Ride Between the Raindrops

Bicycle in front of Imperial Palace moat and building

It’s two weeks since my last ride, and what’s come in between is a nearly unbroken string of rainy days. The initial forecast for today had been for rain as well, but this morning the rain cleared off and the forecast turned to sunny. The Halfakid was not available to ride, so I pumped up Kuroko’s tires, slathered on some chamois cream and sunblock, and set out solo.

What the hell am I doing?

Bicycle in front of fountain at Meiji Jingu Gaien
Meiji Jingu Gaien

It didn’t take long (probably the first climb of note, up to Akasaka Palace) for my thighs to remind me we haven’t been out in two weeks. “See here, chap,” they said. “Just what do you think you’re up to?” That climb is followed by a sharp descent, then another good climb. I reminded myself that I don’t enjoy fixing up bicycles just to satisfy my hardware fetish (a lot of other machines could do this) but that I actually enjoy riding. After that I settled down and enjoyed the ride (and put the climbing behind me for a couple of dozen kilometers).

Tokyo Tower viewed through foliageTokyo Skytree with bicycle on bridge over Arakawa in foreground
The Two Towers

My first real stop came at Shiba Park, overlooked by Tokyo Tower, where I filled up my water bottle and sent some photos to Nana. I didn’t stay long, though, and was soon on my way back across town to Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace.

Bicycle in front of Imperial Palace moat and building
Kuroko at the Imperial Palace

There were lots of police out today — sometimes it seemed there was one or two on every corner. A lot of them were not wearing masks (neither was I). I obeyed the traffic laws and they ignored me.

Hunger games

From the Imperial Palace out to Tokyo Big Sight, the sun shone strongly and the temperature started climbing. I was getting hungry — it was past noon and I’d eaten breakfast about 6 a.m. The closer I got to Tokyo Bay, the stronger the wind got. But I continued on, motivated by the promise of a convenience store for lunch once I reached Big Sight.

Rainbow Bridge
Breezy Rainbow Bridge

Pigeons and sparrows flocking on flagstones
Nobody move or the burrito gets it

The moment I sat down in the shade with my lunch, I was besieged by a gaggle of beggars. I ignored them and savored every last bite before continuing onwards.

At this point I had roughly 30km done and the same amount to go to get back home. Most of the way back it’s flat, but I could feel my energy ebbing with the heat. Crossing the Arakawa in front of Tokyo Skytree, I was soon climbing up towards Ueno Park and then Tokyo University. There were dozens of firetrucks lining the climb up to the university and an acrid smell of smoke in the air. As I slowly crawled up the hill, a large firetruck passed me on its way home, so I guess I missed most of the excitement.

I hear screaming

It’s a long downhill past Tokyo Dome and the Korakuen amusement park, where I could easily hear the roller coaster riders failing to scream inside their hearts. (Nana says it’s just as well she can’t watch the Giants play at Tokyo Dome, because there’s no way she could stop herself shouting during the game.) Despite my fatigue and having waited for a red light at the foot of the downhill, I still made good time past Tokyo Dome: within 3 seconds of my PR on this segment.

Bicycle against railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi moat
Chidorigafuchi

At Kudanzaka, I put Kuroko down into her lowest gear and just inched my way up the hill. At the top I took a photo of Kuroko posing in front of Chidorigafuchi, and then sat on a park bench in the shade and listened to a white-haired gent playing harmonica to a group of admirers. I checked my water bottle (half full, still cool) and messaged Nana that I would be home in 30 to 45 minutes. I left as other musicians were arriving to join the harp player.

The ride home is flat — after a couple of small climbs immediately after Yasukuni Shrine — and was uneventful (apart from the usual deal with taxis speeding up to pass me and then slamming on the brakes as they cut back into my lane). Instead of turning to pass in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings as I usually do, I continued on beside them and then came around the opposite end of Central Park. I hit 43km/h on the descent back towards our condo tower, but I’d arrived just short of 60km total. I did a couple of laps around the block to bring the clock up over the mark and then brought her home.

Mechanicals? What mechanicals?

GPS route of cycle ride around central Tokyo
Ride between the raindrops

Apart from my fatigue (probably heat-induced), there were no mechanicals of note. I’d had to inflate the tires at the start of the ride, but they were fine after that. There were no issues at all with the shifter and cogs, no chain mangling, and nary a peep from the bottom bracket. The front brake gave out little squeaks on occasion, but there was no return of the Howling Discs. (Could be that they only perform in the rain.)

Having said that, I now need to anoint a broken spoke on the altar of the Mechanical Gods, and their leader, Booker T.

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