28 March 2016

Visit to GS Astuto -- To Pick Up a New Velocity Aileron wheel!

On Friday morning I visited GS Astuto, near Ikuta station on the Odakyu Line, to pick up a wheel I had asked Tim Smith to build for me.  I have just been too busy to build my own since last summer, and Tim knows more about wheels than anyone else I have met, so I had been looking a chance to try his wheelbuilding.

And I wanted a wheel with the Velocity Aileron (disk brake only) rims I have on the Renovo, with a dynamo light.  I love the Velocity Aileron wheels I have -- the 25mm wide rim is extremely comfortable, the rim shape is nicely aerodynamic and yet good in crosswinds.  And with 14 gauge rotor-side and 2.0/1.8mm double butted non-rotor side spokes, these should wear very well.  

I was delighted that these rims are "tubeless ready". I will use an Effetto Mariposa tubeless conversion kit and try to set this and my current rear wheel from the Renovo up for riding tubeless tires with sealant.  ... This could be my fastest, most comfortable, long distance riding wheel yet!

Tim's company, GS Astuto, is now focused mostly on wheels, but he designs and sells GS Astuto carbon frames as well, and has a few other products in the works.  He offers an extremely attractive "cost/performance" mix, as can only be managed by someone with low overhead, good contacts throughout Asia and a wealth of knowledge both technical and practical about what works and doesn't.  (Did I mention that Tim is the designer and supplier of my Ti Travel bike, Voyage Voyage? -- which has served me through many great rides in recent years, including last year's SR600 Fuji and Paris-Brest-Paris, and I hope will continue to do so.)

Finishing touches to the wheel tension, Tim gestures toward one of his experiments --
a bright red rim with high end coatings. Almost an "Usain Bolt pose"?
The finished product, in natural light
Same location, same time, photo taken with iPhone flash.
The rim is "reflective" as you can see.  Perfect for a dynamo hub, and night riding.
The only dark areas are those covered by decals, and they will be coming off soon.
Tim told me to heat the decals with a hair dryer so they will peal right off. (Solvents could damage the rim coating.)

Tim has designed some hubs for GS Astuto wheels. These should be very durable.
Steel cassette freehub that will not score and deteriorate as quickly as the alloy ones --
a great "trade-off" for just a few additional grams of weight.

A GS Astuto wheel with the proprietary hub.

A fun CX experiment. Beautiful Onyx racing products infinite engagement hub for centerlock disk brake,
27mm wide carbon rim, and IRC SeracCX Tubeless "sand" tire. 
The Onyx hyperglide hub -- truly instant engagement.  (onyx label photographed upside down).
Onyx has made a splash in the MTB/CX world -- may be a challenger to Chris King eventually?

The GS Astuto road-disk frame/fork, will be sold either as a frameset or a full bike.  The front fork is thru-axle.  Rear wheel can be either QR or thru-axle. A sleek looking, good quality, reasonably priced carbon frame designed to last and to go anywhere. What's not to like?

22 March 2016

400km Utsunomiya Brevet

On Saturday I rode the 400km Utsunomiya event.  Well, it actually started at 2AM Saturday and I finished well after midnight, so I guess I should say "on Saturday and Sunday".
An early scenic checkpoint
The start and finish were at the forest park west of Utsunomiya where the Japan Cup and other cycling races are held.  The park is on the edge of hills that climb to the west and become mountains.  But we would head Southeast, meaning that we did most of our descending (climbing) within a few kilometers of the start (finish).
Briefing at the start - Lots of route changes to explain, especially one area where the path along the Tonegawa was closed for construction and a detour ended by a dark walk through a field.  Ide-san (staff) gave me his "koma-zu" style cue sheet since I had brought only an earlier version.
Otherwise, we stuck to a relatively flat course.  Easy, right?  Well, it would have been, except for wind and rain.  Actually, mostly rain.
The scenic Ushiku Checkpoint.  Next time I ride a course like this, I think I will try to play "count the convenience stores".
The outbound leg was via Tsukuba, Tsuchiura, Kashima and to the tip of Chiba at Choshi.  The return was via the Tonegawa.  Something like 150 kms on or near the banks of the Tonegawa.  I was warned by many of the participants that the headwinds coming UP the Tonegawa could be vicious, and would get stiffer in the afternoon and early evening when we would pass.

In fact, the wind was not bad. We had an impossibly stiff headwind only for a few minutes crossing the river from N. to S. in Choshi, the entire weight of a western Pacific gale coming at us. On the return I faced stiff headwinds for less than an hour.  No doubt I enjoyed (though did not notice) tailwinds on many other stretches.  I noticed some other cross- head- and swirling-winds, but they were not sustained and not nearly as bad as what we come across on some rides in these regions.
Choshi checkpoint views.  I got a nice harbor views a few steps away ... but really did not want to spend any more unnecessary time in the rain to go back and get the photo after I had my warm food!

Starting the return trip up the Tonegawa - looking back at floodgates in the distance on a bridge.
What was bad?  The rain.  It started raining off and on just as I got home to pack on Friday evening.  Other than some brief respites, it rained straight through from the 2AM start until about 2PM, after I was already on the return from Choshi.
Another rider in another checkpoint convenience store.
The Renovo -- a smooth ride.  I was very happy to have the fenders this trip!  And the dynamo lighting!
No equipment issues the entire trip ... fenders keep the grit to a minimum even riding in rain for many hours.
Not time now for a detailed equipment rundown ... later.
The rain was very tough -- riding in standing water.  The roads were generally nice and lightly traveled until we passed Tsukuba and Ushiku, where we had our second checkpoint at a Lawson. Through Tsuchiura, Kasumigaura, and Kashima and beyond, it was pouring rain and we were riding on heavily traveled roads, lines of traffic, zooming trucks.  Ugh.
Finally dry!
The return leg, however, was great.  Much of the return was on bike paths with NO traffic.  The Tonegawa had some stretches of beauty.  There were cows grazing on the banks, trimming the grass along the levy.  There was even a water skiier.  The rain ended around 2PM and we even got a little sun for sunset!
Sunset near Toride.
I had planned to do this ride after a nice nap on Friday evening.  Unfortunately, I got behind schedule and other plans intervened (a dinner with colleagues and a guest who I wanted to meet but who would leave town on Saturday).  After a couple hours of riding, I started taking cat naps -- stop, drink coffee, nap 10-15 minutes, then continue.  I did this at least 6 times over the entire event.  It worked until the last 50 kms, when my pace slowed to a crawl.  I had hours of spare time before the cut-off, and somehow could not push hard.  I finally stopped at a 7-11 where the midnight shift clerks seemed very excited to see a gaijin rider.  They said I was the 3rd or 4th rider to come by, and asked a million questions.  They got out a folding table and wheeled out 2 desk chairs so I could rest INSIDE, in an aisle of the store, while I ate some pasta and drank MORE coffee.  Another rider, Ohno-san, joined. Then another.  We had a very subdued party in the aisle between the magazine rack and the cosmetic/toiletry section -- the first time I felt like more than a customer at a 7-11 convenience store in Japan, as they clearly departed from the rulebook.  Somehow it seemed the perfect last stop for a ride that had featured nothing but convenience store food for 24 hours!

Thanks to Utsunomiya Audax for a course that was mostly nice, and in nicer weather would have been mostly easy.  The course was not the most interesting, but at least the heavy traffic was limited to the Ibaraki stretches around Lake Kasumigaura.  So if I compare  this route with the Nihonbashi 300 I rode in early 2015, which took those same heavily traveled routes around Lake Kasumigaura in the other direction from Choshi, I would estimate that this time we had 100km out of 400km that was somewhat unpleasant, whereas on the Nihonbashi 300 maybe 175kms out of 300kms was so.  This ride I would do again; the other, never.  And if I were to design a course to/from Choshi, I would definitely use the Tonegawa path in one direction, and Kujukuri-hama and rural Chiba in the other.

In any event, after a few hours on a bike path in the dry weather on the return, the rain was only a distant memory!

Update:  The 392 kms during a 24-hour period I captured on my GPS unit put me at #118 out of over 180,000 participants in Strava.com's "March Gran Fondo" ride challenge.  Not bad ... though still less than one-half the 24-hour distance recorded by the #1 rider.

Didier and his Hong Kong Bike

This bike looks just perfect for zipping around the busy streets of Hong Kong without getting killed by a speeding taxicab.  Maintenance is minimal, and hardly takes any storage space ... unless, that is, you live in Flatland.

16 March 2016

For the Cyclist Who has Everything?

Yes, I already have a nice Ti frame, Steel, Aluminum ... and now a beautiful carbon Parlee Altum R, and Renovo hardwood.  No need for anything else, right.  Maybe a recumbent someday?  Or maybe ...

What about this:  a report via Bikerumor at NAHBS of a Titanium and carbon blended, 3D-printed frame designed to the customer's specs
Is this the shape of things to come in cycling ... and other industries?
The Bastion Cycles site even has an FAQ page

Somehow they missed one question on the tip of my tongue ... how much will it cost????
I guess if I need to ask ...

UPDATE:  In reading Jeremy Rifkin's "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", I am told that 3D printing should be a much cheaper method of production than traditional manufacturing, using materials in a much more efficient manner and making use of open source software.  Nice in theory, and maybe 10 or 20 years down the road.
FWIW, an article that appears online in Bike Rumor and 3ders.org (a 3d printers online site?) indicates that the Bastion frames are "quoted as starting from A$7000").   

12 March 2016

Spin up the river

Today I took a quick afternoon spin up the Tamagawa.  I wanted to get some exercise in limited time, but did not really want to do repeats, so I did the Yomiuriland hill, the first hill of Onekan, then the "hospital hill" and came back.  The pollen seems better than last weekend -- two decent rainstorms in the intervening week have washed some of it away.

Just under 50kms, and around 375 meters of climbing, in around 2 hours.

Two items of note.

First, there is a new Starbucks under construction in Inagi, not far from the start of Onekansen Doro.  So next winter, training rides to Onekan and Wakabadai may potentially involve coffee at BOTH ends of Onekan?!

Second, Jerome is now out of the country and will not be back for awhile. The traffic police have taken this as an opportunity to pull their teams off of the streets and brush up on their skills.  So for the rest of us, a bit of smooth sailing.

Maybe I will try the same course again tomorrow?

06 March 2016

Saturday Full Paul Jason

On Saturday I rode the "Paul Jason Memorial course" -- over Wada Pass, then the golf course hills of Uenohara, then over the climb to Kobu Tunnel, and back in via the Akigawa and Tamagawa.  145 kms and around 1500 meters of elevation gain.

We had some major delays on the outbound leg.  The planned 730AM start had been shifted to 8AM, then 820AM, at Jerome's request.  Then another delay. Didier's rear brake cable was stuck when he and Jerome arrived at my place.  We replaced the cable with a spare from my supply.  850AM by the time we got on the road. Then, as we headed toward Hachioji, Didier's left pedal started to wobble.  After tightening it once, it loosened again.  Finally it came entirely detached from the crankarm and he "one legged" it the last 5 kms or so into Hachioji.  I joined with one leg drills, and Jerome offered Didier regular pushes on his back or shoulder.

In Hachioji we stopped at the "You Can!" bike shop.  I have seen You Can jerseys in Japan as long as I can remember, but had never been to the shop.  In fact, it turns out, there are now 8 shops, 3 in the Kanto area and others far away.  The shop did not open until 11AM on Sunday, but someone was inside at 10:20AM and kindly took a look.  The problem was not in the pedal, but in the left crank arm. So Didier ended up with a new crankset, BB and chain.
Open from 11 ... but emergency service at 1020AM!
While we waited, we walked a few blocks to a Doutor Coffee shop for "morning set" including coffee.  Jerome and Didier, with anti-pollen masks and sun glasses, looked like bank robbers trying not to be caught on video.  They jokingly told the clerk at Doutor "this is a stick up.  Turn over the money!"  Fortunately, he got the joke.
Your coffee or your life!
The You Can repairs done quickly, professionally and at a reasonable price.  We met Kamiya-san, the founder of the small chain of shops.  I showed him my Parlee and Gokiso wheels (and Dipell bartape). We headed onward.  It was nearly Noon and we were not even to Takao.  As we entered the mountains, the pollen was so thick I could taste it on my teeth.

On the rindo climb.  Some leaves and branches under the rubber.
I made it up the forest road approach to Wada Toge in good time, Jerome and Didier following.  As I waited for them at the top, 3 young women cyclists came up the front/main road, each gasping for breath as she crested this very, very tough climb.  One offered to take a photo of me with my bike.  So when we later wanted a traditional Positivo Espresso pose of 3 riders with bikes, we asked her to take that picture.

She and her friends seemed to get the joke, and so I offered to snap their photo in a similar pose.

A new tradition is born.

The descent down Wada - Ura was great.  I REALLY like descending on the Parlee (Altum R).  It is I think the nicest bike I have ever ridden for a descent with corners and varied grades.  Nimble. Smooth.  Goes just where I point it.  Grounded.

After a quick convenience store lunch, we had more and more climbing.  Then after the descent from Kobu Tunnel, Didier and I said goodbye to Jerome as he headed for Tomin no Mori.  Didier and I headed home, arriving not too long after dark.

All in all, not the longest of training rides, nor even the most climbing, but no slouch either, and nice to enjoy the forced interlude in Hachioji and the "wait at the top" rest at Wada.

My only complaint about the day was the pollen.  For some reason, this year my loratidine seems to have failed me, and today I am a sniffling wreck. No doubt I will recover quickly, and be back in the saddle again on future weekends.

04 March 2016

Why Cycling Works in Tokyo

This nice explanation by Byron Kidd of "Tokyo by Bike" of how 14% of daily trips in Tokyo are made by bicycle, despite almost no bike paths or bike lanes.  Hat tip to Rob Williams on the Tokyo International Cyclists FB page.

The Gaman Spirit: Why Cycling Works in Tokyo from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.