25 November 2014

Rice tires? RBCC from IRC

I got a set of Fulcrum Racing 3 tubeless (2-way fit) wheels early this year.  I had some near-new Hutchinson Fusion 3 tires getting old in the garage, and the wheels were inexpensive via Wiggle.  I must say they are a more refined product than the Fulcrum Racing 1 two-way's that I experimented with back 5-6 years ago.

First, the spokes are regular steel bladed, not the fat, stiff aluminum ones of that era's Racing 1.  And I have had no issues with the wheels staying true so far, or with spoke nipples coming loose as I did with those.

Second, the tubeless tires went on the rims much more easily than I had remembered, and I had no problem adding some Caffe Latex sealant inside each tube by removing the core of the valve.

No flats so far.  (When I removed the rear tube I could see that the sealant had formed a tight rubber block around one area of the inside of the tire ... presumably where it prevented a leak from expanding.  Pretty cool.

Juliane used these wheels this summer, and I have used them a bit in spring and again on several longer rides this fall.  Henry also used them on some short rides this September.  Total mileage on the tires is around 1500 kms, I expect.  Now they are worn to the point near danger.  I guess the age of the product prior to use (they were purchased 4-5 years back) plus some skidding on rough roads did most of the damage.  Time for a change.

... Time for a change from the Hutchinson Fusion 3's.
I was pleased to find a much more diverse set of choices for road tubeless tires than the last time I looked.  Also prices have come down from former nosebleed territory, so that when you add in the cost of a few tubes you would need during the life of a clincher, they are about the same, or even a potential cost saver.  And this time of year they are actually in stock, even in the 25mm versions.

What tires to get?  More Hutchinson?  Specialized?  Schwalbe?  Or how about IRC?  I had used and liked one of their tubeless tires back in 2009, but they were too expensive.  So I was glad to see that their high end RBCC version are now available here in Japan for around 6000 yen including tax (that is about US$45 plus tax).   I also ordered some closeout-priced Schwalbe Evolution One tubeless that have yet to arrive.

For now, IRC.  What is RBCC?  Rice bran ceramic coating.  Yes, tires with a special ingredient to increase the grip.  Very Japanese!

Hiroshi tells me that IRC was once known for making tires that slipped too much in the wet -- treacherous in rain and they had a bad reputation with his generation of racers.  Well,  IRC obviously took that to heart and decided to fix any issues in the intervening years (decades?).  One way is with the RBCC coating.  "Grip +" the package says, and it is true.

These tires have incredible grip.  I felt firmly attached to the road as I took my first corners.  They will be great for descending.

They are also incredibly comfy -- the first time I have tried 25mm tubeless tires and they roll very nicely at 90psi.

They went on the rim easily -- on my first try they held air and slotted into the bead perfectly.

If road tubeless can now be this easy ... I may need to use it more going forward.

They are a bit heavy (300 grams in the 25mm version, 260 in the 23mm) ... but when you add the weight of an inner tube to something like a 230 gram Conti Gran Prix Four Season 25mm version, that brings them very close in overall weight.  Insert sealant and a gap opens a bit more.

An interesting and attractive made-in-Japan product!  Stay turned for updates.

Photos from Canyon Japan Service/Support/Marketing Launch

I missed the invitation-only Canyon Japan maintenance/service/tech support launch party on Sunday evening, sitting in traffic on the way back to Tokyo from Nagano.  I did stop by the public event on Monday to check out the bicycles, of course arriving on the Canyon Shark.  Their Japan support is based in Kyoto, presumably from a Kansai-based Japan distributor ... name of which does not appear.

Line out the door and up the stairs for those who wanted to chat with Giro champion Joaquin Rodriguez, rider on the sponsored Katusha team.

Lots of marketing material for bikes with the aero frame Aeroad CF.  The people at the event mostly did not look like they will be riding fast enough to get the benefits of aero ...

A nice triathlon bike.

Very low wind profile.  The front end and bar are very minimal and streamlined.
This commuter bike with built in light and fenders, disk brakes.  The streamlined design will attract some ... and repel others.
With the exchange rate now at 147 JPY = 1 Euro and consumption tax at 8% ... they will not sell as many bikes as they might have back when the rate hovered around 100 JPY back in 2012/early 2013. ...

16 November 2014

Saturday to Saitama ... and back

On Saturday I got in a nice 185km round trip to Yorii in NW Saitama and back.  This is the time of year we often see the best riding weather in Tokyo, and Saturday was no exception!

I met my colleague Aiko-san at Moroyama and we did about 65 kms of the ride together.  It was the furthest he has gone on the road bike he got last winter, but other than a pre-lunch semi bonk, solved by a Snickers bar, he made it without difficulty.

Aiko-san as we approach Yorii
I needed to be home by 430PM, so started around 640AM, was in Moroyama by 915AM, and just made it back on time.  Instead of riding up the Tamagawa all the way to Oume, I headed north from the river earlier.  I let Strava choose part of the route for me, drawing the track using Strava's function that bases routing on popularity among other cyclists.  That worked well on the way out, and I ended up on Route 59, a decent road with shoulder heading north for what seemed like almost 10 kms, west of Tachikawa and east of Akishima/Fussa.  Then I found myself on a route taken on Brevets to get through this area, across the tea fields of Oume/Iruma, and down into Iruma.

Iruma, Hanno, Hidaka, Komagawa, then Moroyama. ... Then with Aiko-san on Saitama Route 30 to Ogose, Tokigawa, Ogawamachi, onto Route 254, then a local road over a hill and eventually down into Yorii.  Then back.

As we rode out through Tokigawa I saw a sign at an intersection pointing left toward Shiroishi Pass via Route 172, and a cyclist just starting to head that direction ... but not today.  I was on the clock and it would have been a bit too much of a climb for my colleague, yet.
Lots of Honda facilities around Ogawamachi ... all hidden from the road and landscaped nicely.
We stopped for lunch at a nice looking (and quite busy) small, local Japanese food place in Ogawamachi. There were explanations about the famous "washi" or traditional Japanese paper that comes from the town.  And the waiter told us of some kind of town event going on Saturday -- if we visited 5 places we could enter a prize lottery.  We regretfully declined.

These towns are all an an area of rolling hills, west of the Saitama plain and east of the real hills and mountains.  Nice country for riding through and lots of places to stop for food or a side visit, and a good place for a new road cyclist to build up strength at riding on rolling hills, or for an experienced cyclist to try to hold a tempo on an upward incline.
Looking across some farms at the south facing slope where will plan our next solar project.  Ready to build soon.
But too much traffic and too many trucks on a Saturday mid-day.  It would have been a miserable day to drive around suburban Saitama, I expect.
A former chicken farm in Moroyama that is now a small solar park.  No fence (?)
On the way home I had intended to follow the same route ... but for some reason the track did not show on my Garmin.  Perhaps because I had turned it off during lunch, then back on again?  Or another Garmin gremlin?  In any event, I followed  the Route 299 bypass -- 2 lanes in each direction, quite fast but heavy traffic.  Then I hunted and pecked my way around Tokorozawa vicinity -- slow going and wasted time.  Then eventually I headed south on Fuchu Kaido all the way toward the Tamagawa, at one point passing the long, high, grey wall of the prison in Fuchu ... the same route as the early season Aoba 300 brevet that Jerome and I joined.  Stop and go traffic the entire way, but at least faster by bicycle than by car.
In the shadows.  At least my jacket is visible.
The Canyon Shark was a joy to ride.  I rode it with my Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels and tubeless tires - fast and comfortable.  Of course, I had relatively fresh legs after not riding last weekend, plus the benefit of a good base from my heavy riding schedule in Sept/Oct. So I felt strong the entire day.   Likewise, the early winter Q36.5 clothing was perfect.

My only complaint was a sticking link in my Ultegra 6800 chain.  This sticking happened first on Wednesday, and I cleaned thoroughly and lubricated the chain (using basic Kure CRC 5-56) then ... and subsequently had no trouble with it going 75 kms to/from Keio SFC.  But again on Saturday morning the link started to stick and I would suffer a "clunk" and slip a bit each revolution of the chain as the sticking link entered the derailleur.  This drove me a bit crazy and slowed me down, but I adjusted as best I could.  I could not fix it despite several attempts to manually loosen up the offending link -- the only result was grease all over my gloves.  I eventually found an open Shell gasoline stand, at the tea fields of Iruma.  They lent me a can of the Kure 5-56 and a towel, and I could again thoroughly clean the chain (and especially the offending link).  They refused my offer to pay for the service -- typical Japan.

The chain was trouble free the rest of the day.  I think the offending link is the one where I inserted the Shimano fixing pin to assemble the chain on my bicycle.  It must have bent slightly when I snapped off the end of the Shimano fixing pin with a pliers.  Or maybe the pin fits more tightly than others.  So I look at this as likely a Shimano design defect.  As the chains get thinner and thinner, they get more fragile and more subject to this kind of problem with just a little grit, not serious dirt.  This chain has less than 1000 kms on it and I would hope is good for another 5000 or more ... but at a minimum I will need to keep it extremely clean and lube it much more carefully than I would normally -- before every ride.

New Rinko (Bike Cover) from Doppelganger ...

At Cyclemode I happened to see an interesting bike cover on display (and sale) at the Doppelganger display booth.

There is a debate of sorts between those who prefer a rinko bag that requires removal of both wheels (ne), and those that require removal of only the front wheel (Jerome).  Of course, it is a trade off between the compactness of the packed bike when on a crowded train (both-wheels-off wins) and ease and messiness of packing and unpacking (only-front-wheel-off wins).  Doppelganger shows us another approach -- not marketed specifically as a rinko, but rather as a "bike cover" for storage inside a house, for example.  But it will work as a rinko with both wheels on!  And no straps.

I would not recommend trying a both-wheels-on style rinko except if you know you will be riding on a half (or more) empty local train.  For that, it would be perfect.  On or off in a minute or two.

Of course, the fabric it is very stretchable and so also could work with a strap or two as a "one wheel off" alternative.

Weight -- no more than my other lightweight ballistic nylon rinko bags, maybe less.

Cost -- at Cyclemode, it was on sale for 3000 yen, including an additional very simple "ass saver" short fender that clips onto the underside of a saddle.

10 November 2014

Cyclemode Talk - DGL with Shigeki Kobayashi and Chiaki Sakai

My longtime friend Shigeki Kobayashi of the non-profit Bicycle Promotion Study Group asked me to present at Cyclemode.

I followed Yukiya Arashiro (who moved on to another session on the "main stage"), and preceded Wataru Watanabe, the creator of hit manga "Yowamushi Pedal" about a high school outcast who joins the school cycling club.

So there were lots (several hundred?) who heard my session, most just trying to get good seats for the following session with Watanabe-san.

It is a bit hard for me to listen to my own casual Japanese ... "ano ...  ano ... ano ...." but here it is.

Otherwise, I got to say hi backstage to Yukiya and Miwa-san, his wife and business manager, who joined the Bouhets and Litts for a memorable Jerome-arranged dinner last year-end.  All in all well worth the trip out to Makuhari.

07 November 2014

Q36.5 for early winter

I got some more great clothes for the upcoming season.  First, an inner layer that is a bit special -- integrated glove liners and hood.  This thing is really comfortable and warm.  Of course, the glove liners and hood can be pulled back, head and hands emerging, so it becomes a regular turtleneck.  A great idea for warmth/protection with a very light, thin layer.
And it does the "Ultraman" pose!  
And a very thin, windbreaking "hybrid Que" jersey/jacket.  It has great pockets -- 3 + 1 zippered back pockets -- like the Q36.5 jerseys, with mesh inner sides for extra breathability -- and a nice large pocket on the left arm that can fit an energy bar, mobile phone, or something else you need to reach easily while riding.

... if only it were a bit colder today.  I may need to wait until late November or early December to use these near Tokyo.

Also a long leg winter version of the Q36.5 Salopette bib short -- again, very thin, light, but with some wind blocking so perfect for Tokyo early winter riding.  Not much to photograph there, but very nice.

UPDATE November 15:  I have worn the "hybrid Que" a few times riding around town and on Saturday wore it and the long leg Salopette bib shorts on a 185 km ride.  Temperatures started cold in the early morning (around 5C/41F), and stayed cool as I headed inland to western Saitama.  Midday and afternoon return were warm probably has high as 15C/60F).  I was comfortable the entire time, only partially unzipping the jacket during the warmer part of the ride.  Perfect gear for this season, and with a warmer head covering and gloves perfect even when the ride starts or finishes colder.

The "hybrid Que" sizing is closer to jersey than jacket.  In particular, it is not that long in the waist, to the point where for someone long in the torso, as I am, I should wear it with bib shirts, not regular shorts, so that my inner layer does not show along the waist!

New Bicycle Shop on Meiji Dori?

This shop seen near the start of Meiji Dori within 100 meters from Route 1, between Azabu and Shirogane:

02 November 2014

Fall "Challenge Recovery" Ride with Traditions Galore

Jerome and I have not had much chance to ride together lately -- his travel schedule prevented him from joining recent Brevets, even those he signed up for.  So we wanted to get in one decent ride over the 3-day weekend.

He styled it a "challenge recovery" ride.  Recovery for me from 2 weekends in a row with Brevets, for him from too much travel and food and drink.  Challenge?  Not really consistent with recovery, I think, but the general idea was to not push the pace TOO hard, but go fairly long and do some climbing, at least.  I was looking for more recovery than challenge, having ridden almost 3000 kms over the past 2 months.
The Upper Tamagawa from near the top of Yoshino Kaido
We decided to honor the traditions of Positivo Espresso to the extent practical, and headed out a traditional route up the Tamagawa then the Asagawa toward Takao.  There was dog show going on along the Asagawa at a park in Hachioji.  Lots of dogs of all types, but mostly typical Japanese breeds.  And lots of older dog owners.

Ready for the show.
We stopped at the traditional 7-11 on Route 20 in front of Takao Station.  Then a climb up to Otarumi Pass, and down the far side and out to Uenohara.  The traffic was light, and no trucks on a Sunday in the middle of a 3-day weekend.

We stopped briefly at a new landmark on the way to Sagami-ko.  A used car lot (junk yard?) right next to the road named Rookie had an interesting looking superhero guarding the inventory.

At Uenohara, we stopped at the Daily Yamazaki along Route 33 (which no longer has benches in front since the renovation a few years ago ..., but is still a traditional stop), then took the "old road" -- deserted -- through wooded areas and to the base of Yamanashi Route 18.

As we reached the base of the climb to Tawa Pass, we turned left onto Steve T.'s alternate route around the pass.  We stopped at the steep field next to the road, glad to see it well-tended, the persimmons mostly removed from the trees in the adjacent orchard.  We followed tradition and looked to see if the little old lady was working in the field.  I did not have high hopes, as she has not been there the last few times I passed here.
Is the old lady at work in the field?  Can you see her?
We were delighted to find that she was, indeed, at work.  She looked up and saw us, and returned our wave.
How about now?
Further up Route 18, we made the traditional stop at the covered picnic table, rest room and gateball court just above 700 meters elevation on the climb to Tsuru Pass.

Jerome looks at the Shark and thinks "I want one"?
For there, we quickly made it to the top of Tsuru and down the North side of the hill to Okutama-ko.  Of course, we stopped at Yagyu-tei, better known as Watanabe-san's cafeteria.   Mrs. Watanabe was off, but her younger sister, Ms. Sato was there.

Just as we were heading into the restaurant a group of well-dressed, younger women cyclists rode by and looked at the much fancier restaurant/coffee shop down the block, next to the lake.  But there was a line outside (!), so they turned around and came back up the block and into Yagyu-tei.  It was the women's only Rapha Tokyo Club ride.  No wonder they were stylishly dressed.  Or "CCTYO Women’sライド 奥多摩".

Lots of women's bikes at Yagyu Tei!
Jerome wanted more climbing, whereas I needed to get home, having done almost 100km of "recovery", with another 80km just to get home.  So Jerome headed up the back approach to Kazahari Pass, while I rode along Okutama-ko then down toward Oume through the tunnels.  It was a fast trip home.

Tradition.  Recovery. Challenge.

01 November 2014

Rear Lights Dynamo Powered - Short Review

A rainy Saturday today, so no ride.  I hope tomorrow will be dry, and Jerome and I will get out from 730AM.  Start from my house -- others are of course welcome.

For a long time I have used simple battery powered rear lights.  Given the lower power requirements, batteries will last even through a long ride with extensive night riding.  But batteries do run down, and out, and it is especially inconvenient, even dangerous, if it happens at the wrong time.   

Also, my favorite rear lights for many years, the "fibre flare" series, have not been as durable as I would like.  The all around visibility is great, and the quality may have improved over time.  But a few stopped working almost immediately after I got them (problems with the switch) and others suffered water damage or broken fastenings after a year or two in use.  
Fibre flare
So recently I have started to experiment with using my hub dynamo to power rear as well as front lights.

On the Bike24.com site there are lots and lots of dynamo-powered rear light options.  Unfortunately, most of them affix to a rear rack.  What rear rack?  I do not use one and have no plans to start.  Some of them also affix to mudguards.  Also not ideal, for someone who uses removeable mudguards, or none at all, much of the time.  

Jerome does have a rear rack, so I got him what looks like a very nice, thin, bright Busch & Mueller light that will affix there.  This cost around 10 Euro (plus tax/shipping).  I look forward to a report.

The choices are limited (and a bit more expensive) for dynamo lighting with other mounting options. I have a Philips rear light that attaches to my seatpost (approx 20 Euro), and a Busch & Mueller that attaches to a seat stay (approx 15 Euro).  Both are very bright compared with typical rear lights on bicycles.  The Philips attachment is not as durable as I would like ... so I worry about how long it will last.  Both are easy to connect, though it does require a wire along the top tube between front and rear lights.

I think the Busch & Mueller Secula Plus attached to my seat stay is going to be my favorite.  It has a very bright standlight, which the Philips lacks.  So it will be much safer for urban riding where I will be stopped at an intersection waiting for a traffic light, for example.  For now I have put it on the Yamabushi, my primary commuting bike.  I think the best place in winter.
Bright standlight!

27 October 2014

Chiba -- The Curse Lifts

Friends and regular readers may recall that I have tried many times tried, but never managed, to join a Brevet in Chiba.  The 2011 earthquake cancellations; 2010 business trips, and this year, unusually deep snow.

No more!  Starting Saturday night, I successfully rode the 2014 300km "Boso Classic (Ku-ju-ku ri version)".

After sleeping much longer than usual Sunday night, but still not nearly enough to recover from riding through Saturday night, it is now Monday morning and time for work, not for blogging.  Still, I will give a flash report.

The course was very nice.  We rode out across some more heavily populated parts of Chiba, then pretty much countryside, then again populated areas from near Togane and along Kujukuri, then again deep countryside.  Almost no automobile traffic after the first 10 kms, until after we rejoined the Pacific coastline a second time around Kamogawa.  But even then, Sunday morning there still only very light traffic, compared with Izu or the Kanagawa/Miura coastline, or even Mie Prefecture.
Chiba and Shizuoka are the only 300km Brevets I have ridden that actually stay within the prefecture the entire route.  We rode much of the Prefecture, just skipping the northern 25-30%.
The southern Boso coastline was dramatic ... plenty of rocks and surf, but also some beaches.  Most of the people out early had fishing gear, ... but a few were in wetsuits with surf boards.
South of Kamogawa on the Coast.  Remainder of rainclouds.

The Canyon Shark rides the (painted) waves leaning against a seawall.

Satoyama.  This is a Japanese term for inhabited mountainous areas ... farmable inland valleys and the like.  Just imagine "the Shire" from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Chiba is full of charming, well-maintained areas like this, and we passed many of them. This is very nice riding country, even if lacking the dramatic nature of high mountain passes.

Mothers' Bokujo. Our last climb of the day was to the "Mothers' Bokujo" -- a hilltop animal farm that is a major tourist attraction for families with little kids who go visit and see the mama and baby animals.  After 260 kms and no sleep, the climb seemed much longer and steeper than it is in fact -- the top is just over 300 meters elevation.  Nice view from the top and all downhill (then flat) from here!

All downhill from here ... except one more climb to the top of the next rise.
My new bike (the Canyon Shark) got plenty of admiring looks at the start and rode beautifully.  Or maybe it was the Supernova E3 light and SP dynamo hub that got the admiring looks?  There was plenty of time to discuss both frame and lighing at the start.  I was glad to meet a few new riders, and see plenty who had done the Ise 1000 (including Naganuma-san, who had the fastest time by far on the 1000 km event, and said last weekend he had ridden the mountain route from Osaka back to Tokyo!). Even one rider, Obara-san, was wearing a 2013 LEL jersey (though he said he had DNFed on the return leg at Thirsk).

25 October 2014

Last Brevet of the Season

I was supposed to ride a 300 km brevet in Chiba on February 15, to kick off 2014.  Instead, that event was cancelled due to snow, so I will ride a 300 km Chiba brevet to finish 2014's randonneuring season.

I will ride my new bike -- the Canyon Shark!

The course is, well, a Chiba course ... a mix of inland ups and downs, valleys, and some long stretches of coastline -- Kujukuri Hama and another long stretch from Kamogawa to the southern tip of the Boso Peninsula.  The start is tonight, Saturday, 10PM.

At around 75 kms, the ride goes through Hiyoshidai, in Togane City, just past the site of 2 solar PV projects my company developed last year, and which Orix acquired from us at end of February 2014.  They are now in construction and I would love to get some good photos ... except I will be passing in the dark, between 1 and 2AM Sunday morning.

Wheel No. 00020. TNI CX wide rim, Ultegra 6800 rear hub, DT Competition drive side/Revolution non-drive side

I built up a wheel to use with my new 11-speed rear Ultegra 6800 groupset.  (I had only one other rear hub in all my existing wheel inventory--the Fulcrum Racing 3 tubeless--that works with an 11 speed cassette.)

The TNI rim was around 4000 yen -- cheap.  And the Ultegra hub should be bulletproof, if a bit heavy.  32 spokes, triple cross, with DT Swiss Competition (2.0-1.8mm double butted) spokes drive side, and Revolution (2.0-1.5mm) non-drive side.  The rim is a bit taller and heavier than my "usual" Velocity A23s, and essentially the same width (23mm outside).  It built up very easily.

Should be a good training wheel for the Shark.

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