Quarantine-busting climb

Fujisan partially obscured by clouds

The Halfakid and I set out Sunday morning up the Tama and Asa rivers towards Mt Takao and Otarumi Pass. This was my first big ride since I replaced Kuroko’s crankset and bottom bracket (for what I hope is the final time). Furthermore, the last time we came this route, the Halfakid suffered two flats within 10 minutes of each other and we ended up walking several kilometers to find a bike shop. As on that occasion, we had quite a bit of wind to contend with. But I’m happy to say we had no mechanical issues or flats, and we (eventually) reached our goal.

Two bicycles leaning against a park railing
First rest stop

With the beautiful weather, Tokyoites were ignoring the stay-at-home recommendation and the paths were jam-packed. On more than one occasion we had to shout warnings at people who ignored the repeated rings of our bells. The cream of the crop was a fellow trying to photograph dogwood blossoms as he was riding his bike, and another who was walking backwards (without looking) over the path to position himself to take a picture of his wife (who was tugging on a branch covered with dogwood blossoms).

Englishman:
The paths seem rather popular today.
American:
Zowie! Where did all these @#$% people come from?!?!
Bicycle leaning against railing in front of Goma Bridge sign
Taking a break at Goma Bridge

Fortunately we managed not to kill anyone on our way to the big climb — although it was touch-and-go in a few cases. As we approached Takaosan Guchi, where we usually take a lunch break, the Halfakid asked if I wanted to continue up the climb and eat afterwards. Not on your life! I was already hungry and I knew from experience that I needed the carbohydrates to make the climb. We stopped at our usual spot and loaded up on food and water and then set out up the climb.

Things were going smoothly for me and I felt good as I dropped onto the smaller chainring and spun my pedals up the mountain, with the Halfakid directly behind. The road is mostly narrow and surrounded by trees, so we were sheltered from the wind. I kept dropping to lower gears as we climbed until I was averaging 10-12km/h, still spinning and not mashing my pedals. After more than 1km of climbing, though, my speed started dropping to the 8-9km/h range as my energy level sagged. Finally we came to a spot with some shoulder room on the road and I waved the Halfakid on as I stopped for a rest.

The first thing I noticed after catching my breath was that I still hadn’t reached the lowest gear (which is apparent in that photo when it’s zoomed in). I remounted and quickly moved into the lowest cog, and with that I was able to maintain a 6-7km/h pace without mashing on the pedals. Having already failed to make the climb in one go, I had no scruples about stopping another couple of times to rest during the remaining 700m or so I had to go before reaching the top. I put on the steam for the last 400m and rounded the final bend to Otarumi Pass.

Road sign marking the top of Otarumi Touge
Otarumi Touge, elev. 392m

The Halfakid was there waiting for me at the site of the Fujiya ramen shop just over the top of the pass. We rested in the sun at a picnic table and enjoyed vending machine drinks before setting off for home. Needless to say, the descent went a lot more smoothly and we made it back to Takaosan Guchi in five minutes, averaging more than 40km/h without breaking a sweat.

Fujisan partially obscured by clouds
Fujisan (behind clouds) from Otarumi Touge

The ride home was a repeat of the ride out, dodging lots of pedestrians, photographers, kite flyers and other cyclists on the paths. The wind was still strong and we were fighting it at times, but it wasn’t holding us back to nearly the extent as the crowds on the paths were. My thighs and neck were aching and my bum was sore, but I looked over my shoulder and saw rain clouds gathering. That provided me with the motivation to keep pressing onwards, with just brief stops to rest our hands and backsides and drink some water.

I’m happy with that!

Our final leg home is in traffic, so we were dodging cars rather than pedestrians for a change. I acquitted myself well on the few climbs remaining and soon left the Halfakid at his apartment and turned Kuroko towards home. I’d messaged Nana that I expected to be home about 5:15, but in fact it was 5 on the dot as I rolled up to our tower mansion. (Don’t tell her but I always give myself a lot of extra time on those estimates so she won’t worry if I fall behind.)

I haven’t yet made the Otarumi Touge climb in one go (although it’s hardly a challenge for the Halfakid: youth!), but I wasn’t disappointed with the day’s result. We’d made it without any mechanicals and got home before the rain started. In fact, Kuroko’s new crankset and gearing worked flawlessly. There’s only one part that’s still not performing up to snuff …

Cyclist relaxing between two bikes on bridge over canal
Your humble narrator, chillin’ at Splatt

(Well, it seems like it’s time once more to replace the front brake pads, but that certainly wasn’t holding me back on the ride.)

GPS route of Otarumi Touge cycle ride
Otarumi Touge and back

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