Twice in a row?

Azaleas surrounding Japanese temple building

Following a tempest of rain Friday night, Saturday dawned bright and clear. It looked like a great day for a ride (and my only chance this weekend), so I quickly prepped Kuroko, fresh off not one but two days of maintenance, and set out.

I wasn’t up for a lengthy jaunt, but I did want to try something new. Every year at this season a friend posts photos from Tōgaku-in, the azalea temple in Kawasaki. It’s not even 5km from Futako Tamagawa, where I join the Tamagawa cycling course when I ride, so I had plotted the route for the Garmie.

I’m still getting used to having the handlebars raised on Kuroko, and it took me a few kilometers to get over the feeling I was riding too high and didn’t have control. Once I adjusted, I was riding with confidence again. Soon I was rolling across Futagobashi and then I briefly stopped to select the course for Tōgaku-in on the Garmie.

A sadist’s idea of a cycling course

It’s pretty straightforward from Futako to Tōgaku-in, but the roads are narrow and heavily trafficked, with intersections every couple of hundred meters. The course passes by two train stations, a railroad crossing and the ward office.

The temple was worth the fight in traffic. I was probably about a week late to see the best of the azaleas, but it was still a very nice addition to the day’s ride. After spending a few minutes to enjoy the sites, I mounted up again and set off back to the river.

Into the wind

The moment I got to the river I was riding into the wind. It was quite a stiff breeze. I didn’t fight it too hard, but just slowed my pace a bit. I was still making better progress than most of the riders I encountered.

The cycling course was rather crowded. It seemed that every Tokyoite who hadn’t gone to Hawaii for Golden Week was out strolling on the course, with one or two toddlers zig-zagging across the path of oncoming cyclists.

I was getting hungry, so when I stopped at the usual rest spot about 11km from the end, I ate half my lunch before continuing on my way.

Pigeon perched on bicycle handlebar under tree
Unexpected lunchtime visitor

In addition to the wind, I knew I’d encounter some puddles following the previous night’s rain. I was not disappointed in this, but they were smaller than I expected. I’d been seeing flooded baseball fields and driving ranges for more than 10km, so I was expecting the worst.

I pressed on into the wind, dodging toddlers and other cyclists, until I arrived at Haneda. I’d been noticing some odd vibration the last few kilometers, so after finishing my lunch I checked the rear wheel for trueness. It was nice and straight. I shrugged my shoulders and mounted up for the ride home, after letting Nana know I was on the way.

Don’t overlook the obvious

It was easier going on the way back upriver, with the wind behind me for the most part. The vibration continued, and after a few kilometers it started getting more noticeable. I realized it went away when I wasn’t pedaling — was something wrong with the drivetrain?

Finally, with the vibration getting rapidly worse with each passing meter, it dawned on me: the rear tire was running low. In fact it was nearly flat. I quickly stopped at the side of the path and pumped the tire up again. I gave it a couple of turns, making sure there were no punctures and I couldn’t hear any air leaking, and then mounted up again. But I hadn’t gone more that 50m when the tire was flat again.

I was less than 1km from my first lunch spot (where the pigeon was perched on my handlebar), where I could sit in the shade as I worked on the tire. So rather than risk damaging the rim on a flat tire, I walked the bike until I’d reached the spot.

I removed the wheel, thinking I’d have to put in the innertube (I’m glad I remembered to pack it after having removed it from the other wheel!). But before going through that bother, I tried once again to pump up the tire as it was. And it seemed to be holding this time. I did the latex dance, swirling the sealant around inside the tire so that it would coat everything. I bounced the wheel repeatedly on the ground and checked the bead to make sure it was seated everywhere.

In all I spent about 5 minutes making sure the tire was holding pressure. And it was. At last I replaced the wheel in the bike, glad that I didn’t have any trouble with the hub falling apart as it had on the previous occasion. I mounted up and was off again, riding with the wind, and no odd vibrations. Each time I went over a curb or hit a seam in the pavement, I felt a reassuring jolt that let me know the tire was holding pressure.

Bicycle leaning against azaleas
Kuroko among the azaleas

I reached the little park at the top of the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, the last rest stop on the way home. I gave the rear tire a pinch and decided to add a bit more air. Then I noted the time — with the walk of nearly 1km and the time spent sorting out the tire, it was later than I’d expected. I messaged Nana that I would be home about 3:15 and set off. I had no further issues aside from the usual traffic, and rolled up to a stop at our tower just before 3.

GPS record of cycling route
Twice in a row?

With the time spent walking and fixing the flat, the average speed suffered. Based on the moving time of 3 hours 58 minutes, the average moving speed was a bit better at 18.4km/h.

The Garmie behaved throughout the ride, not dropping any segments. The regularly updated weather information confirmed what I was experiencing with the wind. And the legend it shows me when I’m on a road without a name (very common in Japan) always amuses me.

Finally, yesterday’s ride netted me Garmin’s Golden Week Badge for 2022. And I’ve just given Kuroko’s tire a pinch this morning (Sunday), and it’s holding up well.

Koi nobori "rising carp" with 2022 legend
Golden Week Badge

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