Boxed in

Rented Seino bike shipping box

Now that Kuroko is fit as a fiddle, it’s time to ship her off to Ishinomaki for the Tour de Tohoku. I made arrangements with Seino transport company some time back. They’ve changed their rules and I’m not able to use either the bag I got for last year’s Tour de Tohoko or the bag I got to take Kuroko on a flight to England.

Ostrich OS-500 cycle bag
No longer acceptable: Ostrich OS-500

Also NG: Evoc pro cycle bag

Instead I decided to rent a box from the delivery company. (My other options were to purchase either a box or a cloth-sided “bike transport case” — meaning I’d have yet another bike container to store around the flat when it’s not in use.) Seino’s instructions said I’d need to take off the front wheel, and possibly the seat, and they advised me to have something to wrap the front wheel in to prevent it scratching up the bike. So I spent a little time today whipping up an envelope out of bubble wrap.

Taping together sheets of bubble pack
Taping several sheets together

Bicycle wheel in a sleeve of bubble wrap
Testing the fit before adding another layer

When the box arrived today, though, it contained a cardboard sleeve for the front wheel. It only took me a moment to realize that the cardboard sleeve would serve perfectly well, and it would be just additional effort to try to use my bubble pack sleeve in addition.

Bicycle on a balcony
Ready for packing

With the box open and Kuroko ready to go, I just had to remove the front wheel and guide her into the box. The handlebar goes sideways — I had to remove the pump from the frame because it was interfering with turning the bars fully — and then the fork rests on a pad on the bottom of the box.

Bike in a boxBike in a box
Bike in a box

With everything in the box, I only had to lower the saddle. (The instructions said I might have to remove the saddle.) I’d spoken with the driver about the pick-up time tomorrow, and he said he could make it at 6 p.m. So I’m going to have to hurry home after work to meet him.

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.

Tour de Tohoko 2019 preview

Pulling away from the start line

The routes and entry information for Tour de Tohoku 2019 have been announced. There’s been some reorganization: all rides are on Sunday now, and they’ve done away with the route I rode in 2018. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going for the Kitakami Fondo, a similar distance to last year’s ride but a bit less climbing.

100km Kitakami Fondo
170km Minami Sanriku course

Nana pointed out there’s another option for me: the 170km Minami Sanriku route. It’s essentially the same course as the Kitakami Fondo, but follows up the coastline a bit further to make a full century ride (and some change).

I’d consider the ride — the Halfakid and I are working up to a century before I fly off to England for Lejog — but for the time limit imposed, and the fear I’d be holding up the really good riders who will no doubt be signing up for this journey. Plus it’s set to start at 6:15 a.m. … Let’s not be ridiculous!

Entry for the event is set to start on April 17 at 8 p.m. I’ve written the Halfakid, Fearless Leader Joe and Sanborn to ask who will be joining me this year. From last year’s experience, I know that I should book the hotel and the bike transport as soon as I’ve confirmed attendees, and not wait for the result of the entrance lottery. (I can always cancel if I lose the lottery.) Meanwhile, I’ve just received word from Seino transport that they won’t accept my bike in the bag that I bought for the event last year. I haven’t determined yet if they’ll accept the more professional bag I bought for Lejog, or if I’ll need to rent one of their shipping boxes. (Another alternative is that the Halfakid and I could rent a van and drive all the way, but I would not look forward to the drive home after the 100km ride!)

The bicycle is in the bag but it doesn't fit
For starters, I should have taken the pedals off first

Last year, Nana and her mother came along to the event simply to stay in the spa hotel and eat their way around the Oshika peninsula. Nana told me tonight that she’ll come along only if none of the other riders I invite will join me.

The members of Group B-12 posing after the ride
Group B-12 at the finish

Some disassembly required

The bicycle is in the bag but it doesn't fit

Nana informed me several weeks ago that Seino Kangaroo service was available to have my bike delivered for the Tour de Tohoku. It sounded a lot better than humping the bike up and back on the shinkansen (which I’ve done before — to Kyoto).

Unfortunately, I was really busy with other things at the time she brought it to my attention, and then I put it off a bit too long before getting back to it. Nana and I finally had a look at the site on Sunday. It seemed pretty straightforward, and we could even rent a box for the delivery. When we tried to place the order, though, we hit a snag. It looked like we were being told we couldn’t have the bike delivered until after the Tour de Tohoku was finished. After some poking around with the various options, though, we finally figured it out: I was too late to get a rental box. As soon as we selected the option of packing the bike ourselves, the rest of the order fell in line.

The delivery charge turned out to be nearly three times what I had first thought. And the kicker: They’re going to pick it up on Sept. 5 for a Sept. 15 event! I assume the early pick-up is necessary because it’s a very big event and Seino is at its capacity limit. But the important thing is that only left me two days to get everything ready!

Ostrich OS-500 bike bag
Ostrich OS-500

The immediate issue was my current bike bag: it’s a very light bag that can be rolled up into a small package, but it’s not padded at all. Seino requires a padded bag to protect the cycle. So I got on Amazon and found a bag that could be delivered in one day.

I got started on the packing this morning. I brought the bike up from the parking garage nice and early, when the elevator’s not in high demand, and I soon had the wheels off and made a stab at getting the bike into the bag. But it was immediately apparent it wasn’t going to fit as is.

The bicycle is in the bag but it doesn't fit
For starters, I should have taken the pedals off first

Taking the pedals off was a no-brainer, and I should have thought to do it before taking the wheels off the bike. With the help of a long-handled pedal wrench, though, I was able to get them off without reassembling the bike first. Then the question was how much else I’d have to disassemble before the bike would fit in the bag. I wanted to avoid taking everything off because I only have to put it all back on again for the tour, and then have it all off once the tour’s over and I need to put the bike back in the bag.

The first thing was to lower the saddle. It’s a rather narrow saddle and so I don’t have to remove it completely, but I did have to remove the dry bag from under the saddle first. Another trial fit in the bag and still … not quite. And so in the end it was the step I’d been trying to avoid: removing the handlebars. Fortunately it all came apart quite easily with the multitool, and I didn’t even lose any parts!

Me in my den, struggling to get the bike in the bag
Yes the handlebars really do have to come off

The good news is I feel I’ve had my exercise for the day, without having to put on my helmet and cleats!

Bike in a Bag

Game on for Tour de Tohoku!

Tour de Tohoku jersey

I got my mail confirmation for the Tour de Tohoku. I’m ecstatic! I never win lotteries.

Lots to do now. Need to book the hotel: Nana and her mother are coming along for the trip, although I couldn’t talk Nana into working as a volunteer on the route (much less joining me). I also need to figure out how to transport the bike up and back (as well as which bike — watch this space!).

(I have until Sunday to confirm my spot and order the jersey.)

I do not hope

E-mail notice choice

The event site used for the Tour de Tohoku has Japanese and English (and Chinese and Korean) language choices. Naturally, I selected English to create my ID.

Then once I had my ID, I realized the Tour de Tohoku event was only available in the Japanese section. (It’s there in English, but only for service members.) So I switched to Japanese and … my ID didn’t work. I tried a password reset, but it said there was no such ID.

So I created an ID all over again in the Japanese section, and then found the Tour de Tohoku ride I wanted. That took a couple of tries because the rides are listed separately for the two dates. In the end I found the ride I want and applied.

I received the confirmation. My name is in the lottery. I’ll hear the result on July 3.

The image above is from the English ID creation. Most of the translation was better than that. On the other hand, it took me a couple of minutes to realize that “Tool” was referring to “Tour” …

Entry postponed for Tour de Tohoku

Paul Smith Tour de Tohoku bandana

From the sound of it, the initial entry for the Tour de Tohoku was overwhelming. The organizers have taken a lot of criticism to heart and revised their system and schedule accordingly.

The new date to watch for me will be Thursday, June 7, at 1 p.m., with results to be announced on July 2 at 5 p.m.

I’ll by trying for the 100km Oshika Peninsula Challenge Ride Group. It sounds like they’re running the entry for two weeks and then holding a lottery, so there’s not necessarily an advantage to getting in first. Still, I’ve marked my calendar for Thursday at 1 p.m.

As a special bonus, this year all riders and volunteers will receive a Paul Smith-designed Tour de Tohoku bandana (pictured above).

Tour de Tohoku

Tour de Tohoku

Nana, my partner, has been egging me on for at least two years about this one. A charity event every September in Tohoku, with the proceeds to go to the reconstruction effort there. I’m not going to write a lot about it yet, but just make this post to consolidate some resources for future reference.

It’s got quite a climb just about at the halfway mark, so I need to sharpen my chops (and lose some weight) in preparation. But overall, it’s not a lot more climbing than we did recently on the Shimanami Kaido ride.