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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 ūüôā

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.

 

 

Bumble Butt and Expenses

I have managed to stay on track this week despite a foray into Japanese Pub territory. I even turned down a drink someone had bought me because it was full sugar coke not diet. It takes a bit of umph to say no to a ready bought drink, but I knew my friend wouldn’t mind and there were others happy to drink it. I have also been out on my bike a bit and got up early to run. The results are that I have lost another 2kg and not had any cravings or hunger.

On the way back from the pub I had to use my old bumble bike to traverse the 7.5km home as I had an alcoholic drink earlier in the evening and Japan is zero tolerance. Though I know this applies to bikes as well, my thoughts are thus. I was not inebriated, I live in the middle of nowhere and use rice field roads, it was 1am and probably wouldn’t meet another vehicle, it was cold and didn’t want to sleep in my tiny car, my friend offered to let me use the old bumble bike……NEVER AGAIN.

  • Bikes are supposed to glide downhill, this one did not. This bike said,”Oh you stopped pedalling, you must want to stop?”
  • Bikes usually pick up speed when you pedal, this one did not, “Pedal like a mad woman, I refuse to go more than 5km.”
  • Bikes should be comfortable, “I am going to reform your butt into a mystery shape that spells pain.”
  • Bikes should be able to go uphill in a lower gear, “forget it, I ain’t going up no hill, nope, no way.”

I almost gave up and went back to my car. I learnt my lesson, bumble butt received.

Oh I love my Kendama bike (just ’cause I put a sticker on it). It glides downhill with a whoosh of delight. You can pack it to the brim with stuff and it says, “yeah baby load it up, I will still get you up that hill, you can even put eggs on top and I will protect them with my life.”

 

So, I used my bike to go grocery shopping this week to help with the fitness plan. And what the hell is with the price of healthy eating. I have never spent so much on food in my life. I know in Japan fruit and veggies can be ridiculously priced but still…$2 for 8 sprouts?? Hey, let’s make the fruit and veggies really expensive, but supersize the eggs.

Well, I guess it is all worth it. I have lost 4kg, have more energy and whopping big eggs for breakfast.

 

New beginnings and regaining fitness

Today I had no excuses. I was waiting for a package to be delivered, the amazon tracker said it was not nearby yet and I was bored. The sky was blue, my butt is fat…time to get back on the bike.

Recent events have given me an obsession for photography, especially 35mm film cameras. That and reading has kept my mind off other things. Anyway while I was out I wanted a good photo of the bike and the blue sky, but no kick stand. I remembered reading a great blog about a magic stick. So that helped in this instance. I thought it was a weird thing to blog about at the time, but now I am grateful. Though I had no stick, I did have a water bottle. Voila.
 Perfect for instagram and a little needed break. I have found that recent events, new obsessions have lead to a lack of exercise and increase in fish and chips. This has cumulated in a gain of 10kg. Totally worth it. But now I feel the need to lose it again and get back to semi-fitness. Being back in Japan means a lack of readily available fish and chips and an increase in bike roads nearby.

Before all this occurred I could run 5km without thinking too much. I could also cycle 100km with a bit more thought. Now I have had to start a couch to 5K program on week one and don’t even talk to me about butt ache after just 20km on the bike. The good thing is that I have been at this stage before, I know I can do it, I know I can get better. It is just annoying to know that I ran the Tokyo Marathon in 2012, though I was close to last, and now I have to start again.

I really understand now why those 400lb people on “year to save my life” shows say, “well my mum/dad died and I ate everything on the planet to feed my grief”….or words to that effect. But that is not what mum would have wanted, it is not what I want.

So with blue skies and a fat butt I am on a new journey, a new beginning to fitness. Less maps, more thoughts. And maybe by cherry blossom season I can get up that damn hill.

We all have a journey, we all have a bridge to cross.

Surprise Cycle in Negombo, Sri Lanka

After everything that has happened lately I decided to extend my layover on the way back to Japan. I was supposed to be in Colombo, Sri Lanka for 20 hours, lovely thought,  I changed it to 5 days. I booked a place that was close enough to the airport to be convenient, but far enough away to relax. I looked at the ratings on booking.com and chose a place with a high rating with good value. It is in the middle of nowhere so unless you like your own company or are with friends who are adventurous, it might not be the place for you. If you like relaxing and can keep yourself occupied then it is perfect.

I am sure I read this quote once, “If you are bored in your own company then your company isn’t very good.” I am not sure who said it, wrote it..or if I made it up myself, but I think it is true.

Anyway, I love it here…I am the only guest in the whole complex. The cook showed me how to make roti and took me to her friend’s house for tea and biscuits.

But, I can only sit around for so long and asked if they had a bike..the cook lent me hers for the morning. As you can see from the map, there is one road. I could either go north or south. As I walked north yesterday I headed south as far as my butt could stand..or sit.

Here is the link for the ride details.

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This is a strip of land separating the sea and a lagoon.

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It is north of the capital and close to the airport.

If I had my giant bike I would have thought about going all the way around the lagoon. But this is the bike I had…

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No gears, a bit flat, seat too low..but beggars can’t be choosers…brakes worked though.

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My first stop. Basically if I didn’t stop at the churches I might not have stopped at all. This is quite a religious country.

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No lock, but this seems such a friendly, safe country.

At first I was worried about the traffic, they seemed to drive a bit crazily on the drive from the airport. But here I felt very safe, even with no helmet. The buses and trucks always beeped when they were approaching and gave me lots of space.

I saw lots of school boys on bikes, all going a leisurely pace. I seemed to be going quite quick in comparison. A few of the boys cycled by the side of me and chatted, asked questions. They seemed surprised when they asked where I was going and I answered I didn’t know.

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Even the dogs are relaxed.

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Another church, a little man let me in this one to wander around.

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I stopped for churches and puppies.

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Eventually I won its trust, but not being able to offer a home there wasn’t much I could give other than a smile.

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When I got to this canal I saw a beautiful blue bird. It looked and acted like a kingfisher, but I couldn’t get a photo.

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I did see this nest though.

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Later I saw I had captured a bird inside.

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and another kind…but no kingfisher.

After a quick search I found the bird I had seen, an Asian Fairy-Bluebird. The entry says it is usually seen in pairs and I did see two, so I definitely think this was it. So not a kingfisher..they are elusive.

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Yesterday a man invited me into his hut for tea, he had nothing but was willing to share. I said no and regretted it. Today a fisherman asked me to sit and chat. I said yes. He invited me out on his boat tomorrow morning…I said no, I am not that much of a risk-taker.

In all I rode 14km and my butt felt like I had done 60+ I am not sure I will borrow the bike again as there is only one road. But it was a lovely experience.

 

 

 

Back to cycling in Japan’s heat

My summer break is almost over. I have returned to my current home in Ibaraki. Practically as soon as I got back to my home I was out on my bikes. Though I did buy a cheapo run around in the UK, I missed my regular bikes. So I went out on both as soon as I could.

The regular – I call kendama – I used to go to the shops on a 20km round trip to pay bills.

The giant – I used for a jaunt along the river route, which is my go to route when I just want to get out without going far away. I am not uploading route maps or pictures as I have already talked about these routes. This is purely a blog blog post.

When I told a friend I had cycled 40km that day she was amazed as the weather here is hot and humid. A real feel of about 35-40 celsius. But I believe if you are prepared it should be ok, no silly stuff allowed. I have suffered from heat stroke in the past and it sucks. So, I am cautious now.

I bought a new water bottle to make sure I had two good, clean ones for the bike holders. They get dirty you know. Plus I bought a helmet inner cap with a removable neck cover. Plus a neck water cooler, they are about $1 and awesome. The neck coolers do dry out quickly, but there are plenty of places to resoak them here. Here are some good points about the caps from Amazon.

I also have a bladder pack for longer jaunts, but I am not feeling the urge to do that in the heat yet, maybe next weekend when I have recovered from jet lag and before school starts. Here are some websites with more information about cycling in the heat. Why write about it if others have done all the work. Thanks though ūüôā

4 keys to cycling in the heat
Protect yourself in hot humid weather
How it affects you and what to do

I really want to focus on getting fitter, lose weight, and getting up that damn hill. Over the summer I found out I have high blood pressure so losing weight, exercise, and better eating habits should help bring that under control. I bought a wrist monitor to check my readings and usually they are between above normal to high. The good news is I had an almost normal reading this morning after returning to cycling most days. Yeah. If it is not under control by the winter break I will see a doctor. No need to panic right now.

Keep calm and carry on cycling.

Cycle to RSPB reserve – Fairburn Ings

Today I took the chance to explore my hometown’s area. I never really owned a bicycle when I lived here. I had motorbikes and cars, but I don’t think I explored areas like I do now. I followed my usual method of looking online for interesting places, well, interesting to me. I plumped for an RSPB nature reserve to do a spot of birding. The closest reserve to me is Fairburn Ings. I love the RSPB, they make seeing nature easy and interesting. They have activity days, well marked trails, interesting information and they take care of wildlife, awesome. I am a member and proudly pay just a little bit each month to hep this wonderful society. So be warned there are more bird pictures than bike pictures today.

Getting to the reserve took me passed other places that I had forgotten about, some within walking distance of my home. And of course lots of cycle paths..though they seem to be more routes than paths.

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Here is my Chav outside Stanley Marsh Nature Reserve. That is a visit for another day. Many places around my home used to be mining areas. As that industry has moved into history, as you can see on the link above, many of the old collieries have been turned into nature reserves.

There are a lot of fields of wheat and other produce around too.

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I cycled through Castleford where I first started teaching, a lovely memory.

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Then a few more kilometres to my final location and birds, birds, birds. Just don’t go tI o far as you might end up in another county.

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Birds, birds, birds…no.. rain, rain, rain, so coffee and cake in the visitor’s centre until it stopped and then birds, birds, birds.

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Yeap, I did see a few robins and other small birds. There are larger birds there, but I had an appointment with a plasterer and had to start the ride back.

Here is my route there. Here is my route back.

Did you notice I put a new seat on Chav as the other was so uncomfortable and I added a kick stand, just a water bottle holder to go.

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The fattest seat ever! No need for cycle shorts on the Chav!

On another note I don’t know what has happened to the wordpress website but inserting photos into this blog was a pain in the butt today. It added the make of the camera as a title to all photos, which I had to remove. Also they were harder to move around. I hope this is not permanent and I am curious to see the final published version.