maandag 24 september 2007

Apres-ride gyoza

Left the house a little after 6 am on Saturday for almost a full day on the saddle to Katsunuma and back. With 7 peaks to conquer, I decided to call this ride "Giro de Katsunuma". Highlight of the ride is the long downhill from Yanagisawa-touge to the little village of Enzan in the Kofu Basin over an intricate webwork of aqueduct-like bridges. Made reservations at Sasamotoya Ryokan for the long weekend of Oct. 6-7-8...two rooms for max. 6 riders - our base camp for attacking the 2360m Oodarumi-touge, one of Japan's most beautiful HC (hors categorie) hillclimbs. Cycled through the Katsunuma area and then via Sasago-touge to Otsuki from where I continued the rest of my ride along Rd.20. Because of the long weekend, there was lots of traffic again forcing me to slow down. Near the top of Otarumi-touge, the thermometer showed 36 degrees!

Took a long & cold shower and when I went up to the dining, I found my favorite dish on the table...golden "fox-brown" yaki gyoza!

Length: 234.97 km
Time: 9:50:47
Max speed: 70.5 km/h
Average speed: 23.8 km/h

zondag 16 september 2007

Matsuhime...two days in a row!

Left home at 8:00 on my Orbea and met the former owner of the FKC who was already on his way back day's ride had just started. Late starts are no good and there was a terrible traffic jam on Rd. 20.

I was relieved to take the right turn at Saruhashi direction Kosuge...this time there was no drizzle and the road surface was not wet. I tried to go up en danseuse like I had done almost tirelessly the previous day but my legs felt heavy like lead....was it fatigue of the second day or was it simply because I was not on the FKC?

I reached the top where the temperature was 23, 3 C 3 degrees higher than yesterday and it felt much hotter. Took the same route back to Tokyo as yesterday but skipped the Wada....instead I went down to R. 2o via Fujino...traffic congestion again! Where do all these cars come from? The rest of my ride to Asakawa was not so pleasant and I was happy to get home and find a nicely cooled beer on the table!

zaterdag 15 september 2007

Showers & sun on Matsuhime-Tōge

狐の嫁入り on 松姫峠

6:45 departure from the usual RdV @ Sekidobashi…”sanrenkyū” means lots of traffic as Thierry of Club NFCC, my companion of the day, found out. The ride along the Asakawa to Takao, one of our preferred routes leading into the mountains, went smooth.

On the Otarumi-tōge we met with competition, three seasoned Japanese roadies were going at strong pace but they turned out to be no great match on our descent towards Sagamiko. Saruhashi, our entrance point to our climb of the day on the Kōshū Kaidō, came sooner than I had thought thanks to the strong pace of Thierry.

It had by then become cloudy and as we embarked on the 27k-long climb of the Matsuhime, light rain started to fall in fine drops.

My FKC was begging me again to go “en danseuse” and that’s how I was forced to leave Thierry behind for the remainder of the climb. With each tunnel pass-through, the weather seemed to be brightening up again and at one point, I imagined seeing a Kurosawa “yomeiri” procession of foxes leading the way in front of me.

I made a few stops this time to take a few pictures of the mountains. 10 minutes later Thierry would join me at the top.

We decided to head back towards Tokyo via the Tsuru, Tawa and Wada Passes. I had no idea a déjà-vu experience was waiting for me at the foot of the Wada. A guard waving towards me and two hapless cyclists on the side of the road…not again!! Here is how the conversation went between the guard and me.

G: “You speak our language?”
Me: “Only a bit (= BIG LIE)”
G: “The entire road is off-limits”
Me: “You must kidding, I saw no signs!”
G: “The signboards are all over (= BIG LIE)…STOP!”
Me: “Sorry, I honestly saw no signboards; I’ve got to move on. I was here last week (= BIG LIE) and there was nothing wrong with the road!”
G: “STOP, repair work is going on near the top, no way you can pass!”
Me: “That’s my problem, not yours!!”

…this whole conversation went on as the guard was running along pulling my right arm for about 15m going up a steep hill…!! 100 meters later, I realized I had committed an unforgivable felony…I had forgotten I was not alone…poor Thierry…how would he put up with this obnoxious guard? Well, it turned out he did and at the top, Thierry would give an impromptu show of how a real guard - capable of stopping misbehaving gaijin riders like us - ought to act! We did find out though that the guard was for once telling the truth about the repair works…a landslide triggered by last week’s typhoon had pulled down a fence and huge rocks were all over the road. Luckily, the friendly operator of the crane lifted just enough rocks for our bikes to pass through! Got home around 16:00 having covered 184.5k…For Thierry living much further down the Tamagawa river, today’s trip must have been 230k!! Chapeau Thierry!

maandag 10 september 2007


Blue sky after typhoon No. 9 blew over = Kazahari road reserved for my private use!

Saturday's supposed departure time at 7:20 got delayed to almost 8:00....4 punctures in one day...Jerome (@@), David (@) & Michael (@) were simply not favored with good luck this time!

LESSON LEARNED: be extra careful (?) for flats riding in the wake of a typhoon when the road is littered with thorny things and other fresh debris!

Early Friday, "Fitow," typhoon No. 9 had hit Tokyo sweeping northward through the Kanto and Tohoku regions and leaving more than 70 people injured. The Tamagawa had swollen to near-flood level and some 30 homeless who live along its banks had to be rescued after getting stranded by the rising waters...a borderline disaster indeed.

After bidding my companions sayonara at the foot of the Matsuhime Pass, I pushed ahead and must have been lucky on my way up to the top...I did not notice any of the signs or closed gates David and Michael would later on encounter and was able to continue all the way. Because of the typhoon’s torrential rainfall the previous night, the road was indeed in very abominable shape...there were tens of small landslides where the road was muddy and slippery and full with little and bigger rocks. One place almost had a small river running diagonally through it! Nevertheless, it was a very nice and rewarding climb, one that I definitely want to do again. It's interesting how very different a feeling you get just by doing the climb from the other side. I discovered again what a great joy the FKC is, especially once you get out of the saddle for a good stretch "en danseuse".


Once down, I proceeded to the bridge on Okutamako's tail leading to Tomin-no-mori. The entrance to the bridge was barricaded with signs reading that the entire road was “off-limits due to typhoon” but a bicycle could easily pass through. ...300m further, however, where the old toll house stands, a heavy gate completely blocked passage by any vehicle and - to make matters worse -there was a guard keeping watch! I pretended to be just checking the scenery and the moment the unsuspecting guy looked the other way, my FKC was on the other side of the gate!!!.....”DAME DAME!!!” The guard came running towards me and was about to grab one of my legs trying to pull me down from the top of the gate... my legs were probably too sweaty & muddy (read: slimy & disgusting) and he let go!!!

There I was all alone on the Kazahari...the entire road up and down chartered for me alone!! What a noisy bikes...very quiet & peaceful. Plus, the road surface here was in much better shape than the Matsuhime road! After I reached Tomin-no-mori, I got my bottle refilled at a vending machine (not a mouse around!) and continued my stress-free descent to Itsukaichi.

My second surprise of the day came at the Tamagawa Cycling Road...many sections were closed or simply unrideable with the road no longer recognizable under lots of debris, clay and plastic junk. At one point, I was forced to walk my FKC over a quaggy 50m-long stretch. It took me more than an hour to give the FKC its spick-and-span look back again...the mud was all over. I must say that I'm very impressed with the Continental tubulars....never thought they would survive!

Afterwards, I learned David and Michael had climbed up to the reservoir behind the dam at about 650m elevation until an electronic sign (which may have escaped my attention ??) allegedly said the road over Matsuhime was closed in the direction of Okutamako. They both went back down Koshu Kaido to Tokyo. All three of us each covered about the same distance...about 200k for David and I and 10 more for Michael!

On Sunday, I got persuaded by my wife and decided to give my bicycles a rest.....

zondag 2 september 2007

An unusual bike… FKC (François Kérautret Conception)

Friday afternoon…as usual I was checking the weekend weather forecast and e-mails in between my routine office work…then “out of the blue” came this message from a Senior Vélosophe Acquaintance of mine saying “…as I have too many bicycles in my small apartment, I am considering selling my FKC. Would you be interested? Three emails later the FKC had changed hands! On Saturday I went to the famous Positivo shop in Todoroki to pick up the “beast” as SVA last called this wonderful machine. The fine-tuning was done by “Charisma Mechanic” Nagai-san of Positivo himself!

The FKC is an innovative, hand-made race machine with an asymmetric frame made from “Marval” steel. Unusual features include the straight, almost vertical fork and the asymmetric axle of the back wheel for better alignment of the chain (meaning the right-hand spokes are longer than the ones on the left!). For more details:

Main components of FKC RZwo:
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace
Crank set: Stronglight Pulsion Full Carbon Technology
Chainwheels: Stronglight 48T-34T Compact

Sprocket: MICHE Super Type 12T-25T
Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace
Brake levers: Campa Record
Fork: Monobloc Carbon Haut Module for NRS (No Rake System)
Saddle: AX Lightness Handmade
Handle bar: ITM Kero3 Ergal 7075
Wheel rims: Zipp carbon
Tires: Tubular Continental Competitition 26” 22mm

Today, I took the FKC on a test ride in the mountains, my usual 117k under 5-hour ride comprising Wada-touge and 3 smaller mountain passes in and around Hinoharamura. Here is my impression…with smaller, mountain bike-sized wheels frequently used in triathlon races, the FKC accelerated like a rocket. The carbon saddle felt much softer than I had imagined, very comfortable! Shifting with Campa Record (first time for me!) was as smooth as can be. It took a while before I got used to cornering with the straight fork and miniscule “potence” stem. Thanks to this system the bike handles very tight corners with the greatest ease.

It was when climbing the Wada (almost a weekly punishment for me) that the FKC really came alive! Doing the 12%+ stretches “en danseuse” no longer felt like a torture and I had never imagined to be able to cover such a long distance while dancing out of the saddle...this machine invariably keeps a straight trajectory, no matter how hard you exert full-body, downward pressure on the pedals! I was also immensely impressed with the bike’s downhill qualities…insanely flawless braking & cornering.

Overall the FKC is an excellent listener and its only weakness may be its difficulty to maintain a constant speed over a long distance on the flats (for which no doubt the smaller wheels are probably to blame).

Once home, I checked the cycle computer…one of my best average times ever! Distance: 117k / Average Speed: 25.8. Call this a placebo effect or not...I'm afraid I may get hooked on 26" tubulars.