stamp card and my „sekken“ (what’s the English word for this, by the way?) and just as last year there was this box with safety pins dating back from the days of the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Damned and Eddie and the Hot Rods. It took some time to find four matching small safety pins that would not nullify the weight advantages I have achieved by pouring hundreds of 100 Euro bills over my bike. As usual in Bremen I started without a front derailleur which is completely useless here. It is more like a left-over from evolution, like the human coccyx is what remains of a tail: It’s perfectly OK to have one, but it hurts when one falls on it and it doesn’t serve a real meaning any longer. I also mounted my standard saddle and got rid off the carbon one which turned out to be a very wise decision, how shall I say…..“ass-wise“? In addition I mounted the new DT Swiss wheels and got rid of the lighter Toppolinos. That turned out to be an even better decision. The braking on Swiss DT alu-rims is just so much better and can be much better controlled than on carbon rims. I wonder why this problem of carbon rims brake control cannot be solved,in general. Obviously – why do people keep up with this abysmal braking control?

For some reason I saw much more nicer and more expensive bikes this year. One reason for that might be, that the weather last year was really miserable and a lot of these nice bikes stayed at home in their stables. But here they were: Two Cervelo S2, one of them equipped with Lighweight wheels in white – Germany is a part of Europe after all and European cycling chic all the vogue. Some Storcks, which is the lightweight brand of choice here. However, it doesn’t make sense to buy an expensive carbon frame and then carry a massive torsion wrench in the back pocket to adjust screws in case of roadside repairs. No. A nice blue steel Pinarello, frame size 65 cm or bigger. Some Red Bulls. Surprisingly not a single Canyon bike.

I was standing at the startline and waited to be approached by some riders from the „Weser-Express Club“. I have specifically posted on the web that I will attend the race and that I can be identified by my red/black Tokyo Cycling Club jersey. I didn’t expected any other TCC rider to attend. But nobody approached me. Did they all bailed in the last minute? Or was this another sign of Northern German shyness and understatement?

Three riders with St. Pauli urban camouflage jerseys were standing right in front of me. Human beings have failed so far to invent the right words to describe the inhibited beauty of their team outfits. I shall not try to make up for failure of mankind so and include the below picture for your own judgement.

No, I am not taking about the threatening looking guys in the back. If you look very closely you will see a pair of orange sunglasses seemingly flying in the air above a small band aid. The rider who wears them can be hardly seen because he is so well camouflaged and his silhouette melts into the road surface. Later during the course of the race I was happy that they rode bikes in shiny colors so that I could identify their position relative to me.

I could indulge any longer in my thoughts as the team organizer mumbled something about „not to crash“, a speech luckily so much shorter than the epic lectures before races in Japan before a line crossing the street was lowered the the race started. While we continued to warm up for about 200m, the speed picked up gradually after that and already at the first (of two) hills, we were crossing the federal highway with more than 40 km/hr average speed. I tried to stay in the first third of the group, knowing that these large groups tend to split in the middle and I didn’t wanted to find myself in one of the slower ones. I even rode in front three times during the first two hours.

The racing was very organized during the first three hours, when everybody was comparatively fresh. Two riders in the front, and then the whole group was lined up in pairs behind. The first two riders rode to the left(the left one) or stayed where they were (the right one) and the group overtook them so that they could line-up in the back. A nice, steady rotation. Once we were out  in the countryside the pace was constantly between 33 and 40 km/hr and my heart rate in the 160 to 170 HRM bracket. It was pretty clear that I couldn’t continue for 215 km.

But I didn’t care. Thinking it over one more time, I cared a lot. Because the decision to give up and leave the group means that one is alone and the suffering and the pain that come as a consequence of this irreversible decision is so much bigger than to try to keep up with the group. The bikes without riders (St. Pauli) were quite fast by the way and they rode in front for the first 5 to 10 km. Also there was a constant pointing out of potholes, obstacles, turns and stops, something that became less and less as the race continued (not the obstacles, but the pointing).

The first checkpoint was reached in much less than an hour and 29 km at the fire station in Bülstedt. (The whole route is here). Last year I lost the group when I put some time aside to clean my glasses. When I finally put them back on my nose, I saw the peloton about 100 meters away and I couldn’t catch up. This year I tried to be the first to get my stamp, took some food and rode alone on the road so that the peloton could overtake me and I could line up again. This worked well and we made good speed to the second control point in Heidenau. I even remembered some of the names of the villages that we passed from last year: „Wohnste“, „Groß-Wohnste“, „Sauensiek“, „Bokel“, words that describe with their sounds already the beauty of the landscape. Or perhaps the beauty of self-designed jerseys. In any case, after 88 km and on the second control point I was still with the fast group, just like last year. This was where I lost contact last year. We continued now to ride into the „nature reserve“ Lüneburger Heide.
File:Lüneburger Heide 109.jpg
The grounds are very sandy here, so that nothing grows but scrubs and weeds. The beauty of the landscape is such, that parts of the nature reserve were used by the British army as a tank range. But even after riding 100t army tanks multiple times over the assortment of scrubs and weeds, the nature has not lost its original charm. This part of the landscape which is conveniently located between the ports of Bremen and Hamburg, should also remind us that we should not complain about the countryside close to Bremen and that we should never attempt to travel to Hamburg. Where, by the way, the quarter of „St. Pauli“ and the soccer club of the same name (18th and last this season) is located. I am proud to report, that the soccer club that I support (no, not Werder Bremen but Borussia Mönchengladbach) achieved an impressive 16th place this season.

We only „touched“´touched“ the Lunebürger Heide as you can see on the map. We ventured inside, made a loop and turned back where we came from, just like an unsuccessful expedition in the 19th century venturing to find the origins of the river Nile. Oh! The horror! The horror!

So far I could keep up with the fast group. After 130 km we came back to Heidenau fire station. Cool, less than four hours but I slowly ran out of steam. Last year I was alone with an older rider at this time of the race. A soup was offered inside and he asked me if I wanted to eat some soup. Sure, I said and I went in. Later, I noticed that he wasn’t interested at all to eat soup and left immediately after I entered the house. A strange kind of humour, I thought.

So I took double care that I left before the peloton, got overtaken and lined up again. By now most conversations have stopped as did the pointing out of obstacles. About 30 to 40 riders were left. Surely there were stronger ones than me, but also for them it was important to save energy. The group had become very unstable and hectic. There was much more braking and accelerating compared to the first half of the race. Once we turned into the headwind and I was very much in the front I had to let go and before I could accelerate again I found myself behind the peloton. But I had done about 138 km with them and that was 50 km better than last year.

I still had more than 80 km to do and being alone I tried to keep my heart rate below 155 HRM and rode 25 to 27 km/hr against the headwind. While prodding on for some km I thought that I am not really a long distance guy. How many rides did I do in all these year with more than 200 km distance? Tokyo-Itoigawa, Sado 210, Yokohama-Hamamatsu and perhaps one or two rides with David, Jerome and Ludwig. Bremen 2010 (and now 2011), so perhaps less than 10 after all. I don’t find it very pleasing even to ride more than 150 km. Still I think the 100 to 150km bracket is the one where I have the most fun and I can still walk and play with the kids after returning home. Hey, when I started to do serious cycling in Hamamatsu in 1998, I was content to do one 60 km loop around lake Hamanakako.

While I was thinking along these lines (and wondering how the Transalp will be), I was overtaken by a group of three riders that have fallen out of the peloton before and they asked me to join. We rotated in the front and kept our average over 30km/hr. So we continued to the next check point at 155 km and to the next one at 180 km/hr. Now there were only 35 km left, or so I thought. Plus we were in familiar terrain again and I would not make the same stupid mistakes as last year when I simply couldn’t find the way home.

So what I did was I let the group move away and at the next crossing, shortly after Quelkorn I took a non-authorized quick turn and continued towards Fischerhude. Here I took the forest rode to Borgfeld. It is a much better motivation to ride roads you know and I felt better and stronger. In the peloton I felt so vunerable .. if an attack would have happened I am sure that I couldn’t have followed. But alone on familar grounds I felt much better.

Once I was in Borgfeld I took another shortcut and reached the finish shortly after the other three men group have arrived. That was good, because I would have had difficulties to explain why I was there earlier without having overtaken them. I think I gained about 5 km by shortcuts. Well that is still much less compared to what I rode more last year so I felt perfectly entitled to do some creative route planning.

I was back after 6:27:29 Hhrs with an average speed of much more than 30 km/hr and 206 km distance covered. Elevation meters almost none. I felt pretty tired, but first I went to the jury and submitted my stamp card. One of the guys took it, take a look and said „OK, that looks good, thank you.“ He than filed my card and left me standing there wondering what would happen next. There was no next. I didn’t even got a certificate or something, nothing. Sorry, why did I got all the stamps in the first place? Another attempt of Northern German humour that is still so difficult to understand.

Never mid, I ordered some of the good looking cakes from the wives of the members. Could I have something to drink? Sure, how about a coffee? No thanks? Or a beer? No, something non alcoholic please. A coke? A sprite? Some orange juice, a green lemon? I thought that lemon sounds nice. It reminded me of a hot summer day when I was riding the east side of Izu with Juliane in the humid, hot weather and suddenly Juliane started talking about CC Lemon. I developed such a thirst for CC lemon in this moment, I would have killed to lay my hands on a bottle of this stuff. So yes, a lemon, perhaps.

Bremen is home to the BECKS brewery, one of the biggest in Germany. They produce beer in green bottles like this one.

A lemon light is a mix between a Becks beer and a lemon soft drink. Still it has alcohol inside:

Basically it is a beer. There isn’t so much alcohol inside, but still I insist it is a beer. Why I got offered this is still a mystery to me. Another attempt of Northern German humour?
Anyway, now seriously drunk and green in the face like a lemon I rode home. Two days later I started cycling again. I am fit now for the race in Berlin next weekend and for the Transalp…we will see.

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bremen, Mob, Rennen

Out with SWB

I had been a while since I have ridden with Bremen’s SWB club.

I started to ride with them last year. Nice guys in principle but not very talkative. Typical North Germans not that fun loving bunch from the lower rhineland to which I belong. But they are fast and always riding in a group with two riders in front and the rest drafting in two lines behind.

Because of the wind direction we rode to Borgfeld and continued to Timmersloh and Wilstedt. Wilstedt has a nice yellow tower in the center that can be seen from far away. First sprint. Then we continued to Vorwerk and took a nice Forest road to Dipshorn and Bucholz before we rode back through Quelkorn and Fischerhude. I didn’t know most of the roads and it is good to know people who can introduce me to roads off the beaten tracks.

I will never figure out all the abbreviations and small roads between Fischerhude and Borgfeld. Today I learned about another one.

These rides are serious. Only two hours long, but without any breaks or any loss in speed, 32 km/hr average. Riding into Vorwerk I was ready to give up, when I had to stay in the draft at 40 km/hr for an extended period of time running at 175 HRM. Only the thought that I need to find my way home alone prevented me from throwing the towel.

At least I had enough power to make the second place at the last hill climb sprint. This is a treacherous slope, leading over the federal highway and adding at least 8 elevation meters. Yes, in Bremen one has to be satisfied with that. Two hours of good training that will keep me fit for the 216 km scheduled for Saturday and the Velothon race in Berlin. I also feel now much more confident to ride in a peloton.

By the way David (L), my uncle told me that we can sleep at his house in Munich the day before the Transalp, no problem. So you stay one night at the hotel and the next with me at my uncles house before we meet Juliane and David and travel to Sonthofen.

It’s getting closer.

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bremen, Mob, Touren, Transalp

Mob’s big box of small wonders

I have started to buy, repair, restore and sell old bicycles just a few month ago, mainly as a hobby to spend the long cold winter days in Bremen doing something meaningful. But even in a few months quite an assortment of interesting bike parts has gathered.

Shimano’s Golden Arrow series, the predecessor from the Eighties of today’s 105 series is one of my favourites. So is the Shimano 600 Arabesque series, which is slightly older and influenced by arabic design elements, something not that much in vogue today. Generally I prefer Shimano over Camapgnolo: Less model changes, cheaper and easier to get and better functionality. „Cheap“ is important, as I repair the components and assemble them on my frames, making a lot of mistakes. So if something goes wrong, I don’t loose a lot of money on the spot. Today, for example, I learned that a 1“ cone for a headset that is mounted directly on the fork can be different depending on the type of fork. There goes another headset.

I bought also some components from lesser know brands. My Lyotard pedals are a good example, my Maillard and Normandy high flange hubs, a Modolo Stem (with the Mosburger Logo) and a very nice ITM stem.

Before I repair, adjust and clean all of this stuff, I keep it in a box which is the big box of small wonders.

Now one of my recent purchases has been a complete set of Shimano 600 AX components.
Shimano launched the 600AX group in 1981 in response to the aerodynamic craze in cycling. In many respects I feel it is the equivalent to the Japanese bubble economy era: Bold, gaudy, baroque in design, expensive looking and not really useful. Take a look at the bottle cage for example: This one is designed for a special aerodynamic bottle that is much higher than wide (not a circular section) so that it offers less wind resistance.

(By the way, if you own such a bottle, please let me know).

Nice. But basically useless. And of course Shimano wasn’t able to set a new standard. The same is true for the crank set. Shimano tried to set a new standard for a new, bigger pedal thread. They failed to convince the world. Today it is extremely difficult to find matching pedals.

In theory this would allow me to completely retrofit a frame with Shimano 600 AX with the exception of head set, bottom bracket and chain, as there were no 600AX parts developed in their cases. Theoretically, as some of the components are in bad shape (rubber hoods of the shifters for example) or not that practical. Take for example the brakes. These are probably one of the most beautiful bicycle brakes ever designed. Some people say this about the Campagnolo Delta brakes but I would disagree, they look comparatively bulky.

Both, Shimano AX and Campa Delta brakes have two things in common: They are incredibly difficult to mount and to adjust and, even worse, they tend not to brake too much.

Here are some more nice components. Some of them I will use to built up two Olmo frames I have purchased recently. These are replacements for the Moser Leader AX evolution frame I wanted to work on some month ago but that turned out to be too small for me. Yes, Olmo is the brand of choice for the time being.

But today the weather is beautiful an daylight until 9 PM allows me to go riding after work and early dinner.

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bits&Pieces, Mob

Sat: Bremen – Dormund 2:0 Sun: Sunshine and wind

My son Henri and me went to watch the soccer game Bremen vs. Dortmund, the new German champion 2010/11 on Saturday afternoon. After being sick for quite a while and under permanent stress to finalize preparations for the audit of the university on Thursday and Friday, this was the first time on the bike for quite a while.

Saturday was beautiful, almost like a day in summer with temperatures up to 26 degrees Celsius. We watched a good game at the Weser Arena in Bremen with thousands of fans from Dortmund clad in their traditional yellow and black team colors. 

There was even a passenger boat travelling down the river full of Dortmund fans, equipped with flags and a huge replica of the champion trophy (sometimes called the „salad bowl“).

Although I need to add that the most happy moment in the game was, when the arena monitor showed that my hometown club of Moenchengladbach won 2:0 as well.

After the game I had time to work on my new Olmo frames. I bought some other beautiful components that I will show later.

The in Sunday I had time to ride my Faggin bike. For the time being this is the only modern bike left until the „Wet White Dream“ will arrive from the paint shop. Again, the skies were blue and the sun was shining on Sunday as well. And there was a very strong wind blowing from the South West. I decided to ride in direction South West first, so that I would have an easier ride home later. I took the standard road to Borgfeld and Fischerhude, than made a turn to Sottrum and Ottersberg and continued almost to Rotenburg/Wuemme.  From there I rode South again through Hellwege almost to Verden/Aller, but making a left turn at Voelkensen and riding back in direction Bremen through Langenwedel and Achim.

For some reasons I had a very high heart rate, I was almost constantly above 160 HRM so after two hours I had to take a first break and I noticed that this type of an-aerob riding has taken its toll. The second part was nevertheless faster as I enjoyed the strong tailwind. Another older, but strong rider came from behind and took over but over the course of some km I could chase him down and when I was finally ready to battle it out he took a different turn in direction of Bremen.

After 4:25 hrs of total time, thereof 3:59 riding time and 110 km later I was back home, just in time to take a shower, take a nap for 30 minutes and help my daughter with her homework. When I came home I had a tune in my head: „Now that we found love“ from a group called „Third World“. The tune popped up in my mind when Runjoo wrote me that she spend her holidays from the construction site in Sudan in Ethiopia, of all places. And somehow I made the connection between Addis Adeba, capitol of Ethiopia and the second Third World album „Journey to Addis“ which I bought a long time ago. 

And still, I like the song. This new cover version isn’t bad either.

The next two weekends will be much tougher: On Saturday the Bremer Rad Marathon 2011 will be conducted, not a race, perhaps similar to a brevet. Last year I attended as well. I guess I will nevertheless only attend if the weather is good. Another race in the rain as last year is no fun.

And the weekend thereafter I will travel to Berlin to attend the Velothon race 2011. Again, I also attended in 2010. A nice race, not too long (120 km) leading through Berlin and surroundings. Including the Transalp, a lot of goals for the near future.

The Faggin at an old gas stand. Note the containers for the 2-stroke engines 1:25 and 1:50 mix. Haven’t seen them for quite a while.

On the journey to Arco. 

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Bremen, Faggin Toppolino, Mob, Touren

45.000 HITS

(Almost) 45.000 hits achieved on May 3rd. For the record. For me personally interesting is the fact, that more than half of the hits were made after I have left Japan in April 2010. Good to know that Positivo Espresso is aliving and kicking on the web. And on the road.

– 5.000 hits from 14.11.07, the start of the site to 26.09.2008, 316 days,
– 10.000 hits to 21.05.2009, 228 days
– 15.000 hits to 18.11.2009, 181 days
– 20.000 hits to 21.03.2010, 123 days
– 25.000 hits to 14.06.2010, 85 days.
– 30.000 hits to 24.09.2010, 102 days
– 35.000 hits to 17.12.2010, 84 days
– 40.000 hits to 25.02.2011, 70 days
– 45.000 hits to 03.05.2011, 67 days

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Eingeordnet unter 2011, Mob