Refused at the gate

Optimistic start

Cyclist's red jersey and black shorts
All-new kit

I finally got on the bike on Day 3 of a three-day weekend. On Saturday I was suffering from a tummy ailment, and yesterday we had lots of “guerilla weather,” including a number of tornadoes.

This morning the skies were blue, with fluffy white clouds. While Nana whipped up a batch of her world-famous onigiri, I got dressed in my new kit, repping Wales big-time.

It was just 15C when I set out, and I worried I might actually be cold in the summer jersey. It was a bit cool in the shade, but when I was moving I generated enough heat. And in the sun, no problem.

Road shenanigans

The ride down to the river went nearly without incident. I was next to a city bus at a stoplight and decided to get out ahead of him. When the light changed I popped a wheelie for a brief moment before getting my steed back under control and putting my effort into moving forward.

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It’s not as though I’m Fabio Wibmer — I’d just put the bike in too low a gear when pulling up to the light. I usually start from the large chainring, with the second-largest cog. In this position, the front derailleur should be trimmed, which takes a light press on the shifting paddle. But I’d pressed too hard in my haste, and shifted to the small chainring on the front. The result was all sorts of leverage compared to what I was expecting.

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The only other thing of note was a driver who absolutely had to get past me before slamming on the brakes and turning left, cutting me off. In other words, a typical day’s riding.

A beautiful day — with some wind

Small shrine nestled in trees
Short shrine stop

As soon as I got to the river, I was battling a cross-wind. Someone was using the park bench where I usually have my first break, so I continued on until I reached the small shrine near Keio Oval, the keirin racetrack. There I had a short break and ate some fruit jello.

Back on the cycle course, I was making good time up the Tamagawa despite the wind. As expected on a holiday with good weather, there were a lot of joggers, strollers and amateur cyclists to negotiate. (Not that I’m a pro … but I know how to stay out of other people’s way when I ride.)

Upwind on the Asagawa

I knew I’d be in trouble when I branched off the Tamagawa for the Asagawa — I was turning into the wind. It was actually fine for the first 5km or so, and the wind was clearing the air, providing a fine view of Fujisan at the end of the winding river.

Fujisan over the Asakawa

Blurry digitally zoomed image of Fujsan behind apartment buildings
High quality zoom Fuji

But for the next 10km or so, I was truly heading directly upwind. I had enough power that my speed stayed just below 20km/h, but it should have been 25 or better. I continued on, not knowing if I’d be able to climb Otarumi Touge or just reach Takaosan, but knowing I was enjoying the ride and wasn’t ready to pack it in yet.

Takaosan Guchi

After a couple of onigiri stops, I reached Takaosan. There were not as many cyclists as I’d expected. (There was a young amateur on the sidewalk beside me who eventually made better time by cruising through stoplights, etc.) I was thinking how to proceed. There was a small derailleur problem on the rear, where it would try to jump up a gear for one specific cog, and I thought about stopping at the usual convenience store. The bike stands there would let me easily run through the gears as I adjusted the cable tension.

But I took stock of my situation, including the aching in my thighs from the battle upwind, and the remaining onigiri and Snickers bar in my bag (meaning I didn’t have to stop for supplies). I looked at the sky, and saw a threat of a rerun of yesterday’s guerilla rain. And so I decided to visit Takaosan Guchi, get a photo or two, and start on my way home. In the end I’d still get 100km, my overriding goal for the day.

Selfie of cyclist in shades and mask in front of cable car entrance for Takaosan
Rain starting at Takaosan Guchi

Photo montage of statue of flying squirrel and waterfall in shrine
Flying squirrel and shrine

Right on schedule, the rain started as I arrived at Takaosan Guchi, wending my way on foot through surprising crowds (considering we’re under an emergency declaration). I took a moment for a selfie and then to photograph a nearby shrine, then made my way back to the road to return home.

Ride with the wind

On my way home I was riding not only downstream (and hence slightly downhill), but also with the wind. I was flying, regularly going above 30km/h with hardly any effort, and posted a few 5km times at 11 minutes or better. I left behind the few sprinkles of rain I’d encountered at Takaosan and the sun emerged again from the clouds. Aside from an encounter or two with pedestrians and other cyclists, it seemed that hardly any time passed before I was back at the Tamagawa and pulling into a park for the final onigiri. I checked the time and messaged Nana that I would be home about 3:30.

Living for the city

With 15km to go, I was back in city traffic. Usually it’s a struggle at this point, both to scale the few remaining climbs (such as they are) on the way home and to keep up my average pace in the face of traffic. Today, despite thick traffic, I watched in disbelief as my average pace actually improved from the high 15s to more than 16km/h. I can only imagine that the holiday-timed lights were with me, and I was able to work my way beside a lot of the thickest of the traffic. Also, I made pretty good time up those climbs despite the aching of my thighs.

I messaged Nana that I was home and descended to the cycle parking. In addition to the shifting problem mentioned, there was some noise on the way home that I haven’t yet identified. But I was too tired to deal with bringing Kuroko up the elevator just then. I parked her in the basement. The moment I dismounted, my thighs and one calf cramped. I walked the cramps off, got into the elevator, and then started the bath as soon as I got in the door.

I’m exhausted, totally done in, but I love it.

GPS record of cycle ride
Refused at the gate

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