27 October 2014

Chiba -- The Curse Lifts

Friends and regular readers may recall that I have tried many times tried, but never managed, to join a Brevet in Chiba.  The 2011 earthquake cancellations; 2010 business trips, and this year, unusually deep snow.

No more!  Starting Saturday night, I successfully rode the 2014 300km "Boso Classic (Ku-ju-ku ri version)".

After sleeping much longer than usual Sunday night, but still not nearly enough to recover from riding through Saturday night, it is now Monday morning and time for work, not for blogging.  Still, I will give a flash report.

The course was very nice.  We rode out across some more heavily populated parts of Chiba, then pretty much countryside, then again populated areas from near Togane and along Kujukuri, then again deep countryside.  Almost no automobile traffic after the first 10 kms, until after we rejoined the Pacific coastline a second time around Kamogawa.  But even then, Sunday morning there still only very light traffic, compared with Izu or the Kanagawa/Miura coastline, or even Mie Prefecture.
Chiba and Shizuoka are the only 300km Brevets I have ridden that actually stay within the prefecture the entire route.  We rode much of the Prefecture, just skipping the northern 25-30%.
The southern Boso coastline was dramatic ... plenty of rocks and surf, but also some beaches.  Most of the people out early had fishing gear, ... but a few were in wetsuits with surf boards.
South of Kamogawa on the Coast.  Remainder of rainclouds.

The Canyon Shark rides the (painted) waves leaning against a seawall.

Satoyama.  This is a Japanese term for inhabited mountainous areas ... farmable inland valleys and the like.  Just imagine "the Shire" from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Chiba is full of charming, well-maintained areas like this, and we passed many of them. This is very nice riding country, even if lacking the dramatic nature of high mountain passes.

Mothers' Bokujo. Our last climb of the day was to the "Mothers' Bokujo" -- a hilltop animal farm that is a major tourist attraction for families with little kids who go visit and see the mama and baby animals.  After 260 kms and no sleep, the climb seemed much longer and steeper than it is in fact -- the top is just over 300 meters elevation.  Nice view from the top and all downhill (then flat) from here!

All downhill from here ... except one more climb to the top of the next rise.
My new bike (the Canyon Shark) got plenty of admiring looks at the start and rode beautifully.  Or maybe it was the Supernova E3 light and SP dynamo hub that got the admiring looks?  There was plenty of time to discuss both frame and lighing at the start.  I was glad to meet a few new riders, and see plenty who had done the Ise 1000 (including Naganuma-san, who had the fastest time by far on the 1000 km event, and said last weekend he had ridden the mountain route from Osaka back to Tokyo!). Even one rider, Obara-san, was wearing a 2013 LEL jersey (though he said he had DNFed on the return leg at Thirsk).

25 October 2014

Last Brevet of the Season

I was supposed to ride a 300 km brevet in Chiba on February 15, to kick off 2014.  Instead, that event was cancelled due to snow, so I will ride a 300 km Chiba brevet to finish 2014's randonneuring season.

I will ride my new bike -- the Canyon Shark!

The course is, well, a Chiba course ... a mix of inland ups and downs, valleys, and some long stretches of coastline -- Kujukuri Hama and another long stretch from Kamogawa to the southern tip of the Boso Peninsula.  The start is tonight, Saturday, 10PM.

At around 75 kms, the ride goes through Hiyoshidai, in Togane City, just past the site of 2 solar PV projects my company developed last year, and which Orix acquired from us at end of February 2014.  They are now in construction and I would love to get some good photos ... except I will be passing in the dark, between 1 and 2AM Sunday morning.

Wheel No. 00020. TNI CX wide rim, Ultegra 6800 rear hub, DT Competition drive side/Revolution non-drive side

I built up a wheel to use with my new 11-speed rear Ultegra 6800 groupset.  (I had only one other rear hub in all my existing wheel inventory--the Fulcrum Racing 3 tubeless--that works with an 11 speed cassette.)

The TNI rim was around 4000 yen -- cheap.  And the Ultegra hub should be bulletproof, if a bit heavy.  32 spokes, triple cross, with DT Swiss Competition (2.0-1.8mm double butted) spokes drive side, and Revolution (2.0-1.5mm) non-drive side.  The rim is a bit taller and heavier than my "usual" Velocity A23s, and essentially the same width (23mm outside).  It built up very easily.

Should be a good training wheel for the Shark.

19 October 2014

255 kms on a spectacular day -- Akiyama, Kawaguchiko, Ashigara

Mt. Fuji .. hidden when we were there at Noon, but visible now that we have made it back to Nakai/Hiratsuka.
About 50 riders joined the Nishi Tokyo 200 brevet on Saturday.  Originally scheduled for March but postponed due to snow on the passes, the weather was spectacular this time.

The morning was cool and chilly as I headed out to the start in Machida, just warm enough so that I left my arm warmers and full fingered gloves packed away in my saddle bag.  The Brevet route quickly headed into the mountains to the west, so that we were at Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko area by mid-day.  It was still cool, the elevation and mountain climate offsetting the mid-day sun.  Even on the big descent from Kagosaka Pass (1130m elev) through Subashiri (800m elev) and down, down, down to Ashigara Station (370m elev), it was warm enough for me to not bother with arm warmers, cap.  By the time the sun set we were back in the sprawl of Kanagawa -- around Hiratsuka -- so there was only a modest evening chill.

We started near the Konno Seisakusho / Cherubim shop, and headed out through Sagamihara.  (Indeed, I saw at least 3 or 4 Cherubim handmade custom bikes among this group -- each one beautifully maintained and spotless).  I rode some at the start with a group that included Kojima-san, whom I met, but have not seen since, 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris when we struggled together to get back toward Lodeac on the return leg, both near sleep in the dark on the bikes.  He slept at Lodeac and I continued on--a mistake on my part.  He looked somehow different on a beautiful morning in October 2014.  Different clothes, helmet (no light) and vest.  Different eyeglasses, maybe?  But helpfully his vest had the lettering "Kojima" on the back, so that was a tip-off!

Anyway, I did not want to ride with the group through all the traffic signals of Sagamihara.  It is so much effort to start and stop repeatedly with a group of 6~8 persons.  So I worked hard to get off the front and get at least one signal between myself and the group.  That worked well and I was able to time my solo ride to catch more of the signals until out in the countryside.  Of course, most of these folks passed me on the first, or second hills.
Along Route 35 as we head through Akiyama toward Tsuru
Once past Lake Tsukui the route was spectacular, if familiar, for about 30 kms.  We took Rte 517 then Rte 35 through Magino and Akiyama and over Suzugane Pass (tunnel) to Tsuru.  This route goes through hilly countryside, up and down repeatedly, and eventually up to the tunnel at just under 700 meters elevation, then down past the Maglev test track station and to Tsuru.  Everything looking great with blue sky, cool air, persimmons ready to pick, tidy houses -- both traditional farms and modern, even a few contemporary homes.  There was clear running water over rocks in streams and rivers.  And almost no traffic.

Some of us stopped on the road to Suzugane at Hamazawa village in Akiyama to get (and consume) freshly cooked, piping hot manju, filled with sweet red beans.  I have heard about this for at least 6-7 years, from MOB and numerous others ... but had never actually experienced its wonders until Saturday.  You could see the wood-burning stove, flames bright and several little old ladies in their white baking clothes working away.  The seasonal flowers in front of the shop were glorious, and when I mentioned them to the woman serving customers, she told me they had been changed only yesterday.  Fall has arrived!
At the famous manju shop on Route 35

Fresh local autumn flowers next to the wood-fired oven room.
A small shrine just of Route 35 on the climb to Suzugane Pass
After a check point at a Tsuru 7-11, we slogged up Route 139 to Fuji Yoshida / Kawaguchiko area.  I hate this road, but must say that on Saturday morning the traffic was manageable, and with the perfect temperatures I did not suffer as much as usual.  I did not to stop and get some sunscreen, given the total lack of shade and the sun getting higher in the sky.
A temple just off the road as we near Kawaguchi-ko
Kawaguchiko was spectacular, as we stopped at O-ishi on the (scenic and less crowded) north shore for a checkpoint and view. Mt. Fuji was obscured in clouds, other than the lower slopes, but it was still a beautiful scene.   We next passed through the incredible congestion of Routes 139/138 through Fuji Yoshida and up the slope to Yamanaka-ko.  This hill is less than 150 meters over almost 5 kms, so only around 3-4%, but with heavy traffic, lines of cars creeping along and exhaust fumes, much of it is unpleasant.  The route left the main road (Route 138) and was quite pleasant through the areas of second homes and company facilities SW of Yamanakako, then climbed up to Kagosaka Pass.
Cosmos at Kawaguchi-ko
The park at Oo-ishi ("Big Rock"), on the North Shore of Kawaguchi ko.
I faded on the steep parts of the short climb from Yamanakako to Kagosaka Pass, and could barely turn over the pedals.  I started to think it had not been such a good idea to get to bed very late Friday night, up very early (only 3 hours sleep), and then to ride hard an extra 28 kms from my home to the start of the brevet instead of going by train.  Two American riders, David and Aaron, caught me near the top of this climb.  They would have left me far behind, but we soon reached the top.  The next leg, 20 kms of downhill to Ashigara Station, offered a good chance to recover on the bike, making excellent time with minimal effort.  And once we got off of route 138, the road (local route 150) was excellent -- low traffic volume, few signals and a long steady downhill.

The next checkpoint was at Hashimoto, a small grocery store within 100 meters of Ashigara Station.  The proprietors had several road bike racks out front (the kind where you hang the front of your saddle over a bar, rear tire off the ground) and some spare chainrings hanging in the window -- clear signs that cyclists are welcome.  In addition to the usual fare, I got some cucumbers.  When I asked at the register if they had some salt or miso for dipping, they quickly brought some as "service" (no charge).  They looked happy that I was very happy at this -- just the kind of experience that makes me want to come back again next time I am anywhere near Ashigara on my bike.

We climbed Route 78 to Ashigara Pass -- almost 400 meters of elevation gain, including some quite steep stretches.  It was a hard climb after many hours of riding.  Then it was part way down the even steeper SE side ... then another short but painful 60-70 meter climb up a side road to the barbeque area at 夕日の滝 (Yuu-hi no Taki -- maybe "twilight falls"?)  This was a delightful stop, manned by Nishi Tokyo and Kanagawa Audax staff serving charcoal grilled hot dogs, whole fish and yakitori (though only chicken skin -- a type of yakitori not favored by foreigners).  One of the leaders of Kanagawa Audax was supervising the bike parking area, and I asked him why there were so many Kanagawa Audax jerseyed staff on this Nishi Tokyo Brevet.  He said that both Nishi Tokyo and Aoba Randonneurs are Kanagawa Audax "spin offs".  This I had heard long ago, but it seems they still maintain close links and work together.
Maya Ide, volunteering at the Yuu-hi no Taki stop, talks with a rider.  She told me she did the Merselo-Verona 1200 this summer and was raving about riding the Arlsbergpass, then Reschenpass and into Italy via the Sud Tirol (Naturns, Bolzano)!  Some of the most beautiful summer cycling territory on the planet!
At the Yuu-hi no Taki rest stop.  The two riders on the left rode as a pair the entire ride.  They both have beautiful Cherubim bikes!  David and Aaron (right rear) also rode together, one or the other going ahead on climbs.  And the rider in the orange vest is, yes, wearing blue jeans.  He did the entire ride on a mountain bike with massive tubes, fat tires and, yes, in jeans, in about the same time as I did on and in, ostensibly, more appropriate gear.

Anyway, the rest of the descent from Ashigara was less technical, allowing very high speeds.  After some zigs and zags, and long lines of cars, we took Kanagawa Route 77 the rest of the way past Nakai and Hadano to Hiratsuka.
On the fast mid/lower part of the descent from Ashigara Pass
There was plenty of up and down on Route 77, but the traffic was not so bad until we emerged at Hiratsuka.  From there to the finish, it seemed like every signal we passed slowly by long lines of cars.  Urban sprawl and weekend congestion along Kanagawa Route 63, lasting even after dark and into the dinner hour.

My Garmin battery died somewhere in Atsugi along this sprawl of Route 63.  My chain also jammed under the chain-catcher as I tried to get back on the bike.  I hailed another rider -- the very Nishi Tokyo audax staff member who had done my bike inspection, Yamada-san (who was riding a Centurion frame and wearing a Team Telecom German national champion jersey, and said he lives in Machida.)  He helped with light as I managed to remount the chain, and I followed him most of the way to the goal so I could ride without fumbling with a cue sheet in the dark.  Thank you, Yamada-san.
Beautiful custom Cherubim bike with Rohloff rear hub, front dynamo hub (in matching red), and classic cloth/leather bags.  Leather bar tape, of course, and full fenders.  This rider did the Ise 1000 ride ... started and finished earlier than me, but I recognized photos of the bike!  Pedals for normal shoes!?

It was a glorious day for a ride, and even if the route included some stretches I would rather avoid, there were many other stretches that I love, and Ashigara Pass I climbed for the first time.  So all in all a very nice 200km Brevet.
Home to Start
Start to Atsugi ... where GPS battery died
Goal to home

Made in Japan

I saw these classic metal water bottles at Hiroshi's shop, C Speed, the other day.  Beautiful, light and strong. There is a cork under the cap and, of course, the cap when unscrewed and inverted will serve as a cup.  They would go great on a restored classic bike ... though they are not inexpensive, and the shiny mirror-like finish (right side) costs extra.   Still, they should last a long, long time.

Hiroshi tells me that they are made using the Japanese "herabori" technique, kind of like cutting away metal with a spoon, I guess on a metal lathe.  

18 October 2014

Short Brevet ... with climbs and ride to/from the start

Tomorrow I will ride a 200km Nishi Tokyo Brevet originally scheduled for March, but rescheduled due to snow on Ashigara Pass during the pre-ride in February.  I was incredulous when told of the postponement back in February .... how could they give up so long before the event?  But in fact the weather was miserable and cold during the next two weeks, and no so the organizers were vindicated.  Too many cancelled events this year.  Next weekend is another, Chiba 300 km ride originally planned for February.

A 200 km Brevet, on mostly familiar roads, should be easy, and yes, short.  Except for the climbs.  Pretty much constant up and down on this route between Tsukui-ko and Tsuru, then up to Kawaguchi-ko, then again up to Ashigara Pass. And then again, it will not be 200 kms, but more like 255 kms, as I will ride to and from the start in Machida, adding another 55 kms or so.

In any event, the forecast looks great for tomorrow.  Clear and cool all day.  The course, while not original, should have many nice sections.

13 October 2014

Sunday Ride to Lake Tsukui -- without Garmin -- and review of iPhone GPS cycling apps - Strava, Mapmyride, RidewithGPS, Runtastic, CycleTT

On Sunday I went for a ride out to the Tsukui-ko area.  Out Onekansen Doro, along the Tank Road, around the north side of the lake via the forest road, then a loop and back over a different bridge to the North side, and home a slightly different route.

It was a relatively short (97.5km) and easy ride.  Saturday I had conflicting commitments; Monday we will have rain later in the day as a typhoon approaches.

Nothing unusual, except that I left my Garmin Edge 800 device at home.  No, I did not forget it, I just left it at home.
Early fall near Lake Tsukui
Mysterious weather ... still far ahead of a massive typhoon
Watch out Garmin.  Your days are numbered, at least for recreational use!

It is a commonplace observation that Apple and its products, especially the iPhone, have been like a mass extinction event for parts of the consumer electronics industry.  Sony Walkman and other MP3 players?  Gone.  Record and CD retail shops?  Gone, when most buy the same music on iTunes for instant download. Cable TV and broadcast radio talk shows?  No need when you can get the same content customized via podcasts. Digital cameras and videos?  I think I bought my last digital camera about 5 or 6 years ago.  The photos taken on my iPhone 5S are much better, plus when I need to I can use the free "Theodolite" app and get a photo stamped with time, GPS coordinates, elevation and direction and vertical/side-to-side angles on the photo.  Train timetables?  Weather forecasts?  Filing receipts?  Personal video conferencing?  Foreign language dictionaries and phrasebooks?  Maps, and more maps?  All gone.  There's an App for that (as they say).

I tried some of the cycling GPS apps back when I got my first iPhone (4S)  in 2011.  I found that they would eat up battery life, so I could not imagine using them on any full day ride or longer brevet/randonee.  But with subsequent versions of the iOS and a newer phone (5S), I now rely on Google maps instead of a car Navi and find the power usage acceptable.  So I figured it was time to try again the cycling apps.

A month or so back, I started using Strava and RidewithGPS for recording some of my commutes.  Last week also MapMyRide.  They record the 30+ minutes each way (with the screen turned off much of the way) without a noticeable drop in the battery, so I thought it was time to try them on a longer ride.

They all work great.  Each app is using the same underlying data and GPS sensors from the iPhone, and each is going into a "sleep" mode when the phone's screen is switched off (but still capturing and recording the GPS data), so it is not surprising that the results are similar. The interfaces are each different, and everyone will have a favorite.  I rode for almost 5 1/2 hours, and used about half my iPhone battery life.  I also sent and received/checked emails and SMS messages, plus used Google Maps navigation for about 15 minutes to find a shop.  So these apps are now just nearing the point of being usable for an all day ride.

Please note, what follows are just a layman's impressions.  You can get much more detailed, technical information and guidance elsewhere.  And just go to the TCC site for lots and lots of discussions about these services.

Strava.  I like the clean Strava recording screen, ... but I need to go to another screen to access a map and that page lacks the cyclecomputer data, whereas the others have a map on the "main" page.

Strava has the best integration with its website and its social media-style features -- you can see your "feed"on the iPhone app, and upload quickly to your friends when you finish a ride.  And if you ask the App will find you a "route back to the start".  It chooses this based upon the popularity of various potential roads with cyclists.  So when I was out near Hashimoto and asked for a route home, it directed me down Onekansen Doro -- by far the best choice I know of as a cyclist, and not the choice that Google Maps would have made.

I am not a "premium" Strava member, but the service seems to just get better and better.  I just tried their route drawing sub-application, and it seems to work very well now.  I do not know if it even existed the first time I tried Strava.  Also, way back then Strava had a limit on the number of monthly rides recorded for non-premium (non-paying) members.

RidewithGPS.  RidewithGPS uses the screen "real estate" very well -- with both cycle computer info and a map on the main page.

RidewithGPS iPhone app does not seem very customizable (though it was possible to switch the map from a "pointing North" orientation to a "pointing the same way as the bicycle" orientation, and the app nicely pulled in my basic choices from the website (e.g. metric system).  Then again, with 5 key pieces of data on the main app screen, I cannot think of much I would add (or subtract).   And it does offer numerous background map choices, as with the website version.  Plus it features tight integration with photos -- great if your trip report consists of the RidewithGPS data and photos you took along the route.

I long ago joined RidewithGPS as a paying member, since I really valued their route drawing/export-friendly site, and also they were the only site with clear instructions about the differences between GPS data formats -- GPX (and GPX track), TCX, FIT, etc.  and recommendations on what to use for which Garmin Edge device.  Plus, as far as I can tell RidewithGPS is mainly a young guy named Zack in Portland, Oregon.  He would send personal responses when I had a question, so I felt I owed him my business.

And what RidewithGPS lacks in customization at the App level, it more than compensates for on its website, with a wide range of views, tabs.  RidewithGPS generally piggie backs on existing social networks -- Facebook, Twitter -- rather than trying to create its own.

MapMyRide.   This app toggles between two data sets ... good if you think of your GPS as more of a calorie counter, but useless for the rest of us.  And there is a screen pulldown tab so you can see all 4 data items at once -- distance, duration, speed and calories.

MapMyRide annoyingly asks me to upgrade to MVP with prominent notices.  Strava has much more tasteful, subtle upgrade requests -- more effective.  Then again, the Mapmyride App seems to have more customization possibilities.  And Mapmyride has lots of social network features as well.

Comparison of the 3 apps website views.
Strava -- clean, slick design, focus on segments (just below this screen capture).
RidewithGPS -- lots of data and selection tabs, and plenty of menu choices all the top as well.
MapmyRide -- another nice interface, but that annoying MVP upgrade request.
And the Winner Is.  This review barely scratches the surface, but I guess I still rank RidewithGPS and Strava ahead of Mapmyride.  If you like the Strava social media features -- the segments, activity feed and challenges, you will find them unmatched.  I find it quite satisfying to do the Strava "Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge" to ride 700 kms in 20 days ... and end up #11 out of 850 riders in Japan, #773 out of over 55,000 worldwide.  Yes, I may not be fast, but I do go far.

As for the rest of the App, I prefer the RidewithGPS App's "single screen", especially when I want to see a track along which to navigate.  So I guess I will probably use RidewithGPS when riding on a Brevet or an unfamiliar route, and Strava for commuting or familiar rides.  Or I can try the same as this ride -- and just turn on both apps at once.

The key point, for me, is that ANY of these apps works great for a 5 or 6 hour ride.  And with a USB charger/battery, that time can be doubled or tripled.  Plus with a dynamo hub driven charger, it can be extended indefinitely.

The Garmin Edge (excuse the pun).  My Garmin Edge 800 still has some advantages over these iPhone apps.  Actual battery life is still around 14-15 hours.  Plus if the battery should happen to run out ... I can still pull out my phone and use it. If the phone battery runs out ... then I am really stuck.  Of course, the answer is to carry a small supplemental battery.  Plus the Garmin data screens are highly customizable and work with all kinds of additional sensors -- power, heartrate, etc.  I have not used those lately, but could be tempted again.

And in pouring rain, I do not mind the Garmin being exposed on the bike.  The iPhone, even with case and all ports plugged, I will probably still put in a plastic bag!  Then again, the Garmin has died on my in the rain before, and though the USB port eventually recovers, it seems to take some weeks.

I will keep using the Edge 800 on longer rides, as long as it functions.

Audax riders in the U.S. note that they go through many areas without mobile phone coverage. Without mobile data, you cannot access the map information via iPhone in Google or Apple maps, so lose significant functionality.  And financially not viable when "roaming" and incurring high data charges.  But as has been pointed out to me, it is possible to load OpenStreetView maps onto an iPhone for "off network" map coverage.  ... and this surely cannot be much more difficult than doing so on the Garmin, since Garmin gives no instructions on such things and just expects you to buy one of their Micro SD cards with proprietary map loaded.  I will need to try loading some maps and using the iPhone apps with mobile data turned off ... but GPS on ... and see if it works.

With a dynamo powered charger and a plastic bag to cover my iphone in streaming downpours, and some maps loaded in advance, I should be ready to go.

Garmin the Company.  Of course, sometimes I will stay loyal to a company because of things about the company, or just plain inertia, rather than the strength of a product.  (Note my mention of Zack's great customer service at RidewithGPS).  I got a Garmin Edge 205 long ago, switched to a 705 with its more readable screen and maps, then around 5 years ago when the 705 stopped downloading to my PC upgraded to the Edge 800.   But Garmin never has seemed user friendly.  The models I own are not adapted to Japan -- will not work with Japanese characters.  The Japan-specific versions were outrageously priced. ...  And the proprietary maps were an expensive add-on.  So I figured out how to use OpenStreetMap alternatives.  What kind of business builds itself around selling expensive add-ons when the educated, tech-savvy customer can find a free workaround?  A business that views its customers as cash registers, even chumps.

Of course, I could be wrong.  Maybe Garmin is a great company?  After all, it does sponsor a pro tour cycling team, and so it is supporting racers!  And it is a U.S. company, right, started and built up in Kansas.  Indeed, its entire business is based on a series of satellites bought and paid for by the U.S. government, and its first customer was ... the U.S. Army.  My tax dollars at work.  And Garmin is part of the Standard and Poors 500!

Err, at least Garmin WAS a U.S. company.

Then it did a "tax inversion" so that a Swiss entity is now its parent, even though its headquarters is still in Kansas.  No more U.S. taxes on the non-U.S. business.  When Allan Sloan of Fortune Magazine asked them about the inversion, Garmin apparently responded to Fortune that it never was a U.S. company.  Maybe they did not understand the question.  Well, I guess they will need to remove those "Oregon", "Montana", "Colorado" and "Dakota" lines from their handheld GPS models.

So now Garmin is a "top 10" company.  Top 10 corporate tax avoiders.


I should mention that Japanese cyclists tend to use a Yahoo Japan-affiliated site, Route Labo, for drawing routes that can be exported to Garmin/GPS. These routes are visible on the Safari browser on a page designed for mobile use, though I do not think there is a specific iPhone app.  Then again, more and more Japanese riders seem to use Strava.


Nov 2, 2014 update:  Another GPS iphone/computer application was recommended to me -- the road bike pro version of "Runtastic".  It has the major benefit of offline OSM map integration.  If you trace your route and download maps ahead of a ride, you will be okay even if you do not have (or, if roaming internationally, want to pay for) mobile data during the event.  I paid the $4.99 and downloaded the app.  On first impression, it tries to do too much -- too much marketing, too many email messages, too much attempt at social media integration.  Too commercial.  But I hope I will get the settings right since the offline maps are a great option.

On my Nov 2 ride with Jerome, I used the Garmin Edge 800, plus set the RidewithGPS on from the start around 7:45AM.  Both ran uninterrupted (only "auto pauses").  The total elapsed time was 9 hours and 10 minutes.

  • The Garmin still showed almost 50% battery remaining -- perhaps a benefit from running it with a timer page -- not a map page -- visible the entire ride.  Maybe it is recalculating the map screen that burns up Garmin battery life, such as on the Nishi Tokyo 200 brevet?  
  • I also used my iPhone for photos and emails/messages at times during the ride.  The battery had gone down to 16% so I turned off the ridewithgps application at just under 8 hours elapsed time -- 152kms travelled.  If I had not wanted to preserve the ability to use the iPhone for its core telephone (and email) functions, I could have just made it home on the last 16%.  Next ride I will try the same experiment with the Strava iPhone app.
Nov 10, 2014 update:  At Cyclemode there was a display for a Japanese iPhone app -- CycleTT.  It is available on the iPhone App store (at least the Japanese app store), and has a free version and a "premium" mode for 500 yen per month or 5000 per year.  I have not yet tried it but will do so.  Zenrin Datacom is the provider -- a major Japanese map data supplier for "Navi" systems and Google maps.  I will try the free version in due course.

Riding the Rindos

I happened to go onto the Tokyo Cycling Club (TCC) site this morning after a fairly long absence and was glad to see it is going strong with the usual ride postings, items for sale, and chat about all things road-cycling-related.

There was a thread for a Saturday October 11 ride in the Miyagase-ko area that left me shaking my head and wishing I had read it sooner, as I was nearby there on Sunday and followed only a well-trodden path.  The posts show a ride plan (complete with RidewithGPS route) that would cover at least 3 "dead end" forest roads (rindos) near Lake Miyagase that I have never ridden (plus 1 or 2 that I have).   There is even a video from the ride showing about 7 minutes of a gradual climb along one of these rindo, beside a river.  The ridewithGPS route shows this little "detour" is 12 kms each way.  In the video, I counted only 2 slow moving motorbikes over 7 minutes.  No cars (except one or two parked at turnouts).  Ideal, except for some places where there is some gravel or mud on the road, no doubt a result of recent typhoons and something that should be clearer in other seasons.  And a river runs through it.

Maybe a future group ride will go to Miyagase-ko, then riders can head up the rindos, as many and as far as they want, while others relax at the michi-no-eki?  A great way to ride with people of varying degrees of interest or ability.

09 October 2014

Breaking Away ... with Mendelssohn

I recently started to play viola in a community orchestra.  Our concert is this Saturday, October 11.  (If interested, see here.)  One of the pieces on the program is Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "the Italian Symphony.  (Yes, Mendelssohn was in Germany, of Jewish descent, but perhaps because he was NOT Italian, this piece seems to have something about it VERY Italian, just as Czech Antonin Dvorak's American string quartet and New World Symphony are VERY American. )

Of course, the music is well known and shows up in various films.  But the most memorable use, for me, is in the classic 1979 "coming of age" film, Breaking Away. * It features four 19 year olds in Indiana U.S.A. uncertain of what the future holds.  One wants to be an Italian bicycle racer, very badly.

So the next time you are "breaking away" on your bicycle, just think of the first movement of this piece.  Guaranteed to ride faster!  And with more Italian style!

*The film won the 1979 Academy Award for best screenplay.  The title to the film refers not only to a cycling "break away", but of course to the Indiana youths breaking away from their childhoods, their small town, etc. ...

05 October 2014

Rain, Typhoon Again!

Saturday weather was good, but I had other commitments in mid/late afternoon and evening so could not take a ride longer than a quick spin.  Well, I could have gotten in a decent ride if I had gotten out early, but I did not.

Today, Sunday we have had hard rain since before first light, expected to continue the next 24 hours.  Not ideal riding weather, and in the absence of a specific plan I am staying dry and inside.
View from Tokyo Tower cam
Typhoon approaching ... will go right up the Pacific coast of Honshu over the next 24 hours.  NOAA map.