Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I went to "Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2009" last weekend.
It made a deep impression on me.

I extract the part of the summary from an official site.
The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial (ETAT) is an art festival held once every three years in the landscape of Echigo-Tsumari, a region distressed with the problems of depopulation and aging. ETAT began ten years ago by uncovering the many aspects of value inherent in the region through the medium of art in an attempt to lay down a path for the revitalization of the region through raising its attractiveness and ability to transmit to the world.
The approximately 350 artworks, deployed in communities, rice fields, vacant houses and closed schools, are the fruit born from the collaboration and exchanges between rural locality and city, artist and satoyama, and young and old. With the hundreds of artworks recalling the labors of our ancestors who interacted with the Earth through agriculture, allow your senses to be liberated by the radiant smiles of the elderly men and women of Echigo-Tsumari and deeply imbibe the wonder of life in a new journey.

Nature and local people mix with art.
I wish the art festival of such a style is held all over the world. and I want to cooperate so that a art festival continues.

Here are some photos of the scenery I took while attending the festival.




A mountain village of Echigo-Tsumaari is deep green and is beautiful.

There is a cycling event called "TOUR DE TSUMARI" in this art festival. "TOUR DE TSUMARI" is not a race. "TOUR DE TSUMARI" ride in the mountain village of Echigo-Tsumari by bicycle for enjoying scenery and art. It seems to be a rule to wear a yellow jersey and helmet. and this cycling tour becomes the art work of Yoshiaki Ito.

It is hard for me to ride a bicycle with the appearance of racing, but I think it is a happy cycling tour. Unfortunately I cannot participate in "TOUR DE TSUMARI", but I would like to ride a bicycle sometime in this mountain village.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's hot, go ride a bike

It's been really hot here in Portland the last few days.

Kashima - cycling
(Summer riding in Kashima, Japan)

I've only lived here a little over two years, but the outside temperature during the day felt hotter than I have ever experienced here in Portland. Inside my apartment, it's still relatively cool thanks to the trees sheltering the building from the sun, but if days like this continue, the temperature inside will likely start to rise. I'm not worried though. In all the years I lived in New York City, I never owned an air conditioner. My apartment in NYC was on the first floor and in the shady side of the building, but still at times, it was like living in a sauna. I just didn't think running an AC, using up loads of electricity and putting out hot air outside was cool. I'm stubborn that way. If I survived Summers in NYC w/out an AC, a few hot days in Portland won't be much of a problem for me.

The unusual hot weather does worry me a little though. Climate change?

Today, I went out on my bike in the heat to the local super market. I couldn't tell for sure, but it seemed like there were more cars out than usual and much less bikes. Maybe it seems like the obvious choice to go by an cool air-conditioned car instead of a bike on a day like today, but if we are to believe there is direct relation between CO2 emissions by automobile and global warming (and there is strong evidence for it), doesn't it make more sense to not drive especially on such a hot day? I wouldn't suggest to ride a bike in this weather if you have a relatively long distance trip to make, but just going to the store is definitely doable by bike.

I think in general, in extreme weather, it's better to lay low and conserve energy. I think the Europeans have got it right with their siestas and long vacations. Summer isn't the season for "happy motoring", it's the season to take it easy and to go ride our bikes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Portland, maybe not as bike friendly as you might think

Copenhagenize had an interesting post which confirmed what I've suspected for sometime. / Laura Sandt

The post was about the most bike friendly cities in the world. There have been similar articles like this one where Portland comes very near the top of the list, but from my personal experience (living here in Portland and having visited cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam), I thought that while Portland does have a very vibrant bike culture, the bicycle is still not as popular as a mode of transportation as it is in many cities in Europe and other places (Tokyo and Osaka).

Portland didn't even make the list!

I don't own a car, so I ride my bike almost 100% of the time when I go out, but what I see is mostly cars. I might see 10 people (or less) on bikes to a hundred cars. And when I go over a freeway overpass, I often see traffic congestion with literally a hundred or more cars in my sight. I always wonder if people stuck in the traffic jam see me on the bike and think anything of it. Would they think "Oh, it would be so nice to be riding a bicycle instead of being stuck in this car"? I don't know, but I would say that while Portland may be one of the most bike friendly cities in North America, it really doesn't come close to other more bike friendly cities of the world. I think if the list was about the average distance traveled by bicycle, Portland may be one of the top, but as I don't think we have any realistic means of gathering such data, we won't know for sure. I think Portland is a great city though for many other reasons. I've lived in a few other cities in the US including NYC and Davis, California, but I think Portland is definitely the best place I've lived in the US so far.

P.S. I used the photo above from PBIC Image Library. Thanks to Dottie/Let's Go Ride a Bike for writing and letting us know about them. I always like to have picture(s) with my posts, but it's great to have access to a library of images as I don't always have pictures that seems appropriate for them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday loop & Sunday Parkways

Kao's last post was about an event and a place in Tokyo to promote cycling. From what she told me, it seems that there is quite a bit of funding behind them. I am not really sure what they want to achieve and if they are effective at all. It is quite different from events here in Portland which are more grass roots based and organized by people who actually ride bikes. These ones in Tokyo are supported by the bike industry and Keirin which is the legal bike race gambling. It's hard to see what they want to achieve other than just to show off bikes in a fashionable way. People do ride bikes in Tokyo and it is do-able, bit it's hardly an ideal environment for it. It seems to me that the real issue with cycling in Tokyo isn't the bicycles, but the infrastructure. That's definitely a hard area to tackle, but if they want to promote cycling there, I think that's the most important thing.

I went out on another long ride on Saturday.
springwater trail

I was becoming weary of riding on car heavy roads (though they have bike lanes and are mostly safe), so I went on the Spring water Corridor Trail which is part of the 40 mile loop which circles Portland. The loop isn't complete yet and it's still missing some connections here and there, but on the Southern part of the loop, it's all connected. It is comprised of mostly of multi-use paths with bits of regular streets in between. The multi-use path does have some pedestrians and joggers near the center of the city, but once you are out of the center, there are hardly any pedestrians and not too many cyclists, so it's an ideal place to ride without having to worry about cars or pedestrians.

(40 Mile Loop)

On Saturday, I decided to take the trail to a place called Beggars Tick wildlife refuge. It was further than I had gone before on the trail, so I wasn't quite sure of the way. Surely enough, I got lost after the trail came to an intersection and I didn't see that the trail continued on the on the other side of the intersection. I went on the bike lane on a normal road and the road started to go upwards. The more I tried to find my way, the more I seem to have to go on steep climbs. I eventually got to my destination after quite a long detour. The Beggars Tick wildlife refuge looked very green and nice on the satellite map, but it was a wildlife refuge and not so much a human refuge. I wanted to sit and rest for a bit, but I couldn't find any spot to do so, so I decided to ride back to find a spot to rest. I hardly ever drink soft drinks as I think they are bad for nutrition and the environment, but I craved a cold soda really badly. My leg muscles were starting to ache as well. I probably rode at least another half hour to get to the Oaks Park which is an amusement park, but more like a glorified county fair. There is no entry fee and you can walk in with your bike. I walked in and got a small Dr. Pepper. Man, did that taste good! I sat at a picnic table by the Willamette River for a while and recovered while listening to people playing bingo in the background.

Willamette River

I didn't notice before, but the beach along river was quite nice. If I wasn't so tired, I would've gone down there and dipped my feet in the water.

On Sunday, I wasn't looking to ride too much, but I knew that they were having the Sunday Parkways again, so I decided to go check it out on my way back from the Farmers Market. I was just gonna see how the event was going, but I started riding on the course with all the people on bikes and I ended up going most of the way. I read people's impression of it on some blogs and there was one where the person thought that riding along inexperienced riders seemed more dangerous than riding normally on regular streets, but for me it was just a lot of fun to ride on the streets without any cars. If you were trying to ride fast and pass everyone, it would be dangerous, but if you rode casually with the flow, it seemed really safe. Besides, the whole point of the event I think is to get the inexperienced riders out on their bikes in a safe environment. It wasn't quite the "bike culture" event like the Pedalpalooza events, but I think this kind of event really does encourage people who usually don't ride bikes to try it out and discover (or re-discover) the joy of bicycling.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

TOKYO bike events!

I went to "biketope 2009" today.

It is in front of United Nations University. Aoyama, Tokyo.
Unique design bicycles from Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and Japan, You can test ride the bikes.

This event is held Until 20th.

DSC07517  DSC07530



Next, I went to the "Cycle Square" . It is new open bicycle cafe yesterday on Kitasando(Sendagaya).

Coverage of the television came to the cafe!!!

I like this cafe! It was very comfortable space. A lot of bicycles are exhibited. They answer consultation about the bicycle. You can use Internet. it's free. and they have a rental bicycle. for four hours, 1,000 yen.

This cafe is open until January 17 of the next year. It is a time-limited cafe.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Kao's last post was about a picture book called "Pika Pika" which tells the story of the journey of an abandoned bicycle. It is put out by an organization called JOICFP who donate reconditioned bicycles to grassroots health volunteers in developing countries. I don't know if their activity is well known in Japan or not, as we only found out about them after we were talking about abandoned bicycles recently and looked to see what is being done with them.

Today, I thought I would write about some other organizations that I know of which make good use of used bicycles.
Kao's bike
(Community Cycling Center sticker on KT)

The first organization that I became aware of is called Baisikeli. I found out about them through Copenhagenize. They run a rental bike store in Copenhagen, but they also recondition used bicycles and send them to Africa.

There are a couple of organizations here in Portland that make good use of used bicycles. The Community Cycling Center fixes donated used bikes and sell them. They also run a lot of community oriented programs like teaching children safe cycling. KT (Kao's Trek) is actually from the Community Cycling Center. The Recyclery also sells used bikes. They don't have community programs, but they have quite a lot of bikes and parts. You won't find any top notch racing components there, but if you need some parts for a regular bike to ride around town with, it's a great place to look for parts. I've gotten some parts really cheap there. The nice thing about the Community Cycling Center and the recyclery is that you can take old bikes and parts there. If you have bikes and parts you are not using, but you don't want to simply throw them away, you could give them to Goodwill or some place similar, but if you give them to the Community Cycling Center or the Recyclery, you know they are more likely to be put to good use.

I think the JOICFP's abandoned bicycle program is a good thing, but I think maybe there might be a bit of a discouragement (not from JOICFP, but just in general) to fix and sell used bikes in Japan as that would interfere with business of shops that sell new bikes. That is the case not only of bicycles, but other things as well. Selling used goods has become a big business with big chains such as Book-Off and they are way more profit driven than the thrift shops of the US. It's kind of an unfortunate situation as things that will not fit this business model are more likely to be discarded. On the othe hand, I think things are changing with grass roots activities like community flea markets, so I hope that used bicycles could be sold or re-used more easily in the future. I mentioned in a recent post about how the author James Howard Kunstler thinks we won't have access to a lot of resources in the future and so to be throwing out perfectly usable bicycles and parts into the landfill, I think is not only bad for the environment, but just plain wasteful. New and shiny mamachari bikes can be bought very cheaply, but I think we really ought to start looking at the bigger picture.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"PIKA-PIKA" abandoned bicycles story

Last week, I bought a picture book. it is Japanese abandoned bicycles story. I am greatly moved.

I extract it as follows from a page of JOICFP.

Pika Pika

The picture book Pika Pika, available in both Japanese and English, portrays each step in the process by which JOICFP and MCCOBA donate reconditioned bicycles to grassroots health volunteers in developing countries. Pika Pika, an abandoned bicycle and the main character of the story, pulls at the heartstrings of several sympathetic characters who cooperate to refurbish him and eventually send him to Africa. His role is to help a midwife in a village, where he finds his niche in life and eventually becomes a hero for his efforts.

Pika Pika is the result of the passion and curiosity of Seiichi Tabata, its acclaimed author. When hearing of the program, Tabata was deeply moved and wished to experience first-hand the effects of the program--to the point where he first proposed to travel together to Africa with the bicycles in their cargo crate! He accompanied JOICFP on a visit to Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, where he gathered impressions and the detailed data upon which this powerful story is based.

Although Pika Pika is a picture book, its appeal extends to a wide audience as it addresses many important issues, such as recycling, volunteer activity, and the will and courage to live.We would like to introduce Pika Pika to people and organizations across the world, including local governments, libraries, educators, and PTAs. One copy of the English version is 2,310 Japanese yen , and if purchased directly through JOICFP, a portion of this is directly applied to the JOICFP/MCCOBA reconditioned bicycle fund.

I write about abandoned bicycles, because I want to write down the abandoned bicycles in Japan present conditions. but, writing long articles in English is so difficult for me... how disappointing!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just riding a bit further

Kao's last post features pictures she took while visiting the Bicycle Culture Center in Tokyo. They had an exhibition of old bikes, like the Celerifere which is technically, not even a bicycle, but more like its predecessor. I really like that these bikes seem like pure manifestations of their designers ideas. The last picture features the Dursley Pedersen which is claimed to be the most comfortable bicycle in the world. I've never seen one in person, but they are supposedly still being made. I'd love to ride it sometime. Maybe Clever Cycles could import them!?

On Saturday, I went on another long ride. This time a little more in the South East direction, to the Powell Butte Nature Park. That is the satellite picture of the park above. As you can see, it's not a very woodsy place. If I'd seen this before I left, I might have thought twice about going there, but I didn't and so I went. On the way was mostly more of the same sprawling development, but there were some patches of the road which felt more back country like.

Powell Butte Nature Park

I eventually made it there after getting lost a couple of times. I had to climb a super steep road at the end and this was the view I saw. It seemed that most people go there by car and then they walk or bike (on mountain bikes) on the trails within the park. I was quite tired already from the ride and the steep climb, so I didn't bother going on the trails.

Powell Butte Nature Park

I could've done without the cars, but the view was pretty nice.

Powell Butte Nature Park

I took a break with some snacks and coffee. A thermos of coffee does weigh the bike down, but it's worth it for a moment like this.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Then I rode down the hill I climbed and made my way home. I'm a lot more timid about going down steep hills than I used to be. I always wonder if people with fixed gear bikes could ride down these kinds of descents. It's scary enough with brakes and freewheel, I can't imagine going down them with fixed gear.

I stopped on the way home to buy some groceries. I would've never done such a thing in my racing days. Back then, I tried to carry as little stuff as possible. Stopping during a ride to do something completely unrelated would have been unthinkable. But now, I don't think I need to differentiate between these different activities. Going on a long ride is just going on a longer ride than usual, so things I do normally like buying food makes perfect sense.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bicycle Culture Center



MacMillan Velocipede

Michaux Velocipede


Dersley Pederson

Bicycle Culture Center

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cycling and Sprawl

Kao's last post was about the bike shop which is called "Cycle Life Style". It is a shop within a discount department store, but this bike department has a separate structure of its own and they do service as well.


They have these bikes under the same brand of "Cycle Life Style". They seem like pretty nice bikes with derailleurs and everything, but Kao said that these are only around $200. Not having ridden them I don't know about their quality, but I think similar bikes could easily cost twice in the US.

On my July 4th ride, I was hoping I would ride through some nice scenery like some country roads with lots of trees, but what I got instead was not all too inspiring. It was sort of like sprawl. It wasn't anything like the sprawl you see in California or New Jersey, but it did feel more sprawl like compared to central Portland.

I also noticed that there was almost no one on bikes. It was July 4th, but there were cars and people waiting to ride the light rail train. I started thinking why that was. Maybe it's too much for most people to ride 30 minutes to an hour at a good steady pace just to get into the city. The houses themselves look like nice places to live, but there is just nothing else there. So, I think if I lived there and didn't ride a bike, I would probably drive into town quite often just to fill a void that I can't quite explain.

I spent my teenage years in a Southern California town called Irvine. I haven't been back there for more than 10 years and I don't know what it is like now, but back then it was what you might called Suburbia. It was a safe and clean environment, but I always felt like there was something missing. I couldn't really put my finger on it until I read James Howard Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere". The book really articulated it into words what it was that made me feel uncomfortable in a seemingly wholesome environment. I won't try and summarize the book here as I am sure I won't do it justice, but Jim Kunstler is in favor of Traditional Neighborhood Development where the residents have access to most everyday needs within walking distance. He does like bicycles and likes riding them, but in his view, he is not sure whether we will be able to keep on riding them in the future. He has what many people think of as a pessimistic view of the future (he calls himself a realist) where resources will be in very limited supply and we may not be able to continue manufacturing bicycles and its parts the way we do today. That is unfortunate as I am a big fan of his writing and I think if he could incorporate bicycles as transportation into his world view, I think we would really have the perfect guideline for the future.

I have been reading quite a bit of pretty scary news about climate change. The primary reason that I ride my bike has nothing to do with the environment, but it baffles me that so many people everywhere keep driving their cars like there is no problem. Of course it's not just cars and there are many different factors contributing to the climate crisis, but driving cars definitely does not help the situation.

Sprawl takes shape on the outskirts of cities with fairly large houses on large plots of land. I assume people choose to live there because it's more affordable and they can live in a more spacious environment. The houses and the big yards themselves are quite nice (except for the 2 car garage and the driveway) , but not having any place to just walk to and enjoy is a big drawback. I am not sure everybody living there needs so much space and I think if they were able to do so, they would move closer to the center of the city. If Portland really wanted to become North America's premier bike friendly city, they could take after Groningen, Netherlands and make the center of the city car free. That would make a lot of space available for new development. There are a number of condo buildings going up in my part of Portland, but I think only the real wealthy would be able to live there. Instead if there were more affordable and well designed housing within the city, a lot of people could move into the city and be able to ditch their cars as they will be able to walk or ride a bike for most everyday activities.

Anyway, that's just some thoughts (and wishful thinking) I had after riding and seeing the sprawling outskirts of Portland. I don't know if I was successful in conveying what I wanted to say, but I welcome any comments if you have any thoughts on what I've written.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cycle Life Style


I went to the local discount department store for the first time in about a half year. The small bicycle shop there had a renewal.
The new name of the shop is "Cycle Life Style"

DSC07097 DSC07094

DSC07098 DSC07089

DSC07091 DSC07087

I want to write about abandoned bicycles in the next entry, but writing long articles in English is difficult for me.
Will I be able to do it? :-o

Scenery with the bicycle

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Riding now and then

So, my ride on July 4th went well. I rode probably around 30 miles during a 3 hour span with a 30 minute break in the middle. That's probably not much for someone who trains regularly, but it was more than enough for me. I think I made it less than half way to the Columbia River Gorge, but it's OK. I enjoyed the ride anyway. When I used to race in my college years, I rode at least 5 times a week and 30 miles was the short ride and I did that in an hour and a half without stopping.

From cycle mumbreeze

But, now it's all different. Back then, after like 3 years of training and racing, I burnt myself out riding so much. I wasn't really enjoying riding, but I was doing it like a chore to train, so I could get better at racing. When the results didn't come, I lost interest in it. I still don't have the desire back to ride so many miles day in and day out, but I'm really enjoying an occasional long ride. I don't have any goals in mind like to train for a century or a race, but just riding in itself is reward enough. Of course, a sustained physical effort can be quite demanding on the body, so I like to reward myself even more by taking a nice long break and feed the body. I brought a sandwich, an apple and a thermos full of coffee. Back in my racing days, I would never have thought of carrying that much stuff on a ride as it would weigh me down. I might have brought a banana and some fig newtons, but not a pannier bag full of stuff. Anyway, so I took a leisurely break at this park and just watched some squirrels and airplanes flying overhead. It's nice to just sit and let your mind wander a bit. The nice thing about bringing food is that, the load is always much lighter on the way back. Though my body really felt at the limit towards the end of the ride. This was only like the third ride since I started riding the road bike again. Anyway, it felt good to ride. It's been a little more than 2 years since I moved to Portland, but I'm still discovering new places by going on long rides. Where will I go next time?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

KT's evolution continues

Happy July 4th everyone.

with Kao in Japan, I'm celebrating the occasion by going on a long ride on my road bike. That's right, I'm back on my road bike. My arm and hand is almost fully recovered (maybe about 98%?) so that I'm now able to ride the road bike without discomfort. I think I will ride in the direction of the Columbia River Gorge and see far I get.

Riding the road bike again has given me a new perspective on riding position. The road bike position with your torso forward does need some getting used to, but it is a good position if you want to ride faster and further. For riding slow and stopping often, an upright position is much better and a position that is in between is not really good. I think a lot of so called "comfort" bikes have this not quite forward or upright position and it just ends up being uncomfortable. I've been noticing riding Kao's bike with the new handlebars that my position was not quite upright enough and my arms were stretched straight and feeling all the bumps from the front end. This is what I've often heard with road bikes that it's best to have your arms bent a little at the elbows to absorb shock, and I think it applies to city bikes as well. So, I've made some modifications to Kao's bike with this in mind.

new (old) stem

I went to the Recyclery which is a place where they buy and sell used bikes and parts and got this stem.

Kao's bike v3.0

I installed the stem as well as a new rear rack. The stem brought the handle bar further up and closer, so that my riding position is even more upright than before. I got the rear rack so that I don't have to carry anything on my back. I thought it was not possible to add a rack to this bike before as it has no eyelets, but then I found this rack which is the Axiom Streamliner Road rack which can be attached via the rear wheel spindle and brake mount.

Kao's bike v3.0

It looks pretty good and everything, but I'm not sure I can fully recommend this rack for a couple of reasons. First of all, it makes it difficult to tighten the quick release enough and to keep the wheel straight. For casual riding, it works OK, but if I put a lot of power into pedaling, the rear wheel can easily slip and go out of alignment. The other thing is the attachment fixture for the pannier bag. I think most racks have like a tube sticking out where you can through a bungee ring which most pannier bags come with, but this rack has these narrow slots instead. The O-ring thing could not work with this, so I ended up getting some mini bungee cords to attach my bag.

Kao's bike v3.0

This is what the bike looks like with the bag attached. I think my Minnehaha utility bag works pretty well visually. The leather strip in the middle matches the cork grips, maybe?

I've decided to give call this bike "KT". KT = Kao's Trek. Kao likes that too. As for my road bike, I think I will call it "Special K". Kinya's Specialized. what do you think? Anyway, Me and the Special K will be heading out the door soon for a ride towards the Columbia River Gorge. I doubt I will make it there, but I think I will set it as a goal to get there sometime this Summer. Hope you all have nice rides this weekend.