08 January 2017

First Otarumi of 2017

Made it to Otarumi Pass just beyond Takao on Saturday riding the Renovo -- smooth as silk.
Mt. Fuji between the power lines and poles.
Along the Asagawa the usual winter activity of moving piles of dirt and rock around was well underway.

Your tax dollars at work ... to save the town from any flooding!
Today, Sunday, it is cold and cloudy, with rain expected later.  A cold feet kind of cycling day gives an opportunity to demonstrate the proper way to use chemical feet warmers (使い捨てカイロ?) to the blog readership.  Place them on TOP of your toes outside the socks (in my case double socks - thin and thick wool pairs), inside your cycling shoes. Make sure your toes have room inside the shoes. If you place them on the BOTTOM of your toes, then as the chemical material hardens it can cause discomfort. Also, they may get damp ... and these warmers FAIL as soon as they get wet.

With this morning's "Tokyo Cranks" coffee ride, I am well clear of 500 kms for January (actually I was there by the 7th) -- a Festive New Year 500.
It was a major effort to get the Renovo set up again.
Learned all about hydraulic disk brakes, Di2 shifting installation, and more!
Look forward to riding it on some major trips in Japan this year.

News from our Founder - Cycling in Bremen Featured on Radio Bremen video

The founder of Positivo Espresso, Michael O.B. Kraehe (aka "MOB"), has news from Bremen, where he and his cycling activities were featured on a recent broadcast by the local media about cycling in Bremen.  He needed to share riding, wrenching, blogging (in German) and discussing his love of cycling during the 10 minute feature with the local Brompton folding cycle club and its leader, but MOB still got plenty of time. And I was delighted to see him wearing his Positivo Espresso jersey during the cycling portions of the video.

I don't understand German, but really did not need to in order to enjoy this -- cycling is a universal language, after all, like music!

The video is accessible at this link.  ("Play" arrow is a bit hidden at the very lower left corner of the screen).

05 January 2017

New Year Week rides

Today at Shiroyama Lake/Dam. It felt like a gale force wind
This week has been typically good early January riding weather in Tokyo.  The first five days of the New Year have seen highs of at least 10 degrees C (50 F), lows above freezing at least a few degrees, sunny days and swirling, gusty winds.  The 6th and 7th should the same, and much of next week after some potential clouds and rain even late Sunday and early Monday.
Today at Shiroyama Lake/Dam
Anyway, after resting on the 2nd to recover from the brevet, I have gotten in short but gradually longer rides daily.  31 kms on the 3rd (cut short because of an equipment failure), 55 kms on the 4th, and almost 90 kms today.  If all goes well I will get in at least one more longer ride, on the 7th.  And these are actually training rides, subject to my not wanting to push too far or too long since I really need to focus on getting some work done otherwise this week.

On Tuesday, January 3.  A wintry afternoon's pastel blue sky.
Tuesday short ride

Wednesday slightly longer ride

Thursday (today) decent ride

02 January 2017

Happy New Year Ride - Gantan (January 1) Miura 200kms!


First Sunrise of the New Year

The past few months I have not been riding as much as I would like. Yes, commuting daily and in-town errands give me a more-than-decent mileage count, but do not really build endurance or much of anything else even if they keep me from getting stir-crazy.  The longest weekend rides I have done have been a few half day trips with Jerome -- Daigo Rindo/Iriyama Pass, Tsuru Tsuru Onsen and the like. Too many weekend commitments, too much on my plate, too much lethargy. I hope that with Fall classes ending I can catch up on everything, including cycling.

So it was a great relief to start 2017 with a bang and complete a 200km brevet on January 1.  In fact, the event was done by midday, so I could get "on the scoreboard" in the New Year as early as practical.
Riders prepare and wait, with Futako Tamagawa Station visible in the background
Over 120 riders showed up at Futako Tamagawa between 11PM and midnight to ride the AJ Tamagawa event. There was a long line at the check-in table -- I showed up by 11:30PM but did not get my brevet card until almost midnight.  I needn't have worried, since I was assigned to "Wave 4" of riders (with Wave Zero going at Midnight, and with 5 minute intervals, that meant a 12:20AM start.) At least I could chat with some friends and see others while waiting in line (though, frankly, it was difficult to recognize people in the dark and with everyone bundled up in winter garb). I was glad to be wearing warm clothes so that a half hour standing in the cold and dark did not leave me shivering.
Our route, counterclockwise
This 200km took almost entirely familiar routes, but mostly ones that I use no more than a few times a year. The exceptions were the beginning -- which for a brief time tracked my former Keio SFC weekly commute route, then at about 6.5 kms into the trip, as we headed out Route 246, almost no traffic at 12:45AM on New Year's day, turned left at the Arima Hospital crossing, and went down an unfamiliar road (Kuyakusho Dori?) for around 10kms before meeting Nakahara Kaido.  I will try this route again, as it seemed a more pleasant way to get well out into Yokohama than Route 246, though not easy to judge its suitability based on one trip in the middle of the night.

Anyway, there is not so much to report about this ride. I tried not to push too hard. I often would get together with a group of riders, and lose them as they accelerated from a traffic light. Then after 500 meters or so, I would gradually start to close in on them.  When they would get stuck at another light, I would roll in, sometimes catching them just as the light changed. This happened many times on the outbound leg near Isehara/Hiratsuka, and again on the return leg in southern Yokohama - Kanazawa area by Kanazawa Hakkei sea paradise and Route 357.  I just did not have fast acceleration after a midnight start, on the somewhat heavier Oregon Randonneur bike, and I refused to waste the energy to act like a jack rabbit at the start after each red light. In the end, I covered the distance just about as quickly as the jack rabbits on their carbon framed bikes.

As I headed east along the coast road after the first checkpoint, through Oiso/Chigasaki, I noted how quiet it seemed. Where were all the youth, staying up all night in celebration of the New Year? Japan really must be aging quickly, I thought.  I need not have worried, since the partyers were out in numbers around Enoshima and Kamakura. There were even some minor coastal traffic jams, now after 4AM.  It was relatively quiet again through Hayama, Zushi and toward Misakiguchi. I felt sorry for the guy at the cash register at the Family Mart in Miura, working at 5AM on January 1. At least he looked like he might be the owner of the store, if it is a franchise operation.
Cars lined up on a side road ready to watch the sun rise over the bay and Chiba. This field with a gradual slope from the hilltop down to the bay always gives a nice vista
As I came around to the eastern side of the tip of the Miura peninsula, just after 6AM, I could see many people had driven out to watch the sunrise.  It got more and more crowded as I continued along the coast.  I pulled off a little after 630AM, knowing the sun would be up in 10-15 minutes, and was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over hills and low clouds across the bay in Chiba.  Continuing up the coast, there were lines of cars, full parking lots and many local traffic jams created by the sunrise viewing motorists.
A few sunrise watchers in the foreground on the beach.
Many more sunrise watchers waiting in traffic a bit further up the coast.





My energy was flagging as I entered Yokosuka from the South. I found a Denny's and stopped by for breakfast, feeling sympathy for the waitresses who had duty on January 1.  I was pleasantly surprised to get two eggs, a slice of bacon, Japanese sized single sausage, small salad, 2 pancakes with syrup and whipped butter, water, and refillable coffee, all for 592 yen (inclusive), or just over $5. Impressive. And I seemed to remember past Japanese Denny's as pricey.
The Oregon Randonneur bike rests at Kannonzaki. Tsunami warning sign.

Mt. Fuji peeks over the hilltop as I pass through the Oppama/Kanazawa Area. It was visible much of the daylight portion of the ride.
Entering the Minato Mirai ("Harbor Future") area of Yokohama on the return trip.
Anyway, it was a great way to start the New Year. I was at the finish in Futako (a 7-11 at the foot of the hill below St. Mary's International School) just a few minutes after Noon, and could sleep all afternoon into evening, then again all night, and feel ready to face the challenges of 2017.

*Of course, doing a 203km ride on January 1 qualified me for completing Strava's January Gran Fondo challenge (a ride of 100km or more during this mid-winter month).  So I signed up on Strava and uploaded the ride data (after cropping the first few recorded minutes of the GPS track, as I had started recording on my iPhone just before midnight).  I was in good company completing the challenge on the first day, my name appearing with on my Strava feed alongside a real ultra-distance cyclist, HAM'R contestant Steven Abraham, who in October 2016 set the record for most miles ever recorded on bicycle in a single month (7104 miles or 11433 kms). What a great sport.

29 December 2016

No Festive 500 - Festive 2017!

This year for the first time in quite awhile I am not joining the Rapha "Festive 500" challenge.

Of course, as always the timing (December 24 to 31) does not match Japanese New Year vacation, which usually starts on December 29 or so and goes until January 4 or 5, details depending on the calendar.  Rapha really needs a Japanese version of this, an "oshogatsu (New Year's) challenge".

More important, my sons are visiting Tokyo from the U.S. this week, and so it is not the most convenient time to disappear onto the bicycle.  Instead, we went (without bicycle) to Nagano for two days, and even drove part of the Venus Line (around Kirigamine, up above 1700 meters elevation) with a light snow pack on the road. Most of the places we went by car the two days I knew well from traveling by bicycle at a different time of year.
Nagano welcomed us!
From Kirigamine - was here during SR600 Fuji by bicycle during warmer weather.

Shirakaba-ko  ... usually come here by bicycle
Hot spring hot water at one of the Suwa Taisha shrines

And unlike last year, when I took a monumental ride on December 31 to get in over 500kms for the week, this year I really need to rest on December 31.

Why?  I signed up for the first brevet of 2017, which will be held from that Midnight on New Year's Eve (12:01AM, or maybe 12:00AM and a few seconds on January 1, 2017.

This is a 200 km event sponsored by Tamagawa Audax, with a start at Futako Tamagawa, within a few kms of my house.  We will ride SW through Kanagawa, get to the coast around Ninomiya/Oiso area, then loop counter-clockwise along the Shonan coast and Miura Peninsula.  If all goes well I should see the first sun rise from the coast line, and finish my first brevet of 2017 on the morning of January 1.

Unless there are events scheduled in Australia or New Zealand, the first finisher of this Tamagawa event might be the first finisher of ANY Audax ride in the world for 2017.  There really ought to be a special prize for that -- there seems to be for just about everything else in Audax.
Anyway, just because I am not joining the Festive 500 does not mean I am not riding at all this week. I did get out on Saturday with the Tokyo Cranks, go for Yomiuri-land loops Sunday and Monday, as well as a ride this morning (67 kms) out the Tamagawa, then Onekan/Tank Road and back, and hope I will be able to do another morning ride tomorrow. The weather has been dry most days at least.  So maybe I can end up with a Festive 300 and a good start to 2017? 
Santa Claus garb? Worn on 12/24 and 12/25
Tamagawa on 12/29

Solar project at end of the Tank Road on 12/29

11 December 2016

Tsuru Tsuru Onsen

Jerome and I planned a ride for Saturday. It seemed our last chance to get in a ride together thisyear. We planned a 730AM start so we could get in some serious hills!
Well, we ended up with an 830AM start -- and a good thing to as I had work left over from Friday to finish.
On the way from the Tamagawa toward Itsukaichi, we took the path along the Akigawa. But this time we stayed off the main road longer than usual, and found that we could go under the Ken-O-do and join Mutsuhashi Dori further west than we usually do, much closer to where the traffic lightens up.  Here (except we got off course on the return and ended up back at Mutsuhashi Dori once):
Avoiding Route 7 - Mutsuhashi Dori
We sometimes go along the Akigawa here, but the ability to easily connect up with the main road AFTER Ken-O-Do makes a difference. We will take this route more frequently in the future, despite the very rough surfaces at places along the Akigawa.
A beautiful late Fall day on the lower Akigawa!
We were both sluggish and made our way finally to Itsukaichi, where we had planned to decide whether to ride the "reverse Paul Jason" tough Kobu Tunnel, or do a closer loop over Iriyama Pass and, perhaps, Wada.
As I went inside and got some food and used the bathroom, Jerome lay down and dozed. My stomach was feeling heavy (okay, I seem to have picked up a kg or two, in recent months). Neither of us were enthusiastic about a longer ride.
Jerome had a brilliant suggestion -- a trip to Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, about as close and nice a destination as we could think of, and we both really wanted to soak in a tub and rest. We recalled the first time we tried the SR600 Fuji and stopped at a very local onsen in Yudanaka after descending from Shibu Pass. Soaking in the hot water pretty much wiped me out and ended my SR600 attempt!
The famous Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, a day spa and popular destination for hikers
Likewise this time, after a decent bath it was time to rest, then I felt like rolling downhill and downriver and home again. By the time we left Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, around 2PM, the sun was already noticeably low over the hills.
A few hundred meters down the hill, we popped into a bike shop we had noticed on the climb! What was a bike shop doing here, all the way up a valley with almost no through traffic (sure, a few cyclists, but I could think of 100 better spots to serve weekend cyclists).  Anyway, it was a roadbike shop called RIN, and the owner/manager was there.  He asked if we were from the Yokota Airbase.  Actually, he said it in Japanese more like "so you must be from the Yokota base".
It seems like a De Rosa/Campy specialty place, another semi-retired Japanese salaryman who decided to set up a shop.  Awfully lonely.  Jerome asked to borrow a floor pump. He was charged 50 yen.  Jerome bought a bell.  There were a few nice bikes in there, one in particular that looked interesting, and I asked if I could take a picture.  He said "no".  He was worried about the photos might lead to bike thieves.
Anyway, I wish him the best of luck. I will not be among his customers, absent emergency.
115 kms in all.  Short for P.E., but a decent trip.

20 November 2016

Onekan / Tank Road / Yaen Kaido run

I had an afternoon commitment, and Jerome was in the early stages of recovery from some kind of stomach bug (e-coli?), so we took a short ride only on a beautiful fall day when, many other years, we would have headed for Chichibu or Matsuhime. At least we made it as far as the Tank Road, a bit shy of 70 kms.

Anyway, the ride started cold and clammy.  I saw some mist as we approached Futakotamagawa, and it just got thicker and thicker as we headed up the Kawasaki side of the river. Fog.
By the time we entered Onekan, the fog had cleared, and we could see a snow covered Mt. Fuji ... just not from the spots where I took photos.  Anyway, a very nice spin at a relaxed pace.
Solar farm at the northwest end of the Tank Road

06 November 2016

Fall weather

It is finally nice, cool fall weather in Tokyo ... though still quite warm midday.  I am in the middle of a house sale -- I had a work-related meeting Saturday morning, then met with surveyor and neighbors for 境界確認 (border confirmation - a Japanese property ritual), and spent much of today (Sunday) sorting through things to throw away or keep, so not much time for riding, and November looks like it will a bust from a cycling perspective.
Looking upriver from the Setagaya-Dori bridge just beyond the Odakyu Line
That said, I did get out with the "Tokyo Cranks" and joined their 715AM Saudany sortie from Futako Tamagawa, looping down, then up river, then ending at Seijo Gakuen for coffee and conversation. Only a quick 35km loop, with some wind-assisted and wind-hindered sections, but good company and a chance to at least stretch the legs.
Nils, James and Maki-san mount up after we regather.

Nature and infrastructure.  A very Japanese combination.

30 October 2016

Beautiful fall colors in Karuizawa

The sawteeth mountains of Gunma
Yesterday I was in Karuizawa having helped move some furniture for a friend Friday night.  The fall colors were really glorious.  The center of Kyu-Karuizawa and Naka-Karuizawa were mobbed with people (and the primary language sometimes seemed to be Chinese, not Japanese), but once out of the center it was actually quite peaceful.  Only a 26 km ride, but almost 600 meters of climbing.
Kyu Karuizawa Main area. Tour busloads.

My route. 2 shorter climbs.

On the way to Miharashidai


Walking up to the viewpoint -- spectacular reward ahead.


Gunma below
Peak foliage

Chinese language for this wedding photo.



At the bottom of the climb to Miharashidai, looking back to Kyu Karuizawa area
I tried to climb to Kita Karuizawa, but the toll road is closed to bikes, so I descended this very nice (gravel) rindo back to Naka Karuizawa, it came out through Hoshi no ya.

I am reconsidering my opinion of the place.


28 October 2016

Old Hero, New Hero

That's me with Le Blaireau, Bernard Hinault
He joins the "Peace Race" charity event at Chateau Chailly each August
On the way in to my office yesterday, on Meguro Dori, a cyclist caught up with me from behind -- all too common an occurrence this year. It was Laurent on his new, beautiful Eddy Merckx machine fresh from its Belgian home! We rode together until our routes separated around san-no-hashi.

Laurent mentioned that he was going to the French chamber of commerce & industry event for the Tour de France Saitama Criterium, that evening. I jumped at the information and opportunity to join.

I arrived a little after 8PM, only leaving the university after my class finished. The event was supposed to be from 630 to 900PM, so I was surprised to see that the "presentation" speeches were still in progress.  I talked my way in, with the admission charge and mention of Laurent's name--too late to join the raffle.

I went to the first of these events, back in 2013 with Jerome. In fact, I think a significant portion of the audience showed up that time because we posted it to TCC, this blog and elsewhere. But I am not on the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan's mailing list, so I would have missed this but for the serendipitous meeting with Laurent.  The location this time was OVE Minami Aoyama, a Shimano-owned "life creation space".  A nice space -- I would like to go back and see what it is like on a normal day, though it seems to be basically a cafe, only open 10AM to 6PM.

Anyway, back in 2013, we enjoyed rubbing shoulders with Bernard Hinault, Romain Bardet, and Yukiya Arashiro.  Jerome and I and families ended up dining with Arashiro and his significant other a month or so later.  This time Yukiya was not there, but Hinault, Bardet, Adam Yates and others were.
#2 at the 2016 Tour (the younger, thinner guy, not the guy with shiny forehead)
He said he remembered me (and Jerome, of course!) from 2013
Romain Bardet has quickly moved up the ranks of Tour finishers, this year ending 2nd in the General Classification, and winning a difficult mountain stage late in the event.  He is rare among pro-tour cyclists, a "fat adapter" rather than "carbo loader".  In other words, he has trained his body to burn fat rather than relying upon carbs -- a hot topic on, among others, randonneuring message boards.  He has the best hope of any French cyclist in a long time for a victory in the GC at the Tour, and at age 26, he is just entering the "window" of 5-7 years when such things are most likely to happen.

Of course, I parked my commuting bike out front of the event. I was a bit surprised that it was ONLY bicycle at the event.  Yes, there were plenty of bikes inside (part of the store display, pushed to the side for the reception), but I was the only one to arrive or leave by bike.  Maybe it was the fact that my commuting method forced me to forgo alcohol at the event?