A bike, a tree, a grey sky

Solo snow cycling

I was watching the forecast closely this weekend. At first we were expecting rain and possibly snow on Sunday, but gradually the forecast evolved towards rain Saturday night. That could mean icy roads Sunday morning, so I decided to ride today despite the cold and gloomy skies.

I’d only gotten as far as the Halfakid’s apartment, or 8km, when the sleet started. Tiny shards of ice stinging my face. I knew the temperature was above zero — more like 4C at this point — but I remembered Nana’s injunction to ride carefully, and I watched the road conditions closely.

(The Halfakid has other plans this weekend, but the route to Tama River still takes me past his apartment.)

The sleet only lasted a couple of kilometers, and I thought that wouldn’t be too bad. Then when I got down on the Tama River path, it started snowing. It was coming down pretty heavily at one point and the paths were getting wet and my tires were throwing up muddy sprays, but there was no indication things would get icy.

It made me laugh (well, not, you know … out loud or anything) because just this morning Nana had been bragging about how accurate the weather forecasts are in Japan compared to what we’d experienced in Ohio. (She was right, though: the forecasts in Ohio had been very unreliable.) Anyway, just as I had to overcome the notion it would be cold to get on my bike this morning, I overcame the urge to immediately turn around and head for home when faced with a little precipitation.

Record splits
Record splits

It turned out to be a good decision. The snow didn’t last long and the paths began to dry. I was benefiting from a tailwind and posted a couple of back-to-back 5km times which might be a personal best (at least since I started recording a year ago).

Given the excellent progress I was making, I reached Haneda Peace Shrine in just an hour and a half, and found it festooned with New Year’s decorations.

Haneda Peace Torii
Haneda Peace Torii

After taking the celebratory photo, I sat down on a rock to wolf down four of Nana’s famous onigiri. Mindful of the time (and supposing — correctly — I’d have a headwind on the way home), I didn’t linger but soon let Nana know I was mounting up for the ride home.

And was the return trip uneventful? Only if you discount the full-on rain. I’m glad to report that — as with the earlier precipitation — it didn’t last long. As I’d expected, I was riding into the wind now and I could see I’d shed about 6km/h off the top end. But I was mindful of another goal as I continued to push myself homewards: Could I beat 4 hours total elapsed time?

My 5km splits all remained well below 15 minutes. I was lucky crossing the Tamagawa-bashi that for once there was very little pedestrian traffic to hold me back. I got over the bridge and then up the subsequent half-kilometer climb to my final rest stop of the day and clocked my slowest split at 15:01. I gulped some water, checked the time and let Nana know I’d probably be home about 2:30.

Onwards! No surprises now. The weather was holding, there were only a couple of construction spots to clear, and the traffic wasn’t bad. (With the three-day weekend, a lot of people had probably gotten out of Tokyo.) I reminded myself on a couple of occasions that if I wanted to make record time getting home, I had to first get home …

At a traffic light I noticed a truck hauling beverages and the gate was unhooked on the left side. I pulled up beside the cab, waved to get the driver’s attention and then let him know what I’d seen. (He thanked me but he didn’t seem too bothered by the fact.) I was just 3km from home at this point and had a good feeling I was going to beat 4 hours.

The last turn brings me to a sweeping downhill by Shinjuku Central Park. There’s a T intersection partway down and I can usually get through it even if the light is red (while checking for pedestrians and traffic, of course). This time, no luck: a big truck was parked against the curb and a bus was pulled up right beside it. I decided to wait out the light rather try to hop up on the sidewalk and contend with pedestrians.

At last the light changed and then it was the final sprint to home. Saved my ride on the Garmin and walked Kuroko into the parking lot. Messaged Nana I was home. Got all my gear from the bike, stopped to check the mail. Finally got in the door and emptied my pockets. Plugged the Garmin into my computer. Total elapsed time: 3 hours 44 minutes. Pretty sure that’s a personal best on this route.

Personal best on Haneda round trip
Personal best on Haneda round trip

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