Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Celebratory ride part 4

After the onsen it was a quick downhill run to one of our favorite places in the countryside of Suibura, Swan lake brewery home to award winning ales, porters lagers etc. After checking out the main building and viewing the vast range of medals they have won over the years and noticing that there was queue for the main restaurant we headed across to their restored Kura ( Japanese store house ) and quickly occupied two leather seats on the patio. It was certainly not a difficult decision to place an order and soon sitting in front of us was a 1ltr pitcher of porter and two glasses. Before we knew it we had been sitting there for 3 hours and had consumed between the two of us 4 ltrs of porter ( Thanks Brian ). It was one of the most pleasant days out on the bike I had had in ages and over drinks we smoked our tobacco pipes and talked about all manner of things and toasted my new found freedom. The brewery was doing a roaring trade and apart from the main restaurant being full, there was also a large group enjoying a party inside the kura and a constant steam of customers coming and going while we were there.

The other building located at Swan lake brewery is a fantastic traditional 2 storied house called Ikarashi tei which is mainly used for wedding receptions and while we were drinking we heard a lot of noise and on further investigation I discovered a full wedding party doing a traditional folk dance in the garden and tried to take a photo of it but just missed it.

Pictured above are several photos taken at the Kura at swan lake brewery

A Celebratory ride part 3

After our pleasant chat at the inn we headed across the road to take a bath at the local public onsen. Outside was a vending machine where we bought our entry tickets to the onsen for a mere 150 yen. Upon entering you give your ticket to the elderly lady and proceeded inside to the changing where there are lockers in which to store your clothes after that you enter the main bathroom and wash yourself thoroughly before getting into the bath. While we were there, there were up to 13 people in the small bathroom and I have found a photo online which shows what the bath looks like. There is nothing better than relaxing in the nude in an onsen as afterward you feel so refreshed.
According to local legend a Buddhist priest known as Kobodaishi, who established Shingonshu visited Deyu. When he tapped the ground with his stick
in the year 809, hot water started to spring out and has continued flowing to this day.

The photos above show Brian & I after the bath and the photo I obtained from the net showing the size of the bath

A Celebratory ride part 2

After a short stop at Hyoko lake we then pressed on towards our destination of Deyu spa. Upon enter the village we made our first stop at Seikokan and not knowing who to ask for I asked the first person I met if there was someone around who spoke English, soon an older lady was calling out for Noriko who was busy doing her morning housekeeping duties and shortly afterward appeared and introduced herself as Noriko Seino the owners daughter. It was very interesting to met the owners of this fantastic family run traditional inn and on display were some great old photos of the inn and the neighboring onsen. Seikokan has been operating for 300 years and the local village has a history dating back 1200 years ago. Seikokan was rebuilt about 100 years ago, but its in a very traditional style which is very rare these days. As to the reason for Noriko's English ability she spent four years studying in the UK and spent some of that time living in the city of Coventry which if you know your bicycle history was the center for the booming bicycle trade in Victorian times and home to the English inventor James Starley , " Father of the Bicycle Industry ".

Pictured alongside myself is Noriko Seino and her Grandmother, you can check their website at and in the future Noriko is planning on launching an English version of their website as well

A Celebratory ride

Well as I have resigned from the English school where I had been working for the last 4 years and last Friday was my final day I decided to celebrate my new found freedom by going out for a ride with my mate Brian. Recently we have not had the chance to get out cycling together very often because I used to work all day on Saturdays teaching and this was the 1st time in many years that I could get out for a ride on a Saturday. So we decided to return to Deyu onsen and take up the offer of a chat and a cup of tea with the owners of Seikokan Ryokan - a traditional Japanese inn , if you check my last ride report you will see photos of the building in question. After escaping the confines of Niigata city and crossing the mighty Agano river we were soon in the town of Suibara and by chance there was an flower festival being held so that was our first stop of the day.After stopping at the lake we took a small side road and stopped to take a photo of the traditional Japanese drum makers residence. Many years ago I purchased some high grade leather from him for which to make a hammock saddle for a high wheel bicycle that I was constructing at the time. Its very rare to find a drum maker these days producing these wonderful drums used by taiko drumming groups such as Kodo the world famous drum group based on Sado Island of the coast of Niigata.

Pictured above are the flower beds next to Hoyko lake where the festival was being held and the drum makers residence near the lake.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The first bike I ever restored

Pictured above is an add for the first bicycle I ever restored back in 1989, The bike was purchased at a swap meet for NZ $20 dollars off a local chap that was cleaning out his garage and was glad to get rid of it as he wasn't using it anymore. As my father still had his Humber catalog from when he bought his Humber sports I was able to identify the bike in question which turned out to be a 1947 28 inch Humber Royal Tourist. After stripping all the paint off it as it had been repainted at one stage I then re sprayed it in its original color of Royal blue with gold pin striping.

One of the most surprising things to happen while restoring the bike was the following - While working one day in the department store where I was employed at the time a local chap who lived up in the hills at Peel Forest came into my department with a large brown paper bag and asked me if I was interested in its contents upon opening the bag I discovered to my delight a pair of 1950s boxed NOS Sturmey Archer hubs, an ABC rear 3 speed rear hub with a drum brake and a front hub with a drum brake. After quickly going to the bank across the street I was the proud owner of the hubs which would look fantastic built up on some NOS stock rims.

Most of the parts were NOS that were put on the Humber and I purchased a new Brooks B73 saddle to finish the restoration. Not long after finishing the restoration I was given a British leatherette saddle bag which came in very handy on long rides. I remember once out sprinting my flatmate Tony on his state of the art GT Zaskar 24 speed MTB on a ride in the countryside. Looking back now I wish I had never sold it and at present the photos I have of it are back in NZ but the add above will give you an idea of the first bicycle I ever restored.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Accessories for your 3 speed

After locating a 3 speed you might want to fit some period correct accessories to it and luckily today there are still a few places where you can buy such items. Of course if you search E-Bay you may find the accessory you have been looking for, but you will be trying to out bid others who would also like the same item and more often than not you will end up paying far more than its really worth.

If you know other bicycle collectors just ask around as they may have the item you have been looking for and keen to sell it or check out old bicycle shops for NOS stock.

Below I have listed the basic accessories for a traditional British 3 speed

Saddle bag - If you are looking for the most traditional saddle bag you can find I would highly recommend a Carradice cotton duck touring bag, this British company is still making the same fantastic saddle bags that riders would purchase back in the 1940s. If your local bike shop can not order one for you just do a search for Carradice bags online.

Viva saddle bag rack - Viva is a Japanese company who make reasonably priced accessories for bicycles and their saddle bag rack is perfect for supporting a fully loaded bag. It is available online from

Lucas Cyclometer - These are a little harder to find NOS but if you can locate one they are the perfect way to keep track of your mileage and you wouldn't want to put a modern cycle computer on your restored 3 speed would you ? Check E-Bay UK as sometimes they appear for sale.

Classic bicycle grips - One of the best places around for period accessories is the Old Bicycle Co ( see my links ) in the UK as the proprietor Tim Gunn has a vast range of parts and accessories for sale and his Britannica bicycle grips are exact copies of a bicycle grip from the 1930s.

Of course they are other accessories such as a pump, water bottle, bell, Head lamps etc and many of these can be either found online or NOS at bicycle shops to complete your restoration etc. If you have any questions re finding accessories please leave me a message anytime.

Pictured above are a few photos of common bicycle accessories

Friday, 5 June 2009

Making a musette cycling bag

A while back I decided I would like a traditional cotton cycling musette with Humber written on it and as you can't buy a Humber musette I decided to make my own. The pictures above show the musette in question and the measurements for making your own bag. First of all go to your local fabric store and choose the type of fabric & colour you would like, I chose a natural off white cotton that was strong enough for a bag. Then as you can see from above you will need a rectangle of fabric 510mm long x 300mm wide, if you want to have your bag monogrammed now is the time to take it to your local monogram shop and chose the font style, colour & size etc to be used. Once you have the fabric back from the monogram shop you can then sew it up. As I got someone else to sew it up for me I will try to explain how it is done - first of all iron down the top of each end 25mm and sew it then iron down the sides 10mm and sew them together after that you should have a 280mm wide x 230mm high pocket. Once that is completed you need to attach a button & button hole or a magnetic clasp in the center at the top to keep it closed whilst cycling. The last thing to do is to attach the cotton tape strap which is 1560mm long x 15mm wide this is then attached to the outside of the bag 25mm down from the top and sewed on using a heavy stitch. I've been using this bag quite a lot and it's the perfect size for a camera, wallet, tobacco pipe or anything else you may require whilst out for a ride.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A trip to Murusugi onsen - part 6

After sampling the delights of the Tofu shop Kawauchi san and I parted company because unlike me he did not bring any lunch with him and wanted to head off to a local restaurant so I took a new road that I had not explored before and headed back towards Niigata city. The new road I took was very nice with no cars at all which then opened out onto the plains of Niigata which is now a magnificent green owing to the fact the rice is now growing. I arrived home around 2.30pm and in total I did about 60km which was a nice ride and I was lucky to have such fine weather.

The photos above show the Humber on the road home and a view across the rice fields looking towards the Mt Gozu range.

A trip to Murusugi onsen - part 5

One of the other attractions in Murusugi onsen is a specialist Tofu shop called Oboro Tofu run by the Kawakami family, a popular stopping point for many of the visitors to this small village and many of the local hotels serve this fantastic tofu as well ,which is made using natural spring water. Upon entering the shop we were presented with a small bowl containing some free samples of their product, it was fantastic and now I can easily see why so many people purchase it. Unfortunately as I was cycling I was unable to purchase any Tofu as the 2.5 hour ride back to the city would not have been very good for a nice cool pack of fresh tofu. Also it is well known the the owner Mr Kawakami is a motorcycle fan and sitting outside was his massive 1500cc Honda Goldwing.

Pictured above are some photos of the Tofu they make and the owners motorcycle

A trip to Murusugi onsen - part 4

After a long relaxing bath I sat by the steps to the temple and ate some food I had brought along, one of the advantages of having the Carradice touring bag as you can carry plenty of extras if needed. After lunch I climbed the steps to the temple to check it out, it is rather old and quite small but well preserved and looks out over the village.

Pictured above is the temple

A trip to Murusugi onsen - part 3

After looking around Deyu onsen we then headed along the road to our destination of Murusugi onsen, a tranquil small village tucked of a busy Mt mountain road consisting of onsens hotels, a specialist Tofu shop and a few small restaurants & one barber shop. In recent years the local village has also installed a free Ashi Yu ( Hot foot bath ) which is proving very popular.

I found the information above which relates the history of Murusugi onsen and from the photos you can see a small temple at the top of the stone steps and to the right behind the large wooden fence is an unmanned outdoor hot spring with a vending machine at the entrance where you purchase tickets that cost 300 yen and a towel if you do not have one already for 100 yen. The outdoor onsen was fantastic and shaded by the large trees overhead which made it very relaxing. I tried to take a photo of the onsen from inside the changing room, but I had to be careful not to photograph the naked old men who were taking a bath at the time.

A trip to Murusugi onsen - part 2

I had read recently on the internet a short story about the oldest onsen area in Niigata which is called Deyu onsen , it has been an onsen village for over 300 years & Saikokan one of the larger Inns in the village was established in 1928. As you can see from the photos above Saikokan is a fantastic example of traditional Japanese architecture which is rarely seen these days and I think it is fantastic that such an old inn is still operating as this is the type of place which makes Japan so unique.

Listed below is the Saikokan inn website, of course it is all in Japanese but it will give you an idea of what it looks like inside etc

The photos above show the village of Deyu onsen and Saikokan

A trip to Murusugi onsen

Well yesterday I had a day off and as luck would have it, it was fine day. Often it seems to rain on my day off but yesterday was fantastic with a high of 28deg so I set out at 8.30am for a trip to Murusugi onsen ( a small onsen village located on the foothills of the Mt Gozu range ). On making my way out of the city I came upon another cyclist riding a fancy carbon fiber LOOK frame with a full campy setup but as he was only riding slowing I soon overtook him only to discover it was Kawauchi san , a rider that I had met several years earlier on a local bicycle ride, so we decided to ride to Murusugi onsen together. After stopping along the way at Hyoko lake for rest we then pressed on towards the foothills making a stop at a natural spring to replenish our water bottles before heading uphill towards another small Mt village called Deyu Onsen.

The photos above show Hyoko lake, the road to Deyu onsen and the fresh water spring