30 November 2014

Kobu Tunnel

I headed out this morning for a 3/4 day ride.  I decided to head up the Akigawa, either to Tomin no Mori or over Kobu Tunnel.  I wanted to get in a decent ride, with some work on strength -- powering up a few hills with low cadence and/or one leg drills -- but did not want to return so exhausted I would be unable to function this evening ... often the case.

In the end, I went up the Akigawa, through Kobu Tunnel, then back to Uenohara and back via the North side of Lake Tsukui, then Onekansen Doro.  141.6 kms, around 1250 meters climbing.  Just what I needed.
The weather was cool, even cold and damp along the Akigawa -- 10 degrees C and 96 percent humidity (?) according to one sign just past the Tokura 7-11.  

I tried to go along the lower Akigawa ... but the path was blocked off due to potential slides.
On the road to Itsukaichi, I passed 5-6 Japanese cyclists, 3 in a group and singles.  We all stopped and so chatted a bit at the Tokura 7-11.  They were heading for Tomin no Mori, except one older rider who said he would do Kobu/Ura-Wada.  On a solo ride it was nice to have some fellowship.  I pushed off ahead and did not see them again.
At a second stop -- the Circle K on Route 412 just before heading toward the North shore of Tsukui, I was eating lunch when 3 young women -- presumably college students -- pulled up for a rest stop.  One was clearly the leader, telling the others what to do and giving pointers.  We chatted and I showed off the Canyon Shark.
The XL Canyon Shark towers over the XS women's bikes.
(The photo was a bit rushed due to a car trying to park against the back of my legs.)
They had come over Otarumi and were heading back toward town down 412/413.  
I told them I was heading over the North side of Tsukui to avoid traffic and do the extra short climbs, and headed out. Lake Tsukui was very tranquil, a cyclist strolling on the bridge.  I almost hopped off to enjoy the view.  But instead went on until I got up the hill to the forest road.  There were nice fall colors still visible from the North side.
After I rejoined Route 413 to the west of Tsukui, I saw the 3 students from the Circle K in a line ahead.  They had made good time by taking the direct route.  I passed them just after the road dips and zig zags toward a short climb that ends with the start of a long straightaway to Route 16.  Jerome usually zips ahead of me on this little climb, ... but I wanted to put on a good show, so after exchanging greetings, I hammered up the hill, making the traffic light I usually miss at 川尻 and leaving them somewhere down the hill.
When I got home and uploaded my ride, I was disappointed to find that this little hill is not at a Strava "segment" ... so I created one.  My little power-climb today put me 9th out of 585 riders, and at 1 min 10 seconds, was 28 seconds faster than I have done this climb before.  Yippee.

Then a quick trip back in via Onekan and the Tamagawa, and a hot bath.
Fall foliage under dark skies between Kobu Tunnel and Uenohara:
The road is the road.
Torii, fields, and hills between Kobu Tunnel and Wada.
 Bike Leaning at bamboo bridge

29 November 2014

Elliptical Treadmill

This blog leads people in unexpected directions.

When I was in Berlin last winter I went along to the 103rd Berlin Six Day Race. Having no idea what to expect, I called on MOB for advice. He introduced me to a German writer I had never heard of - a journalist called Egon Erwin Kisch, who wrote a piece called Elliptische Tretmuehle about the 1923 Berlin Six Day Race. 

So I had a night at the races (I blagged a press pass). But I could not find an English version of the Kisch article, although it was clear that he was a celebrated writer and this is a celebrated piece - it was mentioned in the programme for the 2014 race. In fact it is well known enough to still be in print in German.

At the heart of matters
I really liked the man, the history, the city, and the article. And the evening at the Six Day Race was fun too - as you might expect with beer and sausages and some pretty dramatic, if not melodramatic, track racing going on. The article is only short - I think 1300 words in German, 1800 or so in English. I have now translated it into English - I was amazed that there is no full English version. After some negotiation with the copyright holder and a bit of learning about self publishing, it is now available on Amazon for Kindle. I have to pay the copyright holder so I cannot make it available for free unfortunately.

Anyway, it is available here: 

I used this image for the cover
I wrote an article too for Rouleur magazine about Berlin in the 1920s, Kisch, the Six Day Race now, and then. It should be in edition 51.

Thanks to MOB for the inspiration and Juliane on some German difficulties. Definitely a Positivo co-production.
It is entertainment masquerading as sport, but fun to go

25 November 2014

Rice tires? RBCC from IRC

I got a set of Fulcrum Racing 3 tubeless (2-way fit) wheels early this year.  I had some near-new Hutchinson Fusion 3 tires getting old in the garage, and the wheels were inexpensive via Wiggle.  I must say they are a more refined product than the Fulcrum Racing 1 two-way's that I experimented with back 5-6 years ago.

First, the spokes are regular steel bladed, not the fat, stiff aluminum ones of that era's Racing 1.  And I have had no issues with the wheels staying true so far, or with spoke nipples coming loose as I did with those.

Second, the tubeless tires went on the rims much more easily than I had remembered, and I had no problem adding some Caffe Latex sealant inside each tube by removing the core of the valve.

No flats so far.  (When I removed the rear tube I could see that the sealant had formed a tight rubber block around one area of the inside of the tire ... presumably where it prevented a leak from expanding.  Pretty cool.

Juliane used these wheels this summer, and I have used them a bit in spring and again on several longer rides this fall.  Henry also used them on some short rides this September.  Total mileage on the tires is around 1500 kms, I expect.  Now they are worn to the point near danger.  I guess the age of the product prior to use (they were purchased 4-5 years back) plus some skidding on rough roads did most of the damage.  Time for a change.

... Time for a change from the Hutchinson Fusion 3's.
I was pleased to find a much more diverse set of choices for road tubeless tires than the last time I looked.  Also prices have come down from former nosebleed territory, so that when you add in the cost of a few tubes you would need during the life of a clincher, they are about the same, or even a potential cost saver.  And this time of year they are actually in stock, even in the 25mm versions.

What tires to get?  More Hutchinson?  Specialized?  Schwalbe?  Or how about IRC?  I had used and liked one of their tubeless tires back in 2009, but they were too expensive.  So I was glad to see that their high end RBCC version are now available here in Japan for around 6000 yen including tax (that is about US$45 plus tax).   I also ordered some closeout-priced Schwalbe Evolution One tubeless that have yet to arrive.

For now, IRC.  What is RBCC?  Rice bran ceramic compound.  Yes, tires with a special ingredient to increase the grip.  Very Japanese!

Hiroshi tells me that IRC was once known for making tires that slipped too much in the wet -- treacherous in rain and they had a bad reputation with his generation of racers.  Well,  IRC obviously took that to heart and decided to fix any issues in the intervening years (decades?).  One way is with the RBCC coating.  "Grip +" the package says, and it is true.

These tires have incredible grip.  I felt firmly attached to the road as I took my first corners.  They will be great for descending.

They are also incredibly comfy -- the first time I have tried 25mm tubeless tires and they roll very nicely at 90psi.

They went on the rim easily -- on my first try they held air and slotted into the bead perfectly.

If road tubeless can now be this easy ... I may need to use it more going forward.

They are a bit heavy (300 grams in the 25mm version, 260 in the 23mm) ... but when you add the weight of an inner tube to something like a 230 gram Conti Gran Prix Four Season 25mm version, that brings them very close in overall weight.  Insert sealant and a gap opens a bit more.

An interesting and attractive made-in-Japan product!  Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE -- Nov 30.  I got in my first real ride with the IRC tubeless RBCC tires today.  141.6 kms.  After rain yesterday, and with the humidity still very high and rain threatening at times today, the roads were still damp, and covered in leaves in some places.

The tires worked fine.  I tried skidding by braking hard on a road covered with wet ginko leaves. Nope.  Stopped perfectly.  On the forest road North side of Lake Tsukui was covered in wet leaves many places.  No problems.  Grip.  And comfort.
One of the better sections of the forest road on N side of Lake Tsukui.

Photos from Canyon Japan Service/Support/Marketing Launch

I missed the invitation-only Canyon Japan maintenance/service/tech support launch party on Sunday evening, sitting in traffic on the way back to Tokyo from Nagano.  I did stop by the public event on Monday to check out the bicycles, of course arriving on the Canyon Shark.  Their Japan support is based in Kyoto, presumably from a Kansai-based Japan distributor ... name of which does not appear.

Line out the door and up the stairs for those who wanted to chat with Giro champion Joaquin Rodriguez, rider on the sponsored Katusha team.

Lots of marketing material for bikes with the aero frame Aeroad CF.  The people at the event mostly did not look like they will be riding fast enough to get the benefits of aero ...

A nice triathlon bike.

Very low wind profile.  The front end and bar are very minimal and streamlined.
This commuter bike with built in light and fenders, disk brakes.  The streamlined design will attract some ... and repel others.
With the exchange rate now at 147 JPY = 1 Euro and consumption tax at 8% ... they will not sell as many bikes as they might have back when the rate hovered around 100 JPY back in 2012/early 2013. ...

16 November 2014

Saturday to Saitama ... and back

On Saturday I got in a nice 185km round trip to Yorii in NW Saitama and back.  This is the time of year we often see the best riding weather in Tokyo, and Saturday was no exception!

I met my colleague Aiko-san at Moroyama and we did about 65 kms of the ride together.  It was the furthest he has gone on the road bike he got last winter, but other than a pre-lunch semi bonk, solved by a Snickers bar, he made it without difficulty.

Aiko-san as we approach Yorii
I needed to be home by 430PM, so started around 640AM, was in Moroyama by 915AM, and just made it back on time.  Instead of riding up the Tamagawa all the way to Oume, I headed north from the river earlier.  I let Strava choose part of the route for me, drawing the track using Strava's function that bases routing on popularity among other cyclists.  That worked well on the way out, and I ended up on Route 59, a decent road with shoulder heading north for what seemed like almost 10 kms, west of Tachikawa and east of Akishima/Fussa.  Then I found myself on a route taken on Brevets to get through this area, across the tea fields of Oume/Iruma, and down into Iruma.

Iruma, Hanno, Hidaka, Komagawa, then Moroyama. ... Then with Aiko-san on Saitama Route 30 to Ogose, Tokigawa, Ogawamachi, onto Route 254, then a local road over a hill and eventually down into Yorii.  Then back.

As we rode out through Tokigawa I saw a sign at an intersection pointing left toward Shiroishi Pass via Route 172, and a cyclist just starting to head that direction ... but not today.  I was on the clock and it would have been a bit too much of a climb for my colleague, yet.
Lots of Honda facilities around Ogawamachi ... all hidden from the road and landscaped nicely.
We stopped for lunch at a nice looking (and quite busy) small, local Japanese food place in Ogawamachi. There were explanations about the famous "washi" or traditional Japanese paper that comes from the town.  And the waiter told us of some kind of town event going on Saturday -- if we visited 5 places we could enter a prize lottery.  We regretfully declined.

These towns are all an an area of rolling hills, west of the Saitama plain and east of the real hills and mountains.  Nice country for riding through and lots of places to stop for food or a side visit, and a good place for a new road cyclist to build up strength at riding on rolling hills, or for an experienced cyclist to try to hold a tempo on an upward incline.
Looking across some farms at the south facing slope where will plan our next solar project.  Ready to build soon.
But too much traffic and too many trucks on a Saturday mid-day.  It would have been a miserable day to drive around suburban Saitama, I expect.
A former chicken farm in Moroyama that is now a small solar park.  No fence (?)
On the way home I had intended to follow the same route ... but for some reason the track did not show on my Garmin.  Perhaps because I had turned it off during lunch, then back on again?  Or another Garmin gremlin?  In any event, I followed  the Route 299 bypass -- 2 lanes in each direction, quite fast but heavy traffic.  Then I hunted and pecked my way around Tokorozawa vicinity -- slow going and wasted time.  Then eventually I headed south on Fuchu Kaido all the way toward the Tamagawa, at one point passing the long, high, grey wall of the prison in Fuchu ... the same route as the early season Aoba 300 brevet that Jerome and I joined.  Stop and go traffic the entire way, but at least faster by bicycle than by car.
In the shadows.  At least my jacket is visible.
The Canyon Shark was a joy to ride.  I rode it with my Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels and tubeless tires - fast and comfortable.  Of course, I had relatively fresh legs after not riding last weekend, plus the benefit of a good base from my heavy riding schedule in Sept/Oct. So I felt strong the entire day.   Likewise, the early winter Q36.5 clothing was perfect.

My only complaint was a sticking link in my Ultegra 6800 chain.  This sticking happened first on Wednesday, and I cleaned thoroughly and lubricated the chain (using basic Kure CRC 5-56) then ... and subsequently had no trouble with it going 75 kms to/from Keio SFC.  But again on Saturday morning the link started to stick and I would suffer a "clunk" and slip a bit each revolution of the chain as the sticking link entered the derailleur.  This drove me a bit crazy and slowed me down, but I adjusted as best I could.  I could not fix it despite several attempts to manually loosen up the offending link -- the only result was grease all over my gloves.  I eventually found an open Shell gasoline stand, at the tea fields of Iruma.  They lent me a can of the Kure 5-56 and a towel, and I could again thoroughly clean the chain (and especially the offending link).  They refused my offer to pay for the service -- typical Japan.

The chain was trouble free the rest of the day.  I think the offending link is the one where I inserted the Shimano fixing pin to assemble the chain on my bicycle.  It must have bent slightly when I snapped off the end of the Shimano fixing pin with a pliers.  Or maybe the pin fits more tightly than others.  So I look at this as likely a Shimano design defect.  As the chains get thinner and thinner, they get more fragile and more subject to this kind of problem with just a little grit, not serious dirt.  This chain has less than 1000 kms on it and I would hope is good for another 5000 or more ... but at a minimum I will need to keep it extremely clean and lube it much more carefully than I would normally -- before every ride.

New Rinko (Bike Cover) from Doppelganger ...

At Cyclemode I happened to see an interesting bike cover on display (and sale) at the Doppelganger display booth.

There is a debate of sorts between those who prefer a rinko bag that requires removal of both wheels (ne), and those that require removal of only the front wheel (Jerome).  Of course, it is a trade off between the compactness of the packed bike when on a crowded train (both-wheels-off wins) and ease and messiness of packing and unpacking (only-front-wheel-off wins).  Doppelganger shows us another approach -- not marketed specifically as a rinko, but rather as a "bike cover" for storage inside a house, for example.  But it will work as a rinko with both wheels on!  And no straps.

I would not recommend trying a both-wheels-on style rinko except if you know you will be riding on a half (or more) empty local train.  For that, it would be perfect.  On or off in a minute or two.

Of course, the fabric it is very stretchable and so also could work with a strap or two as a "one wheel off" alternative.

Weight -- no more than my other lightweight ballistic nylon rinko bags, maybe less.

Cost -- at Cyclemode, it was on sale for 3000 yen, including an additional very simple "ass saver" short fender that clips onto the underside of a saddle.

10 November 2014

Cyclemode Talk - DGL with Shigeki Kobayashi and Chiaki Sakai

My longtime friend Shigeki Kobayashi of the non-profit Bicycle Promotion Study Group asked me to present at Cyclemode.

I followed Yukiya Arashiro (who moved on to another session on the "main stage"), and preceded Wataru Watanabe, the creator of hit manga "Yowamushi Pedal" about a high school outcast who joins the school cycling club.

So there were lots (several hundred?) who heard my session, most just trying to get good seats for the following session with Watanabe-san.

It is a bit hard for me to listen to my own casual Japanese ... "ano ...  ano ... ano ...." but here it is.

Otherwise, I got to say hi backstage to Yukiya and Miwa-san, his wife and business manager, who joined the Bouhets and Litts for a memorable Jerome-arranged dinner last year-end.  All in all well worth the trip out to Makuhari.

07 November 2014

Q36.5 for early winter

I got some more great clothes for the upcoming season.  First, an inner layer that is a bit special -- integrated glove liners and hood.  This thing is really comfortable and warm.  Of course, the glove liners and hood can be pulled back, head and hands emerging, so it becomes a regular turtleneck.  A great idea for warmth/protection with a very light, thin layer.
And it does the "Ultraman" pose!  
And a very thin, windbreaking "hybrid Que" jersey/jacket.  It has great pockets -- 3 + 1 zippered back pockets -- like the Q36.5 jerseys, with mesh inner sides for extra breathability -- and a nice large pocket on the left arm that can fit an energy bar, mobile phone, or something else you need to reach easily while riding.

... if only it were a bit colder today.  I may need to wait until late November or early December to use these near Tokyo.

Also a long leg winter version of the Q36.5 Salopette bib short -- again, very thin, light, but with some wind blocking so perfect for Tokyo early winter riding.  Not much to photograph there, but very nice.

UPDATE November 15:  I have worn the "hybrid Que" a few times riding around town and on Saturday wore it and the long leg Salopette bib shorts on a 185 km ride.  Temperatures started cold in the early morning (around 5C/41F), and stayed cool as I headed inland to western Saitama.  Midday and afternoon return were warm probably has high as 15C/60F).  I was comfortable the entire time, only partially unzipping the jacket during the warmer part of the ride.  Perfect gear for this season, and with a warmer head covering and gloves perfect even when the ride starts or finishes colder.

The "hybrid Que" sizing is closer to jersey than jacket.  In particular, it is not that long in the waist, to the point where for someone long in the torso, as I am, I should wear it with bib shirts, not regular shorts, so that my inner layer does not show along the waist!

New Bicycle Shop on Meiji Dori?

This shop seen near the start of Meiji Dori within 100 meters from Route 1, between Azabu and Shirogane:

02 November 2014

Fall "Challenge Recovery" Ride with Traditions Galore

Jerome and I have not had much chance to ride together lately -- his travel schedule prevented him from joining recent Brevets, even those he signed up for.  So we wanted to get in one decent ride over the 3-day weekend.

He styled it a "challenge recovery" ride.  Recovery for me from 2 weekends in a row with Brevets, for him from too much travel and food and drink.  Challenge?  Not really consistent with recovery, I think, but the general idea was to not push the pace TOO hard, but go fairly long and do some climbing, at least.  I was looking for more recovery than challenge, having ridden almost 3000 kms over the past 2 months.
The Upper Tamagawa from near the top of Yoshino Kaido
We decided to honor the traditions of Positivo Espresso to the extent practical, and headed out a traditional route up the Tamagawa then the Asagawa toward Takao.  There was dog show going on along the Asagawa at a park in Hachioji.  Lots of dogs of all types, but mostly typical Japanese breeds.  And lots of older dog owners.

Ready for the show.
We stopped at the traditional 7-11 on Route 20 in front of Takao Station.  Then a climb up to Otarumi Pass, and down the far side and out to Uenohara.  The traffic was light, and no trucks on a Sunday in the middle of a 3-day weekend.

We stopped briefly at a new landmark on the way to Sagami-ko.  A used car lot (junk yard?) right next to the road named Rookie had an interesting looking superhero guarding the inventory.

At Uenohara, we stopped at the Daily Yamazaki along Route 33 (which no longer has benches in front since the renovation a few years ago ..., but is still a traditional stop), then took the "old road" -- deserted -- through wooded areas and to the base of Yamanashi Route 18.

As we reached the base of the climb to Tawa Pass, we turned left onto Steve T.'s alternate route around the pass.  We stopped at the steep field next to the road, glad to see it well-tended, the persimmons mostly removed from the trees in the adjacent orchard.  We followed tradition and looked to see if the little old lady was working in the field.  I did not have high hopes, as she has not been there the last few times I passed here.
Is the old lady at work in the field?  Can you see her?
We were delighted to find that she was, indeed, at work.  She looked up and saw us, and returned our wave.
How about now?
Further up Route 18, we made the traditional stop at the covered picnic table, rest room and gateball court just above 700 meters elevation on the climb to Tsuru Pass.

Jerome looks at the Shark and thinks "I want one"?
For there, we quickly made it to the top of Tsuru and down the North side of the hill to Okutama-ko.  Of course, we stopped at Yagyu-tei, better known as Watanabe-san's cafeteria.   Mrs. Watanabe was off, but her younger sister, Ms. Sato was there.

Just as we were heading into the restaurant a group of well-dressed, younger women cyclists rode by and looked at the much fancier restaurant/coffee shop down the block, next to the lake.  But there was a line outside (!), so they turned around and came back up the block and into Yagyu-tei.  It was the women's only Rapha Tokyo Club ride.  No wonder they were stylishly dressed.  Or "CCTYO Women’sライド 奥多摩".

Lots of women's bikes at Yagyu Tei!
Jerome wanted more climbing, whereas I needed to get home, having done almost 100km of "recovery", with another 80km just to get home.  So Jerome headed up the back approach to Kazahari Pass, while I rode along Okutama-ko then down toward Oume through the tunnels.  It was a fast trip home.

Tradition.  Recovery. Challenge.

01 November 2014

Rear Lights Dynamo Powered - Short Review

A rainy Saturday today, so no ride.  I hope tomorrow will be dry, and Jerome and I will get out from 730AM.  Start from my house -- others are of course welcome.

For a long time I have used simple battery powered rear lights.  Given the lower power requirements, batteries will last even through a long ride with extensive night riding.  But batteries do run down, and out, and it is especially inconvenient, even dangerous, if it happens at the wrong time.  

Also, my favorite rear lights for many years, the "fibre flare" series, have not been as durable as I would like.  The all around visibility is great, and the quality may have improved over time.  But a few stopped working almost immediately after I got them (problems with the switch) and others suffered water damage or broken fastenings after a year or two in use.  
Fibre flare
So recently I have started to experiment with using my hub dynamo to power rear as well as front lights.

On the Bike24.com site there are lots and lots of dynamo-powered rear light options.  Unfortunately, most of them affix to a rear rack.  What rear rack?  I do not use one and have no plans to start.  Some of them also affix to mudguards.  Also not ideal, for someone who uses removeable mudguards, or none at all, much of the time.  

Jerome does have a rear rack, so I got him what looks like a very nice, thin, bright Busch & Mueller light that will affix there.  This cost around 10 Euro (plus tax/shipping).  I look forward to a report.

The choices are limited (and a bit more expensive) for dynamo lighting with other mounting options. I have a Philips rear light that attaches to my seatpost (approx 20 Euro), and a Busch & Mueller that attaches to a seat stay (approx 15 Euro).  Both are very bright compared with typical rear lights on bicycles.  The Philips attachment is not as durable as I would like ... so I worry about how long it will last.  Both are easy to connect, though it does require a wire along the top tube between front and rear lights.

I think the Busch & Mueller Secula Plus attached to my seat stay is going to be my favorite.  It has a very bright standlight, which the Philips lacks.  So it will be much safer for urban riding where I will be stopped at an intersection waiting for a traffic light, for example.  For now I have put it on the Yamabushi, my primary commuting bike.  I think the best place in winter.
Bright standlight!