Close selfie of two people in bicycle helmets and sunglasses. One is wearing a black mask.

Kawagoe the Long Way ‘Round

José agreed to join Sunday’s ride for the first time in quite a while. I suggested Kawagoe, knowing it would be a nice, flat stretch, although I underestimated the distance from José’s flat somewhat.

I’d racked up 80km of commuting during the week, including an unexpected office visit on Saturday. When I hit the road Sunday morning, my thighs felt tired. I stretched them out by taking the hilly route through Akasaka en route to meet José.

After the meet-up we turned northeast, roughly paralleling the Sumida river to take us to Arakawa. We stopped at a convenience store for drinks and snacks just before reaching the river.

Once on the Arakawa cycling course, we headed upstream towards our goal. We soon were wading into the midst of a marathon, carefully picking our way around the runners and giving them the widest berth that the path allowed. Once clear of them I kept the pace moderate, mindful of the distance we’d be covering. But I don’t think either of us realized the extent of the help we were getting from a tailwind — at the end of the ride, Strava showed a number of personal bests for this section of the ride (many of them overlapping).

Along the way I’d been telling José how I’d worked out a very nice detour around the construction near the end of the course. He really didn’t get the gist of my brilliant explanation, though, until we arrived at the detour and he saw how directly it led to the Kawagoe sports park.

After a brief stop we continued on into Kawagoe towards Koedo. When we reached the last big intersection, the traffic was backed up quite a ways. That was an omen for what we were to find in Koedo: lots and lots of traffic and people turned out in the good weather to enjoy the sights. We worked our way directly to Toki no Kane to get the money shot, and then we worked our way back out of town.

Close selfie of two people in bicycle helmets and sunglasses. One is wearing a black mask. A tall wooden tower rises into a cloudy blue sky in the background.
One shot with Toki no Kane

A pause for lunch, and then …

We stopped at the park for a feast of Nana’s world-famous onigiri, with the addition of some convenience store goods. José was so delighted with the umeboshi-and-kombu onigiri that his face was dancing as he ate it. Meanwhile, a bug was making a similar feast of my ankle.

On our way back out of town it was clear we’d be heading into the wind as we returned downriver, and that was borne out from the moment we saddled up. We were struggling for every painful kilometer. According to the Garmin when I checked, we were going pretty directly into a 27km/h headwind. The PRs of our upstream ride were a distant memory, and I begged for more frequent breaks to rest my aching hands and backside.

As we neared the spot where we’d entered the cycling course, I asked José if he knew the way home from there or if I should ask Garmie to guide us. He said he knew the way, although not the same way we’d come. I gave him his head and he guided me on a much truer path alongside the Sumida river, passing by Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa to bring us to Nihonbashi. We said our goodbyes there and I continued on my way.

I sent Nana a photo so she’d know where I was, and soon followed up with two more from Budokan.

A bicycle leaning against a bridge abutment topped by a decorative lamppost featuring a lion holding a ship's wheel, a gargoyle and other embellishments.
Nihonbashi from the other side

After a brief visit to Budokan, I stopped at the top of Kudanzaka and got a fresh bottle of water to wash down the last onigiri. It was 4:30. I’d originally told Nana I’d be home at 2-3, not thinking how many kilometers I would add to my usual Kawagoe ride by visiting Ginza along the way. I’d already updated her that I wouldn’t be home until 5, and now I messaged I’d be home by 5:30 at the earliest. As usual I’d left myself a margin for error. I neared the homestead shortly after 5. Garmie said I was a few hundred meters shy of 130km, so I circled twice around the block. The other measure I was keeping an eye on was total elapsed time — could I bring it in under 9 hours? I passed the 130km mark, rolled up to the tower, and stopped the clock with 30 seconds to spare.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Kawagoe the Long Way ‘Round

I was pleased with my overall time despite the absolute struggle nearly the entire way back down the Arakawa. On a moving time of 6:40:43, I averaged 19.5km/h. The ride brings me to 473km in May. There’s a possibility we’ll have a break in the rain on Wednesday, which would allow me to nudge the monthly total over the 500km mark.

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