zondag 29 maart 2009

Where did all the cars go on my Dozaka loop?

Left home at 9:30 after a cosy breakfast with the entire family around the table...eldest daughter is back home on spring vacation!

Today's weather was much nicer than yesterday and although a chilly and rather strong northern wind was blowing, the sun felt warm. I decided to do the tail that was cut off yesterday...a nice 160km loop making the total distance in the saddle this weekend 340km.

With the new discount system for cars and motorcycles having gone into effect on expressways Saturday, there was a lot less traffic on the road than usual. Especially the road going through Dozaka tunnel was almost completely empty except for a group of about 20 or so miniature bikes sounding like Harley Davidsons! It was thrilling to have the downhill all for myself. On Doshimichi there was only half the usual volume of traffic...let's hope automobile traffic keeps flowing away to the expressways!

I chose my aerobar-fitted CLX today to get some practice for the Tokyo-Itoigawa fast run. Soon I will be parting from my Colnago...I put her up for sale together with my Orbea Onix...getting rid of carbon and creating space for my new Bridgestone Anchor Neo-Cot! According to O-Vest Nishitani-san, arrival of my first steel bike is expected around mid-June...

zaterdag 28 maart 2009

Doshimichi tail cut off

V練 starting at 6:15 this morning....15 minutes earlier than usual! Today the VLAAMS team had guests from the Fitte and O-Vest teams join the morning practice ride. Contrary to the weather forecast, it wasn't sunny at all and the sky stayed almost completely overcast.

With only kneewarmers, a thin pair of gloves, no shoe covers and no winter underwear, it felt rather chilly at times. We all headed direction Odawara along Vlaams patented route. There is this one section running parallel to the highway where inevitably we all try to outrace each other in an attempt to rotate. The rotations work only for the first few kilometers. After that it's neck and neck racing, sort of. But fast we go!

At the conbini before the Yabitsu climb, I found my favorite Kanipan again! This time I bought 2, 1 for underway. Kanipan and Red Bull is a great match! Try it! The "race" up to the top of Yabitsu was won by one young & tall guy from Fitte and an elderly guy - about my age - from O-Vest...very strong and impressive climbers!

Down at the other side of Yabitsu, we held a little meeting to decide on the next destination...it was cold though - just 5 degrees! - and we abandoned the idea of riding to Yamanakako along Doshi-michi as you can see on the map below. Instead we returned via Makime and Otarumi.

All in all, a very fast ride 180km. Hopefully it will be sunny and a little warmer tomorrow!

zaterdag 21 maart 2009

201 km and lots of climbing

Joined the weekly V練 as usual leaving Koremasa Bridge at 6:30...this time 8 people had shown up. So early in the morning, the air felt rather cold at first but by the time we reached Squirrel Park in Machida, the cold was completely gone. We followed the usual route direction Odawara, exactly what I had done yesterday. Some people wanted to round off the ride by turning left to Miura and others turned back halfway needing to be back home before noon. My plan was to attack Yabitsu, the very popular Omote-Yabitsu which I have never done before from the South side.

But before that, Saruto-san showed us the way to an observation platform on top of a "gekisaka" called Shonandaira. Along the way there were some superb views of Fujisan and I very much wanted to stop and take pictures....however this is supposed to be a training ride and everyone is training with great zeal and determination...no time for tourism! Another time I should do this ride alone and hope the weather will be as perfect as it was today!

I did the Omote-Yabitsu together with one more guy from the VLAAMS team, Ogawa-san (who also rides with Team Fitte and O-Vest) and we were able to stay together at a steady pace overtaking many other cyclists. This little hill is incredibly popular! We reached the top much earlier than I had expected. On the downhill, we filled our bottles at a spring and this time I took the lead most of the way down to Tsukui-ko where I parted from my companion to add some more distance. Doshi-michi sounded attractive or else a ride through Akiyama-mura...I ended up riding to Fujino, Yuzurihara and Kobu tunnel and back home via Itsukaichi. On my way back, I ate the "Kanipan" bread I had bought as an emergency snack at the convience store Ogawa-san and I had stopped by before attacking Yabitsu. This "Kanipan" doesn't taste like crab of course but like those "Betterfood" cookies they give to infants in Europe! Softer but the same taste and because it is so dry you can keep chewing on it while riding! I've never seen it at other conbinis though...

On the Tamasai, an elderly rider wearing a jersey with "Setagaya" on it overtook me on a very nice blue Quark steel bike built by Hosoyama-san. We stayed together until my turn-off to Fuchu. We only had a very brief conversation but somehow I believe I have met this person somewhere before.

vrijdag 20 maart 2009

With aerobars to Hinata Yakushi Temple

A fierce spring storm was raging most of this morning until 11:30. I decided to get the right fit of the aero clip-on bars by trying out various positions. I finally settled on a comfortable position with the bars in the same angle as the stem and the arm rests in medium position.

Left home one hour later, the road surface still wet here and there from all the rainfall. With no destination in mind I followed the usual V練 winter route direction Odawara. At Isehara I took a turn for Oyama and soon found myself on a nice mountain road running parallel to Yabitsu pass. I passed a very old Shingon Sect Buddhist temple called Hinata Yakushi founded in the year 716 during the reign of Empress Gensho by the famous buddhist priest Gyoki. Three statues of Yakushi Nyorai and an Amida-nyorai statue are the main object of worship and next time I pass by I will make it a point to view these sculptures. Not far from this temple I came across some impressive rock formations covered in pistache-green moss right at the foot of the Tanzawa mountain range.

I was very impressed by the aerobars…the difference is huge and made me wonder why road bikes are not equipped with them from the beginning. Granted, they are dangerous when riding in heavy traffic as you cannot brake and it is easy to lose control over the handlebar. On straight stretches, even against the wind or going up a slope, these bars make you go so much faster! As they say, they make the scales drop from your eyes!

Tomorrow, the weather should by sunny, a bit colder and less windy. I plan to join the weekly V練!

zondag 15 maart 2009

Kusatsu Training No.3 (KT3)

Alan of TCC put together this very nice loop around Okutama-ko including some forestry road I have never ridden before (I may have once with Hiroshi but from the opposite direction). All members assembled on time in front of Itsukaichi Station and we took off a little after 9:15 under gorgeous skies and plum blossoms in full bloom. It didn't even feel all that cold and I soon regretted my having overdressed. Michael of Positivo Espresso called and said he, David and Jerome would try to join us on top of Wada. Both groups must have missed each other with about 20 minutes or so. Not far from Wada-toge we enjoyed a brief but superb view of Fujisan. On the way up to Kobu tunnel, a familiar-looking jersey appeared in front of me...Ichiro of Vlaams Tamasai!! Ichiro had joined the 6:30 V練, cycled all the way direction Odawara to Isehara and was adding a few extra hours of mountain riding before heading home. I told him Alan's ride plan and Ichiro, always happy to add some extra kilometers, happily decided to join. A little later, I managed to catch up first with Jerome and then with David sporting brand-new Fulcrum wheels on his Cervelo on the way up to Tomin-no-mori where I found Michael slurping away at a bowl of noodles of some kind. All riders reassembled in front of the restaurants facing Lake Okutama following an exiting downhill led by Ichiro...this light-weight guy surely knows to downhill fast! From here, it was Alan again who took the lead guiding us to the entrance of the little-known trail through a forest leading all the way to Itsukaichi. The entrance point is not far from the Kanzashi Hairpin Museum. On this last hill, I decided to use up my last energies and found a good rhythm. On the downhill part it was once again Alan showing us the way; he too went very fast almost in mountain bike fashion. Alan also gave a little demonstration on how to quickly change an inner tube after suffering a snakebite puncture in a pothole. Ichiro and I parted from the rest and on our way home we stopped by one of VLAAMS's favorite bakery shops called "La Fougasse" in Akiruno. I was starving and ate three different pastries...pear, apple and chocolate...simply delicious! Thanks to Alan's superb organization, I believe everyone was able to enjoy another great day in the outdoors. I was happy to get to meet some more TCC people for the first time. With yesterday's rain, I could only cycle 180km this weekend...I am a bit jealous of Ichiro who must have covered almost 260km today!!

Not very thoughtful this signpost put up by "Santama Jitensha-no-Kai"....Bicycle riders! CAUTION! OK, yes, but caution for what? Hungry bears in the neighbourhood? The text calls out to cyclists to control speed, show consideration for other road users, hikers and people living in the area and give forestry workers no trouble. A very reasonable request and message which cyclists with the right etiquette naturally take to heart. I cannot help but wondering though why it was necessary to put "BICYCLE RIDERS! CAUTION !" in English in the first place ...

zaterdag 14 maart 2009


Terrible gusty weather today...the weekly V練 got cancelled but it was nice to enjoy breakfast with the family for a change. I spent most of the day cleaning my CLX and Sirius Ti-1, taking off the sprockets and degreasing all the gear wheels. I never use those expensive degreasers for sale at bike shops usually costing around 1,200 yen. Instead I have been using the inexpensive kind one can find at home centers costing four times less! I finally got the clip-on aerobars attached on my CLX, the bike I will use for the Tokyo-Itoigawa Fast Run. The FSA Team Edition handlebar said pokki!...pokki!.. twice as I was carefully applying more torque....rather unnerving but everything looks intact, I think. Looking forward to tomorrow's Kusatsu Training ride with the folks from TCC.

zaterdag 7 maart 2009

computer kapot!! BSoD...

Typing on a different PC now that does not hold my GPS and camera software....my old computer just broke down!!

Had a great ride today starting with the V練 at 6:30 from Koremasa Bridge. We rode direction Odawara and just before we hit the sea, we broke into two groups, one going direction Tanzawa and my own group heading toward Miura for another loop of the peninsula. Ichiro-san and I had a very early (10:30) lunch at Maruyoshi Shokudo and then proceeded along the other side. As I had hoped and at exactly the stretch I was expecting to cross them, I spotted and greeted Alan, Thomas, Sergey and many other TCC riders who were doing a reverse loop having started from Yokohama. TCC red lantern Charles probably did not recognize me but still managed to raise his arm and wave!

As we rode by Yokohama, my mobile vibrated, I looked and it was Stephan, NFCC's president who happens to live in the area...later I found out that he had spotted me and my buddy! Near Sakuragicho we stopped at the huge Y's shop whose owner is a (former?) team member of VLAAMS. For the return trip, we avoided Tamagawa and rode along Fuchu Kaido which runs parallel to the river and is not so bad traffic-wise. I got home around 3:30 with 210 km and an average speed of 30.1 km/h on the Cateye.

Just as I was photoshopping some pictures on my old computer...the fatal blue screen appeared and my pictures are now gone (Ichiro-san, I'm so sorry!) ...hopefully not forever!

Blue Screen of Death!!!
A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer... no matter what I try, I can no longer reboot. Time to buy a new PC??? I'd rather buy a nice steel frame with the same money...