I had my choice of days this weekend, one to bike and one to take care of housework and other things. The forecast was basically identical for both days: cold and clear, with little wind. I decided to do the housework and other things on Saturday and ride on Sunday.
And then Sunday dawned cold and grey, with a chance of rain in the late afternoon, and rather windier than it had been on Saturday.
(I’m actually writing this Monday evening, but “The day before yesterday was nicer” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.)
Thus sapped of motivation, I cast about for rides I might do and fell back on my old standard of the Tokyo Landmarks ride. I did still want to get in some miles, given plans for a bigger ride next weekend. But as I reached my first landmark, Meiji Jingu Gaien, I had a thought: every time I do this ride I take the same photos. This time I’ll make an effort to take different snaps. I was driven by a photo I’d seen on Facebook of someone’s bike in front of the National Stadium, which I always pass without giving it a second thought.
I rode nearly all the way around the stadium before finding the sign. The gold medal mailbox was a bonus find.
My next stop is usually Shiba Koen, but this time I went just a little farther to Daitokuin, with Tokyo Tower in the background. The accompanying photo of Tokyo Skytree is from Asakusa, much further along in the ride.
I did ride past the Imperial Palace, as usual, but didn’t stop. Instead I snapped a photo of the Yomiuri Shimbun head office as I waited a a light, and then the Bank of Japan. Finally, I stopped near Tokyo Big Sight for lunch, as usual, and grabbed a shot with Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside in the background
The route takes me through Asakusa and quite close to the famous Sensoji temple. I usually skip it, but this time I made an exception. I’ve paired it here with Tomioka Hachimangu — reputed birthplace of sumo — which comes not long after Tokyo Big Sight on the ride.
At this point in the ride I was feeling the fatigue, and I took my time on the climbs around Ueno. I’d made myself a goal of finishing this brief ride in 4-5 hours, and checking the time and distance remaining, it was going to be a near thing.
Next up is the University of Tokyo, the main gate and the famous “Akamon” red gate.
The last stop on the ride, as always, was Budokan and Chidorigafuchi. While I’m a huge fan of the Tayasumon gate (which I always photograph), I’m less enamored of Budokan itself.
I sat down at a park overlooking the Chidorigafuchi moat and finished off a blueberry yogurt drink I’d bought near Tokyo Big Sight. After having a bit of water I checked the time and messaged Nana that I would be home about 2:30-3 p.m. (anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour). It had warmed up quite a bit from the 4C when I set out, but it was still a grey, dismal day. I wondered how much headwind I’d be facing in the remaining few kilometers.
I walked my bike back to the street from the park, cleats scraping on the paving stones. I mounted up, checked for traffic and I was off home. I lucked out on the timing of the lights over the next couple of dips near Hanzomon station, saving lots of momentum for the subsequent climbs.
As I turned on Shinjuku Avenue, I was passed by a young, fit bloke on a Pinarello Dogma — a cyclist’s dream lightweight carbon-fibre bike. At each slight rise in the road or race to the next light, he was up off his saddle, pumping away. And yet, traffic and lights being what they are, I would catch up at him at each subsequent red light. (I did breeze through a couple of T intersections and pedestrian crossings, while he was dutifully waiting out each light — as I should have been.) He did check over his shoulder at a couple of lights and I imagined to myself that he was surprised to find me there each time. I kept up with him much longer than I expected to, and we finally parted ways after he raced to the top of the climb at Shinjuku Eki Minami Guchi and left me waiting at the light at Nishishinjuku 1-chome.
It’s all good. I wasn’t racing him — I was trying to come within my goal of 4-5 hours total elapsed time. I bypassed Tocho — the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings — because of the lights and continued on to the corner at Central Park, then raced downhill towards home. The light changed just as I reached the bottom of the hill and sped towards home, hitting the stop button as I rolled into the tower mansion plaza: 4 hours, 59 minutes, 35 seconds.
I’d made an effort on the ride to cut the breaks short or eliminate them, but this was offset by seeking out new photo opportunities, and sending those photos via various media on the fly — all of which contributed to the total time. Based on a riding time of 3 hours 23 minutes, I’d averaged 18.7km/h. That’s not a stunning time, but it’s not bad either for a ride that’s totally in traffic.
Eye on the weather
The ride planned for next weekend is a new one, and it should be a lot of fun. At the moment, one weather service is predicting sun and another the deluge. Watch this space.