Monday, 26 December 2011
After riding my 1947 Humber 3 speed recently on a one day 115km tour of Ko Sado, I was left pushing my 3 speed up some long hills while watching my cycling pal Brian fly up the mountain in low gear on his lightweight Cinelli road bike. And a recent near miss with a car ( not my fault ) while riding home one night got me thinking about purchasing a modern lightweight bike for my regular commutes into the bicycle shop and the odd long distance ride when time allows. My vintage Humber is my favorite bike by far but it has it's limitations manly due to it's weight and gearing, I will still use the Humber in fine weather for some touring and pottering but I am not keen to ride such a precious bike in the rain or snow and the near miss at speed with a car in the rain at night was a bit scary to say the least. So I have purchased a 2012 Kona Jake cyclocross bike and a Italian Kask k-50 helmet.
Why a Kona ?, well for starters they have a lifetime warranty on the frame and I've owned a Kona before and was very happy with the quality and price. My new bike comes with the 2012 Shimano Tiagra 10 speed group set with a Shimano 105 rear derailleur and being a cross bike means I can commute , tour , ride off road and if I fit some road tyres it's basically a lightweight road bike with cantilever brakes. The first up grade with be a decent set of pedals maybe the Shimano PD M324 with a rat trap platform on one side and SPDs on the other side. I haven't purchased a new bike in over 6 years and have never owned a cross bike at all but I'm sure it will be perfect for the style of riding I like to do. As for helmets they are not required by Japanese law so 90 % of cyclists don't wear them on their daily commutes only for racing or official events ,but after several near misses with cars at 30km per hour I feel it's time to start wearing one on a daily basis as I did when I lived back in NZ where everybody must wear a helmet by law .
Pictured above is the 2012 Kona Jake , it's so popular here in Japan that only the large frame sizes are left so basically it's already sold out, they were only two 53cm frames in stock so I was very to get one !
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Well here in Japan it's now winter and with that comes rain , at least in Niigata we get plenty of rain and not far off we will soon see snow in the city as well. By now most car drivers have already changed their tyres to the winter snow tyres and some cyclists have already stopped cycling but it doesn't have to be that way if you prepare yourself for colder weather and rain !. So how do you keep cycling over the winter ?. Well first of all cycling is an aerobic activity that actually keeps you warm so the next thing you need to think about is how to stay dry . If you plan on cycling throughout the winter you will need a waterproof - breathable cycle jacket made from something like Gore tex or Hydrofoil. That has a long back flap to keep the rain , mud of your rear end !. If the jacket has reflective strips that's even better as then you will be easily seen by motorists. Having a fold away hood is also handy as it can be unzipped and used as needed when it really pours down hard. Water proof shoes are available , but mostly quite expensive and I have found my Shimano cycle shoes which look more like a outdoor sneaker than a traditional cycle show to be pretty good at keeping my feet dry in mild rain.
Another item you will need are warm waterproof gloves as it's not really possible to cycle safely with frozen fingers. Your hands must be warm to safely operate the brakes and gears of whatever bicycle you are riding. There is a vast range of winter cycle gloves available so pick the pair which suits your budget and the temp you cycle in etc.
As for what type of bicycles are suitable for cycling in Niigata , that depends on where you live and daily commute. If you live close to work and can use the road and cycle slowly it is possible to ride most types of bicycles. The most dangerous types of bicycles to ride in winter are standard road bikes and track racer type single speeds because of their narrow tyres and lack of grip makes them unsafe at higher speeds and very dangerous on snow or ice. The best type of bicycle for Niigata's winter is a MTB as with their wide tyres and extra grip and a vast range of gears they can be ridden in almost any conditions. I have ridden a MTB in - 3 deg snowstorms with no problems at all. Another type of bicycle that is also suitable is a Cyclocross bike which has 700 x 35 mm tyres as they are also cable of riding in most conditions as well. So wrap up in your wet weather clothing and keep cycling !. It will be a lot faster than driving your car or taking the bus as the traffic jams over winter only get worse and on a bicycle you can avoid this problem.
Pictured above is my New Zealand made cycle jacket called the Storm Trooper , it was purchased online from a company called Ground Effect and is made from Hydrofoil and is waterproof and breathable , it retails in NZ online for $260 which is Japanese yen 15606 .
Keep Cycling and have fun
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Recently I have been thinking about building a classic lugged bicycle frame for myself as after having built about 10 replica penny farthing bicycles over the years I thought it might be a good time to start on a conventional type frame. At present I'm building my last replica penny farthing for a customer in Tokyo and really enjoying it, apart from the fact that living in Japan makes building such a bike a rather long and difficult task as all the parts have to be imported from NZ, Australia or the USA. But as this bicycle is to be my last replica penny farthing I'm taking the time to make it authentic as possible to the late 1880s style.
I recently purchased the above book which I'm currently reading and later next year I hope to start building my first lugged frame. I've never attempted to build such as frame before, but then again I didn't know anything about building replica penny farthing bicycles either back in 1994 !, so I'm sure with a lot of study it's possible. If you are thinking about building your own lugged bicycle frame I recommend the above book as it's perfect for the beginner.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
First I'd just like to say thanks to everybody who took part in the Furumachi Bicycle Alley Cat yesterday, we were so lucky to have fantastic weather at this time of the year and Brian's Alley cat course proved a real challenge for all the riders. Maybe next time we need to start a little bit earlier for a course of that length. And I'd also like to thank Knog our event sponsor for the great spot prizes and Craig from " The Local " for the great after party . Already we have an idea for next years 1st event " Hanami Party Ride " and later on in 2012 we will be holding more alley cat events and hopefully some monthly bicycle rides as well. Pictured below are a few photos that I took yesterday of the event.
Also now that winter is upon us here in Niigata, that's the perfect time to get some maintenance done on your bicycle and if you are going to be riding over the winter , take care and if you need any cycle supplies just drop by Furumachi Bicycle and I'll help you out.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Police to get tough on sidewalk cyclists
NATIONAL OCT. 26, 2011 - 06:18PM JST ( 76 )TOKYO —
The National Police Agency is planning to toughen rules for sidewalk cyclists in order to cut back on the number of accidents involving bicycles colliding with pedestrians.
According to police, the consistently high rate of collisions in recent years has caused them to consider restricting the areas where cyclists can ride their bicycles. Police said that 2,760 collisions with pedestrians were reported last year, the eighth consecutive year that the number of incidents has exceeded 2,000, TBS reported. Five of those incidents resulted in death.
Police said that although a legal guideline exists stating that bicycles may be used on any path of at least two meters in width, it is in fact the responsibility of the National Public Safety Commission to permit or deny cycling in each location. Under proposed new rules, cyclists will not be allowed to ride on sidewalks less than three meters in width, TBS reported.
Along with the proposed restrictions, police are also hoping to introduce safe riding education schemes, to crack down on drunk cycling and to eventually introduce more dedicated cycling lanes on busy streets.
The NPA said that police officers will issue warnings to cyclists seen riding on sidewalks or riding in a reckless manner, such as using cell phones or iPods while on their bikes, TBS reported.
With the exception of children (under 13) and elderly people (over 70), cyclists will be encouraged to ride on roads rather than sidewalks, the NPA said. In so doing, cyclists need to understand that they have to observe traffic regulations the same as drivers, an NPA spokesman was quoted as saying by TBS.
As you can see I have taken the above article from Japan Today and as a bicycle shop manager ,lifelong cyclist and a 12 year resident of Japan I'd like to give my opinion on the above article. Often more than not Japanese footpaths , sidewalks are just too narrow or crowded for cycling safely . In reality it's only old granny's and mothers with kids who like cycling on the footpath because the type of bicycle they are riding is quite suitable for slowly weaving in and out of all the pedestrians. If you happen to ride a nice road bike with 700c wheels the last thing you want to be doing is to be bumping up and down every 5 mins on the uneven footpath and you certainly can not ride at a decent pace on the footpath anyhow. One of the main reasons for cycling is to have a mode of transport that can get you to your destination e.g school, work , meeting etc quickly and riding on the footpath will only slow you down !. In Niigata city where I live there have been a few cycle lanes put in place within the last year but only a few !, they need a lot more of them everywhere to make it safer for cyclists to commute everyday. I have had several cases of Driver vs Cyclist road rage since living here and the last case was a driver than rammed me into the gutter on purpose yelling at me to get off the road . Little did he know I'm rather fast on a bicycle and I sprinted 4 blocks to catch up with him at a set of lights that luckily for me had changed to red , looking back on that incident now I should have gone to the police after taking a photo of his number plate . And where do the police ride , on the bloody footpath just like the old granny's - they need to set an example by riding on the road themselves !. Also is it not possible for a under 13 year old or 70 year old cyclist to cause an accident while riding on the footpath ! As usual another stupid idea that makes no sense whatsoever , just make more cycle lanes and educate everybody to use them including the young and old ! . This really comes down to educating both drivers and cyclists to share the road and be aware of each other as road users !
Friday, 21 October 2011
Not long ago I started uni cycling again after a 20 year break and because of my limited time these days it gives me the opportunity for a hard workout in only an hour or so. I sometimes practice in front of my apartment as the street is nice and smooth with very little traffic and not far from my apartment is a nice smooth car park which I also sometimes use. But when I have a day off like today I put my unicycle in my van and drive across the city to Toyano park which also houses the Baseball & Soccer stadiums so there is tons of free space for cycling. I'm still practicing the free mount , I can do it but not consistently but my riding skills have improved and so have my turns. Today I managed to ride round around the outside of the baseball stadium with only one stop, man my thigh muscles were burning after that ride !. I'm sure with a lot more practice it will get easier. Pictured above are a few photos taken today at the park of my riding my Nimbus 24" freestyle unicycle. I have made a few minor changes which are :
Kris Holm 150mm ISIS moment cranks instead of the short Qu - Ax 125mm cranks as 150mm are far better to learn on etc.
I replaced the quick release seat clamp with a Nimbus double clamp for more strength
Also I have fitted Odyssey plastic twisted PC platform BMX pedals for a better grip and the Odyssey pedals have nice smooth bearings for their price range
Apart from that it's a standard Nimbus ISIS 24" 48 spoke freestyle uni cycle, it's super tough and is a perfect all round unicycle which can be used for freestyle, flatland , trials with the seat lowered and with an offroad tyre fitted it could be used for Muni as well.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Just yesterday I built up a custom rear wheel for a customers 2010 Surly 1 x 1 limited edition model . The bike is now a 1 x 11 speed as I fitted to the rear wheel a Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub gear. Of course the bike is now a lot heavier but as a fan of hub gears and the low maintenance they offer, I love them as none of the gears are exposed to the elements and with the amount of rain and bad weather we get in Niigata you can be assured that they will remain trouble free. Hub gears are certainly not new and Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs were first manufactured over 100 years ago in the UK. My personal bike which is a 1947 Humber Sports that is fitted with a Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub gear with a 90mm drum brake. I have not had to do any maintenance to it in the last 5 years since I restored it. Pictured above are a few photos of the Surly 1 x 1 and photos of the new wheel that I built.
Recently one of my customers purchased some old MTB parts from me and when I asked him what he was doing , he said that he was restoring a 1991 Araya Muddy Fox MTB so I said when it's finished bring it along to the bike shop as I was keen to see it. So last week one afternoon he showed up on his recently restored MTB, as it wasn't really missing any major parts it must have been an easy restoration which just involved cleaning and polishing the fame and components. The saddle is incorrect as I have just found a scan of the original catalog which shows it having a different saddle but apart from that it's near perfect. Ayara is a major rim manufacturer in Japan but they also produce a few bicycles as well, this particular model looks just like a Cannondale of the same period and uses similar tubing as well. These bikes were made in Japan and the above bike is kitted out with a full Shimano Deore LX groupset with DX STI shifters. Pictured above are a few photos of the bike and the proud owner.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
It you have ever wondered what the glory days of cycling were really like grab a beer and sit back and enjoy this fantastic short film from the famous Italian L' EROICA vintage cycling event. The event is so popular with riders from all over the world they have now limited the number of riders to 2700. Start saving your money now and find a classic road bike !
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
So after after checking out the new product range we headed to a nearby Shokudo for a quick late lunch then turned around and headed back on the expressway bound for Niigata. I can't remember the model of the brand new Toyota that we rented for the trip but it was rather high tech and doesn't have a key , plus it can be driven in automatic or manual. Of course I had to take a photo of the Tokyo tower as it was located near the event we attended and we made a stop at a roadside service area in the mountains of Gumma on the way home. I'm looking forward to seeing some of these new models in store in the new year as they are sure to be popular , if you want one we are now taking pre orders for the 2012 range .
Apart from Cinelli we took a look at the saddles from San Marco which include their vintage range - Regal, Concor & Rolls and these saddles have stood the test of time and are still available to riders today. Perfect for your road, track or MTB in a wide range of colors. Also Cinelli has re released two classic handle bars and a classic stem harking back to the days of yesteryear with the same silky polished alloy finish that the original components had, it's nice to see them doing this as I know from personal experience that there is a demand for the classic items they have re produced - Nice one Cinelli !.
Next up were the new Carbon road bikes , Saetta and a Cinelli Pro with the new Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting system, both were very nice and super lightweight. For the more budget minded cyclist the new Gazzetta Della Strada should fit the bill nicely. It's basically the same frame as the Gazzetta track bike but built with wider seat stays and a wider fork to accommodate 700c x 28 tyres and comes equipped with fenders front and rear plus a front rack. Cinelli has redesigned this frame after receiving lots of feedback from riders around the globe who wanted fenders and larger volume tyres for commuting, touring etc. The frame is built with Columbus tubing and equipped with Shimano Sora and is priced at 147,000 yen so is well within the reach of most commuters. Also they had 4 bikes on display from their cheaper Bootleg line including a new track bike in black with bullhorn bars . The other bike pictured above is their Alloy Cross bike made with Columbus tubing and although it's not available as a complete bike, the frame will make a great base for building up a nice race ready cross bike.
Well I have just come back from a one day trip to Tokyo to view the 2012 range from Cinelli. The distributor in Japan is a company called Dinosaur that also sells other road cycling related brands as well, but it was really only Cinelli & the saddle manufacturer San Marco that we were interested in viewing. After arriving the the Tokyo Prince Hotel we went straight to the show hall where Dinosaur was holding their event. 1st up with two new color schemes for their lightweight alloy track MASH frames and one was designed by the MASH crew from San Francisco and the other from Benny Gold. Both look very nice and brakes can be fitted with the front fork having a pilot hole that needs drilling and a rear brake can be fitted with a Kerin training brake consisting of two alloy back plates bolted onto the seat stays. Also it seems that my work mate Hiroshi is eyeing up one of Cinelli Super Corsa frames for himself !. These are the last frames to be manufactured in Italy by Cinelli and only one older staff member is in charge of making them, buy one now as they may not be around forever . They are a outstanding work of art and the finish on the Super Corsa road & track frames are fantastic. Also on display was a limited edition Laser Nostra track bike, very few of these have been made so I'm sure they sell out rather quickly.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
After spending about 3 hours at the bike show, my ex New Zealand flatmate Shinya who resides in Nagoya city took us on a tour of the local bicycle shops , but like Niigata city many of the shops close on Wednesday's but one shop was open and that was " Circles " it was a fantastic shop and their workshop was about the size of my entire shop. Next to the workshop was a large sofa and drink vending machine were customers could wait while their bike was being repaired. The main shop floor housed a fantastic array of parts and bicycles from most of the major brands including Hunter & Cielo from the USA. Cielo is the revived brand from bicycle legend Chris King and the finish quality on his frame sets makes you want to slap your credit card on the shop counter and buy one straight away !. The 2nd floor of " Circles " houses their clothing store were they stock major brands of shoes, shorts, messenger bags, cycle tops etc. If you ever visit Nagoya go and see the friendly team at " Circles " as most likely they'll have want you want. That evening we ate together with Shinya's family at a Yaki ton ( grilled pork ) restaurant which was awesome and finished off the night at one of the smallest rock & roll bars I have ever visited. We left Nagoya at 10.40pm back on the bus bound for Niigata city and arrived home just before 6am, a long trip but well worth the effort.