27 September 2014

Next Model -- The Canyon Shark

Living in Japan, I suffer from some disadvantages when it comes to procuring inexpensive cycling items.  No ebay.  A poor selection of wheelgoods.  Expensive importer/dealer margins on some items.

But then again, there are some areas where I get an advantage over folks back in the ole U.S. of A.  One is Canyon bikes.  Canyon is German, of course, the frames come from China, and I can get them via mail order in Japan.  They do not ship into the U.S.A.  I just got my next carbon frame, a beautiful year-end closeout of an Ultimate CF SL 2014 XL-sized frame, for 115,000 yen plus shipping.  This is a highly regarded, even a great carbon frame, for just a bit over $1000.  It feels sturdier (especially a slightly beefier fork), but just as light as or lighter than, my 2011 version.  Not bad.

Now I just needed a groupset.

I decided to get Ultegra 6800 here in Japan through Hiroshi at C Speed.  At current exchange rates the cost does not vary too much if I buy it here or mail order, and SRAM Force 22, my other option, was only available for significantly more money.  The Ultegra 6800 has gotten good reviews -- just like excellent Dura Ace 9000, but a wee bit heavier.  So far, so good.  The shifting is VERY good, taking minimal effort, and the braking is really excellent, better than before.   The ergonomics of the shifters also seem an improvement over the 6600/7800 Shimano generation that I have been tied to this past almost a decade.  The cable routing is similar to SRAM -- both brake AND shifter cables run along the bars under the bar tape.  Much nicer and perhaps less likely to break than the 6600/7800 cables/brifters.  Time will tell.

And the crankset takes both 34, 36, 39 tooth inner and 50, 52, 53 tooth outer chainrings.  I got 52-36.  With a mid-cage rear derailleur I can have maximum rear gear range of 11-32, so spin up hills at 36-32 and go for it in a sprint in 52-11 ... not that I am sprinting so much these days.

The color is called "shark silver / cyan".  The cyan is just the blue accents.  The main color really does look kind of shark like, so to me this will be my Canyon Shark.  After first build up:

The bike really deserves the look of some fast-looking carbon deep rim wheels ...
The bike handles incredibly well.  I love riding it through turns.  Also, the Canyon set-back VCLS basalt/carbon seatpost really is comfortable.  My 2011 Canyon Ultimate CF had almost no spare fork crown about the headtube -- just enough for the Acros headset top and the stem -- but this one has extra room.  The bars seemed too high on the first ride so I moved the stem below the top spacer ... may need to move them further ... even to cut the top of the fork crown ...

The only thing I would change about the frame so far is ... the internal cable routing.  I had no problem getting the inner cables through the small plastic tubes Canyon placed inside the frame and secured with masking tape (see top photo).  But I struggled to remove the tube from the rear derailleur inner cable -- which runs internally all the way to the back end of the chainstay.  I hope I do not need to change cables for many years, if ever!

Since the weather forecast is dry and temperature moderate this weekend I will try the bike out on its first long ride with the Chiba 300 Brevet.

Ready for the Chiba 300 km 2014/10/25 Brevet, with lights added.
But the Shark really does deserve some fast looking wheels to complete the package.  White decals to go with the white seat and bar tape.  Like this:*

*These wheels fit only a 10-speed rear sprocket ... so cannot actually be ridden with the current set up.

Update November 2014:  I just received a Japanese language marketing email from Canyon to the effect that they are launching a customer/technical support capability in Japan from Decembe 1, 2014.  They will hold a launch event, and will have the 2015 models on display on November 24, 2014 in Daikanyama.  "Purito" Joaquin Rodriguez, Katasha star, will be in attendance.  For those of you who already ride Canyon, there is a by invitation customer event on the evening of the 23rd.

R-Tokyo 1000 km Randonee - to Ise Shrine (and beyond, and back)

I have now had a few days to catch up on my work and sleep since last week's 1000 km randonee.

As in the past, I enjoyed many stretches of the ride and felt elated at finishing the event.  There were many familiar riders on this 1000km.  At the 9AM start, I saw Jun Sato and friends from Audax Saitama/Cascade 1200 etc.  And Higuchi-san and Kozakai-san from our Fleche team were there.
Messrs. Kosakai and Higuchi - R-Tokyo photo along the road
Jun Sato signs in. 
Jun's Calfee S&S coupled carbon speed machine, complet with disk brakes and Enve wheels.
With his Randonneur USA-branded reflective triangle. 
Higuchi-san models a reflective vest and bandana.
I think he learned the "sandwich in back pocket" from Tanaka-san, our Fleche team leader.
The event is way too long for a blow-by-blow trip report, so let me focus on some highlights. R-Tokyo's 500 or so photos can be found here.  There are lots of photos of the riders and their bikes -- which is good since I did not get many.
R-Tokyo photo of me
And the ride results are available, at least for now, here.

1.  Weather.  The weather was fantastic the entire trip.  It was a bit cold after dusk on Odaira Pass at 1300 meters elevation, and a bit hot on Sunday and Monday afternoons, but basically perfect riding weather.  Such good weather is an entirely new experience for me on rides of longer than 600 kms.
Blue sky ... as I take a rest on the climb to Odaira Pass
2.  Climbing.  The course was challenging, as the first 225 kms included over 4000 meters of climbing and the total was near 9000 meters.  I was very fortunate to have done Tsuetsuki Pass and Iida Pass/Odaira Pass last month, so I knew exactly what to expect on those stretches, which were the two highest passes.
Early on the climb out of Chino -- no traffic here

The organizers helped us out some by including a 50+ km flat stretch into Ichinomiya after the end of the hills and before the next timed checkpoint.  This allowed some increase in average speeds and made it easier to avoid a DNF at the checkpoint.  Still, many riders did not make it through the initial 225 kms of the course or dropped out before/at Ichinomiya.
R-Tokyo photo of me climbing Tsuetsuki Pass.  Still smiling.
3.  Backroads.  Even though we did travel some crowded roads, the main designer of the course, Tsumura-san of R-Tokyo, made a great effort to get us off of main and onto back roads.  I wish all Brevet courses were designed like this!  The nasty climb after Nakatsugawa was essentially a 2-3 meter wide track.  Likewise, on the return from Minami Ise toward Ise Jingu, we climbed a tiny road up to Tsurugi Pass, then enjoyed an approx. 20 km descent and emerged at the back of the tourist bus parking lot for Ise Jingu, Japan's most important shinto shrine.  On this entire stretch I think I saw 2 moving cars.
Looking back toward Chino as we start the climb to Tsuetsuki Pass.
And whereas on another brevet I have gone between Iida and Ina in Nagano on one of the main roads, this time I went the opposite direction on a small road that hugs the eastern side of the valley -- minimal traffic and nice views.
Looking across the valley between Iida and Ina, from the quiet road along its eastern side.
4.  The course also managed to pass through or near many sites of cultural or historical interest.  As noted, we emerged at the back entrance of Ise Shrine. We also traveled along old Ise Kaido for a long stretch going both to and from Ise, a street that is lined in many places with beautifully maintained traditional wooden buildings.  On the way south, it was light and I could see that I would really like to have taken more time and looked at some of the buildings.  On the way north, I pulled Midori Shiroki, former Audax Japan chairwoman, who was part of the 7AM start group and looked like she was in some trouble.  At least I helped give her a chance to get back to Aichi in time for the checkpoint cutoff.

Earlier on the way into Inuyama we took a similar "old road".  And passed this historical site (though it must have been dark at the time, or perhaps I just missed it).
(photo from the R-Tokyo collection -- see link above).
And on the way through Shizuoka on our return, instead of just taking the main road (Route 150) between Omaezaki and Shizuoka, we wound our way along minor road, then went through the town of Yaizu and up an "old road" climb near Route 1.
Sunset at Yaizu, Shizuoka 
On the old road next to Route 1 between Yaizu and Shizuoka Cities
5.  Sleep accommodations.  Given the nice weather, and many "kenko land" 24-hour hot spring accommodations along the way, I did not reserve any business hotels.  I ended up stranded when, at Ichinomiya the first night I could not find a good place to sleep.  After an hour at the checkpoint lying down outside, I got cold enough so I woke up and knew further efforts at sleep there would be counterproductive.  I rode on another 30 kms, most of it along the levy beside the Kiso River, and ended up taking another 90 minute nap at a manga cafe just at the east end of Tachita-Ohashi, the bridge we crossed from Aichi into Mie Prefecture.  This, and a sit down breakfast at a family restaurant a little later, were sufficient to get me to the Minami Ise turnaround point, where I again slept for an hour mid-afternoon.
Sunrise day 2, after a nap and just before I cross Tachita-Ohashi, the bridge into Mie Prefecture
The second night I had planned to sleep at the "kenko center" in Nisshin City, just east of Nagoya, that was highlighted by the organizers on the cue sheet and the website for which I had checked. Unfortunately, it was closed at 230AM -- no longer a 24-hour facility.  Another randonneur was sleeping on the front porch under the awning, so I joined him a few meters away.  Again, after less than 90 minutes I got cold and awoke.  The first rider was gone, but a few minutes later someone rode up and I was pleasantly surprised that it was Kozakai-san. He had stopped by his home nearby (I was envious!), and was looking for Higuchi-san, whom he said also had planned to sleep at the Kenko center.  When he called Higuchi's mobile phone, we learned he was just 200 meters up the street, resting in front of a Family Mart.  We went there and found him shivering cold, so the three of us rode on together for an hour or more to Okazaki City, where the two of them entered yet another 24-hour manga cafe and I continued slowly ahead.

I got a number of short rests on the third day, including an evening hour-long nap on a bench on the coastline in Shizuoka City, which made the R-Tokyo photo album, and another pre-dawn nap after Atami Pass/Yugawara.

In all, I got barely enough sleep to get through the event without collapsing or losing all speed.  But it created a massive sleep deficit, so that when I got home at 9AM Tuesday morning, I slept until 6PM, went out to dinner, then slept again from 10PM to 6AM, but still felt a bit sleep deprived through into Saturday.  As with similar efforts, the deep sleep that follows is fantastic.

6.  Atami Pass.  I knew the descent from Atami Pass to the east is steep.  But the route we took, via the Atami museum of art (MOA) was crazy.  I got off and walked at points, it was so steep DOWN.  I thought I would fall off over my handlebars, doubtless the actual terrain seeming even worse in the pitch dark exhaustion of the third night of the ride.  I avoided the inside of curves just to stay on the bike.  It was a painfully slow and painful-on-the-hands descent, even though the concept was good -- to avoid the need for us to descend all the way below Atami Station and then climb back up again over 100 meters to head toward Yugawara.

7.  Yokohama.  After following the coastline as far as Enoshima, the last part of the route went to Motomachi through much of southern Yokohama.  At the time, I thought the organizers were playing a cruel trick, forcing us up so many steep hills and through so much congestion, on an early Tuesday holiday morning after more than 980 kms of effort.  The hills seemed crazy steep and plenty long.  No wonder I have never ridden under the monorail between Enoshima and Ofuna!  No wonder I avoid this part of the world except for the occasional Hakone Ekiden event.  But as I look at the map, I see that the route merely took a relatively short distance between two points.  And as we neared Motomachi, we entered a narrow, old road that reminded me of some earlier parts of the ride, even if it was lined by 5+ story buildings on both sides.

After we reached the goal, we needed to ride a few more kilometers to Minato Mirai (Manyo Club) for check-in.  I had never seen Minato Mirai from the S/SE sides, and it looked spectacular on a sunny day, even better than this from a more southern angle and much closer up:

8.  Results.  There were 76 finishers, 42 DNFs and 24 DNSs.  So this was a hard event, despite the good weather.  I think 1000 km brevets are, next to SR600s, the hardest events.  The time limits are unforgiving.  I finished in 70 hrs and 53 minutes, out of a permitted 75 hours.  But at various points I had less than two hours "on the clock" even though everything was working perfectly.

There were 56 finishers with slower times and 19 with faster times than I.  But of the 56 slower riders, all were within a few hours of me, essentially the same time.  Most of them probably signed up for the post-ride party and decided to sleep a bit before the finish! Among the 19 faster riders, one managed a very fast time of 54 hours 41 minutes.  I saw him zooming UP old Ise Kaido as I was going DOWN it.  Another rider finished in under 59 hours.  Everyone else was within 10 hours of me.  I was just relieved to complete a single long audax event this year.

Part 1 -- Isawa Onsen to Ichinomiya
Part 2 - Ichinomiya to Shima/Minami Ise
Part 3 -- Minami Ise to Nisshin via Ise Jingu/Futami
Part 4 -- Nisshin City to Omaezaki (missing track for last portion)
Part 5 -- Omaezaki to Yokohama via Atami Pass

24 September 2014

News Flash - Done

No time for blogging now, but I did finish the R-Tokyo 1000km ride yesterday morning around 7AM, in just over 70 hours total time.

A great ride, a very interesting course in many places ... full report to come.

20 September 2014

R-Tokyo 1000 Kms

I am on the early train(s) to Yamanashi for the start of a 1000km randonee.
Unfortunately Jerome could not make it--a new job and heavy travel putting him into a big sleep deficit.

I have been checking the weather forecast daily and it has threatened at least some rain over these 3 days. But now it looks like, with luck, it could even be dry and cool.

The first 225 Kms of the course is mountainous and very hard. Then it gets flatter. We ride around Nagoya and South through Mie Prefecture, then turn around south of Ise Shrine and return to Tokyo (well, Yokohama) via the coast.

If all goes well (a big if) then I will be done late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. ... at least a day or two ahead of the next typhoon.

14 September 2014

Sunday ride with the next generation

Today was probably the nicest weather for riding in the Tokyo area since May.  My son Henry (not to be confused with other PE founding members' sons Henry) is visiting home before returning to the U.S. for Fall quarter of university, so we took a Sunday ride.

Henry has done the Hakone Ekiden ride as far as Odawara several times, and last year we did a climb from Chino through Tateshina then down to Ueda, but never gone over 100 kms by bicycle, and he has no bicycle in Chicago at university though he does plenty of other exercise.  Yesterday he rode to Yomiuri Land and back, and did a couple of repeats up Yomiuri V Dori.  Today, we decided to head toward the Akigawa and Tomin no Mori.  It has the benefit of being only a single climb, so possible at any point to bail out and return home if it proved too much.

The traffic -- both cars and, on the Tamagawa path, bikes/pedestrians -- seemed heavy as we headed up the Tamagawa.  It got even worse as we headed out toward Musashi Itsukaichi.  Places where Tokyo Route 7 normally clears out completely instead were full of cars.  Going through Itsukaichi there were preparations for the Aki-Matsuri (fall festival).  And more traffic.  There was a line of cars several hundred meters long waiting for the traffic light at Tokura, the last 7-11 before the climb up the Akigawa really starts.

At Motojuku / Hinohara Town Office, we decided we would be better off to avoid the traffic of the climb to Tomin no Mori.  Instead we headed for Tokisaka Pass -- my third trip in the past several months.
View from the Tokisaka Toge no Chaya

Henry at the pass
As usual, there was almost no traffic on the climb, and there were a few hikers and motorcyclists at the toge-no-chaya.

We decided to head for the main soba restaurant -- Michiko no soba tei -- in the woods.  I could practically taste the delicious tempura and soba as the building came into view.  But it was closed! Perhaps the staff were part of the Aki Matsuri going on down the hill?
We decide to head for the "main house" (本家) soba place and Edo period magistrate's resting place.

The spectacular old building comes into view.

But it is closed!
In any event, we got soba at a restaurant off the main road and across a bridge on the way back to Tokura/Itsukaichi.
Bikes at the soba place where we ended up.

Where we ended up eating lunch.
The matsuri was almost ready to start as we passed through Itsukaichi.  And we could hear drums beating and traditional instruments at various places along the ride home.
Matsuri!  Henry's PE jersey still looks like new.

Flowering trees .. as I manage to catch a break in the line of cars to snap a photo.
Then a nice -- if slower than usual -- ride back into town, the weather still pleasant, the roads still crowded.

08 September 2014

Jerome's Ride to Otarumi on a Wet Sunday

Jerome planned Sunday's ride (hence the mid-ride beers).  He had a visitor in town on business this week from Singapore, Sean, who borrowed Jerome's Look and joined us.  Jerome rode the "Bette Noire."  Guillaume, Jerome's friend, and Frank, Jerome's brother-in-law, also joined us to make it five.

It was wet early Sunday morning, raining steadily.  But the forecast suggested the rain would taper off by mid-day.  And this year in Japan, if we stayed off the bike just because there is rain in the morning ...  we would almost never ride.   And by starting a ride in the rain, one can always take solace in Rule #9.

I confidently declared to the group that the rain would stop by mid-day, and this time, for once the weather obediently followed the forecast, even though our ride took us into the wet, misty hills to the west of town.

We rode out One-kan, then the "Tank Road", and then took Machida Kaido to Takao, then finally the climb up Otarumi out of Takao on Koshu Kaido.  For 3 of the 5 members it was the first time they had done this climb by bicycle (Frank is at times a serious runner and has been through these hills before on foot).  Sean, from Argentina but living in Singapore the past year, has not ridden in the hills for some time, but managed Otarumi without problem.  He did go slow on the descent, as the triple front derailleur on Jerome's Look seemed stuck on the lowest (30-tooth) ring, forcing him to essentially coast down the hill.

The rain stopped definitively as we were heading through Takao and onto the Otarumi climb. At the pass we were able to sit outside for a lunch of ramen and gyoza at the Fujimi cafe, and even enjoy a view between the clouds at the hills across Tsukui-ko/Sagami-ko.  No views of Mt. Fuji today.

Heading back we took the path along the Asagawa, not very crowded for a Sunday afternoon given the continued cloudy weather, and then the usual route home along the Tamagawa.  Somehow it seemed much more scenic than the trip out of town, now that the rain had stopped and we were away from the car traffic.

All-in-all, a good ride with new friends, 100 kms covered on a day when many would have taken one look at the window, turned off the alarm clock and gone back to bed.