29 June 2014

Body Heat

A report came out last week indicating that, by the end of the 21st century, climate change could make it too hot on many days to engage in strenuous exercise outside in large parts of the United States without death.  With the air temperature over 95 degrees fahrenheit and high humidity, the body cannot cool sufficiently, heat stroke or heat exhaustion and death result.
Beautiful clear air after much rain.  The Tamagawa path.  Air like a brick.
Of course, the group behind the report is just a bunch of crazy left wing environmentalists with Risk Committee and Co-Chairs such as George Schultz (Secretary of State to President Reagan), Hank Paulson (ex Goldman Sachs CEO, Secretary of Treasury to George W. Bush), and Olympia Snowe (former Republican Senator from Maine).

It has been cool and wet recently in Tokyo, but today, just as I headed out for a mid-day spin, the sun shown through clouds, temperatures soared and humid air was like a brick.  If this is what Risky Business is predicting for much of the world during much of the year 50~75 years from now, I don't like it at all.

But I needed to get in a decent ride.  Two weekend "make up" classes for each of the two courses I have been teaching at Keio, and lots of rain, have kept me away from the bike far too much.

Also, I just did a major makeover of Voyage Voyage (the Ti Travel Bike to get it ready for Hokkaido 1200 -- finally moving over my Shimano 7800/6600/6700 and "Retroshift" components, redoing the bar tape, etc.  I rode it to work on Thursday, made some significant Retroshifter adjustments, and was glad to find the adjustments worked and shifting is smooth.   I can understand why Hiroshi does not like the Retroshift, but now that I have gotten used to them, I do not mind them at all.  I think having large hands, which can envelope the shifters and brake lever, helps.  I have no worries about shifting vs. braking -- it is easy to do both.  And if I should ever break a cable, it will be easy to replace.
Voyage Voyage is ready for the Hokkaido 1200.  2 x1 liter water bottles and tool kit in the 3rd bottle carrier.  
I made it down Onekan and the "Tank Road", and back again.  There were plenty of other roadies out, taking advantage of the rare sight of dry pavement and blue sky to get in a ride.  At a convenience store stop just after the turn-around, a number of us shared complaints about the humidity as I ate some ice cream and refilled my bottles (with the remainder of the water going onto my head or down my back for cooling effect).
Hydrangeas along the tank road
End of the (Tank) Road looking out to the NW
Of course, a few hours after I returned home, a thunderstorm rolled through, the streets were damp again and the temperature mercifully cooled.

New Look for the Yamabushi

The Yamabushi looked great (to me at least) with deep rim carbon wheels and black Schwalbe Ultremo ZX fat (700x28) tires.

But with my new H Plus Son shiny rimmed wheels, it was time to try a new look.

I tried the new wheels on the Yamabushi, with some Schwalbe Durano light beige colored tires, and my Brooks B-17 saddle.
Yamabushi with Schwalbe Durano tires and Brooks B-17 saddle
The Durano tires ... I found provide a very thick, clunky feeling.  They are heavy, not supple, and offer little road feeling.  The Brooks Saddle, is nice, but wider than my standard Fizik Arione.  And the faux carbon bottle cages, which at least made some sense with carbon rimmed wheels, now look totally out of place.

So I replaced the Durano tire with a pair of Grand Bois 700x30 tires I have only used once -- classic side wall and black tread, and a very comfortable ride that still offers plenty of road feel.  I went back to the Fizik saddle, and finally, got a very nice pair of Arundel stainless steel bottle cages.
Grand Bois tires and Fizik Arione saddle 
Arundel bottle cages -- very nice!

Rear wheel -- 

and Front Wheel

Matching headlight -- brushed aluminum finish fits the fender, rim etc.
Now the Yamabushi is a fast, fun, comfortable and good looking bike!  Again!

For a post from another Tokyo based expat's blog showing alternatives for stainless bottle cages, see this.

24 June 2014

Cycle Race in Sarajevo to Commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI

Watching a bit of the FIFA World Cup very late at night or early morning here from Tokyo, one cannot help but reflect on the power of sport to channel international competition in a healthy direction.  I turned on the TV very early this morning to check in and see Brazil and Cameroon battling it out on the field.  Brazil is victorious, but there are no serious casualties.

Then I switch to NHK and see reports of Chinese vessels ramming into a smaller Vietnamese boat in the Tonkin Gulf, where a fleet of over 100 Chinese vessels is engaging in "self help" and aggressively staking out turf in an attempt to drill for oil offshore, in waters that China claims, as does Vietnam.  The next report is about similar disputes between China and the Philippines over the Spratly islands, where China is doing landfill on some tiny sand atolls, apparently in an effort to expand them eventually into an airfield.

Then I am reminded of the role that cycling can play. 

The linked BBC,  Guardian and Balkan Insight stories report a UCI- and Tour de France-sponsored race in Sarajevo on Sunday, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, with the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 starting the most awful "war to end all wars" ... until the next one.

The assassination in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 occurred just as the Tour de France was underway.   The Tour was completed, then on August 3 Germany invaded France.  By the time the war was over, 3 winners of the Tour had been slain, along with millions of others.

The 2014 race saw both Bosnian and Serbs join -- and was won by a Slovenian, with an Italian in second.

This international aspect is one thing I enjoy about randonneuring.  Even at the Japan Audax Fleche every April, there are some participants from abroad -- Seattle International Randonneurs and Taiwan randonneurs.  Of course, the "sport" originated and is administered from France, so Jerome is welcome at all Japanese events as a special guest!  At an event like the Cascade 1200, there are riders who have come from many countries.  And at PBP or LEL, the entire world seems to be riding.

Our own David J. in 2012 rode with his father in a commemoration of the 1955 "Peace Race", an early exchange in sport during the area before "detente" had come to prevail over a very cold war in Europe. 

And my long-time friend, Mike Sata, is the proud sponsor of an annual cycling Peace Rally in Chailly, Burgundy, France, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary on August 2, 2014.  (Rumor has it that both Bernard Hinault and Francesco Moser will be among the riders).

Such sport and cultural exchanges help to build friendships.  They help us to see citizens of other nations not as potential enemies, but as people with the same hopes and concerns as we have.  Such friendships are started by participating in these kinds of events -- a sister city exchange or an Audax event in a neighboring country.  They are maintained through volunteering in the organization that sponsores and renews the event.  

It is only through sustained, privately-maintained friendships across borders that we can hope to head off the next great conflagration.

16 June 2014

News Flash -- Jerome Completes SR600 Fuji Course Within Time Limit!

Jerome reports that he has successfully completed the SR600 Fuji course in just under 51 hours -- with an hour to spare!

He has beaten this demon!

... Now he can do an "official" run to be listed among the finishers.  And I will need to try it as well again this year.

15 June 2014

The Great White Whale

Yamabushi Toge at dawn
Jerome has become focused, one might even say obsessed, with the challenge of the SR600 Fuji course.  He knows he is strong enough to do it.  After all, 86 randonneurs did so last year, and there are not 86 randonneurs in all of Japan stronger than Jerome.

But will he find the right time, with sufficient rest in advance, the right preparations, equipment and weather, in order to manage it all the way through in under 52 hours?  On our first try, he broke a spoke on a Mavic Ksyrium SSL rear wheel (the fat aluminum spokes that never break).  We adjusted the other spokes so the wheel was true enough to continue ... but he broke another spoke around Nobeyama/Kiyosato and the wheel became unrideable.  Last time, a Look Keo pedal broke on the climb up Shirane-san, leaving him nearly stranded there, the spindle jammed and unremovable from his crank.  When has a Look Keo pedal ever broken?  Will Jerome conquer this great challenge, Moby Dick to his Ahab?

This weekend, another try is underway.  He has been traveling recently to Hong Kong and Singapore on business, and returned to Japan last week, to announce he would make another attempt, reserving a hotel room in Hachioji near there the Takao start.  He told me he would start at 245AM from Takao.  The key is to get over Shirane-san before too late at night, and then over Sugadaira Kogen and to Ueno before sleeping around 24 hours from the start.  4 hours of rest sets up the possibility of another almost-24 hour effort through to the finish.

At this point Jerome does not bother to register with Audax -- the point for him is not an "official" completion, but an actual one.

I could not join the effort, but I wanted to try to help somehow, if only to get him started on the right track.  I agreed to meet him on Route 20 in front of his hotel in Hachioji at 215AM Saturday and--most important--to call him when I was 30 minutes away, so that he could wake and prepare to depart.

As usual, despite my best intentions I found it impossible to sleep before 10PM, and even then could do so only on the sofa in our living room.  At 1245AM, my son (visiting us and typically awake until much later) woke me.  I quickly changed and got onto the bicycle, already prepped for departure, and was cycling at 1:05AM.  By 1:45 I had reached Sekidobashi along the Tamagawa, and placed my "wake up call" to Jerome.

It was 2:05AM as I went through an area of Hachioji along the Asagawa where the paths and roads require crossing the river or moving onto through streets.  On the through street, as I approached a red light, a somewhat nasty taxi cab pulled in front of me and all the way to the left edge, blocking my passage.  I decided to cross into a side street where I knew he would not follow.  About a half kilometer later on a very dark stretch, as I was a few hundred meters before rejoining the well-lit main road, I hit a pothole.  I did not see it, despite decent front lighting.  Hissssss went my front tire tube.  Completely Flat in a few seconds.  A quick text to Jerome telling him I was held up, and then I found a good spot under a streetlight to swap in another tube.

A few minutes later I was on my way ... but the replacement tube lost air within 15 seconds or so.  Back off the bike, this time a thorough check of the inside of the tire and the rim before putting in my second spare tube.  And hands only, no tire levers to minimize the risk of damages to the tube during installation, ... but this one would not hold air either.  I did not even get back on the bike, as I could feel air hissing out around the base of the valve stem.  Defective (private label mail order) tubes!

I called Jerome and told him he should start without me.  I might not be able to help his effort (other than the wake up call), but there was no way I was going to let my tire tube problems hold up his SR600 attempt, even an unofficial attempt.  There was I sitting on the side of a dark road, thinking of my last early morning ride attempt a few weeks back and its premature end.  Would this be another bust?

I got out the tire patch kit -- rubber cement, sand paper, tire patches and some of the new patches with adhesive on the back already.  I struggled to find the holes in my 3 tubes.  The one that had blown in the pothole would not even fill with air, yet I could not find any visible hole, in the dark.  I cast it aside for now.  The second and third tubes seemed to have pinpricks near the valve base.  I affixed one of the new patches with pre-fixed adhesive.  The adhesive seemed weak -- maybe it has been in the patch kit for a year?  Or two or three or more?  Still, these were newer versions of the pre-glued patches.  The older ones were hopeless, and I remember being impressed with the new type when I got them -- looked like they might actually work.  Was there a "use by" date?  In any event, the first I tried would barely stick to the tube.  I pressed it with my hands for a minute or two, kneeding it a bit, then replaced the tube.  No luck, air rushed out.  I tried a second one.  This seemed stickier.  Put the tube back in tire again.  Still no luck as air leaked.  Tube out, I turned to the traditional patch.

First, I applied sand paper to clean the tube area around the hole that would be under the patch.  Then a generous glob of rubber cement spread over the same area, then only once the rubber cement dried I affixed the patch.  (That is the key -- the cement must dry first -- counterintuitive and so where newbies often go wrong). Then back in the tube.  Better than the last try ... but still did not hold air.  Upon removal and inspection, I saw that the patch was not entirely flat against the tube.  I tried again, a deep breath first.  This time it all worked.  The tire/tube held pressure.

Just to make sure decided to wait a few minutes. I patched the other tube with a pin prick hole near the valve.  I have no idea if it is effective, but at least it felt reassuring to know that I had a spare.  And the tube on the bike was still holding solid after a few minutes.

So 75 minutes after I stopped, I was back on the road.  An SMS from Jerome -- he was already in Oume and is changing a flat of his own.  But since he is riding a 600, he started with 3 spare tubes, and a patch kit.  No problem.
From my home to Takasaki, by 915AM
I skipped Takao and took Akigawa Kaido to join the SR600 course -- Takao Kaido then Takiyama Kaido, which becomes Route 411.  It is incredibly peaceful, cool, no traffic at all.  I had never noticed that the roads in this area are actually very, very nice.  Smooth pavement, tree-lined, nice hillsides.  I guess during the day the traffic had always crowded out these impressions.

After a brief stop at a 7-11 in Oume for a snack, I started along Nariki Kaido and left Tokyo for Saitama and Chichibu.  This road is beautiful, and there was enough light now so that I could start to see my surroundings, and still no traffic.
Nariki Kaido in Early Light -- 4:30~4:45AM -- sunlgiht visible on the hilltop
Moving at a decent clip, I made my way through Nariki, then Naguri, a next stop at the "magic fountain" to refill my bottles before climbing Yamabushi Pass.  Now there are locals out, taking their early strolls, with dogs, or to smoke a cigarette on a bridge overlooking the river.  The dogs here are not poodles or chihuahuas, but Japanese breeds.  I passed an elderly couple walking, no dog.

Naguri on the way to Arima and Yamabushi -- mist on hills in early light
It was 540AM by the time I reach the top of Yamabushi Pass.  On the climb I go steadily but am careful not to push myself too hard.
Alone at Yamabushi Pass - 540AM
Over the top and down the other side to Chichibu City, arriving at 615AM.  The ride so far has been magical.  Nariki and Naguri are green, water rushing from recent rains, no traffic, and mist in the hills.  The temperature?  On the climb I saw one temperature gauge showing 12 degrees C.  Soon thereafter another showing 16 degrees.  I was even chilly on the descent, at least for a few minutes until my Q36.5 Bolzano club jersey dried in the wind.  This is rare, cool weather for June in Kanto, a vestige of the rains that had passed through only 6-8 hours earlier.

After a convenience store breakfast at the "bike rack Lawson" along Route 299 in Chichibu City, I continued along the course toward Gunma.  This next stretch along local routes 41, then 13, then a new local road in Fujioka, has plenty of little hills.  I remember suffering up these hills on past brevets.  Now they seem neither long nor steep, nor difficult.  Why had I suffered? Too fast a pace?  Headwind? In any event, now it is easy to make decent time, not pushing but not dawdling, and eventually I am in the area of Fujioka south of Takasaki.

It is still between 8 and 9AM as I work toward Takasaki Station.  At the station, a temperature gauge now reads 25 degrees C, no doubt headed into the low 30s.  I pack my bike carefully, wash up a bit and change into "civilian" shorts and shirt before boarding the train back to Tokyo, arriving in Marunouchi an hour early for a lunch meeting.

Around 1130AM I receive a call from Jerome.  He slept for 2 hours and is about to climb up Route 18 to Usui Toge and Karuizawa.  Another text from him at 3PM asking confirmation of the SR600 time limit -- 52 hours.  620AM Monday morning.  Jerome mentions meeting The Russian (Laurent) who has done "my road" -- must mean Kurumazaka, then Jizo Passes and the Tsumagoi Panorama Line.

But he was only climbing up to Kusatsu in late afternoon, and his post mentions fatigue and a lack of training.  This is a bit ominous from the man who wears as a badge of pride having many years run the Kyoto mountain marathon with NO preparation.  And no word yet on Sunday morning.  Where is he? Will he make it?  Or does the white whale win another round?

03 June 2014

Dangers for Cyclists in the Woods of British Columbia

When riding the Rocky Mountain 1200, I was a bit concerned about coming across a grizzly bear our mountain lion while riding along a deserted Icefields Parkway at 2AM at night.  Yes, I got a "bear bell" and attached it to my underseat bag so I would make a bit of noise and not surprise any large animals.

But it seems there are other, worse dangers lurking in the woods of British Columbia, as this story and the accompanying TV news video make clear.