Hamura ride with my son

Father and son bikers in front of the statue of the Tamagawa brothers at Hamura Intake Weir

The Hamura ride is one of my standards, a nice, flat 100km round trip that I take if I can spend 8 or more hours on the road but am not quite up to a new challenge (like the Yokohama round trip, or perhaps Kamakura). The route is (mostly) smooth bike path free of automobile traffic (but often plagued by pedestrians) along the Tamagawa (Tama river) with inviting scenery and — weather permitting — views of far-off Fujisan.

Early morning view of Fujisan from Nishi Shinjuku
Early morning view of Fujisan from Nishi Shinjuku

I’d invited my son, the Halfakid, to join me on this ride back in August, not long after I’d purchased Kuroko and bequeathed Ol’ Paint to him. On that occasion, he was under the weather when the time came to ride, and the temperature reached 36C or so. I completed the ride solo, but I took a lot more time at the rest stops than usual and spent 9 hours all together just getting there and back. I also suffered a rather extreme case of bonk within about 4km of the goal, and had to stop and rest in the shade of a tree and scarf a couple of onigiri before I could continue.

This time, the Halfakid was ready when I rolled into his apartment bike parking, and the temperature was a more moderate 30-32C. I noticed Ol’ Paint had a bit of rust on her chain and gears from being kept outside in the elements. The weather was partly cloudy, intensely blue. The Halfakid started out strong and I was not holding back a lot as he followed me through town and then down a fast descent to the river. (OK, I was holding back a little. I have a lot more biking experience, and of course — as a father — I don’t want to expose him to the same risks I take myself every time I get on the bike.)

Once we got on the path I figured out the speed at which the Halfakid was comfortable, a gear or two down from my best pace, and we did about 6km before stopping at Funajima Inari Daimyo Shrine. We rested there a few minutes and drank quite a bit of water before remounting. After that, we crossed back into Tokyo on the Tamasuido bridge and continued to a small shrine in the shadow of the Keio Oval, a bike track for keirin racing. I had an onigiri prepared by Nana, and the Halfakid — after asking if I was really going to eat an onigiri so early in the ride — joined me.

Mt Fuji from Tamagawa
Mt Fuji from Tamagawa

Our next leg was a longish one, but straight and flat, and I wondered if the Halfakid was going to call for a break before we got to the small park next to the shrine. But he was equal to the task, and we rested in the shade and ate another onigiri. Out on the road, only 15km from our goal, was a vending machine for Japanese persimmons.

Vending machine for Japanese persimmons
Vending machine for Japanese persimmons

After that it was a matter of persistence. The Halfakid said he was fine for the remaining 15km to the goal, but in truth he was flagging. The pavement at this point is rough, with tree roots and age adding to the deterioration of the path, as well as segments of gravel adding to our woes. We didn’t see the bonk quite as seriously as on my previous outing, but it was clear that my son was not keeping up. After several checks over my shoulder, I shifted down once again and then checked and double-checked at each transition point to make sure he was following. When the direction was clear, I took advantage a couple of times to sprint ahead and then wait.

Hamura — the goal

River is high at Hamura Intake Weir
River is high at Hamura Intake Weir

At last we reached our goal at Hamura Intake Weir. The river was running high, and more than a few people were seated in the shade of the pavilion, taking advantage of the good weather for an outing. We ate the remaining onigiri and rested. I waited until the Halfakid was ready, a good 20 minutes or so after we’d finished eating. We were both feeling we could eat a bit more after all the onigiri, and I asked if he wanted to stop at a convenience store just a few kilometers back down the path. No, he said, he was good until we reached the café, a short 17km away.

We refilled our water bottles and set off. On the return, the Halfakid was more confident — a combination of the refueling and the fact the wind was now at our backs. Still, I had to check my tempo from time to time, and I confirmed with him that he didn’t want to stop at the first rest area, 9km from the turnaround.

Carbo loading on the way home
Carbo loading on the way home

We stopped at the promised café for a soft cream and iced coffee. I took my time over the refreshments and waited for the Halfakid to indicate he was ready to continue. We visited the bike shop next door to get some chain lube for Ol’ Paint. By this time the Halfakid has ridden out most of the rust on the chain and cogs, but I wanted him to apply some lube on the spot to eliminate any remaining worries.

On the return, quite near the goal, the Halfakid suggested a couple of alternatives. One was to cross the Tamagawa (from Kanagawa back to Tokyo) via a different bridge. It’s an elevated bridge for Rt. 246, and we had to dismount and push our bikes up the ramp. It was a great improvement, though, on a couple of counts. At first, the lane was shared between bikes and pedestrians, but there were scarcely any of either. This is an improvement over the Futagobashi, where the lane is a bit wider for the most part, but is jam-packed with pedestrians and bikers both. Next, after crossing the mid-point, the lane separates bike traffic from pedestrians. From this point, the bike path is wide and the slope gradual, so we could coast back down to street level. By contrast, at the Futako end of the Futagobashi, the lane squeezes to such a narrow point that it becomes dangerous for bikes to pass in both directions simultaneously, with the result that the path is almost always a congested exercise in patience.

Sunset from Nishi Shinjuku
Sunset from Nishi Shinjuku

The next change was to continue from the end of the bridge ramp through Futako Tamagawa up out of the river valley to the Kanpachi-246 intersection. I usually ride up on the opposite side of Rt. 246 (which is where the Futagobashi bike/pedestrian lane brings me), and it’s a consistent slope of 4% over 500m, for a rise of 20m. By comparison, on the Halfakid’s route, we passed through a primarily pedestrian shopping area (at least on the weekend) before coming to a much more abrupt climb: 6% over 300m (for a rise of 18m). That probably would not have been such a great challenge, but the slope is not uniform and it peaks at 16.5% (thankfully for a short distance). The Halfakid, on Ol’ Paint, dropped to the lowest chainring and soldiered up at a walking pace. That’s not an option for me with Kuroko, and I bore down on the the pedals to reach the top without dropping below 9-10mkm/h. I was fortunate in that the climb is not long, and I had been taking it easy all day up to that point.

Hamura Round Trip
Hamura Round Trip

After that, it’s all well-worn paths for me. The Halfakid asked me to take the point again after having led me over the bridge and (part of the way) up the side of the river valley. It’s just a few kilometers from there to his apartment, mostly flat. I said my goodbyes to him there, and messaged Nana that I would be home soon. My last 8km were no-holds-barred, and I made very good time with the wind behind me and only a few slight climbs. In fact, my final 5km of the ride were the fastest of the day.

Hamura Ride with Halfakid

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