30 April 2008


One more idea. I was thinking about actively engaging in family service on May 4th (Sunday). But that doesn't mean that this is not related to cycling by default, right? So I was thinking of taking my son on his own bike and my daughter on the slipstream bike to the Keirin race track in Chofu where we always pass by on the Tamagawa road (at Chofu, between Sekido Bashi and Futago).

From the website I assume that there are races on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, starting at 15.00 hr. So we can leave in the morning, ride to Tama Jiman with our families, have lunch there and return then to the Keirin track. My wife will probably come by car (or I need to buy two more battery packs for her electric cycle]. Enjoy some races as long we enjoy them, make some bets as long as the pocket money lasts.

The ride home between 17 and 18 hrs, maybe the kids by car.
A nice family event. Of course we can also go to Matsudo Keirin Track.


I thought about making two longer trips during Golden Week, also in view of preparation for the Itoaigawa Fast Run race on May 17th. After consultation with my family we agreed that I can have two days for cycling on Saturday (May 3) and Monday (May 5), while enagaging in active family service on Sunday and Tuesday. Here are some ideas :


Leaving by Shinkansen from Shinagawa early in the morning to Odawara.
Along the East coast to Ito (not so nice, but to get some warm-up) then riding West to Reikawa Toge (500m) to Shuzenji. Through the countryside southwest until we reach Yugashima.
From there to Kazahaya/Niba Toge (well known) and the descent to the West coast. Start to check if we got pumps or cartridges. Along the West coast on road 136 to Matsuzaki, then go to Jaishi Toge and finally along road 136 again to Shimoda.

Jump into the sea, have curry pasta at the gaijin house. Is James in the area on Saturday? Then jump on the train back to Tokyo. Plenty of climbing, plenty of fun.


Always wanted to ride more to the North from Ome, but I do not have any experience. Tom has been recently up in the area with the NFCC and TCC guys, so perhaps we can organize a tour to the North, eventually gathering at Ome station in the morning.
Ome -> Iino -> Yamajo Touge (?) -> Seibu Line Yokose Station -> Shiraishi Toge -> Higashi Matsuyama Train and back.

Or any other ideas for Saturday or Monday ?

29 April 2008

Broke 2 Otarumi records this afternoon!

My titanium VLAAMS helped me break my previous 2 Otarumi records....took a flying start at the 7/11 though starting my stopwatch as I drove by at full speed...disqualified? On the other hand, I almost got hit by a stupid old women getting out of the parking lot on the left...yes, almost an exact repeat of David's close encounter! Did the Tour de Sagamiko (a.k.a. Charles' sanctuary)...precisely 101km back and forth from my home. Splendid weather. Planning to take a yukyukyuka this Friday for a ride to Yamanakako....

28 April 2008

At the risk of riducule could I suggest we need to be organised and disciplined to survive the Itoigawa long ride...?? Here is how to travel efficiently as a group "through and off"
how about a bit of practice beforehand? (do I get thrown out of P-E for this suggestion??)
and some top tips on distance riding (from a German bloke - so they must be good ;-)
happy to ride tomorrow - but not all day!!
Tom -- Thank you for a memorable ride on Sunday.
Tom and I rode up the Tamagawa, over to Itsukaichi and up Kazahari; stopped at Tomin no Mori briefly then over the top and down the rear side to Okutama-ko. (no TT effort today ... but my climb still beat last month's TT by 15 seconds). We ate soba at Juliane's favorite Okutamako cafeteria, then climbed the back side of Tsuru and Tawa Toge, and came home via Uenohara/Takao. (The back side of Tsuru is ridiculously steep -- lots of 13-15% grade, even though it is only 350 meters elevation gain from Okutama-ko to the top). All in, the ride involved well over 2000 meters of climbing and 183 km (115 miles) for me. Weather was perfect, except for cold (8 degrees celsius), foggy and with some wind on the top of Kazahari. We decided not to try the "kazahari rindo" because the road would have been wet, making it almost impossible to climb the steep grades with road tires.

Ride on Tuesday anyone? Next weekend?

Thank you for joining yesterday's ride David...my legs felt rather heavy on the first half of the Kazahari and I was happy you did all the pulling for me. Yes, at the pace you were going, you'll be in perfect shape by May 17th!

Next time let's all go for the URAKAZAHARI!


View Larger Map

26 April 2008

23 April 2008

this is the best cycling movie ever - watched it years ago. Does anyone have access to a copy? If we can get it I'll host the movie party!!   David J

TOGEBAKA No. 9 number 9 number 9 number 9 number 9

number 9 number 9 number 9 number 9....yeah I really love that psychedelic Beatles song!

Guys & Gal(s)...I took the liberty of adding Togebaka number 9...."URA KAZAHARI" a.k.a. Kazahari Rindo 風張林道 !

I've done this crazy slope (grade of 18% here and there?) several times in the past but never measured my time until I read my friend Hiroshi's (our age) blog...he did it in less than 35 minutes.

How about a little TT this weekend ? - either day is fine with me. After the climb we can add some distance (go around Matsuhime?) by way of Itoigawa training...yes, why not add Togebaka No. 8? David, I agree the starting point for Togebaka No. 8 is preferable at the T-junction rather than the remote Kosuge Town Hall (of course this one we can keep for the sake of variation).
This is how average-level roadies fare on the URAKAZAHARI !!

19 April 2008

anyone coming out for a Sunday ride?
weather lookin' good.
where we gonna go?
train out, ride, train back in?

17 April 2008

It is someone's birthday today and she got a present.
Which one do you think?
The one on the left or the one on the right?

16 April 2008

Sunny Tuesday

After the epic ascent of Enzan on Saturday, I felt rather restless. There is a race scheduled at the Gunma CSC next weekend and I definitely had not trained enough; I wanted to go into the mountains again before the race. So on Monday afternoon when I looked up the weather forecast for Tuesday and found out what a lovely spring day that would become (most likely) and then checked my schedule and found out in addition that I had no appointments for the day and that all things considered, all things could be postponed to Wednesday anyway, I decided to take a day off.

As my wife started to work this month, I have now to take care of my daughter and prepare her in the morning to withstand the forces of the Japanese education system. Getting her out of the bed is not easy. Getting her into clothes is also not easy. Usually the first question is: "Has Mama picked this shirt? Are you sure?" Yes I am, if I wouldn't be sure it would be refused immediately. We then continue in a lighter mood with Yogurt eating competition and making toasts for each other (She : Salami and cucumbers, me : cherry jam). Combing and fixing her hair is a real challenge for me. But I like this moments alone with my daughter and it is good to learn something new and challenging. Sorry, the last paragraph was about my life outside of cycling. Yes, there is one. I shall refrain from blogging about it too often.

So, with my daughter out of the door I was next on the Cervelo + GravityZero wheels plus Assos jacket (but not the Fugu one). I rode in one stretch the first 50 km to Ome station, I could hardly wait to get some more of the Royal White pastry there - simply delicious. I took only a short break and continue to ride to Okutama station, Okutama lake and then over the bridge towards Kosuge and Matsuhime on road 139. It was still "traffic safety week" and many tents were erected at crossings and many, many policemen and volunteers were sitting in the tents and ... well, were basically chit-chatting and drinking tea. But this caused many undesired stops.

At the crossing where david ignored the light and the subsequent shouting of the assembled West Okutama police force, the tent was empty. It can be reasonably assumed that all of them committed suicide to take the blame for not being able to stop a gang of four ignorant foreigners on arguably fast bikes.

The landscape was wonderful and so was the weather. I came home sunburned and to take the Assos jacket with me was a mistake - in the back of my head I still remembered seeing snow on Enzan the previous Saturday. Unfortunately the beautiful landscape is under further threat as many public works construction site were under way. Why - it is only April, the fiscal year has barely started. Should this give us some secret hint; could we use this information as an indicator of increased Japanese government budget deficit for 2008? Shall we sell this information to MorganStanley and the like? Financial analysis and hill climbing were never so close.

I continued to ride to Kosuge where I took the second break of the ride in front of the town hall. Kosuge is a nice village and Tom is right to propose to go there in summer and jump into the Onsen, perhaps even staying the night there. The boys day is coming closer and a long wire with many carp streamers was swaying in the wind over the river.

I then started the attack of Matsuhime, made the 571m ascent in about 52 minutes and added Togebaka No. 8 on the blog. There were almost no cars on the road and the views from the road are spectucular. From a landscape-point-of-view, Yabitsu and Matsuhime are my favourite climbs. I felt pretty OK going up, never it doubt that I would make it in one go.

I went down on the other side - more construction works, mainly slopes and some tunnels. Why should there be tunnels in this part of the country? There is no traffic anyway. There are hardly any people living there. There are plenty of good roads. The only reason I can imagine is, that these are not real tunnels, but that this is in fact a miner and tunnelling engineering primary school and that tunnels are built for education and training purposes.

My legs and lungs felt pretty OK on the descent, but my back starting hurting - I used too much arm muscles on the ascent. So going along route 20 back towards Sagamiko against a string headwind was a drag. Then I entered Uenohara. From my previous posts you might know that I hate Uenohara. There is absolute no reason to built a city in this ridiculous hilly terrain in the first place. All this unnecessary ups and downs leading either to nowhere or to country clubs. But again, perhaps I am wrong and this is not a city, but a city planing school for juvenile delinquents.

Also I crashed in 2007 in Uenohara and was almost killed by a 7-Eleven delivery truck who suddenly started to move in reverse direction on the main road.

This time I crashed again and now I really, really hate Uenohara. When I passed some cars on the left, waiting for the lights to turn green ["blue" for Japanese readers], I did not saw the level difference between the asphalt surface and the curbstone and there I was falling over to the left. Luckily only my body touched the hard ground, preventing any damage to my beloved new Cervelo bike. Bruises can heal - scratches in the frame are much more costly to cover up. I only had a bloody knee, that was everything. But my GravityZero rear wheel was not running straight any longer and fixing that will be a complicated exercise. The spokes can only be adjusted once the tire, tube and rimtape has been removed. I need to use my Campagnolo wheels again and get used to the slacking.

The good thing however was, that shortly after the crash my metabolism must have released a huge amount of endomorphine or whatever as a result of the shock of falling plus hatred for Uenohara and after the crash I did not feel any pain or any fatigue any longer. I decided that this must be the perfect race strategy : crash first - race later.

So I continued to Sagamiko and then took the train to Jiyugaoka where I paid a visit to Nagai-San. He fixed my bike and I showed him the GravityZero wheels and explained in all glorious details the advantages of the hub, like I did already to almost everyone of you. Like everyone of you he was not very impressed.

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day out in the nature and I felt somehow gaining form and loosing weight. If I pass the pass/fail racing criteria in Gunma next weekend I should be happy.

The art of pass/fail racing

Taken from the Bike Snob NYC website, another good advice.

Cycling should be an enjoyable endeavor. However, sometimes despite our best efforts we wind up in situations on the bike that are simply no fun. Such situations include: having accidents; getting caught in severe weather; and, perhaps worst of all, becoming involved in an amateur road race. Of course, the first two circumstances can be avoided or mitigated with caution and preparation. As for the third one, though, chances are that if you find yourself in an amateur road race in the first place you’re the sort of person who seeks suffering rather than avoids it. If you simply must participate in amateur road racing, here are some tips to help ameliorate the adverse effects:

Know Your Limits

There is a fine line between ambition and delusion. The former is the fuel for success, and the latter is the way to ruin. I believe it was either Sheldon Brown or Ben Franklin who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is especially true when it comes to road racing. Basically, if you’ve never won a race before, you’re not suddenly going to start winning them now. So settle down, pick a wheel to follow, and stay out of trouble.

Unfortunately, though, too many people fail to realize this, especially in the lower categories, where everybody stupidly sees him-or herself as a potential winner. When everyone’s going for the podium the result is a pile-up. It becomes like some moronic slapstick routine where eight people bend down to pick up the same $100 bill and just end up bashing their heads together as a gentle breeze carries the money down the street.

The reason the higher categories generally see fewer crashes is not because they’ve acquired better riding skills over the years; rather, it’s because higher-category riders have been psychically beaten into submission. Their wills have been broken, they’ve admitted to themselves that they don’t have a chance, and they ride accordingly. In real life, if more than like 50% of the country believes it should be running it, you’re going to have a civil war. In a race, if more than half the field thinks it can win you can expect carnage on wheels. So don't be part of the problem.

Race Pass/Fail

So you’ve admitted you’re a loser. Congratulations, and welcome to mediocrity! Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like a Shasta? Believe it or not, embracing your inner “meh” is one of the most positive things you can do as a cyclist. And now that you’re coming to terms with this, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals. Clearly, winning is out of the question for you, so the next best thing is helping someone else win. Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s in it for you? More importantly, once your job is done and the winning break is up the road what’s your motivation for staying in the race?

In this case we can look to the halls of academe for an answer, and that answer is to race “Pass/Fail.” This simply means finishing=passing and getting dropped=failing. Over the years, I’ve learned that riding for a place is discouraging. However, if you treat simply finishing the race as success you can strive for—and attain—something close to perfection. Remember: success is how you define it. And when it comes to defining things in a manner that suits my own purposes, I’m like Robert Cawdrey with an Erasermate.

Employ Tactics

Road racing is all about tactics. Unfortunately, the tactical advice you get from books and magazines is intended for winners or for people who aspire to be winners. As such, it doesn't apply to you. Using that stuff for pass/fail racing is like trying to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture by following Mapquest directions to Chuck E. Cheese. You’re not interested in winning, you’re interested in surviving. Here are three key pieces of advice for the survival of the pass/fail racer:

Go Where The Most People Are

If you see a group of people go up the road that has less people in it than the group you’re in, stay where you are! What’s happening is that a selection is being made, and trust me when I tell you don’t want to be a part of it. The first rule of pass/fail racing is to avoid breakaways. Being in a breakaway is like going from a cushy job at a big company with a regular paycheck to a really hard job at a tiny company where you have to work 16 hour days on commission only and people are always yelling at you. And trust me—someone will yell at you. Every break has a self-appointed driver who is really mean and constantly shouts stuff like, “Short pulls!” and “Rotate!” and “Pull off into the wind!” and then gets indignant when you say “But I don’t wanna rotate!” since just want to sit on the back crying because you miss those fun cubicle days when all your friends were around and you didn’t have to do any real work. I mean, seriously, if you want to suffer do a cyclocross race.

Conversely, if you’re in one group and you suddenly realize the group up the road has much more people than the one you’re in, that means you’re probably being dropped. If possible, get back to the group with more people in it. (Shouting at someone else to “Close the gap!” can be helpful here.)

Savor the Slowness

There are times in the race when the pace will slow for no apparent reason. This is a good thing for the pass/fail racer, as it is an opportunity to relax and enjoy. Occasionally though, you may be tempted to try to lift the pace or “make a move.” But it is absolutely essential to always remember the first rule of pass/fail racing and stay where the people are. Because if you do go off the front, nobody’s going to follow you since you’re a pass/fail racer and they are too and they know better than to get mixed up in some fool’s errand with you. Then you wind up alone in no-man’s land. If you don’t know what no-man’s land is, it’s kind of like that period after you learned what the cycling-related jokes on the Primal jerseys meant, but before you figured out that it was totally uncool to wear them, so you just rode around alone wearing a Primal jersey and looking ridiculous. And that’s what will happen if you go off the front. You’ll wind up alone, between the field and the break, looking ridiculous.

Work Only Out of Craven Self-Preservation

There is only one situation in which it is acceptable for the pass/fail racer to accelerate or attempt to move up through the field, and that’s at the beginning of any sort of incline. This is a widely-known rule, but it’s one of the few that’s actually designed for the pass/fail racer and so it bears repeating here. What you want to do is move to the front of the group at the start of the climb so that as you continue up it you can slowly drift back through the group instead of struggling to stay on. Hopefully, by the time you get to the top of the incline you haven’t already been spit out the back. This is the equivalent of periodically selling something you own for quick cash so you can enjoy a few months of easy living instead of simply working hard all the time.

Premature Withdrawal

Road racing isn’t like other types of racing. In a cyclocross race, you stay in the race until you finish or until you’re pulled, even if nobody’s near you. In a mountain bike race, you keep racing regardless of your position as well, unless you’ve got an irreparable mechanical problem, or unless you’re me and you just wanna go home. But in road racing, if you find yourself dropped and alone, you stop racing. This is perfectly acceptable, and it’s because, unlike other activities, road racing is not done for fun. It’s done out of obligation. So once your race is over there’s simply no point in carrying on.

Of course, there are times you may want to leave the race even before you’ve gotten dropped. Technically, this is unacceptable. However, there are a few ways to do it while saving face. They are:

Get a Flat

Be honest: who hasn’t prayed for a puncture during periods of extreme physical duress? If you simply want out, try to steer towards gravel or bits of broken glass. If possible, ride in the gutter, where these sorts of things accumulate. Also, if there’s any kind of neutral wheel service, be sure to start the race on a bicycle that is incompatible with modern-day drivetrains. There’s no way the mechanic’s going to be able to cram a 10-speed wheel with 130mm spacing into your 120mm-spaced frame quick enough for you to get back in the race. And even if he does, it's not going to work with your Huret rear derailleur. Best of all, you can blame not only bad luck but also bicycle marketing and gimmickry for your failure to finish.

Unfortunately, getting a flat on purpose isn’t always easy, but you’ll just have to try your best until I start selling my Deflat-O-Mat 3000, which will instantly induce double-flats via a discreet handlebar-mounted trigger disguised as a cycle computer.

Have a Mechanical

There are innumerable ways to feign component failure. My personal favorite is the Hincapie ‘06. Remember the moment his steerer tube broke in Paris-Roubaix and he sat there for a moment studying his disembodied handlebars in disbelief before he crashed spectacularly? You can easily replicate this yourself by simply carrying a multi-tool in your jersey and subtly unbolting your stem. When it’s time to throw in the towel, simply slide the stem off the steerer tube and you’ll be out of the race in no time. (You can also do a Hincapie ’08—wheel failures can be induced by opening a skewer with your foot.)

And of course this all leads to the best but most dangerous way to leave a race:

Have a Crash

A good crash requires no explanation. Of course, it might require hospitalization, so this method should be used sparingly. If possible, steer towards grass or haybales.

The big dude always plays the tuba. It's a rule.

A piece on climbing..

Some excerpts..

"Hills are death for fat guys or big riders."
"You just can't get up even a slight incline without working much harder than a little guy"
"How you climb as a big guy has to be totally different, get over the idea that you will just grab a wheel, hang on, and spin up a hill. That won't work for you Charlie, because you aren't built to spin up hills. You need to whip out your Testosterone Bucket, take a drink, and really believe"
"I'll never be good at steep, long climbs - power to weight is a tyrant. But shorter, shallower hills - the sheer power of a big guy, fat and strong or just big and strong, can be a tyrant to a small rider."
"It’s hard to accept that you can actually do well on hills when your mental picture of a “hill” is a painful place where you get dropped by little tiny bastards, the Secret Elephant Graveyard where your races and group rides go to die. You start thinking of yourself as unable to climb."

We don't have 'rolling' terrain here.. its flat or straight up.. "Tom-Land" :)

As we approach the Fuji Hill climb again this year (June1) and I stare at the scale which will not budge below 185lbs, I wonder if I'll ever get up the bugger in under 90 mins..

13 April 2008

Yanagizawa Toge

Mission accomplished. David and me rode the first 47 km from his house to Ome station in 1:47 hr, a little bit more than the 80 minutes I have anticipated. If only I would have know what wonderful supply of pastry was awaiting as at Ome station, I would have rode 10 minutes faster.

We almost maintained our speed then going up to Okutama station. And then the rather hard part began. A short but steep climb through many tunnels to Okutama lake where the two Davids added valuable minerals to the potable water supply of the Japanese capital.
A speedy trip along the shores of the lake, then crossing over a red light in front of the assembled police force of north-west Okutama and the the really hard part going up to Yanagizawa.

Luckily we met Tom, which allowed for a first break and then we made a second break before reaching the top. The restaurant at the top is a remarkable break from the Japanese tradition: In former times, when there was a famine, the older people were taken in the woods and let alone. Most of them opened restaurants, for example on top of Wada Toge. As society wanted to get rid of them in he first place, they are normally grumpy and unfriendly people.
The Yanagizawa restaurant however was ok.
We then rode down to Ensan, over huge bridges and then into a town full of peach blossoms.

Sasago was a little bit too ambitious for us yesterday, so we stayed in line with our great tradition to have great plans and less long actual rides.

In 2001 I was riding to Ome and got back on the train. This used to be a long weekend ridefor me. I graduallt expanded to Okutama and Okutamako in the following years, but always took the train back. Ensan is probably the limit, hard to imagine to go any further.
But then again, who knows.

To be sure, I added Togebaka #7 on the left : Okutama Station to Yanagizawa Toge.

11 April 2008

New Togebaka added

yes, 1,560 meters high...

I have added No. 6 on our list...a fantastic climb about 16km long and going up at an average inclination of 8% or so. Vertical drop from top to Magi Intersection is about 1,100 meters.

Here's the map ①~⑩:


When the wind is blowing from the right direction splendid views of Fujisan are guaranteed (Fujisan as depicted on the old 500 yen bill was photographed from this O-toge).

Midway, the road is closed to normal traffic meaning paradise to hillclimbers and monkeys the latter breed present in far greater numbers!

(This incredible hill was introduced to me by YellowGiant of TCC. Thanks Travis!)

10 April 2008

Weekend Ride April 12/13

Mission (partially) accomplished! We made it to Enzan ... but hopped the train from there rather than going back via Sasago. It awaits another day.

View Larger Map

Near top of Yanagisawa looking behind

The haunted Sasago Tunnel

The weather forecast looks good for this Saturday (11-19 deg, 10%) and somewhat ok on Sunday (10-15 deg, 40%) so I was thinking of a nice trip into the Yamanashi mountains on Saturday.

I realized how tired I am to go along the Tamagawa, so I would like to propose to meet in Ome at the station at 10 AM - those who like can go there by bike (ca. 80 minutes from Futagotamagawa) and those who don't go there by train (for example Shinjuku 8.54 hr).

Then we travel from Ome to Okutamako along route 411, cross Yanagizawa Toge and take a break at Ensan. Depending on the energy level we have left, we continue then to Sasago Toge and cross over to route 20 to Sasago and Otsuki. We can then decide to take the train home from Otsuki or continue to Hachoji or home.

As an idea.

Sasago Pass closed to traffic until April 10-11-12?

09 April 2008

Winning race strategy

Team - this is the way forward! We can win everything if we enter the tricycle section at race events.

07 April 2008

Assos Product Review

Outside it is raining and the last cherry blossoms are falling to the ground. The complete atmosphere is somewhat melancholic and there is little reason to spend time with work related matter. Everything can wait until tomorrow.

However this winter I bought a lot of stuff from Assos through David Marx and I promised him to write something about this stuff on the Positivo web site. As the winter is gone by now and all stuff was thoroughly tested I can finally make good on my promise :

So the most important Assos gear I bought was this yellow Fugu jacket. Only the jacket, not the yellow trousers. Also I noted that in my jacket I look completely different - but it would be hard to blame the jacket for this.

But it is in fact a very warm jacket. According to the Assos website in should be worn at temperature from -4 to + 7 degrees. Please note that the temperature should be measured INSIDE the jacket. Really, I was wearing it one day when I crossed Otarumi with Tom and the temperature outside was around 3 degrees. We made a break at a Soba shop close to Takaoguchi and when I undressed from the jacket it was completely wet on the inside. Tom can confirm that. So every degree more than seven will extract 500 ml of sweat from your body. But nevertheless it is a very nice jacket and it has this huge one pocket on the backside for all kind of stuff and this nice collar and it really feels good. It is expensive yes, but it brought me well through the winter season.

There is little I hate more than riding on a bike and having cold ears. I used to be sensitive against rain but after riding last season almost completely in the rain (10 hours in Sadogashima, one hour home from lunch with David, david and a summer associate in Tama Jiman and and and) I lost that arrogant attitude. So I always wanted to have this robo cap from Assos and in fact it is very comfortable and warm. Again it looks different on my head, but I am not working as a model in Switzerland. This was a very good purchase and I threw away all other kind of winter bandannas, caps and tutus after getting this wonderful piece of gear. David Litt has the same one in red. Of course he had one in red so I wanted on in orange,my but then I had to compromise on the yellow one which might not fit so well in the color scheme of new Cervelo bike.

Oh yes, I also hate cold feet. So I bought this Assos shoe covers which were neither available in orange nor yellow. I have bought Pearl Izumi and Shimano in the past, but they do not have a long life duration when used by someone like me. These things are good, they keep the feet warm (OK not dry, but which shoe cover really does?) and they are easy to put on despite my initial judgement as the zipper cannot be opened fully on the back. The only drawback is, that the zipper is made out of metal and in the shape of the Assos logo. Therefore it is really hard to pull the zipper up and one of them has been lost already. David was so kind to send the shoe cover back to Assos in Switzerland for repair, but honestly speaking I would prefer a small strip of plastic attached to the zipper as in case of my old Assos airblock jacket rather than to have this fancy logo which hurt my sensitive manager fingertips. But nevertheless, these are the best shoecovers I ever owned.

But the most wonderful items I bought from Assos are these early winter gloves. They are available in yellow and red, among other minor colors. They are just wonderful warm and it is hard to imagine that you need anything else for winter in Japan (at least in the greater Kanto area). What I particular like about these gloves is, that they have no velcro fastener. They are very long so they can be worn over the sleeves of the jacket and it is so easy to put them on or off. Really of all the items I bought from David this year, I like these gloves the most. By now you might think that I am getting paid by David for talking so much good about Assos. I really like the gloves, shoecover and the robo cap and also the fugu jacket is nice. It is not the fault of the jacket that it just didn't get cold enough in Japan to wear it. But I bought some more items which are just standard or even sub-standard :

This lycra shoecover from Assos is what I wore when racing in Kawagoe in March this year. It has to take part of the blame that I finished in 25th position. No, I was just joking. But in real life the color is not as half as nice as the photo to the left shows it. I mean, in the photo it looks like your foot is filled by divine yellow light. No, this is not the case. And after using it only once, it has now two holes. Maybe I should have bought the red version.

The Thermic socks socks have also a problem : They are just not warm. Maybe it is my feet, but after the experience with the fugu jacket I expected something hotter than 1.000 suns protecting my feet against the cold - and I was disappointed by these socks. So I almost exclusively wear them at home with my blue slippers which provides a nice color matching.

Again I bought some other socks which are good but nothing special. Please take a look at the socks photo gallery below.

All in all I had a very active winter season thanks to the support of David Marx. He also provided an excellent service, exchanging the fugu L size jacket against XL size when I was too confident about my body measurements and taking care of my all too many whims.
Thank you David.

Gravity Zero Wheels

When I met David Marx at the Tour de Noto last year, he used this nice gravity-zero wheels on his bike which were really sharp looking. Later I visited his booth at the cycling fair in Makuhari and I could make a test ride with these wheels. They come from Australia and you can read all about them on the official web site, but there are two main points :
  • First, the rear wheel hub, called X-hub, as it comes directly from the x files, has a special kind of clutch, which eliminates any form of backlash/lag at the hub or pedal. The pedal power is transmitted directly to the rear wheel as if pedal and rearwheel are connected by a fixed gear - but with a free wheel.

  • Second, the levers on the tensioners can be removed so it is harder to steal the wheels and you can shave off another 10 grams of weight (provided you leave them at home and do not carry them in your repair kit as I do.

  • Third, they look sharp and the have a nice logo, although not in orange but in red.
So I wanted to have them for my new Cervelo bike, but David didn't had clinchers on stock and it was doubtful when they would arrive so I opted for something else in the first place. But just like a miracle I had the sudden chance to purchase one pair of 50 mm carbon wheels with aluminium rims through an obscure channel and I couldn't resist.

After fixing the wheels yesterday, I took them on a test ride to work (30 km) this morning. They feel very good. Once you ride them you notice just how often you stop pedaling and re-start again. Every time you restart pedaling you have the full power at your command, this is particular nice if you shift gears (and you apply less torque during the shifting) and even more when you accelerate exiting a curve. This wheel should give an old man like myself an unfair competitive advantage against all the thirteen and fourteen years old riders kicking my ass at Shuzenji.

Of course, to be fair, there are also two disadvantages : There is no clicking of the clutch of the back wheel hub audible any longer, I am missing this clickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklickclickclickclickclickcklick sound when riding in a group. When I hear it I know I have to be careful and prepare to brake.
And these wheels need a high degree of maintenance The rear hub needs to be de-assembled at greased after every ride in the rain.

Really I would like to spend as much time on the bike as possible and not spend too much time cleaning it and so on. even to update this blog cost a lot of time, but luckily I can do it at work.

In any case, they really look sharp.

Izu Weekend Ride

Juliane, david and me met early in the morning at Shinagawa station as planned and off we went by Kodama Shinkansen to Mishima. Nowadays even Kodamas are running on the basis of 700 series Shinkansens which were previously only used for Nozomi services. This is what I would call a nation in progress. Unfortunately one cannot fail to notice that the roof of the Shinkansen is not well cleaned. In fact, it is not cleaned at all which is a national disgrace.

[Comment: Later after the event it reminded me of something else as history is repeating itself, something you can verify when you reach the age of 45. When I was working in China on a construction site and our head office top management came to visit as, the site agent decided to paint the eastern and southern walls of the site office, as only those could be seen from the approach.]

We had not only a good time but also breakfast in the Shinkansen and were rewarded with a beautiful sight of the northernmost south-west side of eastern mount Fuji, still splendidly covered in snow.

In Mishima we found out that we were not the only cyling guys with the idea to ride out: About 20 - 30 cyclists, all in very competitive gears, were assembled at the station exit and got ready to ride somewhere. Quickly we assembled all bikes and rode in break-necking speed the first 230 meters to the next 7-Eleven where we took our first break. In fact we needed maps to navigate our way down the Izu peninsular and we continued our argument where to go. We decided not to go along the western coast road as we had done this some time before; instead we opted for a straight approach through the center of Izu bypassing the Maginotline and the main French defenses and heading straight for Dunkirk. We made good speed riding down south on route 136 and 414 respectively then turned left on route 50 at Yugashima Onsen, a sleepy small down located on a river.

From there on we started to climb about 700 meters up. To my surprise our climb came to an end at Kazahaya Toge, a pass I reached barely alive in 2005 with Juliane and David, after we have traversed Atami Toge before. It is the place where the Japanese authorities erected a cross in memorial of the cyclists who have given their lives in the vain attempt to reach the top.
"Put the Belgian waffle back in my month" is inscripted on it, in memory of Tony Simpson.

It was a very nice climb and we were still full of energy, so david did not hesitate to provide special excerpts from the customer relationship training he has received at his place of work. We were very impressed while a couple taking photos in the vicinity left in panic.

We then went another 130 meters up to come to Nika Toge at elevation 900 and then started the descent towards Nishi Izu. In 2005 we opted for the wide road down, but this time the small road branching to the left was not closed so we took this one. It was a very nice descent through the forrest, not too steep. Suddenly at app. elevation 350 m I saw david sliding on his bike in a curve - he stopped and I checked the pressure on his backwheel - almost flat. But no problem, david had two spare tubes with him and Juliane 3 and me 2 CO2 cartridges to inflate them. So he exchange the tube and we found out that one of my cartridges was almost empty already. Four left. So we took the other one to inflate the back wheel which went well. Three left. Until the tube exploded and blew the tire off the rim. david took another tube and mounted it on his back wheel while I checked Julianes repair kit for the forecasted 3 cartridges. I could only found 2 in a mess that reminded me of a typical women handbag, but without the cosmetics and instead repair stuff filled. Two left. One of them was empty. One left. Juliane mounted that one on her valve adaptor but forgot to check if the valve was closed. So when connected the CO2 content evaporated in hot air. Zero left.

Let this be a lesson to you : This happens if you do not properly bury your used tubes in the backyard of your house as taught by ancient Japanese tradition !

Ok, it also happens to you if you do not take enough cartridges with you on your rides, or at least a pump.

Anyway, it was time to say goodbye to david as nothing could be done and Juliane and me rode on. We went to Nishi Izu to collect help and on the way we asked some black clad guys with black polished cars wether or not there would be a bicycle shop in Nishi Izu. They said something I did not understood which sounded like that we need to go to "DANMOTA". Hm. On the way to Nishi Izu we got a phone call from david, a car gave him a lift and he arrived at the town almost at the same time as we did. At a gas stand we were not able to fill his tube with sufficient amounts of air, so I asked if there would be a bicycle shop in town. The answer was, yes there is, and it is "DANMOTA" right on the left around the corner.

I rode there and it turned out that "DANMOTA" is actually DAN MOTORS, the local machinery shop supplying the farmers with all kind of agricultural machinery. The guy running the shop was the typical grumpy farmer mechanics who had the most wonderful things displayed in his shop. After searching for quite a while he did not only find two cartridges which he sold to me, but also a Presta adaptor which we could use at the gas stand, so all our problems were solved.

We then rode on to Matsuzaki, where we had lunch and then further via route 15 to Shimoda where I said good bye to Juliane and david. They staid at the Ozawa Onsen close to Matsuzaki while I headed back by Super Odoriko to Tokyo.

All in all a very pleasant trip with some good climbs and very nice scenery, sometimes relaxed, sometimes very exciting. Should be redone with the other team members as well this year.

Tour de Donut

It's simple. Race 21 miles and see who is the king donut! In circuit style, ride 7 miles, then eat as many donuts as you would like. No limit. Then, ride 7 more miles, eat more donuts, then ride the last 7 mile lap. Glory and adulation are waiting for you at the Finish Line. Proceeds benefit the Utah Amber Alert ID project.

For every donut you eat, subtract three minutes from your time! Ten donuts? 30 minutes right off the top. Finally your appetite and your pot belly are your greatest assets!

My kind of racin'.. :)

06 April 2008

04 April 2008

Doshimichi - Izu Alternative for Saturday April 5

Jerome and I actually started at 7AM on the minute, made it up to the top of Doshimichi (the tunnel at the summit) and back before 4PM. We were at Takao in 1 hour and 18 minutes ... and the pace fell from there, mostly as Jerome patiently throttled back as I suffered a bit on the hills -- not enough sleep Wed or Thur nights = no power for an early Saturday start. I managed 21:02 over Otarumi -- 17 seconds below my time a few weeks back, and without pushing at all on the upper part of the slope. We rode 180 km plus and the weather was ideal. With the gas tax cut, lots of people decided it would be a good weekend for a drive. Too much traffic along the way, though you don't notice it when descending back down Doshimichi, at least, except when you pass someone in the S curves.

View Larger Map

03 April 2008

The Walking Bike

Click the pic for the video of this racy number in action..

02 April 2008

April Fool

This has arguably nothing to do with cycling, however with a similar and even better activity : flying. One of the best April Fool's idea I ever saw:
Flying Ps

01 April 2008


As the weather looks ok and the cherry blossoms are out as well, Juliane and me were thinking about planing a lomger ride in direction Shimoda next weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. We would meet and leave early in the morning by Shinkansen from Shinagawa station traveling to Atami or Mishima, then ride either in inner Izu or on the West coast in southern direction. We have not made detailed plans yet and welcome any ideas.

Last weekend, when I came back from the Shuzenji race [no further comment about that one] I notice a signboard pointing the the Yamabushi Toge. That one sounds nice.

We can also ride down road 414 to Shimoda - I always wanted to do the spiral on my bike. And then jump into the outdoor onsen pools just next to it.

Please let me know, if you are interested.