Nana asked several times this morning where I was going to ride today. I kept putting off the decision. I’d plotted out a new route I’m eager to try, but at 125km it would be pushing the available daylight today, even with an 8 a.m. start. (Of course, a 6 a.m. start would have meant no worries … )
Nana mentioned that I’d planned on Friday to ride Otarumi Touge before copping out because of a late start — wouldn’t today be the perfect chance? Instead I copped out again and went for an easy ride (or so I thought at the time): Arakawa to Tokyo Disneyland would have me home mid-afternoon, and I didn’t have to hurry to get going.
9 a.m. departure
I’d planned an 8 a.m. start to ride the new route and Nana had the onigiri ready in time, but once I’d decided on Arakawa, the pressure was off. I took my time getting prepared and was finally ready to go at 9 a.m. As on Friday, the rear tire was low — this time it was down to about 20psi. There’s a slow leak there that the sealant is not fixing. It could be the poor factory taping job I noticed when I got the new wheel.
I’m satisfied to note the front tire was at about 35psi without having been topped up since I first set it up as tubeless on 1 Jan.
It was about 9C when I set out in the morning, but I knew the temperature would rise to more than 20 during the day. I put on the windbreaker instead of the winter jacket, and packed a pair of summer gloves. I was worried it would be a bit chilly when I first set out, but this turned out not to be an issue. As soon as I reached the Arakawa, I shed my undershirt, the windbreaker and the full gloves. Even in the shade after that, I wasn’t cold at all.
I often enjoy a tailwind when riding down the Arakawa and turn in 5km times of 10-11 minutes. Today, by contrast, the wind was against me or at best a crosswind. I didn’t put a lot of energy into the pedals but just chose low enough gears to ensure I could keep spinning. Given the headwind, I was gratified to see I’d racked up two consecutive 5km averages of 13 minutes — about 23km/h. This despite the road furniture along the course.
It seemed to take much longer than usual to reach my regular rest spot on the river course — a rare bit of shade thanks to a highway overpass. But after taking only a couple of minutes there to relax, I set off against feeling very refreshed.
Still a headwind, though
Despite my new-found refreshment, I was still struggling into the wind. It wasn’t overwhelming, and I was still making progress, but I was also starting to get hungry. I was counting down the kilometers to the end of the river course, thinking all the way of Nana’s onigiri in my saddle bag.
I finally arrived at Shinsuna, where the Arakawa meets Tokyo Bay, and immediately sat down to eat a couple of mentaiko onigiri. I was sitting in the direct sun, which I usually try to avoid (yes, even in February!), but I just couldn’t wait at this point. I was more concerned whether anyone was messing with Kuroko and the GPS (and my wallet, and the GoPro, and … ). I kept turning my head to check. Of course, this is Japan and no one was giving it a second glance.
No sooner had I wolfed down a couple of onigiri and some water than I got back on the bike and started my way across the Arakawa, through the amusement park and over the Kyuedo River to Tokyo Disney Resort.
Now that I had reached the goal, and in good time, I could relax for the return. I made my way back across the Kyuedo and through the amusement park and turned up the Arakawa — this time with the wind at my back. I made very good time back to the bridge. Rather than cross immediately, though, I found a convenience store and stocked up on food and drink. Then I made my way to a small park at the foot of the bridge and relaxed while stuffing my face.
Again I didn’t linger over the final onigiri and the convenience store treats, but started back as soon as I’d had my fill. From the Arakawa back to Nihonbashi it’s 10km, but the time seemed to pass without notice.
I usually stop for a photo at Nihonbashi, but today someone else apparently had the same idea. I was content to share the scenery with them. This once.
I quickly mounted up and resumed my way to Otemon and Budokan. There’s a bit of a climb up Kudanzaka to reach Budokan — I have to climb up past it and then come back, thanks to the safety railing along the roadside — but I didn’t have any trouble with it today. Just kept shifting down and spinning, until I was in my lowest gear, crawling and spinning as I made my way upwards.
From Budokan it’s about 7km to home. I was racing nothing at this point — there was still plenty of sunlight, no threat of rain, and I’d left myself plenty of leeway in the time I’d told Nana to expect me. Without the headwind that plagued me down the Arakawa, I was making pretty good time. I didn’t ease off the pace, but I relaxed mentally. My only concern now was whether my total for the day would exceed 75km. It looked like I would fall just 1km or so shy of that. So after passing the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and racing down past Central Park, I decided on one final lap around the block. I made good time on the rise up to Nakano Sakaue and passed the 75km mark racing back down Yamate Dori, 30 seconds ahead of the pursuing traffic. At last I turned towards home and rolled up to the gate, still well ahead of the time I’d given Nana to expect my return.
With today’s ride, I handily surpassed my goal of 400km for the month, at 433km (and there’s still next weekend!). At the same time, I reached another milestone without realizing it.
(If I’d known, I’d have cycled the extra 100m to make it an even 8,000km … )