Archiv der Kategorie: Cervelo Soloist

Mein zweites richtig gutes Rennrad. Sooo steif.

Proven ways to improve performance levels

Lately, mainly because I am focused now on academic achievements rather than physical ones and perhaps because it isn’t much much to ride a bike on wet roads, under grey clouds, threatening to pound merciless tons of icy water on barely prepared riders in minus temperature. And all of this in the flat lands of Bremen and its surrounding. I had to think of ways how to get back into better shape and survive the winter season.


Veteran riders know that there is one method commonly applied when performance levels are following the function curves of y (level) = 1/x(time). The nice thing about this method is, that you don’t need to overdo yourself on the bike, something that is rather unpleasant as described above. It is very simple: Buy a new bike. And what can be more pleasant to buy a new bike in the country of Germany where it seems that every cellar and every attic is filled to the very top with vintage frames from Italy, France and England. I am not a big fan of petroleum-based frames, even my dear aluminium Cervelo is out of favor in the harsh environment of North Germany. However the Reynolds 531 tubing of my Gazelle is performing well. So I thought that I need something similar. Now here it is:

First ride, properly dressed up in Japanese construction worker pants.



A beautiful Peugeot racing bike from the seventies in grey, pimped up with some orange accents in the form of Schwalbe Ultremo tyres and new orange handle bar tape. Everything else is right from the original bike: Mafac brake levers, Huret derailleur, Suntour shifters, Maillard high flanged hubs …… 



This is just perfect to cruise around in the old streets of Bremen, parking in front of the city hall dating back to the 16th century or paying a visit to a friend living in an rundown art deco villa from the early 20th century.

And it is also perfect for the challenges that area awaiting me in 2011, in particular for the Transalp. David and me are pretty much ready and excited to sign up in December 1st for the event. I need a good bike to bring me over the alps and I thought a triple crank set would just be what I need to speed up the 20% slopes in Austria and Italy.


Of course this bike is much to beautiful to be ridden. It will be stored in our garage under a black tarpaulin and I will dare to take a look from time to time. In the meantime the Gazelle has to bear the brunt of snow, ice and rain in Bremen.


Some more bike porn pictures from the seller, a vintage pro shop in Muenster. I exchanged the tires and the replaced flat bar with the original drop handle.


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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Bremen, Cervelo Soloist, Gazelle Champion Mondial, Mob, Peugeot SB

Saiko – The Obligatory Photos, of Fuji, Fall Foliage and My Cervelo

Ludwig and I attended the JCRC final stage at Saiko, both staying Saturday night at a very nice bungalow I arranged through a colleague, adjacent to his second home, on a hillside above the village of Oishi („Big Rock“) on the less crowded, less developed North shore of Kawaguchi-ko.  Luxury accommodations, with a very tasty from the grill and filling dinner prepared on the charcoal grill, complete with ample wine (including from the local, Kawaguchi-ko, Oishi vineyards.  Motto:  „Oishi da kara Oishii“).
James Machin (racing for Fuji Cyclingtime.com) was there with his family and pro/semi-pro teammates to claim the overall JCRC series championship/S class championship.  James finished in the bunch sprint, sustaining 44.51 kph over the 60 kilometers, but voiced some frustration at the tactics of Team Bridgestone Anchor, which joined by „special appearance“ as an 8-person team, giving them the ability to control the race by working together as the other, mainly individual, entrants could not.  He ends the season as the JCRC overall and S-Class points champion.
Recovering from a cold, without any racing this year or preparation, forced into C class (30 km) due to early overbooking in D and E (20 km) groups, and joining with some much faster, stronger, better teammates, I was nervous about my prospects, to say the least.
We joined together for the early morning team time trial, with Kawaguchi-san, the TT champion of Fuji Cyclingtime.com subtituting for Yair, who could not attend due to injury (see the Tokyo Cycling Club bbs for details — fortunately he is on the way to recovery, though it will take awhile).
In any event, I volunteered to „lead out“ the TT team, and gave it my all for the first 1 or 1.5 kilometers, then pulled off and let James, Kawaguchi-san and Ludwig go ahead.  The cool morning air and brief tough effort had left me gasping for air, but I was happy to accomplish my 2 main goals for the event.  (1) a strong lead out — at times going 45-50 kph (or more) on the straight away and gentle downslope, and (2) not crashing in front of James M. and bringing him down, ruining his hopes for a finish „in the points“ that would assure/improve his position for the various championships.  James, Ludwig and Kawaguchi-san cruised to finish in 6th place — just a warm-up — as I trailed far behind and pulled off, mission already accomplished (sort of) after finishing only one of two laps.
In our main event of the day, the C-Class 30 km heat 2, Ludwig did quite well … 6th in the heat … a podium finish and an average speed of 41.96 kph.  Not bad for someone who swore off all racing a year ago after winning the D Class championship here a year ago.
I did less well, 43rd out of 60, but was happy nonetheless with how things played out.  The pace was blistering on the first lap — often above 45 kph, it seemed.  I rode near the back of the pack, keeping a little distance for safety sake … but lost the peleton at the „usual“ place — the 90 degree turn on a short uphill stretch 2 km from the finish/end of each 10 km lap, where the faster riders spring ahead and the rest of us struggle to accelerate and get over the crest.
Some others had dropped already earlier in the first lap, but I had no idea how many, and I found myself with two riders in my sights, and the main group fast disappearing up the road.  Panic set in and I tried to push back toward the group.  As I passed the two, I hollered „let’s ride together“ in Japanese.  One took the challenge and hopped on my wheel … but he could not pull, or keep up, and I left him behind as I accelerated on the downslope early in the second lap.  The field was already a few hundred meters ahead.  
Next, I saw a rider in the green „Saitama Audax“ 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris jersey riding about 75 meters ahead of me.  At last, a chance to get some benefit from my Brevet experience!  Any one who has ridden a few Brevets in Japan learns that this particular green jersey is something special.  Brevet riders tend to be „slow and steady“.  Not Saitama.  They are FAST and steady.  They haul ass over long distances.  If I could only catch him. …   Somehow I managed to do so, and again issued a challenge to ride together.  At first, he pulled me, but by the time we got to the back stretch of the lake, I had recovered some and we shared the work, somehow maintaining a decent pace, trading off again and again, each taking turns resting in back and then cutting inside on one of the sharp corners to take the front duty. 
We managed to keep this up for the rest of the race, and finished with an average pace of 38.66 kph.  I tried to come around him one last time at the finish … but misjudged the line (it was about 20 meters short of the  overhead banner) and ended half a wheel behind him.  Not too bad for a 30 km effort, 22 km of which was ridden without the Peleton and with its share of headwinds.  No one passed us, we stayed ahead of the D class group that started 2 minutes later than our heat, and we caught a number of the C class riders from the prior heat.  Yamaguchi-san and I thanked each other at the finish.  … So I may be back again next year?  Next time, I’ll train for it — intervals, sprints, etc.  Really, I will.
Now, some photos.  A few new additions from Ludwig.  
The three time trialists, plus me.

At the start.
Glasses on, engines ready.
S Class start!

James and Sebastien, smile for the fans.

Now the photos from my initial post:
At Tachikawa — into the bike bag you go.
Registration Saturday afternoon.
Bike leaning along guardrail at Saiko.
Bike leaning along guard rail at Saiko #2.
Ludwig and the fall foliage at Kawaguchiko:
Bike leaning along hedge, at our accommodations with view of Fuji.

Bikes leaning along rust-colored hedge, at our accommodations.
More bike leaning, with Fuji:
Looking from Oishi village toward the Wakahiko tunnel entrance — a little after-race climb up to the entrance and then a continuing modest upslope inside the tunnel for a little more than 2 km.
One last glimpse of Fuji.

On the Upper Ashigawa (see also the photo at the very top of this blog entry — spectacular vistas here between the ridges):
At the entrance to Shin-Torizaka Tunnel, at the top of the second short climb on the way through to Fuefuki/Kofu:
And down among the fruit trees in Fuefuki, in the „fruit bowl“ of Yamanashi/Kofu area:

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, David

Bremen on Clenbuterol

„Summer of the old hags“ or in German „Altweibersommer“, that’s how we call a period of relative good weather at the end of summer or the start of autumn. Last Sunday surprised with temperatures up to 24 degree and blue skies. So I left my family in the chaos of our apartment, created by the arrival of a forty feet container from Japan with all our goodies and left to explore one more time the Bremen countryside.

Of course the ride was worth all trouble and hardship, especially when arriving back home again after the ride without proper announcement of the intended duration it took. But I felt mightily inspired by the feats of mighty Thor and with an equally mighty tailwind I made excellent progress in Northern direction along the river Wümme, the Bremian equivalent to the Tamagawa. As I didn’t need to concentrate on pushing the pedals, I let my mind wander and an unbelievable story I have heard back in town came creeping up in my conscience.

Probably most of you have heard the story of the „Town Musicians of Bremen„, a folktale recorded by the Grimm brothers in the last century. The town musicians, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster have become world famous and act as a kind of symbol of the town of Bremen. However what most people do not know, that the original group of the town musicians consisted not of four, but of five animals. The fifth and actually most important animal was an elephant that was brought over from India by the owner of a circus. The elephant was however neither in possession of a proper visa, nor of a valid working permit and in order not to entice foreign animals to immigrate to Germany, the elephant was kept quiet bout. However the good people of Bremen built a monument in honor of the elephant which can be seen to this day quite close to the central station. For some reasons it is one of my favourite places in Bremen and I keep pointing out the elephant to my bored children every time we pass by. These are the thoughts of a cyclists that rides fast an aimlessly through the beautiful landscape North of Bremen.

After about 20 km I came to the small town of Ritterhude, where Ludwig has been trained as a paramilitaric (or was it a paramedic?) some twenty years ago. I was looking for a place called Pellen’s Park where a cyclo-cross race was supposed to be conducted on Sunday and just by chance I found Ludwigs old training ground on the left side of the road to the park. By pure coincidence this is almost the only place within a circle with 150 km diameter around Bremen that features some kind of hills. It is, so to say, Bremens landscape on Stereoids, or should I better write on Clenbuterol? It isn’t really hilly, but at least it seems that the landscape has been moved by geological forces somewhat in the last 5 million years. As opposed to the rest of the landscaped that has been cleared by a giant piece of blotting paper.

And then I saw the cyclo cross race. This was the first time I have ever been to a cylco cross race and anyway one of the first times I have been to a race that I didn’t attend myself. Not sure if I will ever join a cyclo cross race after what I have seen on Sunday. For those who don’t know I will highlight some of the important characteristics as I see them:

First, the season for cyclos cross races in Germany is not, as every normal human being would think, during the months of July and August, the only month in which one has a chance to occassionally glimse the sun and enjoy temperatures above 20 degress, but from

October to January. In other words the season where one stays at home and only the drunk and debile will ride on bicycles through muddy fields. Or stand there and watch others
ride through muddy fields.

Second, I have never come to terms with the idea of a road race the goes in circles. One arrives at the point where one has started, so what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t one uses it’s power to ride from A to B? With the exception of the Tokyo-Ítoigawa fast run all races I have attended finished at the starting line. Bloody stupid anyway. David and Jerome perfected this nonsense when they rode 400 km on the weekend, just to arrive back in the same spot after 24 hours.

Ok, this isn’t very logic. One would assume now that cyclo cross races are following the same weird logic. But they must be more „straight“, as whereas road races have to follow curvy lines in forms of roads, the cyclo crosser just goes a straight line and crosses fields, rivers, walls, barbed wire fences etc. that he will find in his way. That’s why he has a cyclo cross bike in the first place, right?

But no, cyclo cross track layout is even more stupid. Basically it is a patch of grassland, say 200 by 200 m of dimension and then the course ziczacs in all directions over the grassland. Not only that you are going nowwhere, from every point of the race you see other iders going in completely different directions, just guided by some red and white tape. The studidity that nobody is going nowhere is even more pronounced and visibale as for a road race.

And my last point is, that the raods in cyclo cross races are very bad. Some of them are even so bad, that they could be used for the grand prix Chantal Biya. But I am pretty sure that Chantal Biya will never attend a cyclo cross race.

OK, this was even a high class race, even with the world champion (German) attending. Does somebody remember this fantastic post about cyclo cross by James (Keyword: „Heckling – it is the aspect of the sport I’ve chosen to perfect„)? Well, even in Germany we have Hecklers at cyclo cross races and it was a great joy to listen to their hecklings. If I am not mistaken, one of the hecklers was the offical and probably even paid heckler of the world champion. He even ran alongside the track to increase the time intervalls of intensive heckling absuses to which his rider was subjected.

But I didn’t want to spend my whole Sunday standing in a muddy field and watching riders going nowhere so I jumped on my bike and continued in direction Farge on the river Weser where a pretty big U-boat bunker called „Valentin“ is still standing. A nasty thing indeed and not smelling after 4711 eau de cologne. Ok, this is a very complicated joke, which needs further information for those of you that are interested: One guy on the TCC blog wrote that the German perfume 4711, used to be a long time favourite among the crews of German WW2 u-boats. This is an interesting perspective, as my personal impression of 4711 was, that it was that smelly liquid that my grandmother and other older women used to use on festive occasions and funerals. I am not 100% sure if my grandmother ever was a member of an u-boat crew during the war, but I am 99,99999% sure that she wasn’t.

So after having seen this, I turned to the East and rode along the beautiful landscape of Schwanewede, Eggestedt and, my personal highlight Osterholz-Scharmbeck, being non-charming at all, a city with a name like a female German minster of justice from the FDP party.

Now the landcape became even more interesting.
This photo is showing the landscape just after leawing the town of Osterholz-Scharmbeck.

And this one is shortly before riding into Worpswede.

 
 
 
 
 

While this one is between Worpswede and Worpshausen.

And this one shortly before Quelkhorn.
Please notice that I am not at least envious of all the photos of Nokogiriyama, Nippara, Gunma and Chihibu recently posted on this blog.

And after Quelkhorn comes Fischerhude, where a nice house is on the side of the road that I can afford to buy with my income as university professor. Autumn has surely come and the farmers have put on proud displays of their fruits of works along the road. To my surprise, I saw a lot of pumpkins, a fruit I have never thought of being home in abudant quantities in Germany, but hey, the times they are a changing. And I like pumpkins as they grow more or less inthe official team color of Positivo Espresso.

By now I have rode against a strong headwind for the last 30 km and I was relieved that I could ride the last 20 km or so without doing too much work. One nasty climb was although still waiting for me: At the fabulous „Platzhirsch“ restaurant I had to cross the federal higway. I concentrated and put all what was left of my power into the pedals and barely made it with 30 km/hr over the top.

After 121 km and 4 1/2 hour of riding I was home again. I made no breaks except the one at Pellen’s park (OK, I made 1 or 2 minute breaks inbetween, I admit) so I remained the last 100 km and 3 1/2 hour in the saddle. This is really the nice thing here in Bremen, the average speed is high, there are no nice spots neither convenience stores which would require breaks and as the road is straight, one can take photos, one can eat, drink and possibly relieve oneself as well.

As I have relieved myself from all ththoughts in my head right now.

More pics to be uploaded tomorrow – on this PC it just take endless time.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Bremen, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

On the demise of the Cervelo Test Team

David posted already about the end of the Cervelo Test Team. I just would like to add some longer thoughts, perhaps too long for simple comment.

OK, Cervelo shuts down it’s own racing team and joins forces with the team of Garmin-Tranisitions. Things like that happen all the time, is there any team that starts in major cycling events that runs under the same name for a longer period of time, say 3 years? So one should not be sad. I would be sad if my hometown soccerteam Borussia Mönchengladbach would be renamed for obvious reasons of speed of spelling into Postbank MG, but teams in the peloton are lacking a more emotional bound.

Which is to say, that the Cervelo Test Team might be the obvious exception to this rule for several reasons that came to my mind the moment I read the news.

Well, I ride a Cervelo bike and so do some other Positivo Espressionists and TCCers. It might not be the greatest bike in the world (that is perhaps because it is the cheapest bike in the Cervelo lineup; so the more expensive ones must be greater and better: S1, formerly know as the Soloist). I personally also don’t think that it is much better or worse than a Cannondale, Colnago or Canyon. But it is my bike, the one I chose some time ago, and for that simple reason I would have loved to see the Cervelo Test Team continuing.

Why is it so hard to support a team called „Liquigas„? That is indeed another point for Cervelo: A sponsor who manufacturers road racing bikes and setup his own team. It is hard to support teams that are sponsored by companies distributing gas, providing credit, telecommunication, power tools, promoting strange countries or distributing consumer electronics. Moreover in countries I travel to very rarely. So I liked the idea very much that a cycling-related company sponsors a cycling team. That seems so logical, but with the exception of Skil-Shimano and perhaps Garmin-Transitions, there is not very much logic out there.

Exceptions to the above comment: Gerolsteiner, because they had these nice bubbles on their racing jerseys some years ago. And Euskatel, for the fantastic orange color. Definitely not exceptions:  Milram and Team Telekom. Minus points in addition for the magnenta color and failing to provide me with a telephone line within 4 weeks in Bremen.

Cervelo has great marketing. They featured a series of short videos called „Beyond the peloton“ which were very well made. Yes, yes, they brought great insights into the world of pro cycling and looked deeply behind the scenes of the teams. Sorry, but not the point. My point is that they had a good music track, some kind of modern version of Erik Satie’s
Gymnopedie No.1„. Plus some very nice pictures, all together creating an atmosphere, an image in my mind of how cycling could be.

Last but not least, the team featured some sympathic riders. No, not Heinrich „Barbie“ Haussler, who was rumored to take a leading role in Toy Story 3.  Rather, Carlos Sastre, who came across in the video series as a very responsible and modest guy, Thor Hushovd, and Andreas „GPS“ Klier — of whom I had never heard before.  And so far we have never heard any doping rumours about them. This is more than one can expect.

Finally, Cervelo had the best designed jerseys of all tour teams, with the exception that Team Euskatel has the better color. No sponsor names in completely different designs all over the place. Simply three colors plus oversized „“E accent aigu“ or however this thing is called.

That sums up my thoughts. So let’s see how the new liaison with Garmin will work out. How would a GPS system look like if it were designed by Cervelo. How would a bike look like if it were manufactured by Garmin?  I’m sure it would come with a 492 page user manual and a reset buttom located under the bottom bracket. And you must call Garmin every second month and ask for a new bike update.

Anyway. The Cervelo GPS could be the salvation.

Thanks to Podium Cafe.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

No more Bartape.Net

Cervelo Test Team confirms it is ending its Protour team sponsorship.  Sounds like the cost is just too expensive.  Sastre to Geox for the coda on his career.  Hushovd and Haussler rumored to be going to Garmin Transitions, and there are rumors that Garmin Transitions will become Garmin Cervelo, swapping out their Felt bikes for the faster, lighter, more aero and more comfortable Cervelos.

„The team had a spectacular debut season, winning stages and the green jersey in the Tour de France, stages in the Vuelta and Giro, as well as seeing Heinrich Haussler break through as a major force in one-day racing.“  They also made a nice video sitting around on the team bus.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, David

Lower Saxony Asparagus Route

Did I ever wrote anything bad about the weather in Bremen? Blue skies and temperatures of 25 degrees on the weekend plus let me forget all things said previously….not. On Saturday I made a short 50 km trip on the embankments of the river Wümme through the lovely Wümmewiesen West of Bremen. It is quite nice to draft behind fast roller skaters which are plentiful in Germany. That left me fresh enough to attend the POETRY ON THE ROAD literature festival in the evening with my cute and charming landlord. I was blown away by Serhin Zhadan, an Ukrainian author who has written books with such stimulating titles as „Anarchy in the UKR“ and „Hymn of the Democratic Youth“. Seriously, he was good.

One more glas of Montepulciano let me wake up only at 10 AM, but hey, who cares, it is summertime in Germany and the sun settles at 10 PM. There is still plenty of time to have a good breakfast, check the web, write some correspondence, select the color of socks to match with the bib shorts (NFCC bib short and red socks with some white filaments) and neverthless do a 200 km ride. And upon homeconing one can take a shower and go to bed immediately. Perfect, but only for less than six months every year.

I rode on my bike and I was … fast. Was it, because the weather was perfect and I was riding down a slight hill? No, of course not such obvious explanation. It was because the previous day I went shopping to bicycle Stadler and bought a brand new carbon sattle post for my Cervelo. A beauty. Light as a feather. Much lighter than the old carbon one. It made up for all the weight I have gained in the meantime in Germany, I am sure. And it only cost 200 Euros. A bargain. That was at least what I was thinking when I left the shop and have spoken with the very able salesclerk. When I woke up on Saturday I was thinking what A stupid idiot I was to spend that amount of money and how to explain to my wife.
So I started my exploration of lower saxony by riding South along the river Weser in the blistering heat under the sun. There were quite some bicycle riders on the embankment and the combinatin of lots of traffic plus cobblestones led me away to the country roads. Most of them have bike pathes separated by lines of trees from the road. There is few traffic anyway but the bike pathes are in good shape and the riding can be fast there nevertheless. I continued through lovery villages such as Riede, Emtinghausen, Martfeld and Hoya, I am sure, everybody has heard about by now. Further to the South one rides on the Lower Saxony Asaparagus Route which consists of harvested asparagus paddies to the left and to the right as far as one can see. But I am sure it is quite beautiful in spring, when the asapargus fruits are showing their head boldly above ground and the asparagus blossoms are twirling in the air.

This was followed by the Lower Saxony Renaissance Route which basically consists of paddies of another kind to the right and to the left as far as one can see. There are zero moutains, it is almost as if somebody had flattened the landscape by using a gigantic razorblade recently.

I made breaks at the gas stands which today have a quite impressive sortiment of sweets. Imagine a convinience store where you take everything away except the choclate bars, soft drinks and beer. Now enlarge this offering by the factor 20 and you have the picture. Virtually 100 of different sweets and enough sugar to send the population of a mid-size retirement home into a never ending diabetis melitus delirium – but hardly a single gramm of carbonhydrates. No, I am not joking.

Bücken, Marklohe, Lemke, Stolzenau, Loccum… finally after riding for more than 70 km there was one climb of about 20 meters perhaps. By now I have almost made it to the famous Steinhude Sea, the biggest German domestic lake in the North.

Hm. That was not as impressive as, for example Yamanakako, besides the surroundings were cluttered by mobile homes, many Russians and bored teenagers. So I did spend much time there and continued to ride to Neustadt am Rübenberge („Newtown at the beets mountain“).

I came accross an air force basis at Himmelreich (Kingdom of Heaven), went right through the village of Wenden (turn around) and made it to the town of Rethem when I took the next break after about 160 km. I still had about 60 or 70 kms to go to Bremen.

After spending the whole day in the sun, having a terrible sun burn and never thinking once about the weather, it started to drizzle. I had no spare clothing with me, so I decided to do what reasonable cyclsits do in this situation: To ignore the weather and to continue on the road home as fast as possible. That went well until Westen (in the West), but now there was also lighting and thunder and when I started to count the lap between the Lighting and the thunder I ended on the letter „N“. Of the word „ONE“. So I decided to take a break at a gas stand and wait until the worse is over.

Luckily I know from my engineering studies, hydrology course that the R15 n=1 rain in Germany (a rain of 15 minutes duration which happens once a year) is the common standard for design of floodwater drains; in other words: Every rain that is shorter will be more intensive, every rain that is longer less intensive. Shorter less intensive rains do not happen that often; the same is true for longer intensive rains. So? Statistically speaking you have to wait for 15 minutes until you can proceed. Unless you are very unlucky. Understood? My neither, but it helps to think about while passing the time freezing in the rain at a gas stand, I can tell you.

And iot worked. After 15 minutes I left and by now it was dry and I made it to the town of Verden, from which I took the train to Bremen. Of course, this being Sunday and in th eveneing I had to wait 40 minutes for a train to arrive. And I was lucky, because this train, for a change was on time. So I was home. By the way, this is my new home.

At 10 PM I was home, freezing, got out of my wet clothes, took a shower, went to sleep and went to work the next morning. A perfect day. Almost.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

Bahnhof Zoo / mein Zug fährt ein / ich steig‘ aus / gut wieder da zu sein : VELOTHON BERLIN 2010

There are two major races in Germany for non-professinals, the Vattenfall Classics in Hamburg and the Velothon in Berlin. Thousands of would-be racers gather each year to finish or to crash.

By introduction of Fab, the newest addition to the Positivo Espresso Euro Klub (PEEK), I came to Berlin to attend the Velothon 120 km race. He also allowed me to stay in his flat and took me to the Saturday afternoon school party at the local Waldorf School which is run by the hotel group of the same name. David M from RGT Enterprises, Japanese Importer of Assos, AX Lightness and other bike porn visited a Waldorf School in Switzerland as well in his youth, so it cannot possibly be a bad place. Although I need to remark that artists, psychologists, lawyers and teachers do not necessarily qualify to operate a sausage grill. Unless one compares it to the effectiveness of Japanese road works.

Berlin was quiet the afternoon when we prepared our bikes and made a training ride to the Wannsee lake. Little did we know that the same evening Germany would become the new pop music capital of the world when Lena won the European Song Contest in Oslo with her song „Satellite“:

AI WÄÄNT EBERYBÄÄRR VOHR JJUU
AI IIFEN DIID MAI HAIRRRRRRRRR VOHR JUUU
AI BOUGGD NJU ANDERWÄÄÄRRR DÄÄR BLU
ENDD AI WOOR THEM JAST DE ODER DAI

My fellow countrymen and women may have learned how to write pop songs but the level of English is still on par with Gestapo officers in early 40ties Hollywood movies.
And even less did we know that only one day later our country would be without head of state, all this happening in the town where I was just racing. OK, something similar happened in Japan this week as well, when Prime Minister Hatoyama stepped down for taking the blame of choosing the wrong shirt for an appearance at his garden cocktail party. Rumour has it, that this was a preliminary design for the next edition of the Tokyo Cycling Club team jersey.

So while major events around the world were causing dramatic changes, I was drinking some red wine in the garden of an old school friend from Moenchengladbach in preparation of the race the next day.

When I was waking up the next morning and looked out of the window, it was raining. Heavy rainfall was forecasted for all of the day with 96% probability. So I did what every decent optimist would do in such situation. I checked other weather forecasts on the web for more optimistic information, unfortunately to no avail. As I have told Fab many stories about my bad weather cycling adventures in Japan (Sado Long Run 210 in 2008, Yokohama Bike Navi Enurance in 2008 and 2009), perhaps slightly exaggerating one or the other detail, I was in no position to bail out. Luckily the rain stopped and we collected our third team member, Tibor S , Herr Professor; as these days I tend to prefer to be surrounded by men of equal or higher academic credentials.

So we drove into the city , just in front of the Brandenburg Gate where the race starts. Fab and Tibor lined up for the 60 km race which had an earlier start and almost the same finishing time as the 120 km race 1.5 hours later. These guys were pretty relaxed and after hearing the German National Anthem, they started to roll out in start block D. The road was pretty crowded whereas almost no spectators were watching. So I manged to get on my bike, sprint to the Brandenburg Gate and shout some encouragements when Fab and Tibor were finally coming in.

STAY WITH THE MAIN FIELD, GUYS. CLOSE THAT GAP …NOW !

Finally Fabian hang on to one promising looking wheel which turned out to be a huge blunder.


I then went to drop my bag at the official bag dropping station, repaired my flat tyre (yes, that happened as well) and prepared myself mentally for the race. I desperately hoped that it would not rain but the probability of staying dry was low.


At 9 AM I was in starting block D (just as my JCRC classification) which turned out to be a mistake. The starting blocks are organized by indicated average speed. Quite modestly I noted 36 km/hr on my race application, not knowing that speed of sound minus 12.5 km/hr would be about the average velocity entered by all 120 km riders. Quite some hobby riders around me, not even sporting racing bikes.
OK; there was also start block E and F, but this was where apparently three years old with supporting wheels and people who have lost their bike on the way to the race were standing. So when the race started I tried to move up the front as soon as possible. The C block has started 5 minutes before us so I might have a chance to close in on them. Wide streets filled with many slow riders hampered my efforts first, but once the general speed picked-up I was surprised that only after a few kms the first groups formed and that already the first gaps between the groups were opening. I jumped from one group to the next, sometimes trailing a group of riders behind me, but after a while I had the feeling that I was perhaps with one of the first D block groups and there was no other group in sight in front of us, so I stayed with them.

As it is in such races, it turned out that basically I stayed with some of these guys for the rest of the race. There were four riders from SPARKASSE ERZGEBIRGE (Savings Bank Ore Mountains) who were leading the pack and a tall guy with a Caisse d’Espargne jersey who standed out so I used them as my orientation points. Erzgebirge is the part of Germany where people are so bored in the evening, that they produce the famous nutcrackers, even when under socialist rule.

I was close to ask the nutcrackers if I could ride with them in one group, also promising that I would stand in the wind from time to time, when the first hills of the Gruenewald, the major mountain ridge of Berlin appeared just in front of us. So instead of asking, I thought I might convince them by riding to the front and leading them up the mountain. Which I did and I did a really good job of climbing up this steep mountain (I guess Jerome’s hill is more demanding) and when on the top I looked back and the peloton was way behind me. So instead of presenting myself as a good team player that could ask for post-merger integration, I showed up as the ultimate idiot who squanders his powers senselessly within the first 20 km of the race. A photograph, waiting to capture the amount of sufferings on top of the hill took this photo precisely in the right moment.I took it easy on the descent down and was overtaken again by some of the other riders in my group. Two of them decided that it might be a splendid idea to crash just in front of me at a speed of over 40 km/hr and gently slide into my line. Luckily I didn’t brake but managed to overtake the pile-up on the left side.

Even on the climb we were overtaking the first groups from the C starting block and now it became difficult: I had to be very focused and concentrated to ride in the peloton, but also not to land in one of the slower C groups we were overtaking. Quite some times I found myself in the middle of one of the slow C groups, while there was already a gap to my original D group opening. So I was forced to sprint back to my group which I luckily managed every time.

In hindsight, that was he best part of the race: Seeing the gap, getting into sprint mode and making an all out effort at 45 – 50 km/hr to establish contact to the group in front. Then hang on and recover.

The speed was quite fast, constantly in the 40 to 45 km/hr range at this point of the race. Then it started to rain and I prepared myself for getting wet. But miracle, oh mircale, it stopped raining after only 15 minutes or so. And then we were on the highway back to Berlin, a long flat and straight wide road where I had the chance to eat some powerbars and get new energy. Also the speed had dropped quite substantially and it was now very easy to stay with the field, even while eating and drinking.

And then we came back into Berlin city, as more traffic islands popped up everywhere and one has to ride really, really, concentrated in order not to crash. Also the speed wasn’t that fast any longer. I was just happy that I didn’t crashed and that the weather stayed dry. There were also more spectators watching now and with just three kms to go I made myself ready to ride to the front of our group and start the sprint. We made a left turn into the street of June 17th which is leading to the Brandenburg Gate and for the first time after the start I had the feeling that I was racing in Berlin. My eyes were glued to the rider in front of me almost all of the time and now suddenly I could look up and realize where I was.

I positioned myself well, but there was no sprint. Later I learned that it is expressively not allowed to sprint at the event (except when the first riders from the A block move in). I was happy to finish in 899th position (out of more than 4.000 riders) with an average speed of more than 39 km/hr (the actual distance was less than 116 km) and in 2:57:41 hr.

Done. I went to the bag drop station where two bored girls waited to pick up my things.

„Can I get my bag please?“ „Oh great, your the first guy to show up here to pick up his bag. Wonderful. Do you like some cookies?“I got some more stufff. Please note the standard size safety pins and the „Hey, my body is full with pills“ type peppermint box.

Seems I was first in something. Then I took the subway to Fabs house, now it was raining. Fab and Tibor did well in the 60 km considering their lack of training (Fab did two weeks) and coaching (one day). So we decided to set up a training camp in Mallorca for next year.

And then I returned to Bremen which was not as easy as I thought. Jumping out of the train there it was raining. Of course

PS Later I learned that the complete PEEK was assembled in Berlin during this weekend. Juliane and David were travelling to MELT at Ferropolis and stayed in Berlin for one or two nights. Time to gown a moustache and make the trip to London.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Bremen, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

MOB wins 219 km Brevet in record distance of 261 km (and finishes last time-wise)

I have to say that I am mighty impressed by all recent posts about long rides to the West of Tokyo. Everybody is in very good shape and will set no record times for Itoigawa. Not that I could write about similar adventures yet, but as long as I haven’t found a team in Bremen and established a blog in German I thought that I might as well post on the Positivo Espresso blog to give some insights into German cycling. Which is quite exotic. Last weekend I attend a 219km brevet (or bike marathon, as it was called).

I could leave the office comparatively early on Friday night and made my way to the local bike store at the edge of the town. There I could buy some parts to prepare myself for the brevet the next day. Most important; Watertight shoecovers, as spray rain was forecasted for all of the race day. I also bought a lock for my bike which looked as it has been milled out of a block of pure cryptonite. On the safety scale of the manufacturer from 1 to 10 it ranked on level 8, which I thought would be appropriate for Bremen. I wanted to confirm this at the counter and created great flabbergastation: „You want to leave your bike parked in the city with this lock? Are you completely out of your mind? Don’t you know that the police recommends at least this type here?“

And with this words the salesman lifted something on the counter which seemed to be suitable to lock a Soviet attack tank to a blast furnace. It was not only heavier than my bike, but even hard to lift up from the counter. Lesson learned: Take the tram into the city.

I also bought a family-packages of Snickers, muesli bars, bread etc. as I was so afraid of getting a bonk due to the complete absence of convenience stores within continental boundaries.

I woke up in time and of course it was already raining. Neverthless I rode the bike out to the start. Finally, some „real“ bikes were there, I noticed a Trek, some „Principia„, but surprinsingly no Canyons or Red Bulls, the two biggest German direct mail order bike brands. I paid my 20 Euro registration fee and got a start number (Sekken) and wanted to fix them on my jacket. There was a basket with safety pins …. I should have taken a photo. While in Japan safety pins for pro bike use are maximum 2 cm long, made out of cross section-optimized lightweight steel and all of the same type, these safety pins were massive. I haven’t seen these type of safety pins since Bill Grundy interviewed the Sex Pistols in 1976. If German bike locks couldn’t stop a Soviet tank – these safety pins would.

Everybody was very nice. And very old as well. There were a lot of cakes, sausages, sandwiches and drinks perpared by some older ladies which all looked like my mum. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, where they all like like my mother in law.

Anyway, at sharply 9 AM the tour started and I made myself on the way with the first and stronger group. Most of the riders were my age but there were also some fast younger guys with us. There were also a lot of tatoos to be seen, mostly on the lower legs. And I was happy to note that the typical body shape of the riders were much more like the one of David, Jerome or me as opposed to the bodily hulls of Ludwig, Fumiki and Alan.

Now the pace was quite fast, always in the range of 35 to 40 km/hr except when there was a turn or a road to be crossed as we had to adjust to the local traffic. After a while we had a fast group of about 25 riders and we were riding in a very organized fashion, taking turns at the front. Every rider stayed in front of the peloton for about 3 to 4 minutes before he felt back and made place for the next rider. Very efficient and organized, very German indeed.
And within no time we came to the first check point after 50 km.

After having experienced this very controlled riding for more than an hour, I thought that the whole group would start together agin from the control point, but there was no organisation at all. Some guys started, others tried to hang on, some didn’t and when we finally formed a group together again, we were only 18 riders left. Again the pace was quick and it was almost impossible to get back to the group once one has lost contact. At one point the front rider and me in second position went straight whereas the rest of the peloton made a right turn. When we found out we had a very hard time to close the gap again. It was strange to experience this difference between effective riding in the group and utterly chaos in group formation.

The second checkpoint was already at the 80 km mark and I utilized the time to clean my glasses. And when I put them on again I noted that most riders from the fast group had left already or where in the process. I hurried up to catch them and I was lucky, I thought when two other young riders from Hamburg University Cycling Team came from behind. Cool. I thought I can hang on to these guys and they will lead my back to the group. I am not exactly sure what has happened next, but they zoomed by at 60 km/hr and I had not even the slightest chance to stay in their draft. Now completely on my own I lost the contact with the group and could see them disappearing on the horizon.

Alone in the rain, without any draft I knew that the remain 140 km would be very much harder than the first 80 km. Luckily at the next light another rider who has lost contact closed up to me and we rode together, changing the positions every 5 to 10 minutes. Apart from the rain and the wind the ride was OK – there was not much to see and there was virtually 0 elevation meters to be made. Later, when I cheked the bike computer it had noted 227 m elevation diffference for much more than 200 km of riding. I guess that would be the same as riding 200 km on the Kawasaki Keirin bank. The Luenburger Heide, a natural reserve, we crossed, was a sandy, barren landscape. Parts of it were used by the British army for tank shooting practice.

So for the next 50 km I rode with this guy, older one, not very talkative. Then at 130 km we came to the next control point and the guy asked me if I wanted to east some hot soup which was served inside. Sure, I said and went inside. What he didn’t say was that he didn’t wanted to eat soup and bat wanted to go ahead, so when I came out again he was nowhere to be seen. Another group of riders was just incoming and wanted to take a soup break as well, so I thought,what the heck, I go on my own and when they overtake me I go with them.

That was a very bad idea. Becuase I thought that we would return the same route as we have come, but in fact there was a much shorter, official way back. So I tried to find the markers from the way out and had to stop quite frequently to check if I had not overseen a marker at a crossing which took quite some time. And there was no other rider on the road who could help. Of course I had no map as well. And after a while I got completly lost. No markers at all. And for the next two hours I rode in circles … Wohnste, Klein Wohnste, Hesslingen, Zeven, villages no living sould has ever heard of and which I crossed multiple times. Until I gave up to find the markers and oriented myself on the markers of the Bremen-Hamburg-Cycling Road.

This would lead me back to Bremen, I thought rather naively. Well, there are plenty of markers but sometimes on crossings where one is desperately needed, there are none. So again I lost the way many, many times. Beside, as German cycling starts at tyre size 700C x 35 in general, some stretches of the cycling road were unpaved dirt roads leading through forrests as showned in the Brother Grimms. Scary, not a house in sight, only forrest and fields, no cyclists, no human souls at all, sometimes a raised hide for hunters on the edge of a clerarance .. is there someone inside watching? Aiming?

But slowly I was coming closer to Bremen. While I did the first 100 km in 2:51 minutes, the second hundred km almost took me more than 4 hours.
Finally I arrived at the oputskirts of the city. I navigated my way to the goal and made it barely before the cutoff time at 6 PM (or nine hours). Most of the riders had already left – the fast group came already in after 6 hours.
I set a new record: 261 km for a brevet of 219 km, I think that is not only a record distance-wise but also pretty stupid. And of course it is the result or riding unprepared. But on the other hand everybody was quite nice to me at the finish and I got some cake and sausages from my mums.

Summary: Nice to talk about later, but very, very hard while doing. I found some better looking stretches of road yesterday, but photos of the weekend tours on the PE blog made me very envious: blue skies, warmth, mountains …..
Lesson learned: If the sky is blue in the morning and the temperature warm, phone the offide and take a holiday. This will only happen once a month anyway. From May to September.

Sorry no photos.

Map of the ride.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Bremen, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

Then finally, it was time for the very last ride.

As James rightfully commented on his blog, there were quite a number of Sayonara rides during the last week. But having now finally arrived in Bremen, looking out of the office window on the grey sky and rainy weather, I can finally confirm that the last right was on last Saturday together with Ludwig.

As I was suppose to leave home for good on Sunday at 6 AM, Ludwig and me planned only half a day or riding on Saturday. We planned to ride out to Itsukaichi first, then climb Iriyama and Wada from the North side and try to set a new and final Togebaka record on Otarumi from the Sagamiko lake side before returning home. Needless to state that everything turned out completely different – as usual.

Ludwig did a long and gruelling ride the day before and therefore we met only late at 8 AM at Tamagawahara bridge. We were proceeding at medium speed along the Tamagawa and crossed over to Charles country road before we wanted to hit Mutsumibashi road to Itsukaichi.
Just when we climbed up the short hill leading from the river to the main road I heard a loud bang from the back of my bike and suddenly the handling started to feel strange. When we checked we found out quickly, that one of the spokes of my brand-new Shimano Ultegra rear wheel has broken and that another one was loose. This resulted in an extreme untrueness of the wheel which rubbed not only on the brake pads, but also on the cable stays. Impossible to ride and unfortunately the standard tool set didn’t provide anything to turn Shimano spokes so we couldn’t repair this somehow on our own.

I have to say that I am a little bit fed up with broken spokes. My Campagnolo Zonda back wheel gave me some troubles this year (three broken spokes) und I wanted to take countermeasures by buying the relatively cheap and reliable Shimano rear wheel everybody was talking about – only to become disappointed again. Perhaps it would be a good idea to let Nagai-san built a robust wheel for me just as he did for David ….. but then unfortunately they do not look as cool as a set of Zonda wheels.

Luckily we found a tyre shop close to the main road that provided as with a pipe – and a monkey wrench so we could at least adjust the wheel in such way as to make it „almost“ true again. The tyre team there was very nice and helpful. So please, if you need tyres (for your car, of course, not for the bike) in the future, please buy them there. For some reasons the guys over there hate Bridgestone and are huge fans of Dunlop and Continental. Schwalbe of course, they have never heard of. Great guys.Despite all the trouble I felt great, almost like having my own pro team of mechanics and later Ludwig and me went to a Combini and bought some cans of beer for them.

I didn’t felt very comfortable with the rear wheel minus one spoke, so we decided to return to Y park on the Tamagawa and get the wheel fixed. When we arrived, the mechanic there told me that they didn’t have any spare spokes on stock for Shimano. No, they couldn’t true the wheel as well. No, they didn’t have any wheels to lend out. Quite desperately I took the stairs to the second level and asked for the cheapest rear wheel available to buy – Shimano R50 that is for about 7.000 to 8.000 Yen. With this I went down to the mechanic and asked them to exchange the cassette from the Ultegra wheel to the new one. So I was asked to write my name in a list and to wait until it is my turn. Couldn’t I be placed in the front of the list, as this was my last day in Japan? No, this wasn’t possible. So could I exchange the cassette by myself? No, also this wasn’t possible. OK, Sayonara Y.

So in the end after spending a great deal of time for nothing at Y (An experience that many Y customers are making as well, should I believe other blog entries), we decided to ride home to my house and get the Zonda rear wheel for exchange.

Here everything went smoothly expect that my wife was very happy that I have arrived back from the trip in time for some family activities and I needed to tell her that the ride has now finally started and that I won’t be back before 6 PM. That created some friction that were substantially bigger than the rubbing of my rear wheel on the cable stays. Wives cannot be kept in closets and exchanged when causing friction as in case of back wheels. We need to consider this when making decisions about one thing or another and we have to be careful not to mix things up. In this case however, and as this was now scheduled to be my very last ride in Japan for a longer time, the decison was quite clear. I excused myself and without wasting too much time Ludwig and me paced along the Tsurumigawa river on our way to Hashimoto.

And finally, afte getting almost lost one more time and crossing over some hills to Takao, we arrived at 3 PM and after having done more then 136 km at our traditional 7-Eleven in front of Takao Station. What is normally a two hour , 50 km ride from my home, turned into almost 8 hours of despair and friction. But we have made it.

When one is out on the last ride, everything turns into symblic „last“ meanings: The last time to meet at Tamagawahara bridge in the morning. The last time to take a photo of Ludwig pissing with his back to the camera. The last time a spoke breaks. In Japan, but elsewhere they will continue to break. The last time to set a Togebaka record.

So, this was the very last time to give Otarumi a try and after 136 km of warm-up the condition was not the best one. On the one hand. On the other hand Ludwig gladly agreed to let me draft behind him. On the other hand Ludwig had by now more than 300 km within the last 36 hours in his legs and he wasn’t sure if he would make it up fast. Plus there was a nice headwind.

We started at 25 km/hr all the way to the Family Mart where the TT starts and then we accelerated to 30 km/hr plus while I was staying closely behind Ludwig. „Hey – that is nice and easy“, I thought as we rode fast through the flatter parts of the approach. If this continues, I would have enough power to overtake Ludwig and sprint to the top. I thought foolheartily.
Because once the gradient started to become steeper (not steep, but steeper) and Ludwig was still going strongly, I could barely stay on his back wheel. At least I had the feeling that I was fast. About 11 to 12 minutes into the ride Ludwig pulled away and I was on my own. In the distance I could see the final corner, after which the overpass should have been. Looking at the watch I thought that I was doing well. I mean, if this is really the last curve because going up Otarumi there are two curves which look almost the same and I always mix them up.

„Hey, I am the god of speed …. ups …. that was not the final curve, I still need much more time to go“ is what I have been thinking many times at Otarumi. Perhaps one would erect a signboard on the second last curve „THIS IS NOT THE LAST ONE“ and another one at the last curve „STILL THINKING YOU WERE FAST?“.

This was the last one. One more push out of the saddle and I achieved a new personal best of 13:34 min. Ludwig was of course faster, as I can name at least ten more riders from TCC who can kill me easily on this hill, but please remember: I walked up this hill in 2004 when I tried it for the first time. I have come a longer way at an older age than most of you guys.

This was a very nice good-bye present from Ludwig that I will remember for a very long time.
We then took some final photos on the top. There seems to be a huge wolfhound beast lurking around at the Ramen shop which is always closed on the left side, but perhaps you need to understand Japanese and be afraid to encounter him.In order to shave off time, we rode down the same side in direction Takao station and I made it home before 6 PM so I could „true“ the relationship with my wife.

When Ludwig and me said good-bye to each other we had a final, typical conversation. Out of nostalgic considerations, I wanted to state some of the beautiful rides we did together and the high mountains we have climbed together for the first time as well. I thought of our ride up to Mitsumine Jinja and to Haccho Tunnel in Chichibu. But Ludwig wasn’t too impressed about these two rides. We thought long and hard which other passes over 1.000 m elevation we have climbed together for the first time and coundn’t come up with any. And we couldn’t agree on any single ride that was great, except for a vague feeling that we did something quite interesting sometimes in Chichibu…somewhere. So we parted.

Meanwhile in Bremen: My Cervelo bike is with me and now ready to ride, but I didn’t had to time to do any junk miles yet. No wonder, grey skies, light rain and a temperature of 10 degrees almost all of the time. I better get used to that weather quickly or I will not ride at all.

I checked out the race events yesterday and much to my surprise there is a kind of brevet hold on Saturday for 210 km. I first laughed when I read the desciption of the route: „There are almost no elevation gains. The biggest challenges will be to cross railroad lines and highways.“
Then I stopped laughing when I noted that one has to do the 210 km in nine hours time. Not impossible, but surely not for the easy-going ones. I completely stopped to make any npoise when I checked the weather forecast for Saturday.

So I called the organizers: No. it isn’t a problem to register at the start on Saturday. Yes, the route will be marked and there will be supply stations. Yes, there will be even something warm to eat. They expect about 500 riders (for various distances between 60 and 210 km). Yes, I can pay 20 Euros (2.600 Yen) at the start.

This is great. No registration two weeks before the race, paying at the 7-eleven, than not starting because of bad weather. So I will wake up on Saturday morning, check the weather and .. not start AND not loose any money, great. Or perhaps I start. Will let you know later.

The other good thing is, that even in May the sun sets only after 9 PM, so there is still time for a short loop after work. Theoretically.

Need more latex.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, Mob

Hiei Hill

On my first ever visit to Japan in 1985 I spend some days in a small village called Sakamoto at the shores of lake Biwa just outside of Kyoto. For a long time I have been fantasizing about about riding my bike from Kyoto to Sakamoto and with time running out quickly I graped the chance to do so on Tuesday.The weather looked real miserable when I left the house at 5.30 hr in order to catch the first Shinkansen of the day from Shin-Yokohama to Kyoto station. Riding in the train and looking out of the window the weather situation seemed to deteriorate even more while going West. This was going to be a miserable day, without doubt. So it was no surprise, when it drizzled already when I finished to assemble my bike and started to ride out Kyoto station on the beloved Avanti/Fismy side. How many times have I been there to buy some junk, not appropriate for my age group regardless of which age I entered?

I was so eager to ride out of town, that I rode much to far to the North. When I changed into rain gear and checked the maps at a 7-Eleven, I found out that I hat to ride back quite a distance and make a turn to ride on Ken-30 in direction Hie-San. This is a magical mountain with some remarkable temples on the top, most notably Enryakuji. It is where the warrior monks (Yamabushi, but no Yamabushi Toge in sight) used to live and descend to Kyoto to terrorize the local population. I have ridden up by car a few times long ago and I expected an awful long and steep climb, but it wasn’t that bad. Mount Hie is actually more a hill in the scale of Otarumi or Yamabushi Toge (Chichibu, that one).Nevertheless with a lot of luggage on the back it took me quite a while to reach the top. There was an entrance to a toll road (Hie Driveway) which was closed for bicycles. These war-mongering monks still find ways to extract money from innocent travellers, now by levering tolls on highways. So I rode down the other side towards lake Biwa and the town of Otsu.

I had no particular goal to reach, no route planned and no minimum distance or elevation to be covered. So I just rode along in the rain, looking for things of interest on the left and on the right. A very much enjoyable type of rising like I used to do many years ago when I started to explore Tokyo by bicycle. Very non-competitive. Lake Biwa with it’s long history is also a very fertile ground for this kind of riding and before long I found the entrance to a bigger shrine (Omi Jinja) where I thought I could buy some Ema for my collection.When I approached the main hall, I heard some typical Shinto music and I saw a larger congregation of rather old people gathering under the roof. Curiously I climbed up the stairs and just in front of me a ritual take place where three fully dressed Shinto priests dissected some fresh fish with a huge knife and extraordinary long chopsticks. The scene was almost surreal: here I came through the rain on my 21st century (not carbon!) bike dressed in high performance rain gear and suddenly I was in a location and watching a ritual that could have been conducted in the same manner at least 100 years ago.I reminded me very much of a scene from the movie Lost in Translation, where the female lead finds by chance a temple in the middle of Tokyo when lost in the city and marvels about the strange things experienced.
http://www.youtube.com/get_player
This is not one of my favourite movies. Actually there is only one movie I really, really like and I have seen a hundred times or more: „L’homme qui aimait les femmes“ by Francois Truffaut (1977) and this one has nothing to do with cycling. Are there any scenes of cycling in Truffaut’s movies? Perhaps in Jules et Jim, but I am not completely sure. Anyway, despite the title and the fact that the movie is starring Brigitte Fossey, in 1977 the most beautiful woman on planet Earth (my generation knows her mainly from La Boum) I do not like the movie so much because it is about love. No, it is a movie about writing and this is what I do when I don’t cycle (or have to earn a living or keep my family happy).I deviated. Slightly. So coming back to „Lost in Translation“, I nevertheless like this movie not because of the movie itself but because what happened when I went watching it with my wife. Much of the movie is located in the PARK HYATT HOTEL in Shinjuku, a very expensive but nevertheless stylish place where I choose to stay in 1998 for one night out of a sudden and foolish impulse. The next morning I felt terrible for spending uselessly so much money so I tried to compensate myself for this by stealing the hotel’s Yukata from my room. Hey, for 50.000 Yen one can expect that piece to be included, can one? Of course I never told that my wife as she hates when I steal things from time to time out of bad habit. I have a nice collection of good looking ashtrays from hotels around the world and a massive amounts of coat hangers from the Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong where I was forced to stay many times to attend many boring meetings at Schindler’s Asian headquarters.

Now, when my wife and me watched the movie, suddenly the main character, Bill Murray, appears on the screen wearing the very same hotel Yukata (at app. 1:46 min in the trailer). Of course my wife noticed this immediately and gave me a hard time to explain why I had precisely the same type. So eventually all bad habits get punished, some earlier, some later. Or like we say in German: „Kleine Suenden bestraft der liebe Gott sofort, grosse dauern etwas laenger.“

All of this went through my head as I was standing there watching fish get chopped, sliced and diced in old fashioned form just in front of me. Discretely as I came, I went, trying not to disturb too much the tranquility and peace of the place and the people attending.

Back on the shore road to lake Biwa I found myself sandwiched between speeding trucks on one side and the barracks of a Japanese Self Defense Force Base on the other. A group of soldiers in full gear tried to cross the street led by a guy with the famous Japanese red light swords, commonly used at public road work sites. Funny.By now I have grown accustomed to the rain and I was pretty wet. My shoes had reached the point of no return as well. Do you know this sensation when riding through the rain? The feet are getting more and more wet and then suddenly they are soaked with water and becoming cold. Do you know this feeling of helplessness that nothing can prevent this from happening? That you will ride the rest of the day, even if the sky turns blue and the temperature rises to 50 degrees in the shade, with wet socks in wet shoes? This must be destiny.

I then entered the village of Sakamoto which is really beautiful with a lot of old buildings and temples and continued on Ken-47 towards the North. The area is beautiful, still some Shidare-Sakura in full bloom and history lurks out behind every gate and wall. So I continued to the town of Ogoto and and tried another road up to Enryakuji, the Oku Hie Driveway. But also this one was closed to bikes – there is no way to ride up to the temple by bike (and to spend money).So I decided to do the most sensible thing and look for a nice Onsen on the coast and relax after this long, hard ride of 70 (!) km. I found one modern Onsen but it was OK as they had all kind of stuff which one needs to stay there. Even towels, razors and tooth brushes. First I was a little bit irritated that there was no tooth paste, but when I cleaned my teeth with it nevertheless, I noticed that the tooth paste is already integrated in the brush. Clever idea. Or perhaps it was the residuals of the guy who used it before me, again not 100% sure.

And this Onsen also hat three tatamis on a podium in the middle of the bathing area where one could lay down, completely naked and sleep. A most splendid idea.

After having a nice nap, I mounted my bike again and rode to Sakamoto where I met a friend from my first visit in 1985 and we had an excellent time together. The last Shinkansen at 9 PM brought me back to Tokyo later. Not such a cycling focused day but more than one can reasonably expect from a rainy day in Japan.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Cervelo Soloist, Mob