Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Year and Fall

Start the year as you mean to go on, by cycling. In Japan, there is a tradition to go to a shrine on New Year’s Day. I had already been to one at midnight so was late getting up. When I finally did rise at 11AM I received a visit from a friend who was leaving that day. I said I was planning to cycle to a shrine, but by the time I would be ready to go then it would mean I would be late getting back. Plus I didn’t think I could make the 54km round trip given my lack of cycling lately. She said, “oh that is nothing for you!”.

So, then I thought damn it, if you don’t even try then how will you know. So I got ready quickly and set off.

It was a beautiful day for winter, blue and not so cold.

I use google to find the shortest route to places, that means I set it to walking mode. Unfortunately, that sometimes means it takes me down dirt tracks. These are fine for walking but not for a road bike. I should use the runtastic roadbike app, but that means setting a route before hand and not just setting off on a whim. So there I am on a dirt track and I see a puddle, I should not go through that on my lovely bike….hop over the middle ridge and use the non-puddly side, easy!

Whack, next thing I know I am on the floor in the puddle as my tires have no traction and went from under me.

See that shiny skid, that is my flight path. It didn’t hurt and I burst out laughing once I got up. My chain had bounced off, but luckily it was on the non-contact side so the gears were ok. I just threaded it back on and cycled away to a lovely 7/11 and had a drink and a sandwich.

When I put the bag on the handle bars to hold while I drank I noticed the bar, it was a bit skewiff on that side. Bugger. I checked the brake cable and it worked fine. I decided to carry on my journey and I will take the bike to the giant shop when I get paid. Still, buggery buggerty.

On the way, I passed a cool pottery shop.

Look at all those chickens, not the year of the rooster is it?

It was flat for most of the journey, but the last 500m felt like it was almost vertical. I got off and walked/pushed. There was a boy and his family coming down and he was saying over and over, I am tired. Me too, I replied.

It was worth it, though.

I stayed a while and played with some cameras. For a beautiful shrine, it was very quiet.

Then I quickly headed back as it was already 2:30pm and it would take me over 2 hours to get back.

It was a tough ride back, I was tired and my gloves were too big, which made them uncomfortable. Then just as I was getting annoyed with my choices I saw this;

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Was I getting over tired, wasn’t Mount Tsukuba behind me?? Wait that isn’t Tsukuba, it is Fuji! I have never seen it while cycling near my house. Wow!! and then just as quickly it was gone. But it’s appearance gave me a boost and then it seemed I was home in no time at all.

I had a bath and went to bed early, 54km done. Plus one damaged bike and a scrape and bruise.

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Here is part of my route, my watch died on the way back. It has been doing that lately. I think I need to unlink the cadence sensor to reserve the battery.

https://www.strava.com/activities/817465949/embed/1b4a86acdd94f6517efa049572bd593914fc3843

New Year, New Body??

I looked at my Strava account yesterday and realised I hadn’t been on my bike for nearly 2 months. TWO MONTHS. Why? I have no idea. Maybe the weather, maybe a bad back, probably a combination of laziness and my camera obsession.

Anyway, that has to change. Recently I went for a yearly medical, which I always skipped in the past. This year I decided to go, mainly because 2016 sucked!! Influenza A and B, a huge back issue, plus other ailments. What I really wanted was the flu jab. Yahoo, with a slight cold after, I have skipped the great flu epidemics that have swept through my school a couple of times. BUT, my blood pressure was really high. I already knew it was. I bought a wrist monitor last summer to keep a track of it. It hasn’t come down. So now, I have to lose weight, have to exercise. No choice. I also have to eat better. 😦

So why wait for the first of January. Start now, and off I pedalled to a couple of shrines nearby. Just a gentle 25km to get back into the flow of things.

The first shrine I visited had a very friendly cat. Actually, it was a fertility shrine so there were massive phallic symbols around. I chose that one because it might remind me to stop being such a dick about my health.

The next shrine was completely new to me, it was getting ready for the new year celebrations. It was lovely. I think I will go back in spring.

So, a lovely ride to get back into the groove, pity it is winter and I might be tempted to quit due to the weather.

Here are my stats.

https://www.strava.com/activities/811412120/embed/a8f82a8986b2f1eeb846a1e8744b417a12fd45cc

Sunshine and Disappointment 

So for the first time in over a month, and with more bad weather on the way, there was a blue sky.


So with a friend in tow I set off for the mountain route I have been trying to climb. This was my goal for the current school year. I have not tried it for over a year due to issues I have already talk about, so I didn’t think I could do it. But try, try again.

The ride there was beautiful. We stopped for snacks at a local fruit and veg store.


I don’t think I have eaten a ripe fig before, it was delicious.

Then it was onto Fudo Pass. But NOOOooooo!


We shall not pass! My guess is that it has suffered a landslide in the torrential recent rain. To be honest, the road was never great. There were lots of pot holes and cracks. I never felt fully safe on the decent and always used my brakes.

But what to do now? I suggested a shrine, as I always do. On the way was a fantastic distraction.


This was probably the prettiest view I have seen in months. Thank you sunny sky, thank you closed road… though I hope you open again soon.

After a short picnic and rest went went home for ramen.

Here is the link to the map and stats. The flowers can be seen at the pond near the top left point.

Strava Activity

RinRin and Free Pears

I have actually been cycling a fair bit recently, but I have gotten out of the habit of adding blog posts. I have been obsessing with my camera blog instead. Yesterday I did go for a blog worthy ride, but despite the million cameras I have, I completely forgot to take one with me. Therefore no photos of my fellow riders or need for pseudonyms.

The destination for the trip was the good old RinRin Road, which of course I have written about before. Here and here and here.  I made a new map of the road because I could. You don’t really need a map until one point where the road disappears for a little while.


I even added two toilet stop and parking places 🙂

Anyway for this ride we headed to the lower stop at Fujisawa as there was a special event… Free pears from Ibaraki for cyclists. Who can resist?

Here is their website about the event, from which I stole the featured image. Hopefully you are using a web browser that will automatically translate the site from Japanese. And here is their Facebook page so you can find out about more events.

I live about 12-15km from the road depending on the entry point. There are a few teachers now living in my area so we made a village trip. Two of the attendees were children and most of us had not ridden much recently. That made for a slow ride. As you can see from the stats at the end of this blog our average speed was 12km an hour. To be honest that is not bad considering two children and two mamachari bikes with no gears.

It is a straight road to the RinRin from our village, but not the best for cycling on so we stuck to the paths, which is not legal, but much safer and rarely stopped.

Anyway, it took us a while to get there as it was a hot day. By the time we did arrive we were thirsty and hungry. The pears were delicious. After some of us headed to the mall for icecream, then we all headed home for a nap.

Here is our route and stats. The others were really curious about the Strava suffer score. I can see that strava maps are still not embedding properly, which is disappointing.

 

 

 

 

Clifton Suspension Bridge and Bristol

And on with my recovery. I decided to go a little further afield for my next ride and incorporated it into a weekend away.

Recently every time I looked for the location of something or researched something the answer always seemed to be Bristol. I wanted to know which UK city was the most bike friendly, it was Bristol. I then found out that Bristol was also named the UK’s first cycling city.

I also love bridges, for some strange reason, and wanted to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The location of said bridge, Bristol.

I wanted to get a camera fixed, the location of the camera shop – Bristol. Sorted, I had to go. So I booked my very first AirBnB room, loaded up the bike in the pope mobile (Renault Kangoo to you). You can quite easily fit two bikes in this car/van without taking any wheels off. And a shout out to my hosts, thanks for the lovely breakfast and warm welcome.

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Oh my god, Bristol is hilly. I had not read that anywhere. For someone recovering from a bad back that was not the plan. In the end I decided to walk and ride around the area. If Froome can run without a bike in a bike race, then I can push a bike up a hill.

OK, so first stop on my route was the bridge. It is very high, really high. Apparently 330ft above the water. Not good for someone afraid of heights. Plus it did seem quite narrow and I am sure the barrier should be higher. Cycling or walking over it is free, but £1 for cars. I saved £2 by cycling. I can buy a new pair of pants.

Once I was over I went to the visitor’s center then sat for a while wondering where to go next. I noticed a large green area just hill away. This turned out to be Ashton Court. It was lovely and the route to the main house was all down hill. I was not looking forward to the push back up.

This would be a great place to spend the whole day. There is even a mountain bike center. As I already had a bike I didn’t visit, just stopped for a sandwich in a stable converted to a cafe.

Then it was back up the hill and across the bridge to the Clifton Observatory.

Around this point you are forced to walk even though it is flat, due to big letters painted on the paths saying NO CYCLING. Spoilsports.

Finally I ended my journey with a trip to the zoo. I felt like I had cycled far and wide. But it turned out I only traveled 10km. Here are my stats.

https://www.strava.com/activities/664290036/embed/5c7cfbf1e542f60a168cfee3fd3df0f42e1fde96

And here are some zoo photos for fun.

Finally, cycling Pugneys and Sandal Castle

Well, what a crappy run of luck. Influenza A and probably B, bad back yadda yadda yadda. I have not been running or hardly on a bike for a couple of months maybe more. To top it all, the day before I leave for my summer in the uk something happened to my back again and I was in excruciating pain in the mornings for over 4 weeks. I ended up with daily pain killers and a back brace.

BUT guess what. I am almost ok. I am finally able to cycle around and about, though for 20km at the most. I can work with that. I can build on that.

So where did I go for my first cycle?

Just around my home town in the UK, Wakefield. There are quite a few cycling routes around and a number of websites with details. Including this one. When I had to visit my mum in the hospice I had to go up Ouchthorpe Lane every day. Boy it was hard and it only got a little easier. I really struggled this time and almost gave up, but I didn’t. Then I trundled off to a local country park and a castle. There is always a castle somewhere nearby in the UK, though they are not always intact.

Sandal Castle is on a mound and you can see it from quite a way off. But for some reason I couldn’t find the road from Pugneys Country Park. I eventually stopped to ask an old bloke walking his dogs. In typical Yorkshire fashion he replied, “Can you not see it on top of the ruddy hill?” I said I could, but did not know the best route. So he then informed me, “Well, its best to go along that path, but hark on that bloody farmer has just ploughed the damn field again.”

True enough, I pushed my bike over the field and up the side of the moat. Once I caught a couple of pokemon on the castle I headed home. Feeling refreshed and happy.

Here is my route and stats. It turns out I wasn’t as slow up the hill as I thought. It was my second best time.

https://www.strava.com/activities/661883634

Ok, so barring a change of luck I will add more rides.

 

Kokaigawa Towards Toride

Yeah, a sunny, none-windy day and I am not sick!!

I was so happy to get out on what still feels like my new bike today. I went along my usual route towards a lovely park, but then I thought, “Why do I alway turn at this point? What is the other way?”

So I decided to check and I am so happy I did. It was gorgeous. I was in a great mood so I might have had rose colour glasses on. I rode all the way to what seemed like the end of the road/cycle path. I am sure there was a little further I could have gone, but I haven’t been out so much lately so I decided not to push it. In the end I did just under 50km.

Here is my route. Seems like embedding Strava still does not work..only on the preview.

There seemed to be some work being done on one side of the dyke/levee, maybe due to the recent flooding. This website has a ton of information about that.

Along the route I saw two huge Koi-No-Bori ready for Children’s Day on the 5th May.

I spent a long time looking at them, they are so beautiful. They also made me think of the children of Kumamoto and how they will be celebrating this festival. I still get alerts on my phone telling me there are large earthquakes there quite often. Here is a website with information and ways you can help. Myself and Japan have really had a crappy year, well, things can only get better.

Here are some photos of the koi-no-bori.

I also stopped for a rest under some wisteria, which is out in force right now. Japan really is a beautiful place in the spring.

 

Rinrin and Cherry Blossoms

I haven’t been riding as much as I would like recently. Mainly due to weather, health and new hobbies. But despite a sore throat that later turned into tonsillitis I got in my rental car and drove to one end of the Rinrin.

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I have written about this road before. If you live in Japan or visit at this time of the year and like cycling then this ride is a MUST.

Why? well look at the photos and see. The road is lined with cherry and plum trees so there are blossoms galore.

At some points it was like riding through snow and unlike Tokyo it is not so busy.

As it was a little windy going out I only went as far as the castle ruins then turned back. You can see by my speeds that the wind made it an easier return. There were a few people taking advantage of the recent, rare blue sky. I even saw a film crew shooting an advertisement..or TV Show, not sure.

Here is my route and stats.

 

 

New Bike, Lucky Break

This week I decided to get rid/sell my beloved Giant Bike and get a new..Giant Bike, but one that fits. Having bought a second hand one in the uk in my size I realised that it really isn’t good to ride a bike that is too big. Here is a great blog with symptoms you might get when riding a bike and why they happen.

So I sold my old bike and a few other bits and pieces, mainly cameras, so I could afford a new Giant Liv. I love Giant because they are affordable and well made at the same time, plus the shop I go to in Japan has amazing service. For example, as soon as I walked into the shop this week they handed me a bag of shoe bits I left there A YEAR AGO!! Not when they figured out who I was or when they rummaged in the back, but as soon as I walked through the door. Plus when I said I wanted a bike that fits the assistant said, “oh yes, the blue bike is too big for you”. WOW, take my money.

So here is my new bike…

Not the best pictures in the world, but I was too excited to settle and take better ones.

This weekend I went back to my old route of trying to get up that damn mountain, cold weather be damn I am going to start trying again. So off I set. I also decided to use a throwaway camera to record this event, unfortunately the camera shop screwed up the processing. So excuse the state of the pictures.

I got to the start of the Fudo Pass with no worries at all, a breezy 12km ride from my home. Flat and clear as it was a week day. Usually this pass is heaving with cyclists at the weekend. I decided to stop a few places on the way for photo ops.

Then comes the start of the ascent. On previous attempts, at least 6-8 months ago, I got half way and then had to stop for a break, then walked/rode the rest of the way. It is about 4km long and up. This time I wasn’t expecting to even get there as I am heavier and much more out of shape. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to the up, but was really hyped about the down.

I got to 1km and stopped for water and then again at 2km. I was actually pleased with that as they were brief stops. While I was drinking a small branch fell from a tree right next to me. A morbid thought entered my head, what if I go over that on the way down..I might crash. But with little more thought on the matter off I set again basically walking and riding the second half.

Finally I get to the top and for once the picnic table is empty. I stop for a drink and a snicker. Then I notice lots of fur around me, lots of fur. And right next to me is a dead raccoon dog. Usually I am not a suspicious person, but with the morbid thoughts I had already had I started to think maybe I should go slow on the decent. Plus it is a new bike and the brakes may not be bedded in.

So off I set back down, holding fast to the brakes when suddenly on a corner right by the branch my front tyre gives up and goes flat. My wheel started to wobble and slide, but I wasn’t going fast so I could come to a safe stop. Holy crap.

Happy, safe…but now I have to walk down the hill in cycling shoes, new ones too. By the time I got to the bottom, 2km away, the back of my ankle was bleeding. I used google to find a bike shop as in my haste to go out I did not take any equipment to fix a tyre… There must be one nearby such a popular route.

YES…No 😦 shut

Dear Ms Friend who has a car… please come and pick me up 🙂 YES!!

Thank you Ms Friend, as I did not fancy walking 12km home in those shoes. Morals of the story:

  1. Listen to your instincts
  2. Carry fixing stuff even if you are not going far.
  3. Be nice to your friends (unless they are really annoying,then try your best)

If you are interested here are my stats and route on strava.com

https://www.strava.com/activities/506815840/embed/6887c0f73adff3d07e40f4c18ebc7e2af9375ee5

Awesome Cycle Day and Penis Festival

Yes you did just read that in the title.

I subscribe to a local blog that posted some interesting photos of a shrine about 10km from my house. So I thought, that is a perfect distance to cycle and is close to a cycle path I like. It was just the right distance when I have just recovered from influenza and the wind is gusting, and I hate gusting wind. So off I trot or bike and for the first time in a few weeks I was not coughing in the slightest, not even the wind could blow off my smile.

It took less time than I thought to get there. When I arrived I was surprised to see festival paraphernalia. So now you can tell I didn’t actually read the blog and was just swayed by the photos and wanting to go out on my bike. I did read it when I got home 🙂
Anyway here are my photos from the event. You can read the blog I linked to for more information, it is apparently very detailed.

I bought phallic shaped mochi..but I am not sure if you are supposed to eat it or put it somewhere as an offering (it didn’t taste very nice).

On another note I got a new camera 🙂

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This is at maximum zoom.

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This is at wide open….the above image is on top of the mountain!!! 1200mm

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I mainly got it to capture birds without changing lenses.

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“wow” says the bird, “that canon sx50hs is amazing!”

My friends pointed out that I previously cycled to a shrine with boobs, so now I am all balanced.