Windy solo ride to Disneyland

Tokyo Disney Resort

I’ve ridden solo for years, but more recently I’ve gotten in the habit of riding with the Halfakid, occasionally Tomo and other friends. When I was faced with a solo ride today at first I didn’t feel motivated — especially when I stepped out on the balcony to get my water bottles and helmet and was hit with a blast of frigid air. But then Nana started making onigiri and so I was honor-bound to go.

The moment I set out riding, though, all such concerns vanished. I was soon warm enough, even working up a sweat, and Kuroko handles the wind a lot better than Ol’ Paint ever did — although the occasional gust would make the front wheel wobble for a moment.

Welcome to the Arakawa
Welcome to the Arakawa

I set out on the Arakawa – Disney route I last did with the Halfakid in early December. I had a look at the map before leaving and realized there was a spot early on where I could shave two or three kilometers off the route to the river by simply going straight where I had turned in the past. And despite the wind, I was turning in 12-minute 5km splits. Soon I’d reached the river.

The wind here was even stronger. The moment I moved away from the sign I was nearly knocked over. But I was in luck: it was blowing downriver for the most part, and that was the direction I was heading. I got my first evidence of the strength of the wind when the GPS told me I’d done 5km in 9:23. From that point as I continued downriver, all my 5km splits were less than 10 minutes, and I posted a best of 9:02, for 33km/h.

OK, I was probably benefiting from the tailwind. Somewhat.

Kawaguchi, where the Arakawa meets Tokyo Bay
Kawaguchi, where the Arakawa meets Tokyo Bay

When I’d set out in the morning I’d told myself I could always skip the Disneyland leg if I was tired. But after the downriver 25km non-stop blast — passing through two separate marathons along the way — I didn’t even question it. It’s about 1km back upriver to the bridge, and yes I was riding into the wind now (which Garmin informs me was no less than 19m/s) but I was feeling fine. I nearly tangled with a mother pushing her bike with two children aboard on the ramp up the bridge, but I was quickly clear of her and the other pedestrian traffic and once again heading downriver towards Kawaguchi — this time on the opposite river bank.

Kawaguchi from the opposite bank
Kawaguchi from the opposite bank

From there it’s a cruise through a park and then some tangling with pedestrians and buses around the Disney parking area before climbing another bridge to arrive at the goal.

Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort

As usual, I only stayed long enough to get the snap and then it was back over the bridge to fight with the pedestrians and buses once again. I stopped at a convenience store to buy some hot coffee and then continued back into the park to look for a sunny spot to lunch. The perfect location soon presented itself and I sat down to enjoy Nana’s onigiri. I noted the time: I’d set out just after 9 a.m., and it was now noon, so I’d made very good time.

Perfect picnic spot in the sun
Perfect picnic spot in the sun

What about the ride home, though? I’d be back in traffic and most likely fighting against the wind. Freshly refueled with onigiri, I embarked again upriver towards the bridge, and I was indeed fighting the wind now. Before long I was over the bridge and back in traffic. A couple of other riders joined me at a traffic light and we played cat and mouse for the next few kilometers. The wind was gusty and sometimes against me, but I continued to make good time with 5km splits mostly below 15 minutes.

Nihonbashi
Nihonbashi

After Nihonbashi, the next landmark is the Imperial Castle. It’s Sunday so the road was blocked to cars and I rode past without stopping. Next up was my final rest stop: Budokan. But first, I had to climb Kudanzaka. Would the wind be against me? As luck had it, the wind cooperated and I made good time to the top.

Budokan
Budokan

Chidorigafuchi
Chidorigafuchi

Tayasumon Gate
Tayasumon Gate

I stopped here to eat the last onigiri and drink the last of my water. I messaged Nana that I would be home with an hour. (In the end, it took 30 minutes.)

New shoes
New shoes

This was my first ride with the new shoes, which was one reason I hadn’t opted for a longer ride (along with it being cold and windy and my being a wimp). So how did they work out? My toes were very comfortable: no pressure at all. The width worked out fine in the end. There was a little pressure from the edge of the tongues against my ankles, which will no doubt ease up as I break the shoes in. They’re a bit more awkward for walking than the previous pair. Overall, the only thing that could make me happier is if they didn’t have the blue trim. And maybe if they did the pedaling for me when it’s uphill and against the wind …

Once home I had a nice, hot bath and took stock. Somehow, I’d gained half a kilo on the day. (I blame the onigiri.) But I’d also posted a new 40km personal best of 1:24:35, for an average of 28km/h. I’d just like to mention that not all of that was the 25km downriver blast.

Arakawa - Disney loop
Arakawa – Disney loop

How to replace a bottom bracket

In the quest for lower gearing, I’m considering replacing Kuroko’s crankset. The current one is a Shimano 105 compact, and it’s already got the lowest inner chainring available at 34 teeth. A subcompact crankset would let me go to 30 teeth, for a reduction of almost 12%. (BikeCalc’s gear inch calculator puts the difference at just under 11%.)

The Rolls-Royce model is the K-Force Modular from Full Speed Ahead, a gorgeous unit with hollow carbon fibre cranks.

K-Force Modular
K-Force Modular

The change requires a replacement of the bottom bracket as well. Kuroko has a press-fit BB86 model, and this is the FSA model required to fit the crankset. I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and one decision I’ll have to make is whether to pay for the shop to make the swap for me or to do it myself. With that in mind I started looking for how-to videos, and a few surfaced.

This first one is specifically for the BB86:

This one is a bit more long-winded but covers things in a more generalized fashion:

Nice to see him using all Park Tools in that, including the hammer …

From the videos it does look like something I could handle (although I’ve probably just got my DIY genes riled up by watching too many restoration videos), as long as I get a couple of specialized tools. So the next question was how much those would cost. The Shimano tools mentioned in the first video are available from Amazon. The removal tool is about $50 and the bearing press is about $45.

Park Tool of course has alternatives, and they even have this thorough guide. The BB Bearing Tool Set BBT – 90.3 is about $55 and the Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press is more than $90. (I don’t think I need the $230 bearing press used in the second video, or the $30 hammer.)

Park Tool Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press
The Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press is kind of cute, though

So now the question is whether I want to spend $100 for tools that I may only use once, in order to avoid spending $100 for the experienced mechanic at the shop to do the work.

Latest Schwag

Kuroko on the 33rd floor

I made the decision last night, when we were expecting about 5cm of snow, to cancel today’s bike trip. Even if the snow cleared by morning, we’d still run the risk of icy patches and treacherous running.

Fujisan after a dusting of snow
Fujisan after a dusting of snow

As it happened, there was very little evidence this morning of snow overnight. While some nearby areas got enough snow to make the news, the streets I could see from our aerie above Nishi Shinjuku looked pretty dry and left me feeling a bit foolish. Still, it was a whopping 0C at 7 a.m., and I was content to sit inside under my heater and drink hot coffee. Instead I resolved to get some work done, including housework, and to give Kuroko a well-deserved bath once the temperature had risen a bit. It would also give me a chance to install some newly acquired schwag.

Washing the 'walls
Washing the ’walls

By 2 p.m. the sun had been streaming down for a few hours and the temperature had risen to a temperate 7C. As I discovered once I set about preparing for the wash-up, though, the wind was rather bitter still. Nevertheless I persisted. I’d been splashing about in light snow and rain in early January and hadn’t yet cleaned the mud spatter off (not off the bike, at least).

BB and rear triangles
BB and rear triangles

I realized the first time I’d given Kuroko a bath that I had to have the wheels off if I wanted to get the narrow bits in the fork, bottom bracket and rear triangles. It also gave me some more practice in removing the thruaxle wheels, which may come in handy during upcoming lengthy rides (although one hopes it’s not necessary). I also learned from the last time to take care when cleaning the chain that the greasy cleaning fluid doesn’t spatter all over the newly cleaned bike and tire.

Cleaning the chain
Cleaning the chain

With Kuroko all clean and the wheels screwed back on, it was time to see about the latest schwag. I’d already installed a new bell, replacing one which was beautiful but had broken twice in the few months I’ve had the bike. The new one is just a bit steampunk, with its external linkage for the brass hammer. It’s also a bit more strident, and I’ve found that makes for a slightly better response from pedestrians who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.

One steampunk bell
One steampunk bell

The next item of business was replacing the taillight. The saddlebag doesn’t really leave enough room for a light on the seatpost (which is what 99% of taillights seem to be designed for now). The saddlebag maker has a couple of offerings to fit the loop they put on the bag, but the choice is between small and smaller. I looked for a while before I came up with an alternative that’s made to fit the loop, but is a lot more attention-getting.

Topeak saddlebag taillightLezyne saddlebag taillight
Size matters (and so does brightness)

The new light is bigger, brighter and has more flashing modes (including several intended for daytime use). It’s USB-chargeable vs the small disc battery of the former unit. I haven’t decided yet if this is an advantage. And the on/off button is a lot more conveniently located.

New taillight

Meanwhile, I received a couple of more items which don’t mount directly to the bike. First up, a new pair of riding cleats. I’ve been using the same shoes for about six or seven years, and they’ve always been just a shade small. It’s an issue on my left foot (which is slightly larger), where the nail of the big toe tends to push against the shoe and cause some pain over longer rides. I’d gotten a shoe stretcher and it works well enough as long as I remember to set it up overnight before each ride.

I’d bought the shoes online originally, and I’d vowed not to do that again. Nevertheless when a well-rated pair by the same maker popped up on one of the online bike shops I’ve been dealing with, I rashly ordered the next larger size and then bit my nails (fingernails, and figuratively) while waiting for the package to arrive.

A bit more than a week after I’d pushed the button on the order form, Nana messaged me at work one day to let me know I’d received a package. I figured it was the shoes. I got home and eyed the box warily. So long as it remained unopened, there was a 50/50 Schrödinger’s cat of a chance that I hadn’t wasted more than a hundred bucks.

Finally, I tore open the package and unwrapped one shoe. It was obviously longer than the shoes I’ve been wearing, but visibly narrower. “That’s not going to go, is it?” I thought as I reached for a pair of light, summer-weight socks. I hesitantly pulled on the right shoe: my smaller foot. “Hey, the fit isn’t bad… ” I tried on the left and it also seems good.

Cycling shoes, cleats and instructions
Polyglot shoe

Last night, before making the decision about today’s ride, I installed the cleats. It’s a pretty straightforward operation, although somehow I managed to break two nails (fingernails, again) in the process. The instruction sheet came in 30 languages, with a note that more languages are available from the maker’s website. I skimmed the instructions in English: nothing I didn’t already know, except perhaps all the bumf about not using the shoes for other than their intended purpose.

Now, with today’s decision not to ride, I’m still waiting for a chance to see how the fit is on the road.

The last bit of newly arrived schwag is a Jetboil camp stove. This is available in Japan, but I had a gift certificate for Amazon from my mother, so I purchased it from there. The claim is that this stove will boil 800ml of water in 2 minutes, which means hot coffee and instant oatmeal when Fearless Leader Joe and I are on the road for lejog.

Jetboil MicroMo
Jetboil MicroMo — thanks, Mom!

I’ve already told FLJ he’s in charge of sourcing the gas canisters in England.

Groundhog Day Metric Century

Kuroko and Myrina at Tokyo Disney Resort

Now that the Halfakid has Myrina (we settled on the name during the course of today’s ride) he’s eager to get in some longer rides. Following our Tamagawa Course Round Trip last weekend, he mentioned a Century: 100 miles (161km). So I said I’d start thinking of routes and destinations, and one thing that came to mind was a grand loop of Tokyo: Up the Tamagawa, down the Arakawa, lateral to Haneda and back up the Tamagawa to home.

Today’s ride was just a portion of that, to investigate of the feasibility of the Arakawa-Haneda segment. We set out early on a sunny Groundhog Day (well, it was still Groundhog Day in the US) with the goal of reaching Haneda, and from there Tokyo Disneyland — across the Arakawa — and back again.

We had ridden to Disneyland in December, via the Arakawa. Today’s ride would be nearly twice that distance, thanks to the long detour to the southwest to take in Haneda along the way.

The Tamagawa cycling course was not overly crowded this morning (a wonder with such fine weather) and the wind, if any, was with us. We stopped only once and made very good time, arriving at Haneda well before 10 a.m.

Checkpoint 1: Haneda Peace Shrine
Checkpoint 1: Haneda Peace Shrine

We paused only long enough to eat one of Nana’s amazing asari onigiri (two in the Halfakid’s case) and then struck off inland, across the edge of Tokyo Bay but definitely in traffic. I took a wrong turn immediately, but we followed the Garmin and our noses and ended up headed in the right direction in short order.

The route essentially consists of two straight segments, with a turn at Nihonbashi. From Haneda to Nihonbashi is about 18km, and we rode the entire way without stopping (except at numerous traffic lights). There wasn’t much to see along the way except for traffic and more traffic, but at least we were making very good time. Towards the end of this leg I kept wondering if we’d perhaps passed Nihonbashi already, but inevitably a route sign would appear showing it was just another Xkm.

Checkpoint 2: Nihonbashi
Checkpoint 2: Nihonbashi

The Halfakid pointed out that whenever either of us passes Nihonbashi, we’re in a car or a train and so we don’t stop to appreciate the view. With that in mind we played tourist for a few minutes (at times to the consternation of pedestrians en route from their own particular A to B).

NihonbashiNihonbashi
Nihonbashi

At this point we turned east on Eitai-dori and headed towards Arakawa. It’s 7km from Nihonbashi to Arakawa and another 7km to the entrance to Tokyo Disney Resort. We’re still looking for the best route from the pink cycling path on the eastern bank of the Arakawa, through the park at the end of the path (while minimizing pedestrian interactions) and then across an overpass and another river to the goal. We made some progress today in improving the way, but I think the goal of the perfect route still eludes us.

Kuroko and Myrina at Tokyo Disney Resort
Kuroko and Myrina at Tokyo Disney Resort

On our return from Tokyo Disneyland to Arakawa, it was just noon and we’d already covered more than 70km. We were definitely hungry! We stopped at a convenience store to supplement our remaining onigiri and then found a suitable park bench to relax and top up the calories. It had warmed up quite a bit by this point, and when we were in the sun we were perfectly comfortable (I was even sweating in my black jacket and tights). But the moment we sat down in the shade we cooled off, and quickly!

Checkpoint 4: Nihonbashi again
Checkpoint 4: Nihonbashi again

Between the futzing around with the Tokyo Disneyland route, the diversion to the convenience store and then finding a park bench to sit down and eat, we’d burned up an hour. I was beginning to worry that we would be returning home well after dark. Once we mounted up again and were on our way, though, I realized that this was mostly the result of having been hungry and fatigued. We crossed the Arakawa again and made it back to Nihonbashi in jig time.

From there it was a turn back towards Haneda in the south. At this point the Garmin started reporting a low battery. It wasn’t too much of a concern as I knew that if we just kept heading in the same direction we’d eventually end up at Haneda and Tamagawa, but at the same time I wanted to avoid the wrong turn we’d made after Haneda on the way out, and thus have a good record of the route we want to take in future. The Halfakid and I kept an eye on each route sign as we passed underneath, and of course I worried constantly that we’d already missed our turning. When it eventually arrived, however, it was almost impossible to miss. We took the right course this time, and ended up at Haneda at 2:40 p.m.

Checkpoint 5: Haneda again
Checkpoint 5: Haneda again

We wolfed down a couple of donuts I’d been saving from the convenience store at Arakawa, washed down with some vending machine coffee. After a quick time check and a brief note to let Nana know we were OK, we headed back up the Tamagawa.

At this point I’d already ridden 100km, and we were definitely heading into the wind. I did my best to keep my momentum up, but at the same time we were wading through much more pedestrian (and slower bike) traffic than we had earlier in the day. I could feel the fatigue in my thighs and the soreness in my butt, and I knew that I needed to keep some energy in reserve for the climb at Futako. Happily for us, once we cleared the river mouth the headwind became a crosswind, and we soldiered on homewards.

We had a break a scant 4km from the Futako climb, and I rested my tender posterior while the Halfakid sought out a men’s room. We were soon on our way again, and when we got back to Futako the Halfakid rocketed past me and was waiting at the top of the climb, perfectly rested, when I finally arrived sweating and out of breath.

We compared the readings from our Stravas and the Halfakid realized at this point that he would not break 120km for the day. We joked about him doing a few laps around the block when he got home to make up the difference, but in the end we just pulled up in front of his apartment and shared a fist bump before I set off for home.

I was in the final 8km stretch now, not pushing but just spinning to get back. At times, though, I realized that tired as I was I still had it, and would get up on the larger chainring. At the same time my aching body was telling me that I’d never make it home, and would have to lock up Kuroko somewhere for the night while I caught the train, my mind was recording the fact that I now had only 6km to go, and now only 3km.

Nearing home, it’s tempting to cut corners and jump lights, but at the same time fatigue makes it more likely I’ll miss a cue, botch a recovery or just plain make a poor judgment. I did my best to balance my capabilities with the traffic conditions, and when I finally started the long descent towards home, I was surprised how quickly it had come. I also managed to make two lights green that I usually hit red, and so I finally rolled into the goal just before 5 p.m. (whereas I’d told Nana when I was at the top of the Futako climb that I’d be home sometime after 5).

The moment I walked in the door, the amazing aroma of Nana’s spare ribs hit me. She’d already started the bath, and I soaked in the hot tub for 20 minutes before dressing and sitting down to a fantastic dinner. I’d lost half a kilogram during the bike ride, but I may have made it all up in spare ribs this evening!

Checkpoint Charlie: spare ribs and tako
Checkpoint Charlie: spare ribs and tako

Haneda-Disneyland round trip
Haneda-Disneyland round trip