On a green, grassy hill, a bicycle leans against a rock under a tree with bright pink-red blossoms, next to a green, leafy tree

Sagami exploration

Yesterday was a test ride to the Sagami Lake region. I’ve been there before by climbing Otarumi Touge and then looping back through Kanagawa Prefecture. That’s a long ride of 130km or so, and of course involves climbing a mountain pass. Instead, by riding more directly towards Sagami Lake, and through traffic, I hoped to shave off some kilometers and a lot of the climbing.

I chose Sagami Lake because it’s another 20km from there to Otsuki, a possible destination for an overnight stay, and yet another 50km from there to Isawa Onsen in Yamanashi, just north of Fujisan. So my goal was to test the feasibility of this route to those destinations.

Bicycle viewed from the side, leaning against a wooden railing with trees and shrubbery in the background
Nishigawara Natural Park, after 16km

It was about 5C when I set out, but I knew it would be a nice day and reach about 17C in the afternoon, so I dressed in layers and packed a second pair of gloves in my bag. Kuroko was performing flawlessly and I was very comfortable riding. There was no trouble with traffic or construction as I made my way to Tamagawa.

Once on the cycling course, I was heading into a bit of wind as I rode up the river. Knowing I had many kilometers yet to go, I changed down a gear or two rather than try to power my way through the wind. My pace was just about 20km/h.

On a green, grassy hill, a bicycle leans against a rock under a tree with bright pink-red blossoms, next to a green, leafy tree
First feed stop

I was starting to feel hungry by the time I crossed the Tamagawa into Tama, so after a few more kilometers I found a place to stop on the banks of the Okuri River. I sat on a rock under a plum tree and updated Nana on my location as I ate a couple of her world-famous onigiri. I’d come 32km in two hours, and was satisfied with my progress considering about 20 of those kilometers had been in traffic.

More traffic!

And that was the byword as I continued onward. I was now on Rte. 20, stopping for traffic lights at least twice every kilometer. This continued to Yarimizu, where I turned briefly south and began climbing, and climbing, until I finally reached a sharp descent through a tunnel to join Rte. 506. At some point along the way I stopped at a convenience store to shed my undershirt and long johns in the restroom. I gulped down a café au lait and continued onward in my shorts and jersey, along with the fingerless gloves.

The route through Sagamihara was choked with traffic. The road is narrow, the trucks wide and the traffic lights frequent. More than once I waited in the line of traffic rather than risk squeezing past a line of trucks and buses to be the first at the traffic light.

A dark blue river fills the lower third of the photograph. In the middle, tree-lined banks on both sides are dark green with light brown grass. Some houses and buildings are interspersed with the trees. The sky in the upper half of the photograph is light blue with a few white wisps of clouds at the top right.
Shiroyama Dam, Sagami River

It was just about noon when I crossed Shiroyama Dam and climbed the opposite bank of the Sagami River. According to Garmie I still had about 12km to go to reach Sagami Lake. I did some mental calculations and realized I could turn around at this point and be home by 4 (which is what I’d told Nana when I left in the morning). If I continued on I might not be home before 5, or possibly 6 depending on the traffic.

If I’d reached Shiroyama Dam half an hour earlier, I’d have continued on to the lake. As it was, I sat down at a park overlooking Sagami River and reflected on the course. The traffic was bad — not in the sense of dangerous, but in terms of impeding progress. The climbs were not so very long, but they were steeper than the gentle rise to Otarumi Touge. Overall, if I wanted to reach Sagami Lake then I’d probably be better off taking a few more kilometers to avoid traffic, riding up the familiar path of the Asakawa to Otarumi, and then a swift downhill to the lake. Looking at my times to reach Otarumi in the past, this would actually be a faster way to reach the lake.

Mental calculations — and onigiri — finished, I messaged Nana that I was on the way home.

Bicycle viewed from the side, leaning against a wooden picnic bench with grass and some brush visible in the background
Donut stop at 74km

Before setting off home I turned on the taillight, mindful that I’d passed through a couple of tunnels on the way. Knowing I’d be struggling up the tunnel that I’d previously raced down, I opted for the wide sidewalk and then stopped for a breather after emerging at the top.

I was making good time on the way back. Traffic was easier and I was having somewhat better luck with the lights overall. There was one intersection in Sakuragaoka though where I just missed the light and had to wait through a full cycle as I crossed and turned right.

When I got back to the Tamagawa I had to fight the wind all the way across the bridge. The wind had been blowing down the river in the morning and so I was hoping for a tailwind on the return, but it was not to be. After a few kilometers I stopped at a park bench and ate the donuts I’d bought at the convenience store in Sagamihara.

A bicycle leaning against a wooden railing in a park. Water can be seen flowing in a small waterfall behind the bicycle.
Back here once more

My last stop was at Nishigawara once more, where I leave the cycling course for cross-city traffic. Garmie was showing 83km and some change. I’d turned around at exactly 50km at Shiroyama Dam, and I had 15km to go from Nishigawara to home. Where had the missing kilometer gone? It was like that trick word problem where you have so many dollars and you give two to Betty and one to José and so on, and in the end there’s one extra.

I’d messaged Nana from the donut stop that I’d be home about 4. It was 2:30 now, but I didn’t update my estimate. I felt good but I knew I was tired and it might be a bit of a struggle yet on the way uphill from the river. And of course it would be in traffic again. I did struggle a bit with the hills on Setagaya Avenue but got the best of them in the end.

I had Garmie showing me the stats on the way home. I usually don’t do this because I’ll be looking at the screen instead of traffic. But I wanted to make sure about that missing kilometer! As I neared home it came down to just under half a kilometer, so I took a lap around the tower and then rolled past the entrance a couple of more times to bring the clock up to 100km.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Sagami exploration

In the end the ride was challenging. With the good weather and the ability to complete a century, as well as exploring a new route, I had fun. Based on a moving time of 5:31:53, I averaged 18.1km/h. As for the route itself, though, it was something of a bust. As noted above, if I want to reach Sagami Lake and points west, I’m better taking the Asakawa and avoiding traffic, even though it entails climbing Otarumi Touge.

Map of cycle route from Shinjuku to Isawa Onsen, with the elevation profile below in red.
Isawa Onsen route

As for reaching Isawa Onsen, yesterday’s ride showed how unrealistic that goal is. The onsen is another 80km beyond Shiroyama Dam, which would make for an 11-hour ride at yesterday’s pace, even without the prospect of climbing a 1,000m peak. It might work as a two-day ride, with a stop in Otsuki. But overall, it’s not going to be a an overwhelmingly pleasant or scenic route.

Related posts






Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent posts