Berichten weergeven met het label X-Fire. Alle berichten weergeven
Berichten weergeven met het label X-Fire. Alle berichten weergeven

donderdag 17 maart 2011

Still glowing...

why was I glowing all over after today's 1-hour commute back to home? Kafun ??

dinsdag 15 maart 2011

TSÛKINISUTO für dich und mich

No longer capable of stomaching overcrowded trains running at 50% or 80% capacity (almost got my ribs crushed on the Keio Line yesterday even though I was seated ), I decided last evening to ready my Ridley X-Fire size 50 (商談中!)for a commute to work – a first for me!

Pollen or no pollen, radioactivity or no radioactivity, invented by Madam Curie or's all in the air anyway for you and me so let's tune in to the melody "♬ Radio Aktivität - Wenn's um unsere Zukunft geht ♬".

With this rather solemn tune playing in my head and guided by my Edge 800, I found myself zooming along Tôhachi-dôro to Kamikitazawa, crossing R20 and cruising along Inokashira-dori through Yoyogi Park and past Omotesando Hills followed by a final R246 sprint before reaching my Akasaka Office…the entire ride was very pleasant and took less than 1 hour (compared to 1 hour and 25 minutes door-to-door per train)!

Due to a growing shortage of gasoline, there was remarkably little automobile traffic and surprisingly lots of tsûkinisutos (word coined several years ago to denote commuting “tsûkin” 通勤 cyclists) on the road. I was carrying a small rucksack holding today’s lunch and got to the office before everybody else so that I could freely change into my business attire without having to offend (or should I say excite?) the Office Ladies

I am seriously thinking about commuting to and from work on a daily basis from today on!

Tune in to the melody
Is in the air for you and me
and here's another melody

zondag 5 december 2010

Cyclocrossing in Nogawa Park

Musume decided she wanted to study all day...still in the midst of exams. After a lazy breakfast with "Du Vrai Sirop de Liege" toasts and lots of coffee, I got my cyclocross ready with new wheels and tyres mounted. The bike had been producing "grinding noises" coming from the BB and at first I thought the bottom bracket got ruined during my recent adventure with Ludwig and I was on my way to O-Vest. The painful-to-the-ear noises had completely gone so that's how I learned it was my Fulcrum 7 back wheel that I wrecked (the sealed bearings). I cut the trip to Nishitani-san's place short and went straight to the nearby Nogawa-koen Park, less than than 15 minutes away from where I live. Here I circled around the Nogawa river running through the park six times trying different variations...lots of sweat - great exercise - so close to home, will go again!
Training myself to "bunny-hop" tree roots
Wide stretch - no people - accelerate! Hard surface - top speed
Veldrijden - riding through the fields - of Nogawa
Toilet break
Only rode 90 minutes but the ride was very intense. Can't wait to take my X-Fire out for a next ride this winter!

zondag 21 november 2010

Nagano cyclocrossing


Spent the weekend with Ludwig “cyclocrossing” to Uminokuchi Minamimaki in Minamisaku District, Nagano Prefecture and back. This small village lies right at the base of the Yatsugatake mountain range.

As always, Ludwig had meticulously mapped out a fantastic course full of new twists and turns. A common friend of ours by the name of Manfred von Holstein once confided to me that Ludwig never takes the same route twice…his motto is to always add at least one new shortcut, detour or mountain pass. Since we were on our cyclocross bikes, we had a lot of freedom.
Day 1 (Sat) featured a nice gravel road shortcut (turning left before one reaches the Nicchitsu dwellings) with splendid unused tunnels near the top and Budou-toge, a new pass for both of us situated along the 30km long Ueno-Koumi Line which connects Gunma (R299) to Nagano (R141). It was while climbing on this stretch that Ludwig got back to full throttle; riding into Saitama through Chichibu and up to R299, he had been wisely conserving his energies, pedaling mostly in economy mode.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a yellowish dog was staring at us in the middle of the road. As we approached, the frightened wolf-like beast started running up the toge sometimes galloping and always faster than our bikes. I followed the “wolf” all the way to the top where it disappeared in bushes of bamboo grass. We took a brief rest on top of Budo-toge admiring the views but not for too long as it was getting chilly and grassy patches were turning white with frost.

The 12km-long downhill stretch direction Kitamimaki-mura and from there onto Minamimaki was pleasant and stress-free thanks again to Ludwig’s navigating skills and we got very close - less than 1km - to our final destination. However, there were no combinis around and people at the local family restaurant informed us the closest combini was 6km further up R141. What to do? Ludwig was anxious about his wake-up cup of coffee and me about my bedtime whisky so intuitively we decided to bear the burden of riding extra distance along this rather hideous R141 only to get our stuff.

Less than an hour later around dusk, we finally reached Hotel Rakuo ホテル洛奥…tucked away right in Twilight Zone. When booking our room over the phone, Ludwig’s first impression was that our accommodation “could be a bit of a gambling affair”. He had namely been told that the hotel was really scheduled to close on Saturday but that they would nevertheless still welcome us. Somehow, the protagonists of this ryokan - the proprietress/okami in her seventies, her mother in her nineties and her somewhat taciturn but diligent son - did not seem to be of this world. As we entered the foyer with the irori fireplace going on, there was this indescribable atmosphere…the hallway downstairs was barely lit and the stairway and entire second floor were shrouded in darkness. The proprietress, bearing some resemblance to the now-in-retirement Wada Witch, then revealed to Ludwig and I that were the very last guests to stay at her place since Hotel Rakuo was closing down for good…Mystery Solved!

Luckily for us, the old woman turned out to be a friendly and quick-witted lady. She has been running the place for some forty years while also managing a holiday-cottage-to-let business even after her husband passed away. I could only surmise that the business must not have been easy at times…the floor heating system of the little “hotel” alone costs as much as 10,000 yen per day. Fortunately she managed to spin out her retirement all those forty years and will soon be retreating in a little cottage further up the slope. After a most sumptuous dinner in the hotel VIP room, our “madam” pointed towards a huge bike bag she had produced out of nowhere as if by magic asking us “you guys fancy one?”…. Turns out one of the renters of her cottage was a Canadian stock broker who was very much into cycling and “soccer on ice”. When he got a job transfer to an overseas office, however, the guy allegedly left most of his belongings – including his collection of shochus – behind. Ludwig inspected the bike bag and seemed very much tempted. Due to a lack of space at home though, we both politely declined the attractive offer which means that this very sturdy bike bag (the soft case type with casters – good for international flights) is still up for grabs (TCC-ers please take note - will post picture)!

Back in our room upstairs situated right above the irori (talk of “yukadanbo”), Ludwig and I studied the map for Day 2. My tiny bottle (175cl) of Yoichi had by then begun to produce a pleasant effect on me giving me a difficult time to focus on the main and optional routes.

This morning, we got awoken at 5:15 by this most obnoxious tune (note to self, get the link) produced by Ludwig’s handset. Ludwig then showed off his very ingenious bain-marie skills serving himself cups of coffee with milk. Following “breakfast” we somehow managed to grope our way down dark stairs and find our bikes leaning against the guest shoeboxes downstairs. Ludwig even found the hidden switch for turning the hallway’s light on after I had pushed the wrong button and half-panicky set the stairway chairlift into motion. Although we were the only and the LAST guests, the shoeboxes were completely full…it turned out we had been staying within the Twilight Zone after all.

Today’s ride started in subzero temperatures and it didn’t help that we were cycling right next to the Chikumagawa river after the initial warm-up climb of Okura-toge. At some point the temperature dropped as low as minus four degrees. As we were riding towards the lettuce fields of Kawakami-mura, the sun rose on our right side – very spectacular. After a brief stop and my turn for some hot coffee (and a cold waffle) at the local Yamazaki (we got there at 7:27 – 3 minutes before opening), we proceeded on to Mikuni-toge perched between the prefectures of Gunma, Yamanashi and Nagano – hence 三国, three countries. At 1250m or so altitude just as we were walking our bikes around an icy patch on the road, Ludwig began to suffer the first symptoms of frostbite on his hands taking on a jack-knife position and grimacing of pain. Luckily and in spite of the fact that we were going up to even higher altitudes (1700m+), the early morning sun was warming up things a little for us. My own suffering would follow soon after we crested Mikuni-toge.

And suffering I did! I found out to my disgust that my handlebar is totally unsuitable for rocky and steep downhills. Although my X-Fire is a thoroughbred cyclocross bike, I unknowingly put on that hillclimb-specific carbon handlebar designed for road bikes I had laying around in the house. To make matters worse, my preferred 130mm-long stem caused me to almost completely “hang over my front wheel”. I ended up wasting a lot of energy trying not to lose my balance and my hands were aching from too much braking in the wrong position. Thanks to Ludwig’s patient waiting, I made it down to R140.

For lunch we shared 6 boiled eggs – courtesy of Hotel Rakuo - amongst ourselves while basking in the sun at the entrance of Omine tunnel. At the next combini stop, Ludwig assured me there would be no more bumpy and muddy gravel roads and I felt so much relieved I treated myself to some ice-cream and began to clean my bike...

All the cleaning turned out to be in vain. The climb up to the summit of Arima-toge (first time not from Lake Naguri) was comfortable and afforded many spectacular views. The remainder of the ride seemed like it was going to be a blast until we ran into signs warning us of “impassable” sections ahead due to landslides and ongoing road repair works. The first impassable section (which came pre-announced complete with photograph of the site attached to the warning signs) did not prove much of an obstacle game to veteran fence climbers like Ludwig and I. “So,” I reasoned, “the second closed section must be a real piece of cake!” So we climbed a couple more fences that were even lower than the first one and made me even more convinced it would be easily passable. After all, when I hit that one landslide with David L. and Nishibe-san last year, repair work seemed to be near completion and we had discovered a way to circumvent the passage by wading through the river running below. Don’t you worry Ludwig!

CLOSED AREA. CRITICAL EROSION CONDITIONS AHEAD. CLOSED TO ALL MOTORIZED VEHICLES AND BICYCLES!! The Thomas Aquinas in me however urged me to ignore all the warnings… “See before you Believe”. What I got to see some 25 minutes later after Ludwig had been assured by a local (who turned with his minivan at a gravel switchback) that it is indeed impossible to pass through, instantly blew away my false optimism. Double-back…400m of extra climbing along the steepest section of Arima-toge! In grim silence, Ludwig and I worked our way back up to the gravel switchback. This is where my real punishment began! Gravel with big chunks of rocks, mud and 24% drops beat the sh*t out of me. I suffered so much that I swore to Ludwig that this was definitely going to my last cyclocross ride of the year! I felt like MOB tossing his old alu Cannondale into Lake Yamanaka. All the rumbling and bone-shaking had sapped whatever energy was still left in my system reducing me to a zombie and having me beg Ludwig to abandon me and move ahead on Ozawa-toge.
Yet, the moment I arrived home after dark, this familiar feeling of extreme happiness began to glow deep inside. What rests me to say? Thanks Ludwig (great buddy!) and Thanks Michelin (great cyclocross tires!)...