29 September 2013

Saturday Ride - Wada Pass

Saturday offered some of the best weather since Spring, and so Jerome and I headed out for a half-day ride.  I tend to have an advantage over Jerome when we ride on Saturday morning instead of Sunday, and today was no exception.
Bright sun and dark shadows at Wada Pass
I pulled most of the way out to the base of the climb.  Riding the Canyon with mini aero bars, I feel as if I can ride for quite awhile at a sustained pace at least a few kph faster than normal.  The aero bars force my arms and shoulders inward, my torso more horizontal, and my rear end up in the air.  The result is speed.

Jerome did pull ahead on the climb up the forest road (Daigo Rindo) approach to Wada Pass, but he was still breathing heavily when I arrived at the pass, so he cannot have gotten too far ahead.  The Canyon still has the "granny gear" 11-32 cassette on the wheel I added for the SR 600 attempt 2 weeks ago, plus compact 50-34 cranks, so I could spin up even the 15-16% grades of the Wada forest road. (UPDATE:  Jerome tells me he reached Wada Pass 10 minutes ahead of me ... so I guess even if I was pulling him on the flats he still has a big lead on any climbs.)

Jerome spent last weekend with Positivista Stephen C., at his Oume training base, and they discussed the idea of perhaps a team training week in Japan next summer. ... Indeed, it would be great to get other members of the team back to Japan, as long as we can find someplace cooler -- the high passes of Nagano, or cooler, drier northern island of Hokkaido?

25 September 2013

Yamabushi -- Back from The Swamp

The Yamabushi is back from Above Bike Store and its paint shop, The Swamp.  With this, the bike is complete.

I tried to snap some photos of the new painted lettering ... but then found they have already put some photos on the Above Bike website better than any I could take.

We talked through the lettering for the bike name -- Yamabushi -- and my name at the base of the seat post, but for the head badge I just asked for something with my initials and said "omakase" -- leave it to you.  The result is a bit nautical, which goes well with the blue powder coat in the background.

UPDATE:  One element of the paint details NOT captured by AboveBikeStore's photos ... the painter's signature, at the base of the left chainstay just behind the BB.  Here:

21 September 2013


The Yamabushi is in the shop this week for a modification/upgrade ... so I have been riding my Bianchi Pista Concept 2006 fixie around town for the first time in awhile.  I had forgotten the joys of the fixie, but it all comes back quickly with some nice weather in the mornings following last weekend's typhoon.  If one of MOB's favorite blogs is the Fixed Gear Girl Taiwan (FGGT) site, then dare I lay claim to be, at least temporarily, "Fixed Gear Man Tokyo" (FGMT)?
My fixie as commuter bike, at the bike parking near my office.
UPDATE:  One commenter rightly noted the ugly addition of a kick-stand.  I reflected upon this, and realized that the kick-stand has not even really functioned effectively since it lost its bottom attachment.  And the bar tape is completely shredded.  And the seat is worn out, leather coming off around the tip.  Plus, with the dynamo hub-powered light, the other battery light on the top of the bars is unnecessary.

I need the brakes and a front/rear light, and bell and reflective tape, to use the bike as a commuter, but why make it any uglier, any less clean, than it needs to be?
Minus the kickstand and light; new bar-tape, matching saddle, and generally cleaned up

Another angle.  Still 2 rear lights. ... for safety.  Chain needs more tension ... 
My second fixie, now 7 years old ...
Saddle is a bit off-center ... will fix that now.  And tilt the bullhorn bars down a bit more parallel to the ground.

16 September 2013

SR600: The Challenge ... Remains

Jerome and I planned yet another attempt at the Fuji SR600 this weekend.

This time, we would NOT be riding in stifling mid-summer heat, as Jerome had when he tried it last month.  And we would NOT start at night, with inadequate rest, as at end of June.  And we waited for a 3-day weekend, allowing time to start very early Saturday, finish very early Monday, and largely recover by Tuesday morning.

The nice thing about a "Permanent" Audax course is that one need not conform to the organizer's schedule.  No need to ride it in pouring rain or sweltering heat.  Instead, the course awaits us, whenever we choose to ride.

What we had not planned on was this weekend's typhoon, #18, which dumped some of the heaviest rainfall amounts in recent decades over much of central Japan.
Yet another photo of bike with Yamabushi Toge sign in background
We slept Friday night at a business hotel in Hachioji, were on the bikes by 3:40AM and were off from the start at Takao Station by 4:10AM, nearly as planned.  We made decent time, despite intense humidity, through western Tokyo, Chichibu and Gunma, and were at Karuizawa by 1PM.  The traffic was heavy on old Route 18 up to Karuizawa -- a road I had always thought was deserted.  Apparently a significant portion of the nearby population had decided to get a photo of Megane Bashi on the long weekend, as the parking lots nearby were at full capacity.  Of course, Karuizawa itself presented a long line of sitting traffic on Route 18.
Yet another photo of bike with Megane bashi in background
Someone puts a face on the "end of construction zone" sign up the hill from Megane bashi
By the time we left Kusatsu and started up Shirane-san toward Shibu Touge, it was dark.  Only a few hundred meters elevation about the town, we entered the clouds.  The clouds got thicker and I could no longer see Jerome's tail light ahead.  I spend the next 90 minutes or more completely alone, in the foggy dark, climbing with the edge line and dashed dividing line of the road the only visible markers.  Every 5 or 10 minutes, a vehicle would pass, creeping up or down the mountain -- its lights creating a glow as if it were a submersible moving through the deep ocean.  It was an otherworldly experience.  As my altimeter reading exceeded 2050 meters, I decided to cross the road and ride along the right hand edge, worried that otherwise I would miss the turn off into the checkpoint at the summit.
Road construction pylons add a bit of a guide on the climb up Shirane-san to Shibu Toge
Finally, I reached the Shibu Pass, 2176 meters, and found Jerome lying down at rest in his rain gear, waiting for me.
A bit different photo of Shibu Toge -- the highest point of any national highway in Japan (2176m elev).
The fog lifted after we descended a few hundred meters on the western side of the mountain, offering us a fantastic high-speed, clear-and-dry road, night-time descent all the way down to the valley, ending up at lower than 350 meters elevation.  

More convenience store food; more resting lying down on the pavement while digesting; then a 900 meter climb up to Sugadaira Kogen (1321 meters), followed by another spectacular night-time descent to Ueda.
Sugadaira sign and Dydo vending machine, at 2AM
We arrived at Shinano Kokubunji (Checkpoint #6), just past Ueda, around 2:45AM.  We had traveled more then 300 kms and climbed almost 6000 meters.  Jerome suggested we rest at the nearby "michi no eki" (rest area) he thought he had seen on a previous trip.  There was none, but we quickly found a real "eki" (train station) just up the road, with a nice veranda and generous roof overhang.  There was plenty of room to lie down, with our bicycles, and not fear the rain.
Entrance to Shinano Kokubunji, at 2:45AM
When we awoke a little after 5AM, only a light rain was falling.  We were on track and ready for the second half of the event.  But a note from a worried spouse about massive downpours in Tokyo, and closer to us along our intended route, caused us to think twice about the climb up to Utsukushigahara and back into the high mountains.  We checked the weather forecasts online.  Yamanashi Prefecture, through which we would pass on Sunday evening, was predicted to be a disaster area.  Rivers would overflow their banks; hillsides would slide down.  Evacuation preparations were being made for Doshi-Mura, a 20-30km stretch that we would pass in the wee hours of Monday morning, around the same time as the typhoon.

So instead of heading up the mountain, for once we adopted the more prudent course and hopped the bullet train home.

SR600 Fuji.  The challenge remains.

41 year old Oregonian with trick knee wins the Vuelta!

In case you did not notice, the Vuelta a Espana, last of this year's grand tours, finished on Sunday in Madrid.

The winner: Chris Horner, a pro cyclist for over 20 years, winner of many races in the U.S.A. before moving to the European scene and riding mostly as a domestique during his 30s.  Native and resident of Bend, Oregon.  The first North American winner of the Vuelta ever, and the first U.S. grand tour victor since ... Greg Lemond.  Horner is more than 5 years older than the next oldest winner of any of cycling's grand tours (Fermin Lambot, winner of the 1922 Tour de France).

Now, at age 41, after skipping the 2013 Tour de France due to (yet another) knee injury, Horner somehow managed to be defeat (28-year-old) Vincenzo Nibali, the favorite and winner of this year's Giro d'Italia, out-climbing him on each of the last 3 stages to regain a lead he had held once early in the race.

Informed commentators say that Horner seemed to catch fire only during the last segment of his Stage 10 victory in the Sierra Nevada, from Torredelcampo to Alto de Hazallanas.  Indeed, Horner seemed inspired just as he passed through Pinos Genil and briefly crossed the route taken by the gracefully aging team Positivo Espresso a few weeks earlier on their ascent of Pico de Veleta.  He flew away from Nibali and the others in the leading group on the following climb, dancing out of the saddle, "grinding a huge gear and making light work of a gradient that topped out at 18%, and regularly hit 15%."  After that, no one could have been surprised at his climbing on the last 3 stages.

Alejandro Valverde, who returned to the pro peleton in 2012 from his Operacion Puerto-related suspension (blood doping, Dr. Fuentes), and over the hill though 8 years younger (age 33) than Horner, rounds out the podium in 3rd.


Insect Gears

We all know about cyclists who turn a "monster gear" as they stomp the pedals.  And some of us like to have a "granny gear" just in case the hill gets a bit too steep or long.  Now, we find out about a newly discovered kind of built-in gear used by one animal, the lowly planthopper nymph.  Insect gears!

01 September 2013

Watanabe & Watanabe - P.E. Approved

Since Jerome mentioned our new "approved" P.E. stop on the Venus Line, I thought I should give a bit more information for the benefit of the uninitiated.  The restaurant is at Tobira Pass (扉峠), a few kilometers to the NW of Wada Touge.  It is off the highway above a retaining wall, and its real name is the catchy "Japanese Restaurant Tobira" (和風れすとらん扉). 

When Jerome and I pulled in for lunch on the June-end weekend, Ms. Watanabe saw our SR600 frame badges and said "you must be doing that crazy 600 km thing, right?" We were not her first Audax customers that weekend, and the SR600 seems to be generating a regular flow of business.

They offered good, filling lunch food, reasonable prices, a very nice view, and the service was friendly.  What more could one ask for?