Sunday, 29 December 2013

Happy New Year from 3speedtouringinjapan

139 by premopies

Hi Everybody

First up I'd would like to thank you all for following my blog this year and your comments. This year I re discovered the joys of cycle touring again after a long break, in the past I have done a couple of 3000 km long distance tours but for many years due to work commits my touring dreams were put on hold. But this year I was able to  get out often for overnight trips and a 5 day tour into Fukushima and back that was fantastic, one of the best short distance tours I have ever done. This year I have also started bike packing using bags that attach directly to the frame rather than racks etc. Personally now I prefer the bike packing style as it makes you think more about what you really need to carry on extended trips etc.  As many of you will notice I now do all of my cycling on a single speed 29 inch MTB rather than my Fathers 1947 Humber sports which is now on display at a local bicycle theme cafe . I still love vintage bicycles and 3 speeds but for the type of cycling I now do the single speed MTB is perfect.

What does next year hold ? - well over this winter I am planning to change to a slighter bigger frame as I currently ride a 16 inch frame and have found a nice 17 inch frame that will suit me better plus I can fit a larger frame bag which will allow me to carry more water for long distance tours.  My cycling companion Brian has also caught the single speed MTB bug and we have both decided to enter the  single speed MTB Japan open  which will be held in late Oct and for the first time this event will be held on this side of Japan with the course being located in the famous ski resort town of Hukuba,  so maybe a bike packing trip to the race and back could be in order ! Both of us have also decided to take part in 1100km The Great Southern Brevet which is held close to my home town in the South Island of New Zealand in 2015 , so I will be spending a lot of time next year bikepacking.

Finally I would like to wish you and all your family a very Happy New Year
& safe cycling.

Keep your chain lubed !
Don Speden

139, a photo by premopies on Flickr.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Winter protection !

Well as the sunny days have ended and the single digit temps have arrived it's time to think about preparing your bicycle for winter if you intend to ride everyday. Winter of course brings lots of rain, snow and riding on the city roads means your bicycle will get covered in grit and salt which are not for good for your bicycle at all. While changing to a better set of tyres with added grip or studs if you live in an area with a lot of ice , it also pays to take of the main allen bolts out and give them a wipe with a rag and then apply a fresh coat of grease to stop the bolts seizing up or rusting over the winter. A regular wipe down with a rag will help matters and try to keep your bike clean if you can. A weekly clean and chain lube over winter is a good idea if you cycle daily to prevent parts from wearing out.

One point that is often overlooked on a bicycle is the top of the seat tube were the seat clamp or binder bolt holds the seat post in position, here is also a split in the top of the seat tube that allows you to compress the seat clamp. Over winter this point fills up with water, grit and salt sprayed up off the back wheel  while in motion.

So how to stop grit getting down your crack ?

Protect yourself with a seat post condom - no don't rush off to your bedroom and grab a multi ribbed colorful condom although once cut to size it would certainly work I'm sure. Most likely you will have an old bicycle tube laying around, if not ask the local bicycle shop for an old 700 x 28c tube and cut a 50mm section off it and then turn it inside out, give it a clean. Remove your seat post & now is also a good time to wipe it down and apply fresh grease to the seat tube. Now with your freshly cut 50mm section of bicycle tube stretch it over and down on the top of the seat tube below the clamp. Now re insert your freshly greased seat post, set it to the correct height. And now you can pull up the post condom and cover the area that needs protection. Once the warm rays of spring arrive you can just cut it off or leave it on there for all year long protection.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Oct 5 Day bike packing tour 7th - 11th , 2013

Oct 5 Day bike packing tour 7th - 11th , 2013, a set on Flickr.

Now that winter has started here its nice to look back when the days were hotter, my last tour for this year into Fukushima and back in fantastic hot weather - Yes you can tour on a single speed 29 inch MTB fully loaded ? 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pedals - Flat or SPD ?

Well as a cyclist now for many years I have used a variety of pedals & shoes over the years , some were great others were downright painful. So back in the late 1980s when I started cycling , flat pedals with toe clips were the norm, road bikes had clip in pedal systems but most mountain bikers like myself favored the basic Shimano XT grade pedals or something of similar quality with plastic toe clips and straps. There were not many options in the early days of mountain biking for shoes and at that time there were no Shimano pedal and shoe combinations designed for mountain biking. Riders did fine with toe clips in sneakers or a rugged outdoor type shoe, then suddenly there were options to ride clipped in with a basic MTB shoe and pedal - just like the roadies !. Fast forward to today and there is a massive range of pedals from various makers available , from tiny little pedals e.g Crank Brothers eggbeaters , to lightweight carbon, plastic , titanium etc.

Pictured below are a few photos of pedal systems - these happen to be Shimano products but many makers offer a similar selection in the same style.

Pictured above is the most popular type of pedal system, the pedal tension is adjustable to allow for beginners to clip in easily and you can use either side , but you can only use it with a cycling shoe with the cleat fitting attached to the sole of you shoe.

Another type of pedal offers the rider the choice of either using a cycling shoe with a cleat or regular shoes. The multi purpose pedal - regular shoes to ride to work in and cycling shoes for your weekend rides etc.

The last pedal is the flat pedal, you can use this type of pedal in boots, outdoor sneakers etc and it has plenty of grip thanks to its adjustable pins.

So which type of pedal is best ?, that really depends on the type of riding you regularly do , most racers prefer the SPD type system as it looks your feet securely  to the pedal and are often very lightweight. Some downhill and free ride cyclists prefer a flat pedal as it gives you the option of quickly putting your foot down when needed. Our course your pedal choice dictates what type of shoes you will need to wear. As for shoes well they come in a wide variety of prices, colors and styles. If you have wide feet you will need to hunt out some of the companies that offer a wide fitting cycle shoe , not that many options but you can find them. Also spd type shoes with cleats attached are not very comfortable off the bike as they are designed manly just for cycling not walking, but recently some makers are improving shoes so that you can walk around comfortably as well. Now if you use flat pedals like myself you have a vast array of options from sneakers, purpose outdoor shoes with super grippy soles these type of shoes are basically a hiking shoe, built tough, maybe made of goretex with hard wearing soles. Just buy a pair that you are comfortable walking around in, my current cycle footwear is a pair of North Face goretex trail running shoes . Fantastic at keeping your feet dry on a daily commute and grippy enough even in wet weather.

Pictured above is a typical pair of cycle shoes with two velcro straps and a ratchet type strap and holes in the base of the sole to attach your cleat system to lock into your shoes. 

The above shoe is actually marketed towards rock climbers or hikers looking for a solid approach shoe, it is made of leather and rubber with a wide foot bed and a vibram sole. This type of shoe works well with a flat platform type pedal and offers the rider greater comfort on and off the bike. 

So folks there it is the basic over view of pedal and shoe types , think about what type of cycling you like to do and go to your nearest bicycle shop and try on a variety of shoes and check out the pedal selection available . If for any reason you want to use flat pedals once again visit your local bike shop as flat pedals also come in a wide variety of prices, at present I am using a flat pedal from the BMX brand Odyssey the model of the pedal is called the twisted PC and for a cheap plastic pedal these are very well made and not expensive to replace if worn out. As for shoes for flat pedals go visit your nearest sports shop or outdoor store and find something that is comfortable for walking as it will be fine for cycling as well. 

Happy Cycling    

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cycle Mode 2013

Well I know its a bit late , but my part time staff member Brian & I attended the bicycle trade show held on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th of Nov . The show is called Cycle Mode and is held at the huge Makuhari Messe event center which by train is one stop past Disney Land , We both took off early on the 2nd of Nov on a bullet train bound for Tokyo station and then transferred to another line out to Makuhari to the event center. I do not bother to go to this trade show every year, as yearly there are not so many changes to be seen in the industry but every two years I feel its worthwhile attending to check out new products and innovations that may be of interest to our shop.  On arriving in Tokyo we were lucky enough to spot the new bullet train due to depart on the same platform which is pictured below.

Cycle Mode itself was split into two main halls with the first hall mainly covering road bicycle brands from Europe and accessories related to either road cycling or triathlon. Most of the big names were there showing of the latest in carbon fiber lightweight bicycles and by mid afternoon the area was packed with people test riding their dream bike on the large indoor circuit. Unfortunately I was far too busy meeting with our suppliers and checking out new models that I did not have time for any test rides , but I did take a lot of photos instead.

The other hall contained some of the brands I sell such as Surly, Salsa and Kona so it was nice to be able to check out their range , photograph some of the more popular models and speak to my sales reps re when particular models would arrive in Japan for sale. As once the bicycle companies update their websites with the photos and sometimes the prices of the 2014 models I often get people coming into the shop asking when they will be available for sale. Some of the new 2014 models are already on the shop floor , but others will not arrive until early 2014 . And as Niigata is usually covered in snow and low temps until late April often some of the more popular models are either sold out or there is low stock. Many riders in Niigata do not think about buying a new bike until May at the earliest when they should be buying it as soon as it comes on sale and storing it until the winter is finished. For people living on the other side of Japan can cycle all year round due to the lack of snow. 

As I am a Surly & more recently a Salsa dealer we can now obtain a fantastic selection of fat bikes from both makers either in chromoly , Alloy , titanium or now even carbon fiber !. Niigata is the perfect place for fat bikes as we get a lot of snow and already this year I have sold quite a few to local riders looking for a winter challenge. As for me I really love the Salsa El Mariachi with its sliding drop outs, which makes it a fantastic fully geared 29 or a very capable single speed. I thought I might have seen more fat bikes and bike packing equipment , but I guess that will take a bit longer to catch on here compared to say the USA where it is very popular.  

Monday, 4 November 2013

Gear review - Outdoor research Reveal Jacket

Well after tonight's ride home in  torrential rain and a pretty awesome lightening show , I thought I would write a review on my recently acquired Outdoor research Reveal jacket. Being an all season cyclist it means I ride the 8kms into work in all manner of weather , heavy rain, snow, wind you name it and Niigata City gets it and rain is one thing we get a lot of so I need to carry a good water proof jacket everyday. After my Ground Effect storm trooper jacket started leaking as it was almost 3 years old, by the way that is also an awesome water proof jacket from the gang at Ground Effect who are based in Christchurch , New Zealand . So I decided to try another brand and this time it was Outdoor Research, the USA based company has been around for a long time and they know how to turn out good quality gear at affordable prices. Below is a picture of the jacket taken from the Outdoor Research website.

The jacket pictured above is identical to mine and will keep you 100% dry even in heavy rain as was proved this evening whilst riding home from work. It can be packed down quite small by stuffing the jacket into the left hand pocket and the two front side pockets are handy for holding smaller items you need to get easily. e.g keys, wallet and a phone. The hood fits under a bicycle helmet fine and neck area is lined with a fine fleece. One great feature of this jacket is the full length side vents so you can easily adjust it to suit almost any weather. This is advertised as both a cycling and hiking jacket and works really well. It does not have the traditional style whale tail of many cycling jackets but is long enough whilst bent over cycling. In all its a great jacket for the price and is available in a wide variety of colors and sizes.  

Thursday, 24 October 2013

5 Day tour gear review - Rear saddle bag

At first this year I was using a Ortleib dry bag mounted to a Free load rack, it worked but hit the back of my legs whilst cycling so when I was able to test a Revelate Designs Viscacha saddle bag and found it easily contained my two man tent and cook set with room to spare, I ordered one straight away and now I am very glad I did. it holds between 6ltr and 14ltr and attaches firmly to your saddle rails and seat post. One thing you must do before buying one is to check that you have enough  exposed seat post to fit it correctly.

Below is a photo of the saddle bag and the items that I carried in it whilst on my 5 day tour

The above items that I used were 

No.1 Basic first aid kit , this should also contain insect repellent 

No.2 Pot scrub ( to keep your mess tin and KFS clean ) 

No.3 Pocket Knife - swiss army 

No.4  Cheap plastic lighter for the stove

No.5 Plastic chop sticks , very useful in Japan

No.6 KFS  - knife , fork & spoon set 

No.7 Alloy army style mess tin

No.8 Trangia Alcohol mini stove

No.9 Trangia stove base 

No.10 Fairydown 2 man all season tent rolled tightly in a plastic bag

All these items easily fitted in the saddle bag plus my rain Jacket, I chose the Trangia stove because is small very reliable and simple to use and maintain. I do not like gas canister type stoves  because they often take up too much space with the combined gas canister which you have to dispose of after use. If you are looking for a cheap reliable stove ,Trangia is the business !. All the small items and stove etc fit within the mess which is then contained in a plastic bag. In the future I will upgrade my 20 year old 2 man tent to something lighter like a 1 man tent . All the above items weighed 5kg once packed

5 Day tour gear review - Handle bar bag

Well as my bicycle store is a dealer for both Revelate Designs and Porcelain Rocket, I currently use a mix of both brands. When I was looking for a handle bar bag I liked the design of the Porcelain Rocket mission control handle bar set up and particularly liked the extra pocket that attaches to the front, however since I bought my bag Revelate designs have made some new handle bar bags which also look very good.

Pictured below are all the items that were carried in the handle bar bag and attached pocket.

Starting at the bottom of the photo and working up to the top are the items I used. 

No.1 Small hand made note book used as a diary / log book , from Micheal O Brien Book binder NZ 

No.2  A set of 12 alloy light weight tent pegs in a nylon bag

No.3 black Diamond mini head lamp with fade function  

No.4 Mont Bell under helmet thermal cap 

No.5 Water proof map case 

No.6  Alloy folding wind shield for cooking

No.7  Mont Bell stuff sack ( this bag was used for clean clothes )

No.8 Mont Bell stuff sack ( this bag was used for dirty clothes ) 

No.9  Mont Bell burrow bag ( super light weight but very warm - not made of down )

No.10 Mont Bell U L Comfort system pillow  8cm height

No.11 Mont Bell U L comfort system mattress 8cm height

No.12 OR 10ltr dry bag 

The above items worked well and in the small stuff sacks I had spare clothes, socks, pack towel etc both those bags were placed either side of the OR research dry bag which contained the sleeping set up. The Mont Bell U L Comfort system packs down really small as you can see from the photo above and the pillow attaches to the main mattress. I have tried compressed foam and small 3cm high air mattress but they are hopeless compared to the luxury of the U L Comfort system. The handle bar bag was designed around a 10ltr OR dry bag and once filled you still have extra room either side for other items , in my case spare clothes etc. 
Pictured below is the Mont Bell U L Comfort system set up.

5 Day tour gear review

Hi Everybody

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my 5 day tour into Fukushima and back and it seems like that week may have been the last hot week for 2013 as since then the days have become a lot colder. Recently quite a few people have asked me about the type of gear that I carried while on tour so today I took a couple of photos of the main gear that I carried and I will explain my reasons for using those items as well.

First up pictured below is a good side view picture of my 2013 Kona Unit single speed fully loaded for a 5 day bike packing tour

As you can see I do not use racks at all and have this year decided to try the bike packing style of bags attached directly to the frame rather than bags attached to racks, I have tried both methods and can say that I find the bike packing style better - why ?. When you have large pannier bags you tend to carry a lot more than needed and have the option to fill every bag with even more stuff. The bike packing method means you have to think a lot more about the items you need to take and make do with a basic travel kit. 

In the picture above I have a 

1. Handle bar bag with front pocket - total packed weight  4.8kg
2.  Frame bag which contains a mini pump and spare tube and 2ltr hydration bladder 
3. Folding alloy tent poles contained in a bag strapped to the top tube
4.  Bottle cage zip tied to the down tube with a Alloy bottle full of white alcohol for the Trangia stove
5. Rear saddle bag which can hold from 6ltr - 14ltr , total packed weight 5kg 

At a guess I think the total weight of everything that I took was about 12.5kg , in the next couple of posts I will detail the items that were carried in the two main bags