Takaosanguchi

Selfie of bikers in front of Takaosan cable car entrance

The Halfakid and I set out early Sunday for a new destination: Otarumi Pass in western Tokyo. I’d mapped it out at 113km round trip, based on some other rides I’d found on line. I was glad I’d found the routes, because there’s a second bike path covering the whole distance from where we leave Tamagawa, around Fuchu, as far as Hachioji. I’d also plotted a different route from home down to the Tamagawa, bypassing Futako and shaving off 5km.

We had a deadline for the trip — when I left in the morning, Nana reminded me we had a dinner planned in the evening. “You’ll be back at 3, right?” Well, right … hmmm.

The Halfakid was ready to go in a couple of minutes after I wheeled into his apartment parking, and we set off in heavy traffic towards the river. It was a bit cool when we started out, at 13C, but I was already sweating by this time and shed my windbreaker. We stopped in a park just before joining the Tamagawa cycling course and filled our water bottles.

Progress on the course was smooth, and I had the Halfakid set the pace until it was time to cross the river and pick up the course on the opposite side. I missed a turning almost as soon as we’d joined the course, and we muddled along suburban streets until we came to a Lawson near a train station. This gave us an opportunity to stop for a snack, as Nana hadn’t provided any onigiri this time.

Garmin route to Takaosan
Takaosanguchi route

After our short break, we navigated back to the path and were on our way again. Smooth riding … until Ol’ Paint started emitting squeaks, and we had a repeat of the mechanical we’d experienced on the Okutama ride.

This time, simply releasing and reseating the wheel didn’t do the job. After a couple of attempts, the wheel locked up solid. We got it turning again — I can’t say “spinning” — and it was making a noise I’ve never heard a bicycle make before (and there are a lot of cheap bikes here that never get maintenance and are very noisy).

The Halfakid got onto Google and located a bike shop about 1km from where we were. He checked the website and it said it opened at 10 (it was then 9:55) and they did repairs. So we walked our bikes, with the Halfakid at times lifting the rear wheel off the ground to make progress.

We arrived at the shop when the worker was still setting out bicycles on display on the pavement out front. We described the problem to him and he agreed to have a look. He had the wheel off in seconds and quickly confirmed what we had suspected: a bearing problem. He said he’d be able to get us back on the road, but warned that the hub was probably worn and the bearing cups might be scratched. Sooner or later, he said, we’d have to replace the hub.

After that, work went pretty much according to the video. The guy kept up the chatter with the Halfakid as he worked, and it was obvious he was trying to sell him a new bicycle. Well, the Halfakid had already decided to buy a new bike, but this shop was rather out of the way for us. The mechanic said there aren’t many good shops in Shinjuku and mentioned that his colleague had a shop in Sugamo, but that’s not much more convenient for us.

In the end, the repair cost about $40 and took 40 minutes out of our day. The results were immediately apparent: not only had the squealing stopped, but the Halfakid was having an easier time of it than he’d ever had on Ol’ Paint. He’d been trailing me by up to 50m previously, and now he was breathing down my neck.

Crowds waiting for the cable car
Crowds waiting for the cable car

After that it was simply a matter of following the river course through its twists and turns (and dealing with the occasional child out on his pusher bike under mom’s watchful gaze) until it joined up with Rte. 20, and following that into Takao and finally Takaosanguchi (lit. Entrance to Mt. Takao). We got off here and pushed our bikes through thick crowds making their way to enjoy the autumn colors in order to get our photo at the cable car entrance. I’d already made some mental calculations at this point and realized we’d used up whatever reserve time we had in dealing with the mechanical, and we wouldn’t be able to make the top of Otarumi Pass and get back in time for dinner.

Garmin route showing distance remaining to Otarumi Toge
Remainder to Otarumi Toge

With that decision made, we started looking around for a restaurant to enjoy lunch. There are a number of soba restaurants in the area, but each one had a line of people waiting outside. There’s an Italian restaurant that I usually visit with Nana (who’s allergic to soba), but it’s right in the midst of the press of people, meaning we’d have to find someplace else to leave the bikes. In the end, we backtracked until we were just out of town and stopped at a convenience store with some picnic tables located in the shade.

Our return trip was downhill — although into the wind at times — and we made better time than on the way out. The Halfakid was breathing down my neck the entire time. When he gets a new bicycle I’ll be no match for him! He was even hot on my tail on the few climbs back out of the Tamagawa valley towards home.

In the end I arrived home at 3:20, giving me just enough time to gulp some water, have a shower and get dressed for our dinner date.

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