vrijdag 29 april 2011

Super Saitama Ridge Ride

What a way to start Golden Week! Initial plan was to do a Itoigawa recognition ride up to the Junction of Doom but I quickly changed my mind realizing today's the first GW day...Koshu Kaido must have been terrible. Instead, I went on my Lady D'arbanville route (missed her for the second time in a row) and this time I took the right turn (last week I turned left) on top of Yakyu-toge towards Tsuchisaka-toge and continued along the ridge direction Jomine-yama (famous for the Ryusei Hillclimb). I went much further - always going up and down at around 720m height...wonderful views all over (ride map here).

Didn't want to ride back to Chichibu so I headed direction Higashi-Chichibu-Mura instead over Nagatoro where tourists were getting a taste of "rafting". First time to climb Nihongi-toge from the opposite (north) side - tough but pleasant. At the bokujo farm, I treated myself to the super-delicious 300-yen soft cream...

Then I tried a new approach to Shiraishi-toge (Ludwig may be the Toge Prodigy but I like to think of myself as the Toge Hunter!). After a while, the road ended in a private chained-off property dead-end. ALthough I was forced to double back, I was so happy having witnessed for the first time in all those years in this country such a wonderful harmony of momiji and ume (picture somewhere down below).

Once I crested Shirashi-toge, I rode home over Tokigawa-machi. After my Edge 800 "froze" for about 10km, it completely died on me with more than 30km left...in spite of (or because of?) the latest update. What a useless gadget! Reminds me of this wonderful passage in Alan Watts "The Wisdom of Insecurity".

Written way back in 1951 (!)..."More and more we try to effect an adaptation to life by means of external gadgets, and attempt to solve our problems by conscious thinking rather than unconscious "know-how". This is much less to our advantage than we like to suppose. ....Already man uses innumerable gadgets to displace the work done by bodily organs in the animals....handing over the government of life to electo-magnetic monsters."

Enough philosophy for today. Luckily my Edge 500 stayed alive until I reached my place...260km and more than 4,000m of climbing (yes, it "kinda" felt that much).

zondag 24 april 2011

Shortened Chain = Lengthened Loop

Managed to shorten my chain by two links thanks to the TCC experts (Alan, etc.)...and what a difference this produced! Rode solo to Yakyu-toge and turned left on top towards Shigasaka-toge "adding a link" to my favorite Gunma Loop. Splendid views again with more than 250km almost non-stop...feeling even better than last week. "Itoigawa here we come!" (x2)

zondag 17 april 2011

Lady D'arbanville

Four warriors left Koremasa Bridge a little after 6:15...last year's Norikura's Champ Class No. 2 finisher Nagashi-san, triathlon specialist Ichiro-san and special guest Ludwig who gladly (?) accepted a last-minute invitation late last evening to join. Vlaams Guru Saruto-san unfortunately will not be joining the V練 sessions in the foreseeable future...his gaishikei company moved the HQ to a presumably safer region. Saruto-san, you're being missed dearly!

When the four of us reached Itsukaichi, my Garmin revealed an average speed of 31.0km/h...new record (when solo, I can only manage 27.6 at the most)! This is I believe the sweet thing about not riding solo once in a while. Taking turns up front - for some longer and for some shorter - really does wonders!

Dimunitive Nagashi-san showed his excellent form (this year likely to reach peak earlier than usual) on Umechan and Ozawa-toge...he also cleared Yamabushi-toge first. He was simply too fast and I gave up hanging onto his wheel.

Down at 299, it was Ludwig and me again and we sped into Chichibu with a wheelsucker behind (happens so often on this stretch I don't care anymore - this breed will never die out/go up front - genuine suckers). Riding through Chichibu onto 299, it was Ludwig leading me along his favorite itinerary. We took the approach over the tunnel turning right direction Kakkaku Dam and Tsuchisaka-toge...splendid views always guaranteed here (see first pic below)!

At Bishamonsui we refilled our bottles. The sign over Ludwig's head reads : "since this Bishamon water is sourced underground and is not exposed to the air up to this spot, we believe there is no concern about radioactivity" (!!) With our minds put fully at ease we drank and drank the blessed Bishamon water.

A little further up, we passed "Little Keukenhof"...irises, azalea, sakura, ume...splendid flowers of all kinds adorning some graves up the mountain flank (strangely enough this year - everything seems to be blooming at the same time...)

This is where the rindo becomes narrower and much further up higher, I started telling Ludwig how I met this "charming" lady with her "heartful" smile and dog. Sure enough, a minute later I called out "Is that her again?". It was! 「また会いましたね!」Here we meet again! She instantly recognized me (I happened to be wearing the same VLAAMS maillot) and like last week cheered us on, "ganbatte!!" Where does she live? There are no houses or anything so high up Yakyu-toge? Mysterious lady...in my mind she's simply "My Lady D'arbanville" (will take a "two-shot" on our next encounter for sure!)

Ludwig as usual was very fast on the descent and down in Gunma, we parted ways, Ludwig destination Karuizawa (!!) and me looping back via Tsuchisaka-toge (repeat of last week).

This WE was good for over 450km and 6500m elevation gain...167.5 crank-powered hikiashi working wonderful; Itoigawa, here we come!

more pictures by Ludwig...

zaterdag 16 april 2011


Many years ago, when I used to enjoy a lot more "flow" in my work environment than now, a junior Japanese colleague's nickname for me was "Heartful Tom". When I asked him how I had earned that cognomen, he replied that whenever I was swearing in Flemish it always sounded like ハートフルトム to him. I really liked that! So today, with cherry and other blossoms fluttering down everywhere I cycled, I put on a blossom and heart-themed jersey I found at the bike shop near my office. Starshot fashion apparently is a German brand striving for "beautification of bike apparel" (a bit a-la-Rapha I guess). One of the jerseys I got and the one I was wearing today (the TRIKOT PRINCESS), actually is a size 38 WOMAN jersey ... always wanted to try cross-dressing in drag (perfect fit too - if only I could find that matching push-up sports bra now)!