I recently visited Hokkaido for a while and on my last full day there I thought it might be nice to go for an early morning downhill ride on Mount Teine. Located in Sapporo, Japan, Mt. Teine (手稲山) is a popular spot for local riders.
As I am rather out of shape I took the easy way out and caught a ride up the hill with my friend Shin in his Land Rover. It was nice to be able to throw my bike inside without taking it apart. We hit the top of the hill before 5:30am when it was still really quiet. It was a great morning for a ride down the hill with a moderate temperature and little traffic on the road. My back tire was a bit flat after a puncture the day before but not dangerously so (I didn’t have a normal pump to bring it up to my favoured high pressure). Shin followed me down in his SUV but I don’t think I held him up too much on the descent. In fact, on Strava I came in with the 5th fastest run overall!
I will definitely try to be in shape for both ascents and descents by next spring!
This video is of my first road ride of 2015. It was quite short and on an unfamiliar course but the weather was beautiful so it was very enjoyable. It is not the most exciting piece of footage in the world, but it fairly representative of a flat land ride in this part of Japan.
I have not been able to get out for as many rides as I would like (well, nowhere near as many rides) over the last year or two. I really hope to be able to get a lot more rides in this year!
I have a fairly long history of buying Timbuk2 bags. Although I typically use a small custom messenger as my daily bag I do have a need for a larger bag to carrying my laptop and extra gear on occasion. For quite a while I have not owned a medium-sized bag and was looking around to get a new one. While shopping with Yoko we ran across the Timbuk2 100th Anniversary Tour de France Messenger Bag in a department store here in Tokyo and it got me to thinking. Hmmm… to new messenger bag or not to new messenger bag. Yoko solved my dilemma by buying it for me as a really early birthday present! I, of course, was very happy to take it home. They actually gave it to me in the store in an even larger shopping bag (huh?) instead of asking me if I needed one, but after leaving the store I soon stuffed the shopping bag and the small messenger I was carrying into my shiny new bag and continued wandering around with Yoko.
I don’t feel that there is much I can add to the many, many reviews of this series of bags that has not already been said, but I will just run through a few main points that pop to my mind.
This specific bag was originally limited to a run of somewhere around 100 bags but was later expanded due to popularity (sometimes a good business practice).
It is still a limited edition bag and although it does not really have and specific features not available on other bags, it does have the colour stripes that move out of the typical 1/3 panel on the right side, as well as having a fun “VIVE LE TOUR” label as part of the typical Timbuk2 label/blinky light mount.
It is made of lined ballistic nylon that I have found to be very durable and water-resistant over many years. It also has their typical cam buckle on the shoulder strap that allows you to have two quickly accessible lengths that I have found very useful when I have used the bag for riding.
It includes a plain black shoulder strap, but I have never really had much discomfort without the extra shoulder padding unless I have a rather extreme amount of weight in my bag.
Internally it features an internal divider at the back of the bag that I find useful for holding my laptop (in my friendly Mujjo MacBook Sleeve), my iPad or just some papers as necessary.
It also has a horizontally accessible front pocket that is still easy to open and get into when the bag is closed, especially nice on those rainy days.
Along with my custom-made padded camera insert it is a great choice for going out on those friendly photo shoots as well!
Overall, I would say that it is a very nice bag for bike, train or foot commuting and seems to have the qualities that generally make Timbuk2 a good buy for the long haul.
*The large shopping bag mentioned has since been used as a paper recycling bag so it was actually useful before it got recycled.
As I often feel a bit tired after my long rides I was looking for a way to get my rides up on Strava as easily and quickly as possible while spending as little time in front of my Mac as possible. I fairly quickly came up with building a Strava workflow for Alfred v2 that would simplify the process. My workflow makes it easy to open the Strava site in the default browser by simply typing ‘strava’ and to upload your rides/runs by typing ‘sup’. To upload rides/runs I would recommend plugging your device into your Mac or wirelessly connecting it, waiting for it to connect properly, then just type ‘sup’ (short for “Strava upload”) and then letting Strava find the data on your default device. If you only have one run or ride on the device, Strava will automatically upload it without any further input from you, giving you a few seconds to re-hydrate or towel off a bit. It is pretty easy.
Today was a fairly hard riding day on the road (wind, rain and a flat tire during the rain) so I decided to cheer myself up and help my recovery with a post-ride chocolate smoothie. Not really feeling like searching for a recipe online and then going out to try to find the ingredients (a lot of which are often hard to find in Japan) I decided to concoct a smoothie with the ingredients I already had at home. It actually turned out really tasty so I thought that I would post it up here so you can give it a try if you feel so inclined.
My Post-Ride Chocolate Smoothie
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup of low-fat milk
2 heaping tbsp of low-fat probiotic yogurt
1 small banana
2 heaping tbsp of powdered cocoa (20-24%)
Optional: 2 pieces of 86% cocoa or higher chocolate (softened)
Just throw it all in a blender, blend it for 45 seconds or until smooth and enjoy!
Using a recipe calculator I found out that it should have about 318 calories, 10.2g of fat, 16mg of cholesterol, 164mg of sodium, 1153mg of potassium, 7g of dietary fibre, 31g of sugars, 17g of protein and a whole lot of Vitamin B-12, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Riboflavin and other trace elements. It seems like it would be a decent recovery drink, although I am not a nutritionist.
I have always liked to ride my bike all-year-round and have tried many different ways of dealing with transitional weather. Dressing for summer and mid-winter are generally pretty straightforward, but it gets a lot harder in the spring and fall. Both in my hometown on the west coast of North America and here in Japan the weather can be very unstable during the off-season. The mornings can be cold with rain showers and yet be warm and sunny before lunch. It has always been a bit tricky to dress for the changing conditions and everyone seems to have their own strategy. Always preferring to wear the minimum possible when riding I decided to try the Castelli Gabba WS Jersey.
While it is race shaped and has a similar weight to a regular off-season jersey, it uses Castelli’s Gabba and Nanoflex fabrics for better than normal weather resistance. I have found that it is pretty much wind proof and can comfortably withstand short rain showers or road spray (although the seems are not taped and do eventually let some water through). It does have a slightly high collar and seems pretty good at keeping wind out when zipped up. As I do not generally go out in the pouring rain for long rides on my road bike the moderate water resistance was fine for me, and when I did get rained on the wind resistance combined with an inner layer still kept me warm enough while moving. The jersey itself seems well made but is on the small side for fit as are most Castelli offerings. Both of the fabrics seem to breathe well.
What about my arms? Well, I already had Castelli Nanoflex Arm Warmers made of water-resistant material that seem to do enough to make inclement weather comfortable.
As for the temperature range, I have found that mixing up base layers and arm warmers can give this jersey a very large temperature range. Wearing a simple wicking inner I have found it comfortable from 15-20°C. Add a short sleeve warm inner and arm warmers and I have been comfortable at 8-15°C and with a long sleeve warm inner, wind-stopper SS inner and arm warmers I have been able to ride down to 0°C without discomfort. It is probably important to note that I tend to be bothered less by cool weather than most people, and these temperature ranges change a bit if there is significant rain involved.
Overall I am very happy with the jersey and I am happy to have it as part of my off-season arsenal. I would recommend it to anyone who does not really like wearing a jacket in changing weather or prefers a race cut jersey for those fast flat land winter rides.
There are two colour options (black or fluoro yellow) and there is also a long sleeve version available that is a bit better in cold weather.
Good all-round weather resistance for a jersey
Covers fall and spring conditions well
Race cut for reduced wind resistance
Only two colour choices
*the image used in this post was taken from castelli-cycling.com
Riding in Japan can be a bit difficult at times, and if you live in the central parts of the big cities it can be even harder to get out for rides in the mountains or the scenic countryside. Riding out of the city, especially in the summer, can be very punishing as there are many, many light controlled intersections on the main direct routes and quieter back streets can often be very circuitous. Generally the nicest option for spending the bulk of your Sunday ride time moving along nicely is to catch a train out to the starting point of your actual ride. By regulation on train lines in Japan this requires you to bag your bike.
Normally this is not a problem if you have a ‘normal’ sized bike, say, somewhere in the range to 48-56cm. There are many options for bags available at these frame sizes, some of them even being quite portable. When you get into larger bikes (like my 63cm Trek 2300) it gets quite hard to find bike bags, and even harder to find bags that fold up small enough to carry conveniently.
Enter the Fairmean 160g Air bag. It folds up into a stuff-sack that is 6x13cm, weighs under 160g and can cover frames up to 63cm. Made of a combination of SilNylon and Dyneema, these bags are light, flexible and very very packable. When folded they can easily fit in a jersey pocket or medium saddle bag, but when pulled out offer full coverage of your bike (except the seat, which is not generally an issue on Japanese trains). It only takes several minutes to prepare and bag your bike (under a minute with practice) and not much more to remove and stuff the bag. This can be important when you arrive at a station to catch a rare express train a bit late and don’t have time to spend 10 minutes getting your bike bagged. I personally find stuffing the bag back in the sack to take the longest as the extremely packable material seems to just keep on coming as you stuff it in the sack (it is quite a lot of fabric for such a tiny bag).
If you have an oversized bike or just want a really light and packable bike bag I would recommend you check Fairmean out. The 160g Air bag currently retails for ¥13,500~ and is available through Fairmean.com. There are a variety of colours to choose from so you should be able to find something that suits your preferences. You can follow Fairmean on Twitter @FAIRMEAN or on Facebook at Fairmean.
I rather like my bike. It is a 2002 model Trek 2300 that has quite a few miles on it. It has travelled between countries several times and has never let me down. Over the years many parts have changed but it still retains the same spirit. Bikes do tend to evolve over time but we evolve with them and my bike is no exception. In its current incarnation it has Campy Zonda wheels, Shimano Ultegra 6700 groupo, Deda handle bars and stem, Fi’zi:k seat and post and FSA Carbon Team cranks. It flies over the pavement but is on the ground for breaking. What more could one ask for in a road bike?
I have wanted to get a GoPro camera and shoot some footage of riding here in Tokyo and elsewhere so I finally just went ahead and got the camera. I got a GoPro HD Hero 2 Outdoor set but found the bracket a bit too light to be stable on my bike so I picked up a K-Edge Go Big Pro Handlebar Mount. After fixing the camera to my bike with the super-solid K-Edge bracket I headed out for my morning ride.
The ride itself was not a really fast one but the weather was nice and it was a good morning for shooting. I do plan to get out more in the near future, shoot a bunch of footage and make nice compilation videos, but this time I wanted to give people a sense of what it was like to do road cycling here in Tokyo.
I just went on my first road ride of 2011 as well as my first ride since I got back to Japan. I will definitely have to find a route with less complicated detours. The ride back from the Ara River (荒川) was brutally complicated and tiring with very frequent stops and long complicated detours. It was not so bad going to the river, so I will have to look into a better return route. That being said, it was just great to be riding again!