Bicycles leaning against hedge in front of dry fountain


The forecast was perfect for riding yesterday, and José had agreed to meet at Futako at 8. But I got a message from him at 3 a.m. saying he might not be able to get up in time. I was up at 5:30 but took my time getting ready to ride, and let Nana sleep in. Finally I got a text from José at 6:30 saying he was up and could ride. I replied that we could meet at 8:30, and I woke up Nana so she could get busy making onigiri.

As I was mounting up to depart, I got a shock: I’d neglected to charge up the Garmin. It was at 46% battery, making it rather iffy for lasting through the ride. I knew I wouldn’t need the navigation, but did want to record my kilometers. I took out my phone and fired up the Strava app just in case, and then set out for Futako. I arrived about 8:15, and I only had to wait about 6 minutes for José to make his appearance.

We’d set a goal of returning home by 2 p.m., which limited our destinations. After a hasty conference we decided on Hamura. We set off upstream with me occasionally glancing over my shoulder to make sure the Kid was still with me, particularly after I’d cleared clumps of joggers or slower-moving cyclists. Finally, with less than 2km to go before we reached our first rest point, I realized the person I was seeing over my shoulder wasn’t José. I stopped and looked back, and about 30 seconds later he appeared. I mounted up again and we were once more on our way.

Bicycles leaning against hedge in front of dry fountain
Once he’d finally caught up …

At our first stop, José asked if I was riding faster than usual. I’d checked my speed a couple of times, and it was on the higher end of what I typically go in the absence of a tailwind or long downhill stretch, but no more than that. The truth was the Kid’s three hours of sleep just weren’t enough. He had some caffeine and sugar in the form of a black coffee and a café au lait from the park vending machine and that helped a lot as he had no further difficulty keeping up with me for the remainder of the ride.

Quite the mechanical

We continued to make good time up the river. There was a slight crosswind, but nothing to keep us back. Meanwhile, Fujisan was a constant companion off to our left.

Just a few kilometers before Hamura, and with a group of riders following us through a switchback, I felt my right-hand grip wobble. As I came out of the switchback and began accelerating and shifting, I confirmed it: The right-hand lever was working loose from the handlebar. If it came off that would make things dicey. As it was, I continued on while shifting my hand up onto the bars to avoid putting more pressure on the lever.

Nana had given us two onigiri each — delicious asari onigiri — and José had already finished both, while I had one in reserve. That wasn’t enough for lunch, so we stopped after a couple of kilometers at a convenience store to supplement our goodies. And there I peeled back the hood on the loose lever while José tightened it using the multitool.

Bicycle against railing overlooking river
Hamura once again

We reached Hamura just before 11. We’d continued making good time on the road, but we’d taken our time at the rest stops on the way. Mindful that we wanted to be home by 2, we ate up and rested just a few minutes before setting off downriver.

Selfie of two cyclists with statue of Tamagawa Brothers in the background
Trying not to look like a perv this time

The wind was still across the path on the way back, but a bit more from the front at times. I felt I was lagging compared to my earlier pace, but when I checked the Garmin (would the battery hold out?) I was still setting a stiff pace.

We reached the Keiokaku Velodrome about 12:40 and I heard the Garmin beep. It was asking if it should go into battery saving mode. I tapped the checkmark to OK it, and the display shut off.

At this point we still had 10km to reach Futako, putting our goal of 1 p.m. (in order to get home by 2) in doubt. We filled our water bottles and soldiered on. My thighs were starting to ache. I was doing OK, but after each small climb on the way it would take me a bit longer to get back up to speed. Meanwhile the Garmin continued to register the 5km splits.

José and I parted ways at Rte 246. I didn’t note the time (it was about 1:16, according to the faithful Garmin), but continued on into Futako. When I reached the top of the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, I stopped for another rest at a tiny park there and messaged Nana. It was 1:26, and I told her I’d be home about 2:30-3. I set out once again for home, really feeling the effort in my thighs. But I did manage to clear the next light, which almost never happens.

With a hair over 5km remaining in my ride, the Garmin beeped twice but the screen did not light up. “That’s it,” I thought. “Good thing I’ve got the Strava running.” But at the next light I tapped the screen and it lit up. The beeps had been Nana messaging me that she was off to the sauna. And then with just 1km remaining it happened again: a single beep, but no screen image. I ignored it as I turned for the sweeping downhill past Central Park. I made the light at the bottom (again, that rarely happens) and pulled into the tower’s plaza to dismount.

I immediately hit the save button the Garmin, and it woke up and saved the ride. It even transferred the route to my phone. I checked and it showed 5% battery remaining.

Meanwhile, the beep I’d heard in the last kilometer was José messaging me that he’d arrived safely home, at 2:08. I replied I was home as well, as of 2:12. In the end we hadn’t missed our goal by much despite the half-hour delay in setting out in the morning.

GPS record of bicycle ride

I’d done nearly 108km in 6h35m, which is not bad overall. The Garmin put my moving time at 4h55m, for a 21.9km/h average. That’s just less than my fastest time for this route: I’d averaged 22.1km/h in June 2017, on Ol’ Paint, with a total elapsed time of 6h11m.

Paint vs delivery trucks

There’s not much else to note about the ride except for the delivery trucks parking in the bike lanes. Over the past 7 years or so, Tokyo has painted blue chevrons along the side of many roads to indicate bike lanes, and in some cases a full meter-wide stripe of blue paint — with accompanying markings. Naturally, it’s still legal to park (or at least stand for up to 5 minutes) where these lanes are marked. A couple of times stood out on my way home from Futako as delivery trucks passed me just to put on their signal and pull over to park in front of me. In one case the truck had barely cleared Kuroko’s front wheel when he put the signal on and pulled over.

Tokyo could learn a few things from Houston in this regard.

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