Category: Strine

Fatal Attraction

Death Machine

Following slovenly Saturday where I did basically nothing for the whole day, today has become a bit of sprightly Sunday, being busy from the get-go, with the Death Machine taking a prime position.

The Death Machine is, of course, the nickname I give to my Performer recumbent bicyle.

It gets that name because the bike feels so unsafe, the feeling while riding it is that death is imminet.

It’s no exaggeration.

Riding the bike is a frightful experience.

And I crashed the Death Machine badly around this time last year, fracturing my leg and causing permanent damage to my knee.

Getting the Death Machine was a stroke of luck.

I’d always fancied a recumbent bike since I saw one flying along the roads when I used to walk from Fujisawa Station to work at Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus a decade ago now.

I was already getting into cycling and when I moved to a job downtown the following year, was greatly encouraged by Kiwi John.

I was riding a Dahon Route folding bike at the time, but Kiwi John had a bad back and rode a recumbent.

He was super cool and his bike was even more impressive, giving me even greater cravings to get a lie-down bike.

Upon checking out catalogs and prices, though, the recumbent dream pretty much vanished.

Sports bikes aren’t cheap, and recumbents are at the pricier end of the sports bike range. Most were close to 300,000 yen at the entry level and well past 500,000 yen when considering a carbon frame. Even secondhand, a recumbent generally commanded a price over 200,000 yen.

And so the years passed.

Then, a couple of years ago, I saw a bike posted on Facebook for 50,000 yen. It was in Nagoya. Didn’t matter, I promised to pay immediately, booked a bus for that night (a Friday) and planned to ride it home to Tokyo when I picked it up the following morning.

I got less than 50 meters. I would topple over and fall with every few strokes. It was clear that I wouldn’t be riding back home. I wouldn’t even make it to the nearest station a few hundred meters away.

I eventually got the bike home (wrapped in garbage bags because I didn’t have a rinko bag needed to carry it on the train). And I destroyed the bloody chain in the process of carrying the bike back to Tokyo.

Almost destroyed my marriage when I eventually did get home.

Even the endlessly patient Mrs. Kangaeroo was peeved at my latest waste of money. And doubly so when I immediately needed to put it in for repairs and upgrading of parts that cost as much as the bike had.

It took a while to track down the maker, which used to have a branch office in Yamanashi Prefecture, but now how only its home base in Taiwan. George from Performer was fantastic, providing advice on the bike, the necessary new derailleur and videos on how to ride it.

Still, all the advice in the world and watching videos was not really a great help in learning to ride the bike. I repeatedly crashed and struggled to get a feel for riding it….hence the Death Machine moniker.

It took literally months to learn how to ride. I didn’t help myself by riding narrow tracks with climbs and turns, all of which are not friends of the recumbent bicycle in general.

Eventually, though, I got to feel at ease….well, maybe not that far. I felt that I could get around on the bike.

A much-needed good luck charm for cycling safety from Aso shrine in Hamura.

Rumor has it that recumbents ride faster on flats than road bikes. That hasn’t been my experience. I can get a decent speed out of the Death Machine, but well short of what I can get on La Cangura, my road bike.

I guess the recumbent is a little more comfortable than a road bike on long, straight roads. But only in the sense of being less strenuous while being in a lying position.

What’s more, recumbents seem to annoy drivers even more than a regular bicycle, if that’s possible, and also seem to bring out the most competitive side of every other cyclist, who wants to outpace the weird contraption that may have overtaken them.

So, they can’t turn, can’t climb, aren’t fast, inspire nearly everybody to want to throttle you and are truly dangerous. Why the fuck do I ride it? I guess it’s some fatal attraction. The recumbent attracts attention, and doubly so because I have decked it out in tiger stripes and ride with tiger-themed attire, so I am feeding my constantly craving ego. And the thrill of truly feeling at death’s door. It’s an deniable feeling. I wonder whether it stems from addiction issues?

Lots of addicts I know have an affinity for cycling. I guess it’s the repetitive nature of the rotating pedals and quick fix of endorphins from the exercise? I’m sure there are definitive studies somewhere, but my own hearsay affirms this. The late Robin Williams, a famous addict was also an avid cyclist.

Who knows? One thing for sure is that I enjoy riding the Death Machine, especially if I can overtake a roadie, which I can sometimes do with the aid of gravity. And I even bear riding with a knee brace to placate Mrs. Kangaeroo and the doctor.

So, when I die on the Death Machine, bring up this blog post and know that there were some fond memories.

Love The Way You Lie

Death Machine at Koremasa

Kangaeroo got a much better day than expected today, Japan’s National Foundation Day but not a holiday because it fell on a Saturday.

Waking, Your Humble Narrator (to borrow a turn of phrase from Anthony Burgess) was greeted by a winter wonderland from the previous day’s snowfall.

There would be no customary morning bike ride on this day.

Instead, with great community spirit, Mrs. Kangaeroo suggested Kangaeroo get his morning exercise by shoveling the snow off the paths so none of our neighbors slipped and hurt themselves.

So, it was out on the shovel and into the snow. And great fun it was, seeing the path re-emerge on the northern side of the apartment block that gets little sun.

By the time the task was over, it was becoming clear that it was gonna be nice weather.

With Mrs. Kangaeroo working nightshift there wasn’t gonna be much riding this weekend, either, and Kangaeroo enjoyed a delightful morning together, punctuated by a call from Kangaeroo Mum, who continues to thrive.

Then, on the cusp of lunchtime, Kangaeroo’s closest cycling cobber offered the chance of a ride. With some trepidation due to lingering ice, Kangaeroo jumped at the chance (especially having refused repeated invitations in recent months) and it was off on a ride of sheer delight in the unseasonably warm day with a tantalizing taste of spring. The day was made better by being with a great made and then topping it off with a fantastic nut caramel slice at Cross Coffee that was simply delectable.

From there, it was home and back to the original plan of riding the Death Machine into town for the Saturday night evening, comforted in the knowledge of not needing to rush home.

Well, the ride was probably the best-ever on the mercurial recumbent. The warmer weather was simply wonderful and the Death Machine performed superbly.

As is often the case as age makes it mark further, Kangaeroo slept like a baby throughout the meeting.

The highlight of being in town was getting to see an alarming lifelike Yayoi Kusama robot. If the artist who has spent the past four decades or so living in a mental hospital is not immortal, LVMH has certainly immortalized her (in a kinda creepy fashion to be honest).

The journey home was uneventful and fast, though the series of hills around Aoyama and the Kaidori Wall meant the overall average speed of the trip was not great.

All in all, an absolutely wonderful day!

Bit of a Wasted Weekend

Didn’t do a lot today.

Except eat.

And play with the bird.

Turned out to be something of a wasted weekend.

It wasn’t a total failure.

Cleaned the house.

And got the garden looking good.

Including some shopping for new lights.

All Quiet on the Whetted Front

Lots of appetites where wetted today, in a quiet and pleasant day.

A long sleep was followed up by playtime with the bird.

Then it was a short stint in the garden.

By this time, Mrs. Kangaeroo had risen.

So, it was a shower and off to Costco, visiting the secondhand store along the way.

Upon returning, it was Death Machine time, for an unexpected and awesome ride.

Not Everything About Winter is Cruddy

Winter sucks….for the most part.

Winter is cold, dark and seemingly endless and colorless.

For someone whose daily routine involves rising early and cycling, winter is not exactly the pleasantest time of year.

And the cold mornings start from November and linger on until deeply into April at least, and sometimes even May, so more often than not, it’s chilly at least.

January ends today, so on the calendar the winter doesn’t have much more time to eat away at us.

Winter can’t end soon enough for the Aussie garden at Kangaeroo Corner.

Many of the plants are feeling the pinch, most notably the jacaranda, whose leaves have turned brown and brittle and seem likely to drop over the coming weeks.

Yet, it’s not like winter is all bad.

Kangaeroo’s dad always used to point out that the winter and lack of leaves on trees allowed more light to shine through.

Fair enough (despite the days being so short).

And the skies are often crisp and clear, at least in Tokyo.

This can create some wonderful sunrises, too.

For Kangaeroo, one of the features is the birds.

Lots of birds partake of the waters at Kangaeroo Corner.

The birdbath and its solar-powered super fountain (so named because of its amazing capacity to continue working despite being cheap and shoddy) attract avian life.

Waiting for the birds to come and have a drink is a morning highlight in winter.

And there are some real beauties to be seen.

Costly Bloody Crash!

Kangaeroo’s accident this week continued to have reverberations.

Although both Kangaeroo and the bloke he collided with rode away apparently unharmed from their predawn collision, costs have since mounted.

The crash gave greater urgency to updating the chain and gear sprocket on La Cangura, which had been showing signs of wear for a while, and there was also a sneaking suspicion that the gear wire could probably do with replacing.

That proved to be precisely the case with a visit to the Y’s Road bike store later in the day.

The good news was the sprocket and cassette are still in good shape, so I got to get away just replacing the chain and gear wire.

Moreover, the bike shop made the effort to do the repairs on the spot when I had been quite happy to just make an appointment for a fix. I was very grateful.

All seemed good until Saturday morning.

The crash had snapped my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt bike computer mount.

The Bolt is crucial for Kangaeroo, whose sense of direction is so bad fellow cyclists have bestowed the nickname of “Wrongway” on him.

Heading out on Saturday morning to get the computer mount looked at for possible repairs, Kangaeroo noticed it fell off the bike onto the road.

I stopped riding to go back and pick it up only to watch, horrified, as first a tow truck and then a bloody Prius ran over the device.

I ran back and pocketed it, but it was already damaged beyond repair.

Instead of repairs, it ended up with a new purchase.

And that’s a whole new story that shall be continued.

Ouch! Taking a Tamagawa Tumble





Kangaeroo took a Tama River tumble today and it was entirely his fault.

Taking his normal pre-dawn ride along the Tama River Cycling Road, Kangaeroo caught a glimpse of an oncoming runner just late enough to be able to swerve away from her and avoid striking her….

….only to slam straight into another cyclist coming from the opposite direction.

The immediate aftermath was the aforementioned conversation.

It seemed like the other bloke and his bike were OK.

We rode off in opposite directions.

La Cangura is scratched and her wheels wobbly. The Wahoo mount destroyed beyond repair.

Kangaeroo is not too bad, with a sore arm and legs, but not too serious, I hope.

The cause of the crash….Kanageroo’s eyesight is pretty bad. It shouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t have had he concentrated more. Just hope the other bloke is all right.