Return to Arakawa – Disneyland

Two happy riders in front of the Tokyo Disney Resort fountain

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.

Finally arriving at Arakawa
Finally arriving at Arakawa

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.)

Wide vistas in the Arakawa river valley
Wide vistas in the Arakawa river valley

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.

Kawaguchi -- where Arakawa meets Tokyo Bay
Kawaguchi — where Arakawa meets Tokyo Bay

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.

Mentaiko onigiri!
Mentaiko onigiri!

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.

Kuroko at Tokyo Disney Resort
Kuroko at Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Once again, Chidorigafuchi
Once again, Chidorigafuchi

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.

Arakawa - Disneyland loop
Arakawa – Disneyland loop

Color Matching

I was at the bike store with my son this week to help him pick out a pair of cleats, and to look for a new pair for myself. We both have wide feet, him more than me. In the end, they only had two pairs of shoes that would fit him, and he chose the black pair. (I wasn’t happy with the fit of the pair I had picked out, and decided to shop around some more.)

Just to make sure the trip wasn’t a total waste, I picked up a pair of black pedals to replace the silver ones I’ve got. Why? Well, they are a bit worn. But mostly, I’m just color-matching accessories for Kuroko now, which is something I never worried much about when I had Ol’ Paint.

Silver pedal on black crank
Egregiously mismatched pedal

Pedal wrench
The right tool for the job

In with the new

Using my special pedal wrench, I had the (almost) color-matched pedals on Kuroko in less time than it takes to tell. I even remembered to put a little grease (well, axle lube) on the threads before tightening.

Black pedal on black crank
New hotness: color-matched pedal

The old, disgustingly silver pedals will go back to Ol’ Paint for the moment, for my son to use with his new cleats. And then they’ll probably migrate to his new bike when he’s finally found the bargain he’s waiting for.

Tokyo – Yokohama

Yokohama Bay Bridge

This weekend I was looking for something different (or at least not too challenging), and Tomo and my son both were up for it. As I cast my mind over the available routes, suddenly one I haven’t done in more than a year came to me: Minatonomieruoka Park in Yokohama. This park is on a bluff overlooking the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama and the bay (and hence its name).

I’d tried a couple of different routes to reach it in the past: across Maruko Bridge and continuing on Rte. 2, and crossing on the Daishi Bridge (which has nice, lovely pedestrian ways) and continuing along that route. This time I found a course that splits the difference, crossing at the Rokugo Bridge (which has rather narrow pedestrian walks) and continuing straight along Rte. 15 to the goal. This had the advantages of being very easy to navigate as well as making a convenient meeting place for Tomo at Rokugodote. On the downside, Rte. 15 is very heavily trafficked.


I’d just had Kuroko delivered back from the Kyoto – Nara – Osaka ride, and set about reassembling her on Saturday. I was a bit surprised to find the chain had come off the gears as I have a pulley that slips over the axle to keep tension on the chain when the wheel is removed. But the wheel went back on without trouble and I gave it a few shifts (while Kuroko was on the workstand) and it all seemed to be well. But once I began riding her Sunday morning, it was obvious there was an issue. The rear derailleur was acting up: It would shift a gear and not quite get it right. The gears would be making noise. Or it would skip a gear while shifting. The problem was especially noticeable while downshifting. I was soon shifting down twice and then up once to get a satisfactory shift.

This was good enough for most of the ride, and I continued on at a good pace, just cursing from time to time when a shift didn’t go as expected. I made some visual inspections during breaks and didn’t see that the derailleur was bent.

I picked up my son and we headed for the Tama River cycling course and took that south towards Haneda. We were making good time, with 5km splits in the 12-minute range. We took a break and I checked my phone and there was a message from Tomo: she was at the meeting place 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Fortunately, we were only 20 minutes away at that point.

From our meeting we crossed over Rokugo Bridge and joined the traffic on Rte. 15. There was a bike lane marked out on the sidewalk with blue paint, but between the pedestrians and the cars crossing over the lane, it turned out to be more fraught than just riding in traffic. We soldiered along through the urban landscape of warehouses and family restaurants.

In less than an hour, we crossed over a bridge into Minato Mirai with the Landmark Tower on our left. Not long after that we passed the gate to Chukagai (Yokohama Chinatown), and then we were facing the one good climb of the day, a short but steep rise up the bluff to Minatonomieruoka Park. I tried getting into my lowest gear, but with the rear derailleur baulking it wouldn’t stay there. I gave it a good go in the second-lowest gear and got more than halfway up the hill before stopping to walk. The moment I did, my son soldiered past on his lowest gear, and he made it to the top. I looked back to see Tomo gamely pushing her bike up the rise, and soon we were all three at the top.

At Minatonomieruoka Park
At Minatonomieruoka Park

The weather had been cloudy and cool all day. When we were biking it wasn’t a problem, but now that we were having a break on the exposed bluff, the wind was freezing. We wasted little time eating Nana’s trademark onigiri and a few snacks provided by Tomo. While we were eating, we saw a wedding couple having photos taken, and the bride was obviously freezing in her shoulderless gown.

View of Yokohama from Minatonomieruoka Park
View of Yokohama from Minatonomieruoka Park

With the temperature being what it was, we quickly ate up, took a few snaps and refilled our water bottles before setting off for home.

Yokohama Bay Bridge
Yokohama Bay Bridge

We’d no sooner put Yokohama behind us than it started to rain. Just a few sprinkles, but we had to wonder if we were going to get drenched. While on our way we quickly warmed up again, but a rain might have our teeth chattering. Fortunately, a few scattered drips and drops were all we experienced. It wasn’t long before we were back at our meeting place of Rokugodote and buying warm food and drinks at the convenience store.

Post-ride refreshment
Post-ride refreshment

We said goodbye to Tomo at that point, and my son and I discussed visiting Haneda, about 5km away, before heading home. At that point I was feeling a bit tired and looking forward to a hot bath, so I said no, let’s just get on home. The route back up the Tama River cycling course is very familiar, and it wasn’t long before we were climbing the hill up out of Futakotamagawa and into the city. The skies continued to darken, so I put on my lights at this point even though it wasn’t yet 3 p.m. I’m happy to say, though, that we had no more rain by the time we got home. I left my son at a convenience store near his apartment and continued on my way, eagerly counting down the kilometers to a hot bath.

The three of us agreed before splitting up that we’d like to do this ride again when it’s sunny and warm, and perhaps continue on to Kamakura. That would add 30km onto the route (60km round trip), so it’s a challenge for one of the longer days of summer when we have lots of sunlight.

Tokyo - Yokohama route
Tokyo – Yokohama route