Monday, 14 December 2009

Winters here

Well it looks like the last ride I did into the mountains of Sanpoku was the last ride of the year as it's now very cold and it seems to be raining most days, which has put a stop to any more touring as many of the mountains roads I like to explore will soon be covered in snow if not already. One of the roads that Brian & I cycled on in Sanpoku is already closed due to winter. So the Humber has been put to rest and over the winter I'll give it a service ready for next season. This year Brian & I were able to go further afield due to the fact that I now have a van which can easy fit both our bikes without having to take the front wheels off, this enables us to get out of the city and into some new areas that we haven't explored before as cycling out of the city is not so pleasant. One of my winter projects is the construction of a 52 inch replica ordinary for a Japanese Wheelman as over the years I have built 9 bicycles of this type before. If you are interested please check out the link highwheelinginjapan on this blog for further info on the bicycle I'm building.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Restore or refurbish ?

Over the many years I have been restoring bicycles , mainly older English bicycles such as 26" & 28" roadsters, shop delivery bicycles & a few fixed wheel racing bikes there was a decision to be made after obtaining the bicycle whether to restore or refurbish it.

How do you decide on which course to follow ?

Well that depends on several things such as - the age of the bike , it's current condition, if it's a rare model, a family heirloom etc. If you have obtained a very rare bicycle it is well worth the time & effort to restore it, but if the bike has outstanding features such as original box lining or company/ sales agent transfers these will be lost if you decide to repaint it. With the 1947 Humber sports pictured above I wanted to refurbish it rather than restore it - the reason why is that it's overall condition was rather good and even though there was light surface rust and some bare metal on the top tube this could be cleaned up and the original paintwork retained which also featured the sales agent transfer. Transfers whether original or replacements can easily be protected from the elements and usage with a fine brushed on coating of clear nail polish which protects the transfers from getting damaged. With the Humber refurbishment I wanted to bring it back to it's original condition as advertised in the Humber 1948 sales leaflet. The following parts were taken off the Humber for various reasons such as - they were damaged beyond repair, not original to the bike

Rear rack
Lucas dynamo lighting set
Lucas odometer
Mattrass saddle

The parts that refurbished were

Handle bars - re chromed as badly rusted
Rims - rebuilt with new heavy gauge spokes as the old spokes were rusted
Tires - The bike had fantastic Dunlop made in NZ tires but were unsafe for use
Sturmey archer ABC rear hub - rebuilt with NOS internals & a larger rear cog
Top tube S.A shifter - replaced with NOS trigger shifter
Saddle - replaced with New Brooks B17 - should have B15
Mudguards - replaced with NOS as old ones were damaged

Apart from replacing a few parts with period pattern replacements I also added extras that would have been available in 1947 such as a Lucas cyclometer NOS, Saddle bag surport rack, Carradice Nelson longflap saddle bag, alloy water bottle & pump. The previous items are something that could have been purchased in the 1940s and even though the Humber is not a show stopper I have no fear of taking it on extended multi day tours or a 100km day ride. Since it's refurbishment it has not let me down once whilst out touring. One nice thing about refurbishing a bicycle is that you can do it little by little as time and money allows plus you can still keep riding it.

Happy Cycling

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

My father & his Humber sports

All the years I was growing up I watched my father ride his Humber bicycle to work everyday no matter what the weather was, if it was raining he put on his oilskin parka and headed off to his job at the Ford garage where he worked as a car mechanic from age 15 till he retired around 60. Even though I started collecting vintage bicycles in the early 1990s I never thought my fathers bike was very special. Back then my father rode it with the handlebars turned upside down which was very popular due to the fact that it gave the rider a more upright position and it was fitted with a sprung mattress type saddle ( maybe a Terry band from the UK ) plus it has a rear carrier fitted as well. The bike was also fitted with a heavy duty Lucas dynamo lighting set and a Lucas odometer. I also remember the bike having a vinyl pannier bag in which to carry a raincoat etc. But it was only when my father showed me the catalouge that came with the bike that I realised that it was a sports model and near the top of the Humber range back in 1947 which encouraged me to restore it to it's present condition. My father had the shop install the optional 3 speed sturmey archer drum brake model ABC & top tube quadrant shifter when it was first purchased. Just today I received the two attached photos of the Humber showing it's previous condition

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Mountains of Sanpoku 6

On the return drive back towards Niigata city we stopped off in the old castle town of Murukami, the town no longer has it's castle as only the ruins remain but there are many fantastic old merchant houses that are now doing very well because they are historic buildings still in use and it was at one of these such buildings that we stopped at in the center of town. The shop had an array of cheap fresh vegetables for sale outside plus indoors there was a raised wooden seating area with a traditional open fire on which to cook or boil tea and a restaurant serving local food, no doubt salmon was probably on the menu. After departing Murukami we returned to the main highway and stopped off at a recycling store where there were hundreds of bicycles, along with TVs , car tires and all sorts of other everyday junk. Amongst the bicycles we did spot a rather nice older traditional bike in good condition for it's age but we didn't bother inquiring how much it was, as the day was getting late and we needed to return home. I'm not sure if we'll get another chance to get out cycling this year as already it's getting rather cold with snow on the hills but if it's a mild winter there may be more cycling yet to come.

Cheers Don

Mountains of Sanpoku 5

The road that we took to head back towards the coast was one of the narrowest I have ever ridden on while out touring and it was easy to see why it's closed over the winter as it would be too dangerous to attempt to drive it covered in snow & ice. Most of the road was downhill towards the coast. Just as we entered the seaside town, the towns 12pm horn was blowing alerting everybody it was lunch time. And as we came to the intersection adjoining the main road we spotted a convenience store with indoor seating , the perfect place for a lunch break. Now quite a few convenience stores in Japan are providing indoor seating for customers. I had one of my favorite Japanese meals " Katsu curry " - fried pork cutlet with rice & Japanese style curry and after spending 30 mins or so over lunch we headed along the busy main road where we spotted " Awa shima " - Awa island one of the two islands off the coast of Niigata. We had thought about continuing on to the seaside town of Sanpoku before turning inland to get back to our starting point, but because of the heavy traffic we took the first turn we came to and headed inland which took us along one of the roads we had cycled that morning back to the car. We arrived back at the van at 1.45pm after having cycled 60 km.

Mountains of Sanpoku 4

The route Brian had picked was fantastic as it wasn't too steep and the scenery was brilliant and the day had turned out very nice with patches of blue sky which is rare at this time of the year along the coast of the Japan sea. Our next stop was a natural fresh water spring which are often found on mountain roads and especially handy for a thirsty cyclist, after the spring we spotted a very old storage shed with large rocks holding the roof on, which is another technique from days gone by that is rarely seen now. We also paused for a while in an old village which had some fantastic old houses built in traditional style, then after a tunnel and a short but step climb we had reached the border of Niigata & Yamagata where we stopped on the summit for a bite to eat before the downhill into the valley below. The downhill was great fun but being as the road was wet and very narrow you had to take care on the sharp switchbacks before it flattened into another small village where we made a left turn to head towards the sea.

Mountains of Sanpoku 3

Right where I took the photo of my bike in the last posting , Brian spotted some large trout swimming upstream then a salmon which are very famous in the Sanpoku & Murukami area either fresh or salt cured. A long time ago people didn't have any form of refrigeration so the fish they caught were coated with sea salt then hung up to dry so they could eat the fish over the winter. Next to our surprise Brian spotted a salmon hooked to a line that was attached to a bamboo pole tied to the bank of the river. This form of fishing would be illegal in my home country of NZ but in this valley it seemed the most popular way of obtaining a salmon. After cycling a short distance down the road we came upon a couple of cars and a couple of fisherman who were busy storing their mornings catch in polystyrene boxes by the side of the road. They had built a small lean to shelter and a couple of small dams in the river and had at least 6 fixed bamboo poles in the river. I asked the fisherman how long he had been fishing and to my surprise he had only been there a couple of hours starting at 8am and already he had caught 15 large salmon, he offered me a fantastic large salmon but unfortunately I had to refuse as there was no way it would have fit inside my saddlebag. Along the same road we spotted more fisherman sitting inside their covered fishing shacks with many fixed poles in the river.

Pictured above are some photos taken at the riverside

Mountains of Sanpoku 2

Not long after the first village we came upon another small village and as we were just leaving it we noticed some movement in a Kaki tree across a rice field and too our surprise there were several wild monkeys devouring the fruit off the tree, it looked like they we having a pretty good time and further along the road we spotted yet another monkey sunbathing on the branch of a tree. It seemed to be a popular spot for monkeys as on the way back along the same road we saw them again and one of the locals passed by stating they have a lot of monkeys around here, which must cause some problems over the winter when their natural food sources are in short supply. Further along the road we came to a scenic spot on a bend in the river where I took the above photo.

Mountains of Sanpoku

I had almost given up hope of getting another ride in before the winter had set in, but in the last few days the weather wasn't bad even though it was pretty cold so when I suggested to Brian that we take a ride on Sunday I had no idea if it would be fine or not and I didn't even have a route in mind. But on Sat night Brian rang to say it was going to be fine according the weather reports and before he told me of his idea , I had surges ted the same area which was north of Murukami city near the border of Niigata. So I dug out my winter woolies and packed my saddle bag ready for our 7am departure the next day. Upon rising early the weather looked pretty go and once Brian had arrived at my place we loaded my work van with the two bicycles and drove past Murukami to the village of Kitanaka a small village located off the main route north. After parking the van by the side of a rice field just out of town at 9am we headed uphill which was to be one of the steepest climbs of the day, it was hard work in low gear sucking in the cold mountain air but before long we had reached the summit and enjoyed a nice downhill through the first village of the day. The scenery was fantastic and we often stopped throughout the day to take photos as we had never ventured into this area before.

Pictured above is a map showing the route we took and the 1st two photos that were taken.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday afternoon pottering

Today I went pottering on the Humber with my mate Brian and our destination was Roast Cafe which is located on the outskirts of Niigata City but when we arrived we found it closed with a sign saying they are not open on Sunday's which was a shame as most coffee shops & cafes in Japan are rather busy on the weekends. After that we cycled back into the city and stopped off at a huge shopping mall as Brian wanted to purchase some foreign cooking supplies from an import shop so while in the mall we had a bite to eat at a fantastic bakery and after a quick look around the mall we continued on our way back into the center of the city. Before we parted we stopped off at the old shrine which is located in Kanbara cho where I used to live when I first moved to Niigata city. The shrine is famous for it's festival which is held in August of every year and has over 600 stalls selling food and toys for kids. The weather is now getting cooler and the days are getting shorter so I hope to get in one more decent ride before winter arrives.

Pictured above is a photo of me taken on the way to the cafe with the Gozu mountain range in the background and the other photo is of Kanabara shrine

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Royal Enfeild - information required

Hi Everybody

Just recently I was able to re aquire a bike I owned several years ago which is a Royal Enfeild. When I discovered the bike it was painted gloss black and had been in a crash and the front forks were beyond use. So with some searching I finally found a set of 27" forks with a long enough steerer tube to fit and repainted the bike navy blue with off white lugs. The bike is currently in New Zealand and will be stripped of all parts and repainted gloss black and finished with water slide Royal Enfeild transfers avaiable from the UK.

Here is a few details on the bike

27" x 1 1/4 wheels, Benelux MK7 rear gear - 5 speed, Benelux cable control front changer circa 1962 ? Double chain ring front crank set with unique oval pattern - brand unknown , Brass Royal Enfeild head badge which says made in Redditch England.

If anybody can shed some light on what model this bike is e.g Bullet , Firefly etc that would be a great help in restoring it & I'm also on the lookout for the following parts - British made of course

Matching brakes
Chrome brake levers
Rat trap pedals as per above photo or similar pattern circa 1960s

If you can help please post a comment

Cheers Don

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Vintage bicycle spotting

Just last Sunday my wife & I went for a drive to the resort town of Karuizawa which is located on the border of Nagano & Guma ken. It's full of trendy shops selling clothes, and souvenirs etc. But as we were walking along the street I spotted the bicycle pictured above which had a pressed steel rack fitted to the bars which I hadn't seen before. It looks like it was an old post office delivery bicycle that had been repainted for display, anyhow at least people get to see it rather than it rusting away behind someones shed

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Restored Optimus 8R

In my last post I talked about the trad camping cooker I was given and today I put it back together after stripping & re painting it etc. I decided in the end not to add a clip on the lid for the spanner but I have added some tin foil to the base to protect the new paint once it's fired up as I read on another blog that it was a good idea to protect the new paint from getting damaged. I think the royal blue and polished brass looks quite nice together and as soon as I get the chance I hope to use it while out cycling for a brew up etc. 

Pictured above are two photos of the restored cooker

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A new camp stove - Optimus 8R

For followers of this blog you may recall a long time ago I was looking at buying a camp stove , well I never ended up buying one at that time and just last Sunday I received from my good friend Minagawa san a fantastic optimus 8R gasoline stove . Today I pulled it apart and cleaned the brass fittings up and as I'm not to keen on the light blue paint , I've decided to repaint it a different color and add a clip to the lid for holding the Optimus spanner.  In Japan you can buy white gasoline from outdoor shops and large sporting goods stores so at a later date I'll purchase some and test it out. Also I think I may have also located a set of square alloy mess tins which would contain the stove inside it's metal box so as not to take up too much room in my saddle bag. Once restored the above cooker should be perfect for brew up while on a run in the countryside.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Monday, 28 September 2009

Tsugawa to Kitakata - part 4

After pottering around town and checking out some fantastic buildings it was easy to see why so many people come here, of course ramen is probably the biggest draw card in Kitakata as the town has over 100 ramen shops but it's collection of historic buildings and kura - store houses are fantastic as most other towns, cities around Japan have not had the foresight to retain their heritage buildings. Kitakata has a thriving tourist industry because in part of its heritage buildings and is a perfect example of what can be achieved through heritage tourism. Taking the train back to Tsugawa was the best option as neither of us would have had the energy to make the return trip by bicycle. Upon arriving back in Niigata city at 6pm we were both rather tired but even though it was far more difficult than I imaged we both enjoyed ourselves.

Tsugawa to Kitakata - part 4

After checking when our train would depart and the cost of the fare we had almost two hours to potter around Kitakata and as it's a very historic town there was plenty to look at in the way of nice trad buildings etc. Our first port of call was the supermarket were Brian purchased some cans of beer and because I had to drive later in the day I had a sports drink instead, it was torture watching Brian consume some beer but I knew a beer would taste great when I finally got back to Niigata. We checked out some fantastic old Sake brewery buildings and one located nearby the supermarket proclaimed that the fresh water fountain outside had amazing strength restoring properties so as I was feeling rather tired I consumed some, it tasted pretty good but I couldn't feel any new found surge of power rushing through my veins - never mind.

Tsugawa to Kitakata - part 3

Just before we entered the town of Kitakata we made a wrong turn onto route 16 , which actually turned out to be a better road to take as if we had continued along route 459 we would have encountered more hills and it would have taken us longer. Maybe because were were tired we missed a turn off to view a famous open air shrine that's listed as a national historic site but on entering town around lunch time and consulting our map over lunch we were not too keen to retrace our route back over the hill. Kitakata is renowned for it's historic stone store houses and it's ramen , a popular noodle dish which attracts ramen fans from all over Japan. Some people wait for over an hour just to get a seat at a famous establishment serving ramen and as it was Sunday there were quite a few people around. Having been to Kitakata several times before I soon located a small shop that I had eaten in previously and we both ordered some fantastic ramen and talked about our return route. In fact it was further than I had thought to Kitakata and upon arriving in town we had clocked up 72km and I was feeling rather tired after the steep hills I had walked up throughout the morning. So we decided to take a ride downtown to the local train station to check the timetable as in Japan bicycles travel free on all trains. As luck would have it there was a train passing through at 2.50pm that we could catch back to Tsugawa where I had left my van.