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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

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

Mount Houkyou and a break

I feel like I haven’t been on my bike for ages. It’s the end of a school year and that means reports. And for me that means working weekends as I don’t like working early or too late at school. Every report session means I have to write 30,000 words, with evidence, proof read many times. A dissertation on student achievements. And just when you think you have finished, a child does something you said they absolutely couldn’t and you have to rewrite them. Bless the little cherubs. Every teacher in the world hates writing them. If they say they don’t they are crazy or lying.

Anyway, I got sick to death of them this weekend and went out twice. First I went on an hour ride in honour of Bradley Wiggin’s and the hour challenge. I was so close, really….of course not. But on Strava.com I am first on two of the segments I created. I made them near my house and nobody else has gone on them yet 🙂 So I am the first for a day at least. I managed 22.2km, so less than half the world record, but it was windy. When I got back I tried to finish the reports, but failed. I was close to that too.

It did mean I was confident I could finish on Sunday, so I went for a cycle around Mount Houkyou. I had previous made a route when a student (8 years old) gave me a map and said it was a nice place to go. So I thought I would take her advice. I also added a few shrines to the route. I have been going up and down Mount Tsukuba recently, but I thought I would just have a pleasure ride today. Here is a gallery of photos from the route. It seems to look weird on the iMac, but click on a photo to see the full view.

Here is my route. At one point you can see I start going up “Furits Lane”, which I think is supposed to say fruits as there are many “fruits” about. But I couldn’t remember the elevation of the road and it was a pleasure ride. So I changed my mind. When I checked at home I found it was much steeper than my usual up and down route. There was also a huge snake on the road, but I always end up stopping and watching them slither away… and forget to take a photo. All in all a lovely day, and I finished my reports.

Mount Omiyama and Suwa Taisha

On my other blog I mentioned a book about shrines around Japan and there was one by itself way over to the west of me. So this Golden Week holiday I drove over, stopping along the way at a few interesting places, with my bike in the back of my tiny car. Shrines, mountains, lakes, could it get any better…yes, blues skies!

My first cycle got straight into the mountain and eventually covered a 750m climb. I didn’t cycle all of it, maybe half. BUT I really noticed the difference. I wasn’t quick, I wasn’t pretty, I was just determined.

Here are my map and stats for the ride. When you get to the park with the lake it is basically downhill from there. At that point I was thinking maybe I should have gone the other way around, but looking at the elevation map I think I chose the right way. Plus it was nice to finish at the shrine, I stopped for soba noodles too.

Here are some more details of the ride.

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This is the first shrine you will pass Onsenji Temple. I sent off quite early so most places were deserted. Basically nobody passed me the whole route..except for an old lady walking up the mountain. Old people in Japan are amazing.

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I was already quite high by this point and due to the location and height the cherry blossoms were still in full bloom. It was very peaceful compared to the Fudo Pass in Tsukuba. I even saw a wild deer wandering the hills and trees.

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Up, up, up until you get to this lake. Toilets and an information center, perfect for a picnic…if it wasn’t 9:30am. Just after this park is another, full of more old people playing croquet.

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And then down, down, down.

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On the whole journey I only saw one other cyclist, this doesn’t seem to be a busy route. It should be. BUT that means there is nothing to slow you down on the other side. You can get carried away, then you see a car and your brakes have to practically catch fire to slow you down in time.

I was enjoying the ride down so much I passed under a red bridge next to a shrine and thought, “that’s pretty, I should stop.”

But I didn’t then I realised I couldn’t see my route on the GPS due to the sun’s glare. I eventually stopped and checked. That red bridge was the shrine I was trying to visit. So back up the hill I went.

You can read loads about Suwa Taisha on the net with a quick search. Here is one site with more information on the area.

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There are so many great things to see around Suwa. I visited a few more places as you can see below.

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Then it was time for a short ride back to my hotel and a nap…unless I went the long way around the lake. There is a running/walking path all the way around its 16km circumference. There were a few families out cycling too. It is not a place to go speedy, but to jaunt and take in the view so as not to run anyone over.

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There are interesting places to stop at various points along the route, museums, statues, and a geyser.

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Up Mount Tsukuba – almost

Ok, this was my first attempt on my giant bike to get up Mount Tsukuba or rather, up the back of it. A friend told me about a quieter route that goes around the back that many cyclists use. The main route can be chocker-block with cars with people going for hikes and being all touristy.

This is the route I took.

Again I used two apps, Runtastic and Strava, with my heart rate monitor.

I compared the two apps and in this case I really like Strava. I like the comparisons over segments. If other riders have done the same route it shows how you did compared to them. I didn’t do well, but I don’t mind. This was my first attempt over this route and I can only get better.

I read this book recently: Click here for the amazon page

climb like a pro

It was interesting, but a bit too competitive for me. I just want to get fitter and up the hill, not race. But it did let me know that I need better cadence, not power. Plus when other riders were zooming past me it made me remember not to worry and I will get better.

So on with the route. As I made the route on Google maps, it did put a few rough patches in. I felt like I was on the Paris-Roubaix, which is on TV right now.

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There were no convenience stores along the route, but there was this handy local produce shop. I suggest stopping here and getting some food and drinks.

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Then eat it at this lovely park, especially if you do it during cherry blossom season. Soon after you will see other cyclists as you will start to go past carparks full of other people on this part of the route. You could skip the first bit and just go up and down from here. I wanted to do a circuit though.

Then it starts to go up. Last time I was around here I basically walked the whole way up to the torii gate or the point where you can catch a ride on a cable car. This time I rode/walked the road that takes you to the top car park. I would guess I rode 30-40% which is a huge improvement. I knew it was extremely ambition to think I could cycle all the way to the top or even part of the way, but you have to start somewhere.

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There were many other cyclists on the route going both directions. Many people passed me and it was inspiring to see them. The views were great.

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When see this bridge you still have a little way up to go, but the road starts to get much busier as it joins back with the main car route. There are cars on this route, but they are slower. After this point there are many boy racers trying out their cars, it was a little scary. I don’t think I have seen as many Lotus cars in one day. I saw some children on the route, one had a car following it with hazards on, which was a wise move.

When you are very close to the end of the ascent you will see this shrine.

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There is still a little more to ascend from this point, but then the pay off…the descent.

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There are a few measures in place to slow people down though I think these might cause issues on rainy days. It doesn’t matter how hard an ascent is, coming down the other side is awesome and worth it all. I can’t wait to get fitter and be able to get all the way up to really earn this pleasure.

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The route I made didn’t make use of the RinRin, but I decided to take it as it was right there.IMG_1648

I also decided to skip another off road section, but was greeted with a better route that took me down a street with many traditional houses. By this time my phone was dying, even with an extra battery, that seemed to affect the camera functions.

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And that was my day. This weekend I cycled 100km, spring has sprung and so have I.