Idiot on 2 Wheels

2010/10/09

The other night I made a late night ride to a nearby store near Nishi-Kokubunji. On the way home I was rolling down a slope at fair pace along a particularly dark section of the road. The road is wide with a fair amount of traffic with a speed limit of 40 kph. I always run with at least one headlight and a taillight. I also never ride without my brain bucket. Fortunately, for the idiot riding on the wrong side of the street without lights or a helmet that I him huffing and puffing up the hill. When I spotted this idiot I gestured frantically at my headlight and pointed at my eyes. I was so annoyed at this moron I couldn’t think of anything to say. I found my tongue after I passed him. I let out a “baka yarou”. No doubt he didn’t hear me as he was already behind me. It isn’t that Idiot-on-2-Wheels and myself nearly collided. After all, I did see him in plenty of time to avoid a collision. The problem is my imagination and experience is enough to picture what would have happened if we had crashed into one another. We probably would have both survived to regret Idiot-on-2-Wheels’ irresponsible behavior but I really don’t fancy being a customer of the ambulance customer or visiting the local hospital emergency room?

I think this guy is proof that survival of the fittest is a fallacy. If it were true this guy’s defective DNA would be taken out of the gene pool long before he had a chance to reproduce. I don’t believe in helmet laws but I do believe in common sense and my own mortality. It isn’t common sense to ride on the wrong side of a busy street, in the dark without lights or a helmet.

I have noticed that the vast majority of incidents of reckless riding are perpetrated by either the young (under 25 or so) or the very old. Having once been so young and carefree I can understand somewhat the former group of miscreants. When you are young you are sure that you are going to live forever (despite all evidence to the contrary)  and that no matter how reckless and irresponsible you are no harm can befall you. A few close calls and a minor accident or two goes a long way in eliminating delusions of immortality. I wish upon everyone to experience a close call at least once in their formative years.

Not yet quite of the age where I would be considered old I have more trouble understanding the oblivious manner in which senior citizens ride. I surmise that it could be a number of things. They probably remember learning to ride a bicycle in an era when automobiles are far and few between and perhaps never developed defensive riding skills. Or perhaps they feel that they have ridden safely through many decades (the first few of which they did not share the road with faster vehicles) without major mishap that they have developed a false sense of safety. There have been many studies recently on how badly human beings evaluate personal risk. I think these studies can be applied to cyclists. Finally, we all know that reflexes slow down as we get older. Perhaps older riders have to divert valuable attention attention from road to the act of maintaining their balance. Coupling shorter reaction times with a false sense of safety seems like an equation that equals disaster to me.

I don’t know what can be done about Idiot-on-2-Wheels and the like. Perhaps I need to mount an idiot gun on my handlebars and help out the gene pool by taking these idiots out of the gene pool. I would love to hear how other people deal with idiots on two wheels.

By Paul Oertel


The route of the 2010 Tokyo City Cycling event.

Participants were given a bright yellow bib to help them stand out in a crowd.

I finally have time to do a report on my participation in the 2010 Tokyo City Cycling event. It was a lot of fun rubbing shoulders with so many other cyclists of shapes, sizes and colors. As this wasn’t a race there was a lot of variety in bicycles but most of the participants fall into one of three camps. Folding bikes are the new trendy thing. This is a trend that actually makes sense to me. Being that living space is so limited and that Japan Rail requires cyclists to bag their bicycles the more compact you can make your ride the better. Mini-velo riders, like my new friend Paul L. along with the folding bike are rapidly growing segment. The impetus for the mini-velo folks is almost the same as the folding bike set except the mini-velo riders are looking for a little more performance. Of course, the traditional road/race bike contingent showed up in droves. Finally, there was a small minority made up of freak bikes and other riders. But at the end of the day it isn’t about the kind of bike that you ride. It is about getting out there on a bike and enjoying the ride, enjoying the sights and enjoying the company of other cyclists.

The courtyard in front of Tocho was the staging area for the 2010 Tokyo City Cycling event.

I rode my touring bike, Boris, (for a proper introduction to Boris see my article A Bike By Any Other Named) from Nakano Station Bike Lot where I had parked two days prior in preparation for my 7 a.m. start in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho). I checked in at the registration tabled and got my free sample of Amino Vital. I walked my bike over to the line up and waited for the ride to begin. They allowed us to walk our bikes in groups of 20 to 30 up to street where we lined up again. The streets weren’t closed for this event like they do for the TD 5 Boro Tour in New York City. But there is a big difference between 30,000 riders (NYC) and the 2,500 participants of this event. Instead of letting all 500 riders start rolling at once the ride marshals started us out in small groups of 30 to 40 riders. So my 7 a.m. start was more like 7:30 a.m.

Waiting in line in front of Tocho for our turn to start the ride.

I am glad I chose the earliest start time because traffic was lighter earlier in the morning and the heat and humidity was less oppressive. We dutifully rode single file and stopped at every red light. Though maps were handed out to each rider at the registration table they weren’t really needed because ride marshals were stationed at most intersections and turning points telling us which way to go. The ride rolled through Tokyo at a leisurely pace between 20 kph and 30 kph. Early on, the thought struck me that even my 10 year old could have handled the pace.

Traffic backed up in midtown as cyclists waited to get through two closely spaced traffic lights.

Shortly after the start we cut through Yoyogi Park. The park provided a nice green diversion from the urban scenery. Midtown present a bit of bicycle grid lock as the line backed up from one traffic light all the way back through the previous traffic light. It took several changes of the traffic light to get through. I understand that the back up was even worse later in the day. After passing through Kasumigaseki we finally came to the first aid station in the S&L Square in front of Shinbashi Station. With 12 k under our wheels we enjoyed the cold sports drinks provided by the organizers. Modern carbon fiber frames parked in front of the classic steam engine that decorates the square. After snapping a few pictures I rolled on.

We cruised through the ritzy shopping district of Ginza before coming to Harumi and Ariake. Ariake is one of my favorite parts of Tokyo to ride in. Because it is newly developed from landfill the streets and sidewalks are wide and straight. There is plenty of room on the sidewalks to ride and auto and pedestrian traffic is much lighter compared to central Tokyo. After a loop through Ariake we stopped at the second aid station where bottle water and bananas were handed out to riders. It seems that bananas and bicycle events in Japan are ubiquitous.

This bike with the hammock seat is the most unique ride I spotted during the entire event.

Two thirds done, we roll on. This part of the ride took us through Edo Ward. It was my first time in this part of the city but I have to admit that I found it unremarkable and unmemorable. The final aid station was at Shinkawa Park on the Sumida River. I didn’t linger long here.

Uchibori Dori is closed to traffic on Sundays and turned over to cyclists.

The final leg took us around the outside of the Imperial Gardens. We took advantage of Uchibori Dori being reserved for bicycles on Sundays. This is the only place on the whole route where the street was closed to automobile traffic. It is an immense pleasure to ride down the center of the street with complete impunity.

Ride wrapped up at the National Sports Arena (Kokuritsu Kyogijo). This was a good choice for the finish as the entire park is dedicated to sporting activities. Many of the sponsors had booths behind the goal line to promote there wares. The most noticeable booths were for Miyata/Merida, the Swiss Embassy. The folks at the Miyata tent were offering people the opportunity to test ride their Merida bikes. For those who don’t know, Merida is Miyata’s sport and recreation brand.

Miyata/Merida booth

At the Miyata tent you could test ride their Merida line of bikes.

Miyata is perhaps the top bicycle manufacturer in Japan across from the everyday mamachari all the way to high end race bikes. I tried out a Merida road bike and one of their single speed bikes. I took a lap around the park on each. I also tried out a mini-velo from KHS. The one bike I really wanted to take for a test ride was the wooden bike at the Cedar booth. To promote products made from cedar an industry association has built a bike from out of cedar. The frame was beautiful though quite heavy. Though the drive train was complete, alas, test rides were not allowed because the bike didn’t have any brakes.

I'm famous now.

As I was wandering around the event space with Paul L. I was flagged down by a reporter from Asahi Shinbun. He interviewed me and the photographer snapped some pictures of me. The picture and an inaccurate paraphrase of my interview was printed in the September 23 edition of the paper. Now I have everything, Fame, fortune, good looks and a bicycle (only the latter is not a figment of my imagination, a matter of opinion and not subject to debate.) The article got half a page of space which is great for a cycling event. But under the fold the other half of the page was taken up by a photo of actor, Odagiri Jo in an advertisement for eyeglasses. I suppose the fact that the adveriser is one of the major sponsors of the event had nothing to do with this arrangement.

All in all it was a fun event and I look forward to the next one. I would like to thank the many volunteers who directed cyclists at intersections, manned aid stations and performed a minutiae of other tasks that helped make this a successful event. Without a doubt, events like this wouldn’t be possible without their help.

Geo Cycling

2010/09/13

by Paul Oertel

Geocahcing.com

Geocaching.com is your place to start your geocaching adventure.

Lately, I have added a new dimension to my cycling. I recently learned about Geocaching. Geocaching is “oku ga fukai” but in a nutshell, Geocaching is a high tech twist on treasure hunting. Something called a cache is hidden somewhere in the world and the GPS coordinates are posted to an online database. Participants use their GPS receiver to find the cache. When you find the cache you sign and date the log in the cache. The caches are usually hidden at points of interest. When I went to http://www.geocaching.com to see if there were any locations near my home I was blown away by how many there are. The closes was within a kilometer of where I live and on a bike path that I use at least once a week. I went with my 6 year old son but we couldn’t find the cache. We checked out two more but couldn’t find those either. We struck out but we had a good time searching. I have had better luck since that first time. It is kind of cool and kind of spooky when you realize there is stuff hidden all around you and people secretively looking for that stuff. It is real cloak-and-dagger. I felt a little like James Bond on a bike as I surreptitiously looked for these caches.

The reason Geocaching appeals to me goes beyond the cloak-and-dagger feel. When I ride my bike I like to go to new places and don’t mind all that much if I don’t reached my planned destination if I have gotten to see someplace new or something unusual or cool. Geocaching is almost certain to take you to new destinations. It may be a picturesque bridge, a historical marker or a famous or not-so famous temple but wherever the cache is it is bound to be interesting. They are hidden by local people who know the “anaba” in their neighborhood. Most of the caches are hidden in places that you won’t find in guidebooks. Sometime during your search for the needle-in-the-haystack cache take a moment to enjoy the sights and soak up the ambiance. It is easy to understand how there could be cool places near your home that you never knew about when you take into account Japan’s maze-like streets. No guidebook of Japan could or would cover all the out of the way places that geocaching can take you to.

Geocaching probably isn’t conducive to race training because there is a lot of slow riding and frequent stopping but for residents of the Kanto Plain a bicycle is the perfect way to search out geocaches because sometimes they are located where automobile access is difficult or even impossible. All you need is a GPS receiver and the coordinates to the cache. There is a description with the coordinates, explanations, background information, hints and comments for each cache on http://www.geocaching.com. You need an account to get the coordinates but basic membership is free.

Equipment
You don’t need a dedicated GPS receiver from a company like Garmin to do Geocaching. There is decent geocaching software for the iPhone, iPad, Android phones that are free or just a few hundred yen. I used an iPad a few free applications. For getting close to the cache I like the GPS software from MotionX. It is a handy map for more than just going from Point A to Point B. When I am in the vicinity of the cache I switched over to the Geocaching app from the people who started the whole thing 10 years ago. The Geocache app also helps you quickly identify the three closest geocaches.

Pick a few caches within reasonable distance of one another for the database and plan your route. I like to map them out on Google to find the best route. Then go. The ride never goes as planned but I have a great time exploring new areas and find cool places I didn’t know about.

If you want to check out my geocaching progress search for tokyotwowheeling on the Geocache.com website.

By Paul Oertel

I just signed up the 2010 Tokyo City Cycling (2010東京シティサイクリング) event on September 19.  According to the web site (http://www.j-cycling.org/tokyocity/) the event organizers have modeled this ride after the 5 Boro Tour in New York City. I rode the 5 Boro tour in 2009 and with 30,000 other riders. It is an amazing event. The 2010 Tokyo City Cycling is limited to 2500 riders and start times are staggered every 30 minutes in blocks of 500 riders. A far cry from the masses attracted by the 5 Boro Tour. Still, it will be an amazing sight to see 2,500 riders taking over the streets of Tokyo.

2010 Tokyo City Cycling Route

2010 Tokyo City Cycling Route

The 40 km ride starts in Shinjuku and skirts Yoyogi Park passing through Harajuku. Riders can give their regards to the ancestors as they pass through Aoyama Reien. The route passes through Tokyo Midtown before hooking up with  Harumi Dori on its way to Odaiba.  After a loop around Odaiba riders head back to take a swing through Kokyogaien before finishing up at Meiji Jingu. It is a varied course which goes through some of the best parts of Tokyo for cycling.

The tour is sponsored by the Japan Cycling Association, Tokyo Prefecture and Asahi Shinbun.

I am signed up for the first block of riders starting at 7:00 am. If you have signed up for the ride I hope to see you on the road. If you haven’t signed up for the ride I would invite everyone to join me but registration for this year is closed. Mark you calendar for next year. You can sign up for this cycling event and others at http://www.sportsentry.ne.jp.

Not So Fast!

2010/07/28

Cateye Micro Wireless Bicycle Computer

My bike computer turned me into a superman with a maximum speed of 94.6 kph.

A month or so ago I bought a Cateye Micro Wireless Cyclocomputer (CC – MC100W). The reason for getting a wireless bike computer was that I was disgusted with the wire on the wired kind failing after a few months of use. The wire that connects the mount on the handlebars to the receiver on my fork tends to short out leaving me with a good bike computer head that is deaf to signals that should be coming from the sensor. I tried a wireless computer a few years ago and was very disappointed. It didn’t last even a single day. It didn’t mount securely to the handlebars and loosened from road vibration and fell off. I returned the thing to the store where I bought it and got a wired bike computer. After that I stuck with the wired kind. I suppose I am partly to blame for being a cheapskate and not paying top yen for a high end bike computer but I have always felt that either due to bad luck or just general clumsiness that buying expensive gadgets is a waste of money because I will inevitably break it. Well after a few years of using the wired type and replacing them every 6 months or so when the wires inevitably shorted out or the device failed for some other reason I broke down and spent the extra money to get a wireless cyclocomputer. I was ready to try wireless again after buying a used bike that came with a Cateye Micro Wireless Cyclocomputer. If the computer on that bike is to be believed it performed well for over 5,000 kilometers.

When I installed my new wireless bike computer I was ecstatic with the fact that there was no wire wrapped around my fork and stem nor tangled in my cable lines. Well my joy didn’t last long. Within a week I noticed that the cyclocomputer was returning an unbelievable number for my maximum speed. The first time I encountered this it showed that I had gone a maximum speed of 94 plus kilometers per hour! Even in my wildest dreams I don’t go that fast. Frankly, I would be scared to go that fast on a bike. The first time I experienced this I hoped it was just a fluke and ignored the problem. I really didn’t want to think there was something wrong with my brand new wireless bike computer. When it happened again a few days later I could no longer fool myself into thinking it was a fluke. The problem is that if one of the values displayed by the cyclocomputer is wrong it makes the other data points unreliable. I don’t really pay that much attention to my maximum speed compared to my average speed but I do pay a lot of attention to distance traveled and it bothered me that I couldn’t be sure if the number was correct. As the ersatz numbers began to reappear from time to time I started to consider what might be the cause. I got it in my mind that the receiver may be experiencing interference from some other source or that the battery in the transmitter on the fork or in the head was weak and needed to be replaced. The latter didn’t seem likely as the bike computer was still brand new and these kind of devices have very low power consumption. The former seemed the most likely so I began staking out my max speed rating to zero in on the culprit. The problem was that I never saw it register the false number. It never misbehaved while I was watching. The old adage “A watched pot never boils” applies here. I thought about all of the sources of radio transmissions that could throw the computer off and the only one that came to mind was railroad crossings. No matter which way I go on my commute there is always a railroad crossing. Nothing else came to mind. Unable to catch the culprit in the act and tired of the false readings I contacted  Cateye with my problem. Below is my correspondence with Jeff Wilbur from Cateye.

On Jul 9, 2010, at 3:58 AM, tokyotwowheeling wrote:

Dear Cateye,

I recently bought a Cateye Micro Wireless Cyclocomputer (CC – MC100W). I noticed that occasionally the data seems to be incorrect. It is especially noticeable with the Maximum Speed. Sometimes it is as high as 92 kph. I know I only go that fast in my dreams. Is there something that I can do to fix the problem?

Regards,
Paul Oertel

On 7/10/10 5:00 AM, service@cateye.com wrote:

Hi Paul
The unusual maximum speed readout that you are incurring is likely due to the cordless computer unit registering interference from an outside electrical field.  Sources of such fields include RR crossings, power lines, security systems, radio towers, home computers and wireless internet networks, televisions, radios, cell phones, garage door openers and invisible dog fences, high intensity discharge lighting systems, etc.    When all speed related functions are accurate EXCEPT max. speed, this is almost certainly the case, as wireless models manifest the reception of outside interference as an abnormal max. speed readout.   Unfortunately, there is no solution for this, as the FCC requires electronic devices such as bike computers to accept all such outside interference.

Best regards,

Jeff

1-800-5-CATEYE
service@cateye.com

www.cateye.com

Jeff from Cat Eye confirmed my suspicion about interference and tipped me off to other sources for signal noise. By coincidence I happen to have positively identified a source for my unwanted wireless noise. At the end of my ride I always take the cyclocomputer head off the mount to bring it in the house where I can record the data. As I passed the head over my iMac wireless mouse I noticed the transmission icon blinking and the maximum speed climbing up at a furious rate.

Based on this information I wanted to know if the erroneous data impacted the other data values. I put the question to Jeff at Cat Eye’s service . And here is his response:

On Jul 12, 2010, at 5:09 PM, tokyotwowheeling wrote:

Jeff,

Thank you for your quick reply. Do these outside fields also affect the DST, ODO and AVS values?

Regards,
Paul

On 7/10/10 5:00 AM, service@cateye.com wrote:

Hi Paul
The unusual maximum speed readout that you are incurring is likely due to the cordless computer unit registering interference from an outside electrical field.  Sources of such fields include RR crossings, power lines, security systems, radio towers, home computers and wireless internet networks, televisions, radios, cell phones, garage door openers and invisible dog fences, high intensity discharge lighting systems, etc.

When all speed related functions are accurate EXCEPT max. speed, this is almost certainly the case, as wireless models manifest the reception of outside interference as an abnormal max. speed readout.

Unfortunately, there is no solution for this, as the FCC requires electronic devices such as bike computers to accept all such outside interference.

Best regards,
Jeff

Once again I followed up with Jeff regarding my findings and this is what Cat Eye customer support had to say.

On 7/10/10 5:00 AM, service@cateye.com wrote:

Hi Paul

Thanks for the follow up and feedback about the interference issue.  I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind when troubleshooting other future inquires of that nature.

Best regards,
Jeff

I’m glad to be of service and I hope Jeff passes the word on to his fellow support staff and to the engineers who designed the Cateye Micro Wireless Cyclocomputer (CC – MC100W). If you have one of these bike computers keep it way from your wireless mouse and

This is My Road: The Shimano Story
Yoshizo Shimano
John Wiley & Sons (Asia) Pte Ltd 2008

Review by Paul Oertel

This is My Road: The Shimano Story

This is My Road: The Shimano Story

I recently finished “This is My Road’ The Shimano Story” by Yoshizo Shimano, one of the forces behind the Shimano bicycle parts and fishing tackle empire. Anyone who cares about bicycles and cycling knows the Shimano name. It quite likely that you have at least one part on your bicycle that was made by Shimano. If you don’t know take a close look at your bicycle. Don’t do it now, though. Finish reading this article first. If you don’t have any Shimano parts on your current bike you probably have owned a bike in the past that had Shimano parts.

The book is a collection of short articles that were as a newspaper series in Nikkei Shinbun. The series chronicles the successes and failures of the three Shimano brothers’ efforts to grow the company founded by their father in 1921 in Sakai, Osaka into a powerhouse in the bicycle industry.

As I read the book I found the story engrossing. Not because of the author’s sterling writing abilities. In fact, it is very clear that the articles were originally written in Japanese then translated directly into English. The writing is simple and without flourish. The sentence structure and flow shows a distinct Japanese quality that clearly identifies the writer’s age, gender and ethnicity. But all that aside, the story is captivating.

Much can be said about Shimano’s story. It can be viewed as a triumph for a Japanese company to break through the soical barriers and prejdices of foreign markets. But more than that it stands as a shining example of how to succeed in business by stressing customer service and quality over cheap and dirty and fly-by-night methods. Granted, this story story is told by someone who was at the top of the corporate pyramid. If you asked someone near the bottom what it was like working for Shimano you might get a different story as the view from the bottom of the hill is different from the view at the top. However, I often fantasize about what it must be like to work at a company with men like Yoshizo Shimano and his brothers at the helm.

I was most impressed by the Shimano’s long term vision for the future and their willingness to presevere even in the face of setbacks, losses and failures. The integrity and sense of accountability with which Shimano Yoshizo and his brothers put into every aspect of their lives is refreshing and awe-inspiring in a climate when both of those qualities have become endangered species. There is many an executive and company owner who would do well by following the Shimanos’ example.

Finally, Shimano laments for the poor state of Bicycle culture in Japan and the influx of low-priced, low-quality bikes. As the president of the Bicycle Association of Japan he has pushed for establishing industry quality and safety standards. The book includes photos of Yoshizo Shimano on his mountain bike. He claims to take to the saddle on a weekly basis even at the advance age of 64. He is pro-bicycle not just because it is his business to be so but because bicycles are in his blood. It is good to know that even though Shimano has become a bicycle mega-corporation that the head of Shimano still has bicycles in his heart.

In the two years since “This is My Road” was published cycling has enjoyed a surge in popularity in Japan due to the efforts of Shimano, the Bicycle Association of Japan, the Japan Cycling Federation, Nihon Jitensha Fukkyu Kyoukai, The Japan Keirin organization and others. I think that the twenty-teens will be the decade when cycling reaches new heights in Japan.

by Paul Oertel

The White Shadow awaits its rider's pleasure at Ohashi Bridge on Tamagawa Josui.

The White Shadow awaits its rider's pleasure at Ohashi Bridge on Tamagawa Josui.

I recently read in Time Magazine (April 12, 2010) an article by Stephen Fry about the iPad. In the article he waxes poetic on the relationship between himself and his iPad. He equates it to his relationship with a person or an animal. He writes “if you have an object in your pocket or hand for hours everyday, then your relationship with it is profound, human and emotional.”

You are probably wondering what an iPad has to do with a bicycle and where I am going with this. Well, I don’t spend hours a day with my bicycle but I do spend hours a week with it and Fry is quite right about the human tendency to relate to something as more than just a tool; more than just transportation.

Let me tell you the story of my history with my current bicycle. I bought my bicycle in August of 2009. When I moved back to Japan from where I was living in New Jersey I knew I made the tortured decision to not be bring my bike with me when I moved. Though I had many happy miles on this bike my experiences with it were fraught with frustration. It was nearly 30 years old. The frame was one of last built in the U.S. when being built in the U.S. meant you were getting a thing of quality. But other parts were showing their age and there were frequent repairs and replacements. I no longer wished to keep up the constant upkeep it required. So with mixed feelings I returned to Japan bike-less. Sad to part with an old friend, but hopeful to make a new two-wheeled friend. I spent several weeks going to local bike shops looking at bicycles. My biggest problem was reconciling what I wanted with my budget. I know that bicycles can easily hit the 300 or 400 thousand yen mark for a high-end bike. I also knew my wife would not agree to the purchase of such an expensive bike. She was of the school that thought a good bike was a mamachari that cost no more than 20,000 yen. Also, in my heart of hearts, I believed that a bike of more than 100,000 yen would probably be wasted on me no matter how much I rode it. It certainly wouldn’t be cost effective.

Based on my past experience I set out my criteria for my new ride. My new bike had to have disk brakes because I would be riding in all weather conditions and I had already had one accident in which poor brakes contributed. It needed to be sturdy because, to be honest, I am more than a few pounds over my ideal weight. It had to be practical because I was back in Japan and I knew that I would be using it for more than just recreational rides but would be doing some of that as well. It had to be all purpose because this is Japan and I don’t have room to park one of every kind of bike I would love to own.

Eventually, I decide that Cycle Base Asahi had the best selection of bicycles near my home. I looked at many types of bikes. While I lusted after lightweight road bikes and sturdy but expensive touring bikes that fueled my dreams of riding across Japan, I finally settled on a Giant Seek. Unfortunately, the model I wanted was not to be had anywhere in the CBA chain.

Casting about for an alternative I picked a white Asahi Prec hybrid cross bike. I was glad to finally get my feet back on the pedals and my butt back in the saddle even if it wasn’t my first choice. For the first few weeks of ownership my heart just wasn’t into it. I didn’t have that human connection with this new bike that Stephen Fry talks about.

Ever since high school I have always named my bicycles so I started casting about for a name for my new ride. Traditionally, the color has always been incorporated into the name. I most recently parted company with the Blue Beast and the Silver Streak. In the past there was the Red Rocket, Black Bart and the Golden Goose. I’m sure you get the picture. I had every intention of continuing the color tradition. At the time, my five year old son was into knights thanks to a visit to Medieval Times. White Knight jumped out at me as the obvious chice but somehow the name just didn’t stick. Over a few weeks, the White Knight mutated into the White Shadow. Now, I realized this is a ridiculous and contradictory name. But by this time I had wrapped my thighs around this new ride for a few hundred kilometers and I was starting to form that unique, emotional attachment to it. Though the name has been shortened to Whitey as the days and kilometers have rolled by. If there were official registration papers for bicycles, like a shussei todoke (birth certificate) or a koseki tohon (family registry) for our two-wheeled loved ones the official name of record would be the White Shadow.

I would love to hear from you, my readers, if you have developed the same human connection to your bike. Has it taken on anthropomorphic proportions for you? Have you given your ride a name? Leave a comment if you have or leave me a comment if you haven’t and you just want to tell me that you think I have taken this bike love thing too far.

Rules of the Road

2010/05/27

It is legal in Japan for bicycles to go the opposite direction of traffic on one-way streets. In fact, the signage reinforces the legality of it.

Street sign in Japan.

This sign is on a one-way street in my neighborhood in Tokyo. It says that the street is one-way except for bicycles.

Because there are many blind corners in Japanese cities convex mirrors have been placed at many of the intersections to help road users identify cross traffic in a timely manner. You still have to stop at the intersections but at least you can see cross traffic before you are half-way through the intersection.

Mirrors are used at intersections to help road users see around dangerous blind corners.

Mirrors are used at intersections to help road users see around dangerous blind corners.

It is legal to ride on the sidewalk but not on all of the sidewalks all of the time. You can ride on specifically designated sidewalks at any time or on non-designated sidewalks when it is too dangerous to ride on the road.

Bicycle Lane

It is legal to ride on designated sidewalks.

Don’t forget to stop at the intersections. It is you life you are gambling with.

Bike Path

This symbol means that bicycles must stop.

By Paul Oertel

Tour of JapanDespite the rain Stage 7 of the Tour of Japan was not a washout. The 77 riders from 16 teams started out from in front of the Hibiya City building in central Tokyo and rolled through the parade section of the race to reach the Oi Futo circuit. The racers took 14 laps around the 7 km circuit. The weather conditions kept the pace to a safe speed but with 2 laps to go Kristian House from Rapha Condor-Sharp Team and Yoshimitsu Tsuji from Utsunomiya Blitzen led a breakaway of 5 riders but they were reeled in by the peloton. This was the first and only breakaway group of the race and they were quickly pulled back into the pack in the last lap of the circuit. It was the Italian rider, Claudio Cucinotta from De Rosa-Stac Plastic, that won the sprint for the finish and the stage.

The overall time leader for the Tour of Japan goes to Christiano Serano, the Italian rider from De Rosa-Stac Plastic, with a time of 16:08:20. Just 01:45 seconds behind him was Andrey Mizurov from the Kazakhstan National Team and 02:15 behind the leader was Alexandr Shushemoin also from the Kazakhstan National Team. Serano also takes the red King of the Mountain jersey which he captured on the Mt. Fuji stage. The points winner was the young Australian rider, Michael Matthews of Team Jayco Skins. Matthews finished the tour with 88 points.

Tour of Japan

2010/05/22

By Paul Oertel

For those of you living in the Kanto area of Japan you might want to check out the 7th and final stage of the 14th Annual Tour of Japan. 16 teams representing 8 countries are competing in the race. The six stages are spread across the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan. The Tour of Japan offers the best of Asian Road Racing. The final stage is 112.7 km. There is a 14.7 km parade, followed by 14 laps of 7 km circuit. It will start in front of Hibiya City near Hibiya Park. After doing 14 laps of the circuit the racers will finish at Minato-ga-Oka Futo Park. This is a flat course with many long straight sections is the only stage of the Tour that is ideally suited for sprinters so it should prove to be a very fast race.

Map of Stage 7

Map of Stage 7 of the Tour of Japan from the official TOJ website.

The riders to watch for are wearing the green, blue and red jerseys. The green jersey riders are the riders with the fastest overall time. The time leader going into this stage is the Italian rider Christiano Salerno from Team De Rosa-Stac Plastic. The blue jersey rider is the racer with the most points. Going into this stage is Michael Matthews from Australia riding for Team Jayco-Skins with 52 points. Finally the King of the Mountain is wearing the red jersey and that is Salerno again. The leaders in the team competition are Team Kazakhstan in first place, Team Nippo in 2nd place and Shimano Racing in 3rd place.

There a few things you should mindful of if you go to watch the race. Road racing is fast with speeds that can reach up to 70 kilometer per hour which increases the risk of serious accidents.

* Only view the race from designated places along the race. Do not enter the course. Watch from the side. Keep any banners, flags, umbrellas or cameras from entering the course as well. Be particularly on the inside of corners because races will cut them as close as they can. You risk your safety as well as that of riders if you enter the course.
* Vehicles such as team cars, motorcycles and media vehicles will be passing at high speed.  Even after the Peloton has passed don’t enter the course because the support vehicles are following shortly behind.
* The peloton picks up speed as it makes its way to the finish line. Do not cross the barriers with any part of your body as it puts the riders and yourself at risk.
* Follow the instructions of police and race officials.

Thank you for your cooperation and I hope you enjoy the race.

You can see video clips from each stage of the race at http://sp.cycloch.net/toj2010/. There are pre and post race interviews. For team profiles and stats you can turn your web browser to http://www.toj.co.jp/