zaterdag 27 maart 2010

Went snowmobiling with Ludwig... not in Minnesota but high up in the mountains of Saitama! Here's the complete route & details !

"Why don't we take out our cyclocrosses," is how Ludwig's invitation was worded. "Alright! Let's go for 76 & Yabitsu," I wrote back. "I don't want to do the same thing two weeks in row - so shall we not ride then?" This is how I recall an email exchange on Friday morning. Typical Ludwig. We settled for Arima-toge and Ludwig "thoughtfully" proposed to add another major hill of about the same height (also above 1,000 meters) and act as my guide.

Off we were, leaving our Koremasa Bridge RdV spot behind at 7:00 a.m. The mountains seen far away from the Tamagawa looked whitish again whereas last weekend there was not much snow at all to be found up high.

We rode quite fast up to Higashi-Ome - probably no difference with a normal road bike in terms of speed. The sound produced by two pairs of knobby tires accentuated by the occasional squeaky brakes was the only feature telling us apart from real road racers.

From Lake Naguri, we had a splendid view on the mountain range awaiting us; the skies were clearing up and the sun felt rather hot. Riding up Arima-toge, Ludwig had to make a brief stop to get rid of some warmer pieces of garment - a ritual he would repeat on the second hill on today's menu: Mitsumine. For privacy reasons, I decided not to post Ludwig's picture in an advanced stage of undressing. At around 900m, we ran into the first real snow. Sometimes, the 35mm tires would do a good job clearing a path through the snow, but other times, up to 20cm thick snow would force us to a halt - sometimes rather abruptly causing me to fall on my right shoulder once (in full view of an amused Ludwig behind!) Yare yare! Near the top of Arima, we were treated to a heavenly spectacle of whiteness all over...almost fairytale-like views of icicles and tree branches coated in ice and snow. Unforgettable! Ludwig was fast on the descent of Arima - a bit too fast to my liking as I have developed a real icebahn-phobia - dry descents no prob but once I see ice lurking here and there, I get the shivers! After a brief stop at the 7/11 at the bottom, we went for our Mitsumine...Ludwig had been there several times before, also with MOB and I must say, it is a real anaba for cyclists. It is also the site of a popular hillclimb race to be held next month. Near the top of Mitsumine, we encountered even more pristine glittering snow...very celestial I would think! At one point, a tree had fallen down across the street and we had to shoulder our bikes in real cyclocross fashion to get over the obstacle. On top, I skipped the visit to the shrine and we both sped down for our second hit onto Saikai Hwy (R140). Ludwig wanted to make a second stop at the same 7/11 - the two girls behind the counter were admittedly cute and seemed well-educated too. I ate an icecream to Ludwig's astonishment. To my own astonishment, Ludwig then produced some of my "dirt"... At first I did not get his jabbering but then I recognized the Black Thunder wrapper (the one saying ”若い女性に大ヒット中!”) which my friend had so thoughtfully picked up for me. It must have fallen out of my back pocket as I was taking out my camera but anyways, I was moved by Ludwig's eco-conscious gesture! We rode into Chichibu and then turned right onto 299 for our "last" climb of the day, Yamabushi-toge. Ludwig told me I shouldn't wait for him and also that he would be taking a water stop at the "Holy Fountain". He stayed in my wheel for quite a distance after he said this and for a while it looked like we were both going to scale Yamabushi together. Then, somewhere, probably around the R53 turnoff, I lost my friend. I was also starting to feel better cycling in a more upright position reducing stress on my back. Riding down Yamabushi, I suddenly got my Second Wind overtaking a group of three youngsters on normal road bikes...then they decided to chase me...the bastards! I got really worked up and in my exitement, I forgot all about the Holy Fountain! Mea Culpa Mea Maxima Culpa!!! Back to those 3 idiots now. They knew of no better amusement than taking turns chasing a poor old man on a cyclocross who had by then ridden some 160km or more together, having previously scaled two +1,100m suckers of mountains. As they were lightly dressed, I knew they were just on their afternoon ride but I still felt an urge to save my honor. Each time one of the 3 idiots passed me, I hauled them in one after another and left them behind for good. Hope next time they will show more respect for middle-aged men on cyclocross bikes! I got home at 6:05 pm - still enough visibility to ride without lights. I immediately got into the bath and then devoured 12 huge pieces of gyoza.

Statistics (no map - stupid Garmin 500's limit/capacity was exceeded!!! what a piece of junk - again! ⇒ BUG got fixed yet again!! (-:

Time: 09:31:41 / Distance: 220.03 km / Elevation Gain: 3,213 m (to be confirmed by Ludwig) / Avg Speed: 23.1 km/h / Max Speed: 62.8 km/h / Calories: 5,918 C / Avg Temp: 8.7 Celcius.

Scroll down for more "fabulous pics"...

maandag 22 maart 2010


Had intended to join Ogawa-san and his troupe on a long mountain ride (Enzan) leaving Koremasa Bridge at 6:00 a.m. The past few days, however, my throat had been aching, quite painful especially in the morning. I wisely decided to take a rain check on the invitation and stayed in bed until 8:15. An hour later though, I was already in the saddle. The air felt cold and Fujisan was clearly visible from the Tamasai. I made good progress until Hinoharamura's Motoshuku (本宿)where I turned right for a climb of Kazahari-rindo. The approach until the Fujikura turn-off was more agonizing than ever; my legs clearly were no longer in form after all the riding of the past 2 days. The climb up "Kinoko Center" was even more laborious and although I never unclipped, my Garmin 500 several times went into "Auto Pause" meaning speed had dropped below 3 km/h...28T coming to little avail ! Once on top, I was surprised to hear the motorbikes racing again...looks like the ban on them has ended - too bad. Put on my windbraker for the descent to Itsukaichi and ate icecream at the 7/11. Later, near the Tamasai, I ran into Charles V...still going very strong despite his respectable age. It had been a long time since we last met and we rode together while chit-chatting about "getting new bikes," etc. After we parted and as I approached Sekidobashi, there was a long queue of trucks waiting for the lights to turn green. I chose - to my regret - the sidewalk and as I was pondering about Cannondales, Cervelos and similar subjects, my front wheel hit the first bump, followed by another and another, both hands lost their grip on the handlebar and before I knew it, I flew over a bunch of bushes, somersaulting and landing helmet first on the road with my feet still attached to the bike! My
bike was laying flat on top of the hedge. I escaped with no scratches just a big scare. Tree roots that had caused the asphalt to form "dangerous ripples" were the culprit! This long weekend, I rode 450km derriere is hurting a little but in a few days more pains are likely to appear from all the somersaulting.

zondag 21 maart 2010

Restday ?

Was going to take it easy all day but a little before noon, I got the "kriebels" and without waiting for lunch to appear on the table, I readied my Sirius. It felt warm out and the wind was not as violent as last night....that was a mighty storm out in the middle of the night; the entire house was swaying like in an earthquake! One of the advantages of an early afternoon ride is that one can dress much lighter than when one leaves home before say 6:00 a.m. For the first time this year, I went with my "lange billen". Just for the occasion, I put on my tattoos. Met Sergey of TCC along the Tamasai. Sergey recently moved to Fuchu - good choice. Today I tried a smaller loop almost 100km and revisited the intriguing Columbian drug lord's mansion. I figured he'd be impressed by my tattoos and parked my Sirius against his residence...

zaterdag 20 maart 2010

Double serving of endorphin ?

Checked the Tamasai website while having toast and coffee this morning. Seemed like nobody was going on the "asaren" (sanrenkyu family service?) so I spend some extra time getting my bike in order and studying the map of today's mighty ride once more.

It was still a bit chilly out when I first got astride my revamped Neocot (tried to give her a more "VLAAMS" look!). I passed Koremasa bridge around 6:30 I think and didn't see any team members.

Garmin 500 seemed to work all right guiding me along the complicated "back roads to Odawara". (Jerome - allow me to be your guide next time!) I knew TCC had a ride leaving from Odawara Station at 9:00 and I tried to pinpoint my own arrival. Missed target by 15 minutes...

The Tokaido and other roads between Odawara and Hakone were badly congested, no wonder with the long weekend and the splendid weather we had today. Some bus drivers were working on my nerves by purposefully? trying to squeeze me off the road or into concrete blocks. I made a fist and pounded several times on their flanks (as seen on one of those NY messenger video clips) and sure got their attention after I threw an angry look while dramatically gesticulating at the driver.

After a while - and once on the Hakoneura Highway (Rd 138), traffic improved noticeably and I had the entire Otome tunnel for myself. Otome Road (乙女道路)was quite nice and the descent into Gotemba was thrilling not to say bloodcurdling because of sudden blasts of wind that would violently shove me into the middle section of the road. The weather got very gusty between 10:00 and noon and I tried to lower my position on the bike as much as I could.

Traffic got heavier again in the Gotemba area but after a while, Rd 138 turned very tranquil again. On my way up Kagozaka-toge (籠坂峠), my Garmin 500 got stuck at height 933 meters, I only noticed when I saw a signboard saying 1100 meters above sealevel....shoot! Garmin frozen!!

The little downhill to Lake Yamanaka was fast and I saw quite a few cyclists coming from the other direction - many burube-riders as well (Positivo Espresso David L among them?).

At the 7/11 near the Doshimichi entrance, I took a quick lunch while watching one Brevet cyclist after the other arrive. Jeez...these bikes are loaded! ...some riders were carrying huge (30l?) backpacks while staring at A3-sized maps mounted on some board attached through some contraption onto their handlebars. Although the sunlight was near-blinding, some of them were riding with all their (powerful) lights beaming. A bizarre tribe indeed these burubes!

Doshimichi was FAST and I thankfully took advance of a wonderful tailwind grinding away in my biggest artillery (53TX11T)...complete happiness. The new W-levers (also called downtube levers in English) are fantastic and even function as "chain silencers," whenever the chain is diagonally positioned and rubbing against the front derailleur, I can cancel out the annoying noise by fine-adjusting with the left-hand lever.

While approaching the Y-fork near the end of Doshimichi, I sensed an unmistakable endorphin rush welling up and this time without hesitation, I resolutely turned left, adding Makime-toge. It seemed like ages since I last climbed this little sucker and I was surprised at the steep incline. 28T in the back came in very conveniently.

I continued using the Hiroshi-Twist and burst into laughter as I spotted the cactuses (cacti?) in front of the Drug Baron of Lake Tsukui's mansion. Yes, MOB you were not exaggerating for once again...they are not fake ones! I guess a real druglord is living in there too and I wouldn't be surprised he's from Columbia.

A bit higher up, I ran into two beautiful sakuras - some kind of hayasakizakura? Beautiful that was - like the entire day today.

zondag 14 maart 2010

Mostly flat six-hour ride

A mostly flat ride. ← This "VLAAMS-patented" route features the very flat and "car-less" stretch between Showa-bashi bridge and Yamato-Atsugi Bypass (246) and which runs in between Rd.129 and Sagamigawa river. This route meanders through rice fields and elevated highway construction works that are still underway - creating a different landscape with each passthrough. Since I was unplugged & SOLO, I took some photos for the first time of this area.

Splendid springday, jinchouge daphne perfume all energizing! Left home at 9:00 and got back at exactly 15:00. Took a quick shower and devoured an entire freshly home-baked quiche washed down with some nicely chilled Belgian white beer. Spring has finally come!