Heat abandon

Bicycle propped against a tree

I had network maintenance to perform at the office this morning, while no one else was around. The forecast was for a hot, partly sunny day, so I decided to ride Dionysus to the office. Once the maintenance was done, I’d check the temperature forecast and decide whether to continue riding or go straight home.

Cat just visible resting in the shade under a bus
Beating the heat

The ride to the office was uneventful. When I got to the office I immediately noticed a sign that we were in a for a hot one — a stray cat was taking shelter under one of the buses.

The network maintenance went as expected: following the vendor’s recommendation did not resolve the problem (I didn’t expect it to, but I knew I wouldn’t get any further help from the vendor until I’d taken this step) — it just took a bit longer than expected. I’d predicted half an hour to restart the network, but it was a good 45 minutes before some of the edge switches were back in action. In the meantime, I’d identified and fixed an unrelated network issue: the firewall wasn’t working, which is kind of important as it meant there was no internet.

She’s a hot one

With the network back in operation, I checked the temperature forecast again. It looked like it wouldn’t get to 33C or more until after 1 p.m., which would give me time to get down to Haneda and back before things really got nasty. I had my UV sleeves and mask, and my (newly repaired) sunglasses, so I should be all set.

Heading downriver, things were going well. Dionysus was behaving perfectly, the wind wasn’t too strong nor the cycling course too crowded. My fingers started going numb after about 5km (a big part of the reason I usually ride Kuroko rather than Dionysus when I’m not just commuting) and I was looking forward to the next rest stop in the shade. Crossing over the Tama River on the Maruko Bashi, I came up on two fitter-looking riders on really high-spec bikes. The one in the rear had what looked like a titanium frame, and I recognized the hornets-nest buzz of the DT Swiss rear hub. The one in the lead had a carbon-fibre full road racer with SRAM electronic shifting. I passed them after a switchback under the shinkansen rail, but they overtook me less than 2km later when I stopped for a break, and I didn’t see them again.

Bicycle propped against a tree
Dionysus takes a break from the heat

Not long after the first break, I realized it was getting hotter more quickly than I’d expected. I decided to stop and take stock at a place about 7km before the end of the course, where there was a park bench in the shade. I sat down to a feast of Nana’s world-famous onigiri about 10:20 a.m. and checked the temperature, the time and the distance. If I finished eating quickly and headed home, I should arrive just about noon. Plan!

Easy rider

On the way back up-river, I just kept spinning my pedals, not putting much power into it. But with the wind at my back, I still managed stretches of 30km/h when the course was flat and traffic-free. I stopped again briefly at the first rest area for water and to get some feeling back in my fingers before continuing.

Dionysus is 2kg lighter than Kuroko, and the smaller wheels — while nearly the same weight as Kuroko’s beefier rollers — accelerate more smartly. (Dionysus has a 40T steel sprocket in the rear, compared to a maximum of 34T for Kuroko, so that offsets the lighter rims. And the equal weight doesn’t extend to the tires: Dionysus’s Continental Grand Prix are at least 60g lighter per tire than Kuroko’s cushier Panaracer Gravel Kings.)

On the downside, Dionysus transmits every slightest imperfection in the roadway right up to the rider’s spine and wrists. And her agility is nice for dicing with traffic, but can be wearying on longer rides compared with Kuroko’s stability. Finally, the straight handlebars quickly bring on the finger numbness mentioned above, while I can ride on Kuroko’s drop bars for hours on end. (Well, I do tend to take breaks still every half hour or so. But that’s after a good 10km, while it’s 5km for Dionysus.)

Coming back into Futako, I was feeling the heat. Still spinning, I was just moving the bike forward and really feeling from my thighs that I didn’t have any energy to push with. When it came to the brief climb out of the river valley, I just dropped immediately to my lowest cog (that big 40T jobbie, for a 1:1 ratio) and crawled my way up. In the end I reached the top at not quite double my PR for the climb.

Dash (?) through traffic

It was about 11:10 when I reached the small park at the top of the Futako climb, and I messaged Nana I’d be home by 12:30 (giving myself some leeway). The temperature had already reached 32C, my self-proclaimed limit based on the heat bonk I’ve experienced over the past few years.

Screen captures from GPS device
Numbers freakout

Numbers freaks will sympathize with the chagrin I felt waiting at lights just shy of the 5km breaks. The truth is while I was laughing at the first one, above, I set my second-best time on the following segment. As for the latter one, I was already in traffic on my way home in the heat, and having to wait two-and-a-half minutes while just 0.5km shy of a 5km break drew no more than a wan smile. I was waiting in the shade, and I just didn’t give a damn.

For all my taking it easy and just spinning and not pushing against the weariness in my thighs, I got home from the park in just about 50 minutes, which is pretty typical. I stopped the clock at 12:07, just a hair after my unspoken goal of noon, and rolled Dionysus into the shade of the underground parking before messaging Nana I was home.

GPS records of bicycle rides
Heat abandon

By the numbers

For the two ride segments combined, I did 54.36km in 2:40:03 (3:21:51 elapsed time, not counting the 90-minute stop at the office), for an average of 20.38km/h.


Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine

With heat, rain and typhoons, I’ve been off the bike for more than a month. The forecast for today looked good, so I asked the Halfakid to join me. He agreed to a short ride, so long as we could be back by 10, and that pretty much left Haneda as our only workable destination.

Atrophy begins at 60

When I first mounted up shortly after 6 this morning, my body said, “What is this thing between your legs?” Particularly surprising as it usually has no objections. I felt pressure at first in the same location I suffered a bad saddle sore in England, but after shifting my position everything was OK. Within a couple of kilometers I was back on form, although I was taking things pretty easy.

I arrived at Futako on the dot of 7 to find a message from the Halfakid saying he’d left home at 6:30. It typically takes him more than half an hour to reach Futako, but he arrived within three minutes, while I was still fiddling with my derailleur. His Strava record now shows a string of PRs for that portion of the ride.

We made a quick jaunt down to Haneda, although when we stopped for a rest along the way, neither of us was in a particular hurry to get moving again. The day was overcast but with no threat of rain, and the path was dry — at least until we reached a familiar point under a bridge:

After that we made good time, and I set a PR of 30km/h over a stretch of 2km as we approached Haneda.

Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine
You two again?

We reached Haneda about 8 a.m. Often I’m just setting out at that time! After resting and chatting for about 20 minutes, we mounted up for the return ride.

Revenge of the puddle

I was a bit slower on the way back upstream and we fought a crosswind. The puddle was right where we’d left it — if anything deeper than it had been a month ago. The Halfakid took to the gravel to bypass the puddle this time.

After that we were fighting our way through gaggles of little leaguers who ignored our warning bells and shouts. Steady on — we got through them. We took another, even longer break, before continuing. Coming back into Futako, I could feel the aching of my thighs even before getting to the climb.

From Futako I got home without much incident. A couple of drivers cut me off, but I was watching for them.

About that derailleur

I was having trouble with a couple of mid-range gears first thing in the morning. The derailleur would keep jumping off one, and was making a bit of noise on the adjacent one. I’d just swapped out the wheels and I’d adjusted the derailleur as part of that, but evidently I’d not got it quite right. While waiting for the Halfakid at Futako I added in some tension via the barrel adjusters. That helped — the derailleur was staying in the selected gear, but it there was still some chattering on the mid-range gears, and shifts were a bit clumsy and noisy.

Finally, during a long straight stretch on the way home, I backed off the tension about one-quarter of a turn, and that sorted everything out. The gears were silent, the shifts crisp and quiet.

The tires held pressure the whole ride. I’d pumped them up before the start, the first time in the two weeks since I’d remounted the front, and in the meantime the front had held more pressure than the rear. Happy.

The only other sort-of mechanical thing was the food pouch I added yesterday. I put a water bottle in it today to give it a try. It held the bottle without any noticeable wobbling, but it didn’t make it any easier for me to drink on the fly than having the bottle in the regular bottle cage. Meanwhile, the pouch got in the way of riding on the tops, and one strap kept working up against the bell and muffling it. It did keep the bottle clean while I was splashing through the puddle, but apart from that it doesn’t really solve any problems while creating a couple more. I removed it at the end of the ride and it will go in the parts bin for now.


From Futako I’d messaged Nana that I would be home by 11. I rolled into the courtyard and messaged at 10:37 that I was home. I was starving and thirsty, my thighs and butt were aching, and my energy level was negative. After parking the bike, showering and wolfing down a lunch of fried rice (and after a lengthy chat with Fearless Leader Joe), I laid down for a nap and nearly didn’t get up again.

GPS record of bicycle ride

A bit thick

Laptop keyboard showing touchpad protruding

Some non-bicycle maintenance

I’ve had very little trouble with my latest laptop at home. I got a notification from the maker recently that my warranty was about to expire, and asking if I wanted to renew, and I just ignored it. There’s only been one issue of note, and that’s for the past year the touchpad has been sticking up from the keyboard surface. I almost never close the lid to carry the laptop anywhere, so I haven’t been too worried about it. But recently it’s been protruding enough that it interferes with my thumbs when I’m typing.

It took the Halfakid visiting to point out the obvious: the battery under the keyboard is swelling with age. So a couple of days ago I decided to open up the case, see if it would be easy to replace the battery, and check the model.

Desk with laptop cover, screws, a drink, various bit drivers and other bric-à-brac
Using the proper tools

With the proper tools at hand (including shochu and a blood pressure monitor), I was quickly able to remove the bottom cover without losing any screws or rounding the heads.

Open laptop showing motherboard and swollen battery
Well that’s just swell

Yes, the battery was quite swollen. I checked that it would be easy to replace and noted the model. I quickly found a replacement on Amazon — not a genuine Dell part, but otherwise identical. Free next-day delivery.

Replacement battery in open delivery box
Right down to the screw hole markings

Ready to operate, doctor?

Open laptop with tools on placemat
Dining room surgery

I’d put the laptop back together, so I had to take it apart once more to start. I moved to the dining room table to have a little less clutter and a little more room to work. Once I had the old battery out, I took the laptop out to the Workshop in the Sky and used a compressed air can to blow out all the accumulated dust.

Before installing the new battery, I took a minute to compare the thickness.

Comparing old, swollen battery with new, slimmer unit
Subtly different
Photo montage measuring thickness of batteries with a vernier
Not quite double

It’s not entirely clear, but the new battery is 9.0mm thick. The old battery had swollen to 16.6mm at the thickest point.

Shoyu dish holding screws
It’s a … parts tray

For a change, I used a “parts tray” to keep track of all the various screws. It worked — none lost. The computer went back together quickly, and the case halves fit perfectly. No force needed.

Laptop keyboard showing proper fitting of touchpad
After: Slim Jim

Moment of truth

With the computer back in one piece, I put it back on the desk in my den and plugged everything back in. The light under the touchpad lit up immediately, and a moment later so did the keyboard. I could hear the fan noise and …

There were a few heart-stopping moments as the display failed to come to life. I forced a restart a couple of times and then finally left it sit for a minute. At last the display lit up with a message that the date and time needed to be set in the BIOS. Once I’d done that, it took just another minute for the computer to start up as normal. Success!

All right, all right — here’s some bike content

Between rather extreme heat, typhoons and a week of rain, it’s been a while since I’ve been on the bike. In the meantime I purchased a food pouch. This is a small, deep pouch that straps on the handlebars. It can hold a water bottle or snacks, or other small items for quick access.

I’m not sure this was my smartest purchase. The smaller of my water bottles barely fits (I’ll still have to stop to remove the bottle and replace it). My handlebars are already pretty crowded. I’ll have to see if it interferes with ringing the bell, or even with resting my hands on “the tops.”

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
She’s waiting

Proof of the pudding

The forecast for tomorrow is promising. (I’ve got other plans today.) I should know soon if the food pouch is going to work out.

Rode hard and put up wet

Freshly washed bicycle on balcony above city

In the wake of two typhoons over the weekend, I had an eye on today’s forecast to see if I could get a ride in the morning, before it got too hot. Last night it was looking promising.

Rainy cityscape

It started raining by 7 a.m., and it got worse — worse than we’d had at any point yesterday. (Perhaps not as bad as it got in Chiba yesterday.) In the afternoon it cleared up, but it was hot and windy. So windy, in fact, that when I fetched Kuroko out of the basement parking, I had to keep a tight grip on the handlebars to keep her from being tossed about.

With a ride out of the question, I thought the least I could do is swap in the wheels I’d finished prepping yesterday. That took just a couple of minutes, but in the process I noticed Kuroko was quite mud-splattered. Huh. Did we go through any puddles on our last ride?

Splashing through puddles

I’m a bit lazy about washing my bicycles and I certainly don’t do it after every ride as some recommend. But Kuroko was clearly due for a bath, and I had the time and a (now) sunny, hot day to do it in. The sprayer tank was full of water, too, so I had no excuse.

Bicycle bags hanging to dry on a laundry pole

It’s really only a five or 10-minute job to spray the bike down, squirt on some cleaner, use a brush to get into all the nooks and crannies, and then spray it all off again. I just need to take care not to get things wet, like laundry, the neighbors, or our rice supply. Nana hadn’t done any laundry today, so that wasn’t an issue.

After the bath, I put Kuroko back in the stand to clean and oil the chain, and then to adjust the derailleur. It just took a couple of turns of the barrel adjuster to tighten the cable slightly, and all was good.

Finally I hosed off and brushed down Kuroko’s saddle bag and cockpit bag. I didn’t even bother removing anything from the cockpit bag first — just was careful to direct the spray away from the zipper.

And with that, Kuroko is clean and well-adjusted (something we all aspire to), and shod once again in her slicks. Now I just need a break in the heat.

Freshly washed bicycle on balcony above city
Kuroko sparkling after her bath

A nice pair

A pair of bicycle wheels propped against a balcony railing

A trio of typhoons capping off the finale of the Olympics has given us a rainy weekend and no chance to cycle. (At least for those of us not members of a national sprint team.) But it did give me a couple of free days to follow up on the leaky valve issue. In the month-and-a-half since that post, I’ve only been out once on Kuroko (mostly thanks to the heat), and I used the spare wheels I set up back in May. Meanwhile, I verified that the valve has continued to leak, and I realized that I needed to replace the rim tape.

It’s not a complicated job. I have to remove the tire (and clean up all the sealant) and then the valve, and then I can pull off the old rim tape. I did this a couple of weeks ago, and the tape all came off without too much of a fight. As soon as I’d removed it, though, I realized the sealant had worked itself in between the inner and outer sections of the rim, so I left the rim sitting upright on the balcony for a few days to drain out all the unused sealant.

I picked up the job again yesterday. The wheel truing stand is ideal for applying new rim tape, so I set that up. (It can be a bit wobbly when I’m pulling hard on the tape to make it straight, but if I brace the stand with my foot it’s all good.)

(It actually took me a couple of tries. The tape didn’t go down smoothly on my first try.)

Bicycle rim in truing stand
One taped rim

With the tape on and smooth, I made a small cut for the valve and inserted it. I had a bit of a fight getting it to seat fully against the rim — that’s the problem I’d set out to fix.

Mounting the tire went quickly after that. The new Stan’s sealant has little marbles of latex that clog the syringe, so I poured the sealant into the tire before it was fully mounted to the rim (instead of adding it through the valve stem after the tire is mounted).

Once I verified the tire was mounted all the way around the rim, I pumped up the charging cylinder, set the pump head on the valve stand and let it rip. A whole lotta whoosh, and no pop. I gave it three or four tries yesterday afternoon before giving up with sore elbows and sweat running off my body.

Final sprint

This afternoon, with typhoons to the left of me and typhoons to the right, I stuck my head out the balcony door. A bit of wind, some rain — no big deal. Significantly, it was cooler than it had been yesterday afternoon.

I spent a couple of minutes making sure the valve stem was fully seated in the rim, and then pumped up the cylinder and gave it a go. Whoosh. I checked the tire bead near the valve, making sure it was up on the shoulder of the rim and not down in the center. Pumped up the cylinder again. Checked that the pump head was secured on the valve.

Finally when I released the air, the tire bulged — first at the valve and then all around the circumference. At last, a tentative pop, and then several more final-sounding pops as the tire seated on the rim fully.

From there it’s all routine: Screw in the valve core and reinflate the tire. Swirl the sealant around to coat the entire inside of the tire. Check the tire bead all the way around, both sides once again. Bounce the wheel a few times soundly on the floor in case there’s a bit I’ve overlooked that’s not quite seated.

A pair of bicycle wheels propped against a balcony railing
A nice pair

These are ready to roll. Ideally I should get out on the bike right away to get the sealant well worked around the tire. The forecast for tomorrow is hot and windy, with a middling chance of rain, so we’ll see what it’s like in the morning. Apart from that, we have a ride planned for mid-September, so I hope to get in some miles before that.