31 July 2015

Stelvio Conquered

Today we climbed the "mythic Stelvio Pass".  Elevation 2760 meters.  We enjoyed perfect conditions, and it was a lot more fun than the other times I have done it. I was very happy with my time and the overall experience. It helps a lot to start the event with this climb instead of 40kms and 500m elevation lower down the valley.

MOB aced it and crested 10 minutes ahead of me. Revenge for 2011.

24 July 2015

Training Dinner in Munich

As the Positivo Espresso B team prepares for a week of racing out of Bolzano, we carbo (etc.) load on Greek food in Germany. A perfect location for contemplating the future of the Eurozone.

We had a nice, relaxed time and a relaxed hotel.  The hotel's breakfast was served conveniently next to a major, shaded bicycle parking area for an adjacent building.

The only difficulty we had was when MOB tried to avoid the (refundable to customers) fee for entering the men's bathroom at a service area during the trip to Bolzano.  He almost got stuck attempting to use the "kids" entrance.

21 July 2015

Next Ride, South Tyrol! Giro delle Dolomiti!

On Monday, a national holiday, I did some last minute work on Voyage Voyage to get ready for this summer's main event -- a trip to Europe that starts with the Giro delle Dolomiti (with MOB and his friends from Bremen).  The predicted highlight will be my third opportunity to crest the iconic, epic, spectacular Stelvio Pass, elev 2757 meters, by bicycle, after Transalp 2009 and 2011.

My bar tape was showing its age, and since I will be riding out of Bolzano, Italy, and I remember how snazzy the local heroes looked when I last passed through the vicinity, and now have a white saddle on the bike, some fresh white bar tape seemed in order.

I still have much packing to do, but am already feeling as if I am half way in Italy!

Colossi Mixte for Nagaoka-san

As part of the fringe benefits at Deneb Renewable, the small solar development firm I co-founded in 2012 (and am leaving this year for another primary commitment), I told our small group of employees that if anyone wants a bicycle, all they need to do is raise a hand.

Finally, earlier this year, our office manager, Nagaoka-san, raised hers.  I have known her since 1992, when she was for several years my secretary when I was in the O'Melveny & Myers Tokyo office as a young lawyer, and again was the office manager when I came back to O'Melveny Tokyo in 2004. So when we started Deneb, she was kind enough to join us out of semi-retirement to help us, at first in our tiny, hot one room office -- a "walk up" on the top floor of a building on the regular route of the right wing crazies with loudspeakers, near the Chinese Embassy on TV Asahi Dori.

She tells me she has not ridden a bicycle in 15 years at least, but seems eager to try.  Through Hiroshi at C Speed I ordered a  Colossi "Street One Mixte" frameset.  This is a complex frame to build.  As Hiroshi says, it must be a money loser for Colossi if done in small lots.  But their loss is our gain, and it looks great!

I used my 2011 Rolf Prima Elan wheels, since they will not support me (or Jerome) without an occasional broken spoke.  But Nagaoka-san weighs less than half as much as either of us, so she should have many years of service from them.  And they are light, climber wheels.  Nothing like you would find on a mama-chari.  It will be the lightest bike in the condominium parking lot, mostly because of the wheels.  To use it for shopping she can add a rear rack/basket easily.  And plenty of clearance for fenders.  But for now it is a pure riding machine, light and, once she gets used to riding, fast.

The build uses Tiagra 4600 components with rear derailleur only.  The 50 tooth front ring is a bit big, so if she does a lot of climbing it might make sense to swap it out for something in the 42-46 range.
At my house before delivery
At Nagaoka-san's condominium after the seat is adjusted/lowered!  And kickstand, bell and lock added.
Jan Kole, the founder/CEO of Colossi, a Dutch cyclist with a Beijing workshop

Beautiful details.  Hearts on the lugs -- Mixte is designed as a "co-ed" than a "women's" frame, but in practice seems to be used more by women than men.
Columbus Zona double butted tubing.  A known quantity, reliable tubeset.

Nitto quill stem, with removable faceplate required for the bars we used

More nice details

Only one bottle cage on this frame, given the geometry and size

Riding home in the heat of Tokyo late July late morning!
A sports bike takes some adjustment ... but the rider is determined!
It took awhile, but we made it all the way from Kaminoge back to Sangenchaya/Taishido area by bike.  So in the next year, we should be watching for this bike on the path up the Tamagawa, or maybe even in the hills beyond?

Colossi -- if you or your dealer wants a bicycle with a quality, reasonably-priced steel alloy frame, you can get a Colossi via Hiroshi at C Speed in Takatsu, just across the river from Futako Tamagawa.

14 July 2015

Sky Blue Parlee Morning Ride

Sky Blue with blue river, blue sky and summer Fuji in background
After an inaugural ride on the Parlee Altum R Saturday cut short due to issues with my 3T carbon seatpost and beastly heat, I wanted to take a spin yesterday (Monday) on the Parlee Altum R (now christened Sky Blue).  But the heat was even worse on Monday, over 38 degrees C (100 F) and humid in a number of cities in Northern Japan.

So I opted for a short spin before work Tuesday.  It was already hot when I left home at 7AM, but at least there was a gusty wind to dry the sweat off and add a bit of variety to the training route -- winds coming it seemed from every which way at every speed.

I headed up the river, across, and back down the Kawasaki side.  On the return I saw a fast rider a few hundred meters ahead of me and marked him as my target.  With the pedal to the floor and a really fast bike, I caught him in a few minutes.  As I neared, I noticed double tail lights, large front lights, a "cockpit" that looked as if it could hold other gear.  Of course, it was M.-san, a hard core randonneur, on his commute.

He was going at a steady speed and had many km's ahead, so I pulled him as far as Futakobashi and said my farewells.

It was very hard to turn around and come back in toward town.  Sky Blue seemed to want to head further upriver and into the mountains, at least as far as Motojuku on the Akigawa so I could soak in a swimming hole in the rushing stream and really enjoy the summer heat.  As it was, the ride was too short.  Still, I almost went through my entire 2-liter water supply in a little more than an hour.
Pointing upriver!
The Altum-R's ride is really, really sweet.  Confident, neutral, responsive but not twitchy.  I am very happy with this bike.

13 July 2015

Goût Watanabe Bags for Oregon Randonneur Bike - Done

The two bags I ordered from Goût Watanabe for the Oregon randonneur bike are done!

They are just as beautiful as expected, and I got to stop by the shop on Saturday to pick them up.

The main item is a large front bag that will carry just about everything except the kitchen sink ... and sit on the rack that Bob K. is building for the bike.

Big boxy bag, but with a rack just above the front fender the top will be at or just below my handlebars.
Nice roomy front pocket for easy access, and side pockets to slide in any things you want to access without dismounting.
Of course, a nice big map case with clear plastic on top.

Open wide.

Ties on the bottom to secure to the rack.

A bit of personalization -- it is a custom made item, after all.
Then there is a saddle bag.  This is surprisingly roomy as well -- as much or more room as the rear bag I have been using for events like the SR600, and wedged under the seat with a taper so my legs do not hit it when spinning.

Thank you Shoichi and Mrs. Watanabe!

Welcome to the Stable -- Parlee Altum R in Sky Blue

The blue appears lighter when the bike is outside

Parlee Cycles is known for producing high-end custom carbon bicycle frames, and based in Beverly, Massachusetts, just North along the coast outside of Boston.

I test rode a Parlee bike last summer when I visited RGT Enterprises in Nagoya.  Parlees offer a very smooth, comfortable ride, while also being incredibly responsive, balanced and precise. The word that comes to mind is "refined".  I did not order one at the time, as Parlee was just about to come out with an entirely new set of their production models.  (Parlee is known for its custom carbon frames, but I am not yet ready -- and may never be -- to get a custom carbon framed bike!)  I was told the new versions would have better clearance for 622x25 and even 622x28 tires, and that is indeed the case. Parlee rolled out its new Altum line of frames last August/September -- Eurobike, Interbike, etc. -- and I had to try one eventually.

I ordered the least expensive, Altum R.  It is an 810g frame/330g fork (in "M" size), a few grams more than the 750g/280g Altum, but still incredibly light and with the same type of ride as the bikes I tried last year.

And the Altum R comes in either a beautiful sky blue or a light grey paint.  I chose the sky blue. (Parlees can be custom painted before delivery, at an additional charge).

How does the Parlee Altum R differ from my most recent carbon frame bike -- the Canyon "Shark", (which has been handed down to my son now, shipped off to Boston, MA)?

Internal Cabling. Both frames have internal cabling, but the Altum R seems much better designed.

First, Altum R has wider openings (with removable covers that snap back into place) at cable entrance/exits and under the bottom bracket shell area, so it is MUCH easier to install and replace cables.  The Canyon had cable liners to help with the INITIAL installation, but those liners were not intended to remain in place, and so cable replacement will be quite difficult.

Second, Altum R works with both mechanical and electronic shifting groupsets.  Two different groups of the cabling guides/covers are provided.  I installed a mechanical groupset -- Shimano Ultegra 6800, but I really love the Di2 on the Renovo and have been reading favorable reviews even from long distance riders/randonneurs.

Certainly for a pure road/racing bike like the Altum R, I may want to change to Di2 at some point, and I can do so easily with the Altum R.  After the flurry of activity this year, I really cannot see myself buying another bike in the near future once the Oregon randonneur is done ....  groupset upgrades, on the other hand, might be possible.  Would not have been practical with the other carbon frame.
The black hard plastic cover is removable, like a similar one under the BB. 
Rear brake cable enters toptube
Steerer and headset.  The Altum R has a tapered fork but its steerer is 1 1/8 inch, so compatible with 99% of stems being sold for road bikes these days.  The other had a 1 1/4 inch steerer, so very limited options.  Similarly, the Altum R integrated headset is very simple and straightforward, whereas the other uses a somewhat non-standard design.
You can see the Altum R's headtube cap.  3 different sizes are available.
I got the medium size cap, which is fine.  I will eliminate the spacer below the stem now
that I have gotten a few rides in and confirm I want a bit more aggressive front end hand position.
Time to cut the fork to correct length.  Nice to have a tool that serves as a guide.
Done.  Why was I so nervous the first time I did this years ago?
I was afraid I would destroy or damage a valuable piece of equipment.
I still inevitably cut the steerer a bit too conservatively, leaving need for some spacers.
Seatpost clamp.  The Altum R has a very nice integrated seatpost clamp.  I have never seen one like this before.  It works very nicely and looks durable.

Finish and Precision.  The Altum R tubing is, to the extent I can tell, nice and smooth on the inside as well as out.  The 31.8mm seatpost fit beautifully in the seat tube -- perfect and "snug as a bug".  Everything fit beautifully in this build-- press-fit BB, headset bearings, headtube top cap, seat post, etc.  I got a new tool for installing the pressfit BB, and added a little Effetto Mariposa "carbo grip" before setting the pressfit BB.
Perfect, snug fit. Smooth inside.
Pressfit BB is in
I am sure there are lots of other features I did not yet even notice.  You can find more on the Parlee site. As mentioned, I built the bike up with a Shimano 11-speed Ultegra (6800) groupset.  Nothing unusual here -- exactly the same as I had used a year ago on the Canyon.  I did add a few extras.

Dipell Bartape

Most important, I decided to try some beautiful leather bar tape.  I first places a layer of gel pads on the bars, then some of the Dipell bar tape now being imported by RGT/David Marx.  This product uses high end "sports leather" -- the same as you would find in custom shoes ordered by a top football (i.e. soccer) star.

The tape feels great -- comfortable, grippy, supple and with plenty of padding.  And my bars now smell a lot like a leather jacket -- a great aroma.  I am sorry this blog does not offer a "scratch and sniff" feature!  It is really a nice smell.

David Marx says this kind of leather bartape will last a LONG time, and can be cleaned and reapplied using new double sided backing tape if it needs to be rewound.  Unlike other leather bartapes, this one has only a single strip of cowhide on each roll of tape, so there is no "weak point".

I cannot help thinking that white bartape would have been great with this bike ... but black will look "like new" much longer.


I added some Effetto Mariposa "Shelter" strips to protect the frame and paint job on (1) underside of the downtube, (2) drive-side chain stay, and (3) where the rear brake outer cable might rub against the seat tube.  Shelter is a shock-absorbing plastic adhesive-backed padding that has already been sold for MTB use for some time.  I got a roll of the MTB version awhile back.  It is a bit heavy and thick.
The "road" version is much thinner and lighter.  I barely can notice that it is there, but it should offer protection from at least minor dings. 

I hope the Parlee Altum R will be a "lifetime" carbon frame, not a "four year" one like my first three - Giant TCR, Cervelo R3-SL, Canyon Ultimate CF.  I am not sure the "Shelter" will guarantee that, since I can still knock the bike over, crash it, or have a pebble fly up and strike it in an unusual place. But at least I have tried to improve the odds a bit.

Cleaning out the Stable

How, you might ask, can I manage to add this bike to my growing collection?  Where can I fit them all?

Well, as noted about, I sent one bike off to my son in the U.S. for his birthday last month.

Another, the Bianchi Pista Concept 2006, has been gathering dust for quite awhile now, so it is going to go on the TCC classifieds soon after my summer travels.

And the plan is that the Oregon randonneur bike will, well, stay in Oregon for the time being.

3T Seatpost - Fail

As I took the bike out for its first real ride on Sunday morning, I had only one problem.  I worked to try and "dial in" the position, moving the seat both up and forward twice.  The 3T Ionic 25 Team Stealth post that came with the bike has an interesting "patent pending" exclusive "DiffLock" clamp design, with bolts from both sides.  The second time I tried to adjust the position and tighten the clamp (with very low torque/leverage), the bolt stripped and would not tighten all the way.

Already far from home up the river, I decided to ride with a slightly loose seat to Y's or Nalshima Tachikawa and get a replacement bolt ASAP.  The seat slid back to the far end of the rails quite quickly, but at least did not come off.  When I got off the bike at a convenience store soon after to check ... the entire left clamp and bolt were gone.  I guess it was stripped so badly that not only would it not tighten, but it fell off.  I retraced the route looking for it, but no luck.

3T - 25 Ionic team stealth -- he way it should look from the side.

3T 25 Ionic team stealth -- with missing bolt and clamp/cover. 
Instead of getting a new bolt, at Y's I got a TNI aluminum seatpost -- the lightest weight 350mm 31.6mm aluminum post I could find, and installed that instead.  At least it has an easy to use clamp.

TNI aluminum post.  Lighter than the Deda 
The last time I used an aluminum 31.6mm post, on the Ti Travel Bike, I found the ride very stiff and harsh.  But on the Parlee, even with an aluminum post the ride is great.  Confident, but not harsh.  And great to have the seat secured in one place!

(I would note that Parlee provides its own seat post with the Altum ... but not with the less expensive Altum R.  No "DiffLock" issues with the Parlee post.)

The rest of my inaugural ride went without a hitch.  This is a beautiful bike, it handles effortlessly, and Sky Blue is what I will ride when I want to remember the joy of riding a road bike -- when the sky is blue, and when I want to go fast and travel light.

bold graphics

10 July 2015

Tour de Crash -- Carnage near the Battlefields of France

The worst crashes almost always seem to happen during the first week of the Tour.  Typically there are "sprinter friendly" flat stages with bunch sprints; often the Tour starts in the North and swings South, alternating clockwise/counterclockwise circuits every other year.  And this year as last the organizers have included some stages on cobbles (though that does not seem to be where the damage is being done -- I guess a known danger at least allowing the tour favorites to ride a bit conservatively and take countermeasures).

This year, Stage 3 featured a huge pile-up that took leader Fabian Cancellara out of the race.  He rode on to finish the stage, in which he was wearing the leader's Yellow Jersey for the 29th time in his career.  Then he was taken straight to the hospital for X-rays that showed, among other things, 2 broken vertebrae.

Stage 5 also featured some slippery roads and plenty of crashes.  Watch the series of on-bike camera crashes that starts about 20 seconds into this video ... and goes on and on.

This year I have been getting daily email photo updates on the tour from "Beardy's Caravan."  You can see the photos here.  The photos featured a lot of carnage on Stage 3.

Here are some thumbnails of the photos from Cyclingnews.com on Stages 3, 4 and 5.

Cancellara finishes the stage ... riding with broken back bones
Then another day, Stage 6.  Tony Martin, now wearing the leader's yellow jersey, goes down and fractures his collarbone, ending his 2015 Tour.

Sure, there are probably some extreme sports more dangerous than this.  Jumping off of mountains in flying squirrel suits, for example.  And sure American football wreaks havoc on the bodies (and brains) of those who play it.  But at least in football the whole idea is to tackle the other team.  In cycling, this is just collateral damage, having little or no to do with the intention of the sport.  Is there any sport more brutal?  Almost makes the Hunger Games look humane!