28 July 2012

Flash Report -- EPIC Ride

Columbia Icefield ... after the rain had stopped and the temperature started to warm
I completed the Rocky Mountain 1200 yesterday afternoon.

There were 62 finishers and 50 DNFs -- mostly a result of brutal weather during the first 36 hours.  We had rain, cold rain, thunderstorms, hard rain, lightning, light rain, headwinds, cold, colder, coldest.  The tone was set at the start, when the heavens opened and water poured out in a thundershower just as we mounted our bikes.  The weather and roads were brutal not only on the riders, but also on our equipment.  Then it got better.

The organizers' page here has more details and stories.

As for major drama, my rear derailleur cable broke and I rode the last 65 km to Jasper in 34x11 gearing ... fortunately I was already up the largest hills of the section before my bike converted to single speed.

In the cold rain below Mount Robson, as I tried to thread the replacement cable, I managed to jam it and make the shifter completely unusable.  But thanks to Patrick at the Jasper Control and John and Danelle, who drove the sweep vehicle and provided some mechanical help at later controls, I was able to ride the last 750 kms as a converted 2-speed.  50x25/34x25 for the big climbs, and 50x19/34x19 (or 22, or 17) on the other stretches.

I also shredded (and replaced) both tires, I think on the "rumble strips" along these highways, and my dynamo light was torn off its metal attachment from the shaking on the final descent.
One of endless mountains, from near Hi Mosquito Creek on the Icefields Parkway
Thank you to Matthew for riding with me and making the 24+ hour stretch from Revelstoke to Kamloops much easier, and to Tony for the same on the harrowing descent in the dark along the TransCanada Highway from Lake Louise to Golden the night before.
Nice weather on the return leg on July 25 (and 26)
The prize
And yes, I did see some black bears (no grizzlies).

23 July 2012

Rocky Mountain 1200 -- ready, set ...

We start at 10PM Sunday night ... in 3 hours.  Signing off and not likely I will be posting again until the finish (or at least the latter part of the ride).   Rider updates available on the organizers' site.
On the drive from Vancouver to Kamloops.  These are NOT the Rockies yet.

Willi's velomobile -- human powered vehicle!  Wickedly fast on the downhills and flats.
Micky Inagaki gives a token of his thanks to Will D. for helping him to finish Cascade 1200.  Will pointed out and helped him fix a dangerous condition on his bike, when Micky was in extremis on Day 3.
View yesterday from Thompson Rivers Univ. housing where we are staying.
Kamloops reminds me of Bend Oregon, CA 2005 - around 75,000 people, lots of new buildings, in-migration.

View 30 minutes ago from Thompson Rivers Univ. housing where we are staying until the 10PM start.
View now from Thompson Rivers Univ. housing where we are staying until the 10PM start.

21 July 2012

Sleepless in Vancouver

Strolling around downtown Vancouver on sunny Wednesday, I reach the Northern harbor area.
I arrived in Vancouver on Thursday morning local time, and got a good night's sleep Thursday, took a nap on Friday afternoon, and now Friday night ... I slept shortly after 9PM and awoke at 1AM.  It is now just after 3AM and I am still wide awake and have failed, so far, to sleep again.

I still have 43 hours before the start of the Rocky Mountain 1200 and so can hope to get over jet lag between now and then.  And since the event has a 10PM Sunday start, the key is not really that I get over jet lag, but just that I get plenty of sleep, at whatever time of day.

Vancouver looked spectacular on Thursday, its summer best.  The city has grown a lot since I was last here, long ago, and I saw plenty that reminded me of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and also Sydney, even a little Hong Kong.  It is more cosmopolitan, and more East and South Asian, than Seattle or Portland.  It looks prosperous, but prices are not as steep as Sydney, and it seems like it would be an easier place to live.  The day before I arrived, the U.S. press was full of reports that Canadians are now, per capita, significantly wealthier than Americans, despite lower disposable income.  Those "socialist" Canadians with their "socialized" medicine ... have done pretty well.  This is a result of the U.S. housing bubble burst, the 2008 (and ongoing?) global financial crisis, Canada's natural resource/energy driven prosperity and, yes, their much better healthcare system.

 ... On the other hand, the weather here is grey much of the year, and was on Friday.
On drizzling Thursday, I cross the Burrard Bridge heading toward the ... main exhibits closed for repair Maritime Museum.
Vancouver seems quite bike-friendly, now turning over entire street lanes to bicycles -- retrofitted at the expense of cars, rather than designed from the start for bicycles.
Bike lane for commuters on Dunsmuir.  It was well-used when I passed on Thursday and again Friday, and I waited a few minutes until it was empty before taking the photo. After all, Canadians are shy, and I did not see anyone else snapping photos of strangers.
Bike lane on the Burrard [Street] Bridge.  The barrier from traffic made it quite pleasant not only for cyclists but also for a pedestrian (me) to walk across.  A cyclist would pass me every minute or so.
Thursday afternoon I stopped by Costco (less than 10 minutes' walk from my hotel) and a nearby pharmacy and picked up a box of Clif Bars, a large bag of trail mix and a few other last minute supplies (sun screen, bug spray ("deep woods sportsman" version of mosquito repellent) and a "bear bell" so that when I am riding in the dark I will not surprise any big critters.  In the evening I unpacked my bicycle and prepped my drop bags.  This time I actually listed what goes in which drop bag and what goes on my bike.  Surprisingly long lists.  At least carefully prepared.
Ready to go!
Gear I will take with me from the start.  Zoom in to read.
Content of three drop bags -- Jasper, Golden and Amstrong
Friday, I visited a couple of bike shops.  Each had a HUGE selections of fenders -- if you don't ride in the rain here, you might as well put your bike in the basement for 9 months of the year here.  And they also have large selections of racks, bags and the like, for commuting and touring.
JV Bikes -- Wall of racks

JV Bieks -- wall of bags ... with reflective strips, of course
The shop that stood out is JV Bikes.  They have Brooks and Fizik saddles - only the best.  They had a wall full of panniers, handle bar, saddle and rack bags.   They have Dahon folding bikes -- again, an excellent choice.

And they have a big collection of BionX-powered electric bikes (a highly reviewed hub-based system of electric assist with regenerative braking that can be used to retrofit a normal bike with electric assist).  The rear wheel with BionX hub, plus battery pack, cables and throttle/display etc. cost between $1200 and $1800.  The system weight is something like 18 pounds, I was told.
The BionX hub-based electric motor -- throttle sets different assist levels, with a smooth torque-based control system, so the harder you pedal, the greater the assist.  250 watt and 350 watt versions.

The battery pack can be placed on the downtube, or another flatter version fits on a special rear rack.

BionX version of a Dahon bike.
I would love to experiment with one, eventually -- maybe for my Dad so he can still get up hills as he rides into his 80s, or for my wife so she would ride up a hill with me in the countryside in Japan.  The manager said that they are very difficult to install with road bike handlebars, since the throttle and regenerative braking system use a magnet on the brake lever that is tough to install on a road bike with STI brake levers.

According to a recent consultant's report, there were 430,000 electric assist bicycles sold in Japan in 2011.  Sales in the first half of 2012 are up 17% yet again from the first half of 2011.  More are sold now than motorcycles/motor scooters.  Some localities even offer a "green incentive" rebate now.  And the average selling price, around 90,000 yen, makes this a much bigger market than the market for "normal" shopping bikes.  But they are heavy, and ugly.

A BionX that can be retrofit onto a "normal" bike -- a huge advantage, and it is possible to make one of these look nice, at least compared with the typical ugly Japanese electric assist bike.  Remember the BionX-powered Pereira Cycles bike that won the Northwest Constructors Challenge last year, and  was shown at NAHBS this March?  It was a thing of beauty -- though I would have prefered a different crankset.

17 July 2012

Rocky Mountain 1200 - Coming Soon

What comes after the Cascade 1200 ... the Rocky Mountain 1200.

These paired events are nearby, a month apart, both 1200 km randonees.  And completion of both results in the award of the "Can-Am Challenge" pin, coveted among randonneurs (who seem to like these pins almost as much as elementary school boys like little league baseball trophies).

As far as I can tell, the main difference is that things are bigger in Canada.  The mountains, for one, are a lot bigger.  3000+ meter peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.  Big glaciers.  Very wild.

And the bears are bigger.  Washington State has mostly black bears -- those cute bears.  Canada has more grizzly bears -- the ones that rip you apart with a single swipe of the paw.  I would love to see one, very far away, in the daylight, when I am riding as part of a group.

I do not want to see a mama grizzly and her cubs up close, at night, when I am alone climbing up a hill.

I am hopeful that this event will have less rain than the Cascade 1200 .. the odds are pretty good in late July instead of late June.

The ride starts at 10PM local time on Sunday July 22nd.  The organizers' page is here.

The route looks spectacular, and it is quite demanding, especially to make the time limits over the 2000+ meter passes in the middle section of the ride.  If I get through those, it should be fairly relaxed heading home, assuming no major surprises.

The route is here:

14 July 2012

Sunday Ride EARLY

Tomorrow it is going to be HOT and HUMID.  Jerome and I will try to leave my house (Komazawa Dori and Kanpachi) at 6:30AM.  Will meet riders at 7:15AM Sekidobashi and 8:15AM Oume Station.

The plan is to try Arima Toge, if the road is clear (for once), and the heat is not too stifling.

Don't forget your large water bottles and your sunscreen.

Let me know if you are interested.



Pete, Gueorgui and I gathered as planned near my house at or around 6:30AM.  I called Jerome and, on the third try, awoke him.  We agreed that the 3 of us would go ahead (Pete only intending a short morning spin in any event), and Jerome (and Didier) would eventually catch us.

Pete said his farewell after Fussa, and Gueorgui and I continued to Oume where we met Masato, who had arrived at least 30 minutes earlier -- a combination of our delayed start, a convenience store stop and an overly aggressive timeline to begin with.  It was that kind of day.  After we refueled, the reformed group of 3 headed out.  Just as we left, Jerome and Didier reported in that they were almost at Higashi Oume.

Masato, Gueorgui and I took one variant of the usual route from Oume through Nariki Kaido and to Naguri, finally climbing up to Arima Dam.  There we watched a fire fighting demonstration, with a helicopter repeatedly dumping small loads of water into the reservoir, then heading away to pick up more.  Eventually, Jerome and Didier arrived.

Five of us rode to the far end of the reservoir and up a short hill, to where the road divides (right turn for Arima Pass).  Then Gueorgui and I headed for home -- and the reconstituted group of 3 including none of those who started at 6:30 from my house -- Masato, Jerome and Didier -- headed up the pass.

It got very hot mid-day and into the afternoon on the way back home, but everyone made it without serious incident.

Photos of the trip are here.  [Warning:  There is a photo of Jerome, taking advantage of the "Jerome Exception" to the rule of "No Short Shorts".  Some may find this offensive, and parental discretion is advised.]

An image of the route is here:
At least my legs felt fully recovered from Cascade 1200 and ready for the next event!

08 July 2012

C Speed Re-Open ... Nearer to Me!

As planned for some time, Hiroshi's C Speed has moved from its initial location out in Kohoku/Yokohama, to Takatsu-ku/Kawasaki, 3-7-12 Mizonoguchi, just a few minutes away from the river on the Kawasaki side at Futako Tamagawa.  It is less than 10 minutes from my house by bicycle!

The shop is conveniently located just across from the Takatsu Police Station -- so as low a risk of another "smash and grab" as possible.  And Hiroshi can get to and from his house in a few minutes, via his trusty mama chari (lower left edge of photo).  The mama chari does not quite fit with the gorgeous bikes and frames inside the shop ...  but gets it done for errands in the rain.