19 October 2014

255 kms on a spectacular day -- Akiyama, Kawaguchiko, Ashigara

Mt. Fuji .. hidden when we were there at Noon, but visible now that we have made it back to Nakai/Hiratsuka.
About 50 riders joined the Nishi Tokyo 200 brevet on Saturday.  Originally scheduled for March but postponed due to snow on the passes, the weather was spectacular this time.

The morning was cool and chilly as I headed out to the start in Machida, just warm enough so that I left my arm warmers and full fingered gloves packed away in my saddle bag.  The Brevet route quickly headed into the mountains to the west, so that we were at Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko area by mid-day.  It was still cool, the elevation and mountain climate offsetting the mid-day sun.  Even on the big descent from Kagosaka Pass (1130m elev) through Subashiri (800m elev) and down, down, down to Ashigara Station (370m elev), it was warm enough for me to not bother with arm warmers, cap.  By the time the sun set we were back in the sprawl of Kanagawa -- around Hiratsuka -- so there was only a modest evening chill.

We started near the Konno Seisakusho / Cherubim shop, and headed out through Sagamihara.  (Indeed, I saw at least 3 or 4 Cherubim handmade custom bikes among this group -- each one beautifully maintained and spotless).  I rode some at the start with a group that included Kojima-san, whom I met, but have not seen since, 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris when we struggled together to get back toward Lodeac on the return leg, both near sleep in the dark on the bikes.  He slept at Lodeac and I continued on--a mistake on my part.  He looked somehow different on a beautiful morning in October 2014.  Different clothes, helmet (no light) and vest.  Different eyeglasses, maybe?  But helpfully his vest had the lettering "Kojima" on the back, so that was a tip-off!

Anyway, I did not want to ride with the group through all the traffic signals of Sagamihara.  It is so much effort to start and stop repeatedly with a group of 6~8 persons.  So I worked hard to get off the front and get at least one signal between myself and the group.  That worked well and I was able to time my solo ride to catch more of the signals until out in the countryside.  Of course, most of these folks passed me on the first, or second hills.
Along Route 35 as we head through Akiyama toward Tsuru
Once past Lake Tsukui the route was spectacular, if familiar, for about 30 kms.  We took Rte 517 then Rte 35 through Magino and Akiyama and over Suzugane Pass (tunnel) to Tsuru.  This route goes through hilly countryside, up and down repeatedly, and eventually up to the tunnel at just under 700 meters elevation, then down past the Maglev test track station and to Tsuru.  Everything looking great with blue sky, cool air, persimmons ready to pick, tidy houses -- both traditional farms and modern, even a few contemporary homes.  There was clear running water over rocks in streams and rivers.  And almost no traffic.

Some of us stopped on the road to Suzugane at Hamazawa village in Akiyama to get (and consume) freshly cooked, piping hot manju, filled with sweet red beans.  I have heard about this for at least 6-7 years, from MOB and numerous others ... but had never actually experienced its wonders until Saturday.  You could see the wood-burning stove, flames bright and several little old ladies in their white baking clothes working away.  The seasonal flowers in front of the shop were glorious, and when I mentioned them to the woman serving customers, she told me they had been changed only yesterday.  Fall has arrived!
At the famous manju shop on Route 35

Fresh local autumn flowers next to the wood-fired oven room.
A small shrine just of Route 35 on the climb to Suzugane Pass
After a check point at a Tsuru 7-11, we slogged up Route 139 to Fuji Yoshida / Kawaguchiko area.  I hate this road, but must say that on Saturday morning the traffic was manageable, and with the perfect temperatures I did not suffer as much as usual.  I did not to stop and get some sunscreen, given the total lack of shade and the sun getting higher in the sky.
A temple just off the road as we near Kawaguchi-ko
Kawaguchiko was spectacular, as we stopped at O-ishi on the (scenic and less crowded) north shore for a checkpoint and view. Mt. Fuji was obscured in clouds, other than the lower slopes, but it was still a beautiful scene.   We next passed through the incredible congestion of Routes 139/138 through Fuji Yoshida and up the slope to Yamanaka-ko.  This hill is less than 150 meters over almost 5 kms, so only around 3-4%, but with heavy traffic, lines of cars creeping along and exhaust fumes, much of it is unpleasant.  The route left the main road (Route 138) and was quite pleasant through the areas of second homes and company facilities SW of Yamanakako, then climbed up to Kagosaka Pass.
Cosmos at Kawaguchi-ko
The park at Oo-ishi ("Big Rock"), on the North Shore of Kawaguchi ko.
I faded on the steep parts of the short climb from Yamanakako to Kagosaka Pass, and could barely turn over the pedals.  I started to think it had not been such a good idea to get to bed very late Friday night, up very early (only 3 hours sleep), and then to ride hard an extra 28 kms from my home to the start of the brevet instead of going by train.  Two American riders, David and Aaron, caught me near the top of this climb.  They would have left me far behind, but we soon reached the top.  The next leg, 20 kms of downhill to Ashigara Station, offered a good chance to recover on the bike, making excellent time with minimal effort.  And once we got off of route 138, the road (local route 150) was excellent -- low traffic volume, few signals and a long steady downhill.

The next checkpoint was at Hashimoto, a small grocery store within 100 meters of Ashigara Station.  The proprietors had several road bike racks out front (the kind where you hang the front of your saddle over a bar, rear tire off the ground) and some spare chainrings hanging in the window -- clear signs that cyclists are welcome.  In addition to the usual fare, I got some cucumbers.  When I asked at the register if they had some salt or miso for dipping, they quickly brought some as "service" (no charge).  They looked happy that I was very happy at this -- just the kind of experience that makes me want to come back again next time I am anywhere near Ashigara on my bike.

We climbed Route 78 to Ashigara Pass -- almost 400 meters of elevation gain, including some quite steep stretches.  It was a hard climb after many hours of riding.  Then it was part way down the even steeper SE side ... then another short but painful 60-70 meter climb up a side road to the barbeque area at 夕日の滝 (Yuu-hi no Taki -- maybe "twilight falls"?)  This was a delightful stop, manned by Nishi Tokyo and Kanagawa Audax staff serving charcoal grilled hot dogs, whole fish and yakitori (though only chicken skin -- a type of yakitori not favored by foreigners).  One of the leaders of Kanagawa Audax was supervising the bike parking area, and I asked him why there were so many Kanagawa Audax jerseyed staff on this Nishi Tokyo Brevet.  He said that both Nishi Tokyo and Aoba Randonneurs are Kanagawa Audax "spin offs".  This I had heard long ago, but it seems they still maintain close links and work together.
Maya Ide, volunteering at the Yuu-hi no Taki stop, talks with a rider.  She told me she did the Merselo-Verona 1200 this summer and was raving about riding the Arlsbergpass, then Reschenpass and into Italy via the Sud Tirol (Naturns, Bolzano)!  Some of the most beautiful summer cycling territory on the planet!
At the Yuu-hi no Taki rest stop.  The two riders on the left rode as a pair the entire ride.  They both have beautiful Cherubim bikes!  David and Aaron (right rear) also rode together, one or the other going ahead on climbs.  And the rider in the orange vest is, yes, wearing blue jeans.  He did the entire ride on a mountain bike with massive tubes, fat tires and, yes, in jeans, in about the same time as I did on and in, ostensibly, more appropriate gear.

Anyway, the rest of the descent from Ashigara was less technical, allowing very high speeds.  After some zigs and zags, and long lines of cars, we took Kanagawa Route 77 the rest of the way past Nakai and Hadano to Hiratsuka.
On the fast mid/lower part of the descent from Ashigara Pass
There was plenty of up and down on Route 77, but the traffic was not so bad until we emerged at Hiratsuka.  From there to the finish, it seemed like every signal we passed slowly by long lines of cars.  Urban sprawl and weekend congestion along Kanagawa Route 63, lasting even after dark and into the dinner hour.

My Garmin battery died somewhere in Atsugi along this sprawl of Route 63.  My chain also jammed under the chain-catcher as I tried to get back on the bike.  I hailed another rider -- the very Nishi Tokyo audax staff member who had done my bike inspection, Yamada-san (who was riding a Centurion frame and wearing a Team Telecom German national champion jersey, and said he lives in Machida.)  He helped with light as I managed to remount the chain, and I followed him most of the way to the goal so I could ride without fumbling with a cue sheet in the dark.  Thank you, Yamada-san.
Beautiful custom Cherubim bike with Rohloff rear hub, front dynamo hub (in matching red), and classic cloth/leather bags.  Leather bar tape, of course, and full fenders.  This rider did the Ise 1000 ride ... started and finished earlier than me, but I recognized photos of the bike!  Pedals for normal shoes!?

It was a glorious day for a ride, and even if the route included some stretches I would rather avoid, there were many other stretches that I love, and Ashigara Pass I climbed for the first time.  So all in all a very nice 200km Brevet.
Home to Start
Start to Atsugi ... where GPS battery died
Goal to home



Made in Japan

I saw these classic metal water bottles at Hiroshi's shop, C Speed, the other day.  Beautiful, light and strong. There is a cork under the cap and, of course, the cap when unscrewed and inverted will serve as a cup.  They would go great on a restored classic bike ... though they are not inexpensive, and the shiny mirror-like finish (right side) costs extra.   Still, they should last a long, long time.

Hiroshi tells me that they are made using the Japanese "herabori" technique, kind of like cutting away metal with a spoon, I guess on a metal lathe.  

18 October 2014

Short Brevet ... with climbs and ride to/from the start

Tomorrow I will ride a 200km Nishi Tokyo Brevet originally scheduled for March, but rescheduled due to snow on Ashigara Pass during the pre-ride in February.  I was incredulous when told of the postponement back in February .... how could they give up so long before the event?  But in fact the weather was miserable and cold during the next two weeks, and no so the organizers were vindicated.  Too many cancelled events this year.  Next weekend is another, Chiba 300 km ride originally planned for February.

A 200 km Brevet, on mostly familiar roads, should be easy, and yes, short.  Except for the climbs.  Pretty much constant up and down on this route between Tsukui-ko and Tsuru, then up to Kawaguchi-ko, then again up to Ashigara Pass. And then again, it will not be 200 kms, but more like 255 kms, as I will ride to and from the start in Machida, adding another 55 kms or so.

In any event, the forecast looks great for tomorrow.  Clear and cool all day.  The course, while not original, should have many nice sections.


13 October 2014

Sunday Ride to Lake Tsukui -- without Garmin -- and review of iPhone GPS cycling apps

On Sunday I went for a ride out to the Tsukui-ko area.  Out Onekansen Doro, along the Tank Road, around the north side of the lake via the forest road, then a loop and back over a different bridge to the North side, and home a slightly different route.

It was a relatively short (97.5km) and easy ride.  Saturday I had conflicting commitments; Monday we will have rain later in the day as a typhoon approaches.

Nothing unusual, except that I left my Garmin Edge 800 device at home.  No, I did not forget it, I just left it at home.
Early fall near Lake Tsukui
Mysterious weather ... still far ahead of a massive typhoon
Watch out Garmin.  Your days are numbered, at least for recreational use!

It is a commonplace observation that Apple and its products, especially the iPhone, have been like a mass extinction event for parts of the consumer electronics industry.  Sony Walkman and other MP3 players?  Gone.  Record and CD retail shops?  Gone, when most buy the same music on iTunes for instant download. Cable TV and broadcast radio talk shows?  No need when you can get the same content customized via podcasts. Digital cameras and videos?  I think I bought my last digital camera about 5 or 6 years ago.  The photos taken on my iPhone 5S are much better, plus when I need to I can use the free "Theodolite" app and get a photo stamped with time, GPS coordinates, elevation and direction and vertical/side-to-side angles on the photo.  Train timetables?  Weather forecasts?  Filing receipts?  Personal video conferencing?  Foreign language dictionaries and phrasebooks?  Maps, and more maps?  All gone.  There's an App for that (as they say).

I tried some of the cycling GPS apps back when I got my first iPhone (4S)  in 2011.  I found that they would eat up battery life, so I could not imagine using them on any full day ride or longer brevet/randonee.  But with subsequent versions of the iOS and a newer phone (5S), I now rely on Google maps instead of a car Navi and find the power usage acceptable.  So I figured it was time to try again the cycling apps.

A month or so back, I started using Strava and RidewithGPS for recording some of my commutes.  Last week also MapMyRide.  They record the 30+ minutes each way (with the screen turned off much of the way) without a noticeable drop in the battery, so I thought it was time to try them on a longer ride.

They all work great.  Each app is using the same underlying data and GPS sensors from the iPhone, and each is going into a "sleep" mode when the phone's screen is switched off (but still capturing and recording the GPS data), so it is not surprising that the results are similar. The interfaces are each different, and everyone will have a favorite.  I rode for almost 5 1/2 hours, and used about half my iPhone battery life.  I also sent and received/checked emails and SMS messages, plus used Google Maps navigation for about 15 minutes to find a shop.  So these apps are now just nearing the point of being usable for an all day ride.

Please note, what follows are just a layman's impressions.  You can get much more detailed, technical information and guidance elsewhere.  And just go to the TCC site for lots and lots of discussions about these services.

Strava.  I like the clean Strava recording screen, ... but I need to go to another screen to access a map and that page lacks the cyclecomputer data, whereas the others have a map on the "main" page.



Strava has the best integration with its website and its social media-style features -- you can see your "feed"on the iPhone app, and upload quickly to your friends when you finish a ride.  And if you ask the App will find you a "route back to the start".  It chooses this based upon the popularity of various potential roads with cyclists.  So when I was out near Hashimoto and asked for a route home, it directed me down Onekansen Doro -- by far the best choice I know of as a cyclist, and not the choice that Google Maps would have made.

I am not a "premium" Strava member, but the service seems to just get better and better.  I just tried their route drawing sub-application, and it seems to work very well now.  I do not know if it even existed the first time I tried Strava.  Also, way back then Strava had a limit on the number of monthly rides recorded for non-premium (non-paying) members.

RidewithGPS.  RidewithGPS uses the screen "real estate" very well -- with both cycle computer info and a map on the main page.

RidewithGPS iPhone app does not seem very customizable (though it was possible to switch the map from a "pointing North" orientation to a "pointing the same way as the bicycle" orientation, and the app nicely pulled in my basic choices from the website (e.g. metric system).  Then again, with 5 key pieces of data on the main app screen, I cannot think of much I would add (or subtract).   And it does offer numerous background map choices, as with the website version.  Plus it features tight integration with photos -- great if your trip report consists of the RidewithGPS data and photos you took along the route.

I long ago joined RidewithGPS as a paying member, since I really valued their route drawing/export-friendly site, and also they were the only site with clear instructions about the differences between GPS data formats -- GPX (and GPX track), TCX, FIT, etc.  and recommendations on what to use for which Garmin Edge device.  Plus, as far as I can tell RidewithGPS is mainly a young guy named Zack in Portland, Oregon.  He would send personal responses when I had a question, so I felt I owed him my business.

And what RidewithGPS lacks in customization at the App level, it more than compensates for on its website, with a wide range of views, tabs.  RidewithGPS generally piggie backs on existing social networks -- Facebook, Twitter -- rather than trying to create its own.

MapMyRide.   This app toggles between two data sets ... good if you think of your GPS as more of a calorie counter, but useless for the rest of us.  And there is a screen pulldown tab so you can see all 4 data items at once -- distance, duration, speed and calories.



MapMyRide annoyingly asks me to upgrade to MVP with prominent notices.  Strava has much more tasteful, subtle upgrade requests -- more effective.  Then again, the Mapmyride App seems to have more customization possibilities.  And Mapmyride has lots of social network features as well.

Comparison of the 3 apps website views.
Strava -- clean, slick design, focus on segments (just below this screen capture).
RidewithGPS -- lots of data and selection tabs, and plenty of menu choices all the top as well.
MapmyRide -- another nice interface, but that annoying MVP upgrade request.
And the Winner Is.  This review barely scratches the surface, but I guess I still rank RidewithGPS and Strava ahead of Mapmyride.  If you like the Strava social media features -- the segments, activity feed and challenges, you will find them unmatched.  I find it quite satisfying to do the Strava "Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge" to ride 700 kms in 20 days ... and end up #11 out of 850 riders in Japan, #773 out of over 55,000 worldwide.  Yes, I may not be fast, but I do go far.


As for the rest of the App, I prefer the RidewithGPS App's "single screen", especially when I want to see a track along which to navigate.  So I guess I will probably use RidewithGPS when riding on a Brevet or an unfamiliar route, and Strava for commuting or familiar rides.  Or I can try the same as this ride -- and just turn on both apps at once.

The key point, for me, is that ANY of these apps works great for a 5 or 6 hour ride.  And with a USB charger/battery, that time can be doubled or tripled.  Plus with a dynamo hub driven charger, it can be extended indefinitely.

The Garmin Edge (excuse the pun).  My Garmin Edge 800 still has some advantages over these iPhone apps.  Actual battery life is still around 14-15 hours.  Plus if the battery should happen to run out ... I can still pull out my phone and use it. If the phone battery runs out ... then I am really stuck.  Of course, the answer is to carry a small supplemental battery.  Plus the Garmin data screens are highly customizable and work with all kinds of additional sensors -- power, heartrate, etc.  I have not used those lately, but could be tempted again.

And in pouring rain, I do not mind the Garmin being exposed on the bike.  The iPhone, even with case and all ports plugged, I will probably still put in a plastic bag!  Then again, the Garmin has died on my in the rain before, and though the USB port eventually recovers, it seems to take some weeks.

I will keep using the Edge 800 on longer rides, as long as it functions.

Audax riders in the U.S. note that they go through many areas without mobile phone coverage. Without mobile data, you cannot access the map information via iPhone in Google or Apple maps, so lose significant functionality.  And financially not viable when "roaming" and incurring high data charges.  But as has been pointed out to me, it is possible to load OpenStreetView maps onto an iPhone for "off network" map coverage.  ... and this surely cannot be much more difficult than doing so on the Garmin, since Garmin gives no instructions on such things and just expects you to buy one of their Micro SD cards with proprietary map loaded.  I will need to try loading some maps and using the iPhone apps with mobile data turned off ... but GPS on ... and see if it works.

With a dynamo powered charger and a plastic bag to cover my iphone in streaming downpours, and some maps loaded in advance, I should be ready to go.

Garmin the Company.  Of course, sometimes I will stay loyal to a company because of things about the company, or just plain inertia, rather than the strength of a product.  (Note my mention of Zack's great customer service at RidewithGPS).  I got a Garmin Edge 205 long ago, switched to a 705 with its more readable screen and maps, then around 5 years ago when the 705 stopped downloading to my PC upgraded to the Edge 800.   But Garmin never has seemed user friendly.  The models I own are not adapted to Japan -- will not work with Japanese characters.  The Japan-specific versions were outrageously priced. ...  And the proprietary maps were an expensive add-on.  So I figured out how to use OpenStreetMap alternatives.  What kind of business builds itself around selling expensive add-ons when the educated, tech-savvy customer can find a free workaround?  A business that views its customers as cash registers, even chumps.

Of course, I could be wrong.  Maybe Garmin is a great company?  After all, it does sponsor a pro tour cycling team, and so it is supporting racers!  And it is a U.S. company, right, started and built up in Kansas.  Indeed, its entire business is based on a series of satellites bought and paid for by the U.S. government, and its first customer was ... the U.S. Army.  My tax dollars at work.  And Garmin is part of the Standard and Poors 500!

Err, at least Garmin WAS a U.S. company.

Then it did a "tax inversion" so that a Swiss entity is now its parent, even though its headquarters is still in Kansas.  No more U.S. taxes on the non-U.S. business.  When Allan Sloan of Fortune Magazine asked them about the inversion, Garmin apparently responded to Fortune that it never was a U.S. company.  Maybe they did not understand the question.  Well, I guess they will need to remove those "Oregon", "Montana", "Colorado" and "Dakota" lines from their handheld GPS models.

So now Garmin is a "top 10" company.  Top 10 corporate tax avoiders.

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I should mention that Japanese cyclists tend to use a Yahoo Japan-affiliated site, Route Labo, for drawing routes that can be exported to Garmin/GPS. These routes are visible on the Safari browser on a page designed for mobile use, though I do not think there is a specific iPhone app.  Then again, more and more Japanese riders seem to use Strava.

Riding the Rindos

I happened to go onto the Tokyo Cycling Club (TCC) site this morning after a fairly long absence and was glad to see it is going strong with the usual ride postings, items for sale, and chat about all things road-cycling-related.

There was a thread for a Saturday October 11 ride in the Miyagase-ko area that left me shaking my head and wishing I had read it sooner, as I was nearby there on Sunday and followed only a well-trodden path.  The posts show a ride plan (complete with RidewithGPS route) that would cover at least 3 "dead end" forest roads (rindos) near Lake Miyagase that I have never ridden (plus 1 or 2 that I have).   There is even a video from the ride showing about 7 minutes of a gradual climb along one of these rindo, beside a river.  The ridewithGPS route shows this little "detour" is 12 kms each way.  In the video, I counted only 2 slow moving motorbikes over 7 minutes.  No cars (except one or two parked at turnouts).  Ideal, except for some places where there is some gravel or mud on the road, no doubt a result of recent typhoons and something that should be clearer in other seasons.  And a river runs through it.

Maybe a future group ride will go to Miyagase-ko, then riders can head up the rindos, as many and as far as they want, while others relax at the michi-no-eki?  A great way to ride with people of varying degrees of interest or ability.

09 October 2014

Breaking Away ... with Mendelssohn

I recently started to play viola in a community orchestra.  Our concert is this Saturday, October 11.  (If interested, see here.)  One of the pieces on the program is Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "the Italian Symphony.  (Yes, Mendelssohn was in Germany, of Jewish descent, but perhaps because he was NOT Italian, this piece seems to have something about it VERY Italian, just as Czech Antonin Dvorak's American string quartet and New World Symphony are VERY American. )

Of course, the music is well known and shows up in various films.  But the most memorable use, for me, is in the classic 1979 "coming of age" film, Breaking Away. * It features four 19 year olds in Indiana U.S.A. uncertain of what the future holds.  One wants to be an Italian bicycle racer, very badly.

So the next time you are "breaking away" on your bicycle, just thing of the first movement of this piece.  Guaranteed to ride faster!  And with more Italian style!



*The film won the 1979 Academy Award for best screenplay.  The title to the film refers not only to a cycling "break away", but of course to the Indiana youths breaking away from their childhoods, their small town, etc. ...

05 October 2014

Rain, Typhoon Again!

Saturday weather was good, but I had other commitments in mid/late afternoon and evening so could not take a ride longer than a quick spin.  Well, I could have gotten in a decent ride if I had gotten out early, but I did not.

Today, Sunday we have had hard rain since before first light, expected to continue the next 24 hours.  Not ideal riding weather, and in the absence of a specific plan I am staying dry and inside.
View from Tokyo Tower cam
Typhoon approaching ... will go right up the Pacific coast of Honshu over the next 24 hours.  NOAA map.

27 September 2014

The Next Model

Living in Japan, I suffer from some disadvantages when it comes to procuring inexpensive cycling items.  No ebay.  A poor selection of wheelgoods.  Expensive importer/dealer margins on some items.

But then again, there are some areas where I get an advantage over folks back in the ole U.S. of A.  One is Canyon bikes.  Canyon is German, of course, the frames come from China, and I can get them via mail order in Japan.  They do not ship into the U.S.A.  I just got my next carbon frame, a beautiful year-end closeout of an Ultimate CF SL 2014 XL-sized frame, for 115,000 yen plus shipping.  This is a highly regarded, even a great carbon frame, for just a bit over $1000.  It feels sturdier (especially a slightly beefier fork), but just as light as or lighter than, my 2011 version.  Not bad.

Now I just need a groupset.

R-Tokyo 1000 km Randonee - to Ise Shrine (and beyond, and back)

I have now had a few days to catch up on my work and sleep since last week's 1000 km randonee.

As in the past, I enjoyed many stretches of the ride and felt elated at finishing the event.  There were many familiar riders on this 1000km.  At the 9AM start, I saw Jun Sato and friends from Audax Saitama/Cascade 1200 etc.  And Higuchi-san and Kozakai-san from our Fleche team were there.
Messrs. Kosakai and Higuchi - R-Tokyo photo along the road
Jun Sato signs in. 
Jun's Calfee S&S coupled carbon speed machine, complet with disk brakes and Enve wheels.
With his Randonneur USA-branded reflective triangle. 
Higuchi-san models a reflective vest and bandana.
I think he learned the "sandwich in back pocket" from Tanaka-san, our Fleche team leader.
The event is way too long for a blow-by-blow trip report, so let me focus on some highlights. R-Tokyo's 500 or so photos can be found here.  There are lots of photos of the riders and their bikes -- which is good since I did not get many.
R-Tokyo photo of me
And the ride results are available, at least for now, here.

1.  Weather.  The weather was fantastic the entire trip.  It was a bit cold after dusk on Odaira Pass at 1300 meters elevation, and a bit hot on Sunday and Monday afternoons, but basically perfect riding weather.  Such good weather is an entirely new experience for me on rides of longer than 600 kms.
Blue sky ... as I take a rest on the climb to Odaira Pass
2.  Climbing.  The course was challenging, as the first 225 kms included over 4000 meters of climbing and the total was near 9000 meters.  I was very fortunate to have done Tsuetsuki Pass and Iida Pass/Odaira Pass last month, so I knew exactly what to expect on those stretches, which were the two highest passes.
Early on the climb out of Chino -- no traffic here

The organizers helped us out some by including a 50+ km flat stretch into Ichinomiya after the end of the hills and before the next timed checkpoint.  This allowed some increase in average speeds and made it easier to avoid a DNF at the checkpoint.  Still, many riders did not make it through the initial 225 kms of the course or dropped out before/at Ichinomiya.
R-Tokyo photo of me climbing Tsuetsuki Pass.  Still smiling.
3.  Backroads.  Even though we did travel some crowded roads, the main designer of the course, Goto-san of R-Tokyo, made a great effort to get us off of main and onto back roads.  I wish all Brevet courses were designed like this!  The nasty climb after Nakatsugawa was essentially a 2-3 meter wide track.  Likewise, on the return from Minami Ise toward Ise Jingu, we climbed a tiny road up to Tsurugi Pass, then enjoyed an approx. 20 km descent and emerged at the back of the tourist bus parking lot for Ise Jingu, Japan's most important shinto shrine.  On this entire stretch I think I saw 2 moving cars.
Looking back toward Chino as we start the climb to Tsuetsuki Pass.
And whereas on another brevet I have gone between Iida and Ina in Nagano on one of the main roads, this time I went the opposite direction on a small road that hugs the eastern side of the valley -- minimal traffic and nice views.
Looking across the valley between Iida and Ina, from the quiet road along its eastern side.
4.  The course also managed to pass through or near many sites of cultural or historical interest.  As noted, we emerged at the back entrance of Ise Shrine. We also traveled along old Ise Kaido for a long stretch going both to and from Ise, a street that is lined in many places with beautifully maintained traditional wooden buildings.  On the way south, it was light and I could see that I would really like to have taken more time and looked at some of the buildings.  On the way north, I pulled Midori Shiroki, former Audax Japan chairwoman, who was part of the 7AM start group and looked like she was in some trouble.  At least I helped give her a chance to get back to Aichi in time for the checkpoint cutoff.

Earlier on the way into Inuyama we took a similar "old road".  And passed this historical site (though it must have been dark at the time, or perhaps I just missed it).
(photo from the R-Tokyo collection -- see link above).
And on the way through Shizuoka on our return, instead of just taking the main road (Route 150) between Omaezaki and Shizuoka, we wound our way along minor road, then went through the town of Yaizu and up an "old road" climb near Route 1.
Sunset at Yaizu, Shizuoka 
On the old road next to Route 1 between Yaizu and Shizuoka Cities
5.  Sleep accommodations.  Given the nice weather, and many "kenko land" 24-hour hot spring accommodations along the way, I did not reserve any business hotels.  I ended up stranded when, at Ichinomiya the first night I could not find a good place to sleep.  After an hour at the checkpoint lying down outside, I got cold enough so I woke up and knew further efforts at sleep there would be counterproductive.  I rode on another 30 kms, most of it along the levy beside the Kiso River, and ended up taking another 90 minute nap at a manga cafe just at the east end of Tachita-Ohashi, the bridge we crossed from Aichi into Mie Prefecture.  This, and a sit down breakfast at a family restaurant a little later, were sufficient to get me to the Minami Ise turnaround point, where I again slept for an hour mid-afternoon.
Sunrise day 2, after a nap and just before I cross Tachita-Ohashi, the bridge into Mie Prefecture
The second night I had planned to sleep at the "kenko center" in Nisshin City, just east of Nagoya, that was highlighted by the organizers on the cue sheet and the website for which I had checked. Unfortunately, it was closed at 230AM -- no longer a 24-hour facility.  Another randonneur was sleeping on the front porch under the awning, so I joined him a few meters away.  Again, after less than 90 minutes I got cold and awoke.  The first rider was gone, but a few minutes later someone rode up and I was pleasantly surprised that it was Kozakai-san. He had stopped by his home nearby (I was envious!), and was looking for Higuchi-san, whom he said also had planned to sleep at the Kenko center.  When he called Higuchi's mobile phone, we learned he was just 200 meters up the street, resting in front of a Family Mart.  We went there and found him shivering cold, so the three of us rode on together for an hour or more to Okazaki City, where the two of them entered yet another 24-hour manga cafe and I continued slowly ahead.

I got a number of short rests on the third day, including an evening hour-long nap on a bench on the coastline in Shizuoka City, which made the R-Tokyo photo album, and another pre-dawn nap after Atami Pass/Yugawara.

In all, I got barely enough sleep to get through the event without collapsing or losing all speed.  But it created a massive sleep deficit, so that when I got home at 9AM Tuesday morning, I slept until 6PM, went out to dinner, then slept again from 10PM to 6AM, but still felt a bit sleep deprived through into Saturday.  As with similar efforts, the deep sleep that follows is fantastic.

6.  Atami Pass.  I knew the descent from Atami Pass to the east is steep.  But the route we took, via the Atami museum of art (MOA) was crazy.  I got off and walked at points, it was so steep DOWN.  I thought I would fall off over my handlebars, doubtless the actual terrain seeming even worse in the pitch dark exhaustion of the third night of the ride.  I avoided the inside of curves just to stay on the bike.  It was a painfully slow and painful-on-the-hands descent, even though the concept was good -- to avoid the need for us to descend all the way below Atami Station and then climb back up again over 100 meters to head toward Yugawara.

7.  Yokohama.  After following the coastline as far as Enoshima, the last part of the route went to Motomachi through much of southern Yokohama.  At the time, I thought the organizers were playing a cruel trick, forcing us up so many steep hills and through so much congestion, on an early Tuesday holiday morning after more than 980 kms of effort.  The hills seemed crazy steep and plenty long.  No wonder I have never ridden under the monorail between Enoshima and Ofuna!  No wonder I avoid this part of the world except for the occasional Hakone Ekiden event.  But as I look at the map, I see that the route merely took a relatively short distance between two points.  And as we neared Motomachi, we entered a narrow, old road that reminded me of some earlier parts of the ride, even if it was lined by 5+ story buildings on both sides.

After we reached the goal, we needed to ride a few more kilometers to Minato Mirai (Manyo Club) for check-in.  I had never seen Minato Mirai from the S/SE sides, and it looked spectacular on a sunny day, even better than this from a more southern angle and much closer up:

8.  Results.  There were 76 finishers, 42 DNFs and 24 DNSs.  So this was a hard event, despite the good weather.  I think 1000 km brevets are, next to SR600s, the hardest events.  The time limits are unforgiving.  I finished in 70 hrs and 53 minutes, out of a permitted 75 hours.  But at various points I had less than two hours "on the clock" even though everything was working perfectly.

There were 56 finishers with slower times and 19 with faster times than I.  But of the 56 slower riders, all were within a few hours of me, essentially the same time.  Most of them probably signed up for the post-ride party and decided to sleep a bit before the finish! Among the 19 faster riders, one managed a very fast time of 54 hours 41 minutes.  I saw him zooming UP old Ise Kaido as I was going DOWN it.  Another rider finished in under 59 hours.  Everyone else was within 10 hours of me.  I was just relieved to complete a single long audax event this year.

Part 1 -- Isawa Onsen to Ichinomiya
Part 2 - Ichinomiya to Shima/Minami Ise
Part 3 -- Minami Ise to Nisshin via Ise Jingu/Futami
Part 4 -- Nisshin City to Omaezaki (missing track for last portion)
Part 5 -- Omaezaki to Yokohama via Atami Pass