A cherry tree branch covered in blossoms enters the picture from top right to center. In the background are other flowering shrubs and a low concrete building, against a cloudy grey sky.

Cloudy Cherry Kawagoe

Before I could set out, I had to replace the saddle that broke during last week’s ride. I have another Brooks, a C15 that I’d used until my Lejog attempt ended in tears.

It took only a few minutes to replace the saddle, cleaning and greasing the bolts before torquing them to the correct specification. Then after taking the photo above, I realized the saddle was a bit nose-high, and so I did it again. I’d already put away the torque wrench so I did it by feel on the second go.

While I had Kuroko in the Workshop in the Sky, I also added a bit of air to the tires and then put her in the stand for some cleaning and adjustment. After cleaning and lubricating the chain, I adjusted both front and rear derailleurs following this guide by the Better Shifting guy.

Kuroko is quite splattered with mud following last week’s splash through the puddles, but I figured we’d be in for more of the same, so I didn’t bother with any washing up other than the chain.

Race to the bottom

Setting out, I immediately noticed how different the C15 feels from the leather B17. The plastic saddle is hard but supportive. At first I thought the nose was still a bit high, but I soon found a position that was comfortable.

The shifting was smooth and quiet, a definite improvement over how it had been for the last few months. I was soon cruising along at speed, enjoying the silence of the cogs.

I’d thought of taking my saddle to the shop for repair, but the shop’s site informed me that the person who does the repairs isn’t in the shop, and the best thing to do is initiate contact via e-mail. And then I also noted that the shop is closed this weekend anyway as they’ll be at Cycle Mode Tokyo 2024.

A bicycle leans against an irregularly shaped blue sign with a white border. The sign is decorated with stylized fireworks. In the background are several paved courses running left to right across the picture, and beyond that grassy playing fields.
Arakawa again

Considering my options and given the late start (it was already after 10), I thought I’d head to Kawagoe and enjoy the cherry blossoms along the way. When I got to Arakawa there was a marathon in progress, but they allowed cyclists to ride through. As I turned upstream I was heading into the wind, but it wasn’t overpowering. For a minute or two I had doubts about getting to Kawagoe and back again by 4 p.m. as I’d promised Nana, but I decided I was doing well enough and continued on my way.

The sky remained grey and forbidding. I passed by little leaguers shouting and running in the dirt fields, men with gas-powered trimmers hacking back the grass and weeds, and even sheep out grazing on the banks of the levee.

Despite the lack of sunshine, Kawagoe was even more jam-packed than usual, with crowds overflowing into the street and bringing traffic to a crawl. It was too crowded to try to get around the cars as I often do, so I just sat up on the bike and patiently waited. I finally reached Toko-no-kane for a selfie before returning to the park on the outskirts of town for lunch. Along the way I stopped on several occasions to snap photos of the sakura.

With my goal of getting home by 4, I’d been taking minimal breaks along the way. I made sure that lunch was no different, and I finished three of Nana’s world-famous onigiri in just 18 minutes. I still felt a bit peckish as I mounted up again — I hadn’t picked up any additional food at the convenience store along the way — but the feeling soon subsided as I pedaled homeward.

The wind was largely with me on the way back downriver. My best 5km time on the way upriver was 14:54, for an average of 20.1km/h, but 18km/h was more typical. Coming back downriver and with the wind, I hit a best of 12:47 for 23.5km/h. Even in a segment that included the climb up to the UFO floodgate and a two-minute rest at the top, I still clocked 14:34.

Back into traffic

I got back to my starting point of the Arakawa at 2:43 and messaged Nana I would be home by 4 as I’d promised. I’d had my shades on for the downriver run as the sun had come peeking out of the clouds at times, but it was turning darker again. I removed my shades and turned on my lights before heading into traffic.

I felt stronger on the way home than I have in some time. Checking the clock at a traffic light, I saw there was a good chance I’d be home by 3:45 and bring the total ride time down below 5 hours 30 minutes. I continued on a steady pace, not trying to race home, and noting with satisfaction that my goal appeared within reach.

I glanced down at Garmie at one traffic light to discover it had died. I was pretty sure there should be enough battery, so I pressed the button and hoped it would be OK. The unit booted up and came back to life, picking up the recording where it had left off. I wasn’t concerned so much about any kilometers lost off the record, but I still wanted to know how I was doing in terms of elapsed time.

GPS record of cycling route with a straight line across an arc where the GPS failed to record.
Death of a Garmin

I felt a few sprinkles of rain as I climbed one of several hills on Yamate Dori leading home. Then I dodged around a police car blocking my lane on a swift downhill. I had to wait for the light at Miyashita, at the foot of the climb, and so had to make my way up to Nakano Sakaue from a standing start. But I got through the light at the top of the climb, and then had to wait for another light and then a line of traffic before I could finally get back to the tower.

GPS record of cycle route
Cloudy Cherry Kawagoe

Garmie showed me at 5 hours 8 minutes total elapsed time. But for once, Strava had the right of it at 5:20:09 as I’d left at 10:13 and returned at 3:33. That’s still a very good time overall. My record for this route is 5 hours 8 minutes, and I’d done it in 5:25 on my most recent go. That ride also shows the distance as 83.92km, and the gap in the GPS record shown above is about 3km.

Assuming a distance of 83.5km and taking the moving time of 4:11:45 from Strava (for a change), I get an average moving speed of 19.9km/h.

Other mechanical stuff

During the ride at some point I glanced down at the bars and noticed they were crooked compared to the front wheel. This must have happened when I retightened the headset recently. I could have taken a moment to adjust it, but the headset was perfect and I didn’t notice while I was riding — compensating totally unconsciously. After that first notice, though, I couldn’t help seeing it each time I came to a stop and checked Garmie. I’m going to replace the headset and fork sometime soon, so I’ll deal with it then.

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