zondag 26 september 2010

First time

with the cleats on. Taught my daughter how to use her brand-new cycling shoes and Shimano pedals using our backdoor road. I probably wasn't coaching her the right way as she managed to hit the concrete on her second try still clipped in with her right foot...result: blooded knee and shoe! Fortunately no broken collar bone although the fall looked quite painful. She had tried to clip in her second, left foot while in standstill position...

The wound got disinfected and off we went. We carefully stopped at every single traffic light and by the time we reached the Tamagawa, my daughter had gotten the knack of it. I took her on the short four-hour loop of Otarumi - Tsukui-ko and Onekan. At one point nearing the top of Otarumi, my daughter surprised me as she overtook me with a victorious grin on her face and in no time, there was a forty meter gap between us! Wow...this is beginning to look promising. My daughter was extremely pleased with the cleats and told me she will never switch back to normal flat pedals. I felt relieved...maybe I wasn't that bad a coach.

zaterdag 25 september 2010


Woke up at 5:15 and walked through the garden to get the newspaper...stiff wind blowing and rain coming down in sheets! Typhoon obviously had not passed below the Kanto area yet. Back under the sheets...sorry hard-core VLAAMS buddies!!

Had breakfast with the family - always a treat - and left home a little after eight. It was still windy and I was facing a strong headwind all the way to Itsukaichi where I spotted Lee of TCC. It was around 9:30 then and we decided to attack Kazahari the normal approach. It has probably been more than a year since I last had the pleasure of cycling with Lee. Two titanium bikes at moderate-fast pace heading towards Hinoharamura Yakuba/Motoshuku...a great feeling! We took turns and rotated a couple times until Lee told me to go ahead and not wait for him. I was sorry to lose my mate but at the same time did not want to impose my own pace.

Today's plan was to savor some of those great kyoho grapes in Katsunuma and because of the latish start, I did not want to waste much time. I pushed ahead never stopping until I reached Yanagisawa. Here I consumed my kanipan with a hot can of sweet tea. The downhill to Enzan must have been one of my fastest ever as there was no car in front all the way down! Somewhere I hit 78km/h. Thankfully the strong wind by then was completely gone and the road surface dry.

I passed Enzan and went straight to my usual fruits (its either peaches or grapes - sometimes both) sanctuary. The people running the place there are always friendly and I like the luxury of having a table with two chairs - one for me and one for my dear bike all for ourselves. As soon as I took my seat, the lovely "potchari" lady (not that I am a chubby-chaser) brought me tea, a scale with four kinds of grapes and the most charming smile on her pretty face. Sit back, enjoy. The grapes tasted fantastic and energizing. Took some pictures and after I finished brought my plate and cup back to the sweet lady. "O-ikura?" I asked. "Sa-bisu desu yo!" she replied in an angelic voice. Wow! I felt a little bad though but then I spotted these 葡萄羊羹. I paid and stuck the big grape-taste adzuki bean jelly stick in my back pocket.

I rode back along Koshu Kaido, right through the Sasago Tunnel - little traffic, no problem. For the last stretch, I opted for the Hiroshi Twist and took a nice picture of Lake Tsukui. On the Onekan, I got some company from another middle-aged rider who told me he was already on his "fifth set"...five times the onekan back and forth...mustn't that be a little boring though? I'd rather meet some old buddies and savor some great grapes!

maandag 20 september 2010

Brief morning ride

Original ride plan was Yanagisawa and Kazahari but as soon as I turned right at Itsukaichi, the first raindrops started to fall and the skies ahead looked darkish. I doubled back and rode direction Takao instead aiming at brighter patches above in the sky. The graveyard area near Takao was very congested, no wonder - today is o-higan. I rode home via the Hiroshi Twist where I spotted some beautiful ohiganbana. On the Onekan, no competition - Super Six felt like a part of my body. If I'm ever getting a new bike, it is going to be a Super Six again of exactly the same measurements! Tried out my new devilish headlamps...

zondag 19 september 2010

my daughter's diamond(?)-studded...

Father & Daughter Take Two

Second attempt for my youngest daughter to scale Kazahari...
Although she is still on normal pedals and cannot use her pulling muscles, she has been proving to be a very powerful hillclimber. The day may come sooner than later that I will be no match to her anymore!
Today we made it up height 600m until a mild hunger knock hit her.
We rode back along the Tamagawa and then along Tohachi-doro direction Mitaka and O-Vest where I got my daughter her first pair of real cycling shoes...diamond-studded (no kidding!) Karma Adidas for ladies.

zaterdag 18 september 2010

Mikabo-kogen (R71) Loop

V練...what (the hell) happened ? Waited at Koremasa bridge like on most Saturdays, having arrived on top of the bridge at 6:10 and waiting until 6:16....nobody showed up !!! What (the hell) happened??

I was too eager to get some serious cycling in after a hectic week at work and decided not to wait any further. Where to go ? The answer of course was already in my head...Gunma!! I decided to do a re-run of Kendo 71 and follow it a little further beyond Mamba. Wow....what a cruel bastard of a road this becomes once crossing Jikkoku-toge Road 462! Utsukushigahara Gekisaka pales in comparison to this! I followed 71 as far as Mikabo-kogen where I passed some weird signs proclaiming I entered a Hydrangea Highway, a Super-Rindo and a "Kekkon-no-Kuni"(in that order)...how strange. I skipped the onsen of course and doubled-back to Mamba. Last week, I had passed that Nabe-yaki-udon shop 鍋焼きうどん and a tasty smell had reached my nostrils...got to try it out I thought. I entered a very messy restaurant that looked more like a typical countryside living room run by an elderly couple. The husband was busy loading o-bentos in his car...I guess for the 老人ホーム I had passed higher up R71. I ordered Nabe-yaki-udon, the restaurant's speciality...imagining I would get something close to yakisoba. What arrived contrary to my expectations was a piping-hot covered bowl with piping hot noodles and pork in some piping-hot onion soup. To drink, I got some hot (but very tasty) green tea. Outside, it was probably close to 30 degrees...why do I have to eat this hot stuff now?!! Cat-tongue or not, I ate it. I even got some pickled baby-ayu on the side....for only 580 yen!! What a luxury...pure bliss!!! I love Mamba.

The rest of the ride was pretty much like last week. Stop.

250km - 3,400m elevation gain...I feel fine.

zaterdag 11 september 2010


Gunma has got me in its spell. For the third time in a row, I crossed Saitama and rode a little bit in its neighboring prefecture. Today - after joining the weekly VLAAMS asaren as far as Itsukaichi - I entered Gunma via lovely "prefectural road" 県道71...which meanders all the way up to Tsuchisaka-toge 土坂峠.

Gunma is on the other side of the tunnel - just like with R299 Shigasaka-toge tunnel. R71 ends in Kanna-machi, also known by the more exotic-sounding (old) name of Mamba (Manba). I really like the atmosphere of this little village...you peer inside these mostly empty shops and you see these little "nekoze-hunchy" old ladies waiting inside for customers...how many a day you wonder...

On the other side of the road, I saw some cold water freely flowing from a stainless steel container...all right!, time to tank and I filled up my two bottles. Another stoop-shouldered elderly lady came out just as I was about to take off. "自転車じゃ暑いでしょう!"she said. "With all these moushoubis this year, I've gotten used to it" I replied. "By the way, that water is drinkable, right?"...NO!!! never drink this water...this is our otori tank! But wait, I'll get you some tasty cold water..." Thank you old lady! I was just about to carry with me two bottles of ayu sweetfish wastewater...haha! We had a good laugh. 「死にはしないよ。大丈夫よ!」 Her shop specializes in "sewing machines and fishing tackle," hence the otori (sweetfish to which fishermen attach hooks to then let them swim in the territory of natural ayu sweetfish. When the natural one spots the (fake) intruder, it will try to push out the outsider and end up getting hooked as contact is made...).

I rode back via R299 - just like last week. Instead of going straight home, I paid a visit to O-Vest. That plastic part attached under the bottom bracket to guide the wires had split in two and one wire was rubbing against the steel. Tencho had a spare part and fixed + fine-tuned my Neocot in no time.

This evening I was sipping on some Tennessee Whiskey - a double one on the rocks...I felt in great shape today climbing all those passes. Weight is now back to 58kg...4 kilograms less than my average "winter weight". I can feel the difference.

Oh...the route, almost forgot.

zondag 5 september 2010


"Toge Prodigy” Ludwig and I had rendezvous under Koremasa Bridge at 6:00 A.M. yesterday. A bit inspired by fellow Positivo Espresso Dominic & Laurent’s recent Annaka adventure, we had planned a two-day trip with overnight stay at the secluded hot spring inn of Kintoukan 金湯館 deep in the forests of Gunma (Matsuidamachi Sakamoto, Annaka)….

~ a bit of history ~
The inn of Kintoukan is situated the closest to Kirizumi Onsen, a sulfate hot spring reportedly discovered some 800 years ago when a wounded hunting dog went to wash its wounds in a puddle and just wouldn’t get out of it. The hot spring was originally called “Inu-no-yu” (the dog’s hot water) but with the passing of time, the name bastardized into “Iri-no-yu” (hot water’s beginning). During the late Edo period, the current name of Kirizumi Onsen was adopted reminiscent of the thick layers of fog that frequently blanket the area in the evening. The place reached its heyday during the Meiji Area when many illuminati stayed here to escape the summer heat - much like neighboring Karuizawa today. Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first PM visited Kintoukan and – believe it or not - it was in the very room Ludwig and I were staying that the Meiji Constitution was drafted! At one point, there were about 42 inns and summer cottages scattered across Mt. Kirizumi. Catastrophe struck in the 43rd year of the Meiji Period (1910) when a “mountain tsunami” 山津波 triggered by a massive flood completely washed away all dwellings on Kirizumiyama…only Kintoukan was spared by what must have been a very frightful mudslide. These days, the Kirizumi Onsen area is also famous for ice climbing.

After a long day’s ride scaling countless mountain passes (the imposing Myogi 妙義 rock formations being one of the highlights), Ludwig and I got rewarded taking a long soak in the onsen. At about 39℃, the hot spring water felt comfortable and relaxing. The atmosphere in and around the secluded Kintoukan more than 1000 meters above the sea felt very peaceful. What a luxury to be away from the hustle-bustle of the office in a sequestered place like this! I think I will use Kintoukan again someday as a sanctuary! We spent a most enjoyable evening further enhanced by many wonderful dishes – especially the vegetable tempura was exquisite – “zeppin!”.

This morning, we left Kintoukan behind at 7:40 following a quick breakfast. We rode together through Karuizawa over some wonderful country roads guided by Ludwig's navigator and superb intuition until Saku City where I turned left for a solo return over Jikkoku-toge and a repeat of last Saturday’s solo ride.

...the routes: DAY ONE & DAY TWO

I was sipping some great NIKKA FROM THE BARREL while uploading pics.... quite tipsy/tired now, so I will let the pictures “tell the tale”… (this is only a random selection...there are many more...)