30 March 2010

Murphy's Law of Cycling

Murphy’s Law Of Cycling (Source: Cycling Tips)

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Murphy’s Law #1

Murphy’s Law #2

Murphy’s Law #3

Murphy’s Law #4

Murphy’s Law #5

Murphy’s Law #6

and of course it will also rain when you do bring a rain jacket…

Not necessarily “Murphy’s Laws”, but a few other Laws of Cycling that always hold true:

  • When you go into a bikeshop with intentions to buy some handlebar tape you’ll come out at least $300 poorer every time.
  • You will always be home from a ride 30mins later than you told your wife. Always blame Law#5 and your riding mate.
  • You will drive into your garage with your bike on your roofrack at some stage in your life. Guaranteed.
  • When building a bike from parts you bought over the internet there will always be a piece that doesn’t fit.
  • The day you have an unplanned EPIC 200km wet, windy, cold ride you’ll have big social engagement that evening.

A Tale of Two Towers

When I arrived in Japan in 1998, I worked the first two years in Hamamatsu/Shizuoka in the factory of a now famous Swiss elevator company. I was transferred to Tokyo in 2000 and since I am returning to Germany in a few weeks, I thought it might be a nice idea to ride from Tokyo to Hamamatsu on my bike as a conclusion of my stay in Japan. As the distance between the two cities is about 270 km which is hard to ride within one day, I decided to split the trip into two legs. On Saturday evening I rode from Tokyo to Yokohama and on Sunday I did the remaining stretch.

Note: This post is dedicated to the Yellow Giant aka Travis who rode from Tokyo to Nagoya on road 246 and 1 in January this year. He has my full respect as he had stayed on the man roads for more than 400km. As the end point of his journey was the house of his parents in law, I still suspect that the main purpose of his ride was to have an convenient excuse to do absolute nothing there but to lie around, watch TV and eat good food. Also, when asked next year if he will come again, he might answer: "Again? I cannot ride there every year!".

Well, actually I enjoyed the last squash match of my life at the TAC with a friend and rode home on my bike afterwards. The next morning I woke up at 5 AM in fabulous shape, ready to roll.

The weather was not really good, cloudy, but at least no rain forecasted until 3 PM. I was blessed with a very strong tailwind, so I made good progress along the Nakahara Kaido and later on road 1 towards Odawara. I tried to control my heart rate and not to overdo it, even when I had a chance to go faster. This early on a weekend day, the traffic was rather light and I arrived at 8 AM at the 7-Eleven on the start of the old Tokaido up to Hakone. One signboard said something about only 100 km left to Shizuoka - cool. I almost made it.

The mountains ahead were completely covered in mist and I was afraid of snow and rain up there. Typical 三寒四温 weather. I started the climb up to Moto-Hakone and again I tried to pace myself in the 140 - 150 HRM range, so that I would not exhaust myself too much. Nevertheless it took me only 54 minutes to reach the top, which is almost as fast as the second time when I went up there with Ludwig and Jerome. It was cold up there, only 1 degree plus, a little bit foggy but no snow and no rain. So I continued to Ashinoko and Hakone pass before taking the very fast downhill road 1 to Mishima without stopping.

First stop after Mishima (this town always reminds me of China) at a 7-Eleven and checking the maps: It looked much better to continue on road 380 along the coast; this is a road we have previously used to ride out of Mishima in direction Western Izu peninsular. Done. This road was also fast and the traffic was acceptable and again in no time I was in Shin-Fuji where I promptly got lost. Looking now at the map, I notice that I made a detour on road 396 but as this is the only other road to cross the Fujikawa river except the road 1 bypass (not allowed to be used by bikes) I had no other choice anyway.

This should happen quite a number of times: While it is no problem to ride on road 1 all the way between Tokyo and Mishima (nevertheless it wouldn't be my suggestion to do so), large stretches of the same road are barring cyclists from usage. Warning signs not to enter are all over the place and even if I love to take forest roads which are not allowed for public traffic, I hate to ride on these fast roads leading through flyovers, bypasses, bland correct underpasses and the like. How Travis did this - I don't know. I would have been scared to death out there.
Strangely, the distance to Shizuoka did not decrease during the last three hours of riding as much as it was supposed to decrease. Was this some Kafkanian castle trick from the Japan Highway authorities? And furthermore I have reached the point where the mountains were rising so steeply directly from the sea, that there was hardly any land left between there flanks and the water. And the few land remaining was used for the most important purpose of the country; to accommodate the Tomei highway, the national road 1 and the railroad line.

At the end of road 396 I couldn't possibly ride on road 1 which was hardly distinguishable from the parallel highway; that much were the number of lanes, the amount of traffic and the speeding of cars and trucks. But luckily there was a signboard showing the way to Satta Toge (薩埵峠) which sounded interesting enough to give it a try. We would not mention these types of passes in our weekly ride report, shallow hills with not much of climbing. But this one had a partly very steep approach of more than 20% slope and after a lot of hours in the saddle every climb becomes (more or less) a respectable challenge. The weather was good on top and to look through the Mikan orchards down on the roads and the sea was quite nice. That is how and why Satta Toge became Positivo Espresso approved.
Now, after riding down on the other side, I came into the (rather boring) port city of Shimizu, where after some maneuvering I found road 150 leading along the coast. Another time, road 1 could be avoided. This stretch of road 150 is also known as "Strawberry Line": On the left side is the beach, even some stretches of sand not covered by giant tetraeder concrete blocks and on the right side are greenhouse after greenhouse filled to the brim with mature strawberries that are screaming: "Sell me! Sell me!". And this is the precise reason why in intervals of perhaps 20 meters poorly paid students are dressed up as giant strawberries and red pandas. They carry strawberry lampoons on strings which they are twirling through the air to indicate to passing cars that one can buy here, well, strawberries. To be honest, this offers the same degree of excitement as speaking with my wife about recent trends in figure skate dressing.

But finally I have made it into Shizuoka city and crossed the Abeguchi river still staying on road 150. However, when I wanted to continue along the road I came to another long tunnel and there was no way I could pass through. Road 150. Tomei highway and the Shinkansen line where all swallowed by mountains and
road 1 had disappeared in the North quite a while ago. After trying some small roads at the tunnel portal to no avail, I rode back to the city and managed my way through thanks to the help of some locals. Road 416 was beautiful and gently swinging along the sexy curves of the coastline. The locals have warned me that I would be moving "up into the mountains", but what they mean by mountains is something we would refer to as "Yamanote" perhaps. Also, I asked if there would be any tunnels and the answer was "NO", spoken in a way like one would say: "Of course, not!". I came through three of them.

Which was actually good, because by now the weather had very much deteriorated and it began to fizzle. I was getting wet fast so in one semi-tunnel (one side was almost open to the sea with some nice window cut-outs), I decided to a) take a piss looking like a roman statue in an alcove and b) put on my rain jacket. It was high time, outside of the tunnel it had started to rain even harder and I could barely made a few more kilometers before I had to stop at a (yes, I admit it) Family Mart in the town of Yaizu.

Now, again I checked the maps, had some yaki-soba, tried to stay inside as long as possible. As I was looking outside I noticed that it had started to hail. Small white hard balls of something between snow and ice were falling from the dark grey skies and made a tremendous noise when colliding with the sheet metal parts of cars.
I was ready to give up. There were at least 80 km left to Hamamatsu, it was already close to 3 PM and the weather didn't look like becoming better any moment. I thought, OK, let's give it one more try and I continued to ride. Within minutes I had that typical sensation of wet feet. One knows, that now the socks and shoes are soaked and that this will remain so for the rest of the ride. I was so desperate that I started to hum Rick Astley songs.And suddenly the rain stopped. Just like in Woodstock, 1969. No rain, no rain. Also the surface pf the road was dry and the sky ahead had the color of eye-pleasing grey. But when I looked behind me, the sky had the color of sock-soaking dark grey - so everything I endured must have been true. The wetness of my socks and the last notes of a Risk Astley song reminded me of this truth.

OK, so now I could move on, crossing the Oikawa and riding along road 79 to one of the biggest incidents of ruthless and senseless wasting of tax payers money in the shape of the new Fuji Shizuoka Airport opened in June 2009. I checked the website to make sure that this airport is offering the staggering amount of 20 national and 6 international flights per hour! No, I was joking, this is the number of flights per day. I guess during rush hour there are more trains leaving the station closest to my house per hour than flights the whole day there. JAL has a high share of this flights which is their fate: As a quasi national carrier they have to serve all this micro airports and mini routes in Japan. More flights are done by the home airline, Fuji Dream Airlines (FDA, owned by Suzuyo). I don't know what you think which you hear the abbreviation FDA, but apart from "Feine Deutsche Art", a German Punk Band from Duesseldorf in the Eighties, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION is probably close to what most people would come up with. I had to laugh which I checked the Japanese website of the FDA (the airline, that is) and they introduce their (three plus one) travel destinations by displaying pictures of typical food of the region. Food after all?
Now, how do you come to this airport, if not on the bike from Yokohama? Well, the next train station is 6 km away. Funny enough, the next train line is precisely under the airport, being the Tokaido Shinkansen line, but no train stops there and neitehr are there any plans to built a station. Luckily. And to Shizuoka City it is about an hour by bus. I would dare to say that from many places in Shizuoka, one is equally fast at Haneda airport in Tokyo or at Chubu Airport in Nagoya.

It never stops amazing me, how these dinosaurs of poor infrastructure planing appear suddenly in the middle of nowhere-Japan. It is the same with Fuji Speedway: You ride there by bike or by car, there are no big roads, no signboards, nothing. Suddenly, they pop up in front of you.

OK, I had to stop to get angry with myself and eventually get cancer as a consequence and start doing something for my health, i.e. to continue to ride. Road 79 was quite pleasant with a lot of ups and downs and before long I was in familiar territory in Kikugawa and Kakegawa where I joined again road 1 for a short stretch. Now that I was sure that I would make it and almost in daylight, I decided to pay a short visit to my old factory in Fukuroi.
The factory got ISO 9001 approval on Christmas Day, 1997 but even 12 years later it was still lacking Positivo Espresso approval so I changed this quickly. Also the test tower for a budget elevator (Smart) was still standing on the factory ground. As this is one of the few meaningless things I helped to become reality in my working life, I PE-approved the elevator as well before I wanted to leave silently. But, oh God, someone was coming out of the building, he had seen me and there was no way I was going to get away unnoticed. This looked for trouble! But, the guy just got into his car without caring about me and drove home (actually it was precisely 5 PM, so he didn't even made one minute of service overtime work at the office there). Then I remembered that this was precisely the work attitude of many of my colleges I have worked with at Schindler: If something doesn't fit into the precise frame of one's work assignment, it can be ignored safely. I always had my problems with this attitude and I am sad to note that this hasn't changed ten years later.

From there on I rode on road 413 and 1 through Iwate and finally crossed Tenryu river into Hamamatsu. I could now see the second tower, that is the bubble-area Act City skyscraper close to the main station.

An hour later I checked into a small business hotel with bike storage, was sitting in a yakitori bar and drinking beer and munched on some very delicious pieces of something on wooden sticks.
The circle was closed, I was back where I started 12 years ago.

Mid Week Ride Announcement : 31. March (Wed) Chichibu Hills and Sights

For tomorrow, we have scheduled a nice criss-cross ride through some well known areas of Chichibu, including medium climbs and some temples and shrines along the way:


Meeting Points are at 7 AM on the Komazawa Dori / Kanpachi Intersection and at 7.30 AM at Tamagawahara Bridge, Tokyo side (km 0).

From there on we will proceed along the Tamagawa towards Ome and have a second breakfast at Aurore bakery (km 32) where we need to pack enough food supplies for the climbs to come.

We will then follow the road to the holy foundation and start the first hill climb time trial up to Yamabushi Toge (participation optional). This will be followed by the short climb to Shomaru Toge and a fast downhill to road 299. From where we will start the second time trial to Karibazaka (again, optional). Eventually this will lead us to Takayama Temple and back to road 299, where we will turn North again and start to climb up to the famous Nennogon Temple (from the non-steep side).

A quick, pointless ride will lead some of us for the first time to Takedera. After everything hard is done, we will make a second rest stop (km 112) and continue back to the Tamagawa and ultimately home.

About 156 km of riding, covering app. 1.900 meter of elevation starting Tamagawahara Bashi.
So far Jerome, David, Dominic (tbc) and me have signed up. If anybody else is interested, please let us know, we can arrange further meeting points if convenient.

29 March 2010

April 11th, 2010

“Just you wait, my dears, and see what happens on the cobbles.

And, indeed, you see soon enough. Or rather, you hear, because it’s the din that hits you first as the pandemonium engulfs you. Press cars and motorbikes roar past you. Everyone is shouting because of the scraping, the falling, the bursting tyres. Everything is falling apart. The bikes have got the jitters: their rattling makes an appalling racket. And you get the full force of it in your arms.

Then comes the silence. You find yourself with two or three other blokes, in tatters like yourself. You guess that one has a puncture and the other has come off the bike; your shoes are lying next to you. You may be a bit of the battlefield, but you know nothing of the continuing battle, either ahead or behind.

Around the next turn you spot more victims, carrying a wheel or an entire bike in their arms.

The cobbles come to an end. On to a tarmac section. you can’t help laughing. Your bike turns back into a bike, tame again.”

Tomorrow, We Ride - Jean Bobet via Rue Da Tropical

Just because it's painful, doesn't mean it hurts.


28 March 2010

Old birds, no monkeys & a moose knuckle

After missing 2 early morning spinning sessions I was feeling guilty about being unreliable so I woke up before my alarm. Humphrey and I ventured outside and ascertained it was indeed chilly. My pleasant discovery of the day was that the guilt I had been feeling for missing the Thursday morning spinning session was in fact mistaken as today James K, he of the huge(-ish) quads, let it slip that he too was in such a state after our Wednesday night out that he did not make it either. The pain on Thursday morning was worth it as the previous night I attended an excellent concert by Jools Holland, met him and one of his guest singers, Ruby Turner, for who I worked as security in 1984 when she came to perform at my university. I also bumped into the principal of my children's school but luckily that was only mid-evening and I was able to pull off the "responsible parent act". Digression no.1 over. 

James K, Michael H, Shane, Jamie (not actually in the Cervelo Test Team), and dangerous looking newcomer, Peter, met at Ebisu. It should be noted that this week Jamie was playing the part of Euro-Cyclist by wearing an all white top. Thankfully this was not accompanied by white booties and if he was wearing a gold chain it was not visible. Although impressed with dangerous-looking Peter's exquisite taste in windbreaker (Rapha), the Garmin team jersey peaking out from underneath was disconcerting. I soon learnt that he came 2nd in his age group at the Singapore Iron-Man. While on the subject of the Iron-Man allow me one more digression to share with you a priceless comment from Jerome last week: "The Iron-Man is painful for me as I tend not to train much beforehand". Hard as nails him.

Along the river Jamie filled the role usually taken by Jerome by leading off at a blistering pace. It was Michael's first ride for a while and he was thinking it was going to be a long day...... Jamie and Peter split off towards Takao and the rest headed uneventfully to The Aurore Bakery in Ome. Shockingly today they had not baked any Royal Milk Bread, the staple diet which sits heavily in the stomachs of PE riders. Perhaps they know that the newly appointed Professor of Cyclology is leaving these shores. Upon enquiry the baker steered me to something smaller with sliced almonds atop which he promised was made from the same dough. Tasted similar, but just wasn't the real thing. Worth noting that early Saturday morning prices are Y100 for any pastry.

Leaving Ome Michael soon fell behind. As mentioned above he had not ridden for a while and it took him about 100m to work out the reason he couldn't clip into has pedals was that he had not removed his cleat covers. This happened again amidst the throngs of fans as we were leaving Shinjuku station to head home. He was swallowed up by the crowd and not seen again.

From Ome we crossed the river to Yoshino-kaido and rode to Okutamako. We stopped at the PE-orange bridge for a photo, partly out of deference to our spiritual leader who will depart Japan soon. While posing for photos a group of Japanese riders in full bright gear flashed past us, probably amazed to see 4 riders none of who had any logos or sponsorship on their clothing. This must have struck them as very odd as they passed us for a 2nd look when we stopped for water stop at Watanabe & Watanabe's (below).
There is no recorded visit here by Herge, author of the Tintin books and creator of the characters of Thompson & Thomson (Dupont & Dupont in the original French text), but he must have somehow got inspiration from W & W.

Allowing for digression no. 3 it is interesting to note that in the Greek version of Tintin books Thompson & Thomson are know asΝτυπόν and Ντιπόν. In other languages: Tik & Tak (Arabic), Schultze & Schulze (German), Dupont & Duvon (Japanese), Uys & Buys (Afrikaans) and Hernandez and Fernandez (Spanish). Now you know.

Along Rte 139 we climbed the beautiful climb to the top of Matsuhime (officially 1,250m and my Garmin agreed). Views were stunning and road condition was good with most snow having melted. It wasn't until I was 50m from the top that I realised I had been there before with mob last year.
That time we had climbed from the other side and caught up and rode with a middle aged Japanese lady (Y.I.) with a triple up front who knew more routes than all PE riders combined. I remember being so exhausted that my only contribution to the conversation was a few grunts. While enjoying the views we chatted to 2 local riders who came tearing up the hill a few minutes after us. Both weighed 60kg or less, had single digit body fat and were the proverbial lungs-on-a-stick. Cheating.

We endured a cold descent towards Otsuki with headwinds blasting at us through the tunnels. In true PE tradition we did not exactly stick to the plan but made a detour to Sarubashi for an ice-cream. This gave Michael the opportunity to charm the local old birds running the shops.
No monkeys were spotted on the famous bridge. Note that this trip missed out on the obligatory pointless ride. We went to Otsuki, bought plenty of beer for recovery and boarded the train to Shinjuku. While a young lady diagonally opposite us was clearly checking out Michael's and my sculpted leg muscles, James had to endure a moose knuckle (taking a photo could have led to arrest).

Shane, James and I stopped for a beer at Bondi Cafe in Hiroo. This place is the idealost-ride venue. Indoor and outdoor seating, welcomes humans, dogs, children and even lycra-clad cyclists. All I will say is the manager is extremely easy on the eye and a far cry from the obasan of Sarubashi (half the age and weight, double the height and good power to weight ratio). This place is a worthy candidate for Positivo-Espresso club-house (central Tokyo chapter) and I herewith propose it for official approval.

147km, 1843m of climbing, 6hrs 20 in the saddle and 4 beers.

Snowmobiling in Saitama

Ludwig, looking forward to seeing your pictures and reading your version of our "adventure". Once more, Mea Culpa Mea Culpa Mea Maxima Culpa for the Holy Fountain stop I omitted!! Did you get our elevation gain figure right? How about a map?

27 March 2010

The Great Yanagisawa etc. Attack

James, Jerome an me planned to do a 250 km "weekend tour preparation ride" on Friday which led us to some surprising places.

As it can be read on the ride announcement post, we were planning to attack Yanagisawa Toge (about 100 km away, over 1.400 m high) followed by Kamihikawa Toge and some other minor peaks. So we met very early in the morning at the Tamagawa and made good progress in direction Ome along the main road. We passed the brand-new Fussa town hall, followed by the Ome town hall under construction. What a waste of money (at least they could spend the money for road repairs). Fussa has a populationof about 60.000.

Until James rear wheel got a flat from a glass shard that penetrated his tyre. Believe it or not, it took the three of us more than 45 minutes to get his bike running again; wasting another tube along the way, ripping apart one of his tyre levers and fiddling around with three bike pumps before we got the thing inflated finally.

So we were late already. And by now it had started to fizzle as well. The general environmental feeling was rather unpleasant, so we had a long breakfast & coffee break at Ome Station shopping at the 7-Eleven, Aurore bakery and McDonalds where we had six cups of coffee for the price of three. James complained to the girl behind the counter that was speaking in a frequency band barely audible by bats, about the quality of the coffee, so we all got one for free.

Later, when we mounted our bikes, the weather has become even worse despite all nice looking weather forecasts. It was miserable. In the best tradition of Positivo Espresso we decided to give up our ambitious plans and ride to Umenoki, hoping that the weather would be better closer to the coast.

It was the first time for James and Jerome to climb up Umenoki and we were all having fun [of different degrees and magnitudes]. James was zooming ahead but suddenly I saw him waiting some meters in front: Because of the recent storms, some trees were lying on the road ahead. But not only that, the trees have fallen in a way that they have ripped off the cables of the nearby power line so we needed to be double careful when crossing all the obstacles to avoid sudden and instant electro-execution.

I made it up to the top in 23:48 min and included that time in a new Togebaka TT (No.21 see right below, James and Jerome might want to add). On the top it was cold (3 deg. Celsius), raining and we met a friendly MTB rider who told us that the weather would be more or less the same down the other side in Itsukaichi.

So we made the only possible and logical decision and headed 4 km to Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, where we bought a towel (110 Yen), stepped into the outside hot water basin and relaxed and talked for almost two hours. We were still hoping that the weather might get better, but it didn't. Finally we mounted our bikes and rode on. It was hard, because after the Onsen my body was in a mental state of "OK, well done for the day, let's relax."

James wife wants to loose some weight to be even more competitive in the next JCRC race so she planned to visit the hairdresser in the afternoon. Which in turn implied that James had to come home early. We parted in front of Itsukaichi Station and Jerome and me continued to climb up to Kobu tunnel. Where the weather was still miserable.

And then we rode down on the other side to road 20 and Uenohara where we stopped to have lunch for another very relaxed hour.

Finally we rode along road 76, taking a turn to include Magino pass (read correctly: Makime pass) in our ride. Makime-toge has a very steep last part with a donut-patterned concrete road but suddenly I felt super-strong again and sprinted up the final approach to the top.

And then we made our way along Doshi-Michi back to Hashimoto where I could convince Jerome that it would make sense to jump on the train home. Most of the riding and climbing was done after the Onsen visit but even by riding until 5 PM, we only managed to go 140 km in almost 12 hours.

In Shin-Yokohama I assembled my (dirty) bike and rode home, passing the skating rink where my wife and daughter have spend the last 5 years almost every day and night. And for the first time I actually met them there outside. So we agreed on a race, who would be home sooner: them with the car, or me on the bike. I won hands down. I even had time to undress and jump into the shower before they came.

Now I guess I should also clean my bike to be in good shape for whatever my bike and me have to endure on Sunday.

25 March 2010

The Human "omes"

From WIRED magazine. Found that sometime ago on a flight, wanted to post it forever.

Taipeh Cycle Show : Future Bicycle Design

Spiegel-Online published an article [in German only] today about bicycle designs that were awarded prizes at the Taipeh Cycle Show.

This is only about design,basically done on CAD basis with additional rendering, none of these bikes exist. Having experienced a lot of flat tires again recently, I like the design of the bike with a continuous rubber belt along the rear and front wheel position.
As a very simple idea, I also like the bike with the huge shopping net in the front, this could be a nice diversification of mama-charis in Japan.

Otherwise: Not too innovative, rather done by professional designers than people from the bike industry, as there is too much emphasis on appearance and less on function. Designers try to make things out of bikes that they aren't. Like toasters with USB ports. Added functionality is not always a plus, in case of bicycles it makes them heavy and, ultimately, useless.

24 March 2010

Friday Ride Announcement 26.03.2010

Meeting at 6:30hr at Tamagawahara bridge (Tokyo side),

we will ride along the Tamagawa to Ome and have a nice second breakfast at Aurore bakery in front of Ome station. We will then continue to climb up to Okutama lake and further to Yanagisawa pass, before descenting in direction Ensan. But not for too long. A left turn will lead us to Kamihikawa Toge and then finally to route 20 just in front of Sasago tunnel. Which is very long, so we will climb up to the haunted old Sasago tunnel, then find our way through backroads to road 35 and Hinazuru and Akiyama. The rest is easy: On to Tsukui lake and Onekan and we are almost home.
Anybody interested to join? So far Jerome, James M. and me have signed up. Please let me know.

Wild Life

Ludwig isn't only know for his cycling skills. He is also a talented classical musician, playing the viola for the Low4 Pro-dark (Aoyama Symphonic Orchestra) Team [some names have been changed to protect the innocent]. As such he is known in our family as "The Obsessed", or "Der Bessesene" in German. On Monday, the Obsessed and I went out to take a closer look at the wild life in the mountains west of Tokyo.Back when we were still living in Tokyo, we had a German Aupair, Henrike, who was also a very skilled Cello player and played with the Aoyama Symphony Orchestra alongside Ludwig. When she was on a visit with us last month, she met some of her old friends from the orchestra. They promptly told her that Ludwig didn't come any longer to rehearsals because - I quote - "he is now obsessed with bicycle riding". So, when riding out with Ludwig these days, I always tell my family that I am riding with the Obsessed, so it will be a hard and painful ride, leading me to roads to bridges and passes to nowhere. I will come home late but alas, all of this is not my fault as I am just trying to hang on to the Obsessed. This has proven to become a very useful excuse which allows me the freedom to do almost any ride on any given day. Provided it is in the company of the Obsessed. Ludwig finally got his new Red Bull Cyclo Cross bike. As we still had to settle an account with road 76, we met early in the morning on Sunday at the Tamagawa and rode out the usual route along the Asakawa to Takao. Mount Fuji was shining bright and polished in the back when I made a photo at the Asakawa bridge that I always wanted to take, with Ludwig proudly sporting his brand new bike. In view of the dirt roads ahead I had mounted Bad Boy which made it hard to follow Ludwig on the flatter parts. As it was hard to follow him on the slightly steeper parts as well. As it was also hard to follow him on the steep parts and during the down hills and finally the stairs up to the platform of the train. OK, he is the Obsessed one, obviously. As a warm-up we scaled Otarumi, Ludwig rather fast and me rather slow. Almost every time I climb up there I remember that in 2003 I wasn't able to reach the top before dismounting about two thirds up. And even when I slowly move up these days, it gives me this nice feeling of having achieved something in relative terms. As we were not yet completely warmed up on the top, we decided to add Bijotani to our trip before heading for route 76. As usual, Bijotani was brimming with activities. "Activities" it this sense means that everybody is at home watching TV and nobody is seen outside despite the splendid weather. The gate closing off the road to Busu Toge [the pass on top of the road between Bijotani and the road leading to Wada Toge, which has been named Busu Pass for the time being] had been reinforced with additional slats on both sides and a new signboard was attached to emphasize that "really, really it wasn't possible to pass through, even for cyclists and hikers". No obstacle for us, though. The road was in better shape than I had remembered it. About two thirds up construction activities were being conducted, removing the old asphalt surface on a length of perhaps 200 to 300 meters. When ready, we can expect a flawless, perfect road with no cars [as there are gates on both sides] and an increase of the Japanese state debt to GDP ratio to finally over 200%.We took a short break on the top and noticed a small hiking path leading to 明王峠 (read myo-o toge). We left our bicycles at the entrance and followed the trail to the pass, which was supposedly only 500 meters away but added at least another 100 meters of elevation. There were quite a few hikers at the pass and a lot of warning signs; this seemed to be a dangerous place indeed. Nonetheless the view was beautiful, not only in direction of Mount Fuji, but also of the backside of hikers sitting in front of us.
Wow: "Let me hit the road - EMPTY HEADED" <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]-->
It is good to know that there are still people in this country coming up with poetic expressions, 1,000 years after Lady Murasaki has written a long version of the Momoyama area equivalent to current Japanese TV dramas and 350 years after Basho was looking for the narrow roads to the interior. If one followed the trail further - probably not possible by bike, but maybe fine by crossbike after all? - one would end up at Wada Toge, reaching it on the trail that starts just behind the witch house. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]--> We then took the road down. Ludwig's new brakes were making an incredible noise, in particular when he was out of my sight; I thought that perhaps a flock of ducks on heat was coming forward to attack us. Actually the braking sound proved a real blessing, as it attracted many different forms of wild life and game onto the road. Coming down from Myo-o toge we thus encountered a small tribe of monkeys crossing the road and for the first time I was able to take a photo of one of them. Later we also saw some pheasants, as well as a roe deer on top of Inukoeji Toge. All of them, looking as if they were crazy for wild, animalic sex having heard the sound of supposed partners ready to mate. Perhaps not so attracted by the sound of brakes was a group of motor cyclists at a 7-Eleven at route 20 where we took a short break. To my utter surprise, these machines have even bigger tires than our cyclo cross bikes. Perhaps Dominic may also want to think about an upgrade for his Ducati 900SS.After riding all of road 76 to Aone, we then continued on our adventure riding road 76 up to Inukoeji pass. First we reached the right-wing radical camping side where rightist hoodlums can take showers while making threatening phone calls to liberal politicians from an anonymous phone booth. The road is closed about 3-4km further up by a gate which doesn't offer any significant resistance. Thereafter the road continues to be asphalted for another 3 or 4 kilometers but after that the dirt track and thus the real adventure starts, only occasionally interrupted by short stretches of asphalt on bridges or in tunnels. All of a sudden, a really, really incredibly terrible thing happened: While approaching another tunnel, a big rock came tumbling down the mountain, hitting me on my beloved Bad Boy, instantly killing me as can be seen in the photo below, which Ludwig was so kind to shoot instead of providing emergency aid. In order not to give Ludwig the chance to sprint away from the scene and be first up the mountain, my ghost mounted my golly Bad Boy and made a run to the top at full speed. Where, having got rid of my mortal bodily weight, I arrived a full 13 minutes earlier than him. I could hear him coming through the tunnel braking, although I thought at first that a sex-crazy herd of wild boars was on the attack. His lame excuse was that he had been threatened by rape of multiple wild animals after losing sight of me while taking photos of a supposedly idyllic nature which turned out to be less than idyllic in so many ways…We started to descend to Tanzawa lake. I felt a very low pressure in my rear tire which had allowed me to ride fast over the dirt trail but now the whole bike felt unstable in the curves on the fast downhills. I was very, very careful not to crash, but thinking it over as I write this post, I was dead anyway so the difference wouldn't have been too big if I had crashed, would it? Lake Tanzawa was beautiful in the sun, all glimmer and shimmer like a Shibuya nail polish studio. We took a short break and suddenly I found myself with a much softer than usual Ludwig, toying with the local pet. Instead of taking the easy road to 246 we decided that we would have time to do another pass, this time road 710 leading up to Hadano Toge.
This proved to be another very long and steep climb, including a nice false pass two thirds of the way up. Ludwig had kindly offered me to change bikes. He was struggling with Bad Boy while I was having a hell of a time on his new red bull. My riding impressions were the following: Riding the new cyclocross bike was a delight. This Red Bull X-Lite Cross AL-4400 is a bargain from German mail order company rose.de, costing only JPY 180,000 (but plus a rather steep JPY 40,000 shipping fees and import taxes) for what is quite high-value equipment. The China-made alu frame is very stiff - unbelievably stable on fast downhills. The Easton EA70 wheels feel light despite the 35mm Continental cyclocross tires. They become a bit noisy when going faster, but the drag seems relatively low. They performed superbly in the very difficult stony terrain. One feels much more safely navigating through and over stones and other debris on all the rindos, but also simply less bumpy over uneven normal roads. The SRAM Force gear set works well. I adjusted quickly to the different way of shifting up. Precision is very good. There are advantages and disadvantages over Shimano - probably more a matter of taste than ultimate performance difference. It is good though SRAM components are relatively light, so the entire bike off-the-shelf weights just 8.5kg, which is very light for a cross bike. The cantilever brakes work very well, in fact, better than any other brakes I have ever had. They are still very noisy, and I had a blast playing trumpet on them on downhills, alerting just about anyone of our impending arrival. OK, I admit it, I owe this break in style to my ghost writer… There were slope markers all over the place, reading 12%, 14% and 16%. It is funny how one relaxes if there is one indicating only 9%. We could see the road winding up ahead of us, a bit similar to the southern approach of Matsuhime Toge. We eventually scaled also this pass. Half way down on the other side, we faced the choice between making another short climb on a gated forest road or heading down as fast as we could to road 246 and then on to the station of Shin-Matsuda. It was very tempting to make another detour but it was also very late. It seems one could go almost all the way to the road to Yabitsu on forest roads - we must try another day. Well today we had to pay the price for our nice Myo-o adventures and headed straight for Shin-Matsuda. Strange how almost flat or even declining roads at the end of a long trip always seem so boring and endless. Yet we made it. Including the distance to our meeting point, more than 150 km of beautiful riding and more than 2,300 elevation meters scaled. I am afraid that this might turn out to be not dissimilar from my yearly elevation total for riding in North Germany in 2011.