Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Powder snow and wheel building !

As part of my 2012 New years resolution I have been cycling to work since Jan 2nd, living in Niigata ( Snow Country ) makes that quite a challenge but so far my trusty 2012 Kona Jake has been preforming rather well and this morning I rode into work through 15cm of fresh powder which was quite fun, but the ride home this evening in - 2 deg took a bit longer but I didn't fall off and the Maxxis mud buster tyre's grip really well even in snow which is great.

As today's weather was pretty bad my bicycle shop was rather quiet, but it also allowed me time to do some wheel building. The above photos show a Velocity B43 deep alloy rim laced 3 cross into a Gran Compe track hub with Mac spokes, the rim I was using today was made in Australia but Velocity has just recently moved their production facility to the USA, which will then make Velocity the only (Made in the USA) rim manufacturer as all the other rims are either made in China or Taiwan. Plenty of other companies have copied Velocity to make deep rims for the booming single speed / fixie market such as H plus Son that are made in China !.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

I'll have a Kona Jake on ice thanks !

Well so far I have kept up my New Years resolution, cycle more use - my car less so even when it's snowing and - 1 deg I have been donning my thermals and water proof jacket for the 7 .4km ride into the city. There were a few people who said it wasn't possible as Niigata's winter gets pretty harsh as this time of the year with snow and ice. Last night while working accidents were already happening not far from my shop as an ambulance was called out to pick somebody up who had slipped badly while walking so I was a little worried about the ride home. But thankfully I managed to cycle home even on the ice without slipping. I did see 3 car accidents due to drivers going too quickly, car snow tyre's are fine in the snow but they aren't too great on thick black ice. The secret to not taking a fall is to ride in a mid range gear, not fast but not too slow, take the corners really wide and don't bother leaning while going around a corner and try to cycle as straight as possible, it you do hit a big patch of ice don't freak out just keep going slowing and the most important thing is don't touch your front brake and use your rear brake as little as you can. The Kona Jake has 700 x 32c Maxxis Mud Buster cyclo cross tyres and so far they have been fantastic in all conditions. This morning I rode into the city at around 8.30am and it was nice and sunny with a light layer of snow over the ice and 0 deg so it was quite nice and it was a pleasure to pass the long traffic jams and local buses with people crammed into them like sardines in a tin. As for my new bike I love it !, and am glad I decided to purchase a cyclo cross bike as my year round commuter.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


Coming from New Zealand to Japan back in 1998 I was surprised to see that bicycle helmets were not required by law in Japan. New Zealand is the only country apart from Australia which actively enforces mandatory all-age bicycle helmet laws nationally (although adults are exempt in the Northern Territory of Australia !). The law was enforced in New Zealand in January 1994. So for many years I have enjoyed the freedom of not having to wear a helmet on a daily basis like I did when I lived in New Zealand & Australia but in the years that I have lived in Japan I have had several close calls with cars that often made me think about wearing a helmet. Of course all official bicycle events in Japan require helmets to be worn otherwise you can not enter, but 95% of cyclists don't bother to wear a helmet on a daily basis riding to work or school. Japanese roads are often very narrow and even though you are still allowed to cycle on the footpath that can be dangerous as well as more often or not it's very narrow , not smooth and of course full of pedestrians. With the recent bicycle boom more people are riding lightweight sports bikes e.g road bikes, single speeds, fixes and travelling at greater speeds than before but still helmets have not become popular. It is true that previous helmets styles were not very attractive to the fashionable cyclist but these days there is a wide range of modern styles, colors and shapes to suit everybody. Pictured above is a Italian made Kask road helmet and Bern a new style of helmet from America. If you are thinking about wearing a helmet there is now a style to suit everybody and if you do have a crash it might just be the difference that saves your life.