zondag 25 november 2007

Hoshigaki

干し柿
Another long weekend with perfect cycling conditions…cycled three half days covering some 500km. The road leading to Mt. Takao was congested three days in a row…the annual rush of red-leaves kōyō gazers in tune with the official NHK announcement declaring the season is now open. Fortunately Takao is where the mass exodus stopped and I enjoyed some relatively quiet country roads up and down hills aflame with red and yellow leaves around Sagamiko and then via Fujino through Hinohara where I passed the same kaki tree three times.
I prefer persimmons with firm flesh that can be eaten like an crisp apple rather than the mushy kind. A real delicacy are hoshigaki 干し柿 using the bitter, astringent shibugaki 渋柿 variety whose tannin levels are reduced with the aid of traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. Hoshigaki remind me of the tranquil days following the hectic and overcommercialized Christmas period...extremely nutritious and sweet they bring peace of mind to me every year.

maandag 19 november 2007

Another “cycle mode” weekend…secret recipes and places

秘伝のHCテクニック・穴場

Got up very early last Saturday, very silently this time so as not to wake up the ladies in the house, to make it to my 9 a.m. appointment in Makuhari Messe, the venue of the annual “Cycle Mode” extravaganza also known as the “Disneyland of Bicycle Freaks & Addicts”. Madone in rinko bag, I arrived at the site at 8:30…

It was under one of those many pedestrian bridges connecting various Makuhari conference and exhibition halls that I underwent my one-hour long ポジションクリニック “position clinic” amidst cold autumnal blasts. The measurements for my custom-built bike (the titanium VLAAMS) were taken in a most efficient tekipaki way on and off the Madone saddle. As part of the “clinic,” I was taught a few secret – or rather (h)esoteric (yes, it all has to do with the “navel”) – lessons on how to improve my hill climb skills. The secret techniques confided to me were quite different from what I had so far read in specialized cycle magazines and publications and the ever-doubting Thomas I am, I was rather skeptical about the new recipe’s merit. When I tried out the heso “belly button trick” the next day, however, I was simply amazed and filled with sheer rapture at the obvious difference…I was going up the Mt. Takao Otarumi-tōge at an average of 15~16km/h compared to my usual 13~14km/h!

Once inside the Cycle Mode venue, I happily met with Thierry and my namesake whose green bike (what a weird saddle!) was very prominently displayed there by the eager sponsor. The first 30 minutes were exciting but as more and more bicycle energumen & -women were streaming in, the whole place became too uncomfortable for me to stay much longer and I was homeward bound by noon. Made a few water mouthing discoveries though, the most attractive one being an all-carbon set of OEM-produced aerodynamic clincher (!) wheels priced at less than 10-man yen (produced by Light-Cycle Bicycle Shop).

Following a late lunch at home, I called David to confirm the time and place of our rendezvous in Futakotamagawa. A rather intense feeling of sadness overtook me when I mounted my Madone for the very last time…some 90 minutes later I parted with my trusted workhorse who, starting next year, is slated to graze on the landscapes of England. May she make the next owner as happy as she made me!

Before getting into bed, I refitted my Colnago CLX – paying careful attention to the saddle’s position according to KH’s instructions. Sunday’s ride was one I had been looking forward to with much anticipation most of all because it had been such a long time since I last rode with the guy who caused my cycle mania three years ago.

It turned out to be a perfect day…gorgeous weather, not the slightest wind, beautiful sights along peaceful country roads around Sagamiko. Thanks Laurent for sharing this off-the-beaten-path “Anaba Route” with me! The whole circuit has got to be kept secret like some kind of sanctuary! Here, another analogy can be drawn with mountain stream trout fishing. Just like those so-called "anaba" surefire spots known to only a few anglers, there are these hidden country roads offering intense cycling pleasure that – fortunately enough - get bypassed by most riders.

On our way back, while we were both taking a 7/11 break, a familiar-looking guy on some fancy bike zoomed by at a speed too fast to convince myself who it was. As Laurent would find out an hour or so later, it was indeed the Vélosophe…who was found devouring, Cervélo within sight, a cinnamon & raisin roll at his regular haunt, a bakery called “Flanders”(!)

Late in the afternoon, the weather suddenly changed...kogarashi ichigo had begun its invasion of the Kanto Area with cold blasts presaging winter…better keep those warm gloves handy (in the right place)!

vrijdag 9 november 2007

Rain = Hometrainer

Rain predicted for this weekend...not being able to cycle for more than 5 days has become like a torture to me. Earlier this year, I found the perfect solution: the hometrainer!



Elite Hydro-Mag...not so silent as advertised but efficient!

An absolute must... Continental "nur fur Rollentrainer" tyre.

Cateye Astrale speedmeter measures speed and cadence via sensors on pedal and back wheel spoke...trying to keep cadence above 90 constantly.

dinsdag 6 november 2007

Giro de Hotaka Results

The results are out….

Official results: 8th…5:11:38.98 / Average speed 23.296

Unofficial results: 4th (there goes my big fish = medal, see!!)…4:39:38.98 (5:11:38.98 - 32 minutes accounting for approx. 15km wrong road…) / Average speed 27.538 (that looks more like it!)

zondag 4 november 2007

Giro de Hotaka and the "Junction of Doom"

"I'm sure I would have gotten a medal if only...!

釣り落とした魚は大きい

One hobby of mine is mountain stream fishing…tenkara, or traditional Japanese-style fly fishing, which is in many ways close to Western-style fly fishing but in many others quite different…one distinctive feature of tenkara is that no reel is attached to the rod…in olden days when the rivers in Japan were still brimming with natural, indigenous trout varieties such as yamame or iwana, this was the preferred style of fishing of professional fishermen who would return home every day with a catch of about 50 fish. These days, however, rivers here are stocked with foreign species, especially rainbow trout and it is getting increasingly difficult to catch genuine indigenous fish…some river sections have become fish farms so to speak. A very sad trend but still tenkara remains a fascinating hobby…starting from tying your own flies adapted to the time of the season, selection of tapered line, size of the right hook…a lot of time goes into the preparation and strategy planning before one actually reaches the target stream deep in the mountains. Almost every time however, the catch is very poor and on most days there is no catch at all…but that doesn’t diminish the intense joy of becoming one with nature and hunting after one’s “princess of the river”.

I’ve come to realize that cycling is a very similar pastime…plenty of time goes into the selection of the right materials, carbon vs. aluminum wheels, rear sprocket ratio, the right cycling wear adapted to the weather, etc. Then today, it occurred to me that fishing & cycling have something else in common…the mental process by which humans tend to blow up out of all proportion certain failures which, had they not occurred, would have turned a certain venture into a huge success! The fish one fails the land is (always) the biggest! When I got home this evening, my daughter asked me how I fared at today’s race…and this is how I replied…everything went perfect and I was sure to win a medal, but then I failed to make a turn and continued for 20km along the wrong road…if only I had followed the right course, I would have a medal around my neck! "Sounds like another tsuriotoshita sakana wa ookii story of you, dad!" Alas, this is what actually happened this morning (although the extra distance was more like 15km, still more than 30 min were lost)…

The previous evening, NFCC members Alain, Thierry and I were going over our tactics in all its details, including the exact timing of consuming a power gel. The “race” started perfect…with Alain and me taking the lead on the first downhill section and then myself pulling a small peloton, or rather, an escape group of about 15 riders for some 20 minutes until we hit the forked road spot - THE JUNCTION OF DOOM - one road turning left and the other upwards…we were all looking at each other…no signboards, no official “Giro” marshals to point us in the correct direction and so we decided to go for the easiest…follow the road straight ahead. And so we went in one long-stretched line…beautiful scenery, a nice clear mountain stream on the right side...

After a while, the map, we had tried to input into our minds the previous evening, popped up in front of my eyes, we were going up but not at the steep gradient we were supposed to be following…our doubts were soon confirmed…the road ended in a Y fork chained on both ends! Wrong road…everyone double back!!! Goodbye medals!!!

Since the “Giro de Hotaka” is not a real race but more of a cyclo-tourism type of event, we did not allow the wrong road to demoralize ourselves and completed the rest of the ride in great comradeship!


For me, it was the perfect ride to round off a beautiful year full of cycling. The mushroom soup distributed at the end of the race tasted ever so good!