26 February 2010

The Down-Jones Index

Yesterday I made a mid-range, run of the mill ride from my house to Onekan, Tank Road and further on to the North Tsukui lake road. So far nothing special.

But on the map I had discovered, that the road around Tsukui lake is actually continuing from the point where we normally make a left turn and fly downwards towards the suspension bridge over the Tuskui lake. So I continued to stay on the small road and after crossing two barriers I found myself completely alone on the abandoned road which is much the same as the beautiful North road itself. I fail to understand why this road was given up a long time ago, as this seems to be an extremely important trunk road connecting the suburbs of Tsukui with those of the villages in the shadows of Otarumi. Road conditions were very poor, some landslides, a lot of debris on the surface and most of the time I had to walk. But after a while I came to a second barrier and I continued on the normal road up to the point where we are normally, coming from Otarumi, take a right turn and cross the bridge first, followed by the tunnel on the way to Tsukui.

A very nice distraction but perhaps better suited for MTBs or cyclo cross bikes.

It was a beautiful,warm, almost-spring day and on the top of Otarumi I thought it would be nice if we would have had lists for downhills as well as for the uphill time trials we are doing. As Otarumi from the Takao side was the first uphill TT we posted on the blog, the opposite downhill would be the appropriate start for the downhill TT which I called for ease of reference the Down-Jones Index (DJI); an expression commonly known to riders from the PE team.

To achieve a good downhill time can also we a nice consolation if your uphill time isn't that good.

So, I went down in 7:05 min which is probably not very good, but at least a time to start with. See the list on the right.

This corresponds to about 45 km/hr average speed. Please feel free to beat this. But be careful, Otarumi was not the first time I thought about the DJI. The first time was on Yabitsu two weeks ago and then I crashed pretty badly.

24 February 2010


23 February 2010

39th Annual Tokyo-Itoigawa Fast Run, 294 km, Saturday May 22

I received a mailing for the Tokyo-Itoigawa event recently with the application materials.  This was one of the events that created the legend that is Positivo Espresso today.  At least it created the legend that is the Positivo Espresso blog.

Tom S., our medal contender in the event, will be riding with the Vlaams team as he did last year, going for the gold.  We need at least a 4-5 person team who are willing to draft/ride together (well, much of the time) to make this a success.  If we can get a team together, I'm planning to aim my training toward this event and then Fuji Hill Climb a few weeks later. 

Entries are due in a few weeks, and are capped at 290 persons, with a lottery in case of over subscription (so no guarantees).  Team entries only, not individuals.  Start is from Takao at an ungodly hour, and then after celebrating the victory overnight at Itoigawa, one returns by train on Sunday morning.  I believe there is a bus back Saturday night as well, if needed.  The materials are all Japanese language, so I'm happy to act as team secretary to organize this if others are interested and willing to commit well in advance of the deadline (March 13).  Let me know.

22 February 2010

Road Drop Bar Geometry

Everything you ever wanted to know about drop bar bends


from right to left : Deej, Clay, Yair, Jules, two unrelated riders, Setsuko (perhaps)
No Davids in sight. Also no slot machines.

When we planned to organize a classic ride on Sunday, we didn't know that this would draw the biggest group in team history. And for some reason it comprised of only one David, actually the original one, now with beard. And, of course it became an undisciplined, unorganized "recovery" ride in the typical fashion of our team.

I woke up early in the morning still with very heavy knees as a result of the 200 km trip the day before with Ludwig where we circumferenced the Hakone mountains. Already on the way to the meeting point at the Tamagawa I noticed that I could barely ride 30 km/hr in the flat, neither force my heart rate to go over 155 BPM. But not to worry, as this was an official Positivo Espresso "recovery ride". So I expected some fast pace along the Tamagawa until everybody burned out and then a leisurely ride up to Otarumi and Tsukui.
Well I arrived on time at Tamagawahara bridge and already a large crowd has gathered, not only the usual Positivo suspects such as David, Jerome, Dominic (David), Bryon, Yair, James (David) and Michael on his Cervelo with new Shimano Di-3 (this is an upgrade from Di-2 which includes a small electrical assistance motor, invisble to the human eyes), but also Fumiki and his friends "Ko" and "Sho" (together they ride under the name 故障) and Deej and Jules from the TCC. I was tempted to collect participation fees and ride home (150 Yen for PE members, 15 million Yen for first timers) as a free and rich man.

And while I was talking with Fumiki as he casually mentioned "Everybody's riding already" and I turned my head just to see our group taking the first bend at the horizon. So we had to hurry up and chase behind the peloton. It was impossible to catch up as everybody in the front group pedalled as fast as they could and there was a strong headwind that we had to overcome. Finally at the bridge after Sekidobashi we caught up but at this point we have lost already Bryon and either Ko or Sho, not sure. The tempo was just murderous for me and I was looking forward to the point where everybody would relax; this was supposed to be a "recovery" ride.

We then rode the usual road along the Asagawa where we encountered a dispatchment of stormtroopers or perhaps baseball kids and where we left a mildly negative impression on the local population. Little girls were graping there teddy bears tightly and small boys looked up to there mothers, saying "Mama, when I am big I want to become a foreign bicycle rider." "Rather I will set fire to the house and kill the whole family."

We somehow made it to the Takao 7-Eleven where we re-grouped and linked up with Tom, Hiroshi, Nishibe and Clay from TCC. To the neutral outside observer we must have looked like a very fast group thanks to the strong additions from other teams.

I spoke with Jules and he asked me "Are you the guy with scars all over your leg?" How did he know? Where my lovely deadhead-diapers lurking out from the bib trousers? But I agree, scars on the legs are even cooler than shaved legs. And they hurt more. But the part of my body that hurts the most was my behind, as I did more than 400 km of cycle riding the last five days. I will refrain from posting pictures here.

Then we started the Otarumi TT and even before the official starting point Tom, James, Deej, Clay, Hiroshi, Fumiki and Jules went off like rockets while I stayed with Nishibe, Yair and David in a second group, followed by Dominic, Ko, Michael, Jerome.

On the top of Otarumi we took a group shot to document this historic event (more riders then average blogviews per day in 2008).

From there on we continued downhill and then took the classic turn to Tsukui lake. All of this still at very high speeds. Things became a little chaotic. I guess all of us took the left turn at the Circle K that leads to the Tsukui North road, but then not all of us went along the North side and definitely many lost track when we rode into Hashimoto. David proposed to ride his favourite backroad shortcut and I was hanging on for dear life, as I had no idea where I was and in case I got lost, it would have taken me days to find the way back to Onekan.

Somehow we managed to re-group at the Starbucks 7-Eleven at Onekan, but in the process we had lost Tom, Michael and Dominic who rode home on their own.

Deej, Clay and Jules started first on the Onekan, followed by Jerome, me and the rest of the pack. Just a few hundred meters behind the tunnel we saw Deej who was screwed. No, I don't mean that he was bonking, I mean, to be precise, that his tire got screwed by a app. 20 mm wooden screw, NiCr plated, judging from the look, probably made in China. After making sure that he was OK and had everything he needs for repair we continued along the Onekan and at one point I met David and Fumiki again while finally continuing leisurely with James along the Tsurumigawa home. Fumiki said that he enjoyed the ride-out but that he would now ride into the mountains to do some more serious things.

At least the last 20 km or so I had the feeling of a "recovery" ride.
So I guess it is time to propose two or three things here to "avoid confusion in the market place" (the most favourite quote by Japanese business executives when a company/competitor starts to do things differently than before):


Well, the Cervelo Test Team is called so because in addition to racing, it also fulfils the role of testing the Cervelo bikes under severe conditions. We do not belong to a bicycler maker (well, Prolite, perhaps), and therefore we are not testing any bikes. But we constantly test the well being, patience, nerves and physical composure of all team members and therefore we rightfully deserve the name "test team".


Recovery Ride - As opposed to the common understanding of a recovery ride in standard cycling, a Positivo Espresso recovery ride is defined by the fact that most of the riders attending, will be recovered sooner or later from the roads by firefighters, ambulances or archaeologists eventually ("Hm, high BMI index and DuraAce 7800 group set - probably an investment banker from the early 21st century I would guess."). The average speed will be ridiculous high and climbs can be long and painful. However, regardless of distance and elevation, a recovery ride must include a statement in the official announcement that it will be finished in the early hours of the afternoon.


Again, if it comes to organisation of rides and freedom of individual members to do what they please, Positivo Espresso is second only to Bakunin. I understand that some of us are not happy with this and I can understand their point of view. On the other hand, the quest to get our unorganized, undisciplined team changed, i.e. to ride organized, perhaps even in a paceline (!) and stay together has been undertaken by many brave souls and not led to any success so far. I also feel that I am lacking the divine powers to change this. So perhaps it is more important to change expectations. An organized rides, in Positivo Espresso fashions means, that we meet in a somewhat organized fashion.

Saturride Full Story

Mishima and Atami are two adjacent stops on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. By Shinkansen train, it takes precisely 8 minutes to travel. It took Ludwig and me almost 10 hours on Saturday.Shinkansen lines are almost straight, direct lines, connecting points with each others. Moreover, they rarely cover higher elevations, so a lot of tunneling and bridging works are required to built these railways. As we didn't dare to run with our bikes on the Shinkansen tracks, the second best option to ride from Mishima to Atami is to take natinal road number 1 which leads through Hakone and includes a nasty and congested climb and a ridiculously steep downhill from Atami Toge. Yes, 32 km of joyless riding over some big hills. Conclusion: The best way to get from A to B is not necessarily the shortest straight line. Ludwig and me wanting to avoid the mountains, chose the road which circumferences the mountain ridge at Hakone. Unfortunately the ridge continues until the tip of Izu peninsular so our trip on Saturday looked like this:I admit that we cheated in the very South and took a shortcut over Jaishi Toge which turned out to be the highest pass of the day at 370 m elevation.

This time we found the way out of Mishima rather fast and arrived at the West coast road in time when suddenly I felt my leg hurting and my bicycle moving somehow strange.
A short inspection revealed, that I have broken another spoke on my Zonda rear wheel, the one next to the one which has been exchanged last month. Luckily Ludwig had a spoke wrench tool with him so we could somehow true the wheel and continue to Atami.The West coast was beautiful as always with blue skies but too dizzy to see mount Fuji in the back. Although the road runs along the coast, there are a lot of ups and downs and it is not easy to keep a good pace. So when we arrived at Matsuzaki, we opted to take the Jaishi road, which was also more pleasant to ride than the rather busy main road along the coast.In Shimoda we met David (another one, not one of the Davids mentioned recently on this blog) and took a look at his sailing boat which he is currently outfitting for the trip from Shimoda to Sydney. He told me before about his plans so I expected a huge boast, two masts at least, perhaps 20 meters long, cannons sticking out from every possible opening, the Jolly Rodger hoisted at the top... but no, this was a rather small boat, which looks to be suitable to cross the Tamagawa for example. But again, I am no expert in sailing.We approved the port but not the boast and then continued to have a quick lunch at the Lawson in front of Shimoda station. Is it OK under Japanese regulations to sit in front of convenience stores in urban locations and check mails on the Blackberry?Now we had a nice tailwind when we rode North along the East coast. But there was also a lot of traffic which was due to the fact that many visitors came to see the blooming plum trees in Izu. Or perhaps the blooming cherry trees. Ludwig and me saw a lot of blooms along the way, but he being an economist and me being an engineer, we couldn't decide whether they were plums of cherries. Or both.For the first time this year I had the feeling that spring is now knocking on the door. Spring, the season where you suddenly fall in love with the girl selling Tofu at the local supermarket and you start to plan ridiculous long cycling tours for the summer.

Traffic became now really terrible. And drivers in Izu are bad. Or perhaps they are from Tokyo and want to return as fast as possible and they are ready with there nerves.
And some of them don't brake for cyclists. This might be, because they drive Toyotas and they don't brake for anything because they cannot brake at all.

I started to think about what would have happened if the recent quality issues with Toyota would have happened with Shimano group sets and which countermeasures could be enacted:

"Dear Shimano Dura Ace 7800 group set customer. We are sorry to inform you that under certain circumstances the following situation might happen: You are riding on your bike and you want to brake, however instead of braking you feel the urge to pedal full speed ahead as fast as you can go. Even if you brake you cannot come to a stop any longer. If this has happened, please bring your bike to an authorized Shimano dealer who will upgrade your bike so that in case you pedal full speed and you pull both brake levers as hard as you can, the crank will disengage from the front cog and you will come to an immediate, sudden and perhaps painful stop."

Now, we took another longer road to avoid the traffic shortly before Ito city (the pointless ride tradition )and I could convince Ludwig that we must complete our original goal and reach Atami in daylight. Which we actually did. Just milli-seconds before the last photon of the day was shot in direction Atami station from the sun, we managed to arrive and take a wonderful evidence photo.

All in all, it was for both of us a trip that involved more than 200 km distance and more than 2.300 meters elevation. I still wonder if we wouldn't have been faster going over Hakone.

Additional impressions added by Ludwig:

Izu is clearly a lot warmer than the mountains to the west of Tokyo. No trace of snow anywhere, and while we never made it above 340m or so, I think even the highest passes of the peninsula (close to 1,000m) would have been completely free of snow and ice. Worth remembering for future excursions in winter.

As with Miura Hanto, national roads on Izu are pretty horrible. Those on the west side of the island are about as busy as on Miura. The road from Shimoda via Ito to Atami is still a lot worse. It was basically one long traffic jam of 80km, complete with aggressive and reckless driving tourist buses (coaches). The views, especially in the south, are really great, but the traffic is rather too dangerous to do this again.

The kendo stretch on the west side is much more pleasant to ride though not free of traffic either. A few rather long climbs which add to the grand total we did on the day.

This is also where I met a friendly Japanese rider who turned out to be a half pro: racing among the top riders in the top class of Jitsugyodan, the top amateur cycling league in Japan. Also one of the top riders in last year's Fuji Hill Climb. We rode together for maybe 10km until I decided to let him go and wait for MOB. I was pleased I was able to match his pace up the hills, even getting him (and of course also me) breathless. It was probably the first time I chatted while riding at a heart rate of over 170...

My ride was somewhat marred by problems with my dérailleur - gears were slipping frequently. No matter how I adjusted the tension, the problem would not go away. And unlike before, the dérailleur did not seem to be bend.

The next day I cleaned the bike and found that the dérailleur hanger was somewhat lose. But then I found that fixing it didn't really solve the problem... I took the bike to Nagai-san's and had it checked out. It took us a while to figure out that the cable had almost completely disintegrated inside the gear shifter and this was causing the problem. It was good I insisted on this before proceeding to having the cassette and dérailleur exchanged against a new set which I had order the other day.

I'm now riding with a SRAM Red OG-1090 11-28 cassette, which necessitated replacing the 7800 dérailleur against a 7900 one, because of the difference in capacity. 7800 gear shifter, 7900 derailleur, 7800 chain and SRAM Red cassette are working well together. The SRAM cassette is noisier than Shimano's, because it is made out of one block and hollow inside. In some way that's slightly irritating, in another it helps to hear immediately when a gear is not shifting properly. I'll be curious to see what difference the 28 vs 27 will make in the mountains, and the 11 vs 12 on fast runs downhill or with the wind.

21 February 2010

PE Half-day Otarumi Classic a.k.a. BARABARA JITENSHA JIKEN !!

Thanks everyone for joining this morning's ride & thanks MOB for having organized/coordinated this !

Screwed up the self-timer...apologies!! MOB, hope yours turned out OK....
("Framed version" of this pic here)

20 February 2010

Saturday Ride

Shin-Yokohama, 06:30 AM
White frost and vapor from the river

END Atami Station, 05:30 AM
Mission accomplished

Will blog more tomorrow, but my body starts to fail me.

19 February 2010

Officially Approved Italian Reststop

Dr. Florian and me, elected members of the Positivo Espresso - Nutrition Inspection Service (PE - NIS) paid a visit yesterday night to Amoroso, an Italian joint close to Ichigaya which was recommended by a team mate who had there "probably the best dinner of all year (2009)".

It took a while until I finally could found a person and an occassion worthy enough the spend big Yen at this restaurant.

The inspection went without problems. Apart from the food (we opted for wild boar, among others) which was excellent, the highlight of the evening was when diretorre Maeda went deep into his refrigerating hall and came back with a vintage bottle of Bitburger Pils (2009) beer from Germany. I nice change after approximately 20 different red and white wines.

And we are glad to announce that we have now a viable alternative to 7-Elevens at least in the area around Ichigaya, on almost every day of the week after 18.30hr. Provided you make a reservation at least one week in advance.

Finally a post in the tradition of Japanese cycling blog sites where more photos of food than of cycles can be seen.

18 February 2010

Sunday Feb 21st Classic Ride

I am thinking about doing the classic Ebisu - Tamagawa - Otarumi (Takao) - Tsukui North Lake - Tank Road -Onekan - Tamagawa - Ebisu ride this Sunday.

07:00 000 km Start Ebisu
07:30 010 km Meeting Point 1 : David House
08:00 020 km Meeting Point 2 : Tamagawaharabridge [Fumiki, James and me will join here]
09:15 048 km Rest Stop : Takao 7-Eleven
10:00 056 km Finish Climb HC Otarumi Time Trial
11:00 083 km Rest Stop 7-Eleven
12:00 103 km Split at Tamagawaharabashi
12:30 113 km Split at David House
13:00 123 km End at Ebisu

So 123 km loop from Ebisu, 103 km loop from Davids house and about 119 km loop from Yokohama roughly. 650m elevation up. Not sure about times before Tamagawaharabashi, I guess James, Michael and Dominic know much better how much time is required.

As this is the classic Sunday ride, I entered it at Mapmyride here.
Please let me know who is it interested to join.

14 February 2010

The Cycling Tokyo Gaikan [外環]

We skipped the Izu tour scheduled for Saturday due to the poor weather and instead opted for a ride in the flat floodlands of Tokyo today.

I left the house at 6:11 AM when it was still bitter cold and dark. I guess my Ciclo HAC4 cycling computer cannot display temperatures less than 0 degrees although manufacturer specs are indicating up to minus 19 degrees.
But it certainly felt less than 0 and it reminded me to check up one of the blogs I haven't checked for along while: Up in Alaska.

I choose my toasty Assos Fugu jacket plus the new Gore winter gloves with double inner linings.
Moreover, due to the heavy rain and snowfall on Saturday, the road was still wet and there were icy spots .... everywhere.
I rode carefully to the Rendezvous Spot at Tamagawahara Bashi when I saw some riders coming from the opposite direction. Later, when home, I learned from Toms blog that it was him and his Vlaams buddies on the way to Miura Hanto. Our ride would have been a nice one for Tom as well, I felt afterwards a little bit sorry that we didn't invited him to join us.
I met Fumiki, the Japanese rider who helped me out with my flat tire on the way down from Kobu Tunnel some weeks ago and Ludwig on time and we made good speed along the Tamagawa despite the ice. We were double careful in the corners and one time we had to move on the grass as the full width of the road was ice on top of some water poodles. But we managed well. The mountains of Okutama looked spectacular today, all in white and even mount Fuji was partly visible in the back. After a first stop in Ome we continued along some roads through Irima until we made it to the cycling path along Irimakawa. And after another break we were then on the Arakawa cycling path. Meanwhile it had become rather warm and I was sweating in my Fugu jacket and gloves.

The water accumulated on the ground was suddenly subjected to some sun radiation and we could observe some interesting phenomena.
It is also interesting what happens long the rivers close to the metropolises of Japan. In Europe we would see a path along a river as an opportunity to cycle, hike, or walk or get out with the dog. Nothing more. In Japan the floodland along the rivers and the pathes on its dykes serve much more purposes. It is the only accumulated mass of land that is wide enough to do different kinds of sports, free of the obstructions of space and noise that are limiting human activities in the cities. Too theoretical? Well, let me give you some examples of what I have seen today:
  • A whole parking place full of people in front of their cars practicing on rock drum kits
  • A Japanese traditional Taiko drumming group setting up their equipment for rehearsal.
  • A paraglider in the sky above Irimakawa (or perhaps Arakawa)
  • Many, many baseballs games
  • Many, many gateball games
  • A unicycle relay race along the Arakawa
And probably I would have seen even more, but hey, sometimes I have to keep my eyes on the road. Ludwig basically went in front for the first large stretch, but I felt pretty good later and we always managed to go with 30 - 36 km/hr along the river.Now there were many people out enjoying the cold but clear day. At one point a small child just crossed the bike bath running between our three bikes and I have no idea how she made it through. It was a very close call and I am really glad that nothing happened.

Within no time we reached the estuary of the Arakawa where we took another break and made some memorial photos.
I wrote it many times, but I just love to ride with my bike and experience different landscapes in one ride, notably mountains and the sea, and, in addition today, winter and spring scenery.
Despite going fast, Fumiki was able to hang on with us. Well he is still only 27 years old and perhaps we should groom him for the 2011 JCRC D class championship.Ludwig parted at Tokyo station to make his way home via Shibuya while Fumiki and me crossed the Ginza area (Sunday! Valentines Day!) and continued from Shinbashi to Shinagawa. There is this hill leading up between Sengakuji and Shinagawa to the Takanawa Fire station called Katsurazaka and as it has been on my commuting ride I have gone up there almost a hundred times. I challenged Fumiki to race against me and ... he won. Easily.

We then parted after Marukobashi in the area where my favourite cycle shop (Sekine Jitensha) is located in Kawasaki. It is run by an old man, I guess about 116 years old who has once repaired the track bike of Saigo Takamori when he was rebelling against Tokyo.

Half an hour later I was finally home.

One of the rare trips which didn't called for usage of the bike bag. More than 9 hours out today, total 180 km. Could have made less breaks but otherwise a very pleasant ride. Thanks Ludwig and Fumiki.

11 February 2010


... no this wasn't my knee. It is a spot on the outer side of my left thigh.
May take some days to recover.
Happy to note that I have finally reached the age when it is considered acceptable to talk about injuries, illnesses and the like.

Lesson #1 in Racing Tactics

Michael's reference to the theme from "Fistful of Dollars" got me thinking ... about the end of a long racing stage where 3 riders approach the finish, some minutes ahead of the pack.  The first one to sprint will lose, unless he gets a great jump and gets clear of the other two.  The one who waits patiently can get the others to serve as lead out men and draft off them, saving precious energy and pulling ahead just before the line.  But they cannot wait too long, or the pack will catch them ... maybe 60 seconds to play with, then someone needs to jump, fast.

The lessons -- if you don't understand the tactics and your opponents, you end up dead last, in a grave by the side of the course.  And never enter the sprint finish with an "empty gun" -- ride efficiently and conserve some energy during the race-- or you will end up in second place, digging up the buried treasure for the other guy.
It is like a gun fighters' duel.  (That is why Alberto always shoots the finger pistols after crossing the line ... though I don't quite see him in filling Clint's shoes).

60 cycles

Jean-Claude Labrecque
His 1965 documentary short 60 Cycles won 22 major international awards and earned an BAFTA Award nomination

10 February 2010

For a fistful of holes in the gloves

Image to ride by her and hear this music. Yes, you are now in Tsukui country.

With bad weather forecasted for Thursday and Friday I thought that it would be nice to mount Bad Boy and ride up into the snowy mountains of Yabitsu Toge today. That proved to be quite a painful trip.

Rather late in the morning I jumped on Bad Boy and rode along the Tsurumigawa river and the Onekan road to Hashimoto and Tsukui lake. Riding Bad Boy is rather a slow affair, it took me 1:09 hours to the Onekan crossing while I can do it in less than an hour on good days on the Cervelo. As I was slow and not chasing speed records, I had time to take some long overdue photos, like the "House of the hanged foils" and the residence of the Columbian druglord along the Tsukui lake North road.
I went along Doshi to the Yamazaki shop at the entrance to Miyagase-lake and Yabitsu and I was surprised to see there many typical cycling related food like Weider Jelly, Soy Joy etc.. Clearly there must be more cyclists on the road and the shops are adopting accordingly.

After a very short break I continued to ride to Miyagase lake and then started to climb Yabitsu Toge. There was some snow left and right of the road from elevation 300 meters upwards but not too much. Instead it started to drizzle, not too hard but not very pleasantly as well. The road was completely deserted for (normal) cars. I didn't encountered a single bike or (normal) car when riding up. However: There were five construction sites on the road up and all of them did slope works. More concrete out there. And of course a lot of construction related trucks and concrete mixers.

By the way, the maximum capacity for a street legal concrete mixer in Japan is 3 m3, while in Germany for example up to 6 m3 is permissible. Actually the truck itself is not that much bigger, this is more related to the size of the drum and the ratio of concrete to air inside. But the consequence is, that double the number of mixers are required to deliver the same quantity of concrete to construction sites.

Whereas I thought last year, that the fury of public works might be related to the change of the govt in Japan, I am not sure if the change in gov'&t has changed anything at all in this respect. Or do I need to wait for the end of the fiscal year in April? At least Yabitsu was not closed for traffic in the winter like some of the years before.

It took me more than an hour to get to the top. Bad Boy is not only slower in the flats by 10 - 15%, but also climbing is slower in the range of 15 - 20%. Bad Boy is pretty heavy and the 700 x 30 tires add rolling resistance as well. On the top there was no Snow on the road, foggy views, drizzling rain and 5 degrees Celsius.
That was much less romantic than I thought I could be and I could have made it on the Cervelo as well. Within no time I started the ride downhill to Hadano, Bento capital of the world.

It is a pleasure indeed to ride downhill with Bad Boy, so steady and stable ,so easy to use the disc brakes. I was easily reaching speeds in the 50 to 60 km/hr range and was enjoying the ride. Also the rain has stopped on the Southern slopes.

A truck (construction material!) came up the road close to the observation point and I took the hair needle left turn coming down when it suddenly happened. Without any warning my rear wheel slipped to the outside of the curve, I fell heavily on the left thigh and elbow and slid with my bicycle in direction of the truck driving up. Luckily he was able to brake before I could touch him.

I felt a little bit dizzy, the rider came out of the cabin and the usual dialog started: "Daijobu? daijobu? Daijobu? Heiki?" Ellow and leg really hurt but basically I felt OK and I told him that I would just need a little break and then continue to ride to Hadano. My jacket and long trousers were also not torn despite the pain, however my Assos winter gloves had big holes in the area of the palm on both hands.

It seems that I have ridden over an icy spot and lost control. I am not very good at maneuvering curves and I normally leave a lot of reserves so I wonder what has happened here. Too much braking with the rear disc brake?

After a few minutes and checking that Bad Boy was still in acceptable shape, I continued the ride down very slowly and made my way up to Hadano station. Took the train home. Finally at home I could undress and take a better look at the damage done. Nasty scratch, that will hurt for some days. Surprisingly swollen as well. Took a long nap. Took it easy.
So, not sure about the Saturday Izu ride. Let's see. Be careful out there. There was no indication of ice and I haven't seen any on the road riding up.

Nalshima -- now down close to the Tamagawa under the monorail in Tachikawa

Good news.  I happened to look at the Nalshima Frend website today, and was delighted to see that there is now a choice besides Y's Garage to stop for gear and repairs along the Tamagawa. 

Since last November ... when I stopped riding temporarily, so maybe I am the last to know this "news" ... Nalshima is no longer up by Tachikawa Station, a 5-10 minute detour through unpleasant crowds. 

It is under the monorail, down near the river.  See the website for a map.

09 February 2010

Weekend Ride Saturday February 13th

With rain the days before Saturday and perhaps snow in the mountains, I thought it might be nice to try a longer ride this Saturday in Izu Hanto.

We would get on an early Shinkansen Kodama 633 out of Shinagawa [7:04 AM] and Shin-Yokohama [7:15 AM] to arrive at Mishima shortly before 8. Then we would first ride along the North-West coast of Izu and depending on the progress and general performance level we can ride up into the mountains while heading South. There are many options that would lead us all the way to the tip of Izu and Shimoda.

Once in Shimoda we again have the choice to take the train home, or we can continue on the East coast side to go North and catch a train at a later station, for example Ito. Again, as the trainline is also mostly parallel to the coast there are many options.

We have done similar Izu rides in the past and most of them turned out to be very nice. Thre are some onsens we could visit if time allows and Teppan Curry Pasta at the Sunny Side Cafe in Shimoda is something I would look forward to as well.

08 February 2010

The Dawn of the Davids

Imagine you wake up one morning and the world around you has changed completely. All your neighbors have become brainless zombies and you can only defend yourself by throwing Dire Straits LPs at them. Or suddenly, everyone you know goes by the name Dave.

From left to right: David, David, David, David, David, David, David, David and Phil.

"Oh, David, good that you made it. May I introduce you to David? David, this is David, David this is David."
"Hi David, Nice to meet you."

"Hi, nice to meet you too, David."

With David J. being back in England, David L. injured and David C. taking part only in short trips morning rides, one would assume that the amount of Davids that could be assembled for a ride in Bozo peninsular would be somewhat limited. Nevertheless, when Phil of TCC called for a joint winter ride in Chiba, all remaining cycling Davids and very few other guys turned up, eleven riders in total. We were quite a group: David Dachin (younger brother of James), David Denderson aka as Dominic Denderson and me, the D.O.B. were attending the tour on behalf of Dositivo Depresso.

Phil has warned us that this would become a leisurely ride, adding that we must make 30 km/hr average along the first third in order to be home on time, so we started rather fast and within no time we have also lost some riders of our group. But we always stopped and let the slower riders catch up so that we might have had a good speed average, however the overall progress was rather slow.

It is always interesting to ride in the countryside of Chiba, I believe that I can say that as an expert who has ridden there with Phil already two times. Every time and without him, I would be lost and probably still would ride clueless in Chiba looking for the exit between the vast stretches of land belonging to golf clubs. Nine years ago a Dutchman by the name of Kees Van der Werff got so much lost that he found Chibas' exit only after weeks (exhibit 1, at the bottom of this post).

It is also interesting to note that Chiba is not flat at all and consists of many hills, not a single one higher than 400 meters, but some of them quite steep and all in all we were able to do much more than 1.000 meter of climbing before we broke into two groups.

The riding is much different than on the West side. On the West side one picks a series of climbs with impressive elevations and connects them by dotted lines, trying to get us much of them in as possible. One knows the climbs, they are continuous and one is motivated to make an effort, go up fast and reach the top, followed by some leisure time riding downhill. It is like working as a public official in the accounting department and having a wild weekend affair. Riding in Chiba is more like the average marriage: The hills are not that high any more, but the sheer number of ups and downs adds up as well (or perhaps "adds down" in this comparative case) and leaves its mark on the spiritual and physical condition of the participants.

One climb was particular long and nasty and Phil took photos of all of us coming in one by one except for Tim and his fixie. As there was a road branching off to the right which went down and looked much more inviting, TruffleEater constructed a nice cryptic message out of some bamboo branches which should have indicated the proper road (up) to follow. All you needed to understand it would have been basic operative training in the CIA or MI-5 and an enigma machine to decode the message. The alternatives would have been (a) to block the wrong roads with some logs that were lying on the side of the road or (b) to write a message with chalk on the (wrong) road surface at the bottom of the hill some 200 meters down:

"U-Turn here, Fixie and up the other road!"

But being nice guys we decided something simple. We never saw Tim again that day.

Then we made another stop at a nice country shop (now PE approved) somewhere in the middle of Bozo. My guess what be that our group made not only 50% of the total turnover in that shop on this day, but also 100% of the not-alcohol related turnover. I saw some locals dropping in with their typical agricultural mini cars and every single one of them left with a crate of beers. And nothing else. That should give you some idea what people in Chiba do on their weekends during winter time.

It was nice and toasty (PE rule: The word "toasty" should be used in every post at least once between December and March.) in the shop that has provided us with a seating arrangement at least as nice as a snack bar and the only equipment missing was a Karaoke machine and some 60 year plus old bar hostesses feeding as with mizuwari from our drinking bottles, peanuts and gently touching from time to time our shaved knees.

We also took a group photo there in front of some old slot machines at the scrape yard next to the country shop.

A few kilometres later our group split, Phil leading the TCC guys back to Honda station and David, David and me riding along road 465 towards the coast to the town of Kanayamahma where we would take the ferry to Miura Hanto. Phil also suggested a smaller detour over a hill on a road (Ken 93) parallel to road 465. He suggested this climb in particular because he never did it before and wanted to know how it is.

We were cruising then at good speeds along 465 and enjoyed the tailwind as we had quite some headwind going South all day before. Unfortunately the reason why we had this nice tailwind was, that we managed to miss road 465 somewhere and we were now heading North on road 410 towards the very ugly part of Chiba, bringing as far, far away from the ferry port.

Luckily I had brought my Garmin Version (1.0, aka as a Chiba map) and we headed up to the village of Kururi where we took a turn on Ken 93 (where well hidden) and rode back to road 465. I started to bonk (no, not that) but luckily Dominic and James gave me a banana and a power bar so I felt much better than. It was the first time I ever ate a powerbar and I was surprised at the resistance it offers against being eaten. The consistency is similar to semi-liquid asphalt or dried squid and the energy required to eat it is more than the energy your body absorbs by eating it. Strange. But I felt better than.

And finally we reached the coast and some minutes later the ferry port. I have checked the departure times of the ferries between 12 and 2 PM, however we were so late because of the many stops we made and the pointless ride we included (living up to this great PE tradition) that we only managed to catch the 4 PM ferry.

This is a great ferry, designed in the Seventies and in service since then with plushy sofas, fancy chandeliers, toasty aircon and a strip show on the upper deck starting at 4.30 PM. Or we could have selected to see Tom Jones singing in the parking deck protected by a series of bulkheads.

Recently some of the ferries had sunken because the loads were not probably secured on deck. During the heavy seas which occur during the winter seasons in the bay of Tokyo, some of the vehicles have gotten loose, moved to either the starboard or backboard side and resulted in perpendicular inclination of the ferry.
As one can see on the photo my Heavy Cervelo Soloist (8.9 kg) required therefore much tighter fixing than the relatively light Pinarellos standing next to it.

In the middle of Tokyo Bay we saw the "Tokyo Express" container carrier by Hapag-Lloyd moving in which made my immensely proud of all the useless stuff from Germany and other European countries that is carried year by year to Japan and actually sold here. I must be the equivalent to trade beads of the 19th century and in return our ships come home loaded with Toyota Hybrids which will be immediately forwarded to Toyota dealers for recall.

In this context I would like to add that my son asked me yesterday evening if it isn't dangerous for Toyota dealerships to intercept Toyota cars on recall as they couldn't brake when entering the premises.

And when we arrived in Kuriyama after having enjoyed a good meal on board (thanks to the Smutje), the strip show and seeing Dean Martin after Tom Jones, it was almost dark. David choose the train home from Kuriyama while David and me took the straight road towards Kamakura. On the trip I have shared many stories about the legendary Helga, her two brothers (not named David) and the German Seacastle restaurant that they operate at Kamakura but we did not had the time to drop in despite being very fast on the last stretch. But it was already dark and we just made it to Ofuna, packed our bikes and took the train home to Yokohama.

142 km of riding and more than 1.500 meters of elevation. And, oh yes, we also met some very nice cycling Davids. Thanks to all of them for the nice trip.
Exhibit One

07 February 2010

A different ride

I joined a group of TCC cyclists to ride up and down the Arakawa.

It was a beautiful day - very crisp air, with extremely good visibility.

However, an initially modest headwind which we were able to take in pace line at around 32km/h turned into gale force winds which slowed us down sometimes to a creeping 20km/h, blowing us nearly off the path and at one point almost into the traffic.

I would have never been able to motivate myself to go through this permanent wall of wind without the pressure to cycle with a group, and a fast one it was.

The return ride was great fun - skippering our bikes in the wind. On a longer stretch free of any lurking dangers I accelerated easily up to 60km/h. With a better ratio than 50:12, I could have done even more.

It was also fun to be with such a strong group. Constant motivation to put in a lot of power - accelerating, sprinting, facing the wind. I find it hard to do this by myself in the flat.

The result has been my first ever muscle ache after cycling. I didn't feel particularly exhausted after 133km of riding, but the frequent sprinting must have added an extra degree of exercise that I normally don't get.

I hope there will be more soon.

P.S. for ardent believers in the accuracy of cycling computers that measure altitude gain: I did 470m in this very flat terrain! I'm so proud of myself...