30 March 2015

Too Nice A Day Not to Ride -- Kita Akigawa Spin

Today was a beautiful Monday, perfect riding weather and the sakura blossoming all around the Tokyo area.  So I headed out of the house and turned left, heading toward then upriver.

Just after passing the first traffic signal, Kanpachi Dori, I saw Tominaga-san, heading in to work. I said his name and he did a double take, recognizing me for the first time and looking a bit surprised that I was heading west, then was gone.

I stopped just past the Odakyu Line to take some photos of the sakura.  And again just after crossing the Tamagawa on Route 16.

I had to remind myself repeatedly not to stop more times -- already plenty of photos of sakura on the internet.

I was thinking of climbing to Tomin no Mori, but in the end opted for a shorter, easier trip up the North Akigawa.  A beautiful river valley, almost no traffic.  Around 130 kms for the day, so a decent workout, though not very scientific training.

Bike leaning -- Canyon Shark and Gokisos!

I went as far as the bottom of the climb to the mushroom research center (キノコセンター).
"Only" 3.9 kms to the Kinoko Center -- straight up!
At my turn around.

Disposable Bikes -- Being Disposed of

A recent post started a brief conversation about the disposable nature of the bikes most people are riding in Tokyo.  These "mamachari" and kids equivalents, cost only 10-20,000 yen, so if they get old or rusty, much easier to replace them than to repair or maintain them.
Mamachari pricing
Today, as I passed through Tachikawa, I went by a Cycle Base Asahi store just as a truck was loading up junky traded-in bicycles.  I asked the driver ... dragging bike carcasses out from behind the shop, how many weeks worth of bikes is this?  Answer:  One week.  Typically 50 bikes a week disposed of, at this one shop.
Truck hauling away the trade-ins.

Disposable bikes, stacked high

No More マムシ注意 (Viper Warning) On the Tamagawa

Regular riders up and down the Tamagawa cycling path will remember a small wild area, just south of Route 16 in Akishima-shi.

You can see it here on Google Street View (until Google's next update), looking south from the Route 16 bridge over the Tamagawa.  We usually go around this narrow, twisting and rough (unpaved) section of the path, instead taking the the street a bit farther from the river, here.  But every so often we would take the path.

The most memorable features were the wooden signs, about knee high, at the edge of the path a few places saying マムシ注意 or "watch out for vipers".  The mamushi is a small but highly poisonous Japanese viper.

I have never seen one in the wild, and do not particularly want to!  The warning was doubtless enough to keep most disaffected youth from wandering through the tall grasses toward the river. 

Well, no longer.  The entire area has now been "beautified" and made easily passable!  The path no longer curves.  No longer any high grass for mamushi ... or any other animals of note.  And a much fortified dike to prevent flooding the adjacent areas, whether necessary or not.  Public works!
"Beautifully" straight and barren. No worries about mamushi.

29 March 2015

Bicycle for Yoshihara-san

One of my friends recently mentioned he would be interested in getting a road bicycle.  He is on a limited budget, given family and other hobby commitments ... so after a few false starts we ended up deciding to try to find something used that would still be a good starting point.  I happened to find a frame in his size via the TCC classified ... which was offered by the owner in a full-bike alternative.  A great deal, in my view -- a Pinarello Marvel frame, around 10 years old but without much apparent wear, and built up with a mix of Campy 10-speed components, including many new or nearly new components.  Also Rolf Prima Elan wheelset.  55,000 yen (around US$450).

It came in two boxes from west Japan, so I got to do the assembly.  I was very glad to have the workstand I got for Christmas!

One problem -- the seat tube is a bit long for him, so I lowered the seatpost further down.  The post was a very long (35cm? longer?) carbon model, and hit the inside of the bottle cage boss before going as far as I wanted to set it into the tube.  I tried to swap it for one of my spare posts ... but different diameters.  What to do?  I quickly got out my hacksaw and fork steerer cutting block, and cut 2-3 cms off the post.  Problem solved.

I also added some of the new Shimano Click'R clipless pedals -- which take much less force than traditional SPD in order to disengage.  Good for someone to learn how to use clipless.  Then it was off to a nearby shop to help him choose cycling wear and accessories, to use up of some of the money saved from getting a used bike ... and he is good to go.
Happy bike leaning in front of blossoming Sakura tree.

28 March 2015

Bicycle Abuse and Abandonment

Yes, a serious social problem.  It happens even in the "nicest" of middle class neighborhoods.
I passed this awful scene last week when taking our dog for a walk in a perfectly nice area of Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.  
Yes, kids need guidance from parents to properly care for bicycles (just like pets).  Or else you end up with a scene like this, out of some horror flick.
This kid's bike was left abandoned, the chain rusted enough so it could probably be pulled apart with one's arms.  Not even a decent burial.  Now just a hunk of exposed metal, plastic and rubber polluting the environment. What did the bicycle do to deserve this? 

23 March 2015

Attack Nikko! Attack Beef Line (feebly, not beefly)! Saitama BRM321 400km. And 2015 Race for the HAM'R

As planned, Jerome and I rode the 400 km Saitama Audax "Attack Nikko and Beef" event this Saturday (into Sunday early morning).
The Ti Travel bike with Doppelganger cover.
Not designed as a "rinko" but for storing a bike inside a house/apartment without getting grease on other items.
But great to take the bike on an uncrowded train without removing the wheels.  Do not try in rush hour.
Yes, 400 kilometers is a long ride.   Depending on the terrain and the conditions, it is a distance that lies, for most of us, near the outer edge of the "just gut it out" and "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" range and ahead of the range where "you really need to think this through and plan a bit if you want to finish in a decent time and avoid injury."  So the perfect distance for me to ride together with Jerome.
Indeed, 400kms is longer than Steve Abraham (UK) or Kurt Searvogel (US) rides in a day, as they both this year try to break the 1939 Tommy Godwin Highest Annual Mileage Record (the "HAM'R"). Of course, they ride between 300 and 400 kms EACH DAY, EVERY DAY, and will need to keep it up the entire year if either hopes to take the HAM'R.  You can track them here at the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association's HAMR page or the related Strava Club.  
At first, I was hoping Steve Abraham would win, as he was riding in the cold and wet of the English winter, while Kurt Searvogel was clocking 20-30 kms more each day riding in Florida.  Yes, flat and warm Florida.  Do those miles even count?  And then again there was Kurt's photo on his Strava page -- sleeveless jersey reeks of triathlon and time trial.  Perhaps he is using aero bars?  No, even worse, he is using (at least some of the time) a recumbent.  Does that even count?  Did Tommy Godwin get to use aero bars or rest his back riding a recumbent back in 1939?
But then I noticed that Searvogel has shifted his rides to Louisiana, Alabama, his home Arkansas and elsewhere.  These are the most dangerous roads in the U.S. for a cyclist -- most cyclist traffic deaths per mile.  And he will be giving anyone who pays attention a show, as he shifts around a good part of rural America.  And I read a bit more about him, and saw that yes, Kurt is a real endurance cyclist, doing RAAM and other events before a minor dalliance with triathlon.  Recumbent -- perfectly legal for ultra marathon events and extremely clever for this kind of effort -- rest your back and use different muscles on your recumbent days, switch back to the road bike for days with more climbing. And I noticed the age of the two riders -- Kurt (52) and Steve (41).  Advantage Kurt.  Steve can always try again in 11 years, when he is 52, to get a "fair" match.  Then one day Kurt lost his ride data because of a technical glitch.  Ouch.  Been there, and feel his pain.
Also, Kurt started his ride 9 days after Steve, so Kurt will always know exactly how far he needs to ride to beat Steve for the record.  Clever.  Yankee clever.  Kurt obviously thought this one through and intends to win, absent health issues. And after seeing crazy Slovenians, Austrians and other Europeans take RAAM too many years in a row, and the Brits win a truck full of track cycling medals at recent Olympics, it is great to see an American competing at this level in an ultra endurance cycling event.  So I am declaring in favor of Kurt.
Of course Steve's fans are upset.  Lots of trash talk on the web.  It is never fun to get steamrolled by a super-power.  Not fun, not amusing, no sense of humor (except maybe an attempt at an over-bearing one).  I get it.  But Kurt is not some rich hedge fund manager who buys the best equipment, coaching and medical assistance and wins the race with money prevailing over grit.  No.  He is an everyman.  If he can do it, you or I could do it.  He has an offer to let people ride with him for a day.  If you can hang with him, the ride is free.  If you cannot keep up, you pay $200 for the privilege, and he gets a nicer motel room and gets to order the steak for dinner.
[UPDATE:  Within a week after writing this, Steve Abraham suffered a crash after a moped collided with his bicycle.  He suffered a broken ankle that will require surgery and pins/plates for full recovery.  Sadly, Steve's 2015 effort has ended, and what could have become a great duel ends prematurely.  And Kurt's trek gets a bit lonelier.]

Where was I.  Yes, the 400 km Brevet.  My colleague T. Aiko and his son live near the start and so stopped by to wish us off.  As some of the riders started out, I narrated for Aiko-san "there goes Kondo-san ... he often wins the Tokyo-Itoigawa Fast-Run and gets the fastest brevet times in Japan."  I asked Kondo-san if he was going to win Tokyo-Itoigawa this year.  He said, "what are you talking about, no way this "ji-ji" (grandpa) can do it!"  Anyway, he can still finish a 600km Brevet in 24-30 hours, to my 36.  
And there goes Tominaga-san. I told Aiko-san:  "He commutes every day passing by my house on his 50 km daily round trip from Koganei to Marunouchi and back).  He must ride 20,000 km or more each year.  I know those are two riders with whom I cannot keep up!"
Jerome and I pose at the start.  
One of the woman Audax riders we regularly see-who arrived on the same train today- has some fun with our photo.
Pre-start briefing
Jerome and I mounted up and headed out.  A few minutes later, we came to a red light and waited ... catching some riders in front of us. ... Kondo-san, Tominaga-san and one other Saitama veteran with a chiseled face and a fast bike were there, and O-Hori-san.  We managed to stay with them the first 16 kms, the red lights giving us a chance to catch up and catch our breath.  Then I lost them on one light, and Jerome waited for me at the next.  Eventually, we formed a group of three with O-Hori-san and rode together until Jerome and I took a break at around the 78km mark.
The last Brevet for Jerome's Positivo Espresso special "shingo mushi kyoka" bib shorts.  Time for new club kit!
Fortunately, I had some safety pins that patched the growing hole, as I really did not want to ride behind this view for 400 kms.
I will not give a blow-by-blow on this semi-epic ride.  Just a few points to mention:
1.  The route out through North Saitama and central Tochigi, around the west side of Kanuma/Utsunomiya, is a masterpiece.  This could be a very ugly stretch, but somehow Saitama Audax has found back roads that make it tolerable, even pleasant.  The one monotonous stretch -- 20 kms or more straight on an agricultural road -- seemed much shorter than when I did it back in 2010. Kudos to Saitama Audax.  I do remember seeing a number of Mihara Junko posters on this stretch, a popular LDP upper house member who wants to revive use of one of the few political phrases banned from discourse by the US occupation in post-war Japan -- either does not know her history, or more likely does not care about offending the neighboring countries.
Typical South Tochigi scenery, from 7-11 parking lot
2.  Tochigi Route 14 south of Nikko - the Kobugahara Kaido - is a very nice road, highly recommended for cycling.  The course follows a river (the Oashigawa 大芦川) up a very gradual valley.  The road has almost no traffic, and the river water is clear and deep blue.  I wanted to stop for a picnic.  But no time to lose.  Eventually, the road leaves the river and climbs through woods over a ridge to the north, and descends to the area around Okorogawa (小来川) and Enkoji (円光寺).  This is where I remember hearing the dull ringing of temple bells on a misty morning in 2010, and thinking it must be a sacred place.
On Tochigi Route 14 -- Kobugahara Kaido 
More Route 14. Light through clouds.
And more Route 14
3. I had checked the weather forecast very carefully before this ride, mostly in fear of cold rain.  Cold is fine.  Rain is fine.  The combination can be very tough to beat during one of these events.  Once the body and your gear get both cold AND wet, you will not warm up easily.  So I was happy to see the night before the ride that we would very likely have no rain.  And even the temperatures looked perfect -- in the 10-15 degree C range in daytime, and dipping into the 0-5 degree range a night.  But the coldest night temperatures (~0 C) were in Nikko and Nasushiobara, which we would pass in late afternoon or early evening.  Then we would go through Otawara, on into Ibaraki and through hilly but more coastal areas.  Kasuma and Tsuchiura low temps looked a bit warmer, and if we rode according to plan we would be into the flat area around Tsukuba, warmer yet, then Noda and Kasukabe, in the coldest period around 4-6AM.  Wrong.
At Nikko Western Village--a "public private third sector" project that quickly closed its doors.  Unfortunately, from this angle the Presidents' faces are not visible on the replica of Mt. Rushmore (made of asbestos!) in the distance. 
Starting the gradual climb to Nasu Shiobara checkpoint ... nearing dusk.
No hint of red/pink color in the sky ... made me wish for the pale pink skies of Yatsugatake at dusk.
I remember seeing these flags 2 1/2 years ago in Shioya and Yaita, Tochigi.  Basically "don't turn our city into a nuclear waste dump!"  "Firmly opposed!"  Jerome confirmed that the flag is firmly planted and will not easily be removed.  The flags are still there. And now there are lots of wooden nicely painted, semi-permanent signs as well to the same effect.
We emerged from a quick, cheap dinner at a Nasu Shiobara "Gusto" restaurant around 7PM. One other rider had eaten there as well and left the restaurant 15 minutes ahead.  I was surprised to see him outside still.  He was now covered head to toe, thick shoe covers, face mask, jacket etc. and was talking about how cold it was, and would be.  I shrugged it off -- this is Nasu, once we get down in the valley we will be fine.  No, it stayed cold.  Really cold.  And got colder.  I put on all the gear I had brought, and was still cold.  Then my stomach started to act up.  And I got really really tired. Never do one of these rides without getting LOTS of sleep, EXTRA sleep the 2-3 previous nights. Do not try to skimp on sleep.
Enjoying my dinner at Gusto!
We did get a second wind after dinner and passed many riders who had lapped us as we dined.  But then it was a long hard, dark, cold slog over the hills of north Ibaraki to Hitachi Omiya.
4. My stomach was churning, I was sleepy, cold, and no power.  I think I should have avoided the Orangina at Nikko, and/or the orange juice at Gusto.  Jerome patiently waited for me ... many times. At the rest stops he said my face seemed to have lost all its color.  If this had not been a brevet, I would have just found someplace warm, anyplace warm, and pulled off to sleep ... even hopped a train home.  But this was a brevet, and a PBP qualifier, and we had lots of time before we would risk a DNF ... so instead I went on.
The hills on the last half are not high, but they add up.
I must have set a record slow pace along the "Beef Line", an agricultural road of constant ups and downs through the COLD hills of western Ibaraki. Why is it the "beef line"?  Well, at the northern entrance an odor of animal manure suggests that there really are cattle nearby.  Many riders passed me on the Beef Line.  Jerome could have easily done this course in 20 hours without me.  He is (again? as usual?) much stronger than I am.  Perhaps I could have done it in 20-21 if I had not suffered from this particular combination of stomach, sleep and cold issues?
At the Tsuchiura check point, after the coldest section had ended and we were back at the flatlands, I finally broke down and bought a 300 yen pair of gloves at the convenience store, to squeeze as a liner inside my real gloves.  All of a sudden my hands were warm.  Why didn't I do this 5 hours and 2 PC's earlier?  My brain must not have been functioning at 100%.  Indeed.
Anyway, my stomach and body recovered some by first light, and the last 75 kms at least were covered at a reasonable pace, to get to the finish in just under 24 hours.  A group of four, including Kondo-san and Tominaga-san, finished in under 17 hours.  Based on his Strava page, Tominaga-san also rode to and from his home, making the entire effort almost 500 kms.  Of course, since he finished in the middle of the night, he did not have an option to ride the train--one of the downsides of riding these courses too fast!
On the Hibiya Line -- we took it from Shin Koshigaya to the terminus at Nakameguro.
No worries about sleeping through our stop.
Home, a hot bath, then sleep.  Sleep all Sunday afternoon.  An hour or two up and about.  Then sleep Sunday evening and Sunday night through to Monday morning.  Actually, sleep on the Hibiya Line even before getting home.  Over 12 hours total, deep sleep.  And I feel great.  Yes, my muscles ache a bit.  But my body is relaxed and mind is clear.  The muscle aches are temporary, and just evidence the breaking down of muscle tissue that leads to regrowth.  In a week or two I will end up stronger.  On the road to PBP.

[UPDATE:  The results are out from Saitama Audax.  Approximately 90 riders, only 5 of whom failed to finish.  56 faster than me (not counting Jerome ... who could have done this many hours faster had he not waited).  29 slower than me.  The fact that only 5 out of 90 riders DNF'ed confirms this is not at all a hard 400 km ride, and it was only my errors in preparation and food/drink that pushed us toward the back of the pack.]

20 March 2015

400 kms with Saitama Audax -- Coming Tomorrow

Jerome and I look forward to seeing friends tomorrow on the Saitama Audax 400km "Attack Nikko and Beef" Brevet.  "Beef" refers to the "Beef Line", a road in northern Ibaraki Prefecture that, if memory serves, includes a few painful steep short ups and downs.

I rode much of the outbound route to Nikko back in 2010 at the same time of year, on Saitama Audax's "Attack Nikko Toshogu" event, with severe headwinds on nearly the entire return leg.  I remember searching in pitch dark for a "Falken" tire sign that marked a turn.  I see the same notation on tomorrow's que sheet ... but should be much easier to find in daylight.  And some LONG straight stretches through the rice fields of North Saitama and South/Central Tochigi.  This time we skip Takigahara Pass and take a more direct route into Nikko City from the south.

Stay tuned for a full report.

19 March 2015

Jerome -- The Wheel Punisher

I built up a pair of wheels for Jerome back in 2012 using DT Swiss RR415 rims.  Pretty quickly he had dinged them up, and it was clear they would not last forever.  Well, over two and a half years later, and he finally traded them in for a wheel with a stronger (and wider) rear rim ... more suitable for his style and type of riding.  Wheel No 00020.

The RR415's took a real beating.  Aluminum clincher rims are, ultimately, disposable items.
Looks like Jerome tried a can opener on these rims?
More deep dings. Amazing that they were still rideable.  But time for a change.

17 March 2015

Colossi at C Speed

Hiroshi at C Speed has recently started distributing another brand in Japan -- Colossi!  They have a lot of interesting frames.  The main website is here, and flickr photo collection is there.  Hiroshi's blog description is here.  The production is in China, and the company founder/CEO is a Dutch expat in China, together with his son.                        

I stopped by on Sunday with some friends who wanted a short test ride.  The reviews are very good.  Top quality steel frames -- including opportunities for customization.  The bike he has in inventory, with their "Rambler Road" steel frame of Columbus Zona tubing, looks great.
Colossi outside; Chesini inside
It is great to get access to a(nother) maker of really nice and reasonably priced steel frames via C Speed.  I hope to have more to say about Colossi in the (near) future.

14 March 2015

The Reverse Paul J.

I wanted to get in a good training ride today, but be back by 2PM.  So headed out around I rode Ride Number 9 in our Rides Near Tokyo series.  140kms and 3 good climbing stretches -- Akigawa/Kobu tunnel, the Uenohara golf course hills, and the "Ura Wada" Pass climb.
The interesting part of the ride -- up the Akigawa (to the North), then back over Wada Pass and in Jimba Kaido).
The riding conditions were perfect -- cool but not so cold you need to burn up most of your energy just maintaining your body temperature.  I was feeling pretty good about my pace, a bit tired legs from a Powercranks training session Thursday evening.  But still I was passing other riders and not being passed.  I stopped at the Itsukaichi 7-11.  Just as I had remounted and was heading up the next hill, a foreigner went zooming by me on a black Trek roadbike.  He looked as if he was probably 5 cms taller and 10-20 kgs lighter than me, and apparently he was stronger as well.  He disappeared into the distance so quickly it felt as if I was pedalling in place.  I guess I was not going all that fast. ... indeed not fast at all.

Almost sunny, on the climb to Kobu Tunnel.

In the Uenohara "golf course hills" -- always peaceful, and painfully steep.
Ura Wada road -- closed half way up due to road subsidence and dangerous falling rocks.
... but easy to go around the gate on either side, and I was not the only cyclist on the upper section.

The road off the back of Wada Pass really is falling away to one side. ... but no problem for a bicycle.

13 March 2015

Classic Messenger Trick -- The RIght [Left] Turn Signal

Earlier this week I saw the following: A T-Serv messenger was about 50 meters ahead of me as the traffic light turned red and a right turn signal turned green.

The messenger glided in front of the lead car stopped at the light, then angled across the intersection staying just to the left of the cars making a right turn with the signal.  Nothing unusual (though not the technical "two light, pedestrian style" right turn required under Japanese law).

But as the messenger got to the far diagonal corner, he made a sharp turn up onto the corner just as the traffic light (and walk light) on the cross street turned green.  He headed into the crosswalk and then bore right in the street ... as I slowed to a halt and waited 60? 90? seconds for the light to turn green.  The move looks like this:

I learned this from my cycling mentor back in the U.S., as we commuted together through Washington D.C.  He told me it was a classic bike messenger maneuver.  It saves one signal, and is safe even if cars are using the turn signal coming in the opposite direction. (... as long one is careful not to sway into oncoming traffic ... maybe my drawing above needs a bit of adjustment.)  Of course, flip left and right for the version in the U.S. or elsewhere one drives and rides on the right side of the road.

I use this move regularly, most often on my commute (1) just NW of Ebisu, (2) at the Komazawa Dori/Yamate Dori crossing near Nakameguro, or (3) at Tengenjibashi.  Indeed, I can recall using it at least 3 times this week.

But Tuesday was the first time I have seen a T-Serv messenger use it in Tokyo.

07 March 2015

Separated at Adulthood - One Twin Exercises, the Other Does Not

Well, no event planned, a busy riding partner, and rain, so I did not ride this morning.  Instead, I was trying to work on some other pending matters.  I did quickly check my favorite online news aggregators/link lists and one led me to this NY Times blog entry discussing a study in Finland comparing the health and bodies/minds of identical twins who had grown up in the same household, but whose exercise patterns had diverged significantly in adulthood.

Not surprisingly, the twin who exercised regularly had much better overall health indicators (and more grey matter in the brain even).

Conclusion:  Among healthy adult male twins in their mid-30s, a greater level of physical activity is associated with improved glucose homeostasis and modulation of striatum and prefrontal cortex gray matter volume, independent of genetic background. The findings may contribute to later reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and mobility limitation.

Okay, I will at least get off the sofa and onto the Powercranks, or go for a short ride, later today.  And, yes, my turn to walk the dog this afternoon.

And yes, I should turn off my Smartphone.  This other research result from the journal Computers in Human Behavior:

"Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence," said Pennycook. "Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research."

As if we did not already know it -- exercise makes us healthier; smartphones make us dumber.

05 March 2015

Good and Evil Saddles: Fizik Arione vs Fizik Arione R5

When I first started riding road bikes, I tried a bunch of different saddles before I found one that was really comfortable for long rides, multi days, etc.  There was one the came with my first road bike.  Then a WTS saddle with a cutout center. Then at one point a super-light Fizik Aliante.  And some painful experiments with Selle Italia models that did not suit me.

True, I was not always dressed in proper cycling gear (okay, there were those first few rides, embarrassing in hindsight, before I was told "no underpants, only an under shirt--and don't call it that, call it an inner layer").  And then there was a multi-year process of getting slightly better quality padded shorts, then bib shorts, then Assos bib shorts (and now, Q36.5).  

So when I found the Fizik Arione saddle, I could not have been happier.  Ride all day, then ride again the next day.  No sores, no pain, no numbness, lots of positions on the long/flat platform.  I see other people riding all different types of saddles, and hear them rave about ones that look, to me, extremely painful.  
I think Mike Rice was riding one of these in Toito a few years back.  Looks painful to me ... but he said it was great.

Someone was riding this awhile back -- I think Tom Wielrenner ... or am I misremembering?
Super light ... super hard.  Looks painful to me.
No, they say, it works for them.  There is a theory behind the bare shiny hard piece of twisted carbon (or two pieces at odd angles with a slot in the middle).  Well, more power to 'em.  But I will stick with what works for me.  The trusty Fizik Arione.

The Fizik Arione.  "Nylon reinforced shell".  Has carried me how many kilometers this past decade? 100,000?  More?
My only recent deviations?  I tried a Brooks B-17 -- very comfortable once broken in, if a bit heavy ... great for a touring bike or commuter (except you need to cover it in the rain to keep the leather in good shape). Then I got a Brooks Cambium -- worked fine on the Yamabushi for commuting, until one of the rivet heads came off.  I sent it back.
Brooks B17 - a classic. Mine is honey brown.
Brooks Cambium -- Liked it until tip's rivet cover popped off
But my stable of bikes has grown, the Fizik saddles do wear out eventually, and the Cambium was sent back and needed replacing, so I ordered another Fizik Arione in December.

I thought, maybe I should try the "VX" or "versus" type with a lower channel section in the middle.  But no, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The reviews of the channeled version seemed more mixed than the standard, anyway.
The "versus" model of Arione.

Instead, one of the slightly lighter, higher-end Arione models, the Arione R5, was on sale, so I clicked and closed the deal.
Arione R5. Ouch.
I recently had a chance to put it on a bike and try it out.  It was a definitely newer and lighter weight model. Less padding (but I thought, should be okay, as long as I have padded bib shirts).  

In fact, the feel was completely different.  Uncomfortable.  Painful.  

And after my broken cable on the Yamabushi, I rode it in a pinch once in the city without padded shorts.  OUCH.  In a pinch indeed.

The R5 has a newer "nylon carbon thermoplastic composite shell" instead of the old "nylon reinforced shell". Whatever.  It strikes me as an entirely different saddle.  They should have dropped the Arione name and just called it an R5.

The real Arione. Good.

Arione R5.  Evil.  Ouch.