A river stretches from the foreground to the middle distance. The sky above is a deep blue, with many bright white clouds near the horizon.

Choose Your Adventure

Following last week’s jaunt to Disney, I set my sights this morning on Kawagoe — same river, but the opposite direction. The forecast was sunny and mild, and the morning view of Fujisan was encouraging.

Snow-capped Fujisan glows in the reflected morning sunlight.
Fujisan reflecting the sunrise

As I was getting dressed it was 6C, with a forecast high of 12C. I considered my choices of long-sleeved jerseys and decided on the heaviest one — the wind on the balcony was cold.

The choice proved a good one. The wind was just as strong and cold at ground level, and as I finished suiting up I wondered if I would even want another layer.

In addition to yesterday’s maintenance, I’d added a cadence sensor to Kuroko’s crank. This had come with the Garmin I bought back in 2019 or so, but I hadn’t been curious enough to set it up. It had gone on the crank last weekend with a minimum of fuss after replacing the battery, and this morning as I set out I spent a minute fiddling with the Garmin to recognize it. The head unit found the sensor as soon as I started peddling, and then it was a couple of more button presses to add it to the screen.

Following the tire swap, the front wheel now has a partially worn tread. Right from the start I could feel the wheel hunting over seams in the pavement and painted lines, such as the stripes of zebra crossings.

Combined with the shorter stem, it has made Kuroko more twitchy overall. I had to take extra care not to make hand signals while riding over a paint stripe. I’d had the same issue while I was running slick tires, of course, so I hoped I’d soon get used to it.

A bicycle in the grass leaning against an irregularly shaped blue sign with a wide white border. The sign has painted representations of fireworks, and the word Arakawa can be made out in the faded paint. In the background are several paved paths and playing fields.
First feed stop

As is my habit, I stopped at the convenience store just before the river for a hotdog and a drink — hot milk tea this morning to deal with the chill. It was very windy at the top of the levee, so as soon as I’d taken the usual photo I descended to the intermediate path (the red one in the photo) and sat on the stone steps to have my dog and tea. That done, I set off upstream.

Three paved paths on staggered levels run from the bottom of the picture to the middle horizon. At the very edge of the horizon is a line of low mountains. A single cyclist rides away from the camera on the lowest path.
River and mountains

With the cold air and brisk wind, the view was very clear. I set off optimistically into the wind. My revised riding position was comfortable overall. My wrists were very straight, and my fingertips draped naturally over the brake levers and shifting paddles. I wasn’t constantly fighting to keep my bum sat back in the saddle, and I wasn’t turtling my neck in the wind.

A white concrete structure with blue gates sits astride a blue river on a grass-covered levee.
UFO – Asaka Weir

Fujin had other ideas

Traditional Japanese gold leaf screen with a painting of a green demigod holding a large sack -- Fujin, the god of wind.
風神 – the god of wind

Unfortunately the wind only got worse the farther upstream I pedaled. I’d started out well enough, but by the time I got to Asaka Weir, I’d been slowed to nearly a standstill. After a brief break atop the weir, I decided I’d enjoy the ride much more if I turned around and headed downstream, with the wind helping me along.

It was a good choice. With the help of the wind I was making very good time along the river. I reached the Iwabuchi Watergate about 11 a.m. and let Nana know the change in plans. I continued on until the Sumida Lock, where I stopped for a couple of Nana’s world-famous onigiri before continuing on to the mouth of the bay.

A bicycle leans against a sign saying Shinsuna. A river flows through the middle background with a large bridge and a Ferris wheel in the background.
Mouth of the bay at Shinsuna

As I continued downstream after the Sumida Lock, the sky grew progressively darker. I looked up to see an enormous black cloud blanketing the sky nearly from horizon to horizon. I quickly grew cold in my sweaty jersey and undershirt. The forecast had been for a 20% chance of precipitation late in the evening, but was I about to get a cold drenching?

I’m happy to say that within half an hour, the dark cloud had moved on eastward and the skies to the west were blue once again, with bright fluffy white clouds.

I reached Shinsuna about 12:15. I didn’t feel any urge to visit Disneyland again, and with the wind I didn’t want to attempt Tokyo Gate Bridge. So I messaged Nana that I was on my way back, but I might visit the Blue Lug bicycle shop in Hatagaya on the way.

Of course it’s French

I was dodging traffic along Eitai Dori back into the city when I was overtaken by an ojisan riding a beautiful old bicycle, green with a chrome fork and stays. He was easily riding faster than me, but thanks to the traffic lights I was able to keep up with him. At successive lights I noted additional details about the bike. I couldn’t see the logo on the frame, but I noticed the hubs had large wing nuts instead of quick release skewers. Then I saw he was riding on wooden rims. He had old school toe straps, but did not have cleats on his shoes.

A bicycle leans against a concrete balustrade supporting a greening ornate lamppost featuring a griffin with its paw resting on a large gear.

Finally, as we waited together at the light at Nihonbashi, I worked up my courage to speak to the rider. “That’s a gorgeous bike!” I complimented in Japanese.

“Thanks — it’s a French bike from the ’50s,” he replied in English.

“It’s really stunning,” I said. And then the light changed. I stopped at Nihonbashi for my usual photo and he continued onwards with a wave of his hand.

Details of the bike’s construction and components continued to come to mind as I sped homewards: the extremely narrow cottered steel crankshafts and hubs. Even the frame tubes were slender compared to Kuroko’s oversized tubes.

The road encircling the Imperial Palace was closed to traffic, so I cruised on through, passing a few other cyclists. At the foot of Kudanzaka I swiped the Garmin’s screen until the cadence was showing. On my climb up to Budokan I kept the pedals turning at 85rpm or better, with a high of 95 or so.

I sat on a bench in the sun overlooking Chidorigafuchi and ate two more onigiri. I knew Nana would be out, but I still messaged her when I left in case she was checking. As I pulled out onto the road a couple of right-wing sound trucks cranked up their imperialistic slogans and then a long line of special police (Japanese Secret Service) cars pulled out from Yasukuni Shrine. (I’ve just now checked with Nana and she says it wasn’t the prime minister.)

After that, I passed through Yotsuya and Shinjuku without incident. There was no repeat of last week’s pothole incident in Yotsuya. It was smooth running all the way to Blue Lug.

I had a look around the inside of the shop. I was looking for a couple of bits of bling — stuff I could probably find online, but which I would have preferred to see and touch before purchasing. I didn’t see what I was looking for in the shop — there’s a good chance they’d have had something if I’d asked, but I found a lot of related items without seeing just what I was looking for.

As I left the shop I saw a couple of shop clerks admiring Kuroko. That’s a real compliment, given the beautiful bikes that come out of this shop! I said hello and asked what had caught their eye about the bike. They just said it was great and asked how much it cost, so I showed them a few of the modifications I’ve made over the years, like the Di2 upgrade.

The shop is just 10 minutes from home, so I was soon speeding down the hill by Central Park and pulling in to the bicycle parking garage below our building. I messaged Nana that I was home, although I knew she was still out, and I parked the bike.

GPS record of cycle route
Choose Your Adventure

I changed course less than two hours into the ride this morning, but made good time after that, assisted by the wind. On a moving time of 3:52:21, I averaged 20.0km/h on the dot.

Graph showing pedal cadence and speed over time
Cadence and speed

The cadence sensor told me pretty much what I expected: 85rpm average, with a high of 109. While in motion, I was typically in the low 90s, with a narrow sweet spot between 85 and 100 rpm. The same was true while climbing: I don’t grind my way up the hills, but continue to spin as I drop through my generous gearing.


My overall reaction to the shorter stem and leveled handlebars was positive. My wrists are much straighter and I can ride longer before shifting my hands off the brake hoods. I only occasionally would pull back to the corners of the bars (usually while climbing) or rest my hands on the tops. Overall, I did not have to stop to get feeling back in my hands as I’m used to doing.

I didn’t have much trouble getting used to the revised cleat position. Occasionally it would take me an extra rotation of the pedals to clip in while accelerating from a stop. But neither did I notice any particular benefit. Toe numbness is only occasionally an issue for me, and I didn’t notice any today. I did notice the increased toe overlap with the front wheel. It wasn’t an issue today, but it could be more so on the Futako river, with its frequent switchbacks.

Finally, my bum remains unconvinced. There was no great improvement today from the revised handlebar position, but neither was there a noticeable worsening. I was good for about 10km at a go on the cycling course (where there are no stops for traffic lights), after which I needed to dismount and rest a bit. There was no noticeable swelling at the end of the ride, just the tenderness and occasional numbness when I’d been in the saddle for half an hour without a break.

I was wearing my tights today in a nod to the weather, and they haven’t got the greatest chamois. I’ll withhold final judgment until I’ve had a chance to ride a few days in my favorite shorts.

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