26 October 2009

Train with POWER pain and simple

OK so I have had some feedback from the postings in regards to the CompuTrainer.
Most of these questions are centered around the same topics, "why would I need to do this", "what would I benefit from testing or training on that thing", " I have been doing the same thing for ages why should I change now" and so on.

In hopes of clearing up these questions and any others the team may have...

Citius, Altius, Fortius
Faster, Higher, Stronger
Latin motto for the Olympics

  • Testing on the the CT (computrainer) is the same as testing on a cycle ergometer. Some of the tests we conduct can tell you your VT or LT, Ventilatory Threshold or Lactate Threshold or Anaerobic Threshold. What can these numbers do for you? Using these values you can train for longer more powerful climbs. This specific training increases your bodies ability to deal with the "burn" and thus push yourself further and longer then past efforts. Training with these values keeps your heart rate lower while preforming better. This training is the gold standard for all cyclists as well as many other sport competitors. Over all this training will make you more efficient and FASTER

  • Cycle ergometers have long been the standard for testing and predicting VO2 max, or the volume of oxygen you can use. Without a spirometer, see photo, you can only predict the VO2 but the difference is that with this number we can determine your specific training intensities for the greatest results. Training your lungs and heart to work better, with less effort for longer durations will help with other systems in the body as well. Just as when you climb high onto a mountain and you struggle to catch your breath, training is this specific area will improve your bodies ability to cope with such stresses while improving the efficiency of the bodies systems at that intense level of exercise. You will be able to train harder and more efficiently and ultimatly with less effort, HIGHER

  • Most of all POWER is the unit of measurement that...if you don't know by now, means everything to most professionals. Simply put power is the product of speed and strength. To produce long sustained bouts of power you must train the systems that contribute to the direct output of said power, your legs. These systems are of course your BASE strength, your cardiovascular, lung and heart, endurance, muscle endurance, your ability to deal with the byproducts of fatigue, Lactate, and of course your ability to handle PAIN, STRONGER
This CT is primarily for testing purposes although there are extended training packages available. For general use one should try to test one or two times a month. Preforming these tests will give a rider feedback on their training both negative and positive. One may ask, "what negative information would that thing be able to tell me"? Using data from past tests and a specific test called the Ramp Test, determining your training effectiveness is revealed. First of all via your power output, secondly by your heart rate values as a sum from the test. If your heart rate sum is higher or the same as past tests, your most likely over-training or not training to improve your VT. If your power output is lower, your either over-training or your not training properly for power improvements.

Lastly its good fun to compete against others. Sitting around talking about how much power you can produce is empowering and well much like a big dogs bark.

In light of this simple nature that exists in our little group I would like to have a day of free testing on the CT. I'm thinking of a Saturday or Sunday in the near future. Nothing big or intense, just a simple power test. This will take place at my new studio rental space located at Tokyo Physio

If there are any suggestions please feel free to send em over as well as any questions, comments, complaints or self doubts.

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

25 October 2009

2010 Giro d'Italia Penultimate Stage Follows 2009 Transalp Penultimate Stage!!!

This weekend the Giro d'Italia 2010 route was announced at the usual presentation ceremony.

There are some interesting highlights, including a Stage 16 uphill time trial with 20% and 24% grade sections, and spending the first 3 days riding around/out from Amsterdam (hope for dry weather).

Of greatest interest to me is the 20th stage, which starts in Bormio, first goes over a pass we did not ride on this year's Transalp, then ... through Livigno, then Passo di Eira, Passo Foscagna, Passo di Gavia (watch out for that crazy descent!) and a finish at the top of Passo del Tonale (a piece of cake, if memory serves) ... but does not go on over Mendelpass and to Kaltern, as we did. Perhaps the Giro organizers read the Positivo Espresso blog and realized first time what a great series of climbs this is in their own country?

Giro 2010 Stage 20:

Transalp 2009 Stage 6 (click on image to expand) or see it here in better resolution:

So the pros ride 178 km, compared to our 180.8 km/3770 meters elevation gain. Their first hill is higher than our last hill (Mendelpass), making their day much harder overall. Then again, the next/final day they have only a 15km TT, whereas we had to slog through the stifling July heat from Kaltern to Arco, with one more nasty 1000 meter climb.

24 October 2009

Hombeline et Thomas

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I have been approached by two French students from my class at university before the long October weekend if I could make some suggestions for a nice bike trip.

Well, being a demanding teacher providing new challenges fro my students, I suggested that they should ride out along the Tamagawa to Ome and continue to the Okutama reservoir where another nice road would took them over Matsuhime pass (1.250 meter) to route 20 and then, back over Otarumi to Takao and home in Roppongi. Nothing special, something we can do easily in a day on our bikes after having trained all year long.

Little did I know that they were attempting to make this tour on single-speed mama-chari. Without any training.

So when I came back to class after the weekend and met them I was very surprised that they made it and I was even more surprised that they were physically able to attend class after they have made it.

Please keep in mind that they came to Japan only at the start of September, speak almost no Japanese, had no maps, no previous cycling experience and acquired mama charis for a sum we pay when riding out and return from rides for a Shinkansen ticket.

The trip started pretty early in the morning and first rests were made along the Tamagawa.
So slowly they moved towards Okutama on day one of their journey on their steel frame single speed bikes - has cycling ever more pure?
Then, arriving in the rain in Okutama with no idea where to stay and believing that shelling out 8.000 Yen per person for a pension room would be pretty outrageous (after all, you can get a mama chari for this money), they decided to knock on the houses of the local inhabitants and asked them if they could stay the night there. Finally somebody showed pity and transported them and their bikes to a pension where they were allowed to stay.Thomas showing clear signs of physical (the left cheek !) and psychic (the eyes !) stress from the trip. While Hombeline looked like "Girl with pearl earl ring" from Jan Vanmeer in Japanese surroundings (see above).

But in good mood both of them continued to the reservoir the following day, up Matsuhime and down to Otsuki where they spend the second night.
And as planned they rode all the way home on route 20 to the Tamagawa and then back to Tokyo on day three.

Some days later they became the first ever honorary members of the Positivo Espresso Team and owners of some rather cheap pairs of orange cycling gloves.

Life is lending us amazing stories and I am thankful that even if I cannot live them, I can write about them.


Dominic, Ludwig and me decided to turn Wednesday's workday into a more pleasurable past time.

Ludwig and Dominic met for the first time on the train to Hashimoto, where Ludwig was pretending to read the Financial Times which caught Dominics attention as he was holding it upside down. Actually Ludwig has two reasons for that, first he wants to see rising curves on financial related charts more often and second it is just too easy for him to read a newspaper the normal way.

I was 10 minutes late but we started early at 7.30 in direction Tsukui lake, where we parked our bikes at a 7-Eleven to take supplies. (my one in the prescribed position).
According to Ludwig that was the worse 7-Eleven he has ever visited, justified in particular by the missing assortment of Soyjoy bars. So we declined politely the official approval.

We then continued along Doshimichi and after finishing our pointless ride through Aone village (please check this club tradition which is now a must for every ride) we entered route 76.

Trucks have long been a source of cyclists dissatisfaction on the roads outside of Tokyo, but recently many improvements have been done to make the cyclists fate more bearable. Thanks to the support of the All Japan Truck Drivers Vehicle Beautification Association, cyclists can now enjoy the backside of trucks even more.




Anyway, we moved further along the TCC winter shortcut to road 35 leading to Akiyama and Hinazuru tunnel.The manju shop passed approval procedure without any problems (although they only had anpan manjus, miso manjus were sold out). Dominic was surprised that, given the state of the building, the age and state of its inhabitants and the open fire burning in parts of the houses, that they actually owned a telephone.

He was also surprised to find his front tire punctured. Ludwig, who was anyway only in for the morning went ahead to catch a train from Otsuki, while we repaired the tube and buried the old one in the garden behind the manju shop as old Japanese cycling tradition requires.

A short climb up to Hinazuru, followed by a quick climb up to Suzugane, peaceful as always and a quick visited to a combini at Sarubashi resulted in a luke warm lunch at the resting place in front of the old Sarubashi.

And then after preludio (Hinazuru) and allegro (Suzugane) we started the main climb of the day, Matsuhime Toge (Furio). Dominic became recently stronger and stronger and we decided in view of the fact that he has applied for next years L'etappe du Tour that I will coach him for the event and that this would be our first training ride.

So from this point in time on I have the right to address him as "O-mae", "Kimi", "Baka" or whatever I feel just, while he has to use the most intricate forms of "irassharu" and "itadaku" when daring to approach me while scrubbing my back in the local sento. For this I will teach him the secrets of cycling which, honestly, consist mostly of suffering.

So we were happily going up the road and I was pointing out to Dominic that the small grey strip up high in the mountains before us IS actually the road we will need to ride up. And suddenly we saw another cyclist about 50 meters in front of us. He looked like a short hippy with long grey hair and old fashioned glasses, on a bike with backtray, somebody left over from the occupation of Todai's Yasuda clocktower in the sixties.

In turned out to be a women, I Y, as we later learned, who happens to cycle quite a lot and was not even very strong, (we could chat and ride up Matsuhime while Dominic had to stop and was much more silent in general) but who knows also every single road in the area. I mentioned some of the roads we have found out recently (Arima Toge, Haccho Tunnel, Nennogon) and she knew all of them and many more I haven't ever heard about (Nijumagari Toge) which seemed to be the most interesting places.
I must say that I was very, very impressed. Since 8 years or so she is riding out regularly two, three times a week with the bike and we have never met despite the fact that we have done more or less the same roads all the time. She would definitely become a good addition to our team, however unfortunately she does not race.

After having a short break at Matsuhime we took the road back to Okutama where we left I Y at the parking place (she clinged to my back wheel all the time even when I tried some macho accelerations) and Dominic and me continued towards Ome.

Dominic was quite done and every movement was accompagnied by an assortment of noises indicating pain and disaster. But these are the rides that make adults out of boys and separate the guys who are standing in front of the toilet or sitting on it.

In Ome we had our meal at the approved Aurore bakery and watched a group of foreign school kids running around the block. No Japanese school kids in sight, perhaps some kind of punishment or special training for the Ome marathon?

Then we made some Japanese local girls laugh when they saw our "Shingo Mushi" mark on the back of our bib shorts.

And then we rode home by train.

Koyo leaves were beautiful by the way starting from 1.000 meter elevation. Temperature was just right and all in all it has been another beautiful day.

Child seat

21 October 2009


Are you a vehicularist or a facilitator? An interesting article on bicycles and traffic rules here in Slate magazine online.

I'm glad that cycles are excluded from "one way" rules in Japan. On the other hand, I did hear somewhere that police are stopping cyclists and warning them here now for riding at night without a forward light.

[David L. supplement:] I just wanted to add this cross reference -- a post from a master finance blogger who touches upon related topics -- which model of car drivers are the worst? I believe Nihoncassandra has recently relocated from the East Coast of the U.S. to France, so his ranking presumably applies to BMW drivers in France, not in New Jersey.

20 October 2009

Train with POWER

OK team here is the adjusted information for the services. Still working on a discount for the team although these prices are better then TAC.
Any questions feel free to direct them my way or have a look at the racermate site.

19 October 2009

Positivo Approved Cake Shop

As we are on the topic of approving certain establishments I thought I would introduce a very nice German bakery in Akasaka that has been keeping me well stoked with cake every morning since I started commuting from Yokohama back in April.

Everything is baked on premises and they supply several of the German restaurants and bars in the area with bread of all types.

If you’re in the area I would strongly recommend the fresh pretzels, they are to die for!

View Larger Map

18 October 2009

Positivo Espresso Approved Starbucks

I took a shorter (85 km) afternoon ride today, out One-kansen, along the tank road and Machida Kaido, up the steep approach to Shiroyama Lake, and back to the river via Yaen-Kaido. The route can be replayed on Garmin Connect here. A fast trip back with neutral or tailwind.

Outbound, I stopped at Dominic's "P.E. Approved" Starbucks just off the end of One-kan past the "tank road", and remembered to snap a picture with my phone's camera. The photo leaves a lot to be desired, but least gives the general idea--people sitting outside and relaxing in what is, other than the Starbucks, a bit of a wasteland of big box stores, "logistics facilities," gas stands and convenience stores ... just down the hill from the wonderful :

P.S. For an "approved" Starbucks, would zenin (是認) or ninka (認可) be preferable to kakunin (確認)? Thoughts?

A response to MC SpandX

Fixie for Sale

For Sale: Swobo Sanchez 55cm

Purchased July 2007, mildly used, lovingly cared for, great condition, stable consolidation forces reluctant sale.

Road Bike Action Magazine May/June 2008

National Geographic Adventure Review



13 October 2009

Wow! More Proof of PE Global Domination

On the climb to Passo della Stelvio ...

She looks as if she is floating up the hill ... he is suffering but holding on ... barely.

(PLEASE click on the photo to view this at full size--a spectacular shot).

Rites of Passage

You have probably seen this before but in my short cycling career I can certainly say some of these are relevant to me (I have highlighted them).
  1. Realizing that the hill isn’t in the way; it is the way.
  2. You go from one pair of shorts to a dedicated drawerful
  3. Being unable to sleep the night after you shave your legs, because of the tingle of bedsheets against your skin.
  4. When “thanks for the ride” goes from something you overhear to a part of your lexicon
  5. You see someone on the beach tanned low on the quads and biceps, and give him a nod of recognition.
  6. Bonking so bad you don’t think you will be able to make it home.
  7. Discovering how a convenience-store Coke can resurrect the dead.
  8. Starting and finishing a ride – the same one – in pouring rain.
  9. When you hang out at the bike shop and no one expects you to buy anything.
  10. When your bike computer registers triple digits for one ride.
  11. Clearing a log on the trail
  12. You embrocate.
  13. Staying long enough with the paceline to have a turn at the front.
  14. You are on the bike for the fifth straight day, and your butt doesn’t hurt.
  15. You try bibs and realize you can never go back to shorts.
  16. You notice that someone else has chain grease on his right calf.
  17. You ride inside the pack with no claustrophobia
  18. You swing off the front of the paceline before you get tired.
  19. You blow a snot-rocket without hitting your shoulder or your leg – or the guy behind you. (in my dreams. work to be done)
  20. You get stuck in your pedals and topple over at a stoplight
  21. Someone you introduced to the sport kicks your ass on the ride.
  22. Riding your bike through a big, congested city and feeling smarter than everyone else because you’re moving.
  23. You wake up to find your sheets sticking to your road-rash, and are feeling excited about riding that day.
  24. Your boss stops to ask you what is happening in the Tour de France
  25. You fix up your old bike to get someone else into the sport.
  26. Wearing out your first set of tires.
  27. You ride through a pothole, and it’s no big deal.
  28. Getting hopelessly lost – deliberately.
  29. You stop mid-ride to give your only spare tube to a stranded cyclist
  30. You realize you’re driving your car as if it were a bike – drafting, looking for potholes, and getting away from that squirrelly guy.
  31. Fixing a busted chain.
  32. When you no longer have to stop to take off your jacket.
  33. Feeling confident about taking off your jacket while riding, and then getting the trailing sleeve caught in the rear tire.
  34. The first time you crumple your race numbers.
  35. Planning a riding vacation (almost, am thinking about it)
  36. Seeing sunrise from the saddle.
  37. Wondering how your biggest local hill would rank on the Tour de France classification.
  38. In your head, Phil Liggett narrates your ride.
  39. You got dropped, you flatted, bonked, and got turned around – and when you get home you say you got a great ride.
  40. You roll through a patch of gravel and, without thinking, you reach back to rub the crud off your tire with your hand.
  41. A rider your respect says “You were flying today.”
  42. Rolling through a stop-sign, knowing it was the right thing to do.
  43. Doored!
  44. When you crest the summit of a climb, start down, realize you’re going the wrong way, but keep going anyway.
  45. Rubbing wheels – and staying up.
  46. Letting go of your kid’s seat and not having to grab it again.
  47. Getting your bike stolen and realizing how much it hurt you.
  48. Cleaning the cassette with your old toothbrush.
  49. Sprinting the neighborhood kids.
  50. Chasing a rabbit down the singletrack.
  51. Falling asleep when you stop for a break on a mountain bike ride.
  52. Endo.
  53. Telling someone which bike to buy.
  54. Overcooking a turn.
  55. Breaking a collarbone.
  56. Figuring out how to layer without overdressing.
  57. Dicing which car to buy in part based on how it will carry your bikes.
  58. Your first ride with a jersey instead of a t-shirt
  59. Riding on a day to cold that the water in your bottle freezes.
  60. Discovering that a shot of Jameson in each bottle keeps the water fluid.
  61. Though you’re not clear on exactly how to do it, and unsure of the outcome, you manage to fix your first flat.
  62. Walking home in your cleats.
  63. Getting so deep into the sport you think your helmet looks good. (not quite, but getting close)
  64. Following a favourite pro-racer—besides Lance Armstrong.
  65. Finding out that your favourite pro-racer was doping.
  66. Wrapping your bar tape so the handlebar plug stays in and no bar shows at the tricky bend at the brake hood.
  67. Naming a route
  68. Bumping elbows, then being relaxed enough to make a joke about it with the guy next to you.
  69. Sitting in with the big weekend training race.
  70. Developing that “V” of muscle definition on the back of your calf.
  71. Espresso at the halfway point.
  72. Crashing and immediately asking “How’s my bike?”
  73. Fixing your bike with a rock.
  74. Paying for a coach
  75. Figuring out that training advice doesn’t get much better than “ride lots.”
  76. Clacking into a rough tavern in cleats and spandex.
  77. Having a position on Bartali vs Coppi
  78. Throwing up after an epic sprint.
  79. Chasing back on after a flat.
  80. Winning a town-sign sprint and remembering it forever.
  81. Watching the compressed CO2 from your only canister shooting off into the air instead of the tube.
  82. Matching your bar tape with your tire’s sidewall – then realizing on your next ride that your bike looks like it’s been decorated by a blind pimp.
  83. Riding someplace you’ve always driven.
  84. Outsprinting a crazed dog.
  85. Summiting an H.C. Climb.
  86. Waving at a cyclist coming the other way and being ignored.
  87. Getting annoyed by an uninvited wheel sucker.
  88. Getting so fast you’re confident enough to ride slow.
  89. Wondering if cycling matters too much.
  90. Not caring if it does.
  91. At the PTA meeting, looking around at all the fat parents.
  92. Sitting up, taking your hands off the bar on a downhill.
  93. Surfing traffic on adrenaline and luck in one of the world’s 10 biggest cities.
  94. Dropping someone half your age.
  95. Outclimbing someone half your size.
  96. Passing someone whose bike costs twice as much as yours.
  97. Looking inside the bottle you’ve been using all season, seeing mold.
  98. Dismissing what used to be your favourite magazine because it keeps repeating topics.
  99. Reading The Rider.
  100. Coming home from Europe with cobblestones in your luggage.
  101. Finding out that no one makes your favourite handlebar-bend anymore.
  102. Riding down a trail you couldn’t safely walk.
  103. Telling the joke, “God wishes he was Eddy Merckx.”
  104. Cheating a crosswind by joining an echelon.
  105. Feeling superstrong, then turning around and realizing you have had a tailwind.
  106. Pedaling the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo, at night.
  107. Beating the person whose bike squeaks drives everyone nuts.
  108. Reading a rites of passage list and finding that your own favourite is missing.
  109. Posting your own anecdotes and ride reports to the 'club's blog rather than claiming a lack of technological expertise.
Posted on behalf of DH via the Rites of Passage post on the TCC site

12 October 2009

Minami Shinano

Mist in the valley between Otsuki and Sasago, as seen on the first Chuo-sen train of the day:

I was extremely intrigued upon reading here about the second day of Thomas and Sergey's "TCC Mountains of Madness" ride, a route from Chino (just South of Suwa, on the Chuo-sen) along the Akiba-Kaido all the way to Hamamatsu on the Pacific Ocean, over 4 passes. The comments indicate that Ludwig also had done the same ride solo last month.

The problem, as noted by Ludwig, is that the first train from Tokyo gets to Chino after 9AM, not allowing enough time to get in the 200+ km to Hamamatsu before dark descends. Since the days are shorter now than 2-3 weeks ago when Ludwig did this, and since I climb much more slowly than him, I figured it was pretty much impossible as a one-day trip ... until I scoured Yahoo Japan's online train routing site and found a much earlier train on Sunday that gets to Chino at 7:45AM (well, actually 7:55 yesterday, due to signal problems after departing Kofu). The only problem is that is local all the way, requires transfers with bike bag at Otsuki and Kofu, and it departs from Takao at 5:16AM. I did the math ... 1hr25min from my house to Takao station, plus time for packing the bike in the bag, getting to the platform and a few extra minutes just in case, and figured what the heck, I could nap on the train.

Anyway, I did not nap, but the early start was well worth the effort. The weather was glorious -- cool but crisp/dry air, warm in the sun. The route was spectacular, as reported, and made for a very tough day ... 39 km to Takao, another 205 km from Chino to Hamamatsu, 4 passes and over 3000 meters of climbing. Map/replay of the route is here.

Morning mist burning off over Yatsugatake at the start of the climb from Chino:
Takato, after the first climb and descent, with mountains to the West:
The river valley past Takato ... a different river in each valley, for the descent and ascent, on each side of each pass, so forgive me if I don't recall all the names:
Add ImageA Japanese roadie team that passed me going quickly as I stopped for a photo (above) and some food from my pack. I later saw a large, fast group, with support van, heading in opposite direction from me on the forest road above Jizo Touge ... and thought I might have recognized one of the strong Japanese riders from NFCC among them, but they were descending and so we passed quickly with only a "ganbare" or two in each direction. They looked just as pressed for time as I felt:
On the climb to Bunkui Touge:
Passing through the O-Shika ("Big Deer") area. The Road is the Road.
*I was going to post photos from Bunkui Touge, from the top of the climb out of Chino, and a few others ... but you can see essentially the same photos on the TCC report.

A few rider notes:

1. I brought a small rucksack with food, since I wanted the flexibility not to stop for a meal on what is definitely a "no convenience store" route, at least from Takato to Tenryu -- a stretch of about 140 km. There were vending machines, and places serving udon/soba and other food to tourists, but extra food is highly recommended for a trip with minimal stops.

2. Thomas reports 3133 meters of climbing. From Chino to Hamamatsu, I show 3058 meters of climbing on my Garmin, which usually records slightly on the low side (within 10% of actual) when on the "smart recording" -- one data point every 6 seconds, instead of every second. Ludwig's comments suggest "only" 2500 meters climbing. I get much more than that just counting manually using his method from the lowest to highest reading on each of the 4 climbs (even if my altimeter needs adjustment, it is probably off by the same amount at the bottom and top of the climbs):

Tsuetsuki Touge/杖突峠 (750m to 1257m): 507m climb
Bunkui Touge/分杭峠 (750 to 1443): 693m climb
Jizo Touge/地蔵峠 (676m to 1493m): 817m climb
Hyoko Touge/兵越峠 (403m to 1183m): 780m climb

Or a total for the 4 climbs of 2797m ... plus some small up/down in the valleys and on the last 80km to Hamamatsu easily gets to 3000+ meters (and in my case add 150m on the dark, Garmin-less trip to Takao).

If you view Thomas/Sergey's photos you will see a sign at Jizo Touge showing 1314m elevation ... and will understand how disappointed I was when the forest road on the South side of the pass kept climbing, almost another 200 meters, before turning downhill. Likewise, Aokuzure Pass (closed) is listed as 1082m elevation, but Hyoko Pass (open) is almost 100 meters higher.

3. My "Mapple" map book includes a comment that Aokuzure Pass has such extreme landslides that "Japanese tunnel technology withdrew, defeated" (日本のトンネル技術が敗退), an incredible admission given what we have seen on other rides. The map also notes that Hyoko Pass (兵越峠)gets its name (which translates something like "army crossing pass") from when Takeda Shingen led an army on horseback over it.

4. Some quick online research reports that the crossing involved 35,000 soldiers -- mainly on horseback -- and took place in autumn, just about this time of the year, in 1573. Very impressive ... and probably a bit of a shock to the local lords in Enshu region to the South when 35,000 soldiers on horseback came thundering down the valley. The average Japanese cavalry soldier (salaryman) of today is significantly less hardy, I was reminded on the descent when I came upon a traffic jam of vacationeers' cars blocking the road in both directions. One driver had driven just off of the road surface and into the drainage ditch (a sharp-edged channel about 25 cm wide and deep enough to swallow a tire up to the axle). I did not stop -- no time -- but I could not help but think that if all the people standing around would simply lift up the front of the smallish car, they could quickly get it back on the road and be on their way.

On the climb to Jizo Touge:

5. Ludwig did not like the tunnels on the long stretch of this ride after the last pass -- over 80 km to Hamamatsu Station. I thought the tunnels were the best part, but not because I liked them. I just liked the endless road along an endless reservoir even less. And once past that stretch, the traffic and sprawl stretching along the 20+ km from Tenryu to Hamamatsu was not pleasant. There must be a better route for the last 20 km, if only I knew the territory. It looks like there are several chances to hop a train (Iida-sen) to Toyohashi and skip this last part of the ride -- cut over approx 10 km from Akiba Kaido to Hiraoka, taking Rte 418 just North of the start of the climb to Aokuzure/Hyoko Passes, or take it from Misakubo, just over the last climb and a few km down the nice pre-reservoir section of the valley. This would not save much if any time, but it would save a long slog, and just looking at the Saturday schedule, for example, there is a 17:06 (express/reserved seating) train from Misakubo that gets to Toyohashi at 18:31 and would have you back to Shinagawa at 20:03.

I would suggest that next year (Golden Week or so) we try this, and add a side trip up to Shirabiso Touge (elev. 1833m) off of the forest road near Jiso Touge. Shirabiso was featured in the Cycle Sports Shinshu special earlier in the year, and would have a spectacular view of the Minami Alps, still with snow on top in May, if we timed it right. I had a few nice glimpses of the tall peaks yesterday, but no snow visible at this time of year.

11 October 2009

HOTAKA ! Saturday, October 17

The annual event organized by Kodama-san and coinciding with the Saiko and Okinawa races is not taking place this year for still unexplained reasons. Instead, Thomas and I are thinking of doing the "Giro de Hotaka" as a joint Positivo Espresso - Tokyo Cycling Club event this coming Saturday (Oct. 17) when the koyo splendour should be at its best!

We will take an early train out to Numata from Ueno and return to Tokyo the same day. Philip has mapped out the course for us here.

More details will soon follow on the TCC site.

Ludwig has suggested an alternative "Jomokogen - Utsunomiya" route in the area which looks equally attractive and includes the two lakes above Nikko. Maybe we could do this one the following weekend?

09 October 2009

Approval Procedure

Some of you, in particular those who have joined for rides recently, might have noticed that nowadays I stop quite often in the vicinity of lamp posts and other metal surfaces at crossings, approved supply dumbs, mountain passes and tunnels. Unlike dogs, I do not do this to mark my districts. At least not in this fashion.

Well, some weeks ago I have finally received a parcel from the US with 1,000 of 5 by 6 cm all weather proof stickers with the Positivo Espresso logo and an appropriate approval [確認] sign. Some time ago I asked if there would be interest to have some, there wan't so much reaction but nevertheless I ordered them [being a stubborn German].

I use the stickers mainly to outline our main routes so that also other riders can find them easily. When chartering new terrain one get's so easily lost. I noticed this this season as we tried many new roads. One time, climbing up to O-toge I got completely lost and had to return the same way as I couldn't find the right road to the top. In particular when riding with Ludwig that happened quite often, as our navigation and orientation levels is pretty low.

Imagine that both of us would be kidnapped, drugged, blindfolded and left in the middle of the Amazon jungle in the thickest of forest during the night with a beautiful woman. In the moment we wake up both of us would point in opposite directions and shout: "Let's go. This way!". Yes, that's how good we are.

Also I use the sticker to approve our favorite shops. I don not think that it is a good idea to glue them on the windows and doors of the shop, at least without asking, but there is no harm done if they are on a lamp pole next to the store.
Aurore, the lovely bakery in Ome, was the first one to be approved.

The weather resistance is surprisingly good. Before the Yokohama race I had two stickers on my bike, one Positivo and one from the CMWC; the PE one survived well, the CMWC one was completely destroyed by the rain and the road rash.

If you would like to have some stickers, please let me know. I normally carry some with me on the rides. There weren't exactly cheap so I would like to ask for your understanding that I have to ask some money for them.

The first who will benefit from this are two French students from my Temple University class. They plan to spend the three day weekend on a bicycle tour and asked me for a good route. I explained them the way to Ome along the Tamagawa and then further on to Matsuhime and back on route 20 over Takao to the Tamagawa again. So basically a tour which everyone of us will consider a good warm-up ride before getting serious in the afternoon.

Oh, did I mentioned that they want to do this on mama-chari? Well, they only told me after I send them the idea. If you see them along the road, please give them some bread, cheese and red wine.

Look who is doing all the work

Two Positivistas pulling at least seven Neutralicos through the rain and through the typhoon ... so who is in the bloody A-Team ?

08 October 2009


Im a bit of a dab hand with electronics as well as mechanics so I decided to break from the normal and give my iPhone a bit of Positivo BLING!

Not happy with making do with the borring "Black or White" iphone that seems to match the Positivo "B" Team, I decided that I had to have a custom "A" team iPhone otherwise I would switch to AU that seems to produce all manner of phones in out team colours!
A quick call to Hong Kong and a new Orange shell and larger capacity battery was dispatched and Steve Jobs called me and appologized for the error of not creating a Positivo "A" team shell upon release of the phone.
Appology accepted I went about my work. The project require the whole phone to be gutted and all the little bezzels and flanges removed and inserted in to the new case. Unless you have a very steady hand this can prove to be a most fustrating task!
But after countless hours of repairing other peoples iPhones it's got to the point where I can now do this with my ishut.

Vélib comes to Tokyo?

First CMWC and Bicycle Film Festival, now Vélib?
Many Positivistas may have read about or enjoyed the popular Vélib (vélo libre or vélo liberté) rental bicycle program rolled out in Paris in 2007, now up to 20,000 cycles at stations 300 meters apart throughout the city (official Velib web site is HERE).
There is now an experimental program in Tokyo with a station on Naka-Dori in front of my office building (Shin Maru Biru). The bicycles ... look a bit less tank-like than those in Paris, and are designed for the Japanese physique. But nonetheless, a sign of progress here.

06 October 2009

The Ducks of Endurance

Dear Mob of 2010,

This is the Mob of 2009 writing a letter to you on the evening of the Yokohama endurance race. I just would like to remind you that before you coax yourself and your friends into riding in the 2010 Yokohama endurance race you read this one. I am sorry for the shortness of the letter, this is due that every single of my bones seems brittle, my major muscle groups are still shivering in cramps and my tendons are squeaking and aching every time I try to get them moving. Yes, mob of 2009, I would like to remind you that this was not an easy race. Perhaps you forgot your experience from 2008 when you applied in 2009, but make sure to think about it when you consider of riding it again in 2010.

Yours sincerely

mob of 2009

If I would have known (or remembered) how hard this race is, I wouldn't have registered in the first place. James has kindly written about all the racing aspects and our share of suffering and there is little to add but some personal observations:
When we registered, we met Fujikawa-San and his friend from Catteni Positivo; this being the other team supported by Nagai San's Positivo shop. I met Fujikawa-San also last year at the race and we talked about the experience. These are nice guys and they also have their own blog where it seems that they are focusing more on brevet style rides.
Without wanting to appear to arrogantly I shall nevertheless remark that during the race we made it abundantly clear which is the Positivo A- and which the Positivo B-Team.

The next thing I remember was that James and me were standing in the starting field when the cheerleader performance began. I am not sure why, but endurance races in Japan do always field cheerleaders (Tsukuba, Yokohama) or at least Weider girls (Motegi) although the connection is not so clear for me.

"How was your last endurance race?"

"Great - we had a fantastic cheerleader performance"

Would probably be a perfectly normal conversation in Japan. Actually the ones which were performing in Yokohama were so bad, that even the rain stopped for a while. They also held posters with the words "Care", "Fun", "Joy" and some others up (Not sure, I think the other ones were "lung cancer" and "non-linear depreciation") to inspire us.

The the race started. I tried to get into the first or second fast group, but had to give up after the third lap and from then onwards James and me stayed with the third fastest group. The first hour is always the hardest for me and when it started to rain really, really hard I was considering to throw the towel. I couldn't see very much through my sun glasses as in the cavity between the sunglasses and the optical glasses inserts humidity was gathering, slowly obscuring any vision left. Luckily James rode in front of me and I could see his bright orange Positivo jersey, but some of the black clad ("anti-globalization dress", as David said) riders where hardly contrasting with the road surface at this point. I was very lucky that the rain stopped and I could regain some vision.

Next thing was, that I was leading the group and riding down the tight flyover from the stadium to the park. The rims were still wet and I braked too late and too hard: so suddenly my rear wheel blocked and I was fast going in direction of the barriers. But luckily I got the bike under control and could avoid a crash, but at the cost of stopping and getting out of the cleats.

"Daijobu ?" I heard from someone of the Japanese riders in our group.... "Matte!" I shouted in despair, clipped in and went in pursuit of our group. Luckily I could manage to hang on.

There were quite a few crashes, but not as manya and as hard as in Shuzenji in August. The amount of human suffering one sees at the ramp leading steeply (I guess 15%) up from the park to the stadium level is just amazing. Many riders were so exhausted that they pushed up their bikes; others took the initial swing to capitulate them up about a third and then they just stopped there and couldn't go further on their own power.

My strategy was to stay in the outer front and shift down to my 27 teeth cog on the rear. That worked pretty well and I wasn't so bad in sprinting up the ramp. But once I was up it was hard to accelerate from 20 km/hr again and than there is this ugly right curve leading into the stadium which takes the momentum out of the ride again.

This is not an easy course, unlike Hitachi Naka where you stay in the peloton all the time and go virtually straight for about 160 km. Yokohama requires constant acceleration and braking - add some attacks from the group - that takes it's toll on the body.

One of my of legs after my semi-crash was cramping and I had a hard time to ignore that. Later on I was not able to let my leg rest in the highest pedal position when manouvering a corner. Cramps only stopped when I was pedaling.

So in the end I had no reserves and although we managed to decimate our group to only four or five riders over time, I couldn't follow James when he sprinted away at the very end.

Nevertheless I was very pleased with our performance and I was sure that we had a good finish even before the results were released.

At the start to the two hour race in the afternoon I was so tired, I could have slept on my bike. I was also incredibly dirty but luckily I brought some equipment for exchange. And at least the weather was getting better and the rain stopped.

The two hour race was not as good as the morning one. In fact I was even a little bit slower than last year. All the fresh new riders were overtaking me to the left and to the right and I couldn't found a good group to draft with after I have lost contact with James.

I was so tired and so slow. I was cursing that I shouldn't do this kind of stupid races any longer. Really, I was so exhausted. Nevertheless I made it to the finish and in the end we had a splendid result.

As the Prince Figure Skate Center - the location in town where my daughter and my wife spend more time than at home - was just around a corner and I knew that there was also a 7-Eleven, we went there and had some food and drinks. Looking at the girls coming from the figure skate center and comparing them to what we have seen in the Yokohama stadium, we were wondering if we shouldn't' put a different focus in our sport activities. OK, at this poin tim time we weren't looking exactly attractive. I would say the only thing that looked more dirty that us were our bikes.

James asked if we should lock them. I thought that he made a joke, nobody at the figure skate center knows want I bike is and what it is good for.

By the way, we were noticed. My wife told me some days later that at least one ugly-duck-becomes-olympic-hero-educating-mother has noticed us and described as later as "dirty, foreign perverts handing around at the entrance to the centre". My wife wisely decided not to disclose her relationship.
"Dirty, foreign pervert"

So after getting back to the stadium and checking the final results (Complete surprise that TCCs Naomi and Alan and their teammate were also riding in the event, I haven't seen them at all)
we rode home.
I asked one a the reception if James would be eligible for a price with his 6th place finish, but I was told that only the 1st place will get something in the King of endurance category. Naturally, there can be only one king. So we have to be conten with the title of dukes, or, as Laurent remarked, ducks of endurance.

Riding home after the event was a 5 km monster brevet-like trip along long roads and high mountains. So it seemed. Which completely exhausted me. And after having a business meeting and entertaining my family with heroic stories at the local Yakitori restaurant I felt asleep, dreaming and cramping until the early morning light.

The next day I went hiking with a group of German friends. We started at Mitake station on the Ome-Ouktama line an walked up the road to the cable station. This road is well known as "The mother of all pointless rides" by James, Graham and Michael. From Mitake we took a hiking trail to Hinode mountain and then further on to Tsuru tsuru Onsen (on the road from Itsukaichi to Umenoki pass leading to Ikusabata at the Tamagawa West of Ome). Quite nice and very painful. Perhaps a new trail to be explored by Tom and his new bike?
Anyway, after a good soak in the water and some good food and beers later at the Ishikawa brewery (= Tama Jiman, Positivo approved) I was ready for my bed and didn't woke up until late on Monday morning.

My muscles are still hurting and I am not completely unthankful that the rain is stopping all biking activities for the time being. I wanted to tell our heroic deeds to the students at university but decided later that history of the Japanese zaibatsu would be equally interesting for them.

For mob

Duke of Endurance

Well Saturday was a day of many mixed emotions and started off at 4:30am when I woke up and unable to get some much needed rest.

Having gone through the morning ritual of coffee on, toast on and clothes on, I started to get the bike and my kit ready for the BikeNavi King of Endurance race that myself and Michael were participating in.

The ride down route 45 was very pleasant and warm at 6am and I had to remove the windbreaker I was wearing and started to feel very Positivo about the weather forecast for the day…. How very wrong I was!

Registration was at 7am and although they were set up and ready to roll the event organizers were strict to the rule and did not start handing out race numbers, RFID tags for the bikes and the free goodies for those serious or crazy enough for the race a head until 7am on the dot. I would also like to point out that “Roadies, Fixies, Messengers, MTB’ers and mamchari” riders were all treated fairly and the same.

After stashing our kit we headed out on to the course to give it a few warm up laps and to familiarize ourselves with the course and it’s potential hazards and by this time we started to get a few little showers and some cross winds on the course.

At 8am we all set up on the starting line and I took the chance to see just how much grip my slicks would have on the running track as I was worried that the bike would slide at speed. Amazingly the bike stuck to it like glue and it was very hard to lockup the back wheel.

With the unsynchronized cheerleaders done with their routines and the local talent getting a temped “genki” in return to her cries the heavens opened and unleashed a new psychological weapon on us just as we were about to start.

Both Michael and I were lucky enough to be positioned relatively close to the front of the pack so when the starting gun sounded we took the outside line to put ourselves in the best position for when the green flag was dropped and we could get a good sprint line away with the serious contenders and form a breakaway group from the onset.

The pace was blisteringly fast and the adverse weather conditions didn’t make it any better for those in the front 3 groups. Having learnt from my last race I was wise enough to put some training rides in the week before, including in the terrible rain on Friday and thankfully my muscles and mindset were in the right place.

Having completed the first few laps at around 36-38kmph averages we started to drop people from the group as well as start lapping the less serious of the riders out on the track. 1.5 hours in Positivo was doing very well with both me and Michael in the top 20 and still keeping pace with the group we were in and everyone doing their part in the front. Although later on that afternoon that same team spirit and dedication for the group was not reflected by other riders and I started to get annoyed with the wheel leaches.

After 2 hours it started to become more of a battle of the mind than the body as the legs continued to pump like pistons and my heart rate was very happy to sit around 145-150 bpm. Now it was down to telling myself to keep going in the appalling conditions with spray hitting me from every direction and riders crashing out on the more technical sections of the course.

The access ramp in to the arena was taking its toll on even the hardiest and dedicated of riders, with slipped gears, snapped chains and exhaustion taking its toll on those trying to climb the short steep ramp. I decided from the very beginning to drop in to 34 at the front every time I hit the access ramp and it really paid off, especially at the end of the race.

The running track was also another nasty place as I tended to zone out while looking at the white lines and almost resulted in me going in to the back of a slower rider and also missing my line when leaving the stadium.

By the end of the 3 hours I was exhausted, both physically and mentally and not sure if I could get back in the saddle for the 2 hour race that concluded the King of Endurance title.

My legs were starting to stiffen and I seriously need food and liquids in me. Fortunately I had packed power bars, Protein drink and also my trusty HIGH5 4:1 drink for endurance and I highly recommend it! But my body was crying out for rest and fuel and it was only until I found out that I had placed 13th in the 3 hour race and 7th so far in the “King of Endurance” that I was able to drag my battered and weary body back to the bike.

Michael also finished in the same group and was in 14th place for the 3 hour Endurance and 8th so far in the “King of Endurance” so Positivo was now a force to be reckoned with, yet more motivation to get back out there.

Fueled, fed and an attempt to wash the grim of my face and glasses I was back on the start line for the final two hours, very worried about getting cramps in the legs and being able to keep pace with the remaining contenders for the “King of Endurance” knowing that I was 7th so far was winning the psychological war raging across my body and with the starting gun going off we were back at it.

Fortunately the rain had stopped but the surface water was terrible claiming many riders who were already fatigued and weary from the previous race and Michael did very well to control his bike when his wheel locked up on one of the hairpins on the course while also fighting off the cramps.

The pace yet again was blisteringly fast and it was hard not to feel frustrated when riders who had only entered the 2 hour race zipped past in a fashion that made soft pedaling look hard. Michael also got away from me when he got on the tail of a very fast group, fortunately I was able to muster several other riders that wanted in and we caught up with them and remained on the tail for some time.

Although as I mentioned before it got to the point where only 3-4 riders were doing their bit at the front while the remaining wheel leaches were content with letting us do the work and it resulted in me pulling out of the pace line and waving other riders to the front.

I’m not sure where I lost Michael but towards the last hour the race became a very personal battle between myself and two of the Team Ari riders, not wanting to name names but one of them spent the whole ride speaking to himself and I decided to try and breakaway from him and his constant ramblings to get some peace and quiet, especially in my safe and hurt free place in the white lines on the running track where the mind drifted to hot baths and cold beers.

The last 20 minutes of the race was a very fast with me and 3 to 4 other riders riding together to make the most of the remaining time and also to keep an eye on each other in case one of us made a break for it to increase our standings in the final rankings. I had no idea where they were currently placed but I was not having another Zero prefixed rider beat me over the line and potentially go ahead of me in the “King of Endurance” title.

On the last two laps I was able to summon my reserves and went at it hammer and tongues. Setting my pace at what it had been on the first few laps of the morning race and only 2 of the other riders were able to keep pace leaving them to battle the head winds on their own.

With the final lap and 1km out I put my head down and went for it, broke away from the small group with myself and 1 other rider making it to the access ramp in to the stadium, this is really were my tactic of dropping in to my 34 at the front came in to play as I was able to accelerate myself up the slope and through the tight turns on to the final straight without spinning out due to the short distance, while the other rider already exhausted by the pace and unable to use the momentum to get up the slope stalled and was dropped as he no longer had the momentum and the cry of despair was a melody to my ruined spirit.

Head down and legs pumping like mad I crossed the line 6th overall in the “King of Endurance” having completed 52 laps in 5 hours 6 minutes and 53 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.53km/h with Michael making the top 10 also finishing overall in 10th place completed 52 laps in 5 hours 8 minutes and 35 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.35km/h.

Full results can be found here:

“King of Endurance”

“3 hour Race”

“2 hour Race”

Garmin Data will follow soon.