30 September 2009

I'm still in Mexico

New world champion rides Canyon!!

http://www.canyon.com/_en/

Hope this will earn me some more attention in Japan...

29 September 2009

Chain Smoker

Just thought I would share this with you.

In my ride report on MtB riding in Yokohama I mentioned that I snapped my chain while out riding, well on Friday last week the same happened again and I decided to bin the chain and get a new one for my Mt Bike and replaced it with a 9-speed Hyperglide chain which last an age!

Yesterday morning I was commuting in to work and alas, just outside Shibuya on the 246 pushing off from the lights I snapped the Dura Ace 7900 Hollow chain on the Pinarello. Fortunately my cat like reflexs helped me stay on the bike and also allowed me to continue having children.

Turns out that the Shimano Dura Ace 7900 hollow chain have issues with them and Shimano are no longer making them. Apparently they have 2 problems, the first is that the "Quick Link" is prone to stretching and if you are using one of these chains and doing a lot of sprint training or aggressive hill climbing then your best off getting rid of the "Quick Link" and replacing it with standard Hollow chain links.

The Second issue is with the Hollow pins, these fail rather quickly especially if you have removed or replaced a link and used the original link pins. If you have I would suggest you take a look at where you made the joins and replace them with replacement pins that once inserted require you to snap off the remainder of the insertion pin.

Please note that Shimano have not recalled the chain but have stopped making them, so if you need a new chain make sure that you are getting the new version that doesn't have the "Quick Link" and has the new reinforced pins.

I have to say that I'm rather glad it went yesterday on my commute rather than on Saturday durring the "King of Endurance" Race in Shin- Yokohama!


Safe Riding Guys.......

28 September 2009

Performance by MC SpandX

Thanks to Ludwig for cheering me up after the the Cycling Messenger World Championship with this one. Too funny. Both sides.

In the path of others who have gone before ...

After visiting the Keirin track on Saturday to watch Michael's non-ride and enjoy some of the sprint event, and then traveling up and back the hills of Onekan-sen on my fixed gear track bike to get to the Starbucks at the very far end with Michael, I had a good ride on Sunday, leaving early with Jerome, getting to Higashi Oume by 7:45, and then pushing on to Yamabushi. We parted at Yamabushi ... Jerome to return via Shomaru, a dip down to Rte 299, and a loop back South over the next pass along the same ridge as Yamabushi via local Rte 395, to get home by 1PM.
I had more time (though I needed to get home by around 6PM), and Jerome had lent me his fast NFCC wind-breaking vest so I could ride even in sprinkling rain on descents. I traced Michael/Michael/Graham's route through Chichibu City, onto Rte 140 and then cut North via local Rte 37. After a short cut via local Rte 297 and a connecting "rindo", I headed west on Rte 299.
I guess I should have realized it from all the blog posts by others, but Rte 299 west of Chichibu city is a delightful road, no trucks and almost no through traffic, gradually climbing to a pass at around 780 meters elevation at a short tunnel in the border with Gunma.
Rte 299 about 10-15 km west of Chichibu city. ... no danger of getting hit by a truck if you stand in the middle of the road and frame your photo carefully:

There were cyclists resting a both ends of the tunnel on the border, including a team of at least 8-10 riders putting on an extra layer for their descents.
It was almost Noon ... and a quick [mis]calculation suggested that despite having gone 125 km and made it here in good time, I could not make it NW to Saku/Sakudaira or Karuizawa and likely be home by 6PM, even with the benefit of Shinkansen ... so I opted for a shorter ride East/North East down Rte 462 to the now famous Waseda Hongjo station.

The valley is spectacular, until arriving at a reservoir that is at least 10 km long.














The reservoir and dam are spectacular in a different way ... but really do ruin what was probably once a very nice stretch of valley:



Honjo Waseda ... what more can be said. These photos are of the "main" North side of the shinkansen station (trains to Tokyo stop at 2:50, 3:50, [4:50]PM, for future reference).
I arrived at 2:20, with lots of time to buy tickets and pack my bike.
The South entrance ... is now closed. The women at the convenience shop inside did not even laugh when I remarked that this was a very "shizuka" shinkansen station.

Today's route map should be here.

I hope I will get a chance to do the full Rte 299 ride to Saku, Nagano this fall, before the weather gets too cold for Chichibu/Gunma/Nagano riding.

27 September 2009

Silver Rides

The extened "Silver Week" is now finally over and a lot of riding has taken place. It started exactly one week ago.

On Sunday Ludwig and me met in Ome, had breakfast with "Aurore" the French mistress of the equally French bakery which is beloved by everybody and headed out in direction Chichibu. We tried to find Tom's new road but had initially some problems. Not sure, neither Ludwig nor me are efficient explorers of new frontiers and we use google maps for the way to the toilet in our house.
The matter was complicated by the fact that a Japanese rider tried to draft with us. When we let him do some work in the front he drifted against the curb in a right curve and almost fell just in front of me. That was enough: we increased the speed and almost had him completely exhausted when we noted that we had lost the way.But then we found the road and it was beautiful indeed. No traffic, lot's of up and downs and a beautiful view into the main Chichibu valley leading to Yamabushi pass. After lunch a TT up to Yamabushi and a lunch at Shomaru we went down on the other side and up to Karibazaka. Many riders were out there and we continued along the green line to Sadamine pass, then took a turn North and went up the backroad over Kayunita pass to Nihongi. Boldly we decided to go further and discovered some new passes, such as Samugami, before we finally arrived at Nagatoro, the famous gorge which is mentioned in every sightseeing pamphlet about Saitama (although there aren't many).

From there onwards we rode further North and rode over Mase pass, a somewhat harder than expected climb before we finally arrived at this Shinkansen Station which is supposed to actually have a meaning. Somewhat. I am talking about Waseda-Honjo.

A nice ride and something more of Chichibu discovered.

The next day I rode to Shibuya to register for the Cycle Messenger World Championship. An event which is tailor made for me. I realized this when I came to the registration bar: I was the only guy with a road bike and also the only one who demounted by moving the right leg over the rear wheel. Everybody else swings the right leg in front, get somehow ride of the hands and the handle and turns the leg over the handle bar. Still much to learn. I checked for the jerseys but they were sold out already - only S size left. Also the XL t-shirts were gone. At least I got a free snicker bar. The registration was chaotic. David also wanted to register, but despite the fact that he went there two times he couldn't in the end.

My ID card was still in the made but I had to leave as I wanted to visit Positivo with my son and choose his new bike. We made a v
ery reasonable choice (I hope). I would have loved to make the less reasonable choice.

On Wednesday Graham, Michael and me met at precisely the same spot in Ome and rode out in direction Chichibu again. WE took the fast run route this time. I "pushed" Michael over Yamabushi, staying behind him and applying psycho-terror tactics in order to make him fast over the hill. That worked pretty well and he made it in about 20 minutes up.

After a fast run on route 299 and the Laurent/Dominic/mob 7-Eleven on road 140, we continued until the intersection with road 37 and made a turn to the North. From there onwards we found the perfect point to follow our main tradition "the pointless ride".

You see, every time Michael, Graham and me are riding out, perhaps also in a group with other riders, we are obliged to do at least one stretch to an obscure location which involves heavy climbing and does not serve any other purpose than to arrive at this point for the sake of arriving at this point. We started this tradition this year, when I volunteered to show James, Michael and Graham the entrance to the incredible steep climb up on Mitake mountain, completely forgetting that the road to the entrance is already longer and steeper than anything we normally climb anyway.
All of them were very favorably impressed and our bold undertaking and my leadership skills were the topic of many conversations made when the rest of the tour led the group up to Kazahari Toge in great pains.

So this time we decided to make a pointless climb up to Tsuchizaka Toge, a nice 700 m high pass connecting West Saitama with the Eastern Democratic Republic of Gunma-ny, famous for strong winds and tough women (Angela Merkel, and some 100 kg female hammer throwers, shot putter and discuss virgins).
As the border was tightly controlled by tough women that hide so well that they were not seen AND this was our pointless ride anyway, we went back where we came from and rode further North to enjoy a fast lunch at a "michi no eki".

Michael and me took a new Keirin "0,00%" beer and when we tasted it we found out that was something missing. It was not only the alcohol but also any hint of taste similar to beer. I found also out that Graham is the other person in Japan who has read Julian Barnes. He is also the only person in Japan who has read "Peeling the onion" by Guenter "Waffen SS" Grass in a simplified English version.


And when we continued to ride and I wanted to shoot a photo, I was stil so dizzy by 0.00% of alcohol, that I forgot to un-cleat the leg I wanted to stand on and felt flatly on the road, much to the amusement of Michael who continued to tease me about the lack of alcohol resistance for the rest of the ride.


And then we made it to Nagatoro again. Beautiful and serene it is indeed. Actually it is so quiet, that almost all tourists who come there fall asleep immediately as we can see in the photos below.
Also Michael, Graham and me took a nap and we woke up when we were kissed by a beautiful prince. But this is a different story. Again, a fast ride over Mase pass, one of my new favorites and then further on to Waseda-Honjo where we took the Shinkansen home, had a real beer in the train and made it home well in time for everybody's mongen.

The following two days were stuffed with commuting 41 km to the university and doing a training ride for the track race event of the CMWC at the Tsurumi river close to my home.

And then on Saturday I rode to the Keio Kaku and wanted to take part in the CMWC race there. The usual bunch of gaijins and Japanese messengers was already there: more tattoos could be seen than on the bodies of the Kansai chapter of the Yamaguchi-gumi, piercings enough to supply raw material for the great leap forward in China and haircuts like I would have had if I would been 20 today. Fine.

Then they didn't let me register because I was on a road bike. You can read the whole ordeal here on their blog site where I vented my complete frustration which these guys who are as flexible as the Hamamatsu police officials when I asked for my driving permit in 1998. OK, they are dressed differently, but the concrete in the head unfortunately remains the same.

Luckily David was there so I didn't felt so alone and after we have watched the TT event we decided to ride out on Onekan, have a coffee and talk about our favorite subjects: International Law and Jerome.

I was still so angry that I decided to ride to Takao and try to achieve a good time at Otarumi, which I did - first time below 14 minutes despite the wind plus with a heavy rucksack on the back.

And as I was still angry I thought that I could also add Yabitsu on top of this, so I continued. I started the climb at precisely 5 PM and when I made it to the top it was already pitch dark. Strange noises in the Forrest, wild animals and "warumono" cracking through the underwood ... alone almost as scary as Sasago tunnel.
Then down on the other side - very slowly in the dark and right into a big matsuri at Hadano. Luckily the famous bento capitol of the world was still open and I had an excellent Oknomiyaki for 240 Yen.

In the end it was a beautiful day. Or a beautiful night.
So what's next : Yokohama endurance race on Saturday !

22 September 2009

Blood, Sweat and 24 Gears

My younger brother was visiting from Kyushu for the long weekend and being a fan of the mud, dirt and the escalated danger of being attacked by Japanese Super Hornets brought his MTB with him, he was also kind enough to transport my KONA AA Custom race frame with him when the company moved him to Japan.

After building up my frame and putting some big fat knobberlies on it (That felt like they would roll off the rims on ever turn and fixing the chain after it snapped on the first climb 10 minutes into our ride) we headed out to see if we could find the missing trails.

For those that don’t know I live in Yokohama near ZooRasia and there are hiking trails that link the station to the zoo. Now according to legend there are many more that link together the green belts around here and apparently make up over 30km of un-spoilt off road riding, so I and my brother went in search of the missing trials.

After following the known course we found ourselves in the usual residential area with no signs or indication of where we needed to be so we decided to have a ride around to see if we could find where the trail picked up again. Fortunately as we took a right turn into what looked like a promising route two old ladies shouted at us “no left, left “ low and behold 200 meters later we found the trial. Now this might seem easy enough but the first trial picks up behind someone’s house and you need to ride partially down their driveway to get to it.

The trial we found is located just opposite ZOORASIA in the huge woods that over look the main entrance, these are total un-spoilt and it seems that the old government didn’t know about them as they have no cement pathways or cement log climbs/descents to ruin the ride, also it seems that the locals have no interest in them as we only met 3 other people on the trails.

The trials were a nice mix of fire roads and very technical single track and involved perfect timing and bike handling as you weaved through the trees. We decided to follow the outer edge of the course to see just how far it went. It was very hard not to stray off down some of the pathways that branched off.

After around 10km of riding we burst out on to another road and we consulted with another local to find out if the trails picked up again in the forest behind his farm or if it was private land. No normally you are met with “Hmmmmm ahhh chotto ne…….hmmm ahhhhh wakaranai!” but in this instance the farmer gave us very clear instructions on how to get back on the trail, not only one route but two!

So having thanked him we headed off again in search of the entrance point for the forest, again unless we had clear instructions there is no chance we would have found the entrance point as this time you had to slip behind a crash barrier at the side of the road and up an over grown path in to more farm land. Once on the farm land we spotted a sign that gave us directions on where we needed to be heading… why this couldn’t have been on the road I have no idea, but this sign was 100 meters up the path hidden from view.

Again the trial was un-spoilt and weaved through bamboo grooves and forest paths switching between single track and fire roads. We decided again to stick to the outside trails that went around the outside of the forest again to see how long the ride was and thus giving us an idea of the types of rides we could put together. Finally we emerged on the road in Midori Ward very close to Nakayama Station and with my Brothers train leaving early afternoon we decided to take the road back home and save riding the internal tracks for another time.

All in all an awesome off road course free of all the trappings found on other hiking trails with only a few of the steep climbs staircased and very, quiet! If there are any other MTB riders out there I would be more than happy to show you the access points to the trails.


video

21 September 2009

Brevet - a hard day's night

Well, I made it through the 400 km "brevet" sponsored by Audax Kanagawa. Approximately 35 of us assembled at 8:15AM for the pre-ride briefing by the side of the Sagami river in Zama city. (Apparently the 600km ride scheduled to start on Sunday had more like 45-50 registrations, the longer distances being popular late in the season among true randonneurs; here, there was a special effort to schedule the 400 and 600 km rides sequentially, in case anyone wanted to do both).

The route started with the usual caution of a Japanese ride -- what seemed like endless red lights and a group waiting patiently in line for right turns -- but after a few minutes things opened up as we crossed the bridge over the river. I stayed with the two riders ahead of me ... to look back and see all the rest of a group of 10-15 at least 100 meters back, patiently in line behind one slower rider and not able to pass safely in traffic on the bridge. Once we got onto Rte 65 and started to get longer distances between traffic lights, that was the last I saw of most of the riders.

By the time we got to Itsukaichi (via Rtes 65, 510, 48 (Machida Kaido) and 61 (Akigawa Kaido)), there were a few riders ahead. Two more of the later-starting but faster-paced riders pulled ahead of me on the climb toward Sakamoto. One of them started to turn left one traffic light early, and I was able to yell out "mada desu, Sakamoto wa tsugi no kosaten!" Only later did I realize that this kindness (returned many times to me by others during the route) had been extended to Jun Aoyama, shown in the pre-start briefing photo in the long sleeved Discovery jersey 3rd from the left, who finished first, at something like 4:53AM. ... If only he would have wandered up that dead-end and spent another 2 hours searching for the entrance to Umegaya-Toge/Jerome Hill, I might have been in the group contending for first place when we came in after 6:40AM.

A few minutes later after clearing Jerome Hill, Tom S. passed me headed East DOWN Yoshino-Kaido as I headed UP river and gave me my first fan support of the day. Thanks, Tom.

Learning from the Transalp experience, I very quickly refueled at the 7-11 at Kori (end of Yoshino Kaid0), first checkpoint of the day (receipts from convenience stores showing the store name, address and time/date served as checkpoint "stamps") and was on the bike shortly after the first two -- Aoyama-san and one more -- and ahead of all the others who had gotten to the first checkpoint.

A couple of riders passed me on the climb to Yanagisawa ... but fewer than I would have expected. I was slogging already, the extra stress of this event and the early hills preceding the climb having sapped my energy. My "togebaka" time up Yanagisawa was over 2:35, 15 minutes slower than a few months ago, ... then I was down the other side, with one rider (on a snazzy Pinarello FP3 with clean, white jersey and shorts) fearlessly passing me and various cars on the descent to Enzan. I stopped for water at a 7-11 near Enzan station and was just re-emerging to continue alone when ... two TCC members (please tell me your names so I'll remember next time we meet, assuming I'm in something like a normal mental state) rolled up. All I could say was "I'm doing the Brevet, got to ride" and remounted, another nearly 40 km still left to the "official" second checkpoint.

After another 10 km, I caught Mr. Pinarello/white jersey, emerging from his own convenience store stop and just rolling out ahead, and we rode together until almost at the next stop, taking only 1 wrong turn that cost us an extra 2.7 km. Maybe it was this turn, or maybe it was general unease with our route, but he started fumbling with his map as we were within a few kilometers of the next stop, and I think pulled off to check. I kept going, found the correct turn without a problem (a LEFT turn ... that looped up and over the road so that one ended up going 270 degrees and toward the RIGHT) ... and never saw him again. At stop #2, an anonymous Lawson in the SW corner of the valley that includes Kofu/Enzan/Minami Alps City, I arrived before either Mogi-san or Hashimoto-san left, and Sugimoto-san pulled in a few minutes later on his straight handlebar'ed hybrid, looking like "death warmed over."

.... Okay, I could go on and on with this description of the ride for ever, since it was a REALLY LONG ride, but suffice it to say that after riding the next 40km+ alone into a stiff HEADWIND and gradually UPHILL and then in the DARK to another anonymous Lawson near Kobuchizawa/Yatsugatake, I rode the last 200 km with one of these three individuals -- Mogi-san (the next 40+ km on a different route DOWN the hill with TAILWIND to the same SW corner of the valley), Hashimoto-san (the entire last 150+ km) and/or Sugimoto-san (who arrived at the last checkpoint/rest stop before Hashimoto-san and I left, and caught us again after we lost a few more km on a cue sheet-inspired wrong turn in Hadano area and directed us the last 10 km ... until I pulled out and sprinted a few hundred meters at the end just to show who was boss, then waited for them so we could finish together).

We were rewarded with a spectacular sunset over the Minami Alps as we climbed toward Yatsugatake, past Anayama station. The weather was perfect (other than the headwind), and I will always remember riding on this country road in the fading light, then the quiet of the darkness. Very nice countryside.



Here is Mogi-san, who finished 16 minutes ahead of us, after pushing on ahead alone at the ~250 km mark.

The downhill stretches in the dark that I rode with him ... were actually incredible fun, with smooth road surfaces, little traffic (on Local Rte 12--parallel to Rte 20/Koshu Kaido) and good headlights. And it is really nice to go 40kph+ toward one's goal while essentially resting on the bicycle. To get any good at this kind of ultra-long event, one would need to learn to focus on conserving energy.

Mogi-san works in IT/systems at an AIG affiliate insurance company. (He is no relation to the "Mogi" family that founded Kikkoman -- it is a rare Japanese name, so I asked that question, and he says the employers always asked it as well he was in college looking for a first job.)

Hashimoto-san and I rode up the climb to the NW side of Mt. Fuji, panicked a bit after we realized we had climbed the wrong valley (Rte 404 instead of Rte 300) but realized that luckily there was a connecting road at the top of the climb -- so we added only a little climbing and probably no extra distance by the error. After some very, very slow climbing on a dark mountain road to 980 meters elevation, we zoomed down the Fuji Panorama Line (Rte 139), competing only with some even faster trucks at 1AM on a Sunday morning. After climbing again back up to 880 meters near the famed Fuji Safari Park, we enjoyed a long, mostly gradual descent again on Rte 469, competing only with the occasional 3:30AM Sunday newspaper delivery bikes as we passed through Gotemba environs.

Hashimoto-san works at Microsoft Japan -- just in case it was not apparent from his jersey.

Sugimoto-san ... I did not get to speak with much, as we were not riding together until the very last few kilometers. But as you can see, by morning the color had returned to his face. He was looking much more healthy than 250 km earlier in the event.

The three of us, Hashimoto, Sugimoto and Litt, were tied for 3rd place arriving at around 6:45AM, behind only Aoyama-san and Mogi-san. I saw one other finisher arrive, slogging in about 30~40 minutes later as I headed for the train after resting and eating some cup ramen and chips. Presumably the rest of the group made it later, before the Noon cutoff.

Here I am complete with reflective gear ... one of the Audax requirements. ... If I do one of these again, I will get much simpler reflective strap and leave the Assos at home, as the vest constricted me, and the velcro fasteners rubbed against my Assos bib shorts/top and I fear significantly shortened the life of the material.

Here is a link to a map of the ride ... tracked until my Garmin 705's battery hit empty after around 360 km and over 18 hours of service.
View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com
Or you can TRY HERE to see someone else's GPS map of the course (without the various side detours -- 4 that I can recall -- that added about 10km total for me).

The Garmin says 4800 meters of climbing, while Map My Ride suggests 4000 meters -- either one based upon 360 out of 410 kilometers (not to mention the various wrong turns). In any event, it was a monster ride, and I slept most of Sunday morning, afternoon, and night.


P.S. One comment for consideration by the Positivo Espresso team -- Lawson now has 2 liter private label water bottles for 105 yen, a significant discount to the new 128 yen private label water available at 7-11, or the 178 yen Suntory water still sold at Family Mart. This competitive situation bears watching as we "approve" convenience stores going forward.

18 September 2009

Harvesting Time

Some photos from the recent ride over Umenoki, Yanagizawa and Dosaka as an inpiration to dive deep into Autumn feelings.

Starting with the Tamagawa valley where it is the most beautiful, between Ome and Okutama about. No speed bumps and barriers can be seen.
Rice Paddies before the harvest in the Enzan valley after coming down from Yanagizawa. One could almost see Tom Cruise walking around.Before the harvest still to keep away the crows (not effective in case of German ones) but couldn't keep away the storm.Ready. Everything neatly lined up on both sides of the field. After the work is done .......waiting for the bus home. It makes me nervous to see only people above the age of 60 working in the fields. Who will harvest all our food in 20 years to come?
... long is the approach up to Umenoki and many drivers have lost courage and given up in the middle of their undertaking.Luckily life has it's compensations Like the fast viaduct supported run down from Yanagizawa. David will do this one on Saturday I guess.

That reminds me that I wanted to write something about Kosumosu, its absence or more precise about this song "Where have all the flowers gone" which I was forced to learn as teenager wit my guitar teacher and which came very handy then when demonstrating against nuclear weapons and Pershing rockets in the Seventies and early Eighties. Joan Baez was a very prominent figure at this time and being a big bob Dylan fan in the Seventies I naturally hated her. OK, she had sang in Woodstock but she was much too old and too much this teacher type baby.

Luckily we Germans have the mysterious Marlene Dietrich who re-did the song in German :

" Sag mir wo die Blumen sind, wo sind sie gebliiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeben."

the length of the "iiiiiiiieeeee" expressing Weltschmerz, unbearable sadness and of course dissatisfaction with the stationing of nuclear weapons on unholy German soil.

I once stayed at a hotel in a small fishing village in Iceland, run by a Romanian who has worked at the Tokyo Hilton previously. He showed me the "blue room" where Marlene Dietrich has slept in the Thirties. She probably has seen better hotels but then she was on the escape from Nazi Germany.

I got five pamphlets about the hotel from the Romanian and was asked to distribute them in Japan "to penetrate the market".

Later the day I went out with my son on a fisherboat whale watching while Kazuko and our newborn daughter stayed behind at a small cafe at the port of the village. Later Kazuko told me that an older American couple entered the cafe, sat down close to her and Karen. She could just hear the man saying to his wife: "Look, Eskimos!" before the camera flash went off and took her and Karen frontal.
Marlene, where have you gone?

I was going to see an American company on Monday and while riding up the escalator to the reception on the 2nd floor I could see the office space of another Japanese company selling aromatic scents. Japan has come a long way in terms of cool biz business attire and also sheet metal furniture may be a thing of the past in a youthful and dynamic company setting.

But take a look at the seating lay out - nothing has changed at all.

15 September 2009

Quarter of a Century

Due to my old man pulling out of what would have been an epic ride with Michael due to having to stay home and look after me this Sunday (Don't believe a word of it... he is vertically challenged and hates anything with an incline) We decided to see how far we could get a long the KatabiriKawa that runs through Tsurugamine.

Having completed my chores, Cleaning Dad's Pinarello FP3 , doing my home work and tidying my room, we finally set off from the house at 10am.

Recently they have built a nice nature walk from the bottom of our road all the way to route45 just before Zoo Rasia and speeding along this I soon found myself climbing up the first serious climb of the day. It’s about 50meters and before long Dad was giving me a push to reach the summit. (No crashes this time Michael as Dad has worked out the best way to engage in the pushing.)

Finally we got a nice downhill to route 16 were I was able to clock 31kmph. Crossing Route 16 was very sketchy but soon we were on our way again and heading towards Mitskiyo…..hang on! Where’s the river??????

It turns out that Dad need to drop of his racing wheels to be trued ready for the Enduro Race at Yokohama Arena early next month, fortunately a Snickers bar was enough to keep me happy enough for this slight breach in protocol, especially when Im training for the next JCRC kids race!

Having looked at the computer I noticed we had already clocked in a nice 6km and before long we were heading back in the same direction to the river.

Just after the Tomeii Interchange we turned right in to some amazing country roads that are sandwiched between the Expressway and Route 16 and we were able to keep a steady 18-20kph, Dad must have been blown as he was on my tail all the way in to Tsurugamine where we joined the river.

Cruising along we got to see some nice scenery and the undulating hills that broke up the monotony of following the river. Around 12 noon we stopped for our first proper break with 15km on the clock and drank some Dakara from one of the vending machines on the route.

Setting off again we got just outside of Wadamachi when disaster struck, Forced in to the curb due to the narrow road and cars squeezing past I hit a pot hole which not only punctured my front tire but my rear as well! In my 4 months experience of riding road bikes this has never happened before. Fortunately the old man knew of a bike shop about 1 km away and we managed to get the bike there with no problems.

Disaster 2!!! STAGE1 was out of 24 inch inner tubes, fortunately the old man came to the rescue again (God knows why he didn’t have his tool bag with him!) But bought a puncture repair kit and went about fixing them right there in the shop. Fortunately he knows the owners and they went about helping out getting my Pro-Light Road bike back to the race perfection.

Having sorted out the repairs we headed back down to the river and looped over to the other side and followed the river back towards Tsurugamine on the far bank. Reaching Nishiya we decided to stop for lunch at the Denny’s on Route 16 and got some hot food and sugary drinks in us. Also as a special treat I was allowed a Ice Cream Sundae, for all you Dad’s out there this is pure energy, just take a look at the photo, I’m about to go to critical mass!

Filled up with hamburger steak, soda and Ice cream we hit the river again and headed home, taking some of the back roads to avoid the heavy traffic on Route16.

Finally pulling up to the door with an almost perfect 25km on the clock, 1 Quarter of a centry!
Next morning I was so HUNGRY.... lucky for me dad had cooked a fall English!

14 September 2009

Where have all the flowers gone?


Put in another long ride today. I started at Hachioji, then moved over to Itsukaichi by Akigawa Kaido and climbed up Umenoki as a warm-up. I thought. This is much too hard for a warm-up, very similar characteristics to the Wada climb: First a slow approach along a river followed by a steep and brutal climb to the top. Much harder than from the North side. Therefore OWI : 1.0.

Along the Yoshino Kaido I rode to Okutama, but then made a turn on route 184 and discovered to my dismay that an identical long tunnel to the one of the 411 road side shortly before Okutama is also existing on the other side of the Tamagawa. Complete nonsense.
After a break at the station I gave Yanagizawa Togebaka a try and made it in less than 2:10 hours thanks to the good weather and some tail wind. Being 10 kg less heavy than last year also helps a lot. Please check the Togebaka section.

A quick run to Ensan was followed by .... surprise .. a train ride to Otsuki. Yes, no fruit lines and Sasago horrors today, instead an attack on Dosaka and then home to Hashimoto via Doshi Michi.

A real loop, something that looks like a loop on the map not these balloons with attached strings (as part of the way and return is the same).

Summary: 154 km or riding, 2.800 m of climbing, still massive construction works everywhere and, yes, the absence of Kos(u)mos(u) this year is significant as Tom remarked?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Sag' mir wo die Blumen sind .....

13 September 2009

Chichibu Delayed

I wanted to try to get in a big ride today, after rain on Saturday, and hearing about Michael and Domenic's great ride on Friday.

With an early start, I figured I could do the ride planned for last weekend -- and make it to and up the Green Line -- or maybe do something like Michael and Domenic ... but go a bit further, maybe end up at Karuizawa via the same forest road from 15-20 km South that I enjoyed in July. Despite the best of intentions to ride at or soon after 6AM, some mechanical problems caused me to turn back after less than 10 km to go home and get a temporary fix, and then I ended up riding around near Y's until after their 9AM Sunday open.
On my way after 10AM, having done plenty of shopping, and installed a new seatpost clamp.

I tried a new way into Chichibu (for me -- old hat for Tom and probably some others). Instead of taking Nariki Kaido I made a right turn and ended up going parallel somewhat to the North, on Rte 193, zigged right on Rte 70 and zagged left on tiny Rte 350 -- which goes up the valley toward Takedera and Nenogongen.

Rte 193 was a nice alternative to Nariki Kaido -- less traffic, and a wider lane with shoulder.

Of course, there were some Chichibu sized "rollers":
I took a right turn about 7-8 km before Nenogongen and climbed over the next ridge to the North and down to Rte 299, just East of Adano station. I headed East down 299, looking for the turn off for the climb up to the Green Line ... until I realized after 4-5 km that I must have started already East of the turn off, and retraced my steps up Rte 299 toward the West.

I climbed up to Takayama Fudo -- a temple on the ridge. After a climb through a nice cool forest, the road became slippery, to the point where my wheel spun repeatedly and I needed to walk. The lower climb:
After getting to the temple, at 650 meters elevation (last part VERY steep -- reminiscent of Kazahari Rindo -- I had the typical Chichibu experience, leaving the temple and still needing to climb UP to get onto the ridge, then traveling on the ridge and climbing UP (complete with switch backs) to get to a higher part of the ridge.

Anyway, there were lots of spectacular views, of ridge upon ridge stretching into the distance, and lots of ups and downs on the road in order to arrive at Karibazaka Pass (818 meters). Then a descent back toward 299 at the mouth of the tunnel, and the climb up to Shomaru Touge, where I enjoyed some quick udon thanks to Sato-san, Saito-san and Suzuki-san at the Okumura Chaya, and then started a long slog home.

The usual boring home ride along the river, with (almost) no natural beauty and (almost) nothing memorable to look at:



A nice 200 km+ ride, with 2100 meters climbing, the last stretch home in the dark to arrive at 645PM. Good night!

12 September 2009

Late Summer Days

Lately I did a lot of mileage by commuting between Yokohama and Tokyo. This should bring me into shape for the upcoming Cycle Messenger World Championship in Tokyo. Actually I like riding in the city as there is always something to see and to discover, as opposed to riding along the Tamagawa or some suburban roads (pachinko parlours on the left, car dealers on the right). But I started missing long climbs.

So Domenic and me agreed to meet early at Ome station and venture out into the highlands of Chichibu and Gunma yesterday. I left the house before 6 AM as the trains to Hachioji are getting very crowded after 7 and I was surprised how cold it was; it felt almost like a day in late October.

Domenic was on the same train when we arrived in Ome and I showed him around. That means, we shopped at Aurore bakery and at the approved 7-Eleven.
Domenic first followed my example to buy a still wa,rm royal milk bread but couldn't followed my second example to eat it completely within three minutes.

And off we rode.

We followed the standard approach to Yamabushi Toge, stopping at the holy fountain to replenish our water bottles. The bridge next to the small shrine has been renovated and the waterpipe with the holy water has been diverted. Actually, one can not see where the water comes from, theoretically it could also be possible that it is just diverted from the trunk pipeline to Tokyo and not from a natural source at all. One day we have to climb up and check this.

Yamabushi Toge, which we mastered quickly was followed by a fast ride to Chichibu city on road 299, not pleasant but short. We continued then along road 140 in direction Mitsumine and took a short rest at the Laurent 7-Eleven, the last chance to eat something decent before serious climbing was forecasted.

Quickly we reached Takizawa dam and rode up the very impressive loop over the towering viaduct in front of the dam. It has been a while since I rode up there with Ludwig during the winter season, but this time in a very agreeable climate and under blue skies with some clouds as if painted it felt even better.

The road is then followed by a series of new tunnels, constructed 2003, 2002, 2003 and 2001. These tunnels provide easy access to a series of other tunnels which were constructed to provide shortcuts to the existing road which was basically perfect already. There are no villages, no signs of human activities except for road and slope maintenance works until the huge secret mining operations unfolds in front of the eyes of the unsuspecting rider.

Not too many Japanese know this, but from the shafts of this mine, wells are constructed into the belly of the Japanese underworld and since centuries Okonomiyaki sauce is pumped up by ardent workers. A dangerous undertaking indeed and many poor souls died in this effort for the sake of the nation; one can see their graves further up the road and once a year on September 16th, a priest comes and spread katsuobushi (bonito flakes) over their tombstones.

However lately with new trends in eating habits spreading rapidly through the country (Seven Elevens and Maid cafes in particular), the consumption of Okonomiyaki has been greatly decreased and many mines have closed down or reduced operations. This one is the only one still pumping the sticky brown liquid up and distributing it over the secret pipeline network to the downtowns of the two Kans (Kanto and Kansai, that is).

One can still see the old post office where envelopes were sealed and stamps were glued with the help of the sauce and the large wooden dormitories where the workers used to live only 20 or 30 years ago.
The dormitories also looked today like they were hold together by bonito flakes. I tried to convince Domenic that these were a good investment opportunity and probably cheap to acquire. One can convert them easily into luxury apartments and sell them off one by one.

Enough of business, we were there for the elevation meters and steadily we made our way up to Haccho Toge and tunnel at 1,255 meters.. On the top we were greeted by a splendid view of the mountains on the border between Saitama and Gunma.
We then continued to take to same road down to Shigasaka Toge (road 299) and secretly crossed the borderline to Gunma prefecture. Fond memories of my own border crossing 20 years ago lingered in my mind ..... "Goodbye, moon of Deutsche Demokratische Republik, goodbye..."

Once in Gunma, actually a first for me on the bike, we rode along the "whatever" river on road 462 in direction Honjo. It is hard to imagine, but there are even less people living in Gunma than in Chichibu it seems. We stopped at a vending machine where we probably assured double the summer season income of the village compared to last year by buying three soft drinks.
And finally after many beautiful sights and still below the beautiful Gunma skies we arrived at Waseda Honjo Shinkansen station. While the roads, tunnels and bridges we have ridden so far were completely useless, leading from nowhere to nowhere, the reason why this Shinkansen station was constructed defies every sense of human logic. At least I assume that the huge parking place behind it and the signboards announcing the vague intentions of the urban development board to construct apartment houses there sometime in the not foreseeable future, where erected after the Shinkansen station was finished and not the reason for the construction itself.

A complete mystery that can only be explained by Japanese politics.

As we were wondering all the time by the huge number of construction works. It seems that the LDP cannot wait until the end of the fiscal year in April 2010 to spend the complete budget, but due to the forthcoming change in government has intensified road works by the factor 10 to make sure that all funds are used up before another party takes charge.

A very nice trip in September, with weather like in October and construction activities like in March.
I was home before seven thanks to the Shinkansen network leading me directly to Shin Yokohama. Domenic made it home in time to start his part time job as bar tender in the evening on time.