Monday, 17 December 2007

What to do when it's raining ?

Well winter is here now and recently it's been about 4 deg most day's with constant rain which for a cyclist is not a lot of fun. So because of the terrible weather I've been using the local bus this week to avoid getting drowned on the way to work. Also due to the wet weather my rear brake pads have worn down extremely fast and with the rain & grit from the road my rear rims have a nice con caved surface now which means that next year I'll need to replace my rear rim at least. I think I'll fit a Araya super hard anodised rim to the rear as that way it might last a little longer. To keep in shape for my summer cycling adventures and to burn the various calories that I enjoy eating I have taken up rock climbing again. Many years ago I climbed quite a lot in New Zealand's south Island little did I know how lucky I was at the time with several large crags less than an hour from my home. Now as I live in Niigata city the local climbing area's are few and far between in Niigata ken. But just 5 mins walk from my house is an indoor bouldering gym with plenty of routes to keep most bouldering fans happy. Pictured above is a photo of the local climbing gym.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Rust : The cyclist's enemy

Pictured above is a classic example of what could happen to your bike if you left it outdoors everyday in the elements. I pass by this bicycle everyday on my way to work as it's sitting outside a dry cleaners and I can't believe the owner hasn't taken it away as it's un ~ rideable due to the amount of rust that has eaten many of the parts away, most noticeably the saddle or what's left of it now. After living in Japan for several years it always strikes me as odd that the average Japanese person has no idea that a bicycle needs a little oil now and again to keep it running smoothly. On three occasions I have witnessed rusty chains fall off bicycles while the owner was cycling, and then the owners discarded the bike like they would a chewing gum wrapper by throwing it onto the foot path and walking off " Unreal " . I sometimes think of the Monty Python sketch of the Bicycle Repairman who comes to the aid of a stricken cyclist in trouble, but in my case I would only need a can of CRC Oil to help them out. But if I were to undertake such a challenge I would have no time to work as I would be forever oiling the millions of rusty bikes that people commute on everyday.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

A bicycle side car

Up until the 1950s in the UK bicycle sidecars were popular with families as a way to transport their children on jaunts into the countryside. These days there have been very few bicycle side cars made and if so are nothing like the wooden framed, alloy bodied sidecars that were once popular. One of the major manufacturers of bicycle side cars were Watsonian who by the way is still in business producing motorcycle sidecars. Apart from the company mentioned above there were others and one of these is a bicycle company called Armstrong Cycles Ltd a bicycle manufacturer from Birmingham. Looking through an old issue of Cycling (a British magazine ) from the 1940s I found an add for their side car. Which I've decided to copy. At present I have almost completed the wood frame and the next step will be to fit the perspex windows etc. As this project advances I'll post updates of how the side car is progressing. It's a winter project so it may be finished some time next year. Pictured above is the work that I've done so far and the add for the Armstrong sidecar. Also the bicycle it will be fitted too when finished which is a 1947 Humber Sports

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Nozawa Eki

Pictured above is a photo of me at the Nozawa Eki ( train station ) , I didn't think I would have made it at one stage as I had lost a lot of energy and had to walk up the last hill and I didn't have the power left for any hill climbing at all. I felt rather embarrassed pushing my bike up a gentle slope when cars drove by ,but I was so tired I didn't care anymore. After a nice quick downhill into Nozawa we met up with route 49 and asked a local family directions for the train station. After arriving at the station Brian took off back up the road to the local supermarket to buy some beer & snacks while I cleaned my bike and packed it into my bike bag for the journey home. The beer tasted fantastic after such a long day in the saddle and even though we were both physically exhausted we were glad to have completed our ride. After boarding a train at 5.35pm we headed back to Niitsu station were we changed trains to an express train that got us back into Niigata station at 7.30pm. This is one ride I would never attempt again unless it was in a 4 wheel drive.

The Tadami river

After finding out that we couldn't catch the train we headed along route 225 towards the turn off of route 400 , along the way we passed through some very nice small villages which had flower boxes along side the road and were very clean & tidy. This area is quite famous for sightseeing so it looks like the locals make a big effort to keep their villages looking good, hoping to attract any passers by to stop for lunch along the way. Pictured above is a photo showing a small village along the bank of the Tadami river.

Aizu Kawaguchi

After being shaken to bits on the downhill I knew than when we saw the dam we were about to finish our off road section and meet up with route 225 alongside the picturesque Tadami river. We were both relieved when we reached the sealed road along side the river and because we were both tired we headed for the nearest station which happened to be a JA ( Japan Agriculture) railway station at Aizu Nakagawa hoping to catch a train into Aizu Wakamatsu where we would then change trains to head back to Niigata City. But it was not to be as when we arrived at the JA station the next train was due 2 . 5 hours later so we had no option but to press on for route 400 which would take us over a low range of hills ( not more bloody hills ) into Nozawa where there was a station. Pictured above was the welcome sight of the dam

The unsealed downhill

Even though the above photo shows a slight climb most of the road from the summit was downhill. This is the only photo I took on the way down as I was very tired and the road was very rocky with large wheel ruts that we had to dodge on our rough ride to the tadami river. This section of road was the worst we had encountered so far and I'm quite surprised our bicycles handled it as the ideal bike for this trip would have been a fully suspended downhill bike.

The summit

Finally I came around the corner to find Brian at a car park which turned out to be the border of Niigata & Fukushima and the 1350 mtr summit. I was so tired that I could have easily feel asleep right there on the grass in the sunshine. By the time I arrived at the summit it had taken us 5 hours , it was the hardest hill climb I had ever done in my life but I managed to get to the summit somehow and as it was 12pm I ate some more of my power bar and tried to gather the strength for the next stage which was 18 km of rocky downhill to the Tadami river in Fukushima ken.

Out of water

Due to the amount of climbing and the power bars I was consuming I soon ran out of water and started to feel very tired. I knew if I could find some fresh water I would be able to make it to the summit, so I told Brian to ride ahead and wait at the nearest water stop. About 2o mins later I came around the corner to find Brian at a curve in the road with a concrete low wall next to a small waterfall. My prayers had been answered and I was overjoyed at the chance to refill my 2ltr camelbak for a much needed drink. The ice cold mountain water tasted great and gave me the boost I needed to make it to the summit. Pictured above is one very happy cyclist at the water fall.

A view of the road

If you look carefully at the above photo you will be able to see part of the road we cycled & walked up. There were often drops of several hundred meters into the valley below and the last Niigata earthquake had also caused some damage to the road as well.

Nowhere near the top

The photo above shows me nowhere near the top as the road seemed never ending and each corner I came around thinking it may have been the summit was just another hill climb which seemed to get steeper and steeper all the time until I was forced to get off and walk. I managed to keep my energy levels up with plenty of water ( thank god I bought a 2 ltr camelbak ) and power bars but it was still very hard work getting to the summit. Along the way we met several people who had parked their cars by the side of the road to pick wild chestnuts as now is the best season. I couldn't understand why someone would drive so high up a mountain pass just to pick chestnuts when you can find them down lower were they would be easier to pick.

On the way up the Mountain

After spotting the Kamoshika we continued our ride up the valley and were fortune to have a nice smooth road to ride on , after completing the ride we have decided that Niigata ken spends a lot more money on roads than Fukushima ken as on our way to the summit most of the Niigata side was sealed and there was even evidence that some of it had recently been sealed much to our delight. Pictured above is Brian showing the condition of the mountain road on the Niigata side of the border.

A rare sighting

Not long after passing the entrance of the mountain rd we were coming around the corner when something caught me eye on the side of the mountain , it was a Kamoshika or Japanese serow a rare and protected species of Mt goat. In all the years I've been cycling here in Japan I have never seen one so I reached for my camera but as soon as it had spotted us it took off quickly up the hill into the tree line. I found the information below on the net as well as a good photo of one to give you some idea of what we saw.

The Japanese serow stand 60 to 90 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh 30 to 130 kilograms. Japanese serow are mottled brown and white and black underneath. Their fur is very bushy, their tails especially. Both sexes have short 10 centimetre horns, which curve backwards.

The start of the mountain rd

After passing through the last small village we then arrived at the start of the mountain rd which we had come to do, there was sign warning travellers to be on the lookout for bears as they often frequent this area and another sign stating that the rd was open for traffic. Just to the right of where I'm standing is a historic cave were it is rumored a family once lived. The road from here was mostly sealed with a few short stretches of gravel.

A fantastic view

After cycling for a while in the cold fog we came around the corner to the view pictured above, it was like another world as the narrow valley had widened giving us a fantastic view of the surrounding mountain ranges bathed in the early morning sunshine. It was hard to believe we were in Japan as we had never seen any this spectacular before in Niigata ken. Pictured above is Brian on the bridge we we stopped to take several photos.

A foggy morning

After assembling our bikes we headed up route 227 through several small villages and were greeted by foggy scenes such as the photo above. This view reminded me of the many Japanese hanging scrolls I have seen over the years as quite often you can just see the ridge line of the mountain covered in fog. As you can imagine it was still quite cold at this time but we didn't have to wait long before the sun came up and then we were greeted with blue sky.

On the way to Tsugawa

Pictured above is a photo of Brian just after we boarded the train to Tsugawa. Japanese Railways or as they are commonly known JR are very kind to cyclists as bicycles can travel for free as long as they are contained in a bicycle bag, these bags are strong and lightweight and are available from most bicycle shops in Japan and make travelling by train very easy.

A Border crossing

For a while my cycling partner Brian Southwick and I had talked about riding over the border from Niigata Ken to Fukushima via a mountain pass road where the summit is 1350 mtrs. Little did we know that undertaking this ride would be so difficult and tiring but we did manage to complete it even though both of us were extremely exhausted and we often thought of giving up. We met at 4.45am at our usual meeting spot in Bandai and rode at a quick pace out of the city and across to the town of Niitsu where we wanted to catch the 1st train that departed at 6.06am . After riding at a brisk pace we arrived at the station at 5.50am which meant we had to pack our bikes quickly into our bicycle bags and sprint for our train which we just managed to catch in time. From there we had a 40 min ride up the valley to Tsugawa which is where we got off the train and assembled our bicycles ready for the large ride that lay ahead. By the time we had assembled our bicycles it was around 7am and it was rather cold and foggy. After making our way through Tsugawa we found route 227 which would lead up towards the hills and the mountain road that we wanted to take. Pictured above is a map showing the route we took.

Monday, 24 September 2007

A map of the route

Please excuse my poor looking map but it's the best I could come up with at present . The above map shows the route I took from Tsugawa over Mt Dai Tengu then across the over the range of mountains into Murumatsu. The overall distance from Tsugawa to the picnic area before Murumatsu was only 50km but because of the climbing if felt like a lot more. After entering Murumatsu I then headed to the nearest train station which was Gosen only to find out I would have to wait an hour & a half for the next train . On discovering this fantastic news I then headed to the nearest supermarket for some food and rode on to Nittsu station where I was able to take a 3.35pm train back into Niigata City. I ended up back home at 4.30pm drinking a nice cold beer to finish off the day.

A view of the valley

Just before entering the town of Murumatsu I stopped to take a photo of the valley I had just cycled down. The mountains in the photo above shows the range I had cycled over and a popular local picnic spot by the river on the left hand side. Also you can see on the right hand side of the photo a local family busy harvesting their rice.

The local transport

After the decent I came out upon the river valley leading to Murumatsu where everybody was busy harvesting the local crop which is the world famous Koshihikari rice considered by many the best rice in Japan not only for eating but also for the production of Sake as well. This particular valley is said to have very delicious rice because of the quality of the water & climate. Pictured above is one of the local farmers on his rice harvester.

On the road to Murumatsu

After the decent I had another tough hill climb over the saddle and down towards Murumatsu which proved to be tougher than cycling over Mt Dai Tengu. This road is used a lot more often than the previous roads I was traveling over that morning. On the decent I passed through a small Mt village next to the road and in the picture above you can see on the right hand side a KURA which is a traditional store house.

The decent

The decent into the valley below was a lot of fun and the views were fantastic. I had never ridden this road before so I took caution on the decent as it wouldn't have been a good place to crash with 200 meter drops off the side of the road into the river below. The photo above reminded me of South America ( as I've seen photos that looked similar ) . It must have been a lot of work to make this road cut into the rock face considering the amount of traffic that would use it.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Mt Dai Tengu

After an hour of climbing I had finally reached the summit rd along the top of Mt Dai Tengu, it was a little overcast so the view was not so good but I still had some pretty good views of the Agano river far below. It was along this river that I had taken the train to Tsugawa early that morning. There were even a few passing spots along the road as it was quite narrow in some places. After stopping for a short time near the summit I started off on a fantastic downhill into the valley deep below. Pictured above is a view from the top of Mt Dai Tengu

A Roadside sign

Along the road there were several intersections that are not marked on any of the maps I have, these are small concrete side roads joining up with the main rd over Mt Dai Tengu. And most of the intersection's had a sign board erected to show drivers were they were so they wouldn't get lost. Pictured above is the 2nd sign I came across during my journey.

The road condition

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was surprised to find this road concrete as it was easy to see nobody uses this road at all, except maybe for the Electric company who would need to service their towers now and again. As quite often near the summit I could see freshly cut tracks leading to the electrical towers. It might have been used more often in the past but now as you can see from the above photo it is heavily overgrown and you can just make out the white lines beneath the grass.

A mountain village

After leaving the small valley I had passed through I continued uphill hopefully towards the summit and on entering a dense forest of cedar trees I came across a small village of about 10 houses or less. On my way uphill a few cars had passed me, so this is where they were heading I guess as they were no sign of cars using the road beyond this village. The houses in the village were very old and it looked as though time had stood still here for the last hundred years as the only signs of modern life were the cars parked outside a few of the homes. Pictured above is a glimpse of one of the old houses taken through the forest.

What the hell is that ?

From a distance I saw what I thought was a soldier standing guard next to some rice drying on a rack, but on closer inspection of the soldier I realised he was only a poorly made scarecrow with a cheap plastic face mask with a horrible cheesy grin and a badly made rifle & helmet. His rile looked to be constructed from wood and painted green & black, I couldn't work out what model his rile was but I'm sure it scares the crows anyhow. Pictured above is the loyal soldier standing guard over the rice stalks.

A small valley

After winding my way up slowly in middle gear through the village and passing the last few remaining houses I was then riding through the forest & to my surprise the road was concrete and not gravel as I had expected. Not long after climbing I came upon the first of many small valley's where there were a couple of rice fields and a small farmers shack, but no houses were in sight. Pictured above is the small valley I rode through.

Tsugawa town

Pictured above is a photo I took just as I was entering Tsugawa from the bridge into town. Tsugawa is famous for their annual Fox wedding festival based on an old folk tale and their rowing club as on the opposite side from this photo the river is marked out into racing lanes for rowing competitions.

Tsugawa to Murumatsu

Well as I had a day off last Sunday I decided to explore a back country rd from the town of Tsugawa over the Mt range towards Murumatsu. I cycled to Niigata station and using my bicycle bag I was able to board a train bound for Tsugawa where I arrived at 9.30am. After un packing my bike I headed across the bridge and through the tunnel into Tsugawa , it had been drizzling early in the morning but the weather was nice and cool for cycling. Pictured above is a photo of the small Tsugawa station just before I started my ride.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Return to Niigata

After filling up on water we both cycled downhill back towards Mikawa Eki and upon arriving at the Eki at 2.15pm we saw that the next train bound for Niigata station was due to arrive at 3pm. So after packing our bikes back into our bicycle bags we went across the road to the convenience store for the food, the pickings were slim being it was almost mid afternoon but we found enough to satisfy our hunger for the time being. I have since heard that the ramen shop across from the convenience store in Mikawa sells fantastic giant goza ( maybe I'll try that next time ) . Not long after boarding the train for Niigata at 820 yen a ticket it started to rain so we were rather glad to be sitting in the train than cycling in the rain. We arrived back in Niigata City just after 4pm and met our mutual friend Brian who kindly offered us a few refreshing drinks by the river. It's amazing what you can get up to on a Sunday in Japan. Pictured above is Sunil at the highest point we reached on our ride.

What happened next ?

Well after a long slog up the mountain we came to a fork in the road where we had two choices, one being to continue straight ahead but there was a warning sign that stated the road was closed and unsafe or a road to our right which had a metal barrier but was concrete. I had noticed throughout our climb that motorcycles had been along this road as the tracks were quite fresh but we didn't know were they had started from and as our water supply was getting low we took the road past the metal barrier. This was to be our big mistake of the ride but we thought we made the right decision at the time. After riding up the concrete road it soon stopped and turned into dirt again but to our delight it went downhill. We thought our hill climbing was over and were looking forward to a nice downhill into Tsugawa Eki but it wasn't meant to be. As to our great surprise the road ended on a bluff and merged into a narrow hiking trail not suitable for cycling. So after a photo stop we had no choice but to ride back up the mountain and down to the metal barrier. As I was getting under the barrier I saw a group of 12 - 15 Macaque monkey's on the road about 20 mtrs in front of us, but they quickly took off back into the dense forest. From there we headed down hill and upon turning a bend we came across 3 motorcyclists on dirt bikes who then informed us it was not far from fork in the road to the sumit and then it was downhill towards the Onsen above Tsugawa village. They also stated there were a lot of snakes along the road as well. So feeling tired and not to keen for even a few more kms of hill climbing we made the decision to head downhill back towards the natural spring as we were both out of water as it was very hot. We had a fantastic quick downhill and were back at the spring drinking cool refreshing water in no time. We learnt a few lessons from this adventure, one get a better map book, two maybe we should have done more research on road conditions before we started, three we should have started earlier. Pictured above is the view from the highest point we reached throughout the day.

The road condition

As you can see from the photo this was the condition of the road, we had no idea that this road was not concrete and were both surprised to find such a rough road. Although we both had Mt bikes my tyres are Mt Bike slicks more suitable to concrete roads than this kind stuff. But to my surprise I didn't lose traction at all and was able to ride all the way to the top. Along the road I heard some strange sounds which I thought were Macaque monkeys and spotted a few high up in the trees in the distance. Later on we were to both see quite a few snakes and a large group of monkey's along the road.

Natural spring water

Luckily for us in the Mt village was a fantastic natural spring that offered cool refreshing water, so I emptied my water from the 2 ltr camelbak drink system which I had and refilled it with the fresh spring water that tasted a lot better than the water from my tap at home. Little did we know that this was to be our last water stop for several hours. After filling up our water bottles we headed up hill on a concrete rd that went on for about 5 km or so before turning into a rocky dirt road. I was surprised there were no downhill sections at all and we just kept going up & up. For anybody not used to hill climbing this would have been rather hard work, I took plenty of rest stops to allow Sunil to catch up, but this time it had become quite hot and a little humid which made things a lot tougher for both of us. Pictured above is a photo of myself filling up my camelbak from the natural spring

A Mountain Village

Pictured above is Sunil climbing up into a small Mt village, this was the only village located on the road that we took and there were only a dozen houses our so and a few roadside ponds full of carp.

Mikawa Yanaba

After cycling up route 14 we passed over the Araya river we we spotted a " Yanaba " Fish trap located in the river. We decide to take a closer look as these are not a very common site in Japan. A Yanaba is a traditional fish trap constructed in the river usually where the river narrows but in this case a channel had been made especially for the fish trap. The trap itself is a lattice of poles which are spaced about one centimeter apart and set at an angle in the water, submerged upstream, but gradually reaching a height of 2 meters above the water line downstream. Because of the spacing of the poles the water is able to flow through freely, but the Ayu which is a Japanese small river fish are not so Lucky.

Mikawa Eki

After getting off at Mikawa Eki we started to assemble of bicycles and then headed up the road through a short tunnel along route 14 towards our turn off just past Mikawa Elementary school. Mikawa station is an unmanned station and there is nobody to give your tickets too so you just put them in the rubbish bin, although our tickets were checked by the conductor onboard. Pictured above is Sunil outside Mikawa station with our bike bags before the start of our ride.

Mikawa to Tsugawa back country rd

Well as the weather has started to get less humid I decided to explore a back country rd from Mikawa to Tsugawa through the mountains. My cycling partner for the day was Sunil another English teacher who lives in Niigata from Texas, after making plans through the week we met at Niigata station at 7.30am on Sunday the 9th of Sept. After finding out it was free to take your bike on board Japanese trains we decided to give it a try and it was a fantastic way to get deep into the mountains without battling the traffic along the busy road next to the Agano river. Several other cyclists were boarding trains that morning as well and after an hour we had reached our destination Mikawa Eki ( Eki = Station ) . Mikawa is a tiny village with a population of 4116 ( as recorded in 2003 ) , but in April of 2005 Mikawa merged with 3 neighboring villages to form the town of Aga. Pictured above is a map showing planned route ,although we didn't complete the full circuit we had a great day out in the Mountains. Read the next few posts to find out what happened.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ayu Fishing

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I saw some Ayu fishermen in the Araya river . Ayu fishing is a popular pastime in rural Japan as I often see people fishing for Ayu in the local rivers. The Ayu is a small territorial fish and the lure used represents the Ayu with some hooks attached. Fishermen then use a 9 - 10 mtr rod to try and hook them from below. As the Ayu is very territorial they will fight with another fish invading their patch of the river and when this happens they get hooked. Fishermen also use the fish they have recently caught as bait to attract fish as well. Pictured above is some Ayu Fishermen in the Araya river in the hills above Mikawa

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

View from the Agano river

The above photo of the Gozu Mt range was taken from the bridge on my way back into Niigata City. This is the mountain range that's in the center of the big loop that I rode around. I left home at 7am that morning and returned at 3pm, covering a distance of 122 km and drinking 10 ltrs of water. Now the weather is so hot I won't be able to do another long ride like this until Sept at least.

Mountain Village

The above photo shows a typical Niigata mountain village, there are many of these villages along side busy mountain roads throughout Niigata. In the summer they are very nice places to visit but in winter the heavy snow in these villages can reach over 2 mtrs in some cases. These villages are manly inhabited by older people and because there are no shops at all they have to journey over an hour or more to larger centers for their weekly shopping etc.

Araya river farm house

Pictured above is a typical rural farmhouse , originally these houses would have had thatched roofs but over the years many home owners have covered the roofs with corrugated iron or roofing tiles painted blue. As there are fewer people around now capable of re thatching a house and it's very expensive as well, that's the reason for the above mentioned alterations. This house is situated up the valley next to the Araya river.

Araya river

After departing Akatani Village there were a few small hill climbs followed by some fantastic downhill sections towards the village of Mikawa. Before reaching Mikawa I took a side road and followed the Araya river , I had often wondered what was up this valley on previous rides along this road and as I had plenty of time I decided to do some exploring. The photo in this post was taken from a small bridge further up the river , it seemed to be very popular spot for Ayu fishing and the water was crystal clear giving the fisherman a good chance to spot any fish that may have been lurking. It is easy to spot Ayu fisherman as they use a special rod which is about 9 - 10 mtrs long and they are often fully clad in wetsuits. After taking the photo in this post I headed up the road further alongside the beatiful Araya river, usually Japanese rivers have large concrete embankments but the Araya river is very natural and not unlike rivers back in my homeland of NZ. The road seemed to go on for quite a distance so after a while I turned around to make my way back to the main rd towards Mikawa.

An Akatani village house

When I lived in Shibata several years ago one of my favorite places to ride was up the cycle path towards Akatani village where some friends of mine lived. On passing through Akatani yesterday I noticed that many of the older houses in the village had fallen in to a state of disrepair, part of this would be that many of the younger generation have left small rural villages like this to take up jobs in the city rather than continue farming etc. And because of that many of the family homes now remain empty and run down. A few families have moved from the city to these rural villages taking advantage of the cheap rent and the quiet lifestyle but not enough to make a big difference. Pictured in this post is one of the more attractive houses located in the village

Shibata to Akatani cycle rd

After heading along route 290 I took a short cut over a small hill behind a local golf course to meet up with the Shibata to Akatani cycle rd. I used to ride this cycle road quite often when I lived in Shibata and it brought back many fond many memories of the trips I took while living there. This was the first time I had been back to this area for 6 years so it was nice to be cycling up the valley towards Akatani once again. About 8 years ago the Shibata city Govt constructed a fantastic cycle road on the old railway line from Shibata to Akatani, the original line went beyond Akatani further into the hills to the coal mine. Even though the cycle rd stops a little short of Akatani village itself , it offers cyclists & walkers fantastic views of the local country side with rest stops & toilets along the way. It is not only used for recreation as many locals who live along this cycle path use it regularly to commute to work or school. So in my view it would be better if local Government's spent more money on projects like this, than building more highways that are not heavily used because of the high road tolls involved. The photo in this post shows a view of the cycle road looking towards the hills of Akatani

Sasagami Mura spring

After leaving Niigata my first water stop was in the village of Sasagami where I knew of two springs that would be perfect for filling up my 2 ltr camelbak . I stopped by a spring that is well hidden near a school, behind a sports field. After waiting a few minutes for some locals to fill up their large water containers I then filled my camelbak up with fresh cool spring water. These fresh water springs are fantastic and the water tastes so nice as well, often people from the city drive out to these countryside locations to collect their weekly water supply. Pictured in this post is the Sasagami mura spring

The big loop ( distance 122 km )

Well as I had a day off yesterday and I knew it was going to be fine , I decided to do the big loop which was a ride from my home here in Niigata City out along the Agano river and across to Sasagami mura and along route 290 towards Shibata City then up the cycle rd into Akatani and down to Mikawa and then back to Niigata City. It sounds easy when you put it like that but in reality it's a very hard ride with some decent hill climbs and the hot humid weather made it even tougher. I noticed a temp gauge in one village that read 32 deg and if it wasn't for owning a 2 ltr camelbak ( drink system ) I wouldn't have attempted this ride in such hot weather as I consumed 10 ltrs of water throughout the ride. I stopped at fresh water springs to refill my camelbak throughout the journey and had lunch at a convenience store at Mikawa station before heading back along route 49 back into Niigata city. Pictured above is a map showing the big loop

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Sunday Cycling

Yesterday I took my first ride out into the suburbs of Niigata City with Brian Southwick on my new 24 speed Kona smoke. After riding through the outskirts of Niigata city we then had the pleasure of cruising through quiet neighbourhoods, a far cry from the busy traffic in the city. Passing along one street we spotted a very old wooden post office complete with it's old round style post box. We were surprised to find such an old post office still standing as a lot of these buildings get torn down to make way for more modern developments. Further on we saw a park in the distance and on closer inspection found a large pond packed with local fishermen, all looking for some space in which to fish. It seemed like the whole neighbourhood was here enjoying themselves. Pictured above is a photo I took at the pond.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Sturmey Archer hub mishap

A week or two ago I had a mishap on the way home from work one evening, as there was a bang followed by a big crunching sound from my 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub. It had been skipping in 1st gear for a while but I put that down to old age as the bike is 60 years old. But after the mishap with my hub I have been forced to borrow a friends bicycle while my new bike arrives. I have ordered a 24 speed Kona Smoke for commuting to work on and general touring as it will be more reliable than the Humber for daily use. But I haven't given up on getting my fathers Humber back on the road again and I've had a kind offer from a fellow 3 speed bicycle nut who has offered to repair my Sturmey Archer hub for me. I think now that I may have been a bit hard on the Humber as I did a few long rides deep into the hills of over 80kms or so. So once I have the Humber back on the road again I'll take more care of it and only do modest short rides so as not to damage it etc. In the meantime I'll continue this blog but I'll be using my new Kona smoke for touring on instead of the Humber.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Swan lake brewery

After a long hot ride and a heart stopping downhill with my brake pads melting I needed a beer & luckily not far from Gozu is the Swan lake brewery which serves fantastic award winning beer. Over the years the brewery restaurant has expanded to include Ikarashi Tei a restored large landowners residence which offers fine dinning and Kura an old Japanese storehouse converted into a bar with private rooms. So after a short ride towards Suibara where the brewery is located I was soon sitting down outside Kura with a glass of porter if only I had bought my pipe with me but in my rush to leave home I had forgotten it. After a relaxing beer at Kura I was ready to hit the road towards Niigata & just after I left the brewery a car travelling behind me honked their horn and waved out , it was one of the couples who I had spoke to while cycling along the Yamabiko rd. By the time I had arrived home it was 2.30pm and I had clocked up 75 kms , but what a fantastic day off. The above photo show some scenes taken at Swan lake brewery