zaterdag 26 juli 2008

Through the thunderstorm

Went with Nishibe-san on a long haul again – much longer for Nishibe-san than for me that is! After I finished showing off my new Spinergy wheels, we left Sekidobashi around 6:20 under an overcast sky riding at a slow pace to Takao along the usual Asakawa cycling road. At the Takao 7/11 we got some provands for the first lap to Hinazuru-toge. As usual, Nishibe-san took the lead on the Otarumi hill and I had to let him go. Near the top as I was going en danseuse, my new Spinergy back wheel started to behave strangely causing the BB to moan and groan. The downhill was about to start so I ignored the technical trouble.

As we approached Akiyama-mura and I went en danseuse again, my back wheel suddenly completely blocked against the right-side brake pad. Nishibe-san did a good job fixing the brake, however, 30 minutes later, we found out it was not the rear brake causing the trouble but the position of the back wheel in those dropout brackets. Maybe just a matter of the frame not having gotten accustomed yet to the new Spinergy high-tech? Anyways, I tried to avoid dancing on the pedals for the rest of the ride and the technical trouble did not reappear. Apart from this –hopefully – childhood illness, the soft-running Spinergy wheels are a perfect match to the rigid titanium frame, absorbing road shock wonderfully.

The manju shop in Akiyama-mura was closed today. We met a group of riders with one guy on a yellow aluminum VLAAMS bike and a complete VLAAMS Team outfit. We crossed the Hinazuru and the Suzugane hills…took a brief rest at Saruhashi and proceeded to our last but longest climb of the day…Matsuhime-toge. The heat was almost killing us but very providentially we came across an oasis in the shape of roadside hosepipe with very cold water constantly running through it. We took turns showering ourselves…the little joys of high summer!

On the ascent of Matsuhime, my engine suddenly kicked in higher gear and I had to leave Nishibe-san behind. The higher the cooler it felt…so nice I tried to not to notice the sky was slowly but surely clouding over. As I waited at the top for Nishibe-san to arrive, I could hear thundering approaching from the direction we were about to descend into! Sure enough, we were approaching some low-hanging thunderclouds. I told Nishibe-san we could take shelter from the rain in Kosuge if needed. When we arrived in Kosuge, the skies looked even more threatening but still no rain. Children were happily playing in the Kosuge River…

We decided to give it try and headed towards Okutama. We had barely left Kosugemura or it started to pour and just as it did, a bus stop appeared where we took cover. After 15 minutes or so, it looked like the thunderstorm had passed and we continued our descend direction Okutama. The road was very wet though and got us soaked very quickly from below. From above, it was also raining “ki-no-ame,” each time the wind would move the trees above us, buckets-full would come down on us.

As we got nearer to Okutama passing through one tunnel after another, we got stuck in another downpour but we were already so soaked, there was no meaning in looking for shelter again. At the Okutama supermarket facing the Hikawa Camping site, we filled our stomachs with sandwiches. It was still raining heavily and we hesitated for a while…should we continue to ride in this nasty weather or hop the train? Undecided we went to take a leak at the Okutama Station toilet. Suddenly, the skies cleared up again and even the sun was back in full glory.

The ride down to Ome was fast but very wet as well. One station ahead of Ome, I got a call from Michael who had cleared Kazahari-touge and was on his way to our RdV of the day: the Ishikawa Brewery in Fussa. We tried to pinpoint arrival time and managed to do so with a fair degree of accuracy! Michael had arrived some 10 minutes before us and was already sipping from his “stein”.

The Ishikawa Brewery is such a cozy place…excellent beer and good spaghetti too! I plan to sample some more dishes there next time. Michael and I discussed our plan for organizing a weekend for of cycling next week. Barring typhoons, we will be holding "The Second Enzan-Odarumi Slowrun Classic" on August 2 & 3! (more details on the Positivo Espresso Blog) . The three of us left about an hour or so later – a bit tipsy but nevertheless a powerful feeling on the bike. We were going at a strong tempo until Michael’s front wheel got stuck between two metal ditch covers at the “Taiyaki-koen” U-turn causing him to crash with a flat front tire. Luckily no injuries! The flat was fixed in no time and we continued at an average speed of 34km/h all the way to Koremasa Bridge where Michael left us.

10 minutes later I parted from Nishibe-san for whom today’s ride must have been well above 220km! In spite of the thunderstorm, today was another fun-filled day.

maandag 21 juli 2008

Vader en dochter naar Ishikawa Brewery

This morning, I took my eldest daughter who is back in Tokyo for the summer vacation out for a short 50km ride to Ishikawa Brewery and back.

It was her very first time to ride on a road racer and after a few practice laps on the road in front of our house to get used to the shifting mechanism (Campagnolo), she told me she felt confident enough!

The skies were overcast, a welcome change after the scorching sun these past couple days. After 1 km on the Tamagawa Cycling Road, I adjusted the height of her saddle and in no time she was cruising at speeds between 25 and 30km/h effortless. I explained the basics of pedaling and handle grip...she's sure is a fast learner.

I myself was experimenting with an extra long stem - 130mm following up the recommendation by Hiroshi. He was absolutely right, the longer stem allows me to lean forward in a more aggressive style with a higher saddle position. As a result, more leg power gets transmitted to the pedals with no drop in steering stability.

We reached Ishikawa brewery much earlier than I had thought...the restaurants only open at 11:30 but instead, we both enjoyed a beer with some smoked cheese.

The atmosphere at the brewery is very cosy and the place itself is very clean. Father and daughter enjoyed a cosy time together and we waited a while before mounting our bikes as we did not want to get stopped for drunken driving!

zaterdag 19 juli 2008

Umenoki-toge -> Nokogiriyama -> Kazahari-rindo

Went riding again with Hiroshi and his sempai with a 9:oo am RdV at Itsukaichi Station. I left the house at 7:45 (at least I thought so...) and managed to arrive at Itsukaichi at 8:50 perfectly on time I thought... The sun was already high in the sky and it was scorching hot with almost no shadow spots to rest. I waited for my 2 companions to show up....and strange no sign yet from Hiroshi. Just when I decided to look around the parking lot, Hiroshi arrived in his car...早いですね!he said "...uh, yes...still early, right!" I replied. Sempai was already there taking a nap in his car. Then both to my embarassment and happy surprise, I found out that my watch had been fooled in believing it was Daylight Saving Time! It was still 8:30 am!! Hiroshi and Sempai prepared their bikes and 15 minutes later we took off direction Tsurutsuru-onsen.

I felt quite good in form and tried a couple times to cycle up front. The road leading to the top of Umenoki-toge is very pleasant with lots of shade. Even so, it felt piping hot! Once we all got to the top, we took a group photo...with no wind blowing at all it was like being in a sauna....un jardin apres la mousson! The rainy season officially ended today.

We descended via the road on the left leading to Mitake-san. Because of the heavy rainfall the previous day, the road surface was overgrown here and there with slippery moss...rather perilous but Hiroshi continued to move down at daredevil speeds with sempai in his wake! These two guys are really extremely skilled cyclists!

We passed Mitake-san and continued riding towards Okutama where we bought proviands and plenty of drinks for the next two hills. We soon found the Bentenbashi entrance point to Nokogiriyama. I was still feeling in form and managed keep the gap between my bike and Sempai's bike at 20 meters constant. Hiroshi had already taken off from the very foot of the mountain, dancing a la Bernard Hinault....incredible at such a speed! Fortunately for us, there was a very slight but refreshing breeze blowing on top of Nokogiriyama. After 10 minutes or so we began our second descend of the day.

Halfway this descend after I hit a pothole, my front tyre went flat...I was in last position and I shouted as loud as I could: PAAAANK, PAAAAaNK, STOOOOPPPP!!! but to no avail....Hiroshi and sempai disappeared out of sight as I was trying to bring my vehicle to a standstill...not easy with a blowout on a steep downhill! I managed to change my inner tube fairly fast although I have never had to do this on the road so far! The little TOPEAK "micro pocket" pump worked surprisingly well; very decent tool I must say. I was concerned about my two companions thinking they had to be even more worried. There was a lot of moss again, very sharp hairpins and ravines sometimes on both sides of the road. I wanted to hurry up and almost lost my balance when my rear wheel blocked as I was braking over a patch of moss! After some agonizing moments, I saw Hiroshi and Sempai very nice of them to come to my rescue! I explained the situation and they breathed a sigh of relief.

One more hillclimb still ahead and just when I thought I could take a rest at the entrance point of Kazahari-rindo, Hiroshi took off again at full speed....crazy!! At the speed he was going, it looked like he had been saving extra energies. Higher up, on the wide curve ahead of the very steep stretch leading to Kinoko Center, I saw Charles of TCC who was trying to catch his breath. Thanks for cheering me on Charles! I couldn't help falling behind though and soon Sempai was completely out of sight. When I finally reached the summit, both guys were already pretty much rested out. There was another elderly gentlemen, who had cycled all the way from Yokohama!!

We decided to skip Tomin-no-mori and zoomed down to Janoyu-onsen where we took some refreshments...all our bottles had gone empty by then!
The remainder of the ride towards Itsukaichi was super fast mostly with Hiroshi pulling in front. I left my companions of the day in front of Itsukaichi and got home before 16:00...completely exhausted!

zondag 13 juli 2008

Shadowy Suzugane

Went solo today after all. As I was heading towards Sekidobashi for a 8:15 RdV with some Positivo Espresso riders and newcomers, mobile in back pocket started to vibrate. Michael kindly informed me that departure had been delayed and that they would be arriving at Sekidobashi by 8:45. I didn't want to wait in the blistering heat so continued to ride on my own direction Akiyamamura again. I was imagining a superlong ride over Suzugane-Saruhashi to Matsuhime and then Kazahari...but the heat again was too oppressive. The trail leading to Suzugane-toge was very verdant, rather cool with lots of shade. I discovered an alternative way for writing Suzugane 鈴ヶ音峠 -> 鈴懸峠. Rd. 509 took me through lush green meadows to Saruhashi where I decided to head back to Tokyo via Koshu Kaido. After a while I got bored on Koshu Kaido and as soon as I reached Uenohara I took a right turn (Rd. 506) back to Akiyamamura! A very quiet route with a couple tunnels that are not marked on my map. Once through Akiyamamura, I took 517 -> 76 -> 520 -> 20 overtaking tens and tens of NALSHIMA riders...the guys looked exhausted! Each time I overtook a Nalshima guy or gal in my Team NFCC jersey, I felt my self-esteem growing!

zaterdag 12 juli 2008

Sweltering ride

I took Michael, Jerome and Nishibe-san on ride over the Hinazuru and Dozaka hills, the same route of last Sunday's ride with Hiroshi and his sempai. Today was simply too hot and we almost lost Michael due to dehydration on top of Dozaka...fortunately a refreshing downhill along Doshimichi was waiting and we even got ourselves a real Turkish steambath as a reward. A heavy passing rain had submerged long stretches of the road which were steaming by the time the four of us were riding through. Whenever a dump truck would take us over, we got sprinkled all over with fine mist!

zondag 6 juli 2008

410k and exhausted!

As I start to write this entry, I’m feeling terribly tired…too much cycling within too short a time…yesterday I was about 11 hours on the saddle covering 240k and many, many hills…then today, with the intention to do some leisurely touring, I added 170k and it could have been more but totally sapped out of energies in my legs and especially in my arms, I had to take the painful decision to leave Hiroshi and his Sempai behind and head back home at a very slow pace. I got home at 14:00, took a cold shower and slept almost 2 hours. The heat today was oppressive (36 degrees near the Otarumi bridge!), adding to my total collapse…

Yesterday, I went solo and rode first to Yanagisawa-toge via Uenoharamura and then the tranquil Rd.33 to Kosuge over Tsuru, Imagawa... I passed Yanagisawa-toge without pausing for my favorite downhill direction Enzan/Katsunuma. This time, however, my plan was to try a new route (201) and a new hill, more famous among hikers than cyclists called Daibosatsu-toge.

Before launching my attack of Daibosatsu-toge - or rather & more correctly Kamihikawa-toge (上日川峠), I had lunch at a wonderful place called 松葉荘 where I had a freshly-caught iwana-trout with rice, miso soup…very peaceful! Route 201 is absolutely recommended…lots of shadow, superb views and little traffic. At the top is a lodge house, base camp for hikers. Daibosatsumine, the mountain itself is 2057 meters high. On the way down to Yamato on Koshu Kaido there is artificial lake to the right side.

I had no choice but to scale Sasago-toge. As I was climbing, I thought of different strategies to get through the tunnel…at the last resort, it is possible to “cyclocross” above the tunnel as some guys from TCC did last week. This time there was no guard man so in I went! Near the end, the passageway was again completely blocked and the only way I could get through was by climbing bike and all the scaffolding erected for fixing the ceiling….at times my helmet was hitting the ceiling and I had to walk a three-meter long stretch on top of a 15 cm wide board and one pole to grab…try that with cleats! A man fixing scaffolds at the other end stared to me in disbelief but was nevertheless friendly….according to plan, repair works should be over by the end of October.

As I approached Otsuki, the skies suddenly turned pitch dark…a passing rain but I had no idea of course that it was only passing so I continued cycling enjoying the cooling effect of the heavy rainfall. By the time I reached Sagamiko, everything had dried up again, even my shoes.

This morning, I woke up at 5:30 again for my appointment with Hiroshi and his Sempai at Akiyama Onsen…I immediately noticed something was wrong with my body…even on the flat road to Takao, I could barely go over 30km/h!

I arrived at Akiyama Onsen already pretty exhausted and Hiroshi and his Sempai joined 15 minutes later. I was relieved, believing I was in for some slow touring for the rest of the day…as Hiroshi made little accelerations; I fell behind right away, desperately trying to find my rhythm…legs and arms refused to cooperate.

I ended up frustrating my companions’ efforts to cruise ahead and scale the Hinazuru and Dozaka hills at their usual strong pace. Fortunately for me, they lowered the tempo when needed and waited for me with great compassion each time at the top…sorry guys! Two more serious hills were on the program and the plan was to return to Akiyama Onsen for a soak in the local spa and a bowl of soba. Hiroshi had even kindly offered to drive me home afterwards.
I simply couldn’t endure more high-tempo climbing so I bid my companions farewell at the spot where the Dozaka downhill hits Doshimichi. Next time I decide to cycle again with Hiroshi and his Sempai, I must make sure I am absolutely in form! Nevertheless it was a truly happy ride together!

vrijdag 4 juli 2008

Ninety degrees toilet warning!

Running out of storage room...5 bikes in the parking in the garden..two in the in the living in the hobby in the entrance...I was particurlarly proud of the inventive storage space for this latter one...hanging on the wall on a special hanger like a piece of least in my eyes....not in those of the womenfolk living under the same roof...the bike hanging there has been the cause of many a quarrel often accompanied by Flemish swearwords....

dinsdag 1 juli 2008


I want to go a long way on my bike! On my way home, I habitually passed by the bookstore near my station for some browsing...there it was....the title couldn't be more attractive! This essay-cum-travelogue written by Kazunori Yonezu 米津一成, a 49 year-old guy who rides about 8,000 km a year (!!!) is fresh off the press (first edition June 30, 2008). Some three pages are devoted to the Tokyo-Itoigawa Fast Run. The essay is written in a very simple and lucid style and divided into 5 chapters: (1) the bicycle as a means of transportation, (2) Riding 100km, (3) Riding 200km, (4) Riding 300km and (5) the joys of owning a road racer.... ロードレーサーはあなたの心も「遠く」へ連れていってくれるはずだ...very promising reading!

Published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers