22 July 2013

English (and Scottish) Weather - Changeable

Getting ready for London-Edinburgh-London (July 28 to August 2), I have completed my training and did not take a long ride over the weekend.

Or rather, it is too late for training to do any good.  Any more than normal exertion (and any less than normal sleep) over the next six days will just make it more difficult to complete the event.

So I have entered the phase when all preparation is focused on equipment, route planning (where to sleep, how much distance is realistic how fast?), figuring out what to put in the two "drop bags" that riders are allowed, and trying to put work on an even keel so that I can be out of touch during the event without problems.

Part of this involves checking the weather forecasts.  My friends in London told me that "the weather is the weather here, never reliable".  That seems pretty much the case in other parts of the world as well from every time I have ridden more than 600km in a single tour or event -- at least some rain, and some shine.  Indeed, the longer range BBC forecasts for each of the first few days of the ride now look something like this in Brampton (NW England) and Edinburgh:

What does that mean?  Some rain showers (2 drops apparently meaning "heavy showers"), some sun, some clouds, with the high temperature somewhere between 14 and 21 degrees C -- all on the same day.  And the same forecast (with 1 drop instead of two, signifying lighter showers, and somewhat warmer highs) for almost every location of the ride, every day of the event.

At least it is not likely to be as hot and humid as Tokyo, nor as cold as Rainy Pass in Washington State last year during the Cascade 1200.

15 July 2013

Bastille Day Ride

We got an early start -- almost as early as planned (630AM), and made it out of the central Tokyo heat island before the temperature exceeded 30 degrees C.  Then after some riding in the Akigawa, Itsukaichi and Jerome Hill areas, including roads not previously taken ... we ended up near the Positivo Espresso Oume/Ikusabatake training facility.  
Hidden roads near Oume
The training facility was closed, so after buying food at the local PE-approved super market, Jerome and I went down by the river, where families with kids were picnicking, relaxing and watching rafters and kayakers come through, at the end of their upper-Tamagawa runs.  
At the picnic area, Ikusabatake.
The kids, mostly under the age of 10, all seemed to be enjoying the water, while parents mostly watched from the edge.  Jerome and I, of course, went and joined the kids, spending a very nice 20-30 minutes cooling down.  My first experience swimming in the Tamagawa, if memory serves.

This break was just enough of a cool down so that we decided to climb over the Tsuru Tsuru onsen hill -- 400+ meters of elevation gain, in addition to the short steep climb just to get back to Yoshino Kaido. 

The climb was steep, the weather now getting very hot and the air thick, but we did our best.  In fact, I think on the upper portion, as we neared the pass, a hiker must have surreptitiously recorded us and posted it to Youtube.  

I can only think that watching us must have been what inspired Chris Froome to attack with such gusto near the top of Mont Ventoux, as he obviously mimicked our super-high-cadence climbing attacks.

We descended the other side safely and were back in Tokyo a few minutes after 3PM, having ridden back in 34-35 degree C, sticky, miserable weather.
Cut hillside above Tsuru Tsuru Onsen.

10 July 2013

Riedberg -- P.E. Bremen Chapter goes to the Alps

Well, the Tour de France have left the Pyrenees and it will be awhile yet before the peleton gets to Mt. Ventoux and then the Alps ... and how long can one remain interested in watching a group of brightly colored cyclists schooling like fish down roads with aerial shots of hay fields cut so that they form the shape of two wheels and a bicycle frame, or the like?  Yes, it is pretty, but it eventually gets old.

So for relief it is very nice to get a report from Positivo Espresso founder MOB on his cycling in the German/Austrian border regions.

He has even written in English ... and despite several years back in Germany his English is still easier to read for me than German translated to English via the "Google Translator" function in Chrome.

06 July 2013

Wheel Nos. 00011 and 00012 - Carbon Clincher 25mm wide rims from China

It has been several years since I rode my Reynolds Stratus Cross carbon tubular wheels.  I decided that for those of us who ride without a team support van and spare bikes/wheels at the ready, the benefits of tubulars (low weight, better "road feel") do not outweigh the costs (glue/tape, carrying spare tires, replacing the $75+ tire instead of the $7.50 tube, etc.).  

But the hubs on my Reynolds wheels are still as smooth as the day I bought them, and no reason not to repurpose them.  So I ordered a pair of carbon clincher rims (25mm wide, basalt braking surface) from China ($360 for the pair, including shipping), and some Sapim CX-Ray spokes from a German online retailer ... and today built up a set of carbon clincher wheels.  They look great and should be very fast and comfortable, given the 25mm width and beautiful deep carbon rims.
Wheel 00011. Front.  20 spokes.

Wheel 00012.   Rear.  24 spokes.

Happened to have a set of Vredestein 700x25 Fortezza TriComp tires waiting for these.  Perfect.
Of course, carbon clinchers have their own, very well-known weaknesses.  They melt apart when overheated from braking on long, steep, technical descents.  Fortunately, we do not have any such terrain around where I live (hah! just kidding).  

So these will probably be my time trial, triathlon and/or flat terrain wheels.  Or perhaps I will end up giving them to someone who weighs much, much less than I do and so is not a target for extreme brake-related heat on a descent. ...  And I will use Shimano cork-style brake pads, rather than Swisstop Yellow, given the warnings here about a link between heat generation and these pads.

Saddle cut in two

Jerome can be somewhat hard on his equipment -- not just wheels.  I noticed a line across his saddle this morning, as we returned from a short ride in the hot, hot, humid weather.  Upon further inspection, the saddle seems to have been split completely into two pieces - fore and aft - with only the top cover and rails holding the pieces together.

How did it get this way?

Fortunately, I had a Charge Spoon saddle purchased last year from Wiggle but not yet tried, so Jerome will now be the test-rider.

04 July 2013

Wheel No. 00010 (and 00014) For Jerome

Jerome has had a run of trouble with rear wheels.  He favors wheels from a certain French famous brand we shall refer to as "M".   He had M wheels on his old Peugeot bicycle, on his newer Look bicycle (ca 2010 ... replacement for the one that was stolen).

In any event, the lower end M wheels on his Look bike started to have serious problems last year as he essentially rode them into the ground.  Repeated adjustments and new spokes did not solve the problems, so it was time for something else.

He started to use the old (mid range) M wheels from his Peugeot, but the cassette/free wheel has some play in it and needs a replacement part, ... which are no longer available given the age of the product.

So I told him I would build him a wheel, and meanwhile sold him (steeply discounted) my R P "made in Oregon" wheels, which I got for Transalp 2011 climbing.  I thought they would be okay for him, since he is 10+kgs lighter than me.  ... but he broke spokes, 3 over the first few months.

So for the SR600, I offered to swap the R P wheels for my older 2004 M Ksyrium SSC SL wheels -- which have been completely rebuilt once by our expert local shop, new rim, etc., etc., and have not gotten much use lately as they have been on my son's bike.  ... but he broke spokes again during the SR400, on Utsukushigahara and again on Route 141 near Kiyosato.

So, at last, the SOLUTION.  I finally built wheel No. 00010.  32 spokes 3-cross, DT competition drive side, DT revolution non-drive side.  Basic hub (Shimano 105 - 5700).  Light rim (DT Swiss RR415).  Strong, reasonably light, and let us hope it can stand up to even Jerome's big ring torque-heavy climbing style.
Sadly, the wheel has no French components.  At least I put back on the Michelin tire ...
UPDATE:  August 2013.  I have now completed the companion front wheel, No. 00014.  It also has an RR415 rim, but an SP Dynamo SV-8 hub and 32 3-cross DT Revolution spokes.  He has been using the heavier Shimano dynamo hub and DT Competition-spoked wheel for the past almost 2 years.  If the RR415 rims are sturdy enough for Jerome, then he should be zooming up the hills on future brevets.

01 July 2013

SR425? Flash Report

Your correspondent is too busy for a full trip report ... but in the meantime, Jerome and I each DNF'ed on the SR600.  But "DNF" has a negative connotation, and this was in fact a very nice, very epic ride.  Just that neither of us had allowed enough time for sleep in the day or two before the ride, I had not planned for an early enough start to actually get home at a decent hour Sunday evening, and Jerome suffered another rear wheel failure ... with my interim repair only getting him part of the way home.
Venus Line!
The Fuji SR600 is an incredible course, and we will try it again, with better preparation, and ride it to completion.
At Shibu Pass -- highest point on a National Highway in Japan
In the meantime, I got to ride some incredible climbs for the first time -- most notably from Kusatsu to Mt. Shirane and the 2172 meter elev. Shibu Pass on Saturday, then on Sunday morning the climb from Ueda up to Utsukushigahara (1940 meters elev.) and along the Venus Line.  Spectacular.  
Near Utsukushigahara
And in addition to deer at night on the climb to Yamabushi Pass in Chichibu, I saw one of these ungainly beats in the wild on Saturday afternoon:
Kamo Shika (from Google Images ... no time for a photo ato 50kph+ on a descent)