Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Sept the 23rd touring part 6

We after coming down the valley mentioned in the last post we headed through the town of Murumatsu and tried to find a quieter road to ride home on, a few weeks ago Brian met a local cyclist who informed him of a cycle road and as luck would have it we stumbled upon it by accident while heading along a side road. Once we found the cycle path the going was very easy apart from the numerous bridges that intersected the cycle path that you had to cross. Further down the cycle path we saw a sign stating the path was called the Rin Rin road ( Wheel Wheel road ) and it was about 17km long. You can see how nice the cycle path is from one of the above photos and a map showing the cycle path route. After leaving the cycle path we headed back towards the city on the quietest roads that we could find and arrived back in Niigata city around 12pm where we stopped at " Steak One " an all you can eat buffet place which was just the thing for two hungry cyclists. In total I had cycled 120km and not once did the Humber let me down, not bad for a bicycle built in 1947. Next month we are planning on doing our Kitakata to Tsugawa ride if the weather allows.

Don Speden
3 Speed touring in Japan

Sept the 23rd touring part 5

After consuming some sandwiches that I had purchased earlier in the morning we departed the campground and headed up a short climb that passed through a tunnel leading us down the valley where we often passed old houses tucked away in the forest, I'm not sure if these houses were occupied or not as some of them may have been holiday houses owned by fishermen , hikers etc. Near the bottom of the hill we stopped off at a brand new toilet block located beside the road and ventured down a cobblestone path that lead to a large open campsite by the river ( another possible spot for future camping ). On road leading down towards the campsite was a hut that in the summer season sold beer etc to campers and on both sides of the road were old style railway signals which looked rather odd as there has never been a railway in this area. Further down the road the valley opened out and before us was a vast number of rice fields and as the weather was quite cool everyone was busy harvesting their rice. The photos above were taken on this section of the ride.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sept the 23rd touring part 4

After cycling up a small valley we found ourselves at " Challenge Land " a large campground with a well maintained toilets, covered cooking area and a large building suitable for hosting school camps etc. In the future I hope to kit myself out for overnight tours with a lightweight tent , cooker etc and places like " Challenge land " would be perfect for an overnight tour. There was a natural spring located nearby to fill up with fresh water and lots of space in which to have a picnic or pitch a tent. This particular campground is managed by Gosen city. The photo above shows the large main building in the background and covered cooking area in the foreground. The other photo is a signboard showing the campgrounds location and the other mountain roads in the area.

Sept the 23rd touring part 3

The photos above show the type of hills that we cycled through and the view from the top which was fantastic. As the Humber is quite heavy I descended slowly into the small valley below as if I had let go of the brakes I sure it would have been hard to bring it to a stop, as it was I managed to wear down my fribrax brake pads quite a lot during the decent. Upon reaching the bottom we stopped off at bridge to admire the view where a angry hornet decided to pay us a visit , luckily for me it's attentions were directed towards Brian and his bright yellow tyres. Japanese hornets are very large are not something to be messed with, finally it flew away and we proceeded along the road towards a camping ground.

Sept the 23rd touring part 2

The photos above show where we made a brief drink stop before heading up a rather steep climb to the top of a low mountain range. In the photo of the Humber on the bridge you can see rice sheaths drying on the rack beside the road in the background. This is quite a common sight in the countryside around Niigata as Niigata is well known for it's high quality rice. Another picture shows me drinking from my water bottle already covered in sweat from carrying a backpack, I've ordered a Carradice Nelson longflap touring bag which should arrive soon so I won't have to carry a backpack again which will be fantastic. Little did I know how steep the accent of the small mountain range was to be as I was forced to use my lowest gear and later on I was forced to dismount & walk the steeper sections. The view from the tops made the climb worthwhile and decent into the valley below was rather nice. Along the way we heard the constant chatter of monkey's and came around a bend in the road to witness a monkey starring at us who quickly too fright and headed back into the forest.

Sept the 23rd touring part 1

Pictured above are a couple of photos that were taken heading towards the mountains, one of the photos above shows me with my Humber sports on a small cycle path that we found located beside a small creek that we followed, before it came to an abrupt stop which ended in gravel. The next photo shows my cycling partner Brian with the valley that we headed into located in the background. As you can see from the photo the rice is ready to be harvested

Sept the 23rd touring

Well as the weather report was looking suspect we decided to abandon our plans to ride from Kitakata to Tsugawa due to the forecast of rain in the late afternoon. Instead we proceeded to cycle out of the city at 5am and headed towards Niitsu where if we had stuck to our original plan we would have boarded the train bound for Kitakata. After skirting a low range of hills that border Niitsu we headed for Murumatsu a small town located at the base of the hills that we were going to cycle through. As 7.30am approached we stopped off at a convenience store to have breakfast and then proceeded to head inland along side the Mt range till we reached the valley we wanted to follow. Pictured above is a map showing the route we took from Niigata city into the mountains of Murumatsu.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A Basic tool kit

Pictured above is my basic tool kit which I take on all of my rides which consists of an original British leather tool bag , which has seen better days but has new straps added on the original buckles and has been re sewn to give it added strength. Inside is carried a set of 3 steel tire levers as I've experienced broken plastic tire levers before and at least with steel levers you won't have any trouble. Two old British bicycle tools , the larger one is a Brooks ( The saddle maker ) tool featuring a headset spanner which fits the Humber perfectly and a BB lock ring spanner the other tool is an unknown make featuring two hex nut spanners ( one of them fits the stem bolt which is rather handy for lowering bars to fit my bike into it's bicycle bag for transporting it on trains etc ) the other two smaller square nut fittings are for Williams style crank set chain ring bolts and another BB lock ring spanner & pedal spanner. These old style tools are fantastic as one they are incredibility strong and designed to fit most parts , nuts etc on older British bicycles. And last is a Britannia repair outfit , these can often be found in antique shops or e bay etc and are made of tin with various advertising printed on them. If you find one that is complete it may contain the original repair kit which by now will not be in very good shape so you should then replace the contents with a brand new puncture kit, patches, glue & sandpaper etc. And if you riding a 3 speed a spare hub gear indicator chain is also rather a handy item to carry. The tool kit described above is rather basic but it will do for most rides. At a later date I'll detail a full list of what to carry on multi day tours etc. Remember it's not a lot of fun to find yourself stranded deep in the hills without any tools.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Stoves for cycling ?

Recently I've been looking at a suitable stove to fit into a Carradice touring bag to take on day or overnight trips and pictured above are two stoves that that are both made in Japan that I like. Pictured above are the products in question, first up is the Snowpeak Giga Stove GS-100 which is made from stainless steel, aluminum & brass and is it's size is 4-1/8"diam x 2-5/8" with a total weight of 3.25 oz and has an output of 10,000 BTU's . This stove caused a sensation when it was released in 1999 as the best compact canister stove on the market for it's weight & reliability. In the center is pictured a Snowpeak solo cook set which is designed to hold a gas canister & the giga power stove to make an all in one compact unit which takes up very little weight and for me another good point it's a locally made product as Snowpeak is made in Sanjo City located not far from Niigata city where I live and all their products carry a lifetime warranty which is rare to find these days. On the far right is a totally different type of stove altogether ,The Manaslu No.96 backpacking stove with #200 burner. The ideal solo stove for all seasons, one fill will last approx 1 hour 15 minutes & the tank capacity 0.2 ltr., empty weight with pouch 920gms, stove weight 650gms. As you can see these are two very different stoves indeed, one being super lightweight and the other a very traditional heavy brass kerosene stove which is what cyclists back in the 1930s - 1950s would have carried in their touring bags. My final decision my be influenced by price as the Manaslu is almost twice the price of the Snowpeak and takes up more space in a saddle bag.

A border crossing plan " Kitakata to Tsugawa "

Since getting the Humber back on the road I've been keen to do a long ride and recently my cycling partner Brian & I have decided to take a run across the border into Fukushima. Our plan is outlined above and we'll start from Niigata city and ride to Niitsu where the 1st train to Fukushima leaves at 6.30am each morning once at Niitsu we pack our bicycles into our cycle bags and board the train bound for Kitakata a town located in Fukushima well known for it's traditional storehouses ( Kura ) and it's 120 ramen shops. Once at Kitakata we assemble our bicycles and head along route 16 and then route 336 to Kumano Shrine which is 900 years old and is unique because it has neither walls or doors and is supported by a vast amount of large wooden pillars . After viewing the shrine we'll then head towards Yamato on route 61 and cross the river and head inland on route 338 past another small village called Iwami which then joins route 361 before joining up with the busier route 459 which will lead us back to Tsugawa along side the mighty Agano river. Tsugawa is to be our final cycling destination for the day where we will board a train back towards Niigata city to dodge the large tunnel & busy traffic. If the forecast is fine we be doing this ride on the 23rd of Sept which is a public holiday and Autumn Equinox day. Check back after the 23rd for a full report and photos

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Velo Taxi

Although not a 3 speed , the velo taxi has recently started to become more popular in recent years. Apparently the same style of German built velo taxi's have been operating in the lager cities such as Tokyo for some time and last year a velo taxi appeared in Niigata city where I live, but because Niigata is not really a tourist sport it's rare to see the velo taxi's with customers. The main revenue for Niigata's velo taxi's seem to be the advertising they sell rather than making a profit from fares. Recently on a day trip to Kitakata the famed ramen town in Fukushima which is famous for it's Japanese storehouses ( Kura ) and it's ramen as the town boasts about 120 ramen shops I saw several velo taxi's operating about town. The main difference in Kitakata's velo taxi operation is that the town has a thriving tourist industry and because of that their velo taxis always seem to be busy. Pictured about is one of the Kitakata velo taxi's outside their office.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A visit to Ken Pipes

On Monday the weather was also fine and as I had the day off I decided to visit my mate Ken a Tobacco pipe maker who lives out in the countryside in a small town called Ogikawa. After heading along the same road that I had taken with Brian the morning before I continued onward till the road met up with the mighty Agano river which I then rode alongside until the turn off towards Ogikawa. Pictured above in the posting is a photo of the Humber in front of the Agano river showing the Mt Gozu range in the background. After the photo stop I headed to take a look around the Northern Culture museum where I took a few more photos such as the one above with the Humber next to a very old post office box , the Northern Culture museum features some fantastic old building's belonging to the Ito family who was once a major land owner in the area and their once private residence is now open to the public as a popular museum. After taking a few more photos around the neighborhood I pressed on towards Ogikawa and it was not long before I had arrived at Kens house. As a former tobacco pipe maker myself it's always a pleasure to visit Kens workshop and see what he has been up to as he makes some outstanding tobacco pipes. If you happen to be a pipe smoker check out Kens website at the following address

Kitayama Ike park

As the weather was fine on Sunday morning I headed off towards Kitayama Ike park a small pond surrounded by trees in the suburb of Kameda in Niigata City. My mate Brian joined me on his mountain bike ( I'll get him into British 3 speed bicycle's one day I'm sure ). We took some of the quieter roads out of the suburb where I live and not long after crossing the railways tracks we veered left to take a look at an old temple that was being rebuilt. A vast amount of money must have been spent so far as nearly all of the woodwork & carvings were new. I'm sure it will look fantastic once it's finished and I guess it should be completed within a few months. After leaving the temple we then headed further out into the countryside past some rather green rice fields then took a side road towards the direction of Kitayama Ike park. We finally located the park in the middle of several houses surrounded by trees and as usual there were plenty of local anglers fishing from their high tech alloy fishing seats. We had only been here once before but it's a rather nice place to sit and relax especially with a tobacco pipe and a cool drink. While relaxing on a park bench we enjoyed watching the locals land a few decent sized fish and also witnessed a rather funny incident involving a school boy who was using a telescopic fishing rod only to have a fish take off across the pond with half of his rod. The lad suffered a fair bit of ribbing from his fellow anglers with one of them shouting " Wonderful " when the fish escaped with his rod. But not long after another fisherman lent the boy a hand and managed to fish out the fishing rod minus the fish. After relaxing in the sunshine for about an hour or so we headed back into the city to one of our favorite Indian restaurant for lunch. For a short morning ride it was rather nice and it just goes to show you don't need to venture far from home to enjoy a nice bicycle ride. Pictured above are a few photos I took last Sunday morning.