Getting back on the horse

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi

Having recovered from saddle sores, given Kuroko a bath, and fixed both a broken spoke and a broken shifter cable, today finally marked the first time back on the bike since my ignominious return from England and Scotland.

The day dawned cloudy and dismal. The forecast chance of rain was low but not non-existent. I decided to give it a go, regardless. I’d already decided on a shorter ride and one that kept me within Tokyo in case there was any further mechanical trouble.

Grey skies behind line of gingko trees at Meiji Jingu
Threatening skies at Meiji Jingu

I’d gone a bit softer on the tires today as they’re designed for it, and until now I’ve been riding them at maximum pressure. From the moment I started I thought I had another flat in the rear. But I stopped and checked, and it was nice and firm. OK, so that’s how it feels when it’s run soft: a bit squirrelly, as if it’s running flat. I decided to continue on, giving the lower pressure a try to see if I adapted to it.

The next thing I noticed was some vibration in the front when I was breaking. I determined that the wheel was in securely, but then found the fork had a bit of play. When I got to my first stop at Meiji Jingu, I tightened it up. It was fine after that.

Meanwhile, the rear derailleur, which had given me so much trouble recently, was fine. All shifts were immediate and sure, there was no extra noise from the drivetrain, and there was no double-shifting required. I was very pleased with the result.

Tokyo Tower under rainy skies
Tokyo Tower under rainy skies

Meanwhile it had begun to sprinkle a bit. Nana had checked in, warning me that the forecast had changed to rain. It wasn’t bad and so I decided to continue. In fact it just sprinkled for a few minutes and then let up again. I don’t even think the pavement got wet. But with the sky so dismal and grey, I didn’t stop as often for photos as I usually do.

As I pressed on, I was still getting used to the tires feeling a bit spongy. Combined with the new, padded and more flexible saddle, occasionally the bike would start to pogo a bit, very gently, a bit like a car with soft springs and no shocks. At times I had to wonder if the rear wheel had gone out of round, but it was fine. I think for the next ride I’ll add back some of the pressure, try to find a happy medium.

Like the tires, my thighs felt a bit spongy. I don’t know how to account for this. Since abandoning in Carlisle, I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks consisting of lots of beer and potato chips, and not a speck of exercise. Surely my legs should be fully recovered by now!

I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks

Guy Jean

Anyway, it was not my goal to set any personal records today, and I’m happy to state I fully achieved that. I just wanted to get back on the bike, and discover if my recent repairs had worked and if there were any remaining gremlins.

Rainbow Bridge failing to live up to name

I stopped to rest and eat at Big Sight, and after that my thighs felt better. I knew I was still a bit off my usual pace, and didn’t know whether to blame that on the softer tires or something else.

Luck is more capricious bitch than Lady, in my experience.

Buck

In terms of mechanicals encountered en route today, Luck was neither a perfect lady nor a chrome-plated bitch. More of a lady who whispers a catty remark about the hostess in your ear, rather than saying it loud for all to hear and ruining the party. In addition to the loose fork, which was quickly remedied, I had the drivetrain lock up midway up one of the steeper climbs. I got the bike off the road and gave the pedal a few kicks, and it started turning again. I have no idea. A while later on I noticed the rear thru axle had loosened. It’s possible the chain had locked between the derailleur and sprocket when the wheel was loose. I’m not sure. I tightened the thru axle and didn’t experience any repeat of the lock-up.

Tokyo Skytree
Skytree in the mist

Finally on the way up the Arakawa towards Skytree in the second half of the ride, the crankset bearings started making some noise again. So I’ll need to tighten those up once again.

Apart from the one lock-up, I didn’t have any trouble with the climbs today. I usually don’t on this route. I took it nice and easy up Kudanzaka past Budokan and took a brief rest at Chidorigafuchi. I knew there were just a couple of more up-and-downs until I was home, and so I messaged Nana that I would be about 40 minutes more. After a few sips of water, I mounted up again for the final leg of the ride.

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi
Chidorigafuchi

No additional gremlins poked their heads out on the remainder of the ride. I arrived home without incident and parked the bike. In the shower and with the prospect of a cold beer waiting, I took stock of the saddle sore situation. I have some mild aching under the “sit bones,” but nothing like the swelling I’ve been experiencing recently. Furthermore, the ache was evenly distributed from right to left, while previously the swelling was concentrated on the left side. With just 60km today it’s too early to make conclusions about a 14-hour, 150km slog, but so far it seems the new saddle is working out better.

Tokyo Landmarks cycle route
A familiar route

After I’d uploaded my results, I realized I should have made a couple of extra laps around our condo building to bring the total up to 60km.

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