On my commute this morning, I felt I just didn’t have my legs. My thighs were like jelly and I couldn’t push into any of the climbs. By contrast, on the way home in the evening I felt good and I was regularly pushing a little more, and a little more.
Let’s see how those perceptions turned out by the numbers:
The evening commute time was actually 11 seconds longer. Combined with a slightly shorter distance, that made for a slower average speed.
Not shown above is the total elapsed time: a respectable 43 minutes in the morning, and a whopping 50 minutes in the evening. And that tells the true story — there was a lot more traffic congestion in the evening, and the good pace I was making when things were clear was coming down to a crawl for long stretches where cars and trucks were backed up at traffic lights.
Close call No. 1
I had a close call on my morning commute, and not from playing chicken with the traffic. When I get to the office I pass through the gate and then down a long sidewalk along one side of the building until I reach the rear, where I turn a corner and park my bike. After locking up the bike this morning and letting Nana know I’d arrived safely, I started back around the building on foot towards the entrance. But just as I reached the corner, one of my colleagues came flying around from the other direction on her bicycle. If I’d been half a second earlier it would have been a quite painful collision. (She didn’t apologize for it, either.)
I’m very happy to say that in the end there was no harm done. (I always take it very easy at that spot myself because I’m aware of the potential for exactly what happened today.)
Close call No. 2
I had a similar close call on the commute home this evening. I’d left Dionysus locked in the basement parking and took the elevator to the first floor to check the mail. As I emerged, a very large man nearly ran me over in his hurry to catch the elevator I’d just stepped out of — and he was running! Once again, no harm done, but I do wonder about people who don’t think there might be others emerging from elevators, coming around corners from the opposite direction, etc.
Like the woman on her bicycle a few minutes earlier, while I was still on the way home, who rode off the sidewalk and into the street without checking to see that I was already coming up from behind on the street. In that case I was watching and expecting her to make that move, so it wasn’t a close call at all.
The Halfakid was supposed to join me today for my first ride in more than a month (not counting a commute last Friday), but he had a tummy bug. Our last ride together was to Yokohama in the heat of August, when I was nearly overcome in the 30C+ temperatures. All through September we had rainy weekends (or the forecast of rain, even if it didn’t materialize in the end).
The forecast for today had been for a high of 26C, with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon. When I checked it again this morning, the chance of rain had risen to 40%. That and the Halfakid’s cancellation would have given me an excuse to drop out, but I was itching for a ride after the one-month hiatus. Besides, Nana had already whipped up a batch of her world-famous onigiri. So I pumped up the tires, put the wheels and bags on the bike, and set out optimistically at 9 a.m.
I made very good time down to Futako, keeping an average pace of 22km/h and elapsed time of 45 minutes. I was a bit concerned I was using up all my power at the beginning of a day-long ride, but I felt fine. I was soon on the Tamagawa river, enjoying the bunches of spider lilies springing up here and there along the path. I kept up the pace through to the first rest stop at the 20km mark. While I drank some water and enjoyed the cool of the park, I pinched the tires to see if they were holding air. All good.
On the river course again, I was keeping an eye on the speed (perhaps too frequently), trying to keep it above the 22km/h average. I soon encountered a marathon in progress, and so scolded myself to keep an eye on the runners (and pedestrians) on the path rather than on the GPS. I was making good time though and skipped one of my regular break spots, putting in another 16km to reach a small but shaded park on a side street. It was just 11 a.m. when I arrived, so I helped myself to a couple of onigiri.
After that point, the going was a bit more rough. The pavement deteriorates and there’s more “road furniture” — bollards and gates designed to keep scooters off the path. One positive note was that the path had reopened where it dips under a bridge that had been damaged a year ago in Typhoon Hagibis. Seeing that made me wonder about another spot, several kilometers further along, where the path crosses a tiny branch of the river on a pedestrian bridge that has been closed since Hagibis. Nope: still closed.
It was only a short bit of backtracking from there to the detour, which I know well by now. But my average speed had fallen below 22.0km/h, and it slowly dropped further after that as the pavement quality steadily worsened. (I’ve been riding this route about 11 years now, and this section has always been bad. Long stretches of it have not been repaired once during that time.) But there were even more spider lilies everywhere I looked.
Hamura — right where I left it
I reached the end of the path at Hamura just after noon, and sat down to eat the remaining two onigiri. I’d been playing cat-and-mouse with a couple of young, fitter riders since the last rest stop, and I was surprised to see them ride in after me. I hadn’t noticed when I’d overtaken them again. After finishing my lunch and topping up my water bottles, I left Hamura ahead of them and didn’t see them again on the way back.
Puttin’ the pedal(s) down
On the way back, I was eager to try to get the average speed back up to 22km/h — I was at 21.6 and with 53km under my belt, it would take some concerted effort to budge that (at least upwards). I was making good time overall and watching the needle creep upwards, but I didn’t let that prevent me from stopping to snap a few flowers along the way.
As I zipped along, I sensed that the limit for improving my average would be Nishigawara Park — the same park where I stopped in the morning and took the photo with the water fountain. Soon after that I would cross a bridge into Kanagawa, then continue another 8km to Futakotamagawa before crossing another bridge back into Tokyo. I knew I wouldn’t make as good time during this part of the course. And then once I was back in Futako, I would be in traffic again. I was pleased to see as I came to Nishigawara that I’d reached 21.9km/h. (Strava subsequently informed me I’d posted a couple of personal bests for this section of the ride.)
Across the bridge, I found the cycling course had reopened where it had been closed for the construction of an emergency water reservoir. I happily returned to the former course even though it added to the distance. (It avoids a dangerous spot riding alongside traffic where the road narrows.) From there I tried to keep the speed up, but fatigue was clearly setting in and I was dodging more pedestrians.
By the time I reached the bridge back into Tokyo, I’d done 100km (at a satisfying 4 hours 40 minutes) and my average speed was 21.5km/h. I knew I wouldn’t make much change in that on the way home — particularly on the short but intense climb out of the Tamagawa valley, with a brief section topping a 16% gradient. I made it, but took a long breather when I reached the top.
It was just after 3 p.m. at this point, and I knew it would be about 50 minutes to get home. So I messaged Nana that I would be home about 4:15 (leaving myself some breathing space). I turned on my lights as it was getting dark and threatening rain, mounted up and continued on my way, keeping up the usual place except in the few brief climbs along the way, where it was clear my thighs were completely shot.
The ride home was uneventful, and I beat the rain home. (Not sure if it rained after all — once I’m in the tower condo, I have to make an effort to see if it’s raining.) In the end I did 106km at 21.5km/h in just under 5 hours (just under 7 hours total elapsed time). My fastest speed of the day was 52km/h on the downhill into Futako in the morning, where I tucked in and put the pedals down to see how I could do.
(lack of) Mechanicals
The ride was pleasingly free of mechanical issues, which was good given that I didn’t have the usual minitool with me. (It was in Dionysus’s bag and I decided to tempt fate by being too lazy to fetch it before the ride.) There was still a bit of squealing from the front disc brake despite my having changed the pads, and yes, I did seat the new pads first thing this morning. It may be time for a new brake disc.
The only other area of concern was whether the tires would hold air for the entire ride. I had Kuroko in the Workshop in the Sky for the entire month of September, and most days I pumped up the tires twice per day (morning and evening) and swirled them around to try to seal up the weeping sidewalls. I had a couple of promising days where the pressure would still be at 20psi after 12 or 24 hours of rest, but then it would fall back again to 15psi.
As recently as yesterday, when I pumped up the tires to 60psi, a number of latex bubbles appeared in the sidewalls. And this morning when I pumped them up again, I was starting from 15psi. It was looking as if I hadn’t made any progress in the entire month of twice-daily inflating-and-swirling exercise. So I’m happy to report that during today’s ride the tires remained firm the entire time (which is a significant improvement over what I saw during the Kasumigaura ride) and I didn’t have to stop and refill them.
One thing is sure: I will not be scrubbing these sidewalls when I clean the bike. I don’t want to take off whatever latex blob has filled a pinhole in the sidewall.