Today dawned clear and cold, with a strong wind. Every time I stepped out on the balcony where Kuroko was waiting in the Garage in the Sky (for example to put on the water bottles or put Nana’s onigiri in the saddle bag) I had to wonder why we were riding today.
The Halfakid took his time getting out of bed and didn’t arrive until 10 a.m., by which time it had warmed up to … uh, 2C. Still, the temperature wasn’t our biggest worry, as the wind was still blowing hard and our destination for the day was Disneyland, at the mouth of the Arakawa. And when it comes to the Arakawa, the wind only blows in one of two directions: upriver or down.
After 14km of city traffic we arrived at the top of the levee and it still wasn’t clear which direction the wind was blowing. But as soon as we descended to the river it become obvious: we weren’t fighting the wind and we made very good time. A string of 30km/h 5km times rapidly followed. We were hampered only by riding through the midst of a marathon, and we had to take care not to collide with any runners or race officials. (I do pity the runners in today’s wind. They were running up and down the river, so at least half the way they were fighting the wind.)
Our best 5km segment flew by in 9 minutes 36 seconds, for an average of 31.2km/h, and at some point along the route I hit 40. When my phone is near, the GPS will display text messages as I receive them. So in addition to dodging the marathoners my attention was being diverted by Nana’s repeated updates about the postman not having arrived when expected.
Given our rapid progress, we paused only twice along the 26km river run: once for the restroom and once to answer Nana’s urgent messaging. The wind became a bit more mixed near the mouth of the river, but was still basically with us. We arrived at the end of the path at Shinsuna almost before we knew it.
From there we had to reverse course and beat against the wind back to the Kiyosunao Bridge. The ramp up to the bridge has obnoxious anti-scooter bollards, but we navigated them without incident. Up on the bridge itself, the wind was still basically with us. We were agreeing that the return would be into the teeth of the wind and hence a lot more effort.
Across the Arakawa we zipped downstream once again to the Kasai-Rinkai park. Here we had to navigate pedestrian ways and traffic, and finally more bollards at the ends of ramps which took us over most of the vehicle traffic. At last we descended the final ramp, took a couple of turnings and found ourselves at the goal.
At this point it was about 12:30. We hadn’t stopped to snack on the way, and we were both starving! We beat a hasty retreat (as hasty as I could manage, because we were now fighting upriver and upwind) to a convenience store for hot coffee and fried chicken, and then to a park where we enjoyed Nana’s onigiri (in addition to the convenience store goodies).
After our break we tackled the Kiyosunao Bridge in the homeward direction. As expected, we were riding into the wind. But it wasn’t as bad as we had feared. When we descended to street level and joined the traffic towards Nihonbashi, though, the wind came on with a vengeance. The Halfakid had once again donned his Uniqlo down jacket, and I didn’t blame him in the least (particularly because he was wearing fingerless, mesh-back cycling gloves!). The wind was strong enough to force me to shift down a gear or two at times, and when it let up I’d give it a minute or two before shifting back up as I expected the wind to renew its force in the meantime. I was rarely disappointed in this.
It had been more than a year since the Halfakid had come this way (I did it solo almost exactly a year ago, and he and I rode to Disneyland from another direction before that), so I had to remind him of the way home: first Nihonbashi, then the Imperial Palace, Kudanzaka (Budokan) and back through Shinjuku. As we progressed along (more and more slowly as we headed into the wind), he began to recall the details of the route.
There was some repair work going on at Budokan, but we didn’t let that stop us visiting our favorite photo spot before continuing homeward. We sped through the usual up-down between Yasukuni Shrine and Shinjuku Avenue, and arrived at Yotsuya Sanchome at the stroke of 3 p.m. — as announced by a large musical clock at the intersection. I’d told Nana I’d be home by 3 — when I was expecting the Halfakid to arrive earlier so we could set out about 9:30 a.m. — but I knew she was out and so didn’t bother to update her on our status. At any rate, we were now a good deal less than half an hour from home.
The remainder of the ride was the usual fighting in traffic, obeying the lights and trying to just establish a smooth pace. Before long we’d passed Shinjuku Bus Terminal, and then the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, and finally were flying downhill towards my abode. I said my farewells to the Halfakid and turned right as he continued straight on for the remaining 8km to his apartment.
Silent (almost) Running
I was eager to see how Kuroko would behave following the recent fine tuning of the new drivetrain. I’m happy to report there were no mechanicals this trip (a rarity when I’m out with the Halfakid), and the derailleurs did their job with aplomb. There’s probably still a nip here and tuck there to do in terms of cable tension — which can be handled entirely through the barrel adjusters — and limiting screws. But overall I had no complaints.
When I arrived home and saved the ride on the Garmin, it uploaded the results via my phone before I’d even parked Kuroko. I knew we’d been making good progress with the wind down the Arakawa, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find I’d posted a new personal best for 40km of 1 hour 30 minutes (just shy of 27km/h). I collapsed into the bath with a cold beer and warm feeling of satisfaction.
More satisfaction: According to Garmin I’ve had Kuroko for 1 year 7 months now, and I’ve just passed 5,000km total with her.