Selfie of biker and sign marking Arakawa cycling course


My goals today were to get in some kilometers and to try out a couple of routes between home and José’s new flat. A welcome boon was an unexpected and accidental benefit from yesterday’s maintenance.

I’d been casting about the past couple of days for a route. As recently as yesterday evening, Nana asked where I was planning to go, and I replied, “I haven’t decided yet.”

This morning the answer was clear: Tokyo Disney Resort. I got off to a later start than I’d planned, in part because Nana was sleeping in (I don’t like to leave before she’s awake) and in part because I was just taking my time getting ready. As soon as I mounted up, something felt off. When I’d added the accessory mount to the stem yesterday, the handlebars were loosened enough to droop down. And I pulled them back up to level when I tightened up the new bolts holding the accessory mount.

But Kuroko was in the workstand when I made the adjustment, in a decidedly nose-down attitude. So when I adjusted the handlebars and tightened the bolts, the bars in fact were pointing significantly upwards.

I figured when I got to Arakawa I’d sort out the alignment using the multitool.

As I rode along Yamate Dori in the thick of traffic, though, I noticed something: with the higher handlebars, I was not putting any pressure at all on the spot where I typically suffer the most from saddle soreness — the spot where I suffered enough injury to scratch from the great Lejog ride.

I’ve continued to suffer saddle sores in this same spot since that ride, despite changes in shorts and more than one saddle. If riding with higher handlebars could solve the issue, then damn the torpedoes, I’m sold!

The potential downsides to riding with higher handlebars are increased aerodynamic resistance and a loss of power from the gluteus maximi, which only come into play when the rider’s back is bent at a 45-degree angle or more. Well, I’m not very concerned with aerodynamics to start with — I just don’t ride fast enough to make a big difference, apart from when I’m bedeviled by headwinds. And as for the power, I surprisingly felt as if I had more. My upper thighs seemed to be providing more of the thrust, particularly on the short climbs that today’s course included. Perhaps with the more upright position, I was putting more of my weight into the downstroke. Or maybe I was just using less power fighting my belly with my thighs.

With the very appreciated lack of butt soreness, when I arrived at Arakawa I resolved to let the experiment continue as I rode downstream. I was assisted in this by the lack of headwind — or indeed any noticeable wind at all. I also noticed my hands rode more easily on the handlebars. With the bars titled up, my wrists were straight and I was less prone to numbness. The numbness didn’t totally disappear, but by the time I reached my first rest point after 14km of downrider riding, I’d been able to handle the numbness by just taking a few seconds to rest one hand and then the other.

I was also making very good time, considering the lack of tailwind. Where I’d typically downshifted previously on the slight rises on the path, I was able to power through, appreciating the slight burn in my thighs.

I made good time down the river, covering the 25-plus kilometers in slightly more than an hour (including the one break plus several stops along the way for photos). My best 5km time was 11:08, or an average of 26.9km/h.

Tokyo Disney Resort

As has become my custom, I did a short loop after reaching Shinsuna, at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, to bring the total kilometers to 40. I had just a short break, taking photos and sharing them with various groups, before setting off again. I’d had a very strong headwind in the last 2-3km down the river, and I was riding into this again once I’d crossed the Arakawa and continued downriver to the Kasai Seaside Park. I didn’t notice much difference from my upright position, but I did have to fight a tendency to turtle in my neck in response to the wind. It was causing a headache.

I was keeping an eye on the clock, because when Fearless Leader Joe and I rode the Arakawa, we’d decided not to go to Disneyland because FLJ had a long ride home ahead of him. Today I noted the time I arrived at Shinsuna, at the mouth of the bay, and then again after I’d crossed the Arakawa, ridden to Tokyo Disney Resort and returned to the bridge over the Arakawa: 45 minutes. Before crossing back, however, I stopped at a convenience store to pick up a couple of cheeseburgers and other energy sources, and then sat in a sunny park to top up.

Virgin territory

It was just about 12 when I left the park and headed back into the city. This was still all well-covered ground, and I didn’t need the Garmin for directions. I wasn’t sure what my usual time was for getting home from this park, but I was hoping to reach Shinjuku before 1:30. I stopped briefly at Nihonbashi and then Budokan, and finally reached Nishi Shinjuku just about 1:10.

I didn’t ride straight home but paused at the edge of Central Park just long enough to select the navigation to José’s new flat in Ginza. And then I was off. The route took me through some heavily trafficked areas that looked quite scary on Google Street View, but which mostly proved to be easily handled — apart from one particular uphill intersection at Kita Sando with a rare Ferrari parked in my lane and a scooter in the next lane who refused to yield.

It took me just 38 minutes to arrive at José’s new flat, which he was inside cleaning. But my surprise didn’t work as planned. I phoned him up and asked him to look out the balcony, only to discover his room doesn’t face the main road. Rather than interrupt his cleaning, I entered the course back home — a somewhat different route — and set off.

Here’s where it all goes pear-shaped

A seam in the toe of my socks had been nagging me for several dozen kilometers, and despite my mental reminders to take care of it at the next stop, I kept forgetting. Just after setting off on my final leg home, I finally remembered, and pulled over to take care of this.

The Garmin was giving me clear guidance on the route home, but suddenly started displaying warnings. The display was bordered in red and there was a message that the battery was running low and the system would soon stop working. I was mystified as I’d made sure the unit was charged up before I’d left home. At a subsequent stop I flipped through the screens and saw that the Di2 battery was running low. I decided the warning concerned the Di2 battery, as the Garmin continued to operate and provide navigation clues without going into battery saving mode.

Round 2!

Bicycle leaning against ballustrade in front of Chidorgafuchi moat, with paddle boats
Chidorigafuchi again

The final route home took me once again past Budokan, but diverged after that from my usual route home. The new goal was to avoid Shinjuku station and the traffic and bad intersections around there. The route (which I’d redone several times via Google Maps and Street View) turned out to be a success. Without a large increase in distance, I managed to avoid some of the worst of the traffic.

I thought I’d be nearing 100km on this trip, so as I pulled up at the intersection nearest home I checked the Garmin: just 82km. Well, I must have miscalculated. If I’d been within 5km off 100, I’d have done a few laps around the block or around Central Park to make it up. As it was, I might as well bring it home and call it a day.

It’s a day

GPS record of cycle ride

I parked Kuroko in the garage, gathered up the requisite items, and got on the elevator. As soon as I was in the flat and checking the result on Strava and Garmin, I saw a big problem: the segment from José’s flat in Ginza to home was not recorded!

I was concerned when I saw this, because earlier this week the Garmin had simply shut down during a morning commute, after recording just over 2km of a 13km ride. Today was my first try at loading navigation routes on the fly, without interrupting the current ride record, and after a few minutes’ reflection I decided this was not the same thing: it was user error. When loading a new navigation route, ride recording is paused. The first time I realized this and resumed the recording; the second time I did not.

Hence I ended up not having the final 11km of riding on the record.

Of the portion that was recorded, my riding time was 3:48:56, for an average pace of 21.6km/h. This is certainly nothing to sneeze at.


Bicycle leaning against ballustrade over moat, with handlebar angle highlighted
The rise and fall

I was going to record the change in handlebar angle as an unintentional mechanical, but given the benefit to my toochis, I’ve decided this does not qualify — I’m going to keep things as they are for the moment. To be clear, saddle soreness is not completely eliminated. But there’s an ache now over a larger area, whereas previously there was pain and injury concentrated in a much smaller area which today found no small amount of relief.

The failure to record the final 11km of riding today falls under user error — assuming I’m correct about the cause!

That leaves the only true mechanical being my sunglasses. Before the ride I noticed the ratcheting hinge which holds the sunglasses over the prescription lenses was loose. As I tried again and again to fix the sunglass attachment to the frames, it became apparent the hinge was failing. I mended things for this ride with a rubber band (apparent in the photos), but this warrants a visit to the optical shop.

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8 responses to “Serendipity?”

  1. Joe Lejog Avatar
    Joe Lejog

    This is great news if that simple change in the angle of the handlebars can alleviate those problems you were having. I’m looking forward to your next ride just to hear about that!

    1. Guy Jean Avatar
      Guy Jean

      It really is counterintuitive in that it puts more weight on my butt. But it rotates the pelvis backwards so that the point of contact changes, and removes pressure from the problem area.

  2. […] The first point that struck home was about riders with their handlebars cocked upwards, or who regularly ride with their hands pulled back a couple of centimeters from the hoods. Both of those describe me, ever since I accidentally set Kuroko’s handlebars on an upward slant and discovered it reduced my saddle soreness. […]

    1. Joe Lejog Avatar
      Joe Lejog

      You know, you should do a series of photos on the theme of ‘the workshop in the sky’!

      Looking forward to reading if these changes helped. Glad you have good weather there tomorrow. They are predicting rain at our end, so I got my ride in today, but still got sprayed on a little.

      1. Guy Jean Avatar
        Guy Jean

        Today’s weather was good, but tomorrow’s should be better. It was a good chance for me to make these changes in anticipation.

        Workshop in the Sky series. I should make a category (I currently use “Maintenance”.) The biggest challenge apart from the backlighting is the shallow depth of the workshop. I have to stand in the living room to get a photo of the whole bike, and then I also get a corner of the toolbox.

        1. Joe Lejog Avatar
          Joe Lejog

          I can’t actually see these comments on the phone. Where has this comment ended up? I’m replying to your comment which I have only seen by pressing the ‘comment’ icon.

          1. Guy Jean Avatar
            Guy Jean

            None of the comments (even my own!) appear until I approve them. I have to look at the settings. You and I should both be approved without further moderation.

  3. Joe Lejog Avatar
    Joe Lejog

    The software is screwy.

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