21 January 2018

2018 Japan Handmade Bike Show

I stopped by Kitanomaru on January 20 for this year's handmade bike show.

Some highlights:

1. Equilibrium Cycleworks. As usual, Vlad from Equilibrium brought some beautiful bikes. As Vlad notes, he gets clients -- despite being a foreign builder in Japan -- by a willingness to do things other builders will not.  Disk brakes. Internal cabling. And on and on. Spectacular paint and overall craftsmanship.

167 wheels from GS Astuto / Tim Smith with yellow labeling to match the paint on this bike!

2.  Beautiful craftsmanship.

Makino brazing on this lugged bike. Just gorgeous.

Dobbat's seat post tightening hidden bolt (embedded in the seat stays from the other side).

3.  Tradition

For some reason, this year my eyes were drawn to the nice, light/small rear racks on many of the randonneur bikes

Beautiful Toei Tandem!

4. Supplies and components


Tange (and Columbus) tubing were on display

Lugs and more lugs here and elsewhere (though mostly imported from Taiwan)

Honjo Koken fenders

Gokiso hubs

5. And more and more!

14 January 2018

Expecting a New Member of the Club! A French bike for a French rider.

Jerome and I rode on Saturday, despite sub-freezing early morning temperatures.

We headed up the Tamagawa until I got a flat tire just a few kms beyond Komae. My rear tire was pretty much completely worn out in one area--I could see through it when I held it up to the light. I must have skidded and shredded the already very well-worn tire (skidding inevitable once in awhile when braking with carbon clinchers).
Fire department members approach their vehicles.
Ready to enforce the massive "no barbeque", "no fireworks" and "no fun permitted" signs on the bridge support.
So we decided to stop by Y's Road in Fuchu for me to replace the tire. Y's happened to be holdin (through January 21) an annual inventory clearance sale (2017 and earlier bikes all 40-70% off).  Great prices, especially for Japan.

Jerome has been looking for a new Look bike to replace his 2010 Look 550 w/ Shimano 105 components.  Y's Fuchu had only one Look road bike in stock and it was too small ... but their inventory list showed many Look frames and bikes on sale at the Y's shop in Shiki, Saitama. Why not a non-Look frame? I guess if you have to ask, you are not French.

So we rode 25 kms or a bit more over to Shiki -- and checked out the Look inventory. Jerome found a beautiful Look 765 frame at a very reasonable price. It will be built up with Ultegra 6800. He'll use his existing front wheel (w dynamo hub).

We parted ways as he headed home, and I went to the nearby Arakawa and downstream to Akabane. Nice to ride a wide open, deserted path with a totally different feeling than the Tamagawa. Living further east these days, I suspect this will not be my last trip up or down the Arakawa.

08 January 2018

Shizuoka Coast - Ichigo Line in Winter! First Brevet of 2018

An Audax Saitama rider takes his turn to pull, with former Audax Japan Chair Midori Shiroki (aka "Kaichou")
on the O-Kuzure Kaigan 大崩海岸 betweeen Shizuoka City and Yaizu.
(O-kuzure) means basically "big landslide". That is why they ultimately build this bridge out over the water!
On January 7, Jerome and I joined a Shizuoka Audax sponsored 200km event, the BRM107いちご200km, our first Brevet of 2018. I have not done a Shizuoka-sponsored ride in at least 3 or 4 years, but many of the Kanagawa Audax and Randonneur Tokyo events, not to mention our first Fleche route with our Audax Chubu-based team members, have overlapped with significant parts of this course. And today there were many other riders and friends from Kanto, and Chubu--notably, Shuichi Tanaka, our Fleche leader (aka "sensei" -- he is a pediatric surgeon after all), who rode much of the course with Jerome and me. It was only at the finish, when we could meet many of the faster riders who had started at 630 or 7AM, instead of 730AM, as did we, that we found Jun Sato, Tak Kawano, and many others. We were riding much of the way passing and being passed by Hirokazu Suzuki, solo Race Across the West participant, who "wrote the book" on randonneuring (literally). Normally I would be way behind him, but he was on a relaxed pace, riding with his wife. And there were Yurika Murakami, the Kamanos on their tandem (legal in Shizuoka Prefecture, unlike some other Japan locales), Akihiko Kamishima, Noriko Sakai, Midori Shiroki and so many more familiar faces. I am sure others would have joined as well, but for Maya Ide's Audax Kanagawa January 6 200km brevet the day before. (The ideal solution was to ride BOTH events, 200km on Saturday and again on Sunday, as at least Kamishima-san did!).

The only unfamiliar stretch of the route was the climb SW of Shimizu-shi to NihonDaira (日本平)which gave us a spectacular view of the Suruga Bay, Mt. Fuji, Izu in the distance, and the connected mid-sized cities along the coast that make up Shizuoka. Of course, we passed row-upon-row of Japanese tea bushes, and mikan trees, on that climb. It was only 260 meters of elevation gain, starting at sea level, but it was steep at places and came after 135kms of road, so it took some real effort!
The view from part-way down Nihon Daira. Just behind the smokestack on the mid-right side is Miho no Matsubara.
It was a beautiful winter day, only really cold, numbingly cold as we stood around in a shadow with a cold breeze listening to the morning briefing.
Cold briefing and speeches. As usual, Jerome gets attention as the only rider with bare legs. Crazy.
The start/finish were at a closed elementary school, located just at the southern end of many kilometers of Numazu/Nishi Izu coastline fast food restaurants, ramen shops and gasoline stands, where it changes into a beautiful, peaceful coastline. Several rooms at the school have been converted by the Numazu city government into "Numazu Cycle Station". They have rental cycles (1000 yen a day for a "cross bike"), maintenance tools, men's and women's changing rooms, some other supplies, maps of the local area, AND free parking for cyclists who arrive by car.
Numazu Cycle Station. Warm inside, cold outside!
The location makes this a great jumping off place for a Nishi Izu exploration -- and a perfect way for someone to try cycling in Japan on beautiful, low-traffic routes. And it can be used by groups, such as Shizuoka Audax, so I expect this will not be the last event they hold using this start/finish.Indeed, this is just where I reached the coastline on my Nishi Izu ride last month.

For better or worse, the brevet route headed in the opposite direction, North toward the cities and traffic. But it was early morning Sunday, and the route was well-planned, so traffic was manageable, even when we ended up riding alongside some traffic jams.

We warmed up as soon as we were on the road and the sun rose, and by the first checkpoint, at Miho no Matsubara, I changed to lighter gloves and cap, and took off the "rain legs" chaps I had used to block the wind from coming through my cycling tights.
Mt. Fuji from Miho no Matsubara
(This area, with its famous Fuji view, is part of the Mt. Fuji UNESCO World Heritage Site)
At Miho, the biggest crowd was at a soccer training facility for the Shimizu S-Pulse, the local J League team, where a scrimmage was underway. In fact, we saw S-Pulse ads on the local buses, and lots and lots of other S-Pulse imagery around.

From Miho, we rode onto the Ichigo Line, a beautiful stretch of road just south of Nihon Daira between Miho and Shizuoka City, famously lined (on the inland side) by strawberry fields and entrepreneurs. Many of the places selling strawberries have several teenage girls dressed in brightly colored down jackets, waving at passing drivers and beckoning them to pull into the parking lot and buy some berries. On our return leg in the afternoon, Jerome and Tanaka-san stopped at one place to wait a few minutes for me, and we all enjoyed strawberry soft-ice cream (it was that warm, in January!), before continuing.

I can remember some rides in the past where I faced such severe headwinds on the Ichigo Line that I could barely move forward. It was so hard all I could do was laugh, put my head down, and pick a goal -- catch that rider 25 meters ahead, try to keep up with a runner (!), or just make it to the next sign. And I can remember heading west/SW along this stretch of coast as the sun was low to the horizon, creating headache-inducing glare.

Not yesterday. We had gentle tailwinds or calm in both directions! And in the morning we rode West, away from the sun, while in the afternoon we rode East, also with the sun at our backs and great visibility.

As for the term "Ichigo Line", I knew the road was named after the strawberry fields and shops for which it is famous, just like the "Fruit Line" in Yamanashi, the "Salad Line" NW of Shiojiri in Nagano, and the "Beef Line" in Ibaraki. But a Japanese friend pointed out that the "Ichigo Line" is National Route 150, as in "Ichi-Go-Zero". And close by was Route 1, which also can be pronounced "Ichi-Go-Sen".  So maybe the "Ichigo" name is a more clever play on words that I never noticed before?

We did a loop at the the western end of the Brevet route, going out along the coast and the O-Kuzure Kaigan, a beautiful stretch of steep coastline between Shizuoka and Yaizu.
Jerome and Shiroki-san, on the O-Kuzure Kaigan climb, Fuji further away now

Looking SW, after the climb at O-Kuzure Kaigan.
On the return we went inland, entering Fujieda and following local roads over a low pass roughly parallel to Route 1, then back into Shizuoka City.

The first short climb is O-Kuzure, the second is the return from Fujieda to Shizuoka, the last is Nihon Daira.
A very, very flat brevet for Japan! Less than 1000 meters climbing.

Our route - around the top of the Suruga Bay from East to West and bak.
All-in-all, it was a very good day and a great start to the new season. Jerome and I stopped at an onsen hotel (Hakkei-en) in nearby Nagaoka to soak our tired bodies, then got some fast Chinese food, in an attempt to wait out the traffic jam on the Tomei expressway. (Japan must be the only developed country in the world where there are traffic jams returning to the cities on the evening of the MIDDLE day of a 3-day weekend. What is the purpose of the 3-day weekend, if not for people to return on the 3rd day?)  In the end, Google told us we could save 10 minutes if we avoided the jammed Tomei and instead came via Route 1, Hakone Shindo, the coastal bypass, and Yokohama Shindo and Dai-san Keihin. Indeed, it was a reasonably fast trip home, then to bed.

04 January 2018

Minami Miura

As planned, I took a ride on the southern part of the Miura Peninsula today, with Andrew Edsall. Jerome slept in after a home party with visiting friends from France.

Weather and views were spectacular. It was a great start to the new cycling year. Not a long ride, just over 50kms, and a relaxed pace throughout. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Random roadie we passed - many like this.

Approaching Jogashima - Izu Oshima in the distance?

Izu across the Sagami Bay

The winter's ride lunch tradition - maguro-don at Jogashima
Breezing Up!

First sakura

01 January 2018

January 3 - Miura Tip Ride

After two days off the bicycle (today and tomorrow), I plan to ride the Miura Peninsula tip on January 3.

If you would like to join, I suggest meeting at the Yokosuka Chuo Station (Keihin Kyukou -- NOT to be confused with the Yokosuka JR station) entrance at 930AM and have bikes assembled and on the road a few minutes later. If you go by train, it is less than 50 minutes from Shinagawa by express on the Keihin Kyukou). Or you can switch from another like to Keihin Kyukou at Yokohama Station.

The "main" ride would be from Yokosuka Chuo along the coast and ending at Misakiguchi Station -- about 48 kms on the route I suggest. It is also possible to ride down (adding another 55+kms) and/or to continue on around the west side of the peninsula to Kamakura, Enoshima and beyond.

The proposed "main" route can be seen here:


We can get an early lunch of maguro-don or other specialty at Jogashima or in the town of Misakiguchi just across from Jogashima.

Please drop me a note (to David G. Litt via FB Messenger) if you want to join. RSVP required.

This will be a relaxed pace ride, and I am happy to help newbies, including anyone who is not accustomed to using a rinko bag and carrying their bike on the train.
(Also posting to Tokyo International Cyclists and Tokyo Cranks).

Festive 500 2017 - End of Year Rides

This year I missed the first two days of the Strava / Rapha Festive 500 for a trip to Nagano (by car) with visiting family on December 24th and 25th, but was hell bent on completing the Festive 500 challenge in the remaining six days to get in some long, slow distance and to begin training for the new year.

I think it worked. On January 1, my legs are stiff and muscles tired.

But over the course of the week I felt as if I was slowly creeping back into the cycling shape I had a year and more ago. The last half of 2017 was a bit of a bust from a cycling perspective. My last big, big rides were the Isabella Byrd series over Golden Week, and not enough training, or focus, since: A failed half-effort at SR600 Nihon Alps on the only plausible weekend to try during the fall -- doomed from before the start by an approaching typhoon. No brevets.

Leaving aside some short unrecorded in-town rides to work and nearby locations on the first two days, the last week of the year I managed:

12/26  57.7kms
12/27  67.6kms
12/28  92.3 + 6.3 kms (98.6 kms)
12/29  98.7 + 3.4 + 37.3 kms (139.4 kms)
12/30  68.4 + 2.5 + 2.4 kms (73.3 kms)
12/31  103.9 + 15.0 kms (118.9 kms)
(and another 14.4 back home from the New Year party at Jerome's sister's place that did not "count" since after midnight).

So 556 kms of "official" mileage and another probably 25 kms of "unofficial".  This is good enough for 5,330th place out of over 80,000 participants in the Festive 500. Just doing 501 kms would be only good enough for something like 17,000th place. Another 100+kms and I would be in the top 1,000 globally. That gives a good idea how many people are just focused on getting to 500!

I think doing all of these shorter rides, at moderate pace, stretched out over the week, was much better for conditioning than 2 years ago when I did nearly half the mileage on one long final day. I could also use the opportunity to explore "exit routes" by bicycle from my new home in Takanawa, and I found one good one that gets me a good part of the way south from here toward the Tamagawa, Haneda Airport, and the border with Kawasaki, while avoiding the main roads. Also, I re-learned the lower stretch of paths along the Tamagawa, from Haneda to Marukobashi, and realized that much of it can be a good training route.
Lower Tamagawa stretch
Now two days off the bike, then the 2018 campaign begins!
"I'll have a pizza and an IPA."

Enjoying my "just right" Q36.5 winter wear. 

31 December 2017

Early December Nishi Izu

Views of Mt Fuji for many, many kilometers from Nishi Izu coastline

The last week of the year has been taken up with many short rides, more time along the Tamagawa than any point in the past year. But I did get one spectacular ride in December a bit farther afield, in Nishi Izu from Mishima down to Matsuzaki, then via Jaishi Toge (that's "snake rock pass" -- sounds like a place out of a western!), Minami Izu and Shimoda. A classic Positivo Espresso route on a perfect late autumn/early winter day, but a road I have not taken since an early 2015 brutally tough 400km Randonneurs Tokyo brevet.

An early shinkansen to Mishima and a long train ride back from Shimoda. Next time I may stay the night and ride back ... or do a different loop and return via Shuzenji.

Next time I will experiment with better route between Mishima Station and the coastline....

Nishi Izu has plenty of climbing. Nothing more than a few hundred meters tall, but it adds up!

According to Strava 2900 meters elevation gain. In fact? Less, but still probably close to 2000.

There were so many beautiful vistas it was difficult not to stop every few minutes, and now it is difficult to select among photos.

A cold morning at the start ... but warmed up gradually with the sunlight

Bike leaning, mikan at the bottom of the staircase
One of many small working harbors

More Fuji

I wish I had had room in my rucksack for some mikan and kiwi fruit!

One of the earlier towns heading down the coast ... I think Heda
The climbs do have their rewards!

Toi Onsen Footbath

At Toi Onsen

More and more

Sun is getting lower ... at Dougashima

More Dougashima

Sometimes a video tells the story better, even a few seconds.

Here either route leads to Minami Izu and Shimoda. Both involve climbing. I went straight.

Jaishi is a bit lonely without the collapsed Positivo Espresso members, as in the traditional photo
Another foot spa, another bike leaning. This one at Minami Izu.
This is where Steve R. and I warmed up after official closing but before they drained the water back in early 2015.
And it is at the base of a hill where there was a site for one of my company's solar PV projects.

I will not wait 2 1/2 years before my next visit!