Maylands – San Remo

Autumn is here so it’s not only time to start thinking about the spring classics but because it’s not baking hot in the middle of the day any more, it’s possible to plan some longer rides.

Last Saturday, my friends Cam and Byron rode the world-famous Maylands-San Remo ride. I couldn’t make it due to a scheduled hangover. In fact, they were also at Chong’s birthday river cruise last Saturday evening but used something called moderation.

Luckily I had the day off today and I’m always up for a ride with a novelty name so I headed down the freeway bike path to San Remo (just north of Mandurah).

Maylands train station. Where it all begins.

Maylands train station. Where it all begins.


The bike path from Maylands to Perth. Note the sensible hi-viz gear.




After being forced to call one dangerously overtaking commuter a dickhead, I finally had the path to myself.


All to myself.


There is absolutely nothing in San Remo to even hint that it’s called San Remo. Very disappointing. So here’s a picture of the sea at San Remo.

Yes, I got lost but look - there really is a San Remo.

Yes, I got lost but look – there really is a San Remo.

Eat too many of these and I'll end up quite podgy-oh.

Eat too many of these and I’ll end up quite podgy-oh.

The full ride. Click to see it on Strava if you're into that sort of thing.

The full ride. Click to see it on Strava if you’re into that sort of thing.

Paradise Week Brevet GT

Here’s the course I rode. Clockwise.

And while I’m at it, it’s long overdue time I posted about this awesome ride last August. 1500km in six days was a lot of fun coupled with the odd bit of pain. At the time when I finished, I was sure I would never do something like this again but now I could probably be persuaded otherwise. Anyway, I started writing this post ages ago but never got around to finishing it:

This was a wonderful ride and not just because it’s taken me so long to write about it and the memories of the pain have truly faded. I had been looking forward to this since the Hokkaido audax guys had announced it about a year earlier. It wasn’t a single ride but a series of audaxes: a 200km on the first day followed by a 400km, then a 600km, and a 300km to finish with on the last day. Kazuko and I got back from our tour on the Tuesday and the Paradise Week GT started the following Sunday. I spent the time between eating, drinking and catching up with friends. I also managed to catch a cold. So with a bit of a sniffle, bright and early on Sunday morning, I said goodbye to Kazuko and pedalled over to Kon-san’s place. We rode together to the start point at Moerenuma Park. We saw entrants on the way. If being on a road bike wasn’t enough, audax riders all stand out because the rules say we must wear reflective vests all the time. There turned out to be quite a few entries: about 60 people had entered all four rides and there were a few more people doing just the 200km that day. There were a few familiar faces from previous audaxes I’d ridden in Japan but also a lot of people had come up from Honshu (the main island) to escape the summer heat.

We arrived just in time for the briefing.

After the briefing, we had the regular pre-audax check-in to make sure we had enough lights and were wearing our safety vests. Once that was out the way, we were free to start. Yutaka and I had had pre-audax strategy drinks at his cousin’s izakaya a few days earlier and we had decided that speed was not going to be a priority for the week ahead. Riders were allowed to start once they had passed muster but we took our time and were among the last to leave.

Getting ready to go.

Because we started late, we found ourselves steadily overtaking other riders. Our strategy had been to keep our own pace and not get caught up in the snowball effect that seems to happen at the start of these rides. A group will form up and the people in it will ride as if it’s a bunch ride with the people at the front pulling a turn. The speed starts to get faster and faster when, in fact, everyone should be conserving energy to make it around such a long course. Kon-san and I had decided we didn’t really want to go much faster than 30km/h during the audaxes and that we should target an average speed of about 25km/h (or less) including stopped time.

The road north is not one of my favourites. It’s a bit too narrow and a bit too busy to ever really relax. Luckily we had a bit of wind behind us to give us a nice push. We enjoyed sometimes riding with others and sometimes being on our own again.

A light drizzle had started as we had left Sapporo and this eventually turned into proper rain so I didn’t get my camera out much. The camera is waterproof but the rest of the contents of my handlebar bag weren’t. Eventually we turned left off the main road and toward the coast on a much quieter country road. here it is below:

Away from traffic.

At first we were a bit worried that we had taken a wrong turn because we couldn’t see any other riders but the rain eased and we could see tyre marks from riders ahead of us. We had some low mountains to climb over before descending to the coast and heading south for our checkpoint.

Here’s the Trucker at the first checkpoint of the day.

When we got back on the road, we had a wonderful tailwind and ended up cruising along at speeds in the mid to high 30s. It’s a bit of a trap when riding long courses like this one – with only 50km to go, you can fool yourself into thinking the goal isn’t that far away until you start to question whether you can keep that pace up for another hour or more. We ended up finishing the 200km in about seven and a half hours and were the fourth and fifth riders to finish. The first two guys were in a different league to everyone else. They had aero bars and laminated cue sheets and all sorts of things. They finished all the rides miles ahead of everyone else. It’s not a competition, you know!

Here's the map of the first one. And you can click on it to see the Strava report.

Here’s the map of the first one. And you can click on it to see the Strava report.

That night we had a good, old-fashioned booze up, which I enjoyed very much. Of course, it had been our plan to have just the one beer because we had to ride the next day but naturally we ended up having a couple more and as the only foreigner there, I was obliged to have a bit of sake as well. All things considered, I think we got off lightly and woke up fairly well the next morning. The 400km ride didn’t start until midday but we had to ride 20km up to the start point.

Here is Mr Kon on the way to the start point of the 400.

My favourite bit before the start was looking at what other people were riding. I really enjoyed watching one guy who had aero bars fitted on his carbon bike with Zipp 404 full carbon tubulars. He was that keen to get going, he was doing laps of the car park. I’d really like to know how he got on with his carbon brakes on the rainy descents but I’ll never find out because we never saw him again.

One of the problems with these long rides is I worry about my GPS unit running out of power so I try to charge it when I can but this results in it resetting the ride so here is the map of the 400km in three parts:

Part One

Part one

Part Two

Part two

And part three

And part three

We headed up the coast before turning right and riding through the mountains. Our plan really was to go slowly for this one and we did  much better job of it than the previous day. We also had some nice weather before the inevitable rain.

Here we are clowning about on the flat as we rode toward the first mountains.

Our plan also involved eating as much as possible while riding but I find the further into the ride I am, the harder it is to keep eating. This wasn’t a problem yet but would be toward the end of this ride. The first checkpoint was at a town in the mountains and after stopping at the local convenience store, we went to a soba shop at the train station, as did many of the other riders. I could have had several bowls but it had been a long stop and we needed to get back on the road.

Here’s a rider getting himself some noodles.

Our next checkpoint was after we had descended from the mountains and got back to the coast. Even though this happened more than half a year ago, I recall eating two large bento boxes for dinner. I’m sure one was a curry rice and have vague memories of there being a big hamburger patty involved in there somewhere as well.

Then we switched on our headlights and started enjoying our first night ride of the series. The great thing about riding at night is there is so much less traffic. Which is just as well because it rained and the wet road also had a few cracks and potholes that I wasn’t so keen to ride into. Also, because of my handlebar bag, I’d had to mount my headlight off the fork and it didn’t have the coverage that I would have liked. However, once we found our rhythm, we made pretty good time thanks to another tailwind.

We got to the next checkpoint at about 10.30pm or thereabouts and had ridden about 220km. The tailwind had me thinking we could have a go at riding through the night but when we got to the checkpoint, Mr Muto mentioned that there might be places to sleep at nearby, we both suddenly found ourselves quite tired. We knew there was a hot-spring hotel nearby but my map book also said there was a rider house somewhere. We rode up looking for that cheaper option but hadn’t found it by the time we got to the hotel. The night staff quoted us a price which seemed fairly reasonable for two people until we went to pay and discovered that had been the price for one person. I can’t remember how much it was but it was quite a bit considering how little we slept. We didn’t even have time for a dip in the hot-spring waters.

The next morning, we still had 180km to go but the scenery was pretty good.

Here’s a lake we rode past.

And a nice little bike path.

And here we are looking full of life and ready to do another 100km or more.

More lake. And the rain was holding off.

Practising my self-portraiture.

I had learnt my eating lesson from the day before and filled my handlebar bag full of rice cake snacks to munch on while riding but without such a handy bag, Yutaka started running out of steam. We didn’t have too far to go to the finish but stopped anyway at an old train station that had become a noodle shop.

Quite a nice old building.

And here’s Kon-san looking happy again after a bowl of noodles. I enjoyed them, too.

That night all the riders were staying at the same accommodation: a big rider house on the outskirts of the town. We finished the ride just inside 24 hours and checked in to the rider house, cleaned our bikes a little, had a wash and then an afternoon nap. Tomorrow would be the start of the big one, so the key here was to get as much rest as possible. We napped all afternoon and got up for the big feast with all the other riders.

Look at the size of that. That’s a whole lot of marinated meat on a bed of bean sprouts.

There was jingisukan and there was yakisoba and there was rice and miso soup and beer. We ate and ate and ate. And then ate some more.

This, my friends, is a recovery drink.

Food! I had several helpings.

Just look at all that barbecue action.

I think I was the first to bed and pretty much the last to get up in the morning. The 600km was the big one. It was time to break the back of this gran turismo. So far, we had done 200km a day for three days. Now it was time to turn up the pace to 300km a day over three days.

Here are the maps of the 600km:

Part one

Part one

Part two

Part two

Part three

Part three

We started out along the coast into a light headwind before arriving at the Shiretoko Peninsula. I had ridden over this the previous year but from the other direction and I’d been looking forward to riding it again. It’s world heritage listed and quite delightful.

Here’s the approach. Some riders stopped to look at waterfalls and things but not us!

The start of the climb. Lovely views.

Ah – we’re all smiles at this early stage.

The irony is that when I took this photo I thought I was feeling pretty good.

As we climbed, the clouds settled in and we were soon riding through a mist that got thicker and thicker. By the time we got to the top, some of the race organisers were there to tell us to turn our lights on for the descent.

We’re at the top of the pass. Look at the view!

As it turned out, we didn’t need our lights. The clouds were only sitting on one side of the mountains. As soon as we crested the pass, the weather was perfect for our descent: about 15km of tortuous road and lovely views.

Look at this. So much fun swooping round these corners.

Near the bottom, there is a free hot spring but we had no time to stop and bathe. Our checkpoint lay at the town at the bottom and then it was time to head along the coast. We had good fortune with a tailwind again but it also started to rain on us. We still had a long way to go and the wind helped us with our strategy of never pushing too hard on the pedals. As we got further along the coast, it became more of a side wind so that when we got to the Notsuke Peninsula, we were leaning sideways on our bikes both on the way out and back.

Notsuke Peninsula

Notsuke Peninsula

Because of all the rain, I didn’t take so many photos on this day but it was quite interesting to see the sea so rough on one side and so still on the other.

We cycled on to Nemuro, where we stopped for a hearty dinner of some convenience store bento before heading out around the Nemuro Peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula was a secret checkpoint. This involved answering a question about what was there. Naturally the question was in Japanese and Mon-san could help me with it but we took a picture as well to prove that I had been there.

And the question was: what animal is on top of the telephone booth?

The ride around the peninsula was one of the highlights of the day. It had been a wet and busy road out to Nemuro but once past the town, it was nice and quiet again and the rain did us the favour of turning into mere drizzle. The peninsula was mainly grassland with mildly undulating hills and plenty of surprise deer by the side of the road.

We had another little feed at a convenience store once we were back in Nemuro and planned what we would do for the night. We had a couple of sleeping options but also some calculations to make. Audaxes have a 15km/h time limit which also counts for all the check points along the way. This meant if we slept too long, we might miss the cut-off for the next check point, even though we would still finish the whole ride with in the 15km/h limit. There was a closer spot to sleep but that meant we would have to get going at some ridiculous early hour in the morning to make the next check point at Nakashibetsu. We ended up deciding to ride to Nakashibetsu, visit the check point there and then find somewhere to sleep in town. This turned out to be a bit problematic because we arrived in town just before midnight and got lost a few times, reflecting poorly on the state of our decision-making after 18 hours of cycling. At one point it looked as if we would have to spend the night sleeping in a laundromat until we managed to find a business hotel that had a night clerk and we at least got to sleep in a bed and have the prospect of breakfast in the morning.

We both woke up actually feeling worse than we had when we went to sleep. We had done 360km the day before and we could certainly feel it. We struggled through breakfast and struggled to get back on our bikes. At least we didn’t have to go very hard to make the next check point in time. Which was lucky because we got lost several times and managed to add about 20km to the distance we needed to go that day.

Also, Kon-san was finally feeling the pinch. Whereas I was riding on my comfortable touring bike, he was doing the ride on his good road bike. The problem for him was that low handlebars are good for a short race but over the length of this ride, his body position was just too low and he was having troubles holding his head up any more. The trouble with these long rides is that the pain, once it starts, isn’t going to go away and usually gets worse. Kon-san had been battling away for quite a while now and was struggling. He tried a desperate remedy – taping some coffee cans to his handlebars to get his position a little higher.

Here’s the start of the process.

But looking at his neck here, I fear it may already be too late.

By going the wrong way, we did get to ride past this volcanic steam.

Finally, we found the next checkpoint. This time, the question was about the name of the toilet.

After the checkpoint, it was time to climb up to Lake Mashu. I got all excited about climbing and took off ahead of Kon-san. The climb up was great and we finally had some nice weather. I had ridden to Lake Mashu the year earlier and both times had been lucky to have a clear view of the lake. It is usually hidden in mist.

The view on the way up to Lake Mashu.

At the top I waited for Kon-san and he showed up cheerful but rather the worse for wear. He told me he was going to pull out of the ride because he was struggling badly.

After the climb to Lake Mashu. Smiling but suffering.

Victory salute after the descent.

I had really wanted us to finish together but by the time we got to the bottom, I couldn’t really argue. Kon-san did some quick bus research and found he would be able to get to Obihiro, our destination, before me so we agreed to meet there at the end of the day.

On my own, I found a fresh burst of energy and did the rest of the ride at a pretty good pace. By the time Kon-san pulled out, we were the last riders on the road. I kept up a steady rhythm and was soon passing plenty of other riders. There was a great climb on the way to Lake Akan, followed by a fun descent and the rain was never so heavy that it was a hinderance. The last 40km or so were mildly downhill and I finished at a decent pace, arriving in Obihiro exactly 36 hours after I started. Kon-san was waiting for me at the hotel and we went out and had a bite to eat and a beer. The next day I rode to the start of the last audax – just 300km – and he headed back home to Sapporo.

On the start line, everyone was looking pretty weary after our efforts of the previous five days. Some people had come from Sapporo to do just this one audax and they stood out by their eagerness. Although we didn’t really see much of each other on the road, a bit of camaraderie had grown between those of us who were riding the whole thing and were still standing – the bad weather during the 600km ride had caused a few people to pull out. We chatted and took a few photos of each other before heading off for the last stage.

There were no springs in any steps here.

I think I made a bit of a mistake of targetting 25km/h for this final one. I probably didn’t realise how worn out I had become. It’s interesting how drained your body can get after a few days of continuous riding like this. It gives me some inkling of how it is for grand tour riders who have to keep going every day for three weeks.

We had just one mountain pass to go over and after that it was mainly downhill all the way. I pushed well over the mountain and down the other side but as I was riding toward the first checkpoint, I found I was totally drained. Not just tired but my head couldn’t get itself around keeping going. I slowed down a bit, ate what I had, and hoped I would ride myself through it but in the end, all I could think was bugger this, I’d like to head home. So I decided to pull out and take a short cut back to Sapporo.

This gentleman is photographing the famous spot where I decided to take a short cut home.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, once I’d made that decision, I felt a lot better. This could have been a sign to keep going but I decided to let it reinforce the value of my decision. Even with my short cut, I was pretty sure that I had done enough extra kilometres between audaxes and in getting lost to have done 1500km in six days and I could think of no compelling reason to possess anything that stated I had finished the ride.

The happy road in the opposite direction to where I should have been riding.

Another thing to justify my decision was the pain in my leg. During the 400km ride, my left pedal had started to become hard to unclip from and the effort seemed to have hurt the muscle in my left leg. I oiled the pedal after the ride and thought that would be the end of it but during my ride home, the pain came back to the point where I couldn’t ride out of the saddle at all and when the road got a bit rough, I had to stop pedalling because of the pain that was shooting through. I could barely walk for the next week.

My shortcut was a pretty pleasant one. I had ridden that way a year earlier with Damian at the end of our tour of Hokkaido with Kazuko so it did hold happy memories of a few days spent cycling together. My short cut ended up being only about 60km but with the pain in my leg and some pretty heavy rain on the road back to Sapporo, especially as it was dark by the time I finished, I really was happy to have cut things short.

I got to the final check point just after the first two riders and hung around waiting for Kon-san and Kazuko to come and give me a lift home. In the end, my total distance was just over 1500km for the six days. When Kon-san and I met up for drinks a few days later, we swore we would never do anything so stupid again but now I’m starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t give something like this another go. Time does that, I suppose.

The last day. 240/300km completed.

The last day. 240/300km completed.

The new axe

I got myself a new guitar. I mean anvil. Piece? Whip? Ride? Look, clearly I’m not down with whatever the kids call these things but I do have a new bicycle. Or at least a new frame – the rest of it has been taken off the old frame, which died on Weir Road.

This is, of course, the continuation of the Bianchi Mono-Q that I got back in August 2009. Which is, heaven forbid, three and a half years ago. I weep for my lost youth. That frame was defective and broke about a year later and in September 2010, it was replaced under warranty with a 2010 Mono-Q, which serve me very well until it, too, gave up the ghost. Sadly, I couldn’t do a warranty on this one because I’m not in Japan any more but Steve at Elite Racing Cycles (where I now occasionally work) did me an excellent deal on a new frame, so I now have a new Sempre Pro frame, as ridden by pro teams such as Androni Giocattoli.

So the Sempre Pro carries a little of the original Mono-Q: the seatpost, handlebars, stem, lever and chainrings are the only original components that have survived (the original brakes live on on my time trial bike) but is already sentimentally important because it’s the first bike I’ve built up myself. I brought my bike stand in to Elite Racing Cycles and spent last Thursday hiding out the back of the shop building her up and nagging Andy, Matt and Steve for advice and instruction on how to do it.

Here's the Mono-Q at the start of disassembly.

Here’s the Mono-Q at the start of disassembly.

Can you even see the crack where the seatpost meets the bottom bracket?

Can you even see the crack where the seatpost meets the bottom bracket?

I had spotted that crack quite a long time ago but had hoped it might just be in the gel coat. I had no reason to think otherwise until the frame went all wobbly underneath me. It always seems odd that such a small crack can remove the whole frame’s stiffness. And look at that oldy worldy bottom bracket with its screw-in cups. There will be none of that with BB30.

Old on the right, new on the left.

Old on the right, new on the left.

The original Mono-Q had a full carbon fork. The one above had alu-carbon and the Sempre Pro returns to full carbon and feels much lighter for it. It also has a tapered steerer, which I reckon helps make handling much zippier.

The new bottom bracket: BB30!

The new bottom bracket: BB30!

Look at that bottom bracket – just shove some bearings in there and she’s good to go. I don’t know if it’s just that the bearings are new (and I didn’t even put fancy ceramic ones in there) but turning the pedals feels so much easier on this bike than any other one I’ve had. I’m quite a fan of BB30.


Getting closer to completion. I gave everything a good scrub and screwed it back on.

Getting the cables back in place took longer than you might have thought as I fluffed about with the internal cabling. Eventually I got everything on; Stevie tuned the gears for me and she was good to go.

And here is the Sempre Pro camouflaged against the shop's celeste wall.

And here is the Sempre Pro camouflaged against the shop’s celeste wall.

I think the Sempre Pro’s geometry is pretty much the same as the Mono-Q but it has better quality carbon fibre, a tapered steerer and a fatter down tube. All of this makes the bike stiffer and it seems to corner better, too. It went well on the shop ride on Saturday and I took it out for 100km in the hills on Monday. I was pretty tired because I’d gone pretty hard in the time trial on Sunday and I struggled into the wind but it was still a delight to ride around.

Here's a nice, quiet road in the hills.

Here’s a nice, quiet road in the hills.

Here's how the view looks from down by the handlebars.

Here’s how the view looks from down by the handlebars.

And here's a nice little descent.

And here’s a nice little descent.

It’s not all smooth sailing, though. I managed to break the chain while doing sprint intervals in Kings Park this morning. Closer inspection reveals it was the joining pin that I put in when I was building it. Oops. Everything else seems to be working properly though. I’m looking forward to many happy kilometres on this frame.





Weir Road broke my bike

But first, I’m famous now. I’ll have to employ some minders pretty soon. Here I am in the latest Nikon ad. It won’t let me go straight to the bit I’m in so either use this link or just go to 1m24 into the video below.

I rode up down that hill 12 times that day to look like someone who doesn’t know which gear to use to get up a hill. On the plus side, as a result of shooting that ad, I now have the Strava record for that little stretch of hill. The story is that a bloke walked into the bike shop one day wanting cyclists to appear in an ad he was doing for Nikon. Me and Cam said we’d do it, and took the day off work to spend the day hanging around and then wearing ourselves out riding up the hill. Cam’s the one in the black helment. Somehow he’s on the far left in the first shot but in the middle of the bunch, winning the sprint in the next one. It was a fun day and I got a free sandwich at the end.

Anyway, to get to the hill that we shot the ad on, I had to drive up Hadrill and Weir Roads. On the way up, I thought this would be a pretty good challenge to ride up. It felt pretty steep, even in the car. Last Sunday, Chong and I rode out to take on this road. It’s 25km out there, which is a nice little warm-up and then we started on the climb. It was far too tough to be taking photographs on but I’ve taken the liberty of stealing some from Google streetview. Here’s the early bit of the climb:

Screen Shot 0025-02-04 at 18.41.01

Looks quite nice, doesn’t it? The view as I looked to the right was very pleasant. I got ahead of Chong here because I was full of enthusiasm whereas he had done it a week or two ago and knew what lay ahead.

Before I knew it, I was coming to some fairly long sections on 15% or more and Chong was leaving me for dead. He could still hear my pathetic heavy breathing, though and thought I was much closer than I really was.

Screen Shot 0025-02-04 at 18.39.10

Does that look steep to you? It’s been a long time since I thought I might have to step off the bike and walk for a bit. The road continued to either go around like corner with no sign of the gradient letting up as above or, as in the picture below:

Screen Shot 0025-02-04 at 18.39.46

You can see it levels out and then kicks back up just as much as the bit you are currently on. And that the flat bit is definitely not long enough for any sort of recovery. Boo hoo.

Chong was looking quite fresh after waiting for me to catch up with him at the top. He doesn’t do Strava so we have no record of what his time up the climb was but I took a bit over nine minutes. Here’s the segment.

However, the point of this story is that by the time I got over the hill from the Nikon ad, I realised my frame was buggered. It had had a crack near the bottom bracket for a while but I’d been hoping it was just in the brittle gel coat. Alas, the continued steepness of Weir road seems to have pushed the frame past the point of no return and it came over all wobbly. I had to descend very cautiously as I was worried about it falling apart at speed. In the end I managed to get home well enough but alas, the Mono-q’s days are over. It’s my second Mono-q frame because the one I originally bought also broke at the bottom bracket. I had that one replaced under warranty but I don’t think I’ll have any luck this time as the bike was bought in Japan. Looks like I’ll be getting a Sempre frame and building it up with my existing components. Still – a new frame’s always something to look forward to, isn’t it?

Here's where we went.

Here’s where we went.

Once that new bike is built up, I’ll be back for more Haddrill-Weir punishment. It’s my new favourite climb.

New bike

It turns out my biggest investment into cycling this year isn’t even a bicycle. We haven’t had a car since we left for Japan more than three years ago and we get by in our daily life quite nicely without one. However, we’ve finally decided that we need one to do all the mountain biking and time trialling we’d like so this week we picked up a Toyota Yaris. It has a motor, seats, doors and a radio. And it fits a couple of bikes in the back. More, once I get a roof rack sorted out. So this weekend, to test it out, I went for a Friday night mountain bike ride with Jason.

There she is! And there’s a car behind her.

It ws still light when we started. When we’ve done this before, we’ve had the track to ourselves but last Friday, there were a few other people about. By which I mean there were probably six of us on 18km of track. Crowded.

Here’s Jason telling me to get a shift on.

And here’s where Kazuko fell off last time we came here. It is a sharp wee drop.

Really – who answers the phone in the middle of a mountain bike ride?

Then this morning, we had the luxury of driving to the first time trial of the new season. Usually the ride to Champion Lakes makes for a good warm up but we had a front come through in the night and it was quite wet out. Kaz and I started warming up when we got there but when we saw some nasty dark clouds heading for us, we went straight back to the warmth and shelter of the new car.

Hoping the rain (and a little hail) passes before our start.

It was a wet ride and I got dirt all over my race number but the best part was not having to ride home at the end of it all. I hate cars, but sometimes, they’re not too bad, are they?

My race number got all dirty.





Pistol’s Impulso

In the massive gap between the last blog post and this one, apart obviously from not writing anything, I’ve started working at the bike shop on Saturdays. Yesterday, I managed to sell Pistol a Bianchi Impulso (for a song, naturally). So he’s gone from this:

Pistol increasing the carrying load of the bike.

To this:

That looks better, doesn’t it?

Clearly now is the time to destroy his new confidence so I took him for a ride in the Perth Alps. Kazuko came along as well to help wear him out. Pistol attacked the first hill we came to. He was easily the fastest to the top, which I believe helped instil a false sense of confidence for the rest of the ride, especially as the new bike feels much better than my brother’s old Giant, which he had been riding around on. Vacansoleil rode Impulsos in the Paris-Roubaix, you know. After softening him up, I found a nice, steep climb to take Pistol up and here’s how he looked near the top:

You could probably hear him puffing from wherever you were.

And here he is at the top.

We then took a relaxing ride through the scenic John Forrest park.

Here’s the park.

Here’s Kazuko in the park.

The view of Perth.

Pistol half-wheeling Kazuko. Nice-looking bike, the Impulso. Kaz’s Infinito isn’t so bad, either.


Kazuko showing Pistol a clean pair of heels up this climb.

He’s not really exhausted. That actually how he looks all the time.

We stopped to look at some water.

Personally, I think CB could have done a lot better than WR but there you go – love is blind.

I have to give it to Pistol – he’s always up for a challenge. I started racing up each hill, then waiting until I could hear Pistol’s puffing behind me. When he was nearly level with me, I’d take off again. Is this cruel? He thought he had me on a short climb near the end when I hadn’t expected an attack and he raced past me at quite a pace. Luckily that effort wore him out so he still couldn’t stay ahead to the top. However, no matter how cruel I am to him, he’s never short on enthusiasm. He has bet me a ham and cheese croissant that he can ride 500km this week. He may just do it – he’s very proud of his new bike.









Touring Hokkaido: Days 10-12

Day ten.

Day eleven.

Day twelve.

Yes, so, the tour finished but then I didn’t find the time between getting back to Sapporo and then leaving again on my ridiculous audax adventure to finish updating the blog. You can see the routes of the last few days above. There was, in fact, a rest day between days 10 and 11 where we stayed with in-laws in Nayoro. Then we had to ride quite far on the last couple of days to get back in time for appointments. It was a bit far for Kazuko and she managed to crash and hurt her wrist near the end. Her sister came out and picked her up and I rode the last 20km or so by myself. She’s ok now but says the wrist still hurts a bit. In any case, here are the photos from the rest of the tour:

Touring Hokkaido Day Nine: Tomamae to Shibetsu

Day nine.

Back inland today. The road was incredibly quiet and also very scenic, moving through farmland and into the hills. There were some nice climbs and it was also back to hot weather. I think I managed to finally dehydrate myself while attacking the last climb and I had to have a nap once we got to our campsite.

Touring Hokkaido Day Eight: Teshio to Tomamae

Day eight.

It was a pretty straight-forward day riding along the coast today. The weather got better again but as we headed south, the coastal road also got a bit busier with traffic. Kazuko is getting better at sitting on my wheel most of the way up the climbs and then sprinting past me just before the top to grab all the Queen of the Mountain points.

Lunch was sashimi with surprise squid. The sashimi came out with a nice-looking bit of squid until I realised that the squid hadn’t actually been dismembered. All they done was slash it up a bit and then cook it in its own sauce. Removing the spine didn’t trouble me too much and nor did eating its insides. I have no argument with offal.In fact, I like a bit of tripe and have fond memories of having brain sausage for breakfast one morning in Germany (lovely with a bit of sweet mustard). But I generally have to draw the line at eating something’s head. So while I was enjoying my sashimi salmon, scallops and prawns, the squid head was lurking there in the background. Quite literally staring at me. In the end I had no choice and popped it in my mouth. The squid was nice and soft but there was something in there that was softer. best not to think what that might be. The beak was crunchy but not as hard as you might think. More like that brown bit between the peanut and its shell. The eye was quite hard, though. I had to spit that out. Then, after lunch, I had to eat some cake from my bag to take the taste out of my mouth. Actually, the taste was quite nice. There’s just something a little off-putting about eating something’s head, isn’t there?

Touring Hokkaido Day Seven: Wakkanai to Teshio

Day seven.

First day of rain. It was a bit miserable. I’m relying on dodgy wi-fi connections at roadhouses along the way, so I can upload photos quickly bit sorting out text and captions etc. takes too long. Should get some text up sooner or later, though. Does anyone know a way to write and lay out (pictures, captions etc.) so I only have to press send once and get the whole post up? At the moment, have to load up the pictures separately, can’t do the captions until they are online. It’s a pain.

Actually, that bit of writing above sums up the day fairly nicely. It wasn’t too bad. If you tour Hokkaido, you’re going to get rained on eventually. Annoyingly, we rode all the way north into a mild headwind and as soon as we got to the tip, the weather turned and we’ve had to ride into a headwind again. Luckily, it wasn’t a long day’s ride.

It started as just a misty morning but the mist soon turned into rain and the wind came up. Kazuko doesn’t like riding into the wind much and became ominously quiet. Every time I looked over my shoulder, she had fallen behind so I’d slow the pace to try and give her some protection from the wind. Eventually, we paused at an intersection where we had hoped there might be some shelter but there was none and she pulled up next to me and said: “Can’t you go any faster? It’s tedious!”. I knew something was going to be my fault. We managed the last hour in good time. We were wet and a little cold so we decided not to bother camping and stayed at a local minshuku (a kind of boarding house).


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