Archiv der Kategorie: James

Jimmy from Azabu


James Knott, auch bekannt als „Jimmy from Shinagawa“ oder nun eigentlich „Jimmy aus Azabu“ nahm an einem Bike Fitting Kurs von Retül University in Kamakura teil.


Würde ich das auch gerne einmal machen? Vielleicht. Auf jeden Fall hätte ich gerne eine klassisch aussehende Urkunde, die ich mir repräsentativ irgendwo aufhängen könnte. Ach egal, ich bastele mir das mit Photoshop.

via Jimmy from Shinagawa

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Eingeordnet unter 2012, Freunde, James, Mob

A Very Good Cause

Next month two of our very own, James K. and Dominic H. will be riding in this year’s Etape du Tour, a mountainous stage of the Tour de France which is open to amateurs. The ride is 174km (108 miles) long with 4,000m (13,123 ft.) of climbing. It finishes on the top of the legendary Col de Tourmalet.

They are raising funds for the Tyler Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to support children with cancer in Japan and their families by improving quality of life during treatment and by ensuring a smooth transition to normal life after treatment.

If you’re able to help them, please visit this link to the event and click on one of thier names.

Please note, the currency quoted on the website is Japanese Yen. The current conversion rates are about Y91/$, Y121/GBP and Y109/Euro.

Donations may be made by wire transfer in any major currency to Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ in Tokyo or via Paypal.

Here is the link for the donations:

If you are based in the USA or are a US tax payer you can benefit from US tax exemption by making a US dollar donation to the US branch, „The Tyler Fund“ which is under the 501(c) 3 tax-exempt umbrella of the Pittsburgh Foundation. To receive a tax exempt „receipt“, US dollar donations must be made with a credit card, cheque or bank transfer to the Pittsburgh Foundation.


Please be sure to indicate „The Tyler Fund“.

We believe strongly in this cause and would appreciate help you can give.

Thank you and best wishes,

James and Dominic

To spread awareness please feel free to copy this entry to you blog, facebook, twitter, linkedin or any other media as this really is an amazing cause that is in need of funds, 100% of what you donate goes to the charity as both Dominic and James have paid 100% of the entry fees, flights and accommodation completely out of their own pockets!

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James

Leave him a message, I dare you~!

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James

Tunnels, Ice and Snow

A little bit late perhaps, but I don’t like to miss the chance to report about the ride of the splinter group on Saturday after saying Sayonara at the Doshi-Michi / Yabitsu Entry. Ice and snow will play an important role so as fallen trees.Well, while Jerome, James and Dominic were happily chatting and riding in direction Yabitsu, our social ride came to a sudden end when Ludwig, Fumiki and me continued on Doshi-Michi in direction Yamanakako. As usual Ludwig picked up the pace and Fumiki could easily follow him, while I was taking a more „legere“ approach. Sometimes Ludwig stopped along the roadside to stretch his back or do the opposite with his bladder and so I could close up again.All around us was snow and there was a lot of water on the road, sometimes flowing downwards on the slopes which we were riding up, giving us the impression that we were very fast if compared to the asphalt surface.But soon we had climbed up to Yamabushi Toge, the last pass before Yamanako lake and then descended on the other side. Meanwhile the accumulated water on the road and the additional spray we have received from passing trucks and cars had completely soaked our socks, legs and behind with water. That felt pretty miserable but as hardcore cyclists our codex didn’t allow us to show our feelings completely, so we continued in direction Kawaguchi Lake and Saiko.Saiko was very silent unlike the JCRC racing day in November when I usually go there. As this might have been the last time to see the lake, I went to our favourite hang-out at Cafe M and said good-bye to the owner. We then continued to the next smaller Fuji lake (I forgot the name) and then took road 706 to the North in direction Kofu. This leads to a long tunnel first and the approach to that was looking like the swamps of Louisiana. And then we had a classic Ludwig comment which I would like to preserve for the blog readers:

Ludwig : „These are the worse road conditions here“
Me (assuming that Ludwig knows the roads ahead) : „It will not get worse up there?“
Ludwig: „No idea, these are the worse road conditions SO FAR.“

I can imagine the spin-off of these words for future club-rides. Imagine riding over Otarumi to Kobu Tunnel, Kazahari, Matsuhime, Dozaka and Yamabushi to Yamanakako while stating on the top of Otarumi:

Experienced PE rider: „This is the worse climb.“
Newcomer (thinking): „Oh great, the worse is over.“
Experienced PE rider: „Well,so far“
Newcomer (thinking): „..sigh…“

Of course it wasn’t by far the worse to come, but before we come to that we experienced a beautiful downhill ride from the tunnel at elevation 900 to elevation 400: Wide, curvy roads, nice slopes, not too much traffic allowed us to ride in the most enjoyable 40 – 60 km/hr bracket.

Then we stopped and discussed whether it would make sense to continue on road 358 through the long tunnel to Kofu or climb up on old road 113 (in use before the construction of the tunnel) to 右左口峠 (Right-left-entry pass). Of course I opted for the Right-left-entry-pass as I was eager to add more passes to my list and I desperately wanted to paste some Positivo Espresso stickers on the top.

So we rode back the road a little bit, then entered road 113 and were immediately greeted by a barrier to discourage normal human beings. Behind the barrier were some fallen trees on the road. Again, this might be discouraging to normal riders but for me it is like that there is the ghost of the road standing next to the barrier with a megaphone in his hand shouting „Ride me, ride me“. Or „Roads shouting: ride me ride me“ (RSRMRM) in reference to a long forgotten Japanese punk rock group : Seagulls shouting: kiss her, kiss her“ (SSKHKH).

I could convince Ludwig and Fumiki that these trees had not fallen down there by chance, but that they have been intentionally placed there by the locals to discourage powerful cyclist such us as. So I crossed over and was greeted by another barrier of trees (perhaps not intentionally placed) and then by another and finally the asphalt surface ended and then a small gravel path was all that was left.I was some 20 meters ahead as I was scouting for the way when Ludwig and Fumiki tried to convince me to give up. But I didn’t budged so they rode back to the tunnel while I moved along. Meanwhile I still had 190 meter elevation to climb and the surface was now made of snow and ice and landslides. So I couldn’t ride up but needed to walk most of the time. A terrible thought stroke me: „What, if this isn’t the road up to right-left-entry-pass?“ Because I had fully relied on Ludwigs guidance, we haven’t seen any signboards at all. And while I was sneaking up through the snow, already with a pretty empty stomach I wondered if this was really a good idea.

In the end I made it up to the top (naturally, who else would write this stupid post?) and there was the signboard indicating that this would be right-left-entry-pass indeed. I made some photos and then I realized that I had just climbed up from the village 上九一色、the famous hideout of the Aum-Shinrikyo sect who launched the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. In this place they established their secret gas-factory which, if I remember correctly, was called DAI-7-SATIAN (Meditation place number 7). When working for Schindler, we used to call our headoffice DAI-8-SATIAN all the time in reference. Well, that was close and despite standing freezing with wet socks and trousers plus empty stomach on top of a lonely hill in the middle of nowhere I was glad to have escaped such sinister place.

Now going down, would be a breeze I thought. Well, it is not easy to ride through the snow. In particular if you are going down and the snow and dirt clogs the brakes so even if you pull the levers fully to the handle the braking effect is virtually none. Well, I know know there is a reason for v-brakes on MTBs.
I ignored that however most of the time and before long I had a flat tire and when I checked more closely I also had lost a spoke somewhere (no idea where).
So in view of the road conditions I decided not to repair the tube as I had only one exchange tube, but walk down until I meet a decent road and then exchange the tube. This was again an endless walk through ice and snow. Sometimes footprints were on the trail, but as bears do not wear sneakers, I assume that they were made by human beings.

Finally I found the road, repaired the tube and rode for about a kilometer before finding a 7-Eleven and filling up with food and drinks. Ludwig and Fumiki have long arrived at the station in Kofu and were on their way home. They were so kind to call me from the station. After a seemingly long and boring ride free of obstacles through Kofu (I was by now so used to fallen trees and gravel road that a ride on a straight and flat four lane semi-highway seeming extremely boring) I finally arrived 2 hours later than them and took the express train home as well.

It was a very adventurous trip and I am happy to report that I have survived. Please don’t tell my family about it and my apologies to Ludwig and Fumiki for my stupid insistence to go up that road.

Of course on the following Wednesday I made something similar stupid, but this will be the subject of another post.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James, Jerome


from right to left : Deej, Clay, Yair, Jules, two unrelated riders, Setsuko (perhaps)
No Davids in sight. Also no slot machines.

When we planned to organize a classic ride on Sunday, we didn’t know that this would draw the biggest group in team history. And for some reason it comprised of only one David, actually the original one, now with beard. And, of course it became an undisciplined, unorganized „recovery“ ride in the typical fashion of our team.

I woke up early in the morning still with very heavy knees as a result of the 200 km trip the day before with Ludwig where we circumferenced the Hakone mountains. Already on the way to the meeting point at the Tamagawa I noticed that I could barely ride 30 km/hr in the flat, neither force my heart rate to go over 155 BPM. But not to worry, as this was an official Positivo Espresso „recovery ride“. So I expected some fast pace along the Tamagawa until everybody burned out and then a leisurely ride up to Otarumi and Tsukui.
Well I arrived on time at Tamagawahara bridge and already a large crowd has gathered, not only the usual Positivo suspects such as David, Jerome, Dominic (David), Bryon, Yair, James (David) and Michael on his Cervelo with new Shimano Di-3 (this is an upgrade from Di-2 which includes a small electrical assistance motor, invisble to the human eyes), but also Fumiki and his friends „Ko“ and „Sho“ (together they ride under the name 故障) and Deej and Jules from the TCC. I was tempted to collect participation fees and ride home (150 Yen for PE members, 15 million Yen for first timers) as a free and rich man.

And while I was talking with Fumiki as he casually mentioned „Everybody’s riding already“ and I turned my head just to see our group taking the first bend at the horizon. So we had to hurry up and chase behind the peloton. It was impossible to catch up as everybody in the front group pedalled as fast as they could and there was a strong headwind that we had to overcome. Finally at the bridge after Sekidobashi we caught up but at this point we have lost already Bryon and either Ko or Sho, not sure. The tempo was just murderous for me and I was looking forward to the point where everybody would relax; this was supposed to be a „recovery“ ride.

We then rode the usual road along the Asagawa where we encountered a dispatchment of stormtroopers or perhaps baseball kids and where we left a mildly negative impression on the local population. Little girls were graping there teddy bears tightly and small boys looked up to there mothers, saying „Mama, when I am big I want to become a foreign bicycle rider.“ „Rather I will set fire to the house and kill the whole family.“

We somehow made it to the Takao 7-Eleven where we re-grouped and linked up with Tom, Hiroshi, Nishibe and Clay from TCC. To the neutral outside observer we must have looked like a very fast group thanks to the strong additions from other teams.

I spoke with Jules and he asked me „Are you the guy with scars all over your leg?“ How did he know? Where my lovely deadhead-diapers lurking out from the bib trousers? But I agree, scars on the legs are even cooler than shaved legs. And they hurt more. But the part of my body that hurts the most was my behind, as I did more than 400 km of cycle riding the last five days. I will refrain from posting pictures here.

Then we started the Otarumi TT and even before the official starting point Tom, James, Deej, Clay, Hiroshi, Fumiki and Jules went off like rockets while I stayed with Nishibe, Yair and David in a second group, followed by Dominic, Ko, Michael, Jerome.

On the top of Otarumi we took a group shot to document this historic event (more riders then average blogviews per day in 2008).

From there on we continued downhill and then took the classic turn to Tsukui lake. All of this still at very high speeds. Things became a little chaotic. I guess all of us took the left turn at the Circle K that leads to the Tsukui North road, but then not all of us went along the North side and definitely many lost track when we rode into Hashimoto. David proposed to ride his favourite backroad shortcut and I was hanging on for dear life, as I had no idea where I was and in case I got lost, it would have taken me days to find the way back to Onekan.

Somehow we managed to re-group at the Starbucks 7-Eleven at Onekan, but in the process we had lost Tom, Michael and Dominic who rode home on their own.

Deej, Clay and Jules started first on the Onekan, followed by Jerome, me and the rest of the pack. Just a few hundred meters behind the tunnel we saw Deej who was screwed. No, I don’t mean that he was bonking, I mean, to be precise, that his tire got screwed by a app. 20 mm wooden screw, NiCr plated, judging from the look, probably made in China. After making sure that he was OK and had everything he needs for repair we continued along the Onekan and at one point I met David and Fumiki again while finally continuing leisurely with James along the Tsurumigawa home. Fumiki said that he enjoyed the ride-out but that he would now ride into the mountains to do some more serious things.

At least the last 20 km or so I had the feeling of a „recovery“ ride.
So I guess it is time to propose two or three things here to „avoid confusion in the market place“ (the most favourite quote by Japanese business executives when a company/competitor starts to do things differently than before):


Well, the Cervelo Test Team is called so because in addition to racing, it also fulfils the role of testing the Cervelo bikes under severe conditions. We do not belong to a bicycler maker (well, Prolite, perhaps), and therefore we are not testing any bikes. But we constantly test the well being, patience, nerves and physical composure of all team members and therefore we rightfully deserve the name „test team“.


Recovery Ride – As opposed to the common understanding of a recovery ride in standard cycling, a Positivo Espresso recovery ride is defined by the fact that most of the riders attending, will be recovered sooner or later from the roads by firefighters, ambulances or archaeologists eventually („Hm, high BMI index and DuraAce 7800 group set – probably an investment banker from the early 21st century I would guess.“). The average speed will be ridiculous high and climbs can be long and painful. However, regardless of distance and elevation, a recovery ride must include a statement in the official announcement that it will be finished in the early hours of the afternoon.


Again, if it comes to organisation of rides and freedom of individual members to do what they please, Positivo Espresso is second only to Bakunin. I understand that some of us are not happy with this and I can understand their point of view. On the other hand, the quest to get our unorganized, undisciplined team changed, i.e. to ride organized, perhaps even in a paceline (!) and stay together has been undertaken by many brave souls and not led to any success so far. I also feel that I am lacking the divine powers to change this. So perhaps it is more important to change expectations. An organized rides, in Positivo Espresso fashions means, that we meet in a somewhat organized fashion.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, David, Hiroshi, James, Jerome, Mob, Nishibe, tcc, Tom

PE Half-day Otarumi Classic a.k.a. BARABARA JITENSHA JIKEN !!

Thanks everyone for joining this morning’s ride & thanks MOB for having organized/coordinated this !

Screwed up the self-timer…apologies!! MOB, hope yours turned out OK….
(„Framed version“ of this pic here)

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Eingeordnet unter David, Hiroshi, James, Jerome, Mob, Nishibe, tcc, Tom

Sunday Feb 21st Classic Ride

I am thinking about doing the classic Ebisu – Tamagawa – Otarumi (Takao) – Tsukui North Lake – Tank Road -Onekan – Tamagawa – Ebisu ride this Sunday.

07:00 000 km Start Ebisu
07:30 010 km Meeting Point 1 : David House
08:00 020 km Meeting Point 2 : Tamagawaharabridge [Fumiki, James and me will join here]
09:15 048 km Rest Stop : Takao 7-Eleven
10:00 056 km Finish Climb HC Otarumi Time Trial
11:00 083 km Rest Stop 7-Eleven
12:00 103 km Split at Tamagawaharabashi
12:30 113 km Split at David House
13:00 123 km End at Ebisu

So 123 km loop from Ebisu, 103 km loop from Davids house and about 119 km loop from Yokohama roughly. 650m elevation up. Not sure about times before Tamagawaharabashi, I guess James, Michael and Dominic know much better how much time is required.

As this is the classic Sunday ride, I entered it at Mapmyride here.
Please let me know who is it interested to join.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James, Mob

The Dawn of the Davids

Imagine you wake up one morning and the world around you has changed completely. All your neighbors have become brainless zombies and you can only defend yourself by throwing Dire Straits LPs at them. Or suddenly, everyone you know goes by the name Dave.

From left to right: David, David, David, David, David, David, David, David and Phil.

„Oh, David, good that you made it. May I introduce you to David? David, this is David, David this is David.“
„Hi David, Nice to meet you.“

„Hi, nice to meet you too, David.“

With David J. being back in England, David L. injured and David C. taking part only in short trips morning rides, one would assume that the amount of Davids that could be assembled for a ride in Bozo peninsular would be somewhat limited. Nevertheless, when Phil of TCC called for a joint winter ride in Chiba, all remaining cycling Davids and very few other guys turned up, eleven riders in total. We were quite a group: David Dachin (younger brother of James), David Denderson aka as Dominic Denderson and me, the D.O.B. were attending the tour on behalf of Dositivo Depresso.

Phil has warned us that this would become a leisurely ride, adding that we must make 30 km/hr average along the first third in order to be home on time, so we started rather fast and within no time we have also lost some riders of our group. But we always stopped and let the slower riders catch up so that we might have had a good speed average, however the overall progress was rather slow.

It is always interesting to ride in the countryside of Chiba, I believe that I can say that as an expert who has ridden there with Phil already two times. Every time and without him, I would be lost and probably still would ride clueless in Chiba looking for the exit between the vast stretches of land belonging to golf clubs. Nine years ago a Dutchman by the name of Kees Van der Werff got so much lost that he found Chibas‘ exit only after weeks (exhibit 1, at the bottom of this post).

It is also interesting to note that Chiba is not flat at all and consists of many hills, not a single one higher than 400 meters, but some of them quite steep and all in all we were able to do much more than 1.000 meter of climbing before we broke into two groups.

The riding is much different than on the West side. On the West side one picks a series of climbs with impressive elevations and connects them by dotted lines, trying to get us much of them in as possible. One knows the climbs, they are continuous and one is motivated to make an effort, go up fast and reach the top, followed by some leisure time riding downhill. It is like working as a public official in the accounting department and having a wild weekend affair. Riding in Chiba is more like the average marriage: The hills are not that high any more, but the sheer number of ups and downs adds up as well (or perhaps „adds down“ in this comparative case) and leaves its mark on the spiritual and physical condition of the participants.

One climb was particular long and nasty and Phil took photos of all of us coming in one by one except for Tim and his fixie. As there was a road branching off to the right which went down and looked much more inviting, TruffleEater constructed a nice cryptic message out of some bamboo branches which should have indicated the proper road (up) to follow. All you needed to understand it would have been basic operative training in the CIA or MI-5 and an enigma machine to decode the message. The alternatives would have been (a) to block the wrong roads with some logs that were lying on the side of the road or (b) to write a message with chalk on the (wrong) road surface at the bottom of the hill some 200 meters down:

„U-Turn here, Fixie and up the other road!“

But being nice guys we decided something simple. We never saw Tim again that day.

Then we made another stop at a nice country shop (now PE approved) somewhere in the middle of Bozo. My guess what be that our group made not only 50% of the total turnover in that shop on this day, but also 100% of the not-alcohol related turnover. I saw some locals dropping in with their typical agricultural mini cars and every single one of them left with a crate of beers. And nothing else. That should give you some idea what people in Chiba do on their weekends during winter time.

It was nice and toasty (PE rule: The word „toasty“ should be used in every post at least once between December and March.) in the shop that has provided us with a seating arrangement at least as nice as a snack bar and the only equipment missing was a Karaoke machine and some 60 year plus old bar hostesses feeding as with mizuwari from our drinking bottles, peanuts and gently touching from time to time our shaved knees.

We also took a group photo there in front of some old slot machines at the scrape yard next to the country shop.

A few kilometres later our group split, Phil leading the TCC guys back to Honda station and David, David and me riding along road 465 towards the coast to the town of Kanayamahma where we would take the ferry to Miura Hanto. Phil also suggested a smaller detour over a hill on a road (Ken 93) parallel to road 465. He suggested this climb in particular because he never did it before and wanted to know how it is.

We were cruising then at good speeds along 465 and enjoyed the tailwind as we had quite some headwind going South all day before. Unfortunately the reason why we had this nice tailwind was, that we managed to miss road 465 somewhere and we were now heading North on road 410 towards the very ugly part of Chiba, bringing as far, far away from the ferry port.

Luckily I had brought my Garmin Version (1.0, aka as a Chiba map) and we headed up to the village of Kururi where we took a turn on Ken 93 (where well hidden) and rode back to road 465. I started to bonk (no, not that) but luckily Dominic and James gave me a banana and a power bar so I felt much better than. It was the first time I ever ate a powerbar and I was surprised at the resistance it offers against being eaten. The consistency is similar to semi-liquid asphalt or dried squid and the energy required to eat it is more than the energy your body absorbs by eating it. Strange. But I felt better than.

And finally we reached the coast and some minutes later the ferry port. I have checked the departure times of the ferries between 12 and 2 PM, however we were so late because of the many stops we made and the pointless ride we included (living up to this great PE tradition) that we only managed to catch the 4 PM ferry.

This is a great ferry, designed in the Seventies and in service since then with plushy sofas, fancy chandeliers, toasty aircon and a strip show on the upper deck starting at 4.30 PM. Or we could have selected to see Tom Jones singing in the parking deck protected by a series of bulkheads.

Recently some of the ferries had sunken because the loads were not probably secured on deck. During the heavy seas which occur during the winter seasons in the bay of Tokyo, some of the vehicles have gotten loose, moved to either the starboard or backboard side and resulted in perpendicular inclination of the ferry.
As one can see on the photo my Heavy Cervelo Soloist (8.9 kg) required therefore much tighter fixing than the relatively light Pinarellos standing next to it.

In the middle of Tokyo Bay we saw the „Tokyo Express“ container carrier by Hapag-Lloyd moving in which made my immensely proud of all the useless stuff from Germany and other European countries that is carried year by year to Japan and actually sold here. I must be the equivalent to trade beads of the 19th century and in return our ships come home loaded with Toyota Hybrids which will be immediately forwarded to Toyota dealers for recall.

In this context I would like to add that my son asked me yesterday evening if it isn’t dangerous for Toyota dealerships to intercept Toyota cars on recall as they couldn’t brake when entering the premises.

And when we arrived in Kuriyama after having enjoyed a good meal on board (thanks to the Smutje), the strip show and seeing Dean Martin after Tom Jones, it was almost dark. David choose the train home from Kuriyama while David and me took the straight road towards Kamakura. On the trip I have shared many stories about the legendary Helga, her two brothers (not named David) and the German Seacastle restaurant that they operate at Kamakura but we did not had the time to drop in despite being very fast on the last stretch. But it was already dark and we just made it to Ofuna, packed our bikes and took the train home to Yokohama.

142 km of riding and more than 1.500 meters of elevation. And, oh yes, we also met some very nice cycling Davids. Thanks to all of them for the nice trip.Exhibit One

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James, Mob, tcc

Answers on a postcard

In MOB’s post below he poses the question regarding how teams communicate during a race, especially with all the different languages and accents making it very difficult in the heat of the moment to pass along tactics and instructions to rider.

Having followed the Tour last year I think Team Astana with the help of Lance Armstrong developed a series of hand signals to communicate with, they seem very intricate but might be something we can use on our rides.

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Eingeordnet unter James

A fateful day out

Last Sunday was quite a fateful day, for many, as it would turn out. And not only because we sighted an UFO in front of a shop after descending from Wada Toge…
James, MOB and I met at Tamagawahara bridge for a late start at 8:00am to help MOB overcome his jet lag. As we were chatting, a group of Positivo Catteni riders passed, so we hurried to catch them and show them who the A team – excuse me, the B team (according to our new rules) – was. I had them in no time, James soon after, and MOB eventually after he had recovered from his jet lag. I don’t know how Catteni recovered from this fateful shock – we never saw them again.
From Kunitachi we were sure we were invincible and slowed down to a leisurely pace to make sure the social side of our ride wouldn’t get a short thrift. Once off the Tamagawa and on the way up to Itsukaichi, I pulled up the pace – I just find it hard to take hills or mountains slowly.

We took our first pit stop at the convenience store (see PE rules for definition in case this is not yet clear to everyone) just beyond Itsukaichi. Steve from TCC was doing the same thing, and after some chatting which James found hard to end, we invited him to join us for a slightly more demanding ride than he had had in mind for himself. This had the added advantage of having a guide to the entry to Daigo Rindo – though it was really not hard to find.
Daigo Rindo was a first for the three of us. Hard to understand why we had not „discovered“ it before. I only learnt about it recently from Tom’s blog. It is a very nice rindo following a low river valley. No traffic except for the occasional hunter car. There is a stretch where the road is unpaved, but quite manageable to cross with normal racing tyres.
Unable to go slowly as usual, James and I put quite some distance between MOB and us, Steve being closer to us than MOB. As we waited somewhere for MOB, he arrived showing us proudly the below photo of a forlorn toilet in the middle of the forest, which we had missed noticing, but which served as a decent excuse for falling behind.

The rindo becomes increasingly steep, and James and I raced up the last few kilometers to the top, keen to get in some exercise.

The descent was very nice, and soon we found ourselves on the rindo approaching Wada Toge from the north. No hints of snow or ice, and all the autumn leaves gone. James and I went for our second training race. I didn’t have to wait long for him at Wada Toge, but this time Steve and MOB took quite a bit longer than the first time. The witch and her husband gave us some distraction as we were waiting.

We descended Wada and stopped at a store where we saw this UFO. Actually, many of them. So many that Steve couldn’t finish them all by himself and we had to all help. How much we were longing for a convenience store!
We continued climbing through the golf courses and then up to Kobo Tunnel. Down the other side, we waived goodbye to MOB who was clearly not yet back in form and decided to head for Itsukaichi, and after fixing a flat tyre by replacing it with another leaking tyre, for Hachioji.
The three of us attacked Kazahari Toge. I had promised Steve we would ride together on such a long climb, but found myself unable to keep my promise, longing for a heart rate of at least 155. The faster pace afforded me with a nice view on top.
The descent to Okutamako was incredibly cold. It was barely above zero and the 600m descent felt incredibly long. James claims he clocked 79.9km/h somewhere, but I find this hard to believe since no stretch is steep and long enough to reach such a speed without pedalling, on a standard crank (which he does not have).
More likely that this guy was speeding at that speed when he hit the railings of a bridge.
This was the sight that presented itself to us as we were only a kilometre away from the end of the road. The driver was sitting on the bridge a few meters away from the car, wiping off blood from his head. He was surrounded by lots of friends who had parked their cars not far from the site. Being a trained paramedic, I examined him briefly, and he seemed quite OK. An ambulance had already been called. Later we saw him walking around, examining his wrecked car while smoking a cigarette. It seemed no other vehicle was involved, and he must have lost control over his car on one of these crazy racing excursions up Kazahari.
They’ve banned motorcycles from the road (and indeed it was a lot more peaceful than before). Now it is time to ban cars too!
After the first police car arrived, we left the accident. It was 3:30pm, and the natural choice would have been to cycle to Okutama, maybe Ome, and return home by train from either place.
However, I thought I knew a faster route home. Only the other day, two women in a hamlet approaching Kosuge had confirmed the newly built tunnel below Matsuhime was open. Earlier signs near the entrance of the road had said the construction works would finish in November. So rather than climbing up all the way to Matsuhime Toge at 1,250m, we could just cycle to the tunnel entrance – just about 150m higher than Okutamako – sail through it and then descend to Otsuki, from where we could catch a fast train back. I convinced Steve this was the easiest way for him to get home. James was up for anything.
When we got to the entrance of the tunnel road, however, the road was still closed. We still went onto it, but after the first small tunnel, the road simply ended, with no signs of any construction to connect it to the longer tunnel (which we know exists because it can be seen from the other side).
It was 16:20 by now – making it impossible to get to any train station in day-light. Steve opted for Okutama – more or less all the way downhill, but also with many flat stretches and at least 30km to go. He was prepared with lights for the last bit in the dark.
I opted to climb up Matsuhime Toge with James. A rare chance to do Matsuhime in winter, and knowing we would not arrive at Otsuki much later than Steve at Okutama.
The ascent was very quiet. It was zero degrees and the air was very crisp, affording great views of the surrounding mountains in the sunset. We both still had sufficient energy for the climb, but were nonetheless nervous to make it up, knowing that any minute would count against the impending arrival of darkness.
It was 17:05 when we reached the top. The view was stunning – much nicer than usual when humidity or even clouds obscure the view. Even Mount Fuji was peaking out nicely behind a mountain range.
We put on everything we had and took the plunge of 950 vertical metres down to Sarubashi. The initial part was again freezing cold. I soon caught up with a noisy sports car making its way down. All my tailgating with flashing lights was to no avail – he would not let me pass. Beyond the tunnels where the road loses its steepness, I could no longer follow and waited for James instead.
Now already deep into the valley, it was getting really dark. I was equipped with a small flash light for the front – strong enough to be seen, but not strong enough to see anything. James didn’t even have a front light. The stretches between hamlets became guess work. Fortunately, having descended the road a couple of times, I knew quite well what to expect – even remembered where the bigger bumps were in the road. James appeared to be less confident and didn’t want to stay close to my rear light for too long, so I had to wait for him every now and then.
Eventually we made it to Sarubashi where we took a rest at the convenience store (since Otsuki has only a shop on the way to the station, no convenience store). When we got back onto our bikes, we were both shivering like mad – even the pedalling in the lower parts had not warmed us up that much and downing lots of cold drinks did not help to warm us from the inside.
We felt much better after the short climb to Otsuki, and were lucky to be able to jump onto a well warmed train quickly.
170km with almost 3,000m of climbing – not bad for a cold winter day. Fate had served James and me well. I just feel sorry for everyone else we encountered that day.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, James, Mob, tcc