Monday, 30 September 2013

Oct 6 day tour - ready to roll

Well this time next week I will be sleeping in my tent back at Snow Peak HQ in the mountains of Tsubame Sanjo on the first night of my Oct 6 day tour. This year I made up my mind to get out touring on the bike into the hills as often as I can, I guess being a kiwi from small town New Zealand makes me miss all the outdoor adventures I had when I lived back home, tramping ( hiking ) rock climbing , mountain biking etc. And its been a while since I went on anything longer than an overnight tour, but as I sold my car last year I have been cycling every day to work no matter what the weather - 4 deg snowstorms, typhoons, humid hot summers , rain season etc so I guess I am now fully prepared for any type of weather that Japan can throw at me. I chose Oct because the weather is cooler and nice for cycling, camp grounds are certainly not crowded and as the course I have picked is only about 400km I can ride it leisurely , take photos ,stop and chat over the 6 days. It will be a welcome break from the concrete jungle and a great way to spend my remaining annual leave. Just recently my shop has also become a dealer for Alternative Bicycles which happens to be the Japanese importer for Revelate Designs bike packing bags, so tomorrow I will pick up and fit my new Viscacha Digital Camo 14ltr seat pack which means I will now have a full set of good quality bike packing bags to test out on the up coming 6 day tour . Pictured above is the route that I will take starting next Monday.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

New Blog - Tour Division

Hi Everybody ,I like to inform you all of a new site that I am a guest blogger on which is called Long Division, the blog was started by my long term cycling pal Brian Southwick and is all about bike packing and our lead up to racing in the 2015 Tour Divide race !, yes that is right Brian & I have decided that being in our mid 40s is a good time to take on the worlds toughest and longest bicycle race . In you visit the blog at the link below you will get some idea of what the 4417km course looks like and I think because we have plenty of time before the race in 2015 we will be well prepared by then. The blog features Tour Divide info, our own bike packing adventures and some product reviews and the equipment we will use such as bikes, bags , tents etc . So if you have time head on over to the following link and check it out Long Division

Friday, 20 September 2013

Niigata to Snow Peak - part 3

After waking up very early I decided to take an alternative route back instead of the hilly route 290 I would head down hill towards the city of Tsubame Sanjo and skirt the foothills passing through small villages before again linking up with the main street of Kamo and my route back into the city. It was almost all downhill to Sanjo and was really nice riding in the shade of the hills on a quiet narrow road through small villages and it was not long before I was on familiar roads again. The return trip took only 3 hours were the trip out along route 290 took 5 hours which included some stops. Just before leaving the Tagami road I pulled into a 7/11 and bought a snickers bar and a bag of 4 raisin butter bread rolls which gave me the power to head back in along the Shinano river back into the city. Along the way I spotted 3 men in a boat, they were not out for a pleasure cruise, but city workers struggling to lift out of the water a full size family fridge, their truck on the river bank was full of discarded rubbish including several large size family fridges and TVs , It is unfortunate that some members of Japanese society think it is ok to throw items into the local river or over a bank in the middle of the mountains but I was happy to see the city doing their job and cleaning it up, must have been hard work in 32 deg heat ! .

Some photos from the last leg of my 2 day trip

Niigata to Snow Peak HQ - part 2

 One reason for this trip was to check out the road I need to take that will lead me into Fukushima for my up coming 6 day bike packing tour in Oct and Snow Peak HQ will be were I spend my 1st night on tour. I had only been to Snow Peak HQ once in the middle of winter for the Surly 7 salsa Fat Bike demo weekend which was a lot of fun but everything sure looked different with the deep snow around. The sign posts pointing me in the right direction of Snow Peak HQ made finding the place rather easy. I reached there about 12pm and looking back now it would have been a good idea to have eaten at a roadside shokudo before heading there as I ended up buying some over priced Snow Peak branded soup for lunch which was pretty good with the local beer they also had on sale. I ended up taking a long afternoon nap which then made it very difficult to finally get to sleep ( lesson learnt no more afternoon naps whilst on tour ) . The camp site was fantastic and I took a good look at their in house shop featuring all their branded goods, although their nice lightweight tent had a label that said made in China , I guess they can not make everything on site ! . A few other day campers were there , but by dusk it was just me and a middle aged couple with a 4x4 and a ton of outdoor gear, they could not believe I had ridden route 290 through the mountains and everything I needed was on the bike. It was nice to be able to use their showers and kitchen facilities any time day or night and the staff were very helpful. Pictured below are a few photos from Snow Peak HQ


Niigata to Snow peak HQ

Well yesterday I rode out of Niigata City early in the morning to head to Snow Peak HQ, located deep in the mountains of Tsubame Sanjo. Not only does Snow Peak have their factory here, but also a large shop selling their products plus a huge camp ground. I decided to take the most direct route out of the city along Route 1 that borders the Shinano river. Unfortunately by the time I reached that road it was busy with heavy traffic either coming into the city or heading up river. Further along the river I discovered the top of the stop bank had a sealed bike path but in places it either tuned to rough gravel , or no track at all but whenever possible I used that instead of the road . That road links up with another quieter road  along the foothills and makes its way into the town of Kamo ( named little Kyoto around Niigata as it also has a wide river running through the town center ). After getting out of Kamo the road heads inland on route 290 and over a few low mountain passes , which I manged to ride at a respectable pace of around 16 km per hour which is pretty good going for a loaded 29 inch single speed MTB. The downhills were fun and I clocked 50km per hour on one long stretch. It was fantastic to be back on these roads again as it had been several years since I took this route. The sun was shinning and everybody was busy harvesting rice , making the most of the good weather. Looking at my sunburn now I should have applied some lotion before heading out, but I never guessed it would get to 32 deg at this time of the year.

 Pictured in this post are a few photos from this section of the ride

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Bike packing - nothing is new , just reinvented !

As the bike packing boom is gaining popularity around the world and introducing many new riders to the world of cycle touring, many may have thought that loading their bike with traditional racks and pannier bags was not for them and have embraced the new designs from such makers as Revelate Designs etc . Now there is a wide range of bike packing bags available , made from modern tough materials with Velcro tabs to attach the items easily to your bike. Frame bags, seat packs, handle bar bags, etc are a fantastic way of carrying all the supplies you need on an extended tour.

 But what a minute , none of this is new at all !, back in the late Victorian period  of the 1880s cycling was gaining popularity as a new mode of transportation and recreation and people wanted to explore places further afield and needed a way to carry everything they required. Makers such as Brooks , the famous long established saddle maker from England  had several different types of cycle bags advertised in their 1888 catalog .

 Pictured below in the following photographs are various frame and handle bar bags, they are not so different to the modern bike packing style of bags except these bags were made out of leather of canvas !

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

R.I.P Kas Kobori

It is with great sadness that I make this blog posting , but I feel it is the right thing to do under the circumstances. a week or so ago I received a phone call at my bicycle shop from one of Kas Korbori work mates to say that on Sunday August 18th , Kas was out cycling with some friends when he felt some chest pains and was rushed to hospital, unfortunately he did not make it and passed away in hospital that day.

Kas Kobori contacted me almost 3 years ago with a desire to get a hand made replica high wheel bicycle built and some how he manage to track me down and came to visit me in Niigata, at that time I was selling traditional NZ style meat pies in front of a friends shop and was very surprised to see Kas appear wearing a T shirt with a image of Thomas Stevens ( every high wheel bicycle riders hero ) . Later we retired to a nearby coffee shop where he asked me to build him a replica high wheel bicycle. At first I said no as it was too difficult to construct such a bicycle here compared to my home country of New Zealand. But how can you really say no to someone who is so passionate about high wheel bicycles that he had already imported a RBR replica from the USA and often rode it along the Tamagawa cycle road in Tokyo.

So after many e mails with some overseas contacts in the high wheel bicycle world, I found I could obtain the necessary parts to construct a fantastic replica high wheel bike.  Those people who have followed my other blog highwheelinginjapan will know I have spent countless hours making Kas Kobori the perfect bike, the last thing Kas was doing was working on the handle bar and spoon brake lever as he had found an engineer in Tokyo to make the required parts. So now everything is on hold while I contact his family to ask them what they would like to do re the bicycle he was getting built. although Kas will never get to ride it , I will somehow finish it as that is what he would have wanted. My main thoughts from all this is that sometimes life is very short so we must find a good balance between family, work and leisure.

Pictured in this posting is a You Tube clip of Kas riding his first replica high wheel bicycle along the Tamagawa cycle road.  R.I.P Kas