zaterdag 31 juli 2010

裏大弛峠 Ura-Odarumi by cyclocross!

Rode with Positivo Espresso buddy and cyclocross enthusiast Ludwig today leaving Koremasa bridge at 6:15 with wild plans to crest several serious hills - two of them being mostly gravel roads...

The skies were still grey when we moved along the Tamagawa towards Ome but gradually patches of blue skies started to appear and the temperature went up. Once you get a cyclocross bike rolling, there is little difference in terms of speed with a normal road racer - it only takes more time to reach cruising speed. Ludwig and I took turns riding in front through Chichibu along the Saikai Highway (R140) and R210 (direction Nicchitsu Haikyo!). Along R210, a Y-fork appeared and this is where we turned left direction Nakatsukawa after filling our bottles with ice-cold water flowing down the mountain. At "Sainokuni Fureai-no-mori," we then filled our stomachs ... zaru-soba for me. Mikuni-toge was the first gravel-road hill to crest. It seemed there was more automobile traffic than there need be on a remote forest-road like this ("Otaki Kansen 17-go Sen" which used to be called Nakatsukawa-rindo) serving little purpose. 20.3km-long "17-go Sen" was completed in the year 1966 and gained notority for being Japan's most appalling tollway (日本一ひどい有料道路)until 1982 when it was turned into a toll-free forest road. The road surface was rather bumpy full of potholes and rocks of all kinds of sizes and shapes...not just the smallish, even-sized gravel. There were also "soft" sandy patches that worked like quicksand on my 30c tires and a couple of times, I almost completely lost my balance. This was especially unnerving whenever a car was about to pass from behind. We found another hose sticking out of a mountain flank from which heavenly water was gushing forth. We eventually made it to the top of Mikuni-toge at altitude 1740m where I took a souvenir picture of Ludwig. It had started to rain by then and Ludwig tried to persuade me to forget about Odarumi and continue along R68 direction Sakuhirose crossing a "famous" mountain pass called Okura-toge... Being less flexible than my mate and rather stubborn once I'm following a game plan, I was determined to scale Odarumi by myself if I had to. Down at Kawakamimura we took a rest at the local Yamazaki Pan shop and as I was treating myself on a chocolate bar and tiny apple pies, an elderly neighbourhood farmer walked by with a box of freshly-picked cucumbers. "Dozo!," he said and handed both of us a nice piece. I ate half of my cucumber and saved the other half as my reward for getting to the top of Odarumi. In the end, it was me who coaxed Ludwig in climbing Odarumi but we had some difficulty in finding the right entrance point. Two guys who looked like local farmers were not able to point us in the right a matter of fact, they did not speak our language! Ludwig told me how he has noticed an increase of East-Asian people working in the fields all over Japan's countryside. I missed another crucial entrance point shortly afterwards but this time alone. Ludwig had seen the roadsigns whereas I got distracted by some noisy automatic surveillance camera turning into a dead-end park full with rock climbers. The guardman at the other end of the park saved me from folllowing the dead-end road and taught me the right way. In my agony and frustration, I rode over a pretty long, light-brown snake...the poor beast was whirling with pain but I think it survived the ride-over. Once on the right track - again extremely BUMPY and STEEP - I was able to catch up with Ludwig who was naturally very surprised to see me behind. The road conditions grew worse the higher we got and we were forced to dismount and walk long distances - fatigue had obviously taken a toll on both of us. Above 2000m, the air got noticeably thinner and little flies attracted by our sweat just wouldn't go away. The descent down to Enzan was very nice and relaxing as there were none of those annoying taxis taking elderly hikers to the top at this hour of the was already 17:30 by then. Down in Enzan, we abandoned the idea of soaking in the local onsen and decided to board the express train to Tachikawa and Shinjuku. I got home with heat rash all over my thighs and dead-tired. The most memorable part of today's ride was the nicely-paved road running through the lettuce fields of Kawakamimura with dramatic mountain and rock formations looming ahead. I don't think I will be trying the ura-Odarumi approach again any time soon though!

zondag 25 juli 2010

Yakuba and back

Joined this morning's V練 - a very short but brisk (average 31.6km/h) to Hinohara Village Office (Yakuba) - the Motoshuku T-junction and back. Simply too hot to ride any longer!

zaterdag 24 juli 2010

Nenogongen from the South...

Alarm went off at 5:15...splitting headache...oh no!! Too many drinks at c speed!!

Was forced to quit the asaren...stayed in bed an extra hour and fixed breakfast - strong coffee, toast with honey and yoghurt with a super-juicy mango from Okinawa...all this helped a bit get me over my "morning after". I left the house around 8:30 still nursing a hangover and the heat was already oppressive. As I approached Itsukaichi, I crossed the VLAAMS team already on their way home. Climbed Nenogongen for the first time from the South ...the last 300 meters are incredibly steep but my Super Six handled the incline (26%?) with so much gusto it was a pleasure!

c speed ...chromoly vitesse!!

CONGRATULATIONS HIROSHI !! What a wonderful shop...very cool !!
Had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mme. Tetsu Chunen at the soft (pre-)opening party last evening...a very charming and strong-willed lady indeed !
For those who are wondering....the c in c speed stands for chromoly...iron, Hiroshi's favorite frame material. Several mouthwatering models were on display...some "Not for Sale" and some for sale...if only I had more space in the house, I'd be getting that Panasonic steel frame in retro colors right away! Hiroshi demonstrated the difference between a normal road bike fork and a keirin or pista bike fork...very interesting. Talking of pista, Hiroshi's closest team members and team leader were all lending a hand in organizing the pre-opening party wearing their team uniform. I was very much touched by this display of sacrifice and solidarity...I guess teamwork is a better way to describe this. When I finally arrived home after too many drinks of champagne, sparkling wine and some marvelous red wine, it was already Saturday...before I went to bed, I prepared the bike for the asaren...

woensdag 21 juli 2010

c speed ...Japan's coolest bicycle shop !!!

- Press Release -
Cycling buddy Hiroshi
alias Tetsu Chunen 鉄中年
is about to open
his very own
bicycle shop c speed !!!
c speed
...Japan's coolest bicycle shop...
let's all celebrate
at c speed's
"soft opening"
this Friday, July 23

Nearest station: Center Minami

3-17-40 Chigasaki Higashi
Tsuzukiku, Yokohama 224-0033
Phone: 045 949 1689
Fax: 045 949 1699

Weekdays 14:00~21:00
Weekends / Holidays 13:00~10:00
Thursday Closed

Whether you’re looking for a new high-end road bike, a street ready fixie or the ultimate NJS track bike c speed has got you covered. Our friendly staff will work double-time to communicate with you in basic English so you can get the ride you want, setup to perfection.

c speed actively participates in the Keihin Pista Club and supports riders that want to ride and race on the track. Drop in and find out about our next track day. We can help you get setup with a beautiful track racing bike and all the NJS components you need.

Give us a call or stop in for a visit anytime.
Come out to our bright and spacious store located on the Yokohama Blue and Green lines, and we’ll gladly talk to you about your cycling needs and help you get out on the road with the best equipment possible.

c speed

maandag 19 juli 2010

cycling kana?

" 明日はサイクリングかな? How about (plain) cycling tomorrow?" what VLAAMS team mate Saruto-san wrote on the team blog yesterday. "Cycling" is the preferred term these days among my Japanese buddies when they intend to say to do a "leisurely cool-down ride". All right!, I thought, just what I need! Five members assembled this morning but in the end it was only Ichiro-san and I struggling our way up in intense heat on Kazahari. Nagashi-san sent us off - he got a podium place yesterday at the Gunma JCRC race finishing 2nd in A Class ! Fantastic! As we approached Itsukaichi, the pace went up and up and then Ichiro-san and I decided to do a little Umechan race..."come on I thought this was going to be only cycling!" On the last hill, I easily outsprinted Ichiro-san whose gear ratio was much too light to be any menace. Ichiro-san took revenge though on Ura-Kazahari which he climbed entirely in outer chainring without once slowing down! Saruto-san had doubled back already at the bridge - the heat had already taken a toll on him and it was his third asaren in a row. Today's ride lasted about 5 hours for almost 150km at a moving average of 28km/h and average temperature of 32 degrees! The cold shower felt so good.

zaterdag 17 juli 2010

Haikyo Freak Ride

Went to greet the asaren VLAAMS boys at Koremasa and followed them as far as Itsukaichi. Here I turned right for my standard route into Saitama going over Umechan hill and crossing Ikusabata bridge. Gorgeous weather – rainy season completely behind. The first real sweat came as I crested Ozawa-toge leading up to Yamabushi-toge. I skipped Shomaru-toge and Green Line because my ride plan of the day was long enough…some 230km on paper (Koremasa -> Itsukaichi -> Umechan -> Ikusabata -> Yamabushi-toge -> Chichibu -> Ogano -> Shigasaka-toge -> Haccho-toge -> NITCHITSU HAIKYO -> R.210 -> R.140 -> Chichibu -> loop back to Koremasa).

The pace up to Itsukaichi was incredibly fast in spite of the heat and the fact that I was rolling rather heavy "cyclo-cross" tyres (Panaracer T Serve PT protection technology for messenger - excellent ones by the way !!). I took my turn pulling the entire VLAAMS troupe and when we reached our parting point, average speed had gone beyond 30km/h.... a new record for me.

Part of this ride in reverse mode was pioneered by the German combi of Michael & Ludwig last year in March and I had been wanting to try it out intrigued as I was by his pictures of the abandoned mining village...

Highlight of the day was the ghost town of Nitchitsu, which in fact used to be an entire mining village complete with apartments, school, hospital, public bath, supermarket, post office and other civic and residential buildings owned (sorry, not really sure if it still is today…) by Nitchitsu Corporation, a publicly-quoted company (7021) whose predecessor ranked among the umbrella companies of the once powerful (backed up by Japan’s militarist government between both world wars)and notorious (Minamata disease) Nitchitsu 日窒business concern. Nitchitsu’s history dates back to 1908 with the foundation of chemical company Japan Nitrogenous Fertilizer Company 日本窒素肥料株式会社. The zaibatsu continued to grow as it expanded its business overseas (Korea) and domestically (Kumamoto, Saitama).

The mountains in Saitama bordering on Gunma prefecture where I was cycling today, used to be famous for gold mining in the 17th century but it was only in the early 20th century when iron ore, zinc and magnetite were discovered that the area began to be developed. Nitchitsu 日窒鉱業purchased those mines back in 1937 and named the entire place after itself. The village would gradually grow into an imposing mining town which at its peak in 1965 is said to have housed around 3,000 people. Except for a few so-called Nitchitsu OBs, some active limestone miners, homeless people (?) as well as haikyo freaks, however, the entire place today is entirely deserted, abandoned and laying in ruins. What really happened ?

One of the answers may be silicosis…an occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of silicon dust. In fact, only a few years ago, Nitchitsu was ordered by the Tokyo High Court to pay 188 million yen in damages for having failed to take proper steps to prevent its former employees from contracting the disease while working in the Saitama mine. Mind you, nothing of this all – the Minamata mercury, the silicosis poisoning and many other lawsuits is mentioned on the company’s website. In this age of corporate governance and CSR (corporate social responsibility), perhaps it is time for Nitchitsu and all the related companies stemming from the Nitchitsu Zaibatsu lineage to clean up the mess for once and good…or perhaps the idea is to fulfill CSR by simply entertaining the growing hordes of haikyo aficionados?

Mud stains all over my maillot jaune and face...brand-new white socks will never be as white again. The tunnels (and there were quite a few!) going down to R140 were extremely wet inside and the cyclo-cross tyres did a superb spraying job. Cleaned my bike with complementary 7/11 paper towels and later washed my maillot jaune in the ice-cold water of the holy fountain...when I put it on again, I felt in heaven.