Normally I do my first century of the month on the first Saturday of the month, but not this month. I only found time for a half day ride on my new Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer (NFE) after my son and I built it up. It was still missing the mud guards. Then I left on a trip abroad for almost two weeks in the shortest month of the year. We finished the build after I got back (well, almost -- the Lumotec Secula dynamo rear light is not wired up yet). It was only yesterday that I finally got my first century in on the NFE.
It was a gloomy day, with snow flakes forecast for the late evening. My plan was a loop involving two mountain valleys west of Tokyo, route 35 past Akiyama to Tsuru, then over the pass on Rt24 and back via Doshi michi (Doshi road) that leads out to Lake Yamanakako near Mt Fuji. After some navigation errors I didn't stick to the plan and instead rode Doshi michi out and back, with a coffee break at the "Michi no Eki" road station at the upper end of Doshi village.
The temperature dropped with elevation and about two hours before I expected to reach the road station, what had first seemed like a slight drizzle turned into snow flakes.
First it was very slight, but it increased in volume as I made my way up the valley. I put the seat cover on to protect the Brooks. Snow accumulated on my gloves and melted, soaking them and rendering them pretty useless against the cold. I moved my hands to the drops, which kept the fingers away from the snow flakes and with the work of climbing my fingers warmed up again.
I could see the snow building up on roofs and parked cars and the road got wetter and wetter. The temperature on my GPS was not much above freezing, I was worried of when things might get slippery. Having had a nasty fall in December, I wasn't keen on going down again any time soon. Even only 5 km from the road station (the halfway point for the century distance), I seriously considered turning around. In the end I decided to risk it and push on.
There weren't many cars or motorcycles around the normally busy car park and no other bicycles. I ordered coffee and a piece of cresson cake:
As I was about to leave after my rest, another cyclist who had arrived over the pass from Lake Yamanakako warned me not to proceed further up the valley (which I hadn't intended to do anyway) as conditions there were bad. I carefully descended back towards Tokyo, watching my speed at all times, with particular attention to sewer covers and other metallic surfaces that get slippery when wet.
I got home at 20:30 at night, having covered 162 km, making February the 42nd month in a row with at least one century ride.
As expected the NFE offers a more comfortable ride than my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. The 42 mm wide Compass Babyshoe Pass EL tires soak up most road irregularities. I feel like I could ride anywhere. I love the Nitto Randonneur handlebars whose drops are much more useful than any other I've used. The 650B wheels have more momentum than the 20" 451 wheels on my Bike Friday, so they don't spin up quite as easily, but once in motion they keep going. Overall it works out the same (except for comfort).
Speed wise I don't think there's much difference between my bikes, which confirms my expectation that the limiting factor is still the engine
My second century of February will be this coming Saturday, a very hilly 200 km brevet in West Izu. It will be my first brevet in five months and the first on the NFE.