Thursday, 17 April 2014

Garmont - Dragon tail approach shoe

If like me , you are not a fan of clipless pedals and prefer the flexibility of using a flat pedal and a good quality outdoor shoe you will most likely have found the perfect shoe that works for you. As for me I like a wide fitting approach shoe that has a vibram sole that is comfortable for a 12 hour bike ride on flat pedals and allows you to walk around in comfort at the end of the days ride. I thought I have found such a shoe in the La Sportiva boulder X as many online reviews claimed it was comfortable and durable. Unfortunately for me my pair of boulder X shoes have fallen apart in less than 4 months, first a small tear developed in the suede upper that enlarged quickly over a few days ,then just the other day whilst doing up the laces the suede lace tab completely broke in half. So pictured below is the model of shoes that I wish I had not purchased !

I am not a shoe designer , but I believe that the lacing system pictured on the above shoe is poorly designed and yesterday I purchased a pair of Garmont dragon Trail approach shoes which are almost of the same design except for the lacing system which uses traditional eyelets rather than suede tabs. They too are wide fitting with a vibram sole and only time will tell if they are better quality , but they certainly look stronger. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Two cycle tourists

A while back one of my blog followers from Australia named Pual Evans informed me he was coming to Japan on a cycle tour and would look me up once he arrived in Niigata. So on Sunday he dropped by Furumachi Bicycle and had a chat about his adventures on the road and cycling in general. After work we went to Cafe Velo for a drink and told me about another cycle tourist called David Onizuka from the US who also happened to be in town that night but on Sunday night they were not able to meet up , but they ran into each other on Monday and both dropped by my shop for a chat. I am quite jealous of cycle tourists that drop by my shop as I did several long cycle tours years ago and its great fun to spend several months on the road touring around looking at new places and meeting interesting people along the way. So guys best of luck for the rest of your journey and if you are ever back in Niigata City again please drop by and David get rid of that Gel seat cover that on your new Brooks B17 !

Here is a link to Davids website

Cheers Don

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Niigata City Ride 2014

The other day the new posters for the 2014 Niigata City Ride were delivered to my shop, apart from the same local talent group on the posters it was nice to see a new course for 2014 , one that has a decent climb up and over Mt Kakuda on the outskirts of Niigata city. In fact it was Brian & I that first proposed this event long before the city and the local Niigata cycling Assn took over to organize it, in our original plan the course did go over Mt Kakuda  so at least this year riders will get the chance to ride a more interesting course this year. By the looks of the photos on the poster the food provided this year will be better than the small meager portion that was served up to hungry riders last year & I am sure as years go by this event will only get bigger and better each time . Online entries open at 10am via sports entry on the 15th of April and because there is a limit on how many riders can take part this event fills up really fast. With 2 courses of 33km and 120 km there is something for everyone and hopefully by the time June the 8th rolls around the weather should be pretty nice. This year Brian & I are working for the event as mobile bicycle repairmen , that means we will be loading up our bags with tools and ready to lend a hand to any cyclists who gets into trouble along the 120km course. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Merino wool

As a New Zealander and a lover of the great outdoors , I'm very happy to see that finally merino wool is gaining popularity around the world as the garment of choice for outdoor adventurers . Kiwi's have always known that there is nothing like a good quaily jumper , sweater to keep you warm on a cold winters day. But todays 18.5 micron merino sports wear is a far cry from the prickly garments my mother made me wear as a kid. These days merino wool sports wear is not only fashionable, but super light and very comfortable. Most of the high grade merino wool comes from the Island where I grew up - which is the South Island of New Zealand. The merino sheep here lead a tough life battling the elements in all kinds of weather from tough winter snows to hot dry summers. The great thing about merino wool sports wear is that it can be worn for days on end without smelling, keeps you warm and dry even when sweating , retains its original shape due to its spring like micro fibers. And once washed drys quickly making it the ideal garment for under wear, base layers, socks, long sleeve T shirts etc.  On walking into your nearest outdoor store you may get a shock at the price of some merino wool garments but considering the benefits it's well worth the investment if you are keen on the great outdoors. The handsome chap in the above photo is from New Zealand and lives not far from were I grew up !

Friday, 21 February 2014

Sierra Designs Tents: Stash 1

After my one week tour into Fukushima and back last Oct , the one thing I really wanted to change was my tent. My current tent is a 20 year old New Zealand made Fairydown alpine 2 man tent and while it served me well on a 3 month cycle tour of the South Island of NZ back in 96 it is far too heavy for solo bike packing. In NZ I divided the tent up between myself and my touring partner so it was not so heavy to carry, these days I am aiming to get my entire load down to 10 kg so after many months of research I have finally ordered the tent featured in the You Tube clip above which is the Stash 1 solo tent from Sierra Designs. Its very light weighing in at only 1.1kg and reading online reviews from other cyclists who chose this tent they have been very happy with its performance in all weather conditions. Many cycle tourists end up carry far more than they actually need, I did on my very first 3000 km tour and it only took me a few days to realize that I needed to find the nearest post office and send half the items back home. These days I am a great fan of bike packing and through over night rides and my one week tour last year I now know what I need and what I do not need to carry. So I am now looking forward to spring to arrive so I can get out and do some more over night bike packing trips.    

Friday, 14 February 2014

45 North - Greazy merino cycle cap review

Pictured above is one of 45 Norths most popular products apart from their fat bike tyres of course. Its the Greasy 100 % merino wool double layer cycling cap. It fits comfortably under your helmet and the ear flaps work fantastic in winter, keeping the cold winds at bay and once off the bike you can raise the ear flaps which then looks like a standard cycle cap. The brim is flexible so you can stuff the cap in a pocket or bag and pull it out when needed. This winter I have hardly taken it off as its so comfortable. If you are looking to keep your biscuit warm this winter look no further than the greasy !. Check out the other products from 45 North as well , their specialty is winter cycling and for a new company have a fantastic range of well designed products that work well.  

Niigata by Bike

Hi Everyone

Well as its winter here in Niigata and not a lot of riding can be done my cycling pal Brian & I decided to build a new website dedicated to cycling in Niigata ken - called Niigata By Bike . The main aim of the website is to introduce Niigata ken to cyclists from abroad or foreigners living here in Japan as it is often very difficult for non Japanese to find basic information such as camp sites, bicycle shops and touring routes. On Niigata By Bike we have listed some of the many rides we have done in Niigata ken over the last 15 years and we will be updating the site with more info later on.  Please feel free to check out the site listed at the link below and we welcome any other ideas you might have to make the site even better. Both Brian & I have toured extensively throughout Niigata Ken over the past 15 years and we have discovered some fantastic places to ride and will be out on the bicycles exploring again as soon as spring arrives . If you are interested in coming to Niigata and would like some advice on cycle touring please check out the website first and if you have any further questions please get in touch with us.