Blog Archives

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

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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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Upgraded and Serviced, Giant are Awesome

ok when I say upgraded, I don’t mean my whole Giant bike, I mean bits of it. A friend gave me some vouchers for a Trek shop, so I went for a look. The bikes were very expensive, the shoes were expensive, even the bags were expensive. So I used my vouchers to get new gloves and a new phone holder as mine were a bit tatty…but the bikes were beyond my meagre finances.

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Just up the road was a Specialized shop too, today would be a cycle to all the cycle shops day. The Trek shop was friendly, but basically I was left alone to wander about. It was posh and a bit expensive. The Specialized shop also seemed to be expensive, not so friendly either.

So I decided to cycle to the Giant shop, I do have a giant bike after all and I thought, well I can’t get a new bike, but I can get some new handlebar tape. Plus my gears had been jumping a little so a service was a possibility too. When I walked into the shop I was immediately approached by a friendly staff member, so I took advantage. I tried on some shoes, I asked questions and all the time the staff were great. In the end I bought the shoes, new pedals, handlebar tape, and got my bike serviced. It’s not even a special bike, just an older model, a bit beaten up too. But the staff treated me like I had bought a pro bike. I love Giant.         

I knew the old pedals were stuck, I tried to take them off before and failed miserably. The Giant staff did it and said the thread was broken, but it is ok now. There were a few other things that needed addressing, but they did it all for the $30 service.

Now, I have never used clip on shoes before and was a little nervous. But again Giant service was awesome. They put my bike on a stand and gave me training. They made sure I could clip and unclip before I left the shop. They told me how to do it safely. On my 10km journey home I did not have a single issue and loved my spanky new stuff. I even gave my bike a wash.

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.

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.