Tagged: bike

The 145km Giant Salamander Ride

I’ve said before that I have a tendency to overdo things, and despite being so restrained over the last few weeks I got carried away and made a sudden decision to cycle farther than I ever have before. With little planning, I left home just before 5am and headed north into the mountains on my Giant Defy road bike.

Top Of the Otoge Pass

The idea was to head towards Gujo, cross the Otoge pass over the mountains and cycle through “Giant Salamander Land”, an area where the huge, 1.5m long giant Japanese salamander is protected.

I’ll skip the details since you can just watch the video, but I finished the ride in eight and a half hours, covering 145km and climbing anywhere between 2,500 and 3,500m, depending on which app you go by.

Elevation chart

Later this year I hope to tackle a solo, full Ironman-distance triathlon which will see me swim 3.8km, cycle 180km and then run a full 42.2km marathon. The most daunting part of that trio was the bike stage. Until today, my longest ride was 113km and I remember suffering from a very sore bum and back for the second half of that ride.

Today’s ride was quite a confidence booster. I did have a sore bum, back, neck, knees and my ever-present Achilles tendonitis and 2nd metatarsal injuries hurt a fair bit, but not until very late in the ride. I was also very pleased with how long it took me. I didn’t go too hard, and took quite a few rest breaks including breakfast and lunch at convenience stores, but still completed the distance in a reasonable time – probably because my new road bike is a lot quicker than my mountain bike!

In September, I will need to do 180km over even bigger mountains. After today, I’m pretty confident I can do it… but running a full marathon afterwards is another matter altogether. Today, running even 5km was totally out of the question.

Bikes, Boars and Hay Fever

Saturday was the day I got my first ever road bike, a Giant Defy 1, and she’s a beauty.


I’ve taken her out for a couple of rides when the weather has been good and I look forward to some long journeys later in the year.


On Sunday, I got myself a headlamp and took to the mountains for my first ever nighttime trail run. Despite the darkness, it took me just 31 minutes to run from my house up to the top of Mt. Gongen and back. If I ever qualify for the UTMF (Ultra Trail Mount Fuji), I’ll need to run through the night as I tackle the 160km course around Japan’s most famous mountain.


Little did I know that on the previous day, a wild boar (bizarrely kept as a pet) had escaped from its cage and disappeared into the Kakamigahara Alps. The beast reportedly charged a 72-year-old hiker, injuring his left leg, and terrorized the locals who put schools on alert. The police had it surrounded, but watched it disappear again into the mountains where hunters are attempting to track it.


Although I’ve kept up my daily workouts, I’ve been struck down with hay fever for the first time since coming to Japan. Strong winds have blown sands from Mongolian deserts, air pollution from Beijing, and pollen from Cedar trees over my neighborhood and I’m really struggling to get through my classes.

I hope I get over it before the Seki 10K this coming Sunday. It’s extremely unlikely I can PB in it, but I have no excuse for not trying. Unless hay fever counts!

Pikachu and Bicycle Bells

PikachuA co-worker of mine has that book, You Know You’ve Been in Japan Too Long…, and from it I learned the true meaning of the name, Pikachu.

What does Pikachu mean?

Apparently it comes from the Japanese, pikapika, which means to glitter or sparkle, and chuchu, which is the sound a mouse supposedly makes in Japan. Put it together and you get Pikachu, meaning “sparkly mouse”, or more appropriately “electric mouse” because of the lightning bolt stuck up his bum.

Beat the crowd with a bicycle bell

bicycle bellTying together my recent review of NihonHacks, and the proposed (overzealous) changes to Japan’s bicycle laws, I thought I’d share with you my favorite Japan “hack”. When I lived in Nagoya, I found it ever so frustrating wading through the crowds at train stations, on busy streets and in departments stores, so I went to a 100 yen shop and bought myself a “Dragon Ball” bicycle bell.

You don’t need a bike to use a bell…

As I had hoped, a ring on my bell was enough to induce the natural jump-out-of-the-way reaction from the people in front of me, letting me pass with ease! I used this trick in the street, in stores, on escalators and even on crowded trains!

…but you do need a bell to use a bike

I think the proposed bicycle laws in Japan smack of big brother, but my own country is even worse. According to this 2006 article in the Telegraph, the Labour government were planning to fine you up to 2,500 pounds (over 500,000 yen) or even send you to jail for two years if you didn’t have a bell. I don’t know whether or not this law was implemented, but it makes Japan’s proposals look quite tame!