227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - Printable Version
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227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - joewein - 03-14-2012 07:32 AM
Sometimes people wonder how far one can ride a Bike Friday folding bike and still be comfortable on it. The answer is, as long as on a good conventional road bike. Many people do century rides (160 km) on them. I rode 227 km on my Pocket Rocket 105 last Sunday. This was my longest ride so far. I only bought my Bike Friday last October and have been doing longer and longer rides since then.
Earlier this month I signed up for a 300 km brevet which will be in about two months. There's a 20 hour time limit on that distance to be counted as having completed it. The first seven hours of the ride will be before sunrise. The route will include a total of 2800 m (9300 ft) of climbing. The start is in the western part of Tokyo and the route will go around Mt Fuji. This will be my first organized long distance cycling event.
Because the route is twice as long as my previously longest ride (155 km), I knew I needed some training. I picked a shortened version of the brevet route that was a total of 213 km, plus a couple of km to and from the nearest train station. This way I would get to experience navigating by cue sheet and familiarize myself with some of the roads.
The training ride included a climb from sea level to a pass 1104 m above sea level (3700 ft). It started snowing half way up the mountain and continued snowing for another 25 km after the pass. Climbing that pass with over 100 km already in my legs I started to doubt if I could complete the ride, but I recovered while coasting downhill on the other side and felt more relaxed, having done more than half already.
Depending on the app I look at, I burnt between 3500 and 5000 kcal on the ride. I ate 7 bananas, 3 rice balls, one yoghurt pack, one cycling bar and drank 3 litres of water or sports drink. I tried to take a sip at least every 15 minutes. Temperatures ranged from 0-6 C (32-43 F), but I still sweated a lot from the exercise.
We got back to the starting point about 13 hours after leaving there, having cycled the last two hours in darkness. It was a great feeling to have done it. Of course I was a little sore from sitting on a bike that long, but it felt easier than a 136 km ride 5 weeks earlier, partly because I had installed a Brooks saddle and I had paid more attention to eating and drinking sufficiently throughout the ride.
I am already looking forward to my next long distance training ride in the mountains.
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - joewein - 04-07-2012 07:34 AM
On April 1 I did a 200 km follow-up ride around Mt Fuji, this time on my own. It was an interesting day. I love Fuji and I love long bike rides and this day had both in abundance.
I planned it as yet another test run for the brevet ride in May, a 20 hour ride starting at 22:00 on a Saturday, which means I'd be riding 6 1/2 hours in darkness before 04:30 sunrise. So I wanted to test how I would cope with the disrupted sleep, how well the new dynamo light would work and how I would navigate in the darkness. It was also meant as a hill climbing exercise, because the brevet ride has four major climbs. The west Fuji climb (from Fujikawa to the R71 pass) is almost 1200 m with one unbroken section of 12 km of only up. From Odawara to Gotemba the climb is almost 500 m. There were further climbs at R35 and Mount Takao, but I ended up skipping those (again).
I caught the last train from Tokyo on Odakyu out to Odawara, which was to get me there a little after 1, then I'd set up the bike and do the brevet except for the first ~70 km. It didn't quite turn out that way, but it was close.
The good news is, I think I did relatively well at climbing (I now have two more KOMs on Strava) and I felt in much better shape for the last 50 km of the ride than at my first brevet training ride three weeks earlier.
The IQ Cyo (60 lumen) dynamo light works really well, definitely recommended. I was riding on fairly rural roads in Ashigara near Odawara from 01:00 to sunrise and always had all the light I needed, at any speed.
Surprisingly, I had no problems with lack of sleep all day until I was finally sitting on the heated train seat on the way home with the bike in the bike bag, when my eye lids became very heavy... It's the adrenalin when riding, I suppose.
I got views of Fuji all day. The weather was fantastic for views.
I managed to nap on the train to Odawara as planned, but woke in a panic and got off at the wrong station, so I started off 18 km away from Odawara. I didn't much care for having to take R246 for that.
It was much colder at night than I had anticipated. I should have worn every scrap of fabric I had brought along as soon as I got off the train. I gradually got changed at some convenience store toilets, which got me off to a slow start. I needed three layers under my wind breaker, I needed the old sock covers for the shoes and I needed a second pair of socks (convenience stores are great!) for my feet not to be uncomfortable, but I never really stopped shivering until after sunrise.
My navigation skills using Japanese brevet cue sheets leave much to be desired, at any time of the day. At some turns I kept going around and around until I finally figured out where I was supposed to be. Having taken screen shots at home with my Canon S95 of the route on MapMyRide proved a life saver at more than one occasion. I could double check maps without online data access.
Eating and drinking throughout the day meant I never hit the wall. I consumed two apples, ten bananas, one yoghurt, one onigiri and several litres of water. I felt completely capable of tackling Mount Takao at the end even after sunset, but skipped it because I was running late with navigation problems and I still remembered the chilly temperatures in the morning, so I took the train from Uenohara back to Tokyo.
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - twirp - 04-21-2012 07:17 PM
How awesome! Great to hear about the details of your ventures!
Your leg muscles must be made of something extraterrestrial to go that far, in that amount of time, nonstop! Great pictures! Thanks for posting!
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - joewein - 04-30-2012 02:27 PM
My longest ride on the Bike Friday yet - 235 km in a day, across the mountains west of Tokyo during the cherry blossom (sakura) season.
Sakura (cherry blossoms) on route 413:
It took me about 16 hours, of which 14 hours were moving time. I had left home at 05:20 and was back in Tokyo at 21:20 (9:20pm). My Pocket Rocket has a Shimano hub dynamo and a Lumotec IQ Cyo headlamp which provided plenty of light on the last stretch after sunset.
Here is my route.
I started from my house in Tokyo after sunrise and cycled out to the mountains some 40 km away, then following Route 413 up a mountain valley and over a pass over 1100 m (3600 ft) high. Yes, that's climbing from virtually sea level (45 m / 150 ft) to 1.1 km high I was cycling almost continually uphill for the first 96 km (60 miles). After 7 hours (including brief stops for food and rest) I reached the highest pass.
I always want to see the remaining distance:
The exit of the tunnel at the end of The Longest Climb: It's all downhill from here... NOT!
The shores of Lake Yamanaka at the foot of Mt Fuji, over 900 m (3000 ft) above sea level:
It can be surprizingly difficult to sea Mt Fuji (3776 m high) from just a few km away because of its frequent cloud cover. I cycled 235 km and all I saw of Fuji is this (its foot):
Almost home - at the top of the Mt Takao pass:
The humble Bike Friday Pocket Rocket:
and its crazy rider:
There is nothing superhuman about cycling long distances. The key is eating and drinking sufficiently. Most people who first try long distances become exhausted not because of insufficient training but because they eat and drink too little. You need to consume about 200-300 kcal per hour and sufficient liquid. I carried water in two bottle holders, which I refilled whenever I could. Throughout the day I ate: 7 bananas, 6 raisin bread rolls, 360g of yoghurt, a slice of pizza, several other pieces of bread. I drank about 4 litres of water, orange juice, cocoa, yoghurt drink and sports drink. Don't worry too much about putting on weight while burning 6500 kcal I'm 10 kg (22 lbs) lighter now than I was the year before I got the bike.
Stick to a speed you can sustain. I am not a fast rider, doing mostly 23-25 km/h on the flat (about 15 mph), with down to as little as 9 km/h (6 mph) on steep climbs, but that doesn't stop me from going out to see nature, lots of it.
I did this 235 km ride a little over half a year after getting the Pocket Rocket, my first road bike in over 30 years. In less than three weeks my 300 km brevet ride will be coming up. Wish me luck
300 km brevet ride on a Bike Friday - joewein - 05-22-2012 10:38 PM
Sunday night I returned from my first brevet ride, sunburnt, exhausted and dead tired. It was BRM519, a 300 km brevet around Mt Fuji staged by Audax Japan NishiTokyo. It was quite a mountainous course, with 2800 m (9200 ft) of climbing. Also participating was my friend Jose (he also owns a Bike Friday, but mostly uses it for overseas touring). We rode separately for most of the course because he is faster. In preparation for this event I had done three training rides (227 km, 200 km and 235 km) since March that followed at least part of the route, one of them with Jose, whose company and advice has been invaluable.
From Machida in western Tokyo we rode down to Enoshima on the Pacific coast, followed the coast to Odawara and climbed up to Gotemba. From there we rode down to the coast near Numazu, followed the coast to Fujikawa, then headed north on a long climb on the extended slopes on the west side of Mt Fuji. From over 1100 m on the NW of Fuji the road descends to Fujiyoshida and further down to Tsuru. The final stretch follows mountainous R35 to Sagamiko (extremely steep in places but great descents) and climbs over Mt Takao (which seems trivial after all the previous climbing).
Though the 15 km/h minimum pace implied by the 20 hour time limit may seem modest, it includes all food and sleep breaks and a course with plenty of climbing. The people who design these courses like back roads and hills. Some of the R35 climbs I was crawling up at 6.5 km/h in my granny gear. You go uphill for 2 hours before Gotemba and 4 hours solid at Mt Fuji, which you can never make up on faster downhills from there. The 22:00 start means the first 6 1/2 hours are at night, so not only do you need proper lights, you also lost a night of sleep.
Lack of sleep proved to be much more of a challenge than distance or elevation. If there was one thing I'd do differently next time, it would be to make sure I get a good few hours sleep during daytime before the night time start. I had meant to do that, but instead spent that time running around looking for extra lights, as I found out from Jose that I needed two lights at the front and two at the rear (one of which could be on the helmet). The first rear light I bought didn't work when I tried it at home, so I returned it and got a another and finally had only napped 20 minutes before I took the train to Machida.
Here's the bike:
At the brevet reception:
People there were very friendly, though they were quite surprised I wanted to ride the brevet on a small wheeled folding bike. 80 people had signed up for the ride. I received my brevet card and instructions on how to gather receipts at the unmanned checkpoints (PC = point de contrôle).
After a group briefing each bike and rider was checked to make sure we met all the conditions about lights, bells, reflective clothing, etc. Then we were off into the night.
Jose and I were riding together for the first couple of km, but separated soon when I stopped to remove a layer as I was warming up. There were plenty of fellow riders for following a lead rider. With the pace at which we were going towards the coast (except for traffic lights), I was feeling like I was on the Enoshima Express train We got there a little before midnight. I got my brevet card signed (this was the only manned checkpoint) and I refilled my water bottles at the public toilet where PC1 was located, then headed off with Jose and another rider after a few minutes. I soon dropped off again and rode by myself until other riders came along around 10 km before Odawara, where PC2 was located.
PC2-PC4 were unmanned, that means they were convenience stores where you buy some food or drink, making sure to keep the receipt to prove when you were there. Nevertheless the ride organisers came by car to join us at each of these stops, to check everyone was doing OK and to offer encouragement.
From Odawara the climb to Gotemba starts very gentle, but continues for 30 km for an altitude gain of 460 m. I was lucky to end up riding in a group of 5 that set a good pace I could keep up with. As the route got steeper though, I had to work harder and harder and drafting made less difference, so I waived the rider behind me to pass and continued on my own. Somewhere along the way I came across Jose, who was just about to lie down and take a nap in a bus shelter. As it got colder during the night I put on my trousers from my rain gear.
Somewhere along the 25 km route from Gotemba to the coast the sun came up and I could see Mt Fuji:
I led another rider at a good speed, but was feeling the lack of sleep as I was cycling along the coast. We crossed Fuji river and headed up inland towards the next unmanned checkpoint (PC3).
A fellow brevet rider at PC3:
Before the longest climb:
The 1100 m climb from sea level, starting at about the halfway point of the 300 km up to the pass above Lake Motosu was the hardest part of the ride. The scenery is beautiful though, with many dairy farms. The smell of cow dung reminded me of my home village
Lake Motosu from the pass:
During the climb I got so sleepy, I had to find a spot to lie down and catch a nap (a slab of concrete next to a rice paddy, with my rinko bag as a pillow), as I felt it wasn't safe to continue in my state. The same thing happened again on R35 between Tsuru and Sagamiko. I had been 1 1/2 hours ahead of the minimum pace of 15 km/h at PC2 before Mt Fuji, but after those naps didn't know if I would still make the time limit until almost the very end, when I fought traffic in Machida to make it back by 18:00.
I was so glad when I got back safely and it was all over. I had done well with my training, with eating and drinking and with navigation, but managing naps is definitely something I'll need to learn if I am to ride brevets again.
I am also looking forward to trying proper cycling shorts which I've got on order. Cotton underwear rubbing against certain parts of the male anatomy did become irritating towards the end of the ride. Also, I'll need something other than a back pack for my stuff, because my shoulders got itchy from the straps, especially with the sweat in warm weather.
They say any brevet over 200 km isn't much fun and they're probably right, unless you're a bit of a masochist. Riding brevets adds a number of challenges beyond personal long distance rides, such as managing time (including sleeping time). It tests planning and self discipline as much as cycling skills. It does give you an excuse for a bunch of long training rides in the mountains. On the brevet itself you'll meet some extremely nice people who enjoy cycling very, very much. The brevet was almost as hard as my first climb of Mt Fuji last year and "fun" is maybe not the right word to describe it, yet I would definitely recommend giving it a try at least once if you like long rides at a pace that mere mortals can still train for.
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - pisatxarkos - 05-28-2012 05:20 PM
Awesome...waiting for the 400 kms one !!
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - joewein - 05-29-2012 01:25 AM
The 400 km can't be so much worse than the 300 km I reckon... You ride through one night on either of them (20 hours or 27 hours). The 600 km I imagine is a lot harder, even more so a 1200 like Paris-Brest-Paris.
Having bought my Bike Friday 8 months ago (my first road bike since the early 1980s), I was only just beginning the long rides early this year. Luckily where I live I can ride all year round, except for the odd couple of days of snowfall in the winter or when we have heavy rain.
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - garethzbarker - 07-05-2012 01:15 AM
wow joe! Although you seem to be a stronger cyclist than I am we are in similar situations. I bought my pocket rocket for sport riding and touring in S. Korea. We are right across the sea from each other. I assume the terrain is similar there (steep small mountains, rice fields, cherry blossoms). I specifically got the PR to take advantage of the great mass transit systems for weekend trips and short tours.
Oddly enough, I've been trying to find out if anyone has ever completed brevets with a folding bike in S. Korea. I wanted to go for a first next year if no one has I'm used to all day riding but have usually at a slower pace. some of my friends just completed the Korean 1200 not long ago.
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - joewein - 07-05-2012 06:51 AM
people have used Bike Fridays to do Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP, 1200 km), so shorter brevets shouldn't be a problem, nevertheless the reaction I got when I showed up with my Pocket Rocket wasn't so different from if I had showed up on a three speed house wife's shopping bike A lot of people have misconceptions about Bike Fridays, thinking that riding long distances on a small wheeled bike makes it really hard to complete the event. Maybe that's because the only small wheeled bikes they are familiar with are heavy, have poor geometry and limited gear ranges, unlike Bike Fridays. I am trying to do my bit to clear up these misconceptions.
We have a fair number of decent mountain passes within easy reach of Tokyo, ranging from 500 m above sea level to over 1200 m while Tokyo itself is close to sea level. Plot a route across a couple of these and you can easily rack up 2000 to 3000 m of climbing in a day. At the end of July I'll be participating at an event at Norikura in Nagano, on a road that climbs from 1463 m to 2724 m above sea level, which is higher than the highest road on Mt Fuji (which ends at 2300 m above sea level).
RE: 227 km day trip on my Bike Friday - garethzbarker - 07-06-2012 06:47 AM
Korea is less mountainous then I think our highest mountain is mt halla. It's on an island. I am taking the PR there in a few weeks and I'll attempt the climb. It will be a good test of the bike overall. will have to use the suitcase etc.
Japan looks beautiful. There are actually ferries from Korea and of course short flights. These days I'm pressed for time but I think I'd really like to do some bike touring there after looking at your photos! The few times I went years back hotels were very full and very expensive. Do you have good camping and hostel like accommodations in japan?
Looks like if I get some time to travel there I know who to ask Same to you about Korea of course, the yen probably goes pretty far here. The traffic might drive you crazy here though, it's much more dangerous than japan.