I was eager to follow up last week’s Tokyo – Yokohama ride with another adventure I hadn’t undertaken in a while, and the Arakawa River came to mind. I’ve done this ride twice in the past with a friend. On the first occasion, perhaps five years ago, we went as far as Disneyland and then rode home in the pouring rain. On the second go, we were just between typhoons and the run down the Arakawa was entirely into the teeth of a fierce headwind. As I was having trouble keeping up with the younger, stronger leader, we gave up on Disneyland on that occasion.
This was my son’s first outing with cleats, and we started by putting on the pedals I’d recently replaced from Kuroko — in other words, the pedals I’d original bought for Ol’ Paint. I had my son do the wrench work to make the switch so he’d have the experience (something I don’t do enough). As we’d only recently swapped pedals on Ol’ Paint (when I bought Kuroko) they came off readily. Then the Halfakid practiced clipping and unclipping while I returned the pedal wrench to the toolbox and finished getting suited up for the ride. We had a good laugh about the fact that his first 15km or so of riding with cleats, while he was getting used to unclipping, would be in heavy traffic along Yamate Dori, rather than on a nice, safe bike path — the Darwinian option.
It’s been a couple of years since I came this way, and that time I was just playing follow-the-leader. So I might not have plotted out the most direct course to the Arakawa River. We spent nearly 15km in traffic (I might be able to improve that by 2-3km) and when we finally came to the river there was no good route down off the levy to the bike path. We dismounted and walked down some steep stairs to reach the path. Once on the path, though, it was smooth sailing. Of particular note: they’ve done away with the worst of the wickets. We still had to dismount for a couple, but for most of them we could ride through (or around) with the appropriate care.
Proof of the pudding
Before riding again, I wanted to take care of the mechanical that plagued my Tokyo – Yokohama ride, a baulky rear shifter that was most likely the result of a bit of banging about by the delivery company returning Kuroko from the Kyoto – Nara – Osaka ride.
I used to adjust friction-type shifters back in the day, but I hadn’t attempted a modern, indexed shifter. I decided to see if I could find a guide online, and I quickly found a very good, detailed explanation.
Following these instructions pretty much to a T, I got the shifter working while Kuroko was in the stand. But today was the first actual ride following the adjustment, so I was eager to see how it came through. In a word: perfect. Not a single blown shift, just silent running.
Back on the Arakawa path, we were having a good run. There was a stiff wind but it was at worst a crosswind. For a good deal of the ride it was behind us, and we racked up 5km split after 5km split with sub-12 minute times. My best split for the day was 10:24 as we approached Kawaguchi, the mouth of the river where it joins Tokyo Bay. (The Halfakid was not quite keeping up at this point: he clocked 10:30.)
We stopped briefly for a restroom break and to top up our water bottles. Unfortunately, the water from the tap tasted, as the Halfakid put it, “like ass.” And he was right. It wasn’t simply old, rusty pipes (which impart their own piquancy to fresh water) and we joked about the proximity of the water fountain to the restrooms. By this point we were feeling the hunger and considering finding a place to stop for an onigiri break (but not too close to the latrines) when I spotted the marker that said we were only 6km from Kawaguchi. We plunged onward towards the goal.
Unfortunately, the river mouth is completely exposed to the wind that was whistling down the Arakawa valley at this point, and we started shivering the moment we stopped. We took a couple of photos and decided to backtrack to find a park bench that had some protection from the wind so we could enjoy Nana’s patented onigiri. I was delighted to discover she’d provided mentaiko, which she hadn’t done since my bout with gout.
As we devoured the onigiri, we discussed our twin goals: the Disneyland entrance, if only for the celebratory photo, and a convenience store for some bottled water and a hot coffee. We checked our phones for the directions to Disneyland (I’d only been there once before by bike, on that rainy day five years ago) and then backtracked to cross the Arakawa on the Kiyosunao Bridge. There’s a gorgeous smooth, wide cycling path on the Edogawa side of the Arakawa, and we followed this back to the river mouth and around through a public park and into traffic. It took another map consultation via smart phone and then I located the path that would take us across to the Kyuedo River to the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland. This is apparently a popular destination because, as we were taking our snaps, a couple of high school girls arrived on their junk bikes to do the same.
With our photos in the can, we backtracked again to the Kiyosunao Bridge and descended into Edogawa Ward to find a convenience store. The Halfakid went in and emerged some minutes later with 2 litres of water and a couple of Snickers bars. After a brief break to top up our ourselves and our water bottles, we were back on the road across the bridge into Koto Ward and on our way back home.
The route back is an almost straight line from southern Koto Ward to the Imperial Palace, then a counter-clockwise loop around the palace grounds to Kudanshita and a climb up the hill to Budokan and Chidorigafuchi. This is usual stomping grounds for me, and I was pleased to find that the climb went smoothly and I set a personal best. The Halfakid doffed his Uniqlo down jacket at this point, as we’d worked up a sweat on the climb, and we continued on towards home.
From Budokan, it’s less than 7km to home for me. There are a couple of hills and some traffic, but it’s all butter. The Halfakid follwed me to the tower and took a brief break to put on his down jacket once more and set up his smart phone in a bracket on his handlebars. He had another 8km to go before home, and I’m confident I was soaking in a hot tub by the time he got there.