31 December 2009

2009 Review

With the kids already banging on the door wanting to play and the wife eagerly in preparation for the 紅白歌合戦, there is little time for reflection of a full year. Nevertheless here in short are some POSITIVO and some NEGATIVO points about the cycling year 2009.POSITIVO

Much more riding done than in any other year, most of it spend in the countryside and in the mountains. I just checked my records for the year and I did more than 12,000 km in total, climbing more than 130,000 meters up. This is mainly thanks to part-time teaching and full-time unemployment. Although, less riding in 2008 with a meaningless job was economically better. As a result I was in the form of my life and it is hard to get any better than this.

2009 was also the year of riding exploration. Mostly with Ludwig, from January to December we were constantly looking for new roads in the greater Kanto area and we found many great, steep, quiet and beautiful roads. Chichibu was a treasure box that was too long closed for us: Mitsumine Jinja, Arima Toge, Haccho Tunnel .... beautiful rides indeed. But we also discoved some new roads in the Western and Southern parts. I am a little bit worried of what remains to be found, therefore the conversion to cyclo-crossing.

I enjoyed many rides with varying members in varying speeds. As usual I rode out with Ludwig, David, Tom and Jerome, probably the Positivo hard core members. But I also rode a lot with Dominic, who contracted me as his coach for the 2010 L'etappe du tour, which was good as well and very exhausting as I needed to look up all references he quoted on Google when I came home (Gladio). I also rode with Laurent, who is always good company and with Graham and Michael. And with James and Dominic in Izu at the beginning of the year. Many variations, a lot of good talks, never boring.

We finally have a nice team wear. In orange. It took some time to get everything organized and after the jerseys turned out to be not the same size as the samples, it took additional effort to make everyone happy but the result is a good one. We are the best looking cyclists in Japan and Positivo Espresso claded guys are on the way to world domination.

I was also very proud that Ludwig became JCRC D-Class champion this year. About 99% of this success is due to his hard training and riding abilities, the rest is shared by a good bike and me passing on all the knowledge I have gained in 2008 by attending the JCRC racing series.

Thomas and Hombeline. If I chose one story and blog entry of 2009 my choice would be this wonderful story. One could never invent such a story but life brings them to surface from time to time.


Traffic accidents. David, Bryon and me this year. Bryon was the worse but it wasn't easy for all of us to recover and to get back on the bike. David is still in the process and I hope everything will become all right eventually.

As every year I was sometimes frustrated by our "undiscliplined team", or a lack of team discipline. Or a lack of team discipline as I would like to see it. But this is more a problem of my own personality than that of the team. I continued to be active in this and that and I expected that everybody else will show the same level of activities, ethusiams and priorities. Which was not the case always and which I must learn to tolerate I guess.

Useless and meaningless roadworks. This is a topic that has been much remarked on in many posts. The amount of money spend from the tax payers pockets or, since this year, in majority from the issue of new state debt on useless large scale road works is just unbelievable. And all of this needs to be maintained which costs even more money. Most Positivistas might agree with me that one of the most useless construction projects we have encountered this year is the Shinkansen station at Waseda-Honjo. What was a wonderful idea in the 50ties, 60ties and 70ties, to invest in the upgrade of the infrastructure of the country, continues to be done until today without adding any value to the competitiveness of the country or to the benefit of its population. Change?


Last Ride of the year

Having everydone which possibly could have been done this year, I thought I spend the last morning of 2009 on the bike.

Because of a serioud lack of creativity, I chose to ride along Tsurumikawa to Onekan and continue to Yabitsu afterwards. Depending on the time, the general feeling and pure random, luck I considered also the options to ride up Hakone or ride back along the coast to Kamakura. Or commit suicide at the entry to Mikkuni Toge.

Of course I overslept in the morning - too much good food and good wine the night before must be held accountable but not me! The weather was OK, cold but sunny but there was a strong headwind an even with the HRM up to 160 I continued in the 20 -25 km/hr speed bracket along the Tsurimikawa. But it would come even worse: Once on the Onekan I got overtaken by two cyclists (none of them Deej from TCC). I felt miserable, a worthless piece of rotten human flesh, useless for any sportive activity and waiting to be thrown in the garbage bin for recycling. I guess nureachiba (濡れ落ち葉) is the Japanese word I am looking for; wet, fallen leaves that stick to the shoes of the diligent wife.

I took a turn on the tankroad and continued through Hashimoto to the North Tsukui Lake Road. Wonderful as always and completely quiet. It is like a road through a spellbound forest and the rather technical name does it no justice.

There are many things to see and many magic things that can happen there. There is the weekend house of the Colombian drug lord (or is it the house of Fujimori from Peru?) with the old Land Rover parked in front of it for a speedy escape. There is another house which is ornamented with old bicycle rims. Once riding there, I encountered a herd of monkeys just crossing the road in front of me. Today while riding, snowflakes gathered on the front of my Assos jacket. And once, I was riding with James and Ludwig, a mountain witch jumped out from the bushes, pointed her magic wand at my bicycle and said:

"Thou shall not speak badly about Single Speed Bicycles"

And with a small "plop" and a very small lighting, a cloud appeared and when it went away my Cervelo was magically converted to a single speed. Ask Ludwig or James, if you do not believe this story.

So instead of North Tuskui Lake Road, perhaps we can name this road "Magical Single Speed Monkey Forest"?

I then continued to Miyagase Lake, not looking at the Christmas tree but making the ascent up. I was a little bit worried after Jerome has told me that he slipped on ice there, but the road was free of snow and ice. I was also worried about the weather, there were some dark clouds and it had lightly started to snow at Tsukui. It reminded me of the first time when I went up Yabitsu with Juliane and we got soaked in the rain. The road was also very quiet, I encountered maybe ten cars on the way up and no cyclist at all.
I made it to the pass in a little bit more than 53 minutes - not too shabby for this time of the season. Reconfirmed, that I am not useless at all, I took a photo in front of the "Quansi Nationalpark" which might become one day the centerfold for Silver Riders or something like this.I did all of this in one go from my house without any break in about 3:45 hours.

The weather continued to be good and I made my way down on the south side. There were good views from the observation points just as James and Ludwig have seen them on their last ride over Yabitsu. Fuji-san was also visible for the last time of the year.
2009 has been a year of constant exploration of new roads, so I thought that I should also try something new on this last ride. So after the hairneedle curve and the observation tower I took the forest road down to Hadano. There is a gate on the top which is no real obstacle for a man and bis bike. Interestingly enough there is also a security camera mounted on a pole next to the gate.The road is rather steep but in very good shape and there is not too much debris on its surface. Going down isn't so much fun, but this might be a nice alternative to climb Yabitsu from the South side (which we rarely do anyway).

The rest was boring: Down to Hadano, Bento capital of the world and back by train to Yokohama. But a nice last ride for a good riding year and a good chance to reflect on the whole year while riding.

30 December 2009


My bicycle fleet is now ready for the winter and the new season respectively.

I upgraded the Cervelo Soloist with the new Ultegra 6700 groupset except for the crank set where I prefer the old design over the new one. Both, brake and gear cables are now below the handlebar tape just as for Campagnolo. With less wind resistance I should be even faster up Wada Toge next year.
I also needed to exchange the callipers. They look very much Dura Ace and are much more bulky than the Ultegra 6600 brakes. I wish they would be available in orange.

The Bad Boy got a set of 700 x 30 Schwalbe CX Pro Cross tires to convert it for cyclo-crossing during the winter season. Despite the advise of some cycle shops, it was no problem to fit them on to the original 700 x 23 rims and there is also enough clearance to the fork and the brake bridge on the cable stays.

Seems to be cross fit as confirmed during a ride in the local park. There is an added rolling resistance which makes it more difficult to accelerate the bike, but hey: Tom, here I am ready to ride out with your during the winter in the snow. Come back from Helsinki. And road 76: Here we come.
Tons of new riding options.

Tour du Yamaguchi

Having arrived from Kyushu in Ube, Yamaguchi-ken, I went to seek out a bicycle shop to get the front gear shifter cable exchanged. The first shop I went to refused me the moment I walked into the door: "we are closing tomorrow for the holidays, can't help you no matter how easy the problem, our boss is not here, blablabla". As I was about to depart, the shop assistant happily told me about their cycling plans for the next day, admired my bike, wanted to know how the Selle SMP saddle was, etc. Unbelievable - either you have time for me or you don't!

I went to the next shop where I was not turned away completely, but asked to come back in the afternoon. So I did and the owner became increasingly friendly as we chatted. He knew my bike was very rare in Japan and that Cadell Evans won the World Championship on a Canyon - which led to the suggestion that one day I might also become a champion... Well, he was delighted when I told him I was already one. He didn't want to let me go any more, even after all the fixing had been done.

I learnt that while there were road-racer cyclists in Yamaguchi-ken, they wouldn't normally do more than 50-100km and there were hardly any races. He had a sparse selection of road racers in the shop, mostly with Shimano Sora components. The highest grade bike on sales was a Pinarello with Ultegra 6600 components. I asked him what he was riding and he showed me his new Anchor carbon racer with 6700 components. Maybe he had the best bike in the entire prefecture.

As it turned out, on my full-day ride through half of the prefecture the next day, I did not encounter a single cyclists (a few mamacharis not counted).

I started out still in complete darkness at 6:40am, and at 1 degrees Celsius. It became brighter relatively quickly, but would stay clouded all day. The temperature slowly went up, reaching eventually 7 degrees and falling again in the late afternoon. Luckily it never rained, except for a few drops on the coast.

I headed out of Ube through various backroads to reach Mine-shi (美祢市) after a bit over an hour. Unlike the name suggests, the town is terribly ugly, destroyed by huge cement refineries and mountains acting as open mines for them. The open mines reminded me of Chichibu-shi, but the good news was there were no dump trucks, because they had their own special road just for them connecting Mine and Ube. Maybe this is what we need in Kanto!

I rode the almost empty national highway number 435 all the way to the most north-western corner of Honshu. The roads were mostly built out gently and wide, and while there was really almost no traffic, there was construction for new bypasses and even faster and straighter roads. Crazy use of our taxes!

Craziest of all, however, is the 2km bridge that connects the northwestern tip of Honshu with a small island of 1,500 inhabitants - Tsunoshima.

Having cycled once around the island and having convinced myself that there was really nothing that would merit spending so much of our money to save a few locals using a ferry, I cycled on national highway number 191 along the coast towards the east. Again built out widely, and with little traffic. The views of the coast and the islands and peninsulas in front of it were great.

I sailed through the largest town in the area, Nagato, with nice backwind and the desire of getting away from increasing amounts of traffic. I then turned towards the inner land, cycling up another well-built out road with relatively little traffic leading through a very long tunnel. It was at this point that I started feeling no longer as fresh as I had during the first part of the ride. Maybe it was the high speed at which I had cycled - an average of 28km/h not counting photo and conbini stops -, maybe it was the cold air, or maybe it was the depression caused by seeing so much needless use of tax payers' money. The next climb up a pass with perhaps an altitude difference of 150m was painful.

I then reached the northern entrance to the Karst Road leading over Akiyoshidai. Akiyoshido is the largest stalagmite cave in the world (and worth a visit - I have done that 14 years ago), Akiyoshido the karst landscape on top and beyond. The stunning views made me forget all pains and I felt again much fitter.

Now it was only a matter of finding my way back to Ube. I was intent on avoiding bigger roads and wanted to take back roads, but that proved trickier than thought as my map didn't show every road and the sign-posting was poor (or rather often none-existent). I ended up doing a circle of a few kilometers, and gave up on the idea of taking back roads. Which turned out to be just as well, as the national highway number 490 had very little traffic to speak of and lead me through a beautiful valley followed by a nice lake.

Upon reaching highway number 2 I really felt the strains of the day, in particular in my upper back. Just another 20k! I somehow made it back to Ube through back roads and without any stops.

The computer showed 216km in total for 8 hours on the bike, i.e. an average of 27km/h not including 2 hours off the bike. No major passes to climb, with the peak being Akiyoshidai at 387m, but still quite a bit of up and down and thus 1,600m of climbing in total.

A nice discovery of about half of Yamaguchi prefecture.

Light Lane

29 December 2009

Hakone Ekiden Info #1

Ok, here are some more information about the Ekiden Ride on January 2nd.
Running History

Originally the Ekiden is a relay marathon of roughly 109 km between Tokyo and Hakone, organized for the first time in 1920. On January 2nd of each year, the race starts in the vicinity of Tokyo station and goes along major roads (mainly #1 and #15) to Moto-Hakone. The first part up to Hakone is more or less flat but the last 20 km is a pretty brutal climb of more than 700 m elevation up to Moto-Hakone.

On January 3rd the race is hold in the oppositive direction, starting in Moto-Hakone and finishing in Tokyo.Each year 20 university teams are attending and each team sports 10 runners, 5 for the first and 5 for the second day relay.
The Ekiden has become a very popular sports event and is nationwide televised by Nippon TV with thousands of supporters lining the streets between Tokyo and Hakone.
More is here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakone_Ekiden [English]
and here : http://www.hakone-ekiden.jp/ [Japanese]

Riding History

Since many years [in the later part of the first decade of this century, Positivo Espresso riders have been running in front of the Ekiden field between Tokyo and Moto-Hakone on the first day of the race on January 2nd. The idea goes back to an American lawyer who wishes to stay unknown to the general public and who is anyway not in a position to ride this year due to a horrible traffic accident which involved him, a mama chari, a college student and his shoulder.

An account of last years ride can be found here: http://positivo-espresso.blogspot.com/2009/01/first-2009-positivo-espresso-team.html

It is an ideal opportunity to ride relatively fast & freely on otherwise congested roads between Tokyo and Moto-Hakone, being supported by the bored crowds that have nothing else to do but to wait for the runners. In particular the atmosphere on the climb between Hakone and Moto-Hakone and in the finish area is very dense and exciting with cheerleaders, marching bands and hard core supporters from the universities lined up.


The basic idea is to run ahead of the runners just after the roads are closed for general traffic so that one can have open roads all the way. As the police is omnipresent and not all traffic lights are turned off, progress is sometime hampered in the urban areas between Tokyo and Yokohama but this becomes gradually better further out. We wil make some stops at Combini to buy some food an drinks, but due to the crowds it might be better to take some food from home.
The real challenge is the climb between Hakone and Moto-Hakone which covers about 13 km and 745 m elevation.

Mountain goats in good shape can do this climb in 45 - 60 minutes time. However, the Eliden runners are eqully fast. The challenge is to start the climb in time and make it up to the goal before the runners. This is very tough. And very much fun.
After the climb we re-assemble at the rest area of Hakone Pass and have a warm meal. Riders who could not start the climb before the runners and were aftertaken before the climb begins can try to ride up the old Tokkaido (road 732 from Hakone-Yumoto- see map at km93).

Riders who are overtaken on the climb have to wait until all runners and cars have passed by and the roads are open again for traffic before they can make their way up.
Once we are all together, we ride on route 20, the most beautiful cycling road in Japan to Jukoku Toge and then further on and down to Atami where we take the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Of course, those who want to ride back are free to do so.

Participants [so far]

So far we have Kanzler + 2 friends, Dominic, Tom, Bryon, James, Graham and me from Positivo Espresso and Yair, Sergey and Koribeyer from TCC joingthe ride. It would be of course even better if our groups gets even bigger.

The Route

I prepared a map my ride route, covering the whole sistance between Tokyo and Atami of 132 km and 1,245m of climbing. Out of this, about 112 km are on the Ekiden roads and the remaining 20 km are cover the return road between the finish in Moto-Hakone and Atami.


Meeting points are marked with M.
The END marks first the goal of the Ekiden at Moto-Hakone and then the goal of the ride at Atami station.

Meeting Points

We designated three major meeting points for all riders to join the ride. Th meeting points are marked with a M in a square in the above map, except for the first one which is the starting point.

Meeting point #1 is in Tokyo at the start of the race, at the crossing of Hibiya and Eitai Dori in front of exit C14. from there the total ride wil be 132 km. Ludwig and his two friends and Yair and perhaps Dominic will start there at precisely 7:40 AM. As we need to be in front of the runners, we will not start later than that.

Meeting point #2 is in Kawasaki, right after the bridge over the Tamagawa on route 1 in front of the Family Market Combini. We will meet their the riders from the Tokyo starting point and continue to ride at 8.25 AM latest. The distance to Atami from this meeting point is about 112 km. I (mob) will be waiting there and I assume that James, Tom, Graham and Bryon will start from there.

Meeting point #3 is in Fujisawa, mainly for the convenience of Koribeyer、on road #30 at the Fujisawa Eki Kitaguchi Iriguchi Crossing North of Fujisawa Station. We are going to be there at 9:45 AM. Again, we must start at 9:45 in order to stay in front of the runners. The distance from here to Atami is about 80 km.

Meeting point #4 is the restaurant MICHI NO EKI at Hakone pass. Here we gather after the cimb to eat something, and ride together to Atami. The runners wil arrive at Hakone about 13.30hr and traffic wil be open at 14:04hr. So I guess we can start to ride to Atami at about 14:30 hr latest.


It is highly unlikely that we will get overtaken by the runners before the climb. But somebody might get lost or overtaken on the climb, so what can be done?

If overtaken before the climb, please take road 732 from km 93 on the map which is the old Tokkaido. This is faster and much less crowded than the Ekiden road #1 so you will be faster up in Moto Hakone and ride then to the meeting point #4 at Michi no Eki at Hakone Pass.

If you are overtaken by the runners on the climb up, then wait until traffic is open again and ride up to Moto-Hakone and then further to Michi no Eki at Hakone Pass where we meet.

In case you want more safety, please send me an email or PM on the TCC blog with your mobile phone number so that we can stay in contact during the ride.

We shall be back in Atami by 15.30 hr latest and I assume that most of us will take the Shinkansen home. However, you can also ride home, although most of the ride will be in the dark on pretty big and crowded roads.


Please check the weather forecast for Moto-Hakone, for example here:
So far it looks good and let's hope that it stays that way. No rian, but it will be cold in the range of 0 - 10 degrees Celsius and there mightbe patches of ice and snow in the shadows.

In case it is forecasted with ahigh probibility that it will rian or snow on the racing day in the Hakone area, we will cancel the ride. I will post on thge Positivo Espresso as well as on the TCC blog on the day before, so if you don't see anything you can assume that we will ride.

Also it will be cold, but you wil get hot during the climbs. Part from shoe covers and long fingrered gloves it is best to have layers of clothing which you can easily add and removed to adjust for the changes in temperature inside and outside of your clothing. A windbreaker will be good for the fast and cold descent from Hakone to Atami.

Other preparations

Apart from you, your bike and the usual stuff (repair kit, lights etc.) you will need a bike bag for the ride bag on the Shinkansen from Atami. Also it is adviseable to bring some food from home as the portfolio of the Combinis along the road wil be rather small due to the large crowds in the area. Bring also your camera and dress funny if you think that this will give you more support from the crowds.

Togebaka / Hall Of Fame

For the riders in competitive mood, I shall mention that the portion of the route between Asahi bridge and teh signboard marking the highest point of road #1 is an officially approved Positivo Espresso "Togebaka" or Hill climb time trial run of 13.2 km length and 745 m elevation difference with a best time of about 58 minutes so far.

Any questions ?

Let me know, send a comment.

See all of you on January 2nd.Happy New Year.

Tokyo Enduro Results II

When I came home form Okinawa yesterday, I found an envelope in the mail from Funride, the organizers of the Tokyo Enduro event on December 13th. We got four certificates with the results, 5th in the mixed category and 25th (to my surprise) in the overall category. Ulrike Jan is the racing name of Kaori Machin, in case you wondered.
Also we got a lapchart. I must say we were a pretty fast bunch, James in particular (44.6 km/hr average on his fastest lap). I marked the best lap times of each rider. One can see two things clearly, first that we always lost at least a minute of lap time when we changed riders (7 times = seven minutes at least, so we could have probably done one more lap if we have changed only three times plus we had 2.5 minutes left at the end of our last lap) and that staying with a fast group pays off (compare James times in his first run when he was out with the leading group to his second and third time). So, now we know and next time we have to be even faster.

28 December 2009

Tour du Aso

Greetings from Kyushu!

Kurokawa Onsen is the most beautiful onsen town I know of. There are no big hotels, not tour groups and buses, each ryokan looks very nice and serves great food, and the village itself looks very beautiful. This time, we stayed at a ryokan four kilometers upstream out of town, which meant there was even more nature around the place than there is already inside the village.

Kurokawa Onsen is located ideally for doing some great cycling rides. Just north-east of it lies the Kuju Plateau, with a couple of peaks around 1,800m and the famous Yamanami Highway passing through it. South of it lies Aso-san with its huge outer crater which fits a lot of villages and farm land. In the middle of the crater rise the peaks of Aso-san. In between there are bizarre looking hills formed by what Aso-san once spat out when it was even more active than it is still today.

We have been visiting the area quite often over the years, but this time I wanted to experience it on my bicycle. It is just a different feeling - one sees even more of the great beauty.

With breakfast in the ryokan being served relatively late, I was able to start only at 10am and thus do only a relatively short ride. But it was sufficient to surround and climb Aso-san. 122km in total, with 2,000m of climbing (the only flat stretches in the area are on the bottom of the outer crater rim - everything else is hilly!).

Just as I was returning to Kurokawa Onsen, the cable for the front dérailleur tore inside the left gear shifter. Very strange. Is this normal wear and tear after 13,000km? Or was it caused by taking the bike onto the plane where the left gear shifter was sticking out of the bike bag and was protected by just a bit of foam wrapped around it? Hopefully I can get it fixed today, so I can try another ride tomorrow - though no longer in Kyushu.

Neko-dake seen from the ascent to the pass to the west of it

At the south-eastern rim of the active creater - the highest view point was accessible (and free to bicycles), though due to relatively high levels of gas in the air, not all areas where open. Still, this was my luckies visit so far: upon three prior attempts, either was the weather bad or the access to the crater rim was blocked

It was cold - and icy wind. Maybe not surprising I did not see a single cyclist all day!

The active Aso crater from the north-eastern part of the plateau

Daikanbo - an impressive part of the outer crater rim

The Kuju mountains seen from the northern part of the outer Aso rim (on top of Daikanbo)

27 December 2009

Tour of Okinawa

Stage 1,2 and 4 were cancelled because of bad weather. Stage 3 result : 86 km, in 3:07:10 hrs. Holidays can be that cruel.Attacked by killer butterflies [making up new stories for the kids)\]

Map my ride track

25 December 2009

Boxing Day Ride

Happy Holidays...

Just wondering if anyone who may still be in Japan will be going for a ride on the 26th. We have just returned from Guam and I am fired up to get my new bike back out on the road!
Any takers?

24 December 2009


I guess, if you would like to get your better half cycling and you (and her) don't mind to spend some money, this new tandem from Specialized could be a nice idea. Seen at Bike Radar.


To my great surprise I found out today that Nagai Sans Positivo Shop has it's own website or blog : http://d.hatena.ne.jp/POSITIVO/

Also, while visiting the shop, I saw some pamphlets from CATTENI POSITIVO, announcing a longer training camp in April as preparation for the Sadoshima Long Ride (210 km) in spring.

23 December 2009

Three guys under blue skies

Jerome, Ludwig and me decided on short notice to do another ride before Christmas, O-Shogatsu, family dinners and business trips will take their toll on our bodies and ultimately on our performances.

I left the house almost in the dark on my newly outfitted Cervelo bike. Nagai-San upgraded everything except for the crank set and bottom bracket at the beginning of the week after my forced conversion to single speed on the weekend before. I could convince him that I do not need a new crank set as I do not want this ugly piece called "Hollow-tec" on my bike which looks like the DuraAce crank set. I could not convince him that I can also live with my old Ultegra brakes so there were replaced as well with the more bulky looking 6700er brakes. When everything is new everything shifts fine, so I guess the good performance is more to the newness of the groupset rather that to the improved design. The front derailleur works perfectly now. The rear works fine when shifting into lower gears, but shifting into higher gears is a little bit tricky and one needs to get accustom to the levers.

Whatever, design-wise the bike is hugely improved and this is much more important then vulgar activities such as "shifting gears" or "braking", the later normally resulting in less speed.

Jerome an me met shortly after seven in Shin-yokohama, mounted Shinkansen Kodama 633 to Odawara which was way to short a trip. We met Ludwig at Odawara station and before eight we were on the way to Hakone. I showed Ludwig and Jerome the old Tokaido road which was pleasantly quiet and we made it up through the hair needle curves at a steady pace. It was quite cold and there were some icy patches on the road in the shadows. After waiting for Jerome some minutes on the top, we continued along Ashinoko road 75 when suddenly Jerome got pestered by official telephone calls: A Japanese customer has found a bolt in a package of cheese he bought from Jerome's company (I cannot tell the real nameof his company, but let's call it "El Shacho" here). He opened another package just to check and found another bolt in this package as well. Of course he was furious and demaned an explanation from El Shacho why the nuts were missing.
Meanwhile we continued to route 138, but instead of going this boring road down to Gotemba, we continued to climb up to Nagao tunnel where the pinchers of hell were waiting for us as usual. This is a very gradual climb with almost no traffic and a dilapidated restaurant close to the tunnel where I would love to eat some day.We then went down on the other side, slowly as parts of the road seemed to be icy. Then we made our way through this urban mess and sprawl of Gotemba and Oyama until we came to Fuji Speedway and to the starting point of the Mikuni pass climb.

Urban sprawl and chaotic city planning brings up another topic: As we have already December 23rd and I do not plan any bike trips until the rest of the year in the route 20 area, I can now finally write that 2009 is the first year in serious cycling where I didn't crashed in the (ugly) city of Uenohara. This fine tradition (since 2007) is finally disrupted and perhaps I should stay away from the city for the complete year of 2010.

After taking a short break at the foot of Mikuni we started finally the climb. The break is not required for anything useful in preparation, I guess we just do it because we are afraid to start anyway. Mikuni is pretty hard. It is about two times the distance and more than two times the elevation difference that the Wada challenge (Takao side) has to offer. It doesn't offer much resting places along its first 4 km and even stretches with 8 or 9% slope are considered nice recovery places. I was also pretty tired after the Hakone climb and felt the beginning of a bonk (as opposed to bonking) so I barely made it up to the top. To be honest, I was zigzaging on some of the steeper parts.

Just looking at the "Hall of Fame" website of TCC, it amazes me that Clay can ride up there in less than 33 minutes.
After that we made a short break at the approved Yamanakako 7-Eleven where we met another older Japanese rider who was much engaged in brevet activities. He told us that one need to attend at least 3.500km of Japan Audax sponsored brevet events before you are even considered to be registered for Paris - Brest - Paris and that Japan has the largest population of brevet riders worldwide. We spoke about the Itoigawa fast run and David's heroic attempt of the 400 km brevet this year. He said "Oh yes, I was up on Yanagizawa and I saw a colored (黒人) rider coming up during the brevet." We said, that was probably not David. But thinking it over now, perhaps one may look colored after 400 km of riding and it was David indeed.
And off we were on Doshimichi in direction home. Ludwig and me were in front and crossed over Yamabushi pass, then went almost to the Michisaka pass road where we waited for Jerome at a Daily Yamazaki combini.

We waited quite a while but then Jerome rode past and we went in pursuit of him. There was a nice tailwind, Ludwig and me worked together and in addition the weather was still sunny and the road was in good and fast shape. But nevertheless we were not able to catch Jerome. Ludwig finally caught up with him after 18 km, close to Aone, but it took me another 7 km or so before finally the three of us were together again.

The rest was more or less boring riding on the South side or Tsukui lake and through Hashimoto. But we were incredibly fast: We did the 52 km between Yamanakako and Hashimoto station in 2 hours and this included some climbing plus riding through urban congestion.

There we split. Jerome and Ludwig took the Onekan to the Tamagawa, while I took the train home form Hashimoto. For me 130 km or riding, about 2.300 meters up under blue skies in fabulous Japanese winter weather. It is hard to get out of the bed in the morning, but once on the bike there are no regrets.
Tomorrow is Christmas (I promised my family not to do any bicycle riding) and after that I Will be in Okinawa between 25th and 28th (with son and bike). Perhaps I will do another trip before the end of the year, but that's it before the new season starts traditionally with the Ekiden ride on January 2nd.

22 December 2009

HIGH5 - Streamline Sports Official Sponsor 2010

Positivo Espresso is proud to announce HIGH5 as it's first official sponsor for 2010. Streamlinesports, the official distributor for HIGH5 in Asia is working with Positivo Espresso to help achieve another successful season in 2010.

High5 helps fuel the success of athletes from novice through to Olympic medalists and top professionals. High5 is the UK's leading nutrition company and is now focusing on enabling athletes from around the world train and race faster. Streamline Sports is the exclusive distributor of High5 products in Asia and is dedicated in helping Positivo Espresso reach our goals in training and competition.

20 December 2009

Positivo Espresso Gobal Domination

O.S. at Encino Velodrome, California, December 2009


19 December 2009

Lost among mikans

Today was the day of the monster ride MOB had proposed a few days ago, and which I had endorsed. Maybe it is not a good idea to be overly ambitious - fate might just punish you for that.

MOB, James and I arrived literally simultaneously at the appointed meeting point on Kan One at 7:30am. No sight of Jerome, and as it was very cold (zero degrees to be precise), MOB didn't wait long before calling him. He had just woken up... Oh well, off we went without him.

It was a beautiful day - crispy clear air and sky. We had splendid view of Tsuiko as we took the back road on the northern side of the lake. But suddenly - a big bang, a shout. What had happened? MOB's chain had landed between hub and spokes, and this had torn the rear dérailleur apart. The second time this has happened to him this year - how annoying! This time it seemed to have been caused by a small wooden stick that had entered the dérailleur rather than bad adjustment. Worse - so this could happen to any of us!

James was quick to convert the bike into a fixie, so MOB was hopefully (awaiting confirmation!) able to make it easily back to Hashimoto station - mostly downhill from where we were.

James and I went on. Somehow I didn't feel in top form. My heart rate shot up above 160 at almost every hill, no matter how minor or short. Did I leave so much heart yesterday at the health check? Was it the skipped breakfast yesterday morning? Or just the very cold weather? Or maybe simply James's speed? He was zipping up hills as if they were down hills. No doubt he should go for C or even higher class in the next JCRC season.

The view from Yabitsu was stunning. Thanks to the extremely clear air, even Oshima was clearly visible, and of course the full coast line.

Needless to say, we were also spoiled all day by perfect views of Mount Fuji.

Down in Hadano, the plan was to head to Odawara and then start the ascent to Hakone, on the same road MOB took the other day. I wanted to avoid taking the easy option of heading straight down to the sea and taking busy route 1 to Odawara. Much better doing that on 2 January, with the roads cleared for the ekiden relay marathon. So I had found a series of roads that led from Hadano through the hills to Odawara, hopefully with relatively little traffic. That turned out to be true, in fact very true the further we got. I had missed a turn down the small mountain into the valley lying before Odawara. We kept climbing up and up instead, eventually ending on a mountain (Fudosan) that turned out to be one big plantation of mikans. The only traffic there were farmers heading into the hills for harvest, and actually truck (mini-van) loads of them.

We could not resist tasting some - very fresh and nice indeed!

By the time we had finished this picnic detour and finally arrived in Odawara, it was past 14:00, so we gave up on the idea of climbing up to Hakone and descending in the half dark and with likely very strong headwind to Atami, and called it a day.

A modest 121km with 1,300m of climbing.

Wanted to Buy - 59 60 or 61cm Road Frame

 Please forgive this "Wanted" classified ad.

I'm looking for a road bike frame I can build up and use on my trainer this winter and as a second bike for training rides thereafter.  I don't usually see anything in my size on sale in Japan, so I'll buy from abroad (a store or via ebay) unless I can find someone who has one they want to sell here locally.

I'll probably be confined to the trainer (with a somewhat upright riding position) until my shoulder is well recovered, so the trainer will see its first sustained use in several years.  But I dare not put my Cervelo frame on the trainer, since I cracked another frame on a trainer a few years back.

I need something less expensive than, but as strong as the Cervelo.  I'll use the bulletproof set of wheels that Nagai-san built me recently, and try the "Powercranks" that I'm going to order.  I've fit frames in the 59cm to 61cm (center-to-center, actual or virtual) sizes, with a 58-59cm (actual or virtual) top tube.  58 cm would be too small in most manufacturers (especially Trek).  The geometry of my size 61 Cervelo R3-SL is shown at the bottom of this linked page.

Any ideas are welcome -- if you have a frame or more you want to sell, or if you have a strong recommendation.  If I don't get any leads quickly, I'll go ahead and pull the trigger and order something from the US or UK so I can build it up in early January.

(P.S. As for other parts:  I also could use a spare Ultegra or 105 gruppo (without crankset or cassette) if someone has that  together with the frame, and also some 44cm handlebars (harder to find in Japan than smaller sizes).  I have a bunch of parts already -- crankset, cassette, a nice new carbon seat post (27.2mm) that would be fine with a traditional geometry frame but is too short for me to use with the sloping/compact Cervelo), a very solid used Reynolds Ouzo Pro 1 1/8" carbon fork, FSA integrated headset, FSA 110mm (or 120mm?) stem for oversized (31.8?) handlebars, all waiting to be put on a bike, and I've ordered a spare saddle.)

16 December 2009

Call to ride : Saturday, December 19th

Start :
FUTAGOTAMAGAWA STATION 06:25hr (Jerome and Eric)
later meeting points possible

Route :
from Futago along the Tamagawa to Tamagawahara and then along One-Kan and Tank Road to Hashimoto Station (Second meeting point at 8 AM)

Tsukui North road to Doshi Michi at the Yabitsu entry and up to Yabitsu Pass.

Down on the other side to Hadano, on a Rindo branching off from the main road at the observation parking space (not ridden yet).

First escape point :
Hadano station, return with bike bag by Odakyu Line

Through Hadano and the like to road #1 in direction Odawawa and Hakone. Up to Hakone on the old Tokkaido.

Second escape point :
From Hakone over Jukoku pass to Atami, back with bike bag and Shinkansen

Along Ashinoko lake to Gotemba and up on Mikuni pass to Yamanako.

Goal :
Kawaguchi or Fuji-Yoshino Station
[for those who will make it]

So far in :
Jerome, Eric, James, mob

Type :
long stretches of ups and downs followed by a 400m climb up to Yabitsu (moderately steep), nice and fast downhill follows

Flat thru the wastelands

Followed by a 700m climb up to Hakone

To Atami: the most beautiful downhill road in Japan
To Yamanakako : most gruesome climb up to Mikuni pass, extremely steep & demanding

Speed :
As most of us are out of shape : competitive.

Weather :
Should be dry, but cold, in the 0 - 5 degree region.

Everybody is welcomed to join us (Positivieure, Cattenis, TCCler, NFCCeuse, anybody.
Drop a comment.


Thanks to Snoogly for this one.

15 December 2009

Cyclocross Nationals Gear. Everything must go!

"I am looking for a good home for all of my cyclocross gear. You will need a large garage or basement to house my collection. With the 2010 cyclocross season 9 months away just think of all the time you will save if you buy all of my stuff.

My loss is your gain. I am selling everything I own that involves cyclocross. I had the car packed and was headed to Bend for cyclocross nationals. The weather report and course conditions sounded brutal. I searched deep into my soul, and I have become too soft to finish my 2009 CX season. This sport has broken my heart and crushed my dreams for possibly the last time. Everything must go. Everything is included. If you win this auction you will have everything you will ever need to race cyclocross, and look like a complete pro. I have decided that I enjoy buying cyclocross stuff more than racing it. So do me a favor and buy it all. Unfortunately for me I will probably buy most of it back piece by piece on Ebay later this summer when my mental stability and optimism return. Maybe I will return in 2010 rocking the one cog? Just think how much simpler and cheaper that would be. My motivation is high.... my spirits are low. Everthing listed below is real and is yours if you BID."
 As seen on eBay

He adds the following in his write-up..
"99% of cycling is looking cool, and you are going to look like a damn rock star. I am including what is left of my ENDUROX CHOCOLATE recovery drink. About 1/3 of the can is left. This stuff will make you fart like mad, but if you mix it with some milk and coffee it tastes like Starbucks."

History of the Bicycle

"The bicycle was named after its inventor, Robert Bicycle, a Dutch man who, dissatisfied with having to walk to the cheese shop, created the first two wheeled human-powered vehicle in 1972. Due to the non-existent petroleum requirements that the bicycle presented, its use quickly become popular with social workers and crystal healers and within just a few years, the smell of patchouli oil became inescapable even within the comfort of one's car on the freeway. Although primarily regarded as a woman's hobby, bicycle riding has since gained popularity not only amongst the homosexual male community but also people who enjoy wearing Spandex® of all persuasions."

I didn't know that.

There's more...

"I am often asked why my Spandex® bicycle riding costume features eight hundred and thirty corporate sponsorship logos even though I do not actually have a sponsor. The reason for this is simple. For every thirty male bicycle riders there is one female bicycle rider and, as in nature where the most adorned peacock gets the peahen, the male bicycle rider with the most brightly coloured Spandex® and most corporate sponsorship logos gets to mate with her."

Do you want a dinky to the shop? - www.27bslash6.com

14 December 2009

Cycle Mode 2009 Impressions

International press at the Cycle Mode 2009. F.l.t.r : James M., Woshington Past, Dominic H., Bloody White Press, David M., Michael K., Bradford Hill Climb Observer

A dummy display raped by a group of local distributors.

Ceeco time trial bike, customized for a rightwing emeror worshipping pro team.A possible alternative to the Selle SMP saddle, seen at the Cherubim booth.The cross bike of Pina Bausch.
The proper usage of orange color schemes on bikes.Cycling wear : The famous cycling jacket by Rapha. Of course they didn't got the orange color right at the collar and the sleeves.Cycling underwear : As shown by James breaking all records on the SKINS trainer.