Tokyo Gate Bridge, a large, long bridge with prominent symmetrical steel cantilevers, curves through the picture from center right to top center. The bridge spans a river which flows across the center of the photo. In the foreground a bicycle leans against a large stone, part of a stone circle partly visible in a horizontal stretch of grass. A stone wall separates the grass from the river.

Wind and Cloud

I chose my ride today with an eye on the weather forecast, which has been changing over the past few days. What finally emerged this morning was an overcast day with a forecast high of 31C. That’s bordering on my limit, so I thought the thing to do would be to get an early start and take a short, easy ride.

Having made that decision, I then lazed about the house this morning and didn’t get on the road until 8:15. In the meantime, though, I checked Kuroko’s tire pressure, and I’m happy to report that the new pump works great — although it does take quite a few strokes to get results.

I got off to a good start under cloudy skies, and in fact got an early personal record in on the short climb up to Yamate Dori. The ride out to Arakawa didn’t really present much in the way of challenges apart from a driver in a mini delivery van.

I was riding along in the leftmost lane, as usual, and there was a parked delivery truck ahead. I moved right in the lane until I was even with the right edge of the truck, then looked over my shoulder for traffic. All good. As I approached the truck I checked over my shoulder again and signaled to move right. It was at that moment the driver of the mini delivery van decided to surge ahead and put on the squeeze, forcing me into an emergency brake so I didn’t smack into the back of the parked delivery truck.

A mama-chari bike -- a cheap bicycle made for a woman with racks front and rear -- stands in front of the sign for the Arakawa river. The sign has an irregular shape. It is blue with a wide white border, and abstract images of fireworks painted on in various colors. The characters あらかわ ARAKAWA have faded, leaving their outlines in darker (cleaner, unweathered) blue against the blue background.
(Not my bike)

This is the second time this has happened in as many weeks, and I’m really curious what goes through the driver’s mind in this situation. They have an entire lane to move right into, giving me wide berth. But they just schmoodge over a bit and squeeze me out against the parked vehicle. Do they think they’re leaving me enough room? In the absolute sense, yes — if everyone behaves according to plan there’s just enough room for me to fit between them and the parked vehicle. But they’ve already demonstrated they’re not behaving according to what I would consider rational driving rules, and so I’m not willing to take the chance.

On the river

Aside from that, I got to the river without incident. And I made good time, arriving in less than 50 minutes. I descended from the levy onto the cycling course and I noted the wind was mixed — mostly a cross wind. I was making good time, but not flying along as I do when there’s a tailwind. There weren’t any marathons in progress and the traffic (pedestrian and bicycle) was less than might be expected for a weekend with no rain in sight.

By the time I got to the halfway point of the river run, I was riding directly into the wind and it was blowing hard. The closer I got to the bay, the harder the wind blew. I kept shifting lower and lower, pressing on as my thighs started aching and my hands numbed. Meanwhile, riders were flying by in the opposite direction.

The little omamori I keep tied to the handlebars fluttered backwards from the wind, even with the bike propped against a sign, serving as a visual indication of just how strongly the wind was blowing. I didn’t stay long but mounted up again to return to the bridge about 1km upstream, flying along now with the wind behind me. I crossed the bridge and came to a rest in a small park, where I enjoyed a couple of Nana’s world-famous onigiri before continuing.

I’d made it to Disneyland before 11:30. Despite my lazy start and the strong headwind down the river, I was keeping up with the schedule I’d given Nana before leaving home. I mounted up again for the next leg of the journey.

Bicycle leaning against a wavy blue-and-white steel railing. There is a river in the background. The sky is cloudy.
Arakawa again

The climb up to the crown of the Arakawa Estuary Bridge was a slow, painful affair in the wind. I was glad to have a break at the top before speeding down the opposite side to street level again. Fortunately the Shin Kiba Ryokudo Koen Cycling Road is largely sheltered from the wind by trees lining both sides of the path. Whenever I emerged into a clearing, though, the wind was there waiting for me. When I finally turned the corner at the southern tip of Wakasu, the wind off the bay hit me so abruptly that I had to shift to the smaller chainring — usually only required for climbing.

Tokyo Gate Bridge, a large, long bridge with prominent symmetrical steel cantilevers, curves through the picture from center right to top center. The bridge spans a river which flows across the center of the photo. In the foreground a bicycle leans against a large stone, part of a stone circle partly visible in a horizontal stretch of grass. A stone wall separates the grass from the river.
Tokyo Gate Bridge

Fortunately Kuroko stayed put when I balanced her against a rock to get the photo and then while I bought some water from a nearby vending machine. Although I didn’t feel particularly hot, the temperature was about 30C at that point, and I drank off half the bottle of water before emptying the rest into one of my water bottles and continuing on my way.

With my second goal behind me, it was back into traffic for the return. The wind was with me now and I was making good time despite my tired thighs and the enormous volume of trucks flying past my elbow. I’d gotten a stiff neck and a headache from turtling in the wind, and now I sat up and stretched, trying to relax.

I had better luck with the lights than usual on Eitai Dori, and even the drivers seemed to be encouraging me on my way. I reached Nihonbashi before 1 p.m. and stopped just long enough for the requisite picture.

Bicycle propped against the base of a tall, ornate iron lamppost featuring a lion resting one paw on a large ship's wheel

There’s some ongoing construction on the palace inner road, squeezing traffic down to two lanes, and then a police car was parked just where the construction ended and the road widened again. Traffic was backed up from the red light ahead, but I managed to squeeze through into the empty lane ahead of the police car. Continuing along below Budokan, I was passed by a fellow riding a gorgeous De Rosa. He was dressed in “civilian clothes” — a shirt and trousers — but had his cleats on all the same.

I arrived at Budokan at the 75km mark about 1:15. I usually just take a snap of Tayasumon gate and Chidorigafuchi, but this time I pedaled slowly through the gate to get some photos of the inner gate and Budokan itself. The water of Chidorigafuchi, always greenish, was bright green as the heat brings the algae out in force. I bought another bottle of water and then sat down on a bench overlooking Chidorigafuchi to eat the last of Nana’s onigiri.

It was not quite 1:30 when I messaged Nana that I was at Budokan. I had a bit less than 10km to go, all in traffic, and I was exhausted. I’d reached down to scratch at an insect bite on my shin and discovered I was covered in salt. I told Nana I would be home about 2:30 and set out on the final leg. As it happened I made very good time, and messaged her again at 2:03 that I was home. I parked the bike, opened a beer and hit the shower.

GPS record of cycle ride
Wind and Cloud

I’d started out feeling strong and immediately set a PR for the brief climb up to Nakano Sakaue. But once on the river my pace was slowed considerably by the wind. I set a couple of more PRs for the Arakawa Estuary Bridge and Tokyo Gate Bridge, but that’s just because I didn’t rest as long at those spots as I had on my previous visit. On a moving time of 4:21:21, I averaged 19.2km/h, and I didn’t die in the heat.

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