Flèche in Japan

fleche_w_maya
Last weekend, the Japanese randonneurs organized their Flèche 24-hour ride. We were honored to be part of the banquet at the finish. (The photo shows us with Maya Ide, the organizer.) Originally, we had been scheduled to ride with a team, but I broke my hand three weeks ago. With my injury, a non-stop 24-hour ride was not a good idea.
bikes_at_fleche
Instead, we spent four days of touring in the Shinshu Mountains, and planned the end of our ride to coincide with the end of the Flèche. Above are our loaded bikes among the lightweight machines of the randonneurs.
Fleche_parking
Seeing the Japanese Flèche was a wonderful experience. More than 50 teams from all over Japan participated this year, and more than 150 riders were present. It was huge – above is the bike parking area…
ballroom
… and this is a view inside the banquet hall. (Sorry for the crummy cellphone photo.) Everybody was happy, sharing stories and meeting friends. We were warmly welcomed – the Japanese really make you feel special when you visit.
What struck me about the Japanese randonneurs was how vibrant and diverse the sport is here. There were riders of all ages, from the 20s to a 77-year-old, with many riders in their 30s. There were many women, some of whom had ridden on all-women teams, and others who were part of mixed teams. Randonneuring in Japan truly seems to reflect the demographics of cycling…
The awards also emphasized the “big tent” of randonneuring. There were mentions of the oldest team, the team that had traveled the farthest to participate in the Flèche, and also the team that had covered the greatest distance: 536 km. The latter team had arrived at the final meeting point in Kamakura three hours ahead of schedule, so they continued all the way to Tokyo, before returning for the celebration. It was nice to see these riders being true to the spirit of the Flèche – of riding the maximum distance possible – yet there didn’t seem to be anything boastful about their performance.
Riders talked about plans for the season and rides they had done. Mountain passes and beautiful roads figured frequently in these plans. There was talk about the Super Randonnée 600 – Japan has three of these routes with 10,000 m of elevation gain. About 100 randonneurs have completed at least one of them. Having experienced the amazing mountain roads here, I hope to return to ride a Japanese SR 600 some day.
It was wonderful to see such a vibrant organization, so much enthusiasm, and so many young people. The Japanese randonneurs are a wonderful model of what our sport can be like.

12 Responses to Flèche in Japan

  1. Bryan Lorber April 18, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Sounds great! Sorry to hear about your hand. Hope it heals quickly.

  2. Rod Bruckdorfer April 18, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Very impressive and inspiration to randonneur cyclist and none randonneur cyclist. I ride a 650B randonneur bike and my wife will be riding a Georgena Terry 650B Randonneuse as soon as I finish the build. Thanks Jan and thanks Paulette Callet for inspiring us.

  3. Greg April 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Sorry to hear about your hand issue.
    Did you get to see any Grand Bois bicycles? Tsuchiya-san used tubing from my NOS stash for some of them, at one point….
    How about Toeis?

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly April 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      The bikes we rode were Grand Bois. We saw many, many beautiful Toeis, including a tandem that had been ridden around the world. We also visited the shop and got to see where the frames are made…

      • Greg April 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

        Wow. I am envious! Yokata desu ka? Omoshirokata desu ka?

  4. Paul Ahart April 18, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    Jan, thanks for sharing some of the wonderful times you had on your visit to Japan. I (and a number of my friends) eagerly await a full write-up in BQ in the future. May your hand heal quickly and you have a full season of adventurous rides. BTW, today I installed a set of your new LoupLoup Pass tires on a Soma bike I’m building for a customer and took them for a spin. Remarkable ride quality!

  5. Michael April 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Hope your hand heals up ASAP and works better than ever for you soon! Praying for you!

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly April 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      My hand is healing nicely, thank you for your concern. We’ve been enjoying beautiful rides here in Japan. And using chopsticks with my left hand has added to the fun of being in a place where so much is different in a wonderful way.

  6. David T. April 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    How did you break your hand?

  7. aquilaaudax1 April 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    In the picture of the “bike parking area” there doesn’t appear to be many “classic” audax style bikes?

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly April 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

      Most Japanese randonneurs ride racing bikes, but we saw a few nice Toeis, Hiroses, etc. The beautiful randonneur bikes are mostly ridden by cyclotourists, who don’t care much about going fast and time limits…

  8. David Pearce April 23, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    I am really sorry about your hand injury! I hope you did not get by accidentally slapping your forehead too hard, nor by trying to tighten the difficult Shimano vintage front brake on the MAP 650b Randonneur! 🙂 Get well soon!