31 December 2013

Shimano Brifter Blues

I've got the Brifter Blues.  What are "brifters"?  Combined brake levers and shifters.

First implemented by Shimano for road bikes in 1990 as "STI" or "Shimano Total Integration", it was pretty cool to be able to shift gears without your hands leaving the brakes -- indeed, while braking.  Eventually Campy brought out their own different "Ergo" brifter, and SRAM "double tap" is a third.  Now there are made-in-China brands such as Microshift.  

But brifters, at least the Shimano version, are not perfect.  Indeed, the versions I have used in the past 10+ years (5600, 6500, 6600, 7700, 7800) have a way of eventually slicing through the shifter cables.  (I have never lost the brake cable, fortunately.  The brake cable is significantly thicker, and its motion much simpler inside the brifter).

Usually a sliced shifter cable just means a ride home with dramatically reduced shifting (only one derailleur working).   And it is possible to fix the gear so you can even get over hills in a decent gear.   Randonneurs try to avoid this problem preventing them from completing a long event by carrying a spare shifter cable, to change in a pinch.  

So on the 29th I did not think much of it when my rear shifter cable broke just as Jerome and I headed down the last descent on Onekansen Doro.  Indeed, I thought "great, only a flat stretch between here and home, then I can change the cable and be good to go again."  

But when I got home, and inserted the new cable (careful to push the small paddle many times before inserting the cable so that the brifter was in the "outside" gear position), ... the shifter did not work.  No take up at all when I tried to shift.  I tried lubrication (CRC-56) and rethreading the cable (multiple times).  I played with the shifter, shook it upside down, etc., etc.  No luck.  It is non-functional.  Just as non-functional as the rear brifter that ceased working last year during Rocky Mountain 1200.
My dead Shimano Ultegra 6600 Brifter
These things are very expensive, and there is no way to fix them once they blow up like this.
My dead Shimano Dura Ace 7800 Brifter from last year

Is there a better solution?  Do the newer brifters (6800, 7900, 9000?) work better, with their different routing of the shifter cable along the handlebar under the bartape?

As I was heading over the C Speed today, I happened to pass Gunnar riding a beautiful looking cyclocross bike built by Equilibrium Cycle Works, a Shinagawa-based foreign custom builder.  He had shifters I had never seen before -- Retroshift CX2s.   A better solution?  I may need to give them a try!

30 December 2013

Early Winter Ride

Looking over hidden Lake Tsukui to the North Shore.  Early winter version.
Looking out from the high point of the North Shore road at tunnel entrance.  Sun glistens on the water. 
Looking SE into the Kanagawa sprawl of Sagamihara -- what I rode through to and from Yugawara
I awoke early Sunday.  Jerome had suggested we ride at daybreak (well ... 7AM) ... as he needed to get back early.  I was happy to accede, but next time he suggests an earlier-than-usual start I should place a wager -- something like "if you show up on time, free coffee and pastries; if you are more than 5 minutes late, you owe me 1000 yen."  If I had 1000 yen for each time ...   This is why I like starting our rides at my house.  If someone is a bit late, I can go inside and read the newspaper and sip coffee.

Anyway, he sent an SMS around 645AM noting that he was just waking up and far behind schedule, so even before I went outside I was able to have a second cup of coffee.  I  made some tweaks to the bike, and headed out alone around 730.
Mt. Fuji over the Asagawa
The entire day went at a slower-than-usual pace, my body conserving its energy in the cold.  I pulled off at a Mini Stop before Hachioji on the way to Takao. More SMSs and a phone call with Jerome indicated that he was on his bike and about 20 minutes behind me.   Another rest in Takao at the Family Mart (sunny side of the street -- winter alternative to the shaded 7-11) and he seemed to be closing the gap.  But I was getting cold waiting and so started the Otarumi climb alone.  Although it was now after 10AM, the Route 20 roadway temperature gauge part way up the climb, in direct sunlight, stated 2 degrees celsius.  Barely warmer than when I left home.
Mt. Fuji and Cyclists from Otarumi Pass
Jerome and I finally met up on the far side of Otarumi Pass near the Sagamiko train station, and rode the remainder together -- Tsukui-ko, the Tank Road and Onekansen -- and one more convenience store stop, back into town.  It was a decent 110 km ride on a sunny winter day.
Mt. Fuji from Otarumi Pass

26 December 2013

Festive 500; Annual 14000

Recently over on MOB's blog I saw mention of the Rapha/Strava "Festive 500" challenge -- ride 500 kms over the 8 days between December 24 and 31.

TCC also had thread about this challenge.  I signed up, and was happy to see that after uploading my trip to Yugawara and back, I was ranked #21 out of 353 Japan-based participants.  Of course, the ranking will fade quickly, but still I hope to complete this challenge.

The ride to Yugawara and back also pushed me over 14,000 kms cycling for the year, based on my mileage log.  Time to start thinking about cycling goals for 2014 ...



Well, I completed the Festive 500.  I ended up at 509 kms, ranked 4407 out of 26565 (as of the evening of January 1, Tokyo time), and 158 out of 688 on the "leaderboard" in Japan.  If only I had switched on my GPS timer when I left home for the office on December 26, I could have moved way up in the rankings for a top 130 finish in Japan.

On the morning of December 31, despite requests from my spouse to help with year-end window cleaning and shopping, I played hookey in the morning, rode to Tsukui-ko and back, to get the last 84 kms I needed. Except that it turned out I had needed almost 88 kms.  So after the housecleaning was done that afternoon, I turned on the GPS once more and made a quick spin over to C Speed and then a loop through my neighborhood.

It was exhausting to record in-town rides on my GPS and upload them to Strava, something I do NOT plan to make a habit.  And silly to be riding toward a fairly mindless goal of just getting in a few more kilometers on the last day of the challenge, as opposed to actually training, or riding socially, or because I wanted to ride somewhere.

So I will not join any more of these challenges.  Except ...

I happen to see a "Gran Fondo" challenge for January (repeated for each subsequent month).  The challenge is to ride at least ONE ride of 130 kms during the month.  Piece of cake.  In 2013 I did so in each month except December ... and this challenge will not require me to record my commutes.

The Gran Fondo prize?  A "digital finishers badge" and the chance to pay $109 for a special jersey ... with a different color potentially earned each month.  What a privilege!

Further update:

Well, I completed the January, February and March "Gran Fondo" challenges, but have yet to purchase a jersey.  For April, I looked forward to blowing away the challenge, riding a 24 hour Fleche and other long events.  At the end of the Fleche, I uploaded the data expecting to move way up the leaderboard ...  to around 25th place out of 45000 participants!   But nothing.  I had failed to "reset" the Garmin after 23 hrs and 58 minutes of Fleche, and kept the same data recording as continuous ride between the Fleche finish and the post-ride party at the Kamakura Prince.  So Strava must not recognize it as a ride of less than 24 hours.  Ouch. 

At least I am 10748 out of 57751 participants in the Spring Classics challenge ... and should move way up after this weekend's 300km Brevet, and my SFC 76 km commute on Wednesdays.


My wife planned an onsen ryokan (hot spring inn) trip for our family, just an overnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning with our two sons back in town from university for the holidays.  She found a place in Yugawara.  Yugawara is a town on the coast between Odawara and Atami, just at the gateway to the Izu Peninsula from the eastern (Tokyo) side.

As the weather was nice, and I needed to stop back at the Keio SFC campus to teach a class on Wednesday afternoon (Christmas is NOT a public holiday in Japan), of course, I decided to ride my bicycle.  I had wanted to take Yabitsu Pass, but my start was delayed until just before 1PM, so I headed straight out Route 246.  This meant I would traverse the entirety of Kanagawa Prefecture and its sprawl in each direction.  Not my favorite place for riding, but if I need to do it, best in winter.

I turned south off Route 246 somewhere around Yamato as 246 got completely clogged up, with the shoulder too narrow at places to pass the cars and trucks at anywhere near full speed.  I hunted and pecked my way to the coast, through Samukawa and to Hiratsuka, names I recognize but cannot quite place.

As I rode along the coast, at one point I saw a sign for the "Pacific Coast Bicycle Path" and headed about 200 meters off Route 1 to find a bike path adjacent to the Seisho By-Pass.  I had seen the sign before, on ekiden rides, but never tried it.  The bike path was passable, but only continued for 2 kms and ended in a sandy cul-de-sac.  I needed to dismount through the sandy patch, then remount and head back up a neighborhood street to Route 1.  (On the way back, I also took this path, and managed another 500 meters or so in the eastern direction to confirm the entire length.  The eastern end also dumped out into a bit of sand.  Slower than Route 1, pathetically short, but good to know of.

Mikan orchards between Odawara and Yugawara
Route 135, the coastal road from Odawara to Yugawara offered its benefits, despite the traffic volumes.  The fresh air and views were a relief, both in late afternoon and the following day.

The last surprise was finding the onsen.  I got to Manazuru, just north of Yugawara, around 430 or 445PM.  Only then did I try to identify the exact location of the onsen.  It was not in Yugawara, but at the far edge of "Oku Yugawara", more than 5 kms beyond Yugawara station and at several hundred meters elevation.  I arrived in the dark, after 515PM.  The attendant took my bicycle inside and to a luggage room, no questions asked.  I wanted to go straight to the room and meet my family, but was told "no", the correct order was that I first rest in the lounge and be served a bowl of "macha" tea.  This happened very quickly, I downed it in one gulp, and was led to the room.  Greetings, then off to a hot bath and a gorgeous meal.
Trying to get a photo without a car in it ...
Was a bit of a challenge.

08 December 2013

Yomiuri V Dori

It was a cloudy, cool day, and not too much time for a ride given the various tasks.  So Yomiuri V Dori beckoned.

I should make this a regular destination in the colder months. ...
Six ascents ... none very fast.

06 December 2013

Tokyo Metropolis Guide to Tokyo Cycling

There was an interesting article online in English language Tokyo Metropolis magazine recently entitled Roads Scholars.  You can find it here.

Did you know that Tokyo is ranked as the 10th most bicycle friendly city in the world by "Copenhagenize"?  I did not.  That 14% of everyday trips in Tokyo are by bicycle?  (14% sounds about right, given the bicycle's dominance as a mode of transport here for local shopping and to/from station and school commuting.  That compares to 2% for London and 3% for San Francisco.)

Just as important, the article highlights other English language resources and groups on cycling, including TCC, Half Fast ... and this very blog:  "a venerable blog with postings on routes around Kanto and other useful resources, which once featured hilarious posts by the blogger known as MOB, who left Japan several years ago."

01 December 2013

Yabitsu Pass in December

Most places in the northern hemisphere December 1 is long past time for riding over passes.  Not in the area around Tokyo, where we are blessed with relatively dry, sunny weather and fall foliage in late November through December.  Today was no exception.

My tire went flat here on the lower Yabitsu climb. I could enjoy the view while I changed the tube!
I took one of the shorter classic Positivo Espresso routes, just under 120kms -- out Onekansen Doro, the "tank road", Machida Kaido, the south to briefly join Route 413, then looping around the North side of Lake Tsukui, winding my way to Lake Miyagase, then up and over Yabitsu Pass (Elev 760m -- approx 2500 feet), and down the South side to Hadano.

Instead of taking the slow Odakyu train home, I rode in another almost 20 kms on Route 246, then hopped the Denentoshi Line train from ChuoRinkan Station.
Often photographed -- the Michi no eki and park at Lake Miyagase.

Both bike and rider rest at the top of Yabitsu.

Today's ride.  118 kms distance ddddand 1400 meters climbing logged.