11 January 2019

"No Photos!" Ride on Nishi Izu Celebrating Fukuzawa-sensei's Birthday

January 10 is the birthday of Yukichi Fukuzawa, founder of the university where I teach and the gentleman whose visage adorns the 10,000 yen banknote. So the university is closed on January 10. Happy Birthday, Yukichi!

I have time conflicts and cannot ride this weekend, so I decided to seize the opportunity of the local holiday, ignore the stacks of papers to grade and other work not yet done, and instead take a training ride with a bit of climbing. I hopped the shinkansen from Shinagawa for the 45-50 minute trip to Mishima at the NW corner of Izu Peninsula. It seems like every time I go here, I get bogged down taking photos of Mt. Fuji in the distance across the bay. It is irresistible. It happened to me when I rode this coastline before Christmas, and every time I can remember before. So I have plenty of photos of Mt. Fuji from this route. Do I really need more of these photos? No! I need to FOCUS on getting in shape for Tasmania and PBP.

So today I was determined -- minimize the photo stops, get in a quick ride, if possible a loop out along the coast to Toi Onsen, then Route 136 east over the pass (well, not the real pass, but the tunnel at 500m elevation that cuts through the line of mountains above west Izu's coast), and the long gradual descent to Shuzenji, and back North along the Kano River to Numazu/Mishima, and get back to Tokyo mid- or late-afternoon!

I did quite well, really, for awhile. I was able to resist any photos for the first 25+ out of nearly 110 kms, until I stopped to remove my top layer jacket. This was not even a photo stop, right? It was a stop to remove excess clothing before the climbs to come. Doesn't count! And the photo was, well, spectacular, but not up to par for this course. Too little variation between the color of the water and the sky -- just different shades of blue, yawn -- too little snow on Fuji, nothing interesting on the water. I won't even post it in large size. If you read this blog, you've seen it before.

Then another quick stop for a bathroom break on a side-spur of a road, where the clouds and trees merited a photo. Also not a real photo stop. But the sky and trees were getting a bit more interesting.

Then I lost it. I took some photos briefly on the hill above Osezaki. One quick photo stop.

Then another one looking back after the first climb. Wow. I thought Fuji would be gone, around the corner from here, but there it was ... and an interesting foreground too, the village of Ita (井田).

Then more photos just after Heda. Last June (broken crankarm ride) and in December, I had not made it to this hill just past Heda ... and the mountain is perfectly framed ... and surely this is the last view of Fuji I would get from along the coast. So just for old times sake ...

Then I climbed more, longer hills on the 15kms between Heda and Toi. I was pretty much alone. The only roadies I had seen were far north and heading home to Numazu. I saw at most ten moving vehicles on this entire 15km stretch, mostly locals in "kei" trucks. As I emerged on the South side of one of the tunnels, a blast of wind hit me. There were whitecaps below -- and the wind and waves were coming not from within a protected bay, but straight from the Pacific to the South.

I remembered Assynt, the Rapha image film of hard men riding in rough weather in northern Scotland under dark clouds, rain spitting at them as the entire branding campaign "jumped the shark". I could almost hear the deep sonorous Scottish accent announcing "the shipping forecast ... there are warnings of gales". Could I, here on the rugged west Izu coastline, be livin' the Rapha dream lifestyle?  I checked my clothing. No Rapha. And even worse, the pavement was dry, and the wind quieted as I descended. Disappointed, I continued on.
Sun reflected on the ocean through a break in the clouds

A few kms before the center of Toi, there is another small town, Odoi. As I passed and rounded a corner toward Travellers' Point (旅人岬), the wind hit -- full force!  I was standing up and on the bike and barely advancing on the pedals. There was an old lady walking at the side of the road, leaning steeply into the wind as she edged ahead slowly. .... and I edged past her on my bicycle. We silently acknowledged each other's efforts. Now that was more like it! And I remembered, yes, under my shoes, inside my "windblock" shoe liners, yes, I was wearing Rapha socks! Ahhhh.

Anyway, soon I was at Toi Onsen. I checked out the foot bath, the tourist info place (typically, they did not steer me toward any one restaurant, but just gave me a map and circled the places they thought were open). I ended up getting a rather basic and slightly expensive "mixed fry" teishoku lunch. This stop put me way behind schedule.

The climb was steeper than I remembered. The last time I did this climb was with Steve Ridgely back in April 2015 on the R Tokyo 400km brevet. That time it was already dark, and I was exhausted, so it seemed like a hard climb. This time it was mid-afternoon daylight, the road was dry, and there was even a tail wind at points. Yet, it was still a hard climb. 500 meters up over 8kms. There is some variation, with a few stretches in the 10% range and some nearly flat. Anyway,  it was good exercise.
Starker than in April 2015 when many trees on the hillside were flowering.
The east side of the hill is far more gradual.

I could enjoy a nice 13km descent to Baird Beer's brewery along the river just south of Shuzenji, where I stopped off to say hello to my friend from the Chicago alums group, Baird business manager John C. My plan for Olympic cycling involves the velodrome at Shuzenji and the Baird Beer brewery tap room, restaurant and campsite in the valley nearby. Further behind schedule.

Bike leaning

River and very blue sky without bike leaning
Then, inevitably, irresistibly, Mt. Fuji showed a different face, with different foreground, light, clouds, pastel instead of deep blue sky, ... and I took even more photos en route back to Mishima!

Finally, I hopped the train and was back in Tokyo just after 6PM.

Strava track available here (minus the first couple kms).

05 January 2019

First Brevet of 2019

The Oregon Randonneur at Tateishi on the Miura Peninsula, looking toward Mt Fuji

Japan Audax local affiliates offer many 200km brevets in early January. They usually fill up, and this year (a PBP year) especially so, as everyone wants to get in a ride while off from work.

Last year, 2018, Jerome and I rode our first brevet on January 7 in Shizuoka, 200kms from Numazu to Fujieda and back, with a detour up Nihondaira. It was a very nice day and, despite some heavy traffic at places, a nice course.

In 2017 I did an AJ Tamagawa brevet from midnight on New Year's Eve, watched the first sunrise of the year along a beach on the Miura Peninsula, with a few other riders and thousands of visitors to the area. I was done and home before Noon on January 1.

This year, AJ Tamagawa, among others, is offering a "brevet week" of events -- it is possible to ride 200, 300, 400 and 600km events, complete the "SR" (super randonneur) series, and qualify to ride Paris-Brest-Paris, all during the first week of the year! Taiwan's audax group has a similar series, and one Japanese randonneur I know had already completed the SR series before I started my ride on Friday. Another, Ijichi-san, staff of AJ Tamagawa who is one of the core Audax riders (he rode Susan Otcenas' Seattle Intl Randonneurs' Cascade 1200 last year, as well as Maya Ide's Tohoku series over Golden Week), told me that he would do the full series this week -- but he already did the 200km on the pre-ride check (which counts under Audax rules).

But this idea of an SR series in the northern hemisphere in winter is, well, crazy. It is going overboard. It MAY work well this year, when the weather is good, but it is hard to plan a good 400km or 600km ride that will work in mid-winter, even in typically dry Kanto. Indeed, the AJ Tamagawa 600km will have probably 300 or even more (500?) traffic signals. So many stops. So much traffic ... to keep on a route near Tokyo and out of the mountains. One long boring slog. Worse, if the weather is cold. No, the first week of January is for riding during the day. A 200km is the perfect challenge.
The moon, Venus, riders, high rises, trees, and train station, all before first light.
The same view a few minutes later. Wave of riders at the ready!
Jerome missed the signup, and was unsuccessful in asking AJ Tamagawa to accept a last minute (late) entry. I think they just have too much on their plate to accommodate such requests while running a brevet week. So he rode out over Yabitsu Pass, and did meet us at the Oiso control. Mindful of the Audax rule that non-participants cannot provide any assistance to riders outside of controls, we rode the same course, but never close enough to draft. I gave him some directions ... but not vice versa. Still, with about 50 stops for traffic signals, and another control, we could chat enough.

Which bike to ride? I wanted to ride the Parlee ... but broke a cable and did not have time to replace it. The Ti Travel bike, Voyage Voyage, is disassembled for installation of a new group set. So I was happy to ride the Oregon Randonneur. I had not used it in months, so needed to lube the chain, pump the tires, and rode it the evening before to a fondue feast at Jerome's. It felt a bit sluggish. And on the ride out to dinner the rear fender was rubbing, and I got a flat tire on the way back home.

I switched out the wheels and tightened the rear fender ... and it was as good as new. Still I am not a fan of the Ultegra 6700 shifting -- far more sluggish than 6800 (or 6600, in my opinion). It turns out that the DT-Hugi hub on the rear wheel ... needs maintenance. The freehub was barely turning, as if the grease inside has gotten clogged with other material. So I I switched to other wheels. I was glad to have others to use for this ride -- the bike was a joy once I got it ready to go. (If anyone needs a spare wheel in a pinch ... I have them!).
Mt Fuji while crossing the Tamagawa on Route 1 (from the side walkway)
Anyway, I made it to the 6AM start with almost 15 minutes to spare ... only to be told that I was in the 630AM "wave". This was a bit disappointing since I knew that the traffic through yokohama would not get better as time passed, to say the least.

The course was kind of like a combination of my recent Miura ride (to the tip of Miura Peninsula), and my recent Shonan coast ride (the segment from Enoshima to Oiso where we had lunch). But this time I would take Route 1 through Yokohama and then Route 16 all the way to Yokosuka. I prefer my route from Christmas Eve, which skirts the harbor edge of Yokohama, goes through Minato Mirai and to Hakkeijima via the Sangyo-Doro. And I would prefer to avoid the coast road between Kamakura and Enoshima, where it is basically a parking lot. It is not fun to ride through a parking lot, even when the view is glorious and drivers don't pull over to the left and block your way.
On the parking lot/road between Kamakura and Enoshima.
I did not take many photos. Only one stop on the way between Yokosuka and Misaki-ko, none between Enoshima and Oiso -- both where I was taking photos last week with a far more dramatic sky.  These are from elsewhere -- Hayama area mostly.
Mt Fuji from south of Yokosuka
The Oregon Randonneur takes a different riding style than a modern carbon or titanium racing bike. It requires a kind of spinning style. It is a bit heavier, and the narrower steel tubing will flex a bit and absorb stomping. But it responds very well with a slightly lighter touch and a faster peddling cadence. And once it gets going ... it keeps going, fast.  The randonneur-style bars have comfortable, large/wide "drops". Then again, to move fast up the hills on this bike, I must get out of the saddle. It is almost like running up a hill on the peddles. Once I adjusted to this style of riding ... which took the first several hours ... the bike was fast and comfortable, and I could finish in a reasonable time, given the stop-and-go nature of this course and the relatively heavy traffic.
More from Tateishi

Sunset at Marukobashi ... almost done!
Even as I grumble about the traffic on this course, it was a great way to start my cycling year. I just need to keep it up to be ready for Tasmania next month and France in August.

Strava for the entire day is here.

03 January 2019

Wintertime = Powercranks Time

If I am going to enjoy my somewhat more ambitious cycling calendar this year, I have got to get a really, really strong base. So for the first time in several years ... the Powercranks are going on a bike, and I am setting up the stationary trainer. Maybe I can ride outside this week ... but I know in the next few months there will be lots of days when I cannot or do not want to be riding outside.

Ever ride with an independent cam left and right crank? Powercranks is like doing one-leg exercises with BOTH legs, and with a brick tied to each foot. But one does get used to them. Heck, back in 2011, I even rode around Mt. Fuji on Powercranks once (from/to Kawaguchi-ko).And it is a lot of fun doing "dolphin kick" rotations as one climbs past other riders. And riding them on the streets one always gets a double take from road cyclists.

If you cannot read the logo, it says "for a good time, call POWERCRANKS"


Always the Tamagawa
The 2018 cycling year began with a Shizuoka 200km brevet that Jerome and I did out of Numazu, to Fujieda and back (with a detour up Nihondaira ... the isolated hill north of the "Strawberry Line" along the Shizuoka coast.
Mt Fuji, sponsored by Tokyu Railways, Tokyo Corporation, Tokyu Real Estate, and Rakuten
So it was only fitting that the year finished with a ride with Jerome on the last day of the year, though a much shorter spin out Onekansen Doro, along the "tank road", and back in Yaen Kaedo. Our rendezvous was along Meguro dori at Yakumo 3-chome crossing.

For once, I arrived before Jerome, and was amused to notice that the Denny's now (sometime in the past few years) has had an upscale makeover, with a "Yakumo Prestige" name attached to it. What does this mean ... other than fancy lettering and perhaps a few hundred yen extra tacked onto various menu items? Well, I guess it must be a Denny's upscale brand for fancy Tokyo neighborhoods? Having been to Denny's in Santa Cruz at 5AM last summer before 3CR, and being the only non-homeless person in the place, and also having experienced some pretty awful food AND service at a Denny's in Paso Robles, California when it was one of the only choices in town at 11PM during 3CR ... I guess anything they can do to rebrand can only help.

And the first real ride of the New Year was another spin on January 2 with Jerome over Hospital Hill ("Byoinzaka"). ... then as we turned to start the climb of nearby I-Ro-Ha Zaka, I broke a shifter cable on the Sky Blue Parlee (3 years and 9 months since I installed these cables ... and they DO break eventually with Shimano or SRAM brifters). So the first ride of the year was only just over 60kms. That cut at least 40-50 kms off the planned trip, but still felt like enough as we returned, me riding in 36-11 gearing on the path along the Tamagawa, in fading daylight.

Of course, Jerome, who is traveling most of the time for work these days, is on a crash program to get back in shape for PBP, also rode 175 kms on January 1 (over Kazahari Pass no less). He plans to ride again today (Jan 3).

I will try to focus on other things today -- bike maintenance, for one -- since I am slated for a 200km brevet on January 4, the first 100km+ ride of the year.
Happy New Year to all!

28 December 2018

Shonan Coast Beauty

Today I did my 4th ride of the "Festive 500". Ride 500kms from Dec 24 to Dec 31. As of evening of Dec 28, I am at 419 kms. So should be easy peasy from here ... as long as I can avoid injury of last minute mechanical failure.

Nils, Andrew and I planned to meet at Minami Machida station on the Denentoshi Line at 8AM. I left home around 640-645am and made very good time, arriving around 8:05. They took the train from Futako Tamagawa and arrived a few minutes later. Andrew had picked Minami Machida because it is very close to the Sakaigawa, a river that has a bike path along it 95% of the way to Enoshima. This is as good a way as any to get to Shonan Coast - train to Minami Machida (to avoid racing trucks on Route 246 as I did early this morning), then down the riverside.

After a few kms we joined the route that I once rode on my commute to teach a weekly class at Keio SFC campus. I was leading the way this morning, knowing each corner, where there was traffic or not, where a rider needed to slow or even unclip from one cleat to get through a barrier, having ridden this probably 50 times over a 3-year period. 

The first stretch was nice and semi-rural, lots of fields. Then there was a more suburban section. Then there was a section of depressing public housing. And more variety, then we were in the town of Fujisawa, across Route 1, in an urban area, and finally to the water! Wow! It was glorious today.

We snapped plenty of photos, then headed west, trying to ride the sandy-but-paved path along the beach as much as possible, instead of the faster, but less scenic, road. I have never seen the Shonan coast as beautiful as it was today. Dramatic clouds and sun, waves, surfers, Mt Fuji partially visible in the distance. What a scene!

Anyway, we stopped for lunch about 14 kms before Odawara Castle at one of Andrew's regular haunts for a delicious, reasonably priced lunch, then continued on to Odawara and toured the castle grounds by bicycle (no other cyclists riding around ... but no one stopped us).

Andrew and Nils continued on toward Atami. I rode up to Hakone Yumoto and checked out the beginning of the Kyu-Tokaido, just to think about using it on upcoming rides out of Odawara this Winter/early Spring, when weather permits. Then it was back to Odawara 103kms total, and a quick (27? minute) 3000 yen shinkansen trip back to Shinagawa. Almost too easy, too glorious.

GPS track is here.

Map below.