More tune, more up

Bicycle against bicycle railing overlooking city

The forecast was for rain today, and Nana and I made plans (including sitting at home waiting for a box of spokes). I thought it would be a good opportunity to tune up Kuroko a bit more. On last week’s ride the shifting worked fine, although the gears were still making a bit of noise. And the rear brake could use a bit of tightening up.

Bike stand, spare wheel and tarp on balcony
Working at a higher level

As it turns out, today has been cloudy, hot and humid, but there’s been no sign of rain. I waited for Nana to go off to the spa and then got Kuroko up in the stand once again. I went over and over the derailleur adjustment, front and rear, and shifted through the whole range of gears repeatedly. I’m pretty sure everything is going to be fine now.

The rear brake was at the limit of the barrel adjuster, so I tightened up the cable a bit. At the same time, I checked the rear thruaxle. It has a way of working loose. It’s all good now.

To spare my back, I raised the bike stand up a bit higher than I have in the past. It allowed me to get at the gear and brake adjustment without bending over.

Finally, with a bit of water and a soft towel, I cleaned up yet more mud that Kuroko had brought home from England. Every time I look, I find a bit more.

On climbs and their (relative) steepness

Regarding this post about a steepish climb in my near future, the following conversation took place.

Fearless Leader Joe:
You can handle that. It looks vertical on a map, but for 20m I bet that horrible one in Devon was worse – the one that I said as we were freewheeling down, “thank goodness we’re not going up this one”, to which you replied “Wait!”, and then we went up it on the other side.
Guy Jean:
Did we really only have that conversation once?
Cycling elevation for Templeton Bridge
Templeton Bridge

I do wonder if that’s the part he’s talking about, although that’s only 9% for a rise of 90m. There were definitely some shorter climbs that were steeper …

Maybe there’ll be an escalator

Tour de Tohoku route showing elevation

That’s the course for this year’s Tour de Tohoku, coming up in just two weeks. There’s a fair amount of climbing there, but not more than I did on any given day of Lejog. But what’s this little blip near the beginning of the ride?

Detail of route elevation
Detail of route elevation

Just to the right of that vertical line: It’s not even 20m of climbing but … it’s vertical?

I turned to Map My Ride to get a clearer view of the elevation at that point.

Elevation at start and end points of climb
That’s … 20%

The climb is only 80m horizontally, but just a hair shy of 16.5m vertically. That’s a 20% grade — actually 20.6%.

It’ll be all right … ?

I remembered getting into some climbing around there last year, just after leaving the first rest stop at Onagawa Station, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle (that came later). Should be fine, right? But a closer look at the route showed I was wrong: we’d taken a different route away from Onagawa Station.

I turned next to Google Maps to get some idea of what’s going on. When I zoomed down to Street View, it just showed some turns, on some older-looking pavement. I scratched my head, and then zoomed out a few notches.

Satellite view of steep climb at Sakiyama
New construction at Sakiyama

The road used to go around that hill, right by the water side. Now, apparently, it goes over the hill.

The good news is we’re taking that hill from left to right (heading southeast), after a nice flat stretch to build up speed. Because from the other direction, it’s even steeper.

Satellite view of Sakiyama construction
Sakiyama reverse angle

As the full course elevation shows, there’s a lot more climbing to do than this measly 20m — we top 60m just another 900m further on (average 6.7%), and the biggest climb is just before the midpoint at a 90m rise over nearly a 2km run (average 4.7%). But these are considerably less steep.

Tour de Tohoku route showing elevation
Tour de Tohoku route showing elevation

I haven’t calculated all the climb percentages — if I do that, I may not want to join the ride! But it looks like overall the course matches my experience from last year: the longest, highest climb is going to be far from the most challenging one.

Good thing I’ve lost so much weight in preparation.

A tale of two BBs

SRAM threaded and FSA press fit bottom brackets

The replacement bottom bracket for Kuroko arrived today, and I’m still debating whether I want to attempt the swap before the upcoming Tour de Tohoku. It’s making some noise now and not spinning as freely as it should. But when I last tried to remove the crankset from the BB, it was stuck. If anything goes wrong I have just a couple of weeks to get it right — and parts need to be ordered and shipped from Italy.

Meanwhile, the US-made bottom bracket for Ol’ Paint is still sitting in my room, waiting for the arrival of the crankset (and some minor details like me finishing up the sanding and painting of the frame).

So, which is the base-grade American bottom bracket bearing and which the super Italian job at more than three times the price?

SRAM threaded and FSA press fit bottom brackets
Which is the special Italian race number?

SRAM GPX Team (English threaded) [L] and FSA PFBB86 [R]

(Incidentally, this is the first picture where I overrode the auto settings on my new camera. And then I used Photoshop’s shake reduction filter.)

That’s a lotta bull

Bull warning sign on fence in front of field

Fearless Leader Joe and I crossed a lot of cattle guards as we made our way across England. Each time we did, I was curious why — were we riding into a grazing area? I had a few seconds to contemplate this each time because FLJ would usually dismount to cross the guards. (I just ploughed right through.)

All this wondering came to an abrupt head one fair afternoon when we found ourselves winding along a path in the midst of a herd of cattle — some of which had horns on their heads! I very quickly ascertained that, despite the horns, all the cattle present were sporting udders. And I’m happy to report that they were far less interested in us than we were in them.

Return to Otarumi Touge

Two cyclists pose in front of the entrance to the Takaosan cable car and lift

With the upcoming Tour de Tohoku having so much climbing, I thought it was important today to have some practice. Otarumi Touge (pass), near Takaosan, is perfect for this. There’s a gradual rise of almost 200m over the more than 40km from Tokyo to Takaosan Guchi, and then a 6% rise over the last few kilometers to the top. What I wasn’t counting on was leaving my legs home in bed today.

Two bicycles in a park
Father-son activity

The day started off well enough, but once we crossed the Tama River and began following the Asa River westward, I started lagging. The Halfakid commented on it several times.

Where’s your energy today?
Guy Jean:
In the past.

I’m not sure why I was lagging so much today, but the heat was definitely playing a role.

Cars on a road leading to the mountain pass
Miles to go — upwards

We stopped at our usual convenience store, with its bicycle stands and picnic tables in the shade, and ate Nana’s world-famous onigiri. Also some fried chicken, cheese, etc. A group of cyclists, all wearing the same gear, came rolling in from the direction of the pass. The Halfakid and I joked about whether I had the energy to continue. I said, “OK, let’s get going. Or, you could go and I could wait here for you, eating ice cream.”

Once we set out, the Halfakid asked if I would make it up to the pass without stopping to rest. “That’s a very, very good question,” I told him. In fact that was the goal — I’ve come close but not made it in the past, while the Halfakid always rides “Straight — to the top!” But I’m sorry to report that after I’d only gone about half way, I just needed to stop and rest. After that, it was go for 100-200m, and then stop to rest. This was the pattern I’d followed during the longer climbs on the recent ride in England. After each rest when I set out I felt refreshed, as if I could continue onwards from there. But then inevitably, before 200m or so had passed, I found myself needing to stop for a rest again. I started looking for turn-offs that would be in the shade, particularly if I could see a long stretch ahead where there was no good place to get off the road onto a shoulder.

Cyclist in front of road sign for Otarumi Pass
Otarumi Pass

All good things must come to an end, and eventually even listless climbing in blazing sunshine and heat will bring one to the top of the pass. I looked in vain for a seat in the shade, and eventually sat in the gravel with my back against a woodpile as I drank cold water from the vending machine — but at least I was in the shade! “Wake me at 5 a.m. so I can get to work on time,” I joked with the Halfakid.

But the truth is that it’s generally downhill from that point all the way back to home. Once I’d rested enough to continue we plunged back down the mountain to the convenience store in Takaosan, after stopping for a photo at Takasosan Guchi.

Two cyclists pose in front of the entrance to the Takaosan cable car and lift
Takaosan Guchi

The Halfakid was a bit confused, because he’d stayed with me throughout the descent, whereas previously I’d left him in my dust. “Is there a problem with your bike?” I told him that — unlike the previous time — I’d been riding the brakes the entire way down. I just didn’t feel as brave this time around all the blind curves on the descent.

I had a pork bun at the convenience store and we shared a bottle of ocha. From there we continued home. And suddenly, I felt as if I had my legs! I’m not sure how much of this was the fact we were trending downhill (although at this point imperceptibly — at any given moment the path appeared to be level) and how much was due to the well-known phenomenon that the horse is always faster on the way back to the barn than on the way out. Meanwhile, at those points where the path was straight and familiar, the Halfakid was rocketing ahead, to wait for me at the next turning point.

From the convenience store in Takaosan, we went straight to the bridge taking us back across the Tama River. Back into Tokyo, as I think of it, although truth to be told today’s entire ride was within the boundaries of Tokyo. (The place we stopped at Otarumi Touge is just a step over the border into Kanagawa Prefecture.) Our usual rest spot is within view of the bridge from there. After a rest of several minutes and many milliliters of water, we continued down along the Tama River towards home.

Bicycle leaning against a wooden railing overlooing a reflecting pond
Almost home

Whether it was Nana’s onigiri, consumed en route, or the retreat of the temperature from the day’s high, or a combination of these things, I really had my legs back at this point. We made good time beating our way back downstream along the cycle path before heading into city traffic. We took one final break at a small park just where our route diverges from the Tama River, and I messaged Nana with an update of when she could expect me to be home.

From here I let the Halfakid take the lead as he knows the way, and we dodged in and out of traffic. There are a couple of significant climbs in traffic along the way, and I set personal bests on them (according to the Garmin). I left the Halfakid at his apartment and continued to push myself for the remaining 8km to home. Was I rewarded? Indeed: a new personal best for 40km of 1:37:24 (largely downhill, of course).

Tuning up for tomorrow’s ride

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city

I spent time today tuning up Kuroko for tomorrow’s ride — wherever that may take me.

I received a new saddle bag this week. Fedex and Seino put their heads together and attempted to deliver it twice while I was at work before I called them and said it was OK to leave it in the security box.

Topeak saddle bag
Topeak saddle bag — good but too limiting

Apidura Backcountry Saddle Pack
Apidura Backcountry Saddle Pack — room for onigiri

The Apidura bag is expandable and will allow me to carry onigiri and even a windbreaker without having to carry a musette. (I doubt I’ll need a windbreaker tomorrow, but it will come in handy for the Tour de Tohoku next month.)

It doesn’t look quite as nice here on Kuroko as it does on the maker’s site (especially as I’d missed the saddle rail with one of the straps — which I subsequently fixed), but I expect it will be fine once I’ve packed it full of onigiri.

Apidura Backcountry Saddle Pack
Apidura Backcountry Saddle Pack

After switching the bags, I tackled the rear wheel next. It was clear from last week’s ride that I hadn’t tightened the spokes enough when I replaced the right side. I checked them with the tension meter and ended up tightening them all about another turn and a half all the way around. The wheel is sitting closer to the center of the bike now and it’s nice and true (or as true as I can get it just by eyeballing it in the frame).

Checking spoke tension
Checking spoke tension — that’s about half what it should be

Discovered in the process: the new spokes are thinner gauge than the previous ones. And that’s exactly the spot you want to have your thickest ones.

My final job today was to (once again) adjust the rear derailleur. Before I started though, I noticed the chain had started rusting. It was fine last week! Chalk it up to the typhoons, which have brought us plenty of rain.

Bicycle chain with a light film of rust
A light film of rust

Bicycle chain after cleaning
Nice and clean

It just takes me a few minutes now to clean and oil the chain. Adjusting the derailleur took a bit longer. Before I started I once again watched Calvin Jones’s excellent guide.

Armed with that fresh in my mind, it only took me a couple of tries to get it right. Let’s see now how good of a job I did!

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Ready to ride

The rims have arrived

Alexrims DM18 bicycle rims

I got notice yesterday that the rims had shipped, and to expect them today. Then the driver tried to deliver them yesterday, while we were out. When we got home I found the missed delivery note in the box.

This morning I asked Nana to contact the company to arrange delivery, and she asked them to bring it between 7 and 9 p.m. today. So I was a bit puzzled when I got home from today’s ride to hear the chime and announcement that I had a package in the delivery box.

“That must be something else,” I thought. “No way we have a delivery locker big enough to hold a pair of 26-inch rims.”

After having a shower and snack, I took the delivery locker card and went to the first floor to pick up my package. Then for the first time, I noticed a row of really, really large delivery lockers. “I guess it could fit in here,” I thought. Unfortunately the door would not open. The latch kept making a “ker-chunk ker-chunk” sound, and after a minute the console announced that the door would not open.

The woman working at the front counter gave me a slip with the delivery box company phone number, and Nana phoned them. They told us to try again, and after we’d used our card at the touch panel to hold our apartment key to the same panel. That did the trick — the locker opened up and revealed an enormous box.

Enormous Amazon delivery boxTwo bicycle rims on a chair
An enormous box and two new bicycle rims

The box held an enormous amount of packing paper and two shiny (and matte) new rims. So now (as noted yesterday) I need to get some spokes and start building.

Alexrims DM18 bicycle rims
Alexrims DM18 bicycle rims

These rims were my final choice after considering a lot of options: they’re inexpensive, the right size, and an almost perfect match for the existing rims (which are by the same maker).

Hot, sweaty and flat

Two cyclists in front of Haneda Peace Shrine

We chose to ride to Haneda today, a short ride, because of the brutal heat and the fact I hadn’t verified everything was working OK with Kuroko. By the time I’d reached the Halfakid’s apartment, I knew that I had to tighten up some of the spokes in the rear wheel following the spoke replacement job. But aside from that and the rear derailleur needing some adjustment, Kuroko seems to be in good shape. I’ve got a replacement bottom bracket on order, but if it ain’t broke then I ain’t gonna fix it.

The Halfakid encountered a bit more pressing of a mechanical with a flat on the rear. I had a pump and he had a spare innertube and some tire levers, so it didn’t take us long to get back on the road.

Cyclist with bike upside-down, removing the rear wheelCyclist inserting innertube into bicycle wheel
Removing the wheel and inserting a new innertube

The flat gave us a good excuse to have a rest in the shade and drink some water. Despite the fact we’d loaded our water bottles with ice, just 45 minutes after leaving home the water was already warm. After sorting out the flat we stopped after another 5km to refill our bottles before continuing on the final stretch to Haneda. We were riding into the wind and we could both feel it fighting us. For a while the Halfakid let me slipstream him, and it made quite a difference.

Two cyclists in front of Haneda Peace Shrine
Haneda Peace Shrine in the brutal sunshine

At Haneda we sat in the shade to eat onigiri and drink cold water from a vending machine. According to my phone it was 35C, making it hotter than my last ride two weeks ago. This was precisely the reason we wanted to take it easy!

The ride home was hot and sweaty, but with the wind. The difference in speed was as much as 6-7km/h over the ride down into the wind. My rear derailleur was making more noise, but I judged it would get me home without trouble. We came to the climb out of the Tama River valley, 20m up at a bit more than 4%, and even the Halfakid said he was dying. But he was up the hill long before I was and waited for me in the little park at the top. From there the ride home in traffic was uneventful.

Haneda Round Trip route
Haneda Round Trip route

The peak temperature was not as high as my last ride, but the average was higher. The vertical drops in temperature indicate when we were sitting in the shade: to fix the flat tire and to have the onigiri.

Temperature profile
Stinking hot

Finally, Mr Gouty Toe was aching moderately all day. Not being gouty, but just reminding me that certain lifestyle choices have consequences.