28 February 2011

Bremen - Berlin - Axis

I visited Berlin with my family last weekend. The purpose was not to ride the bike, but to watch a figure skating competition in which my daughter started.

On Sunday we went to visit Checkpoint Charlie and met Marek, who rode with Positivo in Tokyo some years ago. He now owns a very nice Olmo fixie and runs his own language school Cafe Lingo in Berlin. What I admire is his persistence to travel the world an visit many countries. So I asked him what would be his favourite countries for cycling. Answer: Japan and New Zealand. We both complained about the lack of mountains in Berlin and Bremen and decided to go cycling close to his hometown in the "Harz" in spring. The highest mountain there, the "Brocken" has an altitude of 1.141 m.

We went to the German Currwurst Museum after we have met Marek. The Currywurst is very special German food, invented by Hertha Heuser in post WW2 Berlin.

Much to my surprise, a map in the museum showed the places where Currywurst is served in foreign countries. Bernds Bar in Roppongi was presented as well as the lunchbox  Zeitgeist which is located just around the corner from the Positivo Espresso European HQ building.

I registed for the Velothon race in Berlin (120 km) in may as well.

New Parts

I just love the moment when I come home from works and a new parcel with some bicycle parts has arrived at my home during my absence.

This is part of the new handle assembly for my Peugeot Galibier. It will replace the current bullhorn handle bar. I am just waiting for the stem, so that I can replace the whole unit. I will keep the bullhorn with levers and cabling so it will be relatively easy to swop both assemblies. I just love the Tektro brake levers for its simplistic, light design.

New wheels. My Campa Zonda rims have been reduced to less than 1 mm width due to extensive braking in the mountains of Bremen. I was looking for something very light and a reasonable price that would be a match for my (body) weight. These wheels are advertised by Nelson Vails, so they should be just fine.

This one is not for me. Unfortunately. And with frame size 52 cm it is too small for me anyway. But I mange to buy this blue Chesini Criterium frame from 1996 for Hiroshi of C Speed who will covert it into something even more beautiful, I am sure of. Europe is a heaven of old steel bike frames.

I just love the headbadges of Italian bikes. My favourites are Bottecchia, Olmo, CIOCC and Chesini. The Chesini headbadge consists of a metal badge glued to the steering tube and a rather rough engraving with white paint above and below.

There is a bike show in Bremen on March 12 and 13th with a special exhibition about Italian classic steel bikes. I will send some photos later.

25 February 2011

40.000 Hits

I just checked that we have almost achieved 40.000 hits on the Clustrmap counter. We are again picking up speed as you can see from the data below:

0 - 5.000 hits from 14.11.07, the start of the site to 26.09.2008, 316 days,
- 10.000 hits to 21.05.2009, 228 days
- 15.000 hits to 18.11.2009, 181 days
- 20.000 hits to 21.03.2010, 123 days
- 25.000 hits to 14.06.2010, 85 days.
- 30.000 hits to 24.09.2010, 102 days
- 35.000 hits to 17.12.2010, 84 days
- 40.000 hits to 25.02.2011, 70 days

Shaving off weight

What is the most cost-effective way to lower the total weight of your bike? This is a question I asked myself and perhaps some other members would like to contribute as well.

So let's start with two examples. Two of the components where most of the weight of a racing bike is concentrated is the frame and the wheels. 

A typical Cervelo S1 frameset retails in Germany for 126.000 Yen and weights 1.460g (size 56) without fork, head set and other components. Bare frame. The Cervelo S3 frame retails for the equivalent of 470.000 Yen and weights only 1.080g in the same frame size. Thus one get 380g of weight saving for 344.000 Yen of additional cost. Or one pays 905 Yen for every g lost.

Now let's take a look at wheels. A good standard wheel set are the Campagnolo Zondas which I have been using for years. In Germany they are sold for 45.000 Yen and they weight about 1.550g without quick release, rim tape and rear cassette. If you have the courage (and the body weight) to use them, Mavic R Sys SL provide a lighter alternative at 1.295g for 172.000 Yen. So 255g for 127.000 Yen. Or 498 Yen for every g less.

I am aware that all calculation depend on the starting point (which frame, wheel etc. is your benchmark) and how far you will go. The first g less will cost much less than the last one as well.

But I wonder, is there any component that would stick out? Quick release? Tires? Tubes?

Michelin Airstop Air 1 tube with 40mm Presta valve. 93g for 569 Yen. Continental Race Supersonic Tube with Presta 36 mm valve. 45g for 1034 Yen. Less than 10 Yen per g reduced. Well, but it is hard to shave off more than 100g from the total weight by using different tubes. Or no tubes?

Any contributions?

Extreme Altitude Training

Todays training led me again to the town of Ritterhude, which is partly located 48 m above sea level. Three major hills, one of them with cobblestones and one even with 20m elevation difference provide a training mecca for the Transalp 2011 in Northern Germany.

Another cold day in Bremen. To solve my "cold feet" problem I opted today for one pair of woolen socks and another one on top. Plus one カイロ in each shoe plus Assos shoe cover. It felt much better than the last time, but I was only outside for 2 1/2 hours and in addition it was rather warm: Four degrees plus when I rode in the afternoon. What a bliss to ride the Cervelo again. But wait, what's coming next.....

Riding along the river Wuemme, the swamps to the right were still frozen.
With a nice tailwind that was not too strong and staying below 145 HRM, I made good progress and reached Ritterhude after 25 km. There is a very nice "hill" that leads up from the river to the main road on a cobblestone street. This is the Ritterhude version of 
this nice hill, located somewhere in Belgium.

There is even a "Kapel" in the background as well. Sorry if you can't see the slope. It is ever so slightly. This nice road lead up to the not so nice main shopping street of Ritterhude that in turn turns into a major road leading to Osterholz-Scharmbek. Basically it is the road version of the life of Leif Garrett. But at least there is another slope which adds perhaps 10m followed by the longest slope around Bremen with about 20m elevation difference. DIY center on the right, car dealers on the left. You get the picture. A smaller version of 246.

Then there is a long straight part, until the road makes right turn goes down for about 20 m elevation and come up again. I did this once and back all the way and then I started to do the Kapelmuur again. This added more than 200m of elevation to my training today, which is the rough equivalent of one Otarumi from the Sagamiko side. All data from my Ciclo bike computer, so please be aware that my statements are grossly exaggerated.

I rode back the same way and was home 2 1/2 hours after I left. 70 km of training. My legs, heart and lungs are OK, but I really feel the lack of long rides recently because my upper body, especially the shoulders, are starting to hurt quite fast. 
I also fell down when I accidentally disengaged from the left pedal, so that the bike leaned to the right side where my shoes were still clipped in. I saw it coming but had no chance to escape. But after all the crashes in winter, this was really nothing.

Will be off to Berlin tomorrow. Another figure skating competition. Probably I will meet Marek as well.

21 February 2011

Cyrogenic 102

After watching my daughter taking second place in the cup of the federal state of Bremen figure skating competition on Saturday I was motivated enough to focus on my own "sport career" and venture out into the flatlands of Bremen and Lower Saxony on Sunday.

David was so kind to remind me of Toms wonder weapon (V3 Vlamse Vielrennner Dre) against cold feet, the self heating patch from Japan. Actually we have quite a supply at home, even the shoe specific type, but I was just to stupid to ask my wife so far.
So I left at 1 AM on my Cervelo when temperatures reached - 2 degrees, the highlight of the day. The skies were blue and I enjoyed a nice tailwind riding out along the river Wuemme. My orange Assos jacket offered me good protection against the elements, but my feet got cold as usual. I continued along the river until Lessum where I made a right turn in direction Ritterhude. This is the only road I know that offers some degree of climbing training: First 20 meters up, mainly on cobblestones in the old part of the village and later two times 20 m up, but unfortunately on a congested road leading through industrial wasteland. 

I rode further to Osterholz-Scharmbek and made a right turn in direction SOS landscape and Worpswede. And now I ran fully into a very strong headwind, almost similar to what we have seen here lately. Yes, to have a very light bike can have its own disadvantages.

I arrived at Worspwede back on the usual road and continued in direction Quelkorn and Fischerhude. Riding fully against the wind, my speed dropped to 22 or 23 km/hr. Not only that, but I the wind also contributed in getting my feet and hands very cold. I took a 5 minute break to eat a banana and could hardly use my hands to peel it.

But when I made the turn at Fischerhude and ran North again I enjoyed a tailwind and could easily ride at 35 km/hr without making too much effort. After 83 km distance I was back at the river Wuemme so I decided to go 5 km further North, ride back the same distance and then take the usual 7 km ride home, to make it a full hundred. The first time this year and it is already February.

Before riding home I made a small detour and rode over a pedestrian bridge that crosses a semi-highway close to our house. I like this bridge. It's a little bit tricky to ride up and it offers perhaps 5 m of elevation training. I never cross the street here at street level, I always ride up and down the bridge. With the Cervelo it is easy to do in the big ring (compact) with the biggest cog in the rear. With the Gazelle I have to choose the small ring plus the biggest cog and even then it is hard work.

I was home after 4:10 hrs and covered 102 km, taking less than 10 minutes of break. It was a good training, but it wasn't any fun at all. I could barely insert the key in the lock and turn it - my hands were ice.

Of course this is nothing against the pain that Azizulhasni Awang experienced when he crashed on the wooden track in Manchester during a world cup track meeting on Saturday.
The obvious thing to do after such crash is, obviously, to HTFU, get on your feet, on your bike and cross the finish line to win the event. As shown on You Tube.

20 February 2011

Cloudy and Clammy

This weekend has brought temperatures that appear higher than recent past (highs around 10 degrees C), but cloudy and damp, clammy weather chills down to the bones.

In any event, I needed to work, so I could not head out with Jerome and Didier this morning, and my rides this weekend have been limited to two quick trips to the hill at Yomiuri V Dori.  This morning's ride profile looks like this:
Each rep is 700+ meters length and 60+ meters elevation gain.  Today I did 9x at a slightly higher speed than yesterday when I only had energy and patience for 6x.

Not much, but better than the "hill" MOB discovered near Bremen!

19 February 2011

Der hohe Berg (high mountain)

The only way to add significant elevation meters in and round Bremen is, when you accidentally ride over a cow. So naturally I was very curious, when a fellow professor (sic!) told me that close to his home town called "Syke" a substantial bump in the landscape would perhaps provide the ideal training ground for Transalp 2011.

Well of course I was not expecting something of the degree of Odarumi Toge, but I thought that at least some slopes would be present. Another cold winter day in Bremen with temperatures hovering around freezing point was awaiting me outside. I fixed some of the bikes in the morning and got the Cervelo ready for the first time this year. So far I have used only the Gazelle (Rain), Bad boy (Snow) and the Peugeot (to show-off). But today the roads were at least dry, so I pumped up the tires of the Cervelo for the 2011 virginal ride.

I hate cold feet. So I wore some light summer racing socks, over which I put some thick woolen socks. On the outside of the cycling shoes I wore the Assos show covers plus an additional rain/windproof shoe cover. No chance, 30 minutes on the road and my feet were cold as liquid nitrogen.

By the way: Assos. I bought an extremely nice Assos Air Jack 851 limited edition, yes, you guessed correctly, in orange. I even own the matching head gear. I am not a big fan of Assos, but nevertheless some of their products are very good I believe (air jack 851, shoecovers, early winter gloves, robocap....) But they are also very pricey. When Assos pops up in my mind the next thought is always "Rapha". I don't even own one piece from Rapha - not that I don't like their stuff. I think they did a lot good for design in clothing and advertising.

Assos designers have difficulties to design decent zippers with functional sliders. The old shoecovers I owned had a metal slider attachment in the shape of the Assos "A". Depending on the design and the matching of sizes between the shoes and the shoe covers, to put them on can be a real hassle. It was almost impossible to close the zipper without bloody fingers, as he slider attachment was really hard to grap. After a while they broke off as there are to brittle. Really a poor job, given the fact that otherwise the shoecovers are a) warm and b) very expensive.

I have wore the air jack perhaps 4 or 5 times and then the slider was also broken. Send it back to the seller last week. Will get a brandnew jacket next week - I hope it will hold.
Saturday Update: Got it back just new. A beautiful new jacket. Some type of slider though. Claim processing in Germany is really wonderful. However I wish they would do it right the first time.

Perhaps I could wear my bib shorts over the base layer, extend it towards my neck and fix them there with some safety pins as Carol Ally is showing here.

I left a 1 PM ..wow. the Cervelo felt so great, after riding all this old bikes for the last months. The Cervelo was like a ... rocket .. a spaceship .... stellar performance. But as I said, it was cold and the wind was very strong. I rode out of town, then along the river Weser on the West side in direction South. Normally I stay on the East side of the river, very rarely I venture out to the West. Dreye, Kirchwehye, Barrien... I mention these names because perhaps Ludwig got a paramedical training in one or the other village. Cold, windy, cloudy, not too much green, long straight roads, no fun.

Finally I made it into Syke, and yes, there were some hills there. I enjoyed the climbs, although no one got me more than perhaps 15 m elevation difference. And even that is probably grossly overstated. It took a while before I found the road to "der hohe Berg" but I couldn't see any rise in elevation. The road was flat as.... as....as any and all roads here are flat in the area.

The I noted that the street on the right side was named "der hohe Berg" so I made a right turn and followed the road to its end. And there it was the high hill: A whopping 3 meters above average surface level that warranted the construction of an observation tower.

Total elevation above seas level: 63 meter. If you climb the tower, about 20% more.
But be careful, the tower may swing which is , as a warning notice explains, "due to nature". I personally feel that it is more likely due to "poor engineering" or "poor construction execution" or perhaps to the laws of physic. Only after that, one may be allowed to blame nature.

OK, my feet weren't getting any warmer so I rode home and fiddled around with the Faggin frame. If this bike will ever get ready, it will become a very interesting one. My goal is to built a very light bike for Bremen, actually the lightest bike I ever had - without me. Meaning? Well I am a little bit tired of this theoretical discussions about weights of bikes; like 41 cm frame size as representative. And I never understood why bike weights are always measured without pedals? You need pedals to ride a bike, right? Just as you need a handle bar or wheels. And when you ride out you need a water bottle, a repair kit, a pump, some lights and and and..... So let's define this as the bike riding weight: Get naked on the scale, then dress up, make yourself ready for the ride and get back on the scale with the bike in your hands. How much is the difference?

Of course I will use some small cheats. For example I will not mount a front derailleur. I have one, but why should I mount it? I never ever used a front derailleur in Bremen. Unless I accidentally ride over cows, of course.

Well, the next months I have to train hard, so that in June David, Juliane and David again don't have to wait for hours on top of every fricking pass in the alps. Why did I come to this conclusion? Because recently I had an interesting telephone conversation with Hiroshi. He said, that David is training hard and shed a lot of weight, so he became really fast and has tons of stamina. Enough for every single pass in the alps. I, on the other hand was assuming that I was the faster rider per se (although, I have to admit, I have been faster only for a very short period in time: in 2008 my goal for Fuji hill climb was to "tonikaku" beat David regardless of the result). So my training for Transalp consisted of eating chocolate bars and doing long hours in the university until I finally reach the performance level of David. I wasn't aware of the very unfortunate fact that his performance level line over time was moving in the opposite direction. Some month ago our lines crossed (so that would have been the perfect week to tackle the Transalp) and now there is a considerable difference to my disadvantage. Shit, I have to buy another bike to compensate.

18 February 2011

Half meter seat post

14 February 2011

Wanted - 27,000 more bicycle parking spaces in the City of London

2011 -- The London Evening Standard reports on the latest in "must have" executive perks in the City of London -- secure bicycle parking, locker and shower facilities.  Who needs a big signing bonus when you can find happiness on a bicycle?  (Bicycle parking and shower facilities were a significant issue for me and several other partners when my law firm moved offices in Washington DC back almost a decade ago.  Maybe in another few years this will be on the radar screen in Tokyo as well, and not just for the expats?)

Stepping back for some perspective, it is remarkable, less than 3 years after the establishment of the Positivo Espresso London branch, that we have seen this trend so firmly established, with cycling in the City of London up 52% over that period.  Then again, who would not want to commute by bicycle after seeing the stylish Juliane and DJ effortlessly spinning around town?

12 February 2011

Sunday Ride - 8AM, Kaminoge - Ride Report Added

By the time we reached Tsukui-ko, it was a beautiful day.

Graham, Jerome and I rode today -- a little more than 110 km for me, add 20 more for Graham coming out from, and returning to, the center of town.  Tristan sent a note saying he was sleeping late and then heading to Oi Futo.  Tom left early with the VLAAMS team toward Enoshima.  Ludwig left early with his cyclocross bike and grippy tires and headed for the hills.  He was kind enough to send an email message about 30 minutes before our departure, warning about ice on the streets.
Plenty of gunk this morning.

We thought about going to Enoshima as well, but Jerome vetoed that, not wanting to ride the first stretch out Rte 246 or Nakahara-Kaido.  No fun slogging along one of those roads.  Instead we decided to head out toward Tsukui-ko. 

Our ride almost ended a minute or two after it started, as we turned off Komazawa Dori at the bottom of the hill onto the street that parallels the tiny Marukogawa, toward Futakotamagawa.  I was in front of the group, slowed down, almost stopping, and started to turn right gradually, and WHOMP -- my bike came out from under me on some black ice.  Fortunately, no consequences but a bit of road rash on my arm under the jacket and a sore hip ... which did not feel really sore until after the ride had ended.  And an out-of-alignment rear derailleur, that seemed to regain most function after several attempts to bend the cage back to the correct vertical, front/rear facing "plane".  A relief not to break a bone every time I fall off the bike.

Lesson learned, we crept toward Futako, being extremely careful on any pavement not obviously dry and in direct sunlight.  We saw many other icy patches, and but were able to stick pretty much to dry road surface.  After a trip down Onekansen Doro and a stop at Starbucks, the weather felt noticeably warmer and the ice was a thing of the past, at least at low elevations.  We climbed the hill North of Tsukui-ko, cut across the first bridge (not taking the forest road) to the South side, climbed over the ridge on the South side and took the road that is the "T" at the base of Doshi Michi, looped around and climbed the back of Otarumi ... and on home.  Jerome and I felt a bit extra left "in the tank" given the relatively short ride, and rode as if our lives depended on it coming back down the Asagawa and Tamagawa.  Graham held on valiantly, and we all lived to ride again another day.
Otarumi Pass -- our lowly high point for the day.


Too  much blogging and not enough riding this week.

As feared, weather was ugly on Friday's holiday and Saturday is not looking nice either -- a bit wet this morning and rain then snow predicted in late afternoon/earlyl evening.  But Sunday is supposed to be sunny and, in the city, with a Noon temperature around 10 degrees C (50 F).  So a good day to ride somewhere.  Probably not a good idea to try any higher passes or to go too far inland, though we can decide in the morning based on actual conditions.
Maybe go to Tamagawaharabashi, then head out Onekansen to the area around Tsuikui-ko/Sagami-ko, then decide next steps based upon conditions?
Or maybe go toward Enoshima then along the coast around the tip of Miura Peninsula (or the opposite direction).

Jerome and I plan to head out around 8AM from my house (off Komazawa Dori, 2 blocks/1 traffic signal inside of Kanpachi Dori).  Tristan W. has said he will join (he would be leaving Ebisu around 7:35 if coming from in town but not sure if there are others such that there would be a separate Ebisu rendezvous).  Ludwig is still considering his plans (something about a possible cyclocross ride in the snow as one alternative).  Just let me know by comment or email if you plan to join.

11 February 2011

Duell: Steel is real

During the last week I supported Hiroshi in doing something unique for his C Speed bike shop that would separate him from the myriads of other cycle shops in Japan. It's not enough that he is a very nice guy with lots of experience in cycling and a very well connected network.

Now finally something visible, touchable, and most important of all rideable (almost), resulted from the last months of effort. We have been negotiating with Duell, a small steel frame builder from the Netherlands for the last weeks and C Speed is now the exclusive distributor for Japan (with the exceptions of Hokkaido, Kyushu and some other inaka regions. Duell agreed to make a special paint finish for their bikes for Japan. We thought long about it and wanted to emphasize the handmade, Dutch-made and modern steel aspect of the bike. So many beautiful handcrafted things come from the Netherlands: Windmills, Pommes Frites with Sauce Speciale (OK, Belgian in fact) and of course inflatable Dutch wives.

Unfortunately the Dutch national colors are basically the same as the French one and can be easily mistaken when put on a bike. So we came up with the idea to use the orange of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau, from which the queen comes from. Commonly used as color of choice for the jerseys of the Dutch soccer team or the Rabobank cycling team.
That the color is by chance orange is regarded commonly as a great plus.

The frame left the workshop finally yesterday and will be shipped to Japan next week.
Hiroshi ordered another frame with the standard Duell design as well for display in his shop.

The type of the Deda tubing (SAT 14.5 and EOM 16.5 respectively) are noted on the top tube. These are not old-fashioned steel bikes made from Reynolds 531 or Columbus SLX. They are also much lighter.

Hm, I want one myself, but due to the recent additions in my garage ......

Duell has along history of building competitive steel racing bikes. Some of them can be seen on velobase, for example this, this and this. Here we see the old head badge design.

I am excited to see how Hiroshi will built up the bikes and how they will look like when ready to ride.

I really think that Hiroshi has a good eye for colors and proportion which might comes from the fact that he has worked for the fashion industry quite long. Although I have to say on the other hand, that I am not a big fan of the Avedio bikes he is selling.

We did another project together in which I supplied a beautiful old Mondia frame from Switzerland in mint conditions and Hiroshi converted it into an even more beautiful single speed bike for late winter training.
Let's see what comes next.

VO2Max testing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym - Sendagaya

Redacted VO2max Data
Gunjira of TCC had a very-hard-to-get reservation for VO2Max testing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Sendagaya on Tuesday that he could not make, because of a last minute overseas business trip.  I drew the lucky straw and was able to take the test in his place.  MOB tried to do this back in 2008/09, but was never able to get a spot.  It requires calling at precisely the right time, many weeks in advance, and maybe winning a lottery on top of that.

I had no preparation, and was still recovering from a cold (I coughed and wheezed a bit in the lung capacity test, but the results were fine so they let me go ahead), but still jumped at the chance.

First, it was a fun experience.  It was great to be tested with a med technician, several trainers, a doctor, lots of machines -- a full "team" standing by.  I can understand why people say this test, whatever the result, makes you feel like a pro.  And all for 1650 yen.  No wonder it is difficult to get reservations.  Thank you, fellow taxpayers!

Second, I was able to get a pretty decent understanding of what to expect from searching online blogs for 東京体育館 全身持久力想定 -- Tokyo Metro Gym VO2Max test.  One blog mentioned in passing that you can bring SPD cleated shoes -- then you can ride with cycling shoes instead of needing to use their toe clip.  This is not written down anywhere on the materials they provide, and I was just told to bring "training wear" and "training shoes."

Also, I quickly realized that most people who bother to go do this (and post the results online) are pretty serious athletes -- there was one by an "A" class cyclist in his 30s whose peak wattage was about 20% more than me.  And lots of entries by people with under (or just over) 10% body fat (somehow I am still at 24.5%).   I learned that it is really boring reading about other people's scores on these tests -- so for anyone still reading at this point, don't expect the post to get any more interesting below.

And I learned that VO2max is a "per kg" rating -- ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute -- ml/kg/min.  I do notoriously poorly on "per kg" ratings, since I'm still at 96 kg, whereas most of those whose Japanese blogs I read are in the 50-65 kg range.  Then I read that VO2max starts to decline in the early 30s and goes down by 1.2% per year for men, 1.7% per year for women. So I set my expectations low.

I was reasonably happy with the results, and the advice I got.  My VO2max tested at 51 ml/kg/min.  The associated peak HR was 177 bpm, and power was 409 watts.  Extraordinarily good for a 48-year old lawyer.  190% of the median for my age (and again, this is a per kg number, so I'm capable of processing at least 2.5X the oxygen of the next guy on the subway train).  But not so great for someone who might actually want to race a bicycle!  My AT "anaerobic threshold" was 31.5 ml/kg/min, or only 61.8% of my VO2max, and the associated heart rate was 140 bpm.  I guess I think my AT heart rate is actually higher, but who knows? Some of the discussion:
  • I could probably get the VO2max number up to 52-54 just by shrinking the "kg" denominator a bit as I train this Spring.  And I have plenty of fat left to shed, so losing some fat and converting some more to muscle is still "low hanging fruit" in terms of improving performance.
  • I should do LSD and try to maintain a steady 150 bpm.  (I guess at 150 bpm I would drop the "S" and just call it "LD", but I get the point.)  
  • I need to do intervals to boost my AT.  The med tech explained that I should do intervals at 170 bpm -- starting at 30 second bursts, and gradually increasing the length as I get better at it, then do not rest too long -- just long enough for my HR to drop to 140 (apparently this is where most people wimp out -- too long a rest between intervals).  It took less than one minute at the end of the full test for my HR to go from 177 to under 140 bpm.
  • Given my desire to work on climbing and improve climbing speed and endurance for Transalp, she suggested I do my intervals on the hills.  It is really easy to get up to 170 bpm when going up a 10% grade ... though not quite so easy to get back down to 140 bpm quickly and keep going up the hill.

As I was wrapping up the pre-test interview, someone behind me who was next in line nodded at me and said in Japanese "I did a brevet with you in 2009.  My name is Aoyama."  Sure enough it was Jun Aoyama, the fastest rider in the 400 km Brevet I did back in September 2009, by almost 2 hours, and who I had helped by pointing him in the right direction as they tried to find the approach to "Jerome Hill" (Umegaya Toge) -- in the blue long sleeve Discovery Channel jersey in this photo.  Somehow I was not surprised to see someone I recognized, and a really strong rider, at this test.  Apparently they used to get mostly runners, but in recent years more than 80% of people coming for testing are cyclists.  Aoyama-san's VO2max tested at 57.8.  The trainer was kind enough to point out to me that, after all, he is 10 years younger than I am, so it is to be expected.

A few other points, if you want to try this:   I think non-Japanese speakers should only go if you have a friendly interpreter to help out.  And if you are an athlete, you need the "direct" method of testing, which is only offered on Tuesday and Thursday.   Indirect testing tops out at too low a wattage to be meaningful, I was told.  Information about reservations is on the TMG website here.

Which Online GPS map service? Try www.ridewithgps.com

Not good riding weather today, Friday (national holiday) and probably not on Saturday either.  Hoping for a Sunday ride.  8AM from my house -- leave a comment or email me if interested.

I'm tired of the BING maps at Garmin Connect.  IMHO and compared with Google maps, they are [just awful], at least for Japan and for our rides in the hills.
  • No English/Romanized names at all (Google maps have this).
  • Poor detail, ugly font.
  • No topo/terrain feature unless you zoom in way too close to be of use.
  • A pale ugly yellow background color.

Based on some of TCC discussions (www.tokyocycle.com), here, briefly in passing, here,  I decided to try Ride With GPS instead and am very impressed.
  • A very nice interface. 
  • Google maps!
  • A screen/map layout that looks great on my wide Benq LCD monitor at home.  
  • No distracting ads like mapmyride.  
  • I was able to upload a full year of rides in a few clicks using their "bulk uploader".  
If you look at last week's post (below) of the Kazahari Rindo ride, I have now embedded the Ride with GPS map above the Garmin Connect map so you can compare the "embed" versions.

So far, Ride with GPS looks like a great choice.  And, of course, it is free (if it is as good as it seems, I'll send a donation).  It seems to be a start-up by two guys in Oregon ... so I guess I do worry about long-term viability and will not delete any data from my hard drive just yet ...  But Garmin Connect has handed them a great opportunity by its switch to Bing.

Are there other alternatives I should be considering?

Any reason to try one of the Japanese alternatives, such as Yahoo Japan's LatLongLab?

Several options to embed -- here is Yanagisawa and Sasago trip from last April, a link to a static map image here (perfect for blog comments) or the full embed:

07 February 2011

Kazahari Rindo

Jerome, Didier, Ludwig and I rode on Sunday as planned.

I was still suffering from a cold, and so did not want to overdo it.  On the other hand, I had earlier (before I knew what my condition would be) suggested to Jerome "maximum climbing".

Be careful what you suggest when riding with Frenchmen who have triple cranks (even if they did go out all night drinking on Friday).

The answer -- Kazahari Rindo -- about 600 meters elevation gain with long, long stretches in the 13-20% grade range.  I had gone back to my 53/39 crank recently.  So I climbed with cadence dropping into the 30s and speed at times dropping below 5 kph.  My goal was to beat the Frenchmen to the top and not to put a foot down the entire climb, and I did that.  Ludwig waited for us at Yakyu-tei (also known as Watanabe-san's cafeteria) at Okutama-ko, where we warmed up after a cold descent down the north-facing hillside, plenty of snow still on the ground off of the road, but no ice to contend with.

I hopped the train from Oume (still not wanting to overdo it), while the others rode home.  I feel great to do this hill so early in the year, and make it without the compact crank.  No way to shirk effort and get up Kazahari Rindo!
Yakyutei -- a/k/a Watanabe'san's cafeteria

More Yakyu-tei

Jerome and Didier's bicycles -- and "Watanabe-san" and Didier each barely visible inside.

The nouveau rich crowd eats next door.

As we part ways at the top of Yoshino Kaido. Didier stuffed his outer shell under his jacket front -- never do that or the photo will make you look a bit like Santa.  Also probably not such a good idea for me to wear yellow for photos.

05 February 2011

Sunday Ride -- the last chance for a "pre-pollen" ride?

A combination of factors prevented me from joining the David C farewell ride ... other than a quick spin for about 10 minutes with them as they passed my house ... so I'll ride Sunday with Jerome and, I believe, Didier as well.  Nice to see some new riders -- Tristan and Mark -- in the group, with Dominic, Graham, David C., Tyler and ... anyone else I might be forgetting.  Ludwig was planning to join upriver.

Sunday 7:55AM start at my house. Return by 5PM. Route not yet defined, but will involve hills in the countryside.  The slightly warmer forecast this weekend suggests the hills may be a bit higher than in recent weeks ... but it will probably be cloudy and so may not feel warm at all?

Leave a comment or email if you plan to join.

The Saturday morning Nikkei had a huge spread about the anticipated arrival of massive volumes of fur tree pollen (sugi kafun) by mid-February in pretty much our entire riding area, except for maybe Tom or Ludwig, who manage to get to northern Gunma, in which case you buy yourself another week or two until late-February. (*Not an issue for our Bremen or London chapters).

Of course, this is an an annual event -- very early pollen from the fur trees that were planted on every hillside in this country after the massive deforestation that occurred during WWII -- apparently it takes quite a few trees to make the equivalent fuel of a liter of gasoline.

But the pollen volume varies by year, depending on the weather the previous year.  This year the powers that be are predicting something like 10-X the fur tree pollen of last year.  If you suffer from hay fever, get ready -- get your shots, or start your Claritin, or whatever.  In my case, I'll probably try a combination of generic Claritin (Loratadine) plus being careful to shave on weekend mornings before riding -- stubble being a great pollen collector as compared to a freshly shaved face.  And of course, we will see even more people wearing masks in more places than during the earlier (but ongoing) cold and flu season.

02 February 2011

David C. Farewell Ride -- Saturday

David C. has been called back to the HS London HQ after a 7 1/2 year tour of duty in Tokyo.

His farewell ride will leave Ebisu station at 7:30AM on Saturday, passing my house on Komazawa Dori around 7:50~7:55AM, then proceeding up the Tamagawa on the Tokyo side (8:40 or thereabouts at Sekidobashi), and out toward Takao or Wada.

The route is not set in stone, but David C. is planning for a 1:00 PM return, so it will not go far beyond, say, the top of Wada. 

(I understand that Jerome and Didier are likely to ride on Sunday.)  I've got a slight cold, but hope to join at least part of David C's ride.  Work and health permitting, I'll join at least part of the Sunday ride as well.