Friday, 28 March 2008

New front forks

A few posts back I mentioned I was building up a single speed bike using a donor bike frame from my workmate. As the forks on the Nishiki frame were bent due to a crash, I've been hunting around the local bike shops for a suitable pair of replacement forks and when returning from my bike & hiking trip last Sunday I stopped by a small bike shop and was luckily enough to find a pair of badly chipped Bridgestone 700c track racing forks with nice lugs. So after much hard work I have finally cleaned them up for repainting, pictured above are the forks due to be painted.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

On the way back

Above is what Mt Kukuda looks like from a distance as you can see it's not very large, but the track we took was rather steep. After coming down the mountain we rode off in the direction of Sakata lagoon as there is a famous bakery there and we were rather hungry by then. After a long chat and filling ourselves with delicious treats from the bakery we slowly headed back along the seaside road into the city. By the time I had arrived home I had done 71km and was very tired. Today my legs are rather sore and I guess I need to do more hiking to keep fit , in all it was a great first ride of the season but maybe biking & hiking is just a bit too much for one day.

Mountain top views

The above photos show the view from the top which was fantastic as you could see Sakata lagoon on the far left a protected wildlife area and the various small villages below. In the distance you can see the hills of Kamo on the right and the hills of Gozu on the left. Behind the Gozu mountain range you can still see snow on the mountains where Iide San Mountain is located which I climbed when I first arrived in Niigata almost 10 years ago. Mt Kakuda is only a very small mountain with the highest point reaching about 480 mtrs and there are several tracks leading up the mountain from around the base on all sides. Because it's not so high and very close to Niigata City it's a popular destination for day hikes.

The hill top shrine

At the top of the hill was a strong looking concrete building that served as a shelter on the first floor and on the second floor it housed a shrine. Shrine's are often found on the top of Japanese mountains and on Mt Kakuda there was a rather old wire rope way near the bottom that was built for the purpose of getting building supplies up to the summit. According to the old photos and information located in the building the shine was home to a priest & 3 other people long ago. Pictured above is Kakuda's shrine

Time for a jar

As we had carried the bottle of red wine to the top it was now time to open it and we proceeded to drink it from a glass jar and two small plastic containers which was all we had with us. It was a fantastic red wine and accompanied with our snack bars went down rather well, although some bread, cheese, salami etc would have been rather nice. I'm sure we'll be better prepared next time.

The summit of Mt Kakuda

After some rather steep sections we finally reached a clearing that was the summit top, where we were greeted to the sight of over 100 hikers enjoying their picnic lunch spread out upon their blue picnic sheets, eating bread & cheese, drinking beer and boiling up water for soup & cup noodles. The aroma of all this food drove us a bit mad as we were under prepared with only our bottle of wine and a few snack bars. Next time we'll do it properly and pack a sizable lunch. Pictured above is a view of some of the hikers eating lunch

Halfway up

Upon reaching half way we were rewarded with some fine views of the plains below, but as the hillside is covered in large Cedar trees it makes it difficult to get a good view most of the time. Pictured above the view from halfway up.

The concrete steps

Japan is quite famous for making concrete and even in the mountains you can find fake wood steeps and guard rails made to look like wood but in fact they are concrete. Mt Kakuda is no exception and in the photo above you can see the concrete steeps leading up a steep section of the trail. In New Zealand we have a government dept called DOC Department of Conservation who takes care of our national parks and does such such work as track building & the up keep of Mt huts & education programs etc. I think New Zealand's DOC could teach the Japanese a thing or two about building & maintaining Mountain tracks as the concrete steps above were lashed together with fencing wire which had in some places broken. In general the track that we used was in rather good condition for a track that gets such a lot of use.

A mini shrine

Further along the trial we spotted a mini shrine located down in a small valley next to a creek. We didn't venture down to take a closer look as we were keen on reaching the summit, but above is what it looked like from the trial above.

A Mountain shrine

Not long after climbing the track we came across a large cedar tree and a mountain shrine with several stone lanterns. The tree was fantastic and maybe because of it the shrine was built. The shrine was in quite good condition and in recent years money had been spent on it in the form of two brand new stone lanterns each side of the main steeps, after admiring the shine we then continued on our way as many hikers who had already been to the top passed us coming down.

The carpark

After our short but steep hill climb we rounded the corner to the car park which is the starting point for the short but steep accent of this side of Mt Kakuda. The car park was already full and is was only around 10.30am I guess. Hiking is a really popular activity in Japan mainly with senior citizens but you also see a few families as well out hiking. After locking our bicycles to the fence Sunil produced a bottle of Spanish red wine and a corkscrew which we readily put into my bag and started off up the trial.

The road to Kakuda

As I had never cycled up the side of Kakuda from this location my friend Brian lead the way and as he has legs of steel and mine are only mild steel he had soon left us slightly behind on a steep but short hill climb. Pictured above is Brian working his way up the incline towards the Mt Kakuda hiking carpark.

A small village

After riding out along Niigata's coast we then headed slightly inland towards our destination of Mt Kakuda and passed through a small village at the base of the mountain. In the countryside surrounding Niigata it's quite common to cycle through fantastic old villages where time has almost stood still, only a few new houses inhabit these small villages and most of the houses are very old and sometimes you can see store houses called Kura such as the one pictured above.

Biking & Hiking

Well as the weather was nice on Sunday I decided to join two other mates for a bike trip out to Mt Kakuda . After waking up at 6am and having a large breakfast I then rode into the center of the City to our meeting spot at Bandai bridge which is pictured above. Bandai bridge is a famous landmark in Niigata City and in the background you can also see Niigata tallest building Toki Messe where some of the G8 leaders will meet later this year.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Climb the future bike shop

Recently I discovered a new bike shop not far from where I work called Climb the future, I thought that's a strange name for a bike shop but with some interesting looking frames and some single speed bikes on a rack outside the shop I thought I better investigate further. Upon enter the shop I met the owner Masato and his dog a dalmatian called beauty and then I discovered that this shop specializes in Piste bikes which are becoming popular here in Japan. The style of bike is basically a fixed wheel track bike , but with bling like colored brake levers, mountain bike bars chopped and narrowed with funky colored grips etc. A lot of these parts are not standard track bike parts but because of this recent boom some companies have started producing a whole range of multi colored parts to cater to the Piste bike riders. Niigata has about 20 hardcore Piste riders who can often be seen riding their fixes about town through the mall in the evenings. Masato led me upstairs to the 2nd floor of his shop which sells clothing and put on a DVD from the US which showed Piste riders doing tricks like riding backwards and flying around concrete skateboard parks which from an ex Mountain biker's viewpoint was rather interesting as a youngster I loved jumping my 24 inch Panther BMX cruiser out of our local skateboard bowl until I destroyed the one piece cranks and the rear wheel. While visiting the shop again today he was busy packing up a nice track frame to be sent to a customer in Tokyo and building up a custom Piste bike for a new local rider. Pictured above is a photo of Masato & his dog and his bike shop.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Nishiki is now in bits

Yesterday was my day off, so with time on my hands I set about taking the Nishiki to bits most of the parts came off very easily but I think King Kong's brother must have put the pedals on as it took a trip to the local bike shop and two of us to remove them. The BB was worn out and the top headset race cup had a big crack in it so those parts were thrown away along with the rusty hubs and spokes. The rims are in pretty good condition and cleaned up very well and with a lot of elbow grease I managed to take the black paint off the Sugino cranks which polished up really nice. I think once I have added the new parts it should make a very nice single speed. Pictured above is what I was left with after I took everything off the bike.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Single speed project

While my Humber is out of action I need something to fill in my days off so I have received a donor bike from my workmate Adrian, who has ridden the above 27 inch Nishiki Aero world to work for 4 years before moving up to a new GT mountain bike. The above bike will be stripped and any parts that can be used will be cleaned up for future use. The aim of getting this bike was it is rather strong and has a unique down tube and is a likely candidate for a single speed conversion. The main parts I'll be using will be the frame but not the fork as it was recently in a incident with 20 cm high ledge in a parking lot at night and the chromed aero shaped Araya rims which are only coated with surface rust. The first thing on the list is to pull everything off it including the bottom bracket and clean up the frame & rims. From time to time I'll post pictures of my progress and I'm sure when it's finished it will make a good cheap single speed to ride to work on everyday.