Good thing it wasn’t windy

Three cycles leaning against flowerbed at Tokyo Disney Resort

‘Cuz that woulda sucked

The Halfakid and his Tomo showed up on our doorstop this morning, and we rode out together to Tokyo Disneyland. I’d done a good job of planning this ride because the Halfakid had to leave home and hour and a half before I did, and meanwhile the temperature had risen from 0 degrees to a balmy 4C. (I’ve cleverly made similar plans for next weekend.)

Two cyclists in front of sign for the Arakawa river
At the Arakawa

It’s just a straight go through city traffic to the Arakawa river. We had a short break at a convenience store and then set off down the river, with a strong tailwind to push us along. We made good time with the help of the wind, averaging 27-29km/h on the 5km splits despite the road furniture and clueless pedestrians.

Screenshot of Messenger conversation
Conversation at 30km/h

We arrived at Shinsuna, where the Arakawa empties into Tokyo Bay, at 11 a.m. We were making very good time.

Bicycle in front of signs and river
At the bay

Bicycles leaning against fence in front of river and bridge
View of the bay from Shinsuna


After a few minutes taking pictures, we backtracked to the Kiyosunao Bridge and crossed the Arakawa. We were soon speeding downwind again until we reached the edge of the bay, where we turned east and headed towards Disneyland. On the way we passed through Kasairinkai Park, and we were shocked to see how many people were crowding in, particularly around the Starbucks.

The wind added to the challenge of climbing the walkways to reach the edge of Tokyo Disney Resort. We stopped for a couple of snaps and then decided to move on as a larger group of cyclists arrived (including one who we’d seen behaving recklessly on the Arakawa).

Three cycles leaning against flowerbed at Tokyo Disney Resort
The Three Mouseketeers

Lamppost marking Nihonbashi

From there we backtracked a few kilometers, fighting into the wind, to our usual lunch spot. We feasted on Nana’s world-famous onigiri as well as convenience store fried chicken and cakes. We spent the better part of an hour over lunch (including the time taken to reach the convenience store and get to the lunch spot in the park), and so it was nearing 1 p.m. when we set out again for home.

We continued battling the wind and dodging traffic as we proceeded westward into Tokyo. En route to the palace we made a very brief stop at Nihonbashi for a quick snap before proceeding.

Traffic near the palace was moving fast and thick, as usual on a Sunday. We bided our time patiently at three traffic lights in a row before turning to loop around the Chidorigafuchi moat and pay a short visit to Budokan.

Bicycle in front of green moat water
Kuroko at Chidorigafuchi

Tayasumon Gate
Tayasumon Gate, the entrance to Budokan

From Budokan, it’s only 7km home. My thighs were aching even though the ride is not particularly challenging. The Halfakid and Tomo had a further 27km to go after leaving me at home, and they were anxious to get going. We left Budokan behind us and went through some up-down around Hanzomon before emerging on a flat run to Yotsuya and Shinjuku. It was all city traffic by this point, and we had to temper our desire to fly home with a dose of traffic awareness. At last we passed in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings (where I received an automated warning for rushing a crosswalk against the light) and descended past Central Park to home. I messaged Nana that I was home, less than five-and-a-half hours after leaving, and she responded with a welcoming, “Already?”

GPS record of bicycle ride
Good thing it wasn’t windy

Clean up and prep

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city

The weather was clear today, but cold and windy. I spent the time cleaning up and prepping both bikes.

When I last rode Kuroko, I noticed that my shiny clean cogs had turned black. I must have gone a bit overboard with the chain lube. So I had some cleaning to do. In addition to that, I’ve finally received the GoPro I ordered a month ago (thanks to my mother’s generous Christmas present), and so I wanted to mount that to the handlebars.

Photo montage showing various accessories on bicycle handlebars
Getting crowded up front

I’ve already got a lot going on Kuroko’s handlebars — light, bell and GPS — and space is at a premium. When I get around to retaping the bars, I’ll try to leave a bit more space. It was a tight squeeze and took a couple of trial fittings, but it just worked out in the end. (I may yet discover that this placement causes binding of the various cables during turns.)

Photo montage showing bicycle cogs before and after cleaning
From black to silver

The cogs weren’t as dirty as they look — it’s mostly just excess lube plus some road grit. I didn’t bother removing the cogs to clean them, but just used some degreaser and a brush, followed by a hosing down. I’m well pleased with the results.


I returned the clean and newly outfitted Kuroko to the basement parking and returned with Dionysus. I’ve only ridden Dionysus once since lending her to Fearless Leader Joe for his Saitama sojourn, and I noticed a catch in the crankset. Just a little bump, once on each pedal stroke.

I spent less than a minute verifying that the pedals were snug in the cranks, and the cranks on the spindle. So that left the spindle and bearings. At this point it could be loose bearings or worn-out bearings. And seeing there’s less than 1,500km since the bike was rebuilt, I was hoping for just loose.

The first order of business was removing the cranks. I found the correct size wrench, got some leverage and put my weight into it. There was the slightest of turns, and then nothing. Before putting too much force into the thing and damaging it, I decided to review the instructions and some videos. Notably, there are some left-hand threads among bottom brackets and pedals, and I wanted to make sure I was turning the right way on the crank. Vagueness abounds in the instructions and videos available (“left,” “right,” “clockwise,” etc. are fairly meaningless concepts in this regard as they all rely on one’s point of view), but I soon found a video that confirmed (a) it’s a right-hand thread, and (b) it might take quite a bit of force at first.

So reassured, I returned the bike. Following a suggestion from the video, I took a minute to remove the self-extracting screw and add a touch of grease between it and the crank bolt. Then I put the screw back in and really gave it my all. And after a couple of efforts, the bolt finally gave.

Hex wrench with broken handle
That’s not all that gave

As happens with these events, I mashed a knuckle against the chainstay when the bolt gave, and the wrench went flying. I was in for quite a surprise when I picked up the wrench: the handle had snapped clean through. I wasn’t even putting any force into the handle itself — this is the result of the flexing of the wrench under the load.

Photo montage of bicycle crankset disassembly
Everything is all right

After that, the crank came off easily enough, and it took just a mild tap with a mallet to free the spindle from the bottom bracket. I spent a moment examining the splines where the crank mounts on the spindle, and everything was fine. There was even enough grease, and it was still clean, so I decided it didn’t need any more.

Detail of bicycle bottom bracket with bearing slightly backed out
Just finger tight

With the crankset out, I turned my attention to the bottom bracket. I decided to loosen up each bearing and reseat it before reinserting the crankset. To my great surprise, the bearing on the crank side was scarcely more than finger-tight. That in itself might explain the catch I was feeling in the crank. After making sure the threads were clean, I tightened the bearing to the recommended torque. The non-drive-side bearing was similarly easy to break loose — just more than finger tight. Well, I hope that’s the extent of the problem.

With the bearings both tightened to the recommended spec, I spun the bearings with my fingers. I didn’t detect any roughness (but I can’t really put any load on with my fingers). I put the spindle back in, checking if there was any misalignment between the two bearings. The spindle went in straight, without any twisting or effort. I tightened it up again and gave it a spin.

Spin test after adjustment

The results were satisfactory. I won’t be sure, though, until the next ride — whenever that will be. Tomorrow I’ll be on Kuroko.

Pump replacement

Bicycle frame showing placement of tire pump and water bottle

I’ve been having more and more difficulty getting the Topeak pump head to seal well on the valve. I thought it might be the tubeless valves I’ve recently put on Kuroko, but we’ve had the same issue with the Halfakid’s bike, and then Halfakid no Tomo. The pump head will seem to be sealed to the valve, but then no air will get into the tire.

Sometimes it’s clear the tire valve isn’t opening to allow the air in — there’s lots of resistance to the pump and no whoosh of air. Other times the air just whooshes out around the valve instead of going into it.

Then after multiple attempts to get the pump head on the valve correctly, it will start to fill the tire — only to pop off the valve before the job is half done.

I got fed up after bruising the palm of my hand filling up Halfakid no Tomo’s tires at the start of our Otarumi Touge ride last week, and decided to look around for something else. It didn’t take me long to come across the Panaracer Mini Floor Pump. It’s the same maker as the GravelKing tires I recently put on Kuroko, as well as the tire levers I’d bought when I wasn’t happy with the ones included with my Topeak minitool. Panaracer makes tires and not much else — they should make a good pump, right?

Rainy cityscape
A good day for bicycle maintenance

We’d originally planned a two-day ride this weekend, but the forecast turned to rain and we decided to postpone. As I wheeled Kuroko out onto the Workshop in the Sky, I was glad that we’d chosen to heed the forecast. In addition to the rain, it was cold and windy.

Valve adapter on wheel and bicycle tire pump
Secure, two-step operation

The Panaracer pump works differently from the Topeak, and I wanted to make sure it worked well before taking the plunge. After removing the valve cap and opening the valve, I screwed the adapter onto the valve stem. Then I put the pump head on the adapter and closed the lock. I gave the pump a few strokes, and all the air went easily and securely into the tire. Sold!

Adapter storage in pump head lock
Adapter storage in pump head lock lever

When it’s not in use, the adapter fits snugly into a recess in the pump head locking lever, and there’s a tough elastic band to hold it securely. (The pump head also has adapters for Dunlop valves and the usual fittings for filling footballs and beach balls, but I’m not interested in these.)

Bicycle pump on scale
Slim Jim

Bicycle pump on scale
Beefy boy

As usual when I’m replacing parts I compared the weight. The Panaracer was slightly heavier than the Topeak, and it was the same story with the clamps that hold them to the frame. The total difference was a scarcely noticeable 27g.

Two bicycle pumps on black background
New vs old

The Panaracer is slightly shorter overall, with a larger diameter. The handle fit my hand more comfortably, and the stroke was easier. On the downside, there’s no pressure gauge.

Bicycle frame tube showing tire pump bracket
This has to go

Comparisons done, it was time to make the switch. It just took a moment to cut through the glorified zip ties holding the Topeak bracket to Kuroko’s top tube. The Panaracer bracket goes on easily with a single screw. The fit is fairly snug but allows for a bit of wiggle. I might redo it with a piece of old inner tube to prevent any movement or scratching of the paint. As it is, there’s some dirt there showing where the zip ties were previously — I hope it will wash off.

Bicycle frame showing placement of tire pump and water bottle
Checking the water bottle clearance

With the new pump in place, the last step was to check the clearance for the water bottle. No problem!

Otarumi Touge close!

Selfie of two bikers in helmets and masks in front of Takaosan Guchi

The Halfakid let me know that he and Halfakid no Tomo were planning a ride to Otarumi Touge today, and said they’d be in Nikotama at 8. I let Nana know and she and I got up before 6 to get ready: me to prepare for the ride and Nana to make onigiri.

I was within 10 minutes of leaving home when the Halfakid messaged to let me know the new meeting time would be 9 a.m. OK, that might get us into a post-sundown return but was still doable.

Two bicycles leaning against wall by cycling course
Waiting for one more

I arrived at Nikotama at the agreed time and immediately spotted Tomo. But she was alone. After we said good morning she told me she’d left her bike at the office (not far from our meeting point) yesterday, so she’d taken the train to pick it up. Meanwhile, the Halfakid was setting out from home by himself. While we were waiting, I pumped up Tomo’s tires as well as I could with the portable pump I always carry on Kuroko.

Two bicycles leaning against shrubbery in front of empty fountain
Obligatory park fountain photo

The Halfakid arrived before we both froze to death and we set out on our ride. With the start an hour later than we’d originally planned, I was eager to keep the pace up. We had some wind to fight but we were soon traveling at a good 21-23km/h under very dismal skies. We stopped at the usual park and then once more before crossing the Tamagawa for the Asakawa cycling course.

On the Asakawa we were more directly into the wind. I wanted to keep the pace above 20km/h, but I also didn’t want to use up all my energy before arriving at the climb.

The moment we set out on the Asakawa I realized I should have had at least one onigiri at the previous rest. I’d eaten breakfast before 6 a.m., and now, with our delayed start, it was approaching 11. There’s a spot we usually stop for a restroom and to have some water, and it’s mostly flat along the Asakawa until that point, so I kept on with that as my goal. As soon as we arrived I dismounted and ate not one but two of Nana’s world famous onigiri, while the Halfakid and his Tomo had one each.

We left the path for city traffic up to Takaosan Guchi. Our usual stopping point at a Family Mart was completely empty, and we sat down at the picnic table with hot drinks and some warm food from the convenience store. I had a cheeseburger and Tomo had a nikuman.

It was already 1 p.m. when we set out from the convenience store towards our goal. “It’s only 6km,” I reminded myself. “How tough can it be?” Mindful of previous efforts, I shifted down earlier than was strictly necessary, reserving my strength.

Three kilometers from the top we came to a short bit of road work. We had the red light so we waited patiently (although another rider took his chances and went ahead). When the light changed I waved through all the traffic that was waiting behind us before setting off again.

Soon after that I shifted to my lowest cog and continued to spin. At that point the Halfakid passed us both and sprinted along ahead. Tomo was still following behind me, soundlessly as always. I started calling out waypoints to her and the distance remaining.

Magnetic repulsion

I was still going along well and then I came to the magnet: the nice stopping point along the climb that has become a psychological barrier to me. Some road crew had highlighted it with a yellow stripe of safety tape, but it was still fully accessible. “I don’t have to stop here,” I told myself. “I am able to continue.” With an effort of will, I kept going.

I’m sad to say, though, that the magnetic attraction of that segment of the climb is more than strictly psychological. That’s also among the steepest parts of the road to the top. I hadn’t gone another 50m when another, similar area opened on the left: a wide shoulder after a guardrail with good visibility fore and aft. In other words, a perfect resting spot. And not a meter too soon! It was all I could do to drag myself far enough forward into the area to leave enough room for Tomo to pull in behind me.

“Are you OK?” she called in Japanese as I wheezed to bring my breathing under control. “Yeah, fine. Just need a breather.”

Shut up, legs

It didn’t take long before I was breathing more or less normally again, and we set out once more for the top. “Six hundred meters to go!” I called out. “Really?” came the reply. My legs were already suggesting we take another break. “Look at that nice bit of shoulder right over there! There’s a curb so you can rest without even getting out of the saddle!” I ignored them and kept pedaling. Soon we passed the bus stop. “Three hundred meters!” “Go for it!”

Mountain pass road with sign
Otarumi Touge

I kept on and my legs were not blowing up — much as they were trying to convince me of the fact. “It’s just around this corner!” I shouted to Tomo as my legs were pointing out that yes, this would be another good place to stop. And then we’d made it: we were at the top of the pass. After checking for traffic we crossed the road to take a few congratulatory snaps.

With the photos in the bag we freewheeled downhill to the resting spot with the ramen shop. I’ve promised myself I’ll have a full bowl of ramen there the first time I make the whole climb without stopping. Meanwhile, the vending machine was locked up, so no congratulatory Pokari this time. We took a few more snaps of the scenery and, mindful of the time and the desire to get home before nightfall, we set off on our return.

Mountain scene with overcast sky
View from the top

For the downhill I cautioned Tomo that I would be pulling out all the stops, and she didn’t have to feel she needed to keep up with me. The Halfakid obediently interpreted my remarks, and we set out. I was soon flying down the hill back towards Takaosan Guchi, braking only when I was catching up with the traffic ahead of me. I thought for a minute or two that a car was breathing down my neck, looking for an opportunity to pass, but I soon realized this was just the wind whistling through the cooling vents in my helmet.

When we got back to the construction area I had to stop again, and I looked back to see if Tomo and the Halfakid were with me. In less than a minute they were, several car lengths back. Once again, when the light changed I waved the waiting traffic ahead of us. But this time we just made it through after the last car before the light changed once again.

Selfie of two bikers in helmets and masks in front of Takaosan Guchi
Takaosan Guchi

The crowds at Takaosan were smaller than I’ve ever seen them, but as the Halfakid noted, we’re in a pandemic lockdown. Under those circumstances, there were still far too many people waiting for the cable car ride up the mountain than was healthy. We didn’t linger long but took our snaps and continued on our way.


There’s not much to relate about the return trip. We were going downhill and the wind was with us for large stretches, so we were making good time. I noted via the GPS that we were keeping up a 24-25km/h pace, which is good. But on previous rides with the Halfakid, we’ve done 30 along this stretch. I decided that had been with a stronger tailwind, and put it out of my mind. We were still making good time, never mind the suicidal children crossing the path directly in front of me in response to my bike bell.

Our next stop was across the Tamagawa, “Back into Tokyo” as I think of it — although the entire ride is within Tokyo. We stopped not long after the bridge crossing and the Halfakid and I ate the last of the onigiri. It was after 2:30, and I estimated that we’d reach Nikotama about 4. That would put us on track to reach home by 5. Still, I worried about Tomo’s lack of lights.

As we neared Nikotama, the wind turned against us once again, combining with our fatigue to slow the pace. We were still ticking along at better than 20km/h, though, so I didn’t worry. And fighting the headwind (which wasn’t all that severe) helped to keep us warm. The coldest we’d been all day (apart from the times we took a break exposed to the wind) was racing downwind.

We reached Nikotama at 3:50 and stopped long enough to say our goodbyes and turn on our lights. I crossed Futagobashi’s narrow pedestrian walk without incident and was soon climbing the modest hill out of the Tamagawa valley. I just put it in the lowest gear and spun the pedals, and all was well. When I reached the top it was just 4 p.m. I sipped some water and messaged Nana that I would be home by 5:15 (once again padding out the estimate to create leeway in case I fell behind).

I was exhausted on the way home. It didn’t make a difference except on the few modest climbs, which I navigated in much lower gears than usual. I reminded myself to be mindful of traffic and not succumb to fatigue. Since I’ve changed the GPS to continue counting time even when I’m waiting at a light, I wasn’t thinking about the time of the next 5km split. Instead I was just watching the clock, trying to get home by 5 and so beat my estimate. I was well on the way to making this goal and so I relaxed and concentrated on riding and on traffic.

As I neared home I realized I’d be at 124km and some change — and not very much change at that. It would be nice to ring up a round 125km, but a single 400m lap of the tower wouldn’t bring me up to the goal. Tired as I was, I was tempted to give up on it. But as I neared home, I thought, “I’m going to do this.” So I looped around the tower and made a short run back to Yamate Dori before making a U-turn and finally bringing Kuroko home. I pulled up next to the tower, saved my ride on the GPS, pulled up my mask, and messaged Nana that I was home.

GPS route of bicycle ride
Otarumi Touge close

Oiled and ready

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Bottle of cycle chain lube with ultraviolet light keychain
Star of the show

I’ve got a ride planned with the Halfakid tomorrow, so I took advantage of unseasonably warm weather today for a little light maintenance. On our last ride I heard some squeaking from Kuroko’s chain, so I brought her up to the Workshop in the Sky for some fresh oil.

I’m happy to report meanwhile that the new tubeless tires are holding air pressure like nobody’s business. I’m ruing all the time I wasted trying to stop the weeping sidewalls on the previous rubber.

I’d used up all my chain lube recently so I checked some reviews and got this Muc-Off high-zoot stuff. Amusingly, the lube came with a tiny ultraviolet light that’s supposed to help me see whether the lube is fully applied to the entire chain. I tried it but I couldn’t really see any difference in today’s bright sunlight.

Kuroko’s gears and brakes are working fine, so that was it for her maintenance today.

Bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Kuroko at the ready

Continuing to take advantage of the good weather, I returned Kuroko to the parking garage and brought up Dionysus next. In addition to the chain lube, I wanted to check the trueness of the front wheel and adjust the brakes.

Bicycle in a workstand, viewed from the frontBicycle wheel in truing stand
Touch-up truing

The rim turned out to be dead in the center with just the slightest bit of wobble — a millimeter or less. I made some token adjustments and put the wheel back on the bike. (I’m holding the truing stand in the video because the stand is wobbling on the storage box.)

With that I spent a couple of minutes adjusting the front brake cable tension and then oiling the chain. I nearly forgot to put the lights back on her, but I’ve taken care of that now.

Bicycle on balcony above city
Awaiting the next commute

Tamagawa all the way

Selfie of cyclist in helmet and shades in front of torii and Japanese flag

I contacted the Halfakid last week to let him know I’d be biking on Saturday, and he responded that he and Kare no Tomo were planning on riding the length of the Tamagawa cycling course. We arranged to meet at Futako Tamagawa at 8 a.m.

Fujisan sunrise
It’s another Fujisan sunrise

The day dawned clear and cold, at -2C with some wind. I set out with a bag full of Nana’s world-famous onigiri just after 7 a.m. for the meet-up. I stopped briefly at the office to take care of something I’d forgotten on Friday. I messaged the Halfakid as I left the office, and saw a message from him that they were running about 10 minutes late. Perfect.

Bicycle leaning against wall next to cycling course
Nikotama waiting

I was glad that our meeting place was in bright sunshine. With my black jacket, tights and shoes, I spent a few minutes warming in the sun while I waited.

Cyclist inflating tires while another rider looks on
Air in the tires

The Halfakid showed up soon enough with Tomo in tow and asked to borrow my tire pump, and he topped up his tires as she looked on. We spent just a couple of minutes discussing which way to set out and then we were off, headed upstream and into the wind with me in the lead, followed closely by Tomo and the Halfakid bringing up the rear.

When we got to Tamasuido Bridge I was looking to see if we could proceed straight onto the bridge. But construction had narrowed the path to the point that two cycles would have difficulty passing each other, so instead we turned and went under the bridge, coming back to it from the opposite side. Soon we were across (after stopping in the middle to enjoy the view of Fujisan). Tomo missed a turn and I back-tracked to find them. The Halfakid (who is as familiar with the route as I am) had caught up to her and they were coming back to meet me. From there it was one traffic light and another turn and then we were having our first break at Nishigawara Park.

Everyone was happy with the pace, so we set out again with Persimmon Park as our next stopping point. With a continuing strong headwind, our pace held at a steady 20-21km/h. We passed through a group of runners practicing along the course, probably a high school track team. At Persimmon Park I broke out the onigiri, and Tomo (who had skipped breakfast), pronounced them delicious.

Statue of the Tamagawa Brothers in front of pines
Tamagawa Brothers mask failure

It remained a struggle in the final 15km upstream to Hamura, with occasional glimpses of Fujisan between the buildings, trees and mountains across the Tamagawa from us. We didn’t encounter too many other bikers or pedestrians — perhaps the cold and wind was keeping others from the path. I gave a hand signal to my followers to warn them of the tree roots pushing up through the paved path, and then we descended to the gravel pathway through the park that had been closed for more than a year following typhoon damage. Nice to have it open again, and the gravel is smoother than it’s ever been.

Hamura was sunny, but the wind was bitingly cold. We arrived on the dot of 11, which is early — not because we were making good time, but because we’d set out earlier than usual. We sat in the sun (I usually choose the shade here) for warmth and wolfed down the remaining onigiri. No one wanted to wait any longer in the cold, so we turned around and started back downstream.

At last, some help from the wind

As soon as we turned around, the wind started helping us. We’d been making 20-21km/h on the way upstream, and were now easily going 25-30. I was able to sit up to take pressure off my hands and let the wind push against my back. The cold remained, though, and as soon as we got back to Persimmon Park I got a hot café au lait from the vending machine there.

Bicycle leaning against shrub in front of dry fountain full of leaves
Cheery fountain

We returned to Nishigawara Park at 1 p.m. As we were resting I set out the next steps: cross over Tamasuido Bridge once again into Kanagawa, and from there it’s 7-8km to Futako. Another 3-4km after Futako is a resting place with benches and kawazuzakara (although it’s still too early for blossoms). When I returned from the restroom, though, Tomo said she’d had enough. We rode together back to Futako and there said our farewells for the day.

I continued alone downstream, and kept on past the kawazuzakura rest point. The wind became very changeable: it was with me at times, and other times I was riding into it for stretches of multiple kilometers. My power was flagging, to the point where when faced with the choice between waiting at a light or passing under it via a switchback, I decided to wait rather than climb up the opposite side of the switchback.

At Rokugodote, I left the path for a nearby convenience store, where I bought some much-needed food and a bottle of hot ocha. The last time I’d stopped here it had been on the way home from Yokohama with the Halfakid in 30C-plus weather, and I’d lain down in the parking lot behind the bicycle stands out of exhaustion. (Note to owners: place could really use a couple of benches.)

Thus refreshed, I continued on my way downstream to Haneda. I encountered more traffic here — cyclists and pedestrians — than I had all day, but still not as much as would be on a typically sunny weekend. I finally reached Haneda at 2:30 p.m. I usually stop here for a rest and lunch, but as I’d just topped up in Rokugodote, this time I just got my photo and started back upstream.

Selfie of cyclist in helmet and shades in front of torii and Japanese flag
Haneda Peace Shrine

The final grind

The wind remained mixed on the way back upstream. My goal was to get home about 5, before it got too dark, and I seemed to be ahead of that. I was comparing my pace, though, to the time I usually make when I just ride to Haneda and back. Obviously, I wasn’t making the same time now. I got to Futagobashi and joined the throngs of cyclists and pedestrians crossing the river in Futako. The narrow sidewalk was densely crowded and I nearly got into a jam. A hard application of the brakes and some quick footwork got me through.

I wondered if I would have the energy for the half-kilometer climb out of the Tamagawa valley. I did, but only after dropping to my lowest-of-the-low gears. I checked the time, drank some water, and messaged Nana that I would be home about 5 — feeling pretty confident that I would beat that estimate yet. I turned on the lights, stashed my sunglasses, and set off for the final 12km home.

It was getting fairly dark by the time I reached Kannana, with about 5km to go. I took a shortcut after that, through some denser pedestrian traffic but avoiding a bit of up-down on Inokashira Ave. With 3km to go I was struggling, but visions of a hot bath and a cold beer propelled me forward. The final sweeping downhill past Central Park sped me the last few hundred meters and I was home. I saved my ride on the Garmin, took off my gloves, helmet and glasses and put on my mask. Then I messaged Nana I was home: 4:48 p.m.

It was a great ride, and I was exhausted. The bike behaved beautifully. The new stem meant no neck and shoulder fatigue (which was good as I had a stiff neck all day from sleeping in a bad position), and the tubeless tires were perfect, with no sign of air leakage.

GPS record of cycle ride
Tamagawa all the way

Strava reminds me I last did this ride on 27 Jan. 2019, two years ago, together with the Halfakid. On that occasion I managed a slightly better pace, with six minutes less riding time despite somehow also clocking in an additional 3km. I’ve done the same route prior to that as well, but in the summer when the days are both longer and warmer.

Why ‘Dionysus’?

Bicycle posed against statue in park

A friend recently asked why I’d rechristened Ol’ Paint as Dionysus.

Is it just the pleasure thing, or do you feel like you’ve got the sword of Damocles hanging over your head as well?


So I responded with the explanation I had made on the occasion of her debut ride: “torn to pieces and reborn in the spring”.

I was reminded of the conversation when I stumbled across this beautiful image this evening:

Unfortunately, my Dionysus is far from immortal. There’s already a spot of rust on the seat tube that I need to attend to.


Selfie of biker wearing sunglasses and a bandana in front of a Japanese shrine torii

First ride of the New Year

The forecast was for clear skies with little to no wind today, with a high of 10C, so it seemed a good chance for 初走り, the first ride of the New Year. It took some doing for me to get going in the morning, though, as the temperature was a shiver-inducing 0C when I first checked. When I finally started preparing, I reminded myself to put on the heat tech undershirt before my usual long-sleeved T and winter cycling jacket.

I hadn’t let Nana know clearly that I’d be riding today, so I stopped at a convenience store in Nikotama for an onigiri and some other noshes, before proceeding down the Tamagawa. The tires were making a new and different sound against the pavement following yesterday’s tubeless conversion, and with the lack of wind I was soon making good time downstream.

The cycling path downstream of Futagobashi on the Kanagawa side has been widened further, with smooth new pavement. There’s now only about half a kilometer remaining to widen from the bridge down to the rest point with all the kawazu-zakura. (Glares in [former] taxpayer at Setagaya Ward.)

Landscape with buildings and Fujisan in the distance
It’s there, really!

With the clear, still air, Fujisan was clearly visible in the distance. The wind picked up a bit as I approached Tokyo Bay, but it didn’t slow me down as much as the pedestrians and other bikers out pottering about in the nice New Year’s holiday weather. All along the playing fields by the river, people were flying kites — a New Year’s tradition.

Selfie of biker wearing sunglasses and a bandana in front of a Japanese shrine torii
A man and his torii

Haneda Peace Shrine was right where I left it. There were a number of cyclists there and we all took turns politely to get our photos. That done, I sat down on a rock under a tree to enjoy my convenience store lunch.

Bicycle leaning against a tree
Ready for the ride home

Miniature Japanese shrine objects with full-size torii in the background
Recent addition to the shrine

The ride home was even smoother, for the most part. What little wind there was pushed me homeward. The challenge became dodging the others sharing the path: two children in quick succession who were weaving their bikes from one edge of the path to the other while their father looked wordlessly on. A couple riding in the opposite direction who turned across the path immediately in front of me: the man without a glance in my direction, the woman (with a child on the back of her bike) after seeing me but proceeding anyway. The middle-aged woman who, on hearing my bell, crossed from the left edge of the path to the right just in front of me. Several children playing a game of counting down and then dashing across the path, ignoring my bell and in one case nearly broadsiding me.

I saw all these obstacles in advance, slowed (or stopped when necessary) and waited for the right moment before proceeding.

I felt I was making good time despite the moving hazards. As I neared Futagobashi, where I leave the path and head back into city traffic, I was checking the total elapsed time on the GPS. I had just passed 3 hours. Would I make it home within 4? I didn’t let this goal hasten my pace as I dodged the pedestrians on the bridge’s narrow sidewalk, and I waited patiently for the traffic light at the other end. Soon I was climbing the hill out of the Tamagawa valley, not making record time but keeping up a steady pace.

I sat down for my usual brief rest at the top of the hill. I checked the time and messaged Nana that I would by home by 3 o’clock (trusting that I would be quite a bit earlier than that). I was feeling the day’s ride in my thighs and was glad the climbs remaining were brief. With a final slug of water from the bidon, I set off home through the traffic. I continued to make good time, and the ride was uneventful apart from the driver who hung back behind me as I checked twice on his position, and then decided to pass me the moment I put out my hand and moved around the parked vehicle in my lane.

Things were getting close in the final 3 kilometers. With an effort, I peeled my eyes away from the GPS and concentrated on the traffic. I had luck with the lights and a long downhill with no traffic. I rolled into the plaza and hit the save button. In the end: not a record time by any means, but within 4 hours total elapsed time. I was satisfied.

Distinct lack of mechanicals

The first thing I did this morning in preparation was to check the air pressure in the tires. The front was nice and firm, but the rear was completely without pressure. I filled it up and hoped it would hold for the duration of the ride. It did.

I wasn’t very impressed with the factory rim job way they’d laid down the rim tape at the factory on the rear wheel when I received it. If the tire loses pressure again, I’ll replace the rim tape and see if that seals the deal.

Everything else went swimmingly. The new stem, which raises the handlebar about 3cm, was just what the doctor ordered. My neck and shoulders came through the ride unscathed. Ditto the recent saddle adjustment and its effect on my nethers. There was virtually no sound from the disc brakes, and the troublesome front derailleur shifted flawlessly all day. If things continue like this, I’ll have to invent excuses to work on the bike. (Not to worry: I’ve got several in mind already.)

GPS record of bicycle ride
Hatsu Hashiri

Tubeless once more

Photo montage adding sealant to wheel and finished wheel with tire inflated

When I replaced Kuroko’s troublesome Babyshoe Pass tires recently with more readily available Panaracer rubber, I gave up getting the tires to mount tubelessly after a few tries and set them up with tubes. Today, I had sunny skies and windless conditions to give it another try.

Photo montage: removing the inner tube, inflating bicycle tire with pump
Tube out, air in

I’d read someone’s suggestion to use straps to cinch the tire to the rim to get it to seal, and I got some old-school toe straps to try it. This turned out to be a load of hooey contraindicated in my case: the tire beads sat closer to the rim without the straps. After giving it one try with the straps on, I removed them and the tire seated on the next try with a resounding “pop! pop!”

It was a bit more effort after that to get the latex sealant into the tire, insert the valve core and pump it up again. Amusingly, while my JoeBlow Booster pump worked great to seat the tires with the valve core removed, it wouldn’t let me get any air into the tire once I’d reinstalled the core. I ended up using an older pump I’ve had sitting around to finish the job.

Photo montage adding sealant to wheel and finished wheel with tire inflated
Sealant and done

For the rear tire, I didn’t bother with the toe straps, and it seated on the first try. I’m sure things went easier this time around because the tires have been on the rims for a month now, and I managed to leave one side fully seated while I removed the inner tube and inserted the tubeless valve. I had the same experience with the JoeBlow pump not sealing on the valve after the tire had seated, though.

All in all, it was a much smoother experience than my first go at tubeless tires. I think this is at least partly due to the tighter fit on the rim of the Panaracer Gravelkings compared to the Babyshoe Pass tires. (The Babyshoe Pass tires are still laying on the balcony where I left them after swapping them out last month, coiled up like shed snake skins. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll try to reuse them.)

Final analysis

I got the Babyshoe Pass tires for the large weight savings they gave me over Kuroko’s original WTB tires. So how do the Gravelkings stack up?

Photo montage of bicycle wheels on a scale showing their weight
Weight penalty

With the Gravelkings, the front wheel is 118g heavier than with the Babyshoe Pass, while the rear wheel is 38g heavier. I suspect part of that difference in the front is my finger on the scale — I couldn’t get the wheels to balance. (Real bike bloggers have a kind of cone on a flat base they use to get the wheels to balance on the scale.) If these are in fact 40-50g heavier, but stay on the rim and don’t lose air so they need to be refilled every day, then it will be well worth it.

I’ve got a big ride coming up later in the month, and I’m sure I’ll know after that whether this new tubeless set-up is going to be something I’ll stay with long-term. In the meantime, I’ve run low on sealant so I’ve ordered another bottle, in addition to a couple of spare valves (just in case).