Dionysus Debut

Bicycle leaning against bushes with pond and buildings in background

We had beautiful weather today for the debut of Dionysus, née Ol’ Paint, born from Zeus’s thigh. For the first ride I didn’t want anything too challenging, nor did I want to stray far from civilization (in case of mechanicals), and so I chose my standard Tokyo Landmarks route. And I’m happy to say that apart from some adjusting, everything went smoothly.

Close-up of bicycle handlebars showing attached omamori Japanese good luck charm
Cycling mojo

In preparation for the ride, I got my cycling omamori out of Kuroko’s bag and attached it to the handlebars. I’m sure we were being watched over for today’s ride.

With the prep done, I chucked the bike over the railing of the Workshop in the Sky. Fortunately, there’s a reflecting pond immediately below. Well, actually 33 stories down … (OK, so actually we called the building management to let us use the freight elevator.) Then I had to wait about half an hour for the Halfakid to join me, despite the fact he’d said he was on his way more than half an hour previously. Anyway, we met up, set the GPS, and started on our way.

Squirrelly

As soon as I mounted up, I was struck by how squirrelly the steering is. This has always been the case. The Marin Miurwoods is a city bike, with a steep head angle and small, 26-inch wheels, to allow rapid maneuvering in traffic. As a part of the rebuild, I’ve given Dionysus narrower handlebars, which only exaggerate this tendency. (Narrower bars means the same amount of hand movement results in more turning of the wheel.) By contrast, Kuroko’s steering is stable and easy. So I realized I’d need to pay constant attention to the steering. It’s not a fault, as such (it’s by design), but it’s a strong contrast.

Bicycle leaning against bushes with pond and buildings in background
First stop: Meiji Jingu Gaien

We soon came to our first stop of the day at Meiji Jingu Gaien. While I was taking photos, the Halfakid was lathering on sunblock. The sun was strong and bright today, the skies blue and full of fluffy white clouds. Traffic was light but certainly not non-existent.

After Gaien, our course takes us to the state guesthouse (Akasaka Palace), then a sweeping downhill to Akasaka Mitsuke, and then the first real climb of the day up to Nagatacho. Here I encountered a problem with the derailleur, which just didn’t want to stay in the lowest three gears. It kept trying to jump back upwards. I made it to the top of the climb, but when we got to the palace moat at Sakuradamon, I called a short break while I increased the tension in the shifter cable.

Cyclist with bikes in front of palace moat, city skyline
Sakuradamon

The adjustment did the trick as we came to another climb shortly thereafter, up to Roppongi, and I was able to keep in the lower gears this time around.

Dionysus: torn to pieces and reborn in the spring

Following a brief stop in a park to top up our water bottles, we soon came to the Imperial Palace. Again, traffic was light, but it was far from a ghost town. Many cyclists and joggers were out, and perhaps half were not wearing masks (as we did not).

Cyclist and bikes in front of palace moat and traditional Japanese palace buildings
Chillin’ at the palace

The wind picked up as we passed through the financial district and headed past the Tsukiji fish market (now closed) and out towards Tokyo Big Sight. Dionysus was behaving perfectly, responding nimbly to my touch and accelerating quickly. I’ve always had an issue with finger numbness after spending more than half an hour on Ol’ Paint, but there was none of that today. The narrower handlebars are doing the job. I did get some fatigue in my wrists, though, so I know that Kuroko (with her drop bars) will still be my choice for longer rides and tours.

Harumi Bridge over the Sumida River is one of the longer climbs on this ride. While the Halfakid rocketed past me, I dropped into successively lower gears. This time Dionysus stuck to the gear I’d chosen, and I caught up with the Halfakid at the top of the bridge’s arch in short order.

Rainbow Bridge under blue skies and white clouds
Rainbow Bridge on a sunny day

Cyclist posing on bridge with Tokyo Skytree in background
Sakura Bridge and Tokyo Skytree

Following our lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri, we paralleled the Sumida River upstream (although mostly in traffic, with lots of red lights) until we reached Sakura Bridge, with Tokyo Skytree in the background. We were both fine on remaining water and so continued on.

The course then passes near Sensoji, the famous Asakusa Shrine, although not directly in front of it. We continued in traffic until Ueno, where we climbed a steep bridge over the rail lines to reach Ueno Park. Then another big climb to reach Todai, the famous Tokyo University. From there it’s a sweeping downhill to Tokyo Dome (where we didn’t stop to take pictures) and then after a few more turns and traffic lights, the climb up Kudanzaka to Budokan and the gorgeous Chidorigafuchi moat. (Sad to say all the cherry blossoms have passed for another year.)

Bicycle against railing overlooking moat with greenery
Chidorigafuchi: almost home

After Budokan it’s more up and down through Hanzomon and Kojimachi, and then all traffic back through Yotsuya and Shinjuku to home. I bid goodbye to the Halfakid at the corner and rolled into our building half an hour before I’d told Nana I would be home. (The Halfakid went on to circle around Komazawa Olympic Park and ride down to Tamagawa and back, racking up 100km total.)

Happy with that

There were no mechanicals today aside from the shifter cable adjustment — soon taken care of — and a little tightening of the brakes. That’s an astoundingly good first ride. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Dionysus has a very different character from Kuroko (and somewhat different from Ol’ Paint, for that matter). The tires are very narrow and the wheels light, which makes for fast acceleration and easy climbing (a bit more easy, anyway). The steering, as noted, is twitchy, although it’s soon got used to. The seating is rather more upright than Kuroko, obviously, and for me at least is going to be less comfortable in the long haul. But for what I intend this bike for — commuting, perhaps the occasional climb, and a bike to lend to guests — it’s perfect. For my usual weekend rides and longer tours, I’ll be sticking with Kuroko.

GPS track of Tokyo Landmarks ride
Dionysus Debut: Tokyo Landmarks

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