Not much to say about this ride except I’d set out with a more ambitious goal, but my thighs were out of gas following Thursday’s summit of Otarumi Touge. I did bounce back a bit after polishing off the last of Nana’s world famous onigiri, but I was also traveling slightly downhill at this point.
When I got back to the park where I joined Tamagawa, I realized I’d be a bit shy of the century mark if I went straight home, so I continued down the Tamagawa to Futako before turning home.
Based on a moving time of 5:11:53, my average moving speed was 19.9km/h. I’d been hoping for 20, with shorter rest breaks, but when I took the shape of my legs into account, I was just happy to get home with the century and a respectable moving speed.
After yesterday’s gully-washing rain, it dawned cloudy this morning, with mixed weather forecasts. When Nana woke up, though, she said there was no chance of rain.
I was determined to ride the three rivers, which I’d originally done with José for my kanreki. It’s also the ride I’d set out to do during Golden Week, but came up short on juju on that occasion after getting a late start.
I didn’t get going much earlier this morning, after dawdling in front of my laptop for several hours. But once on the road I felt better than I had on that previous occasion, if not quite as strong as I had on my last visit to Kawagoe.
Nana had not made onigiri, so I stopped in Futako and bought two mentaiko and one grilled salmon. But when I stopped about 10:30 in Persimmon Park for my first food break of the day, they were terrible. Just awful. Even now, writing about them, I want to retch. Nana has spoiled me with her world-famous onigiri. I forced myself to finish one mentaiko and the salmon so I would have energy for the ride.
I’d had the first glimmer of sunshine about 10 a.m., and the sky continued to brighten as I rode up the Tamagawa. The pavement was mostly dry, but there were some puddles. I followed the example of another rider in a park near Shibasaki and rode up into the grass to avoid the puddles on the cycling course.
As I approached Hamura, I stopped at another convenience store near the cycling course to stock up for lunch — but avoided getting any more onigiri. I rolled into Hamura about 11:40 and quickly delved into my saddlebag for my lunch.
I’d traveled 54km by this point, but Garmie said I had another 81km to go. I really should have set out an hour earlier! I wolfed down my lunch of sausage rolls, cheese and yogurt drink, and saddled up again at 11:45 to continue on my way.
My legs were OK at this point, but not really strong for climbing. One of the toughest climbs of the day (which is not setting the bar very high) came just a few kilometers after the Hamura break and I was content to just keep shifting to successively lower gears and keep spinning. It got me up the hill.
A few kilometers later, the course turns northwest and runs through a sparsely populated area. The pavement here is really awful. I was glad to see the first part of the street had been redone since I last visited, but nothing had been done with the worst stretch, which continues for a couple of kilometers. Fortunately no one was following me at this point, and I could ride in the center of the lane, where the pavement is least broken.
The bad pavement is followed by a bit of climbing, and then some very rapid descending. I typically hit about 50km/h without even trying on this stretch, and today was no exception. But despite the speed limit of 40, a number of drivers tried to crowd me off the road as they passed.
After a few more kilometers of exurb riding, I arrived at the bridge over the Irumagawa. I stopped at a convenience store here and ate an apple pastry before continuing.
The Irumagawa cycling course winds through numerous family oriented parks, and I have to be more alert than ever for children suddenly stepping into the path, or grandparents wandering into my way while having eyes only for their little darlings. There are also a number of road crossings which are marked for the cyclist to stop, rather than the motor vehicles.
When José and I rode this route in November, we encountered a substantial detour around Kakusen, which continued until Shimooyashiki, where we crossed the Irumagawa on a single-lane bridge. I was hoping that the construction would be completed, but it was not to be. I had to leave the cycling course at the same spot. Unfortunately today my optimism continued to get me into trouble, and I tried to rejoin the path before I should have.
The path was fine, but just as I got to a bridge that I wanted to traverse, there was a barrier. I actually came up from behind that sign on the left, above. My goal was just a few meters ahead, and the pavement was unobstructed, so I lifted Kuroko over the barrier and continued.
Before I went on my way, though, I noted the sign said that the project was to be finished April 28, Reiwa 4. It’s May 22, so … ?
The second barrier came just a few kilometers later, and was only 250m before the course I needed to take to a single-lane bridge over the Irumagawa. I could easily see that many had come before me and simply gone around the barrier, and so I did, too.
When we came this way in November, José and I had gone down into the road before this point, and we came back to the path just as it turned towards the single-lane bridge, so we avoided this.
The only real issue of note on today’s ride came between the two barriers above, as I was traversing a well-trafficked bridge. The pedestrian / cycle walk on this particular bridge is a good 40cm or so above the roadway, and the transitions are rather abrupt. My mind was wandering as I came to the first one and *ka-chunk!* the front wheel suddenly dropped 40cm. The tire and wheel readily took the impact, but the handlebars rotated downwards in the stem with an audible squeak.
I’ve been riding with the handlebars tilted upwards for a couple of months now, and liking it. In particular, it’s taken the pressure off the sore spot in my nether regions that has been the cause of issues in the past. And now, suddenly, the bars weren’t just back to horizontal — they were drooping!
I stopped at the end of the bridge and wielded the multitool and got the bars tipped upwards once again.
Not long after clearing the last cycling path obstruction, I was rounding the northeast corner of the ride, past Kawagoe and heading downstream on the Arakawa proper. I’d been fighting headwinds up the Tamagawa and occasionally as I crossed the Irumagawa, and I was dreading this section of the Arakawa, where I always have a headwind. But today, much to my surprise, Fujin was smiling. The wind had died completely, leaving me to string up a run of PRs heading downstream on the Arakawa despite my advanced state of fatigue.
I passed a few clots of day cyclists out enjoying the good weather, plus one rider I was surprised to be passing: an old guy like me, but fit, in full regalia on a classic steel framed bike with full Campagnolo groupset.
My hands and backside were both a challenge at this point, turning sore or numb by degrees, and I was taking breaks more frequently than usual to cater to them.
I noticed someone near one of the rice paddies, spinning round like a shot-putter to launch his free-flight glider into the air. Not the same bloke I’d seen last week, and still several kilometers upstream from that spot.
I arrived at the UFO gate and dismounted, eager to rest my hands and to eat the last custard cream pastry to fuel my remaining kilometers. Garmie was showing 21km remaining in my ride, with a finish somewhere between 4:30 and 5, so I messaged Nana that I would be home about 5, according to Garmie.
The few remaining kilometers along the river went by smoothly. When I arrived at the turn-off into traffic, I was out of water, so stopped to get some from a vending machine. I got sweat in my eyes and spent a minute wiping the salt off my forehead and temples with my glove before continuing.
The ride home through traffic was uneventful. I could spin along just fine, but my thighs were challenged by the few remaining bumps along the way. I was glad to be stopped by a traffic light midway up the longish climb out of the river valley, as it gave me a chance to recover.
At some point along the ride home, I was overtaken by the white-haired gent on the classic steel bike I’d passed on the river. He was much better in tune to the timing of the lights than I was, and left me sitting at a red at the foot of a bridge over a railroad. A few other cyclists who were unable to keep up with me on the flats passed me when the road turned upwards. I didn’t mind. I checked the navi and ascertained I’d be just over 135km for the day, and I was happy with that. I swept down the final hill from Nakano Sakaue on Yamate Dori and turned towards home. I let Nana know at 4:35 that I was back, well ahead of the 5 p.m. that I’d told her the Garmie had forecast.
In the end I made pretty good time. My moving time was 6h21m44s, for an average of 21.3km/h. When I did the route in November with José, the moving time was 6h17m24s, for 21.5km/h. I was feeling a bit more energetic at the time, and no doubt also trying to make a good showing for José.
By contrast, my total elapsed time today was 8h10m50s, compared to 8h16m49s previously. Taking into account the difference in rolling time, that means an improvement of 10m19s in faff time (or pfaffenminuten in the original German). I’m sure some of this was a matter of having done the route before and hence knowing where to go, and the rest was the result of traveling alone and not having any reason to dawdle during the breaks.
I set out yesterday morning with the intention of completing the Three Rivers ride, which I’d last done just before my birthday in November. But I was facing a couple of big challenges. First, I’d set out nearly and hour and a half later than I had in November. And then, as soon as I was on the Tamagawa (the first of the three rivers), it became apparent I didn’t have the juju. I could ride along on the flat at a good pace, but even the 3m switchbacks up and down the levee were taking it out of me — it would take me another half a kilometer to get back up to speed.
Anyway, I kept pedaling, and after making some progress I got a respite from the headwind I’d been fighting. I decided to see what time I reached Hamura and make a decision on that basis. I reached the Persimmon Park about 10:30 and sat down to enjoy a couple of Nana’s world-famous onigiri. I had 15km left to get to Hamura, so it wasn’t unreasonable to hope to reach there about 11:15-11:30.
Or it wouldn’t have been, but I took my time over the onigiri and had a nice little rest. And when I set out again, I was faced not only with a few switchbacks but also increasing finger numbness. I’d already eaten two of the three onigiri that Nana had packed for me, so I stopped at a convenience store a few kilometers before Hamura and bought a hot dog, a creme-filled taiyaki, an iced latté and a Snickers bar. The brief stop gave me a chance to get some feeling back in my fingers.
We (don’t) got the power
With all the dawdling, I reached Hamura at 11:50. I’d told Nana when I set out that I’d be home about 5, but I was now looking at 6 if I continued around the Three Rivers, with a 12km slog home along Yamate Dori during rush hour. It didn’t take me long to decide against continuing, but before sitting down to enjoy my lunch I thought I’d go just a couple of kilometers further to pay a visit at Aso Shrine, dedicated to bicycle safety.
The shrine was established in 601 by Empress Suiko, and built in 933 by Taira no Masakado. The first torii on the southern entrance is the upstream limit of the Tamagawa cycling course, and the shrine has become a pilgrimage for cyclists to buy the amulets for safety.
After paying my respects, I returned to Hamura to rest and enjoy my lunch. There was a fellow on the next bench with binoculars watching the swallows flitting over the river, while overhead several large US military cargo planes practiced maneuvers. I finished lunch about 12:30, messaged Nana that I was on my way home, and set off downstream and into the wind.
The going wasn’t bad, but I was still plagued by finger numbness. I stopped after just 10km for a brief rest, then again at Persimmon Park just 5km further on. My next stop was at a bike shop near the river bank another handful of kilometers further, where I picked up a couple of spare innertubes.
While I was locking up Kuroko at a bike stand in front of the shop, I paused Garmie and slipped it into my jersey pocket so I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone taking it. And as I did so, Garmie chirped a cheerful beep. What … ? He’d interpreted being put in my pocket as an invitation to end and save the ride, so when I stowed my purchases and set out again, I had to start a new ride. It was no big deal as I ended up recording all the kilometers ridden, but it meant Strava wouldn’t credit me with a Grand Fondo — 100km in a single ride.
I was still fighting the headwind on the way downriver, and taking frequent breaks to rest and restore the feeling in my fingers. I finally left the river course at a small park full of screaming children, where I ate the last of the onigiri. I checked the time — 2:35 — and messaged Nana that I should be home by 4.
The last 15km were out of the wind but in traffic. Someone forgot to tell all the drivers that it wasn’t yet rush hour. There are a couple of hills to surmount that I’d been dreading, but I was pleased to discover when it was time that I had my juju — perhaps thanks to Nana’s onigiri. I rolled down the final hill by central park and did a lap around the building to bring the ride up to 30km before dismounting. I messaged Nana that I was home at 3:33.
Putting the numbers together, the ride was 105.55km. The total elapsed time was 7 hours. (The figures from the Garmie tot up to 6 hours 50 minutes 51 seconds, which tells me I was in the bike shop for just over 8 minutes.) The moving time totals 5 hours 8 minutes 20 seconds, for an average of just over 20.5km/h.
I soaked in the bath to ease the aching in my thighs, and then over dinner was treated to a fantastic fireworks display out on the Workshop in the Sky.
I spent most of the day yesterday helping José install floor covering in his new flat, followed by far too much delicious pizza and fries for dinner. I got a lot of sleep last night, but my thighs were still tender this morning. It took 20km or more just to work out the cramps and stiffness.
With the thighs back in action (if not entirely fresh), the ride up to Hamura was routine. I wanted to get in 100km without making too much effort, and to be home before the forecast rain in the evening. Nana hadn’t prepared rice to make onigiri, so I was left to my own devices (i.e., convenience stores) for lunch and snacks.
With those caveats in mind, the progression up to Hamura went without a hitch. There’s a rough bit of pavement in a dip just 2km from the end, and I went over that with an unexpected *crack!* which may or may not have had something to do with events yet to come.
Following my convenience store lunch at Hamura, I messaged Nana I was on the way home. But I got no more than half-dozen kilometers before there was a loud *pop!* followed by a bit of fish-tailing. I brought Kuroko to a halt and assessed the damage: there was a flat, and it didn’t look like the sealant was going to fix things.
I got Kuroko off the cycle path to assess the damage. There was a large tear in the tread, leaving a flap of tread separated from the tire casing. I pulled at what I thought was a some foreign matter, only to discover it was a shred torn from the casing.
It was pretty clear the from the extent of the damage that the sealant couldn’t be expected to patch the leak. But I gave it a try anyway, pumping air into the tire while swirling the sealant around the affected area. No dice.
OK, this is why I carry tire irons and an innertube (in addition to spare sealant and tubeless plugs). I quickly had the wheel off the bike (good thing I made sure I could get the wheel off after the Di2 upgrade) and removed the tire. After making sure there was nothing still sticking into the tread (glass, wire, etc.), I mopped up the remaining sealant and set about inserting an innertube.
The innertube went in easily enough (although with all the sealant leaking everywhere, there was a lot of dirt and gravel trying to get in along with the innertube), and I was soon inflating the tire. There were a few satsifying *pops!* as the tire seated back on the rim.
This mechanical is just getting started
At that point I should have just been able to put the wheel back in the frame, with a bit of wrestling to make sure the chain was taking the proper route around the cogs and the rear disc was nestled in the caliper. Instead, the wheel went in far too easily, and kept going right past the mark!
What the … ? That’s never happened before. I pulled the wheel out and had a look, and then another look: The end cap was missing from the drive side, and as a result the entire spindle was pushing out the non-drive side.
I quickly found the drive side end cap where it had fallen on the ground and pressed it back in place. That’s all it should take, really. But I spent the next 20 minutes or so wrestling to get the wheel back into the frame, with the chain around the cogs, the disc in between the pads in the caliper, and both end caps in place between the rear dropouts. I’ve never had an end cap pop off before and now it just wouldn’t stay in place.
Finally, after lots of swearing and many repeated tries, it all came together again. But what a hassle! If you look at the last couple of photos in the gallery above, you might spot more than a few greasy handprints on the rear tire and the bike frame itself. I was carrying tissues, but no alcohol wipes, and the tissues did little to clean up my greasy hands.
At last, with the wheel back in the bike, I took a few deep breaths and mounted up again.
The innertube held despite the large gash in the tread. (The casing was still largely intact.) I was still going a bit gingerly, as I was concerned there was some damage to the hub and I worried the innertube might not hold. Plus my thighs were really setting up a howl of protest to the abuse they’d been taking for two days in a row. When I got going fast on smooth pavement, I could feel a bump … bump … bump, which I assumed was the flap of torn tread and nothing else.
I’d planned on returning via Futako Tamagawa, the same course as I’d set out on in the morning, but a consultation with the Garmin showed I could take the shortcut home from Komae and still get in my 100km goal. On the plus side, I’d shave off about 5km from the total and get home that much sooner, before the tire gave up or the hub came apart. On the minus side, I’d be in heavier traffic, so any issues might expose me to a greater risk.
It wasn’t really a choice. I stopped briefly at a park in Komae, had a Snickers bar, and messaged Nana that I’d be home within the hour.
I happy to report there were no further issues on the way home. I didn’t press it on the final downhill as I was still worried about the tire coming apart. Nevertheless I reached 40km/h without trying.
The flat took me less than 20 minutes to fix, but with the hub issue the total repair added 40 minutes to the total ride time. I did beat the rain — apart from a few sprinkles in the morning with the sun shining and a couple more as I neared home. I wasn’t expecting to make good time overall, and the total elapsed time of nearly 7 hours for the ride is something of an anti-record. But a moving time of 5 hours 3 minutes netted a respectable 20.6km/h. I’ve done better on this route, but I’ve also done considerably worse.
I got home a good 17 minutes before the time I’d given Nana to expect me, and took my time parking Kuroko and gathering up the various bits and bobs before getting the elevator up to the flat. Once home, I spent a good amount of time washing all the dirty grease off my hands before attempting anything else, and then relaxed in the bath for half an hour. When I emerged, Nana took one look at me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was fine, just dead. Very, very dead.
We were shocked to wake up yesterday to non-stop tsunami warnings on the television, with a prominent “Run!” heading flashing over affected areas. But it soon became evident there was no danger for us here in Tokyo, and even the most-threatened areas of the Japan homeland would be facing nothing like the 2011 tsunami. We were soon holding our breath for news from Tonga — and in that we’re still waiting. What little we know is not encouraging, and we hope the world will join New Zealand soon in sending help to the small island nation.
But with no immediate threat and no way effective way to lend immediate assistance, there was nothing but cold weather to stop me having a nice ride on a very clear and fairly windless day. I quickly suited up in tights, heat tech undershirt and two winter jerseys, winter socks and gloves, face mask, bandana and shoe covers. I was loaded for bear.
I’d been dithering since early morning over the route, but in the end I decided I wanted an easy ride but with some distance: a metric century.
Google had led me to expect 1C at the start of the ride, but the Garmin put it at a more optimistic 4C. I could feel a bit of chill on my thighs through the tights, and ditto my fingers in the winter gloves, but was otherwise warm right off the bat. Once I started moving and burning some energy, I didn’t have any more trouble with the cold. The city traffic was as usual, apart from a long line of cars waiting to park at the department store at Futako, and I was soon taking a brief break at my usual spot at Nishigawara Park on my way up the Tamagawa.
Fruity, with hints of masochism
Between the new saddle and the thin chamois of my Pearly Zoomie tights, my backside has not been having an easy time on rides lately. From Nishigawara I usually like to continue on 15km to Persimmon Park, and typically I have no trouble apart from a bit of finger numbness near the end. This time I was shifting my butt around, trying to get a comfortable position, as well as taking my hands off the bars from time to time to shake out my fingers. I resolved to buy some persimmons from the eponymous vending machine by the park, only to find when I arrived that it was mikan that were now on offer.
Even better! I dropped my ¥100 coin and picked the largest mikan I could find. I posted the photo on Instagram and to some friends in chat, and quickly had their replies: “They look delicious!” and “They’re so big!”
It was already after 11 and I was feeling quite hungry. I didn’t want to start on the mikan and end up all sticky, so I decided I would be OK to continue on and eat when I reached Hamura. I estimated I would get there about noon or shortly thereafter, and I’d be in better shape than I was in December when I rode to Disneyland and didn’t eat until after 1 p.m.
And that’s how it worked out. After the break my bum was feeling a bit more accustomed to the saddle and I continued making good time. I got behind a family when emerging from a park about 4-5km from the goal, and resolved to bide my time through an underpass and then up a ramp leading to a cherry tree-lined path. At the top of the ramp the father — last rider in the group — failed to negotiate the bollards and came to an abrupt stop after touching a pedal, nearly toppling over backwards in the process. I was close behind, but quickly stopped, balancing on my pedals, and then passed by through the adjacent bollards. Soon after that, I was at the convenience store, stocking up on hot pork buns for my lunch. (Nana had failed to make rice, and so no onigiri for my ride.)
I reached Hamura with my pork buns slightly after noon. It didn’t take me long to finish eating, and then it was a balance between resting my tired body with the desire to get home before it become too dark. It was 12:30 when I struck out for home.
Into the wind
As is often the case, I’d assumed on my way upstream there was no wind. I soon realized my error on the return downstream. The wind wasn’t impossible, but it took a gear or two out of my pace — with the occasional gust demanding another gear or two downwards. I knew I could make it back to PersimmonMikan Park before needing a break, but my tush was telling me otherwise.
From there it was a similar distance back to my usual break stop — the one with the dry fountain, and the last rest before Futako. I was fighting into the wind again, and soon I was dealing with a headache and cramping neck muscles in addition to my sore hands and bum. I realized I was hunching my shoulders against the wind and pulling my head in turtlewise. I made an effort to square my shoulders, straighten my neck and rest my hands on the tops of the handlebars, increasing my wind resistance but relaxing my entire body.
It helped. The other bit that helped was my decision to bypass Futako on my way home, diverting at Komae into the city on a more direct route. It would shave about 5km from my ride, but from my calculations I’d still clear 100km for the day.
After Komae, the first couple of kilometers brought me even more directly into the wind. But as I was in traffic, I was naturally riding a bit slower and more upright regardless. I was tired, but the headache was easing. The more upright seating seems to suit the saddle also, and the pain in the tuchis dropped down a notch.
I had the Garmin set to show my route (which I knew well) rather than my stats, to prevent me checking it often while I should be looking out for traffic. But it was still beeping to let me know each time I completed another 5km. My spidey-sense was primed for the beep for 95km from the moment I passed the crossing that I knew was about 7km from home, and I was soon rewarded. At that point I relaxed a bit more, confident I’d reach 100km despite my shortcut.
At the next traffic light I knew I had about 6km to go. “So, about 20 minutes,” I told myself. I swiped the Garmin to check the stats. It was 2:52 p.m., so I was predicting I’d be home by 3:12. Somehow that seemed less realistic than saying I’d cover 6km in 20 minutes. I can do that without issue — on the flat, without traffic lights. And definitely without train crossings, I reminded myself as I was soon cooling my heels as I waited for a commuter train to clear the station and crossing.
I had the Garmin back on the map so I wouldn’t be racing the clock home. It was just as well as a driver wanted to play cat-and-mouse at 30km/h, only for me to catch him at the next light and replay it. I was happy for him to speed through a changing yellow while I braked to wait.
At last I was speeding downhill by Central Park towards the finish. The light at the bottom of the hill was green, for a change, and I only had to work my way around a large delivery van that had pulled almost fully into my lane from a cross street before I reached home.
I pressed the stop button on the Garmin and messaged Nana I was back. I hadn’t made my 20 minutes, but I was well ahead of the 3:30 I had told her I’d be home.
Six hours and change total elapsed time isn’t bad for a century, and the Garmin put my riding time at 4 hours 50 minutes, for a moving average of 21.2km/h. So despite my bellyaching about the wind and the saddle, I’d made quite good time overall.
The forecast was perfect for riding yesterday, and José had agreed to meet at Futako at 8. But I got a message from him at 3 a.m. saying he might not be able to get up in time. I was up at 5:30 but took my time getting ready to ride, and let Nana sleep in. Finally I got a text from José at 6:30 saying he was up and could ride. I replied that we could meet at 8:30, and I woke up Nana so she could get busy making onigiri.
As I was mounting up to depart, I got a shock: I’d neglected to charge up the Garmin. It was at 46% battery, making it rather iffy for lasting through the ride. I knew I wouldn’t need the navigation, but did want to record my kilometers. I took out my phone and fired up the Strava app just in case, and then set out for Futako. I arrived about 8:15, and I only had to wait about 6 minutes for José to make his appearance.
We’d set a goal of returning home by 2 p.m., which limited our destinations. After a hasty conference we decided on Hamura. We set off upstream with me occasionally glancing over my shoulder to make sure the Kid was still with me, particularly after I’d cleared clumps of joggers or slower-moving cyclists. Finally, with less than 2km to go before we reached our first rest point, I realized the person I was seeing over my shoulder wasn’t José. I stopped and looked back, and about 30 seconds later he appeared. I mounted up again and we were once more on our way.
At our first stop, José asked if I was riding faster than usual. I’d checked my speed a couple of times, and it was on the higher end of what I typically go in the absence of a tailwind or long downhill stretch, but no more than that. The truth was the Kid’s three hours of sleep just weren’t enough. He had some caffeine and sugar in the form of a black coffee and a café au lait from the park vending machine and that helped a lot as he had no further difficulty keeping up with me for the remainder of the ride.
Quite the mechanical
We continued to make good time up the river. There was a slight crosswind, but nothing to keep us back. Meanwhile, Fujisan was a constant companion off to our left.
Just a few kilometers before Hamura, and with a group of riders following us through a switchback, I felt my right-hand grip wobble. As I came out of the switchback and began accelerating and shifting, I confirmed it: The right-hand lever was working loose from the handlebar. If it came off that would make things dicey. As it was, I continued on while shifting my hand up onto the bars to avoid putting more pressure on the lever.
Nana had given us two onigiri each — delicious asarionigiri — and José had already finished both, while I had one in reserve. That wasn’t enough for lunch, so we stopped after a couple of kilometers at a convenience store to supplement our goodies. And there I peeled back the hood on the loose lever while José tightened it using the multitool.
We reached Hamura just before 11. We’d continued making good time on the road, but we’d taken our time at the rest stops on the way. Mindful that we wanted to be home by 2, we ate up and rested just a few minutes before setting off downriver.
The wind was still across the path on the way back, but a bit more from the front at times. I felt I was lagging compared to my earlier pace, but when I checked the Garmin (would the battery hold out?) I was still setting a stiff pace.
We reached the Keiokaku Velodrome about 12:40 and I heard the Garmin beep. It was asking if it should go into battery saving mode. I tapped the checkmark to OK it, and the display shut off.
At this point we still had 10km to reach Futako, putting our goal of 1 p.m. (in order to get home by 2) in doubt. We filled our water bottles and soldiered on. My thighs were starting to ache. I was doing OK, but after each small climb on the way it would take me a bit longer to get back up to speed. Meanwhile the Garmin continued to register the 5km splits.
José and I parted ways at Rte 246. I didn’t note the time (it was about 1:16, according to the faithful Garmin), but continued on into Futako. When I reached the top of the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, I stopped for another rest at a tiny park there and messaged Nana. It was 1:26, and I told her I’d be home about 2:30-3. I set out once again for home, really feeling the effort in my thighs. But I did manage to clear the next light, which almost never happens.
With a hair over 5km remaining in my ride, the Garmin beeped twice but the screen did not light up. “That’s it,” I thought. “Good thing I’ve got the Strava running.” But at the next light I tapped the screen and it lit up. The beeps had been Nana messaging me that she was off to the sauna. And then with just 1km remaining it happened again: a single beep, but no screen image. I ignored it as I turned for the sweeping downhill past Central Park. I made the light at the bottom (again, that rarely happens) and pulled into the tower’s plaza to dismount.
I immediately hit the save button the Garmin, and it woke up and saved the ride. It even transferred the route to my phone. I checked and it showed 5% battery remaining.
Meanwhile, the beep I’d heard in the last kilometer was José messaging me that he’d arrived safely home, at 2:08. I replied I was home as well, as of 2:12. In the end we hadn’t missed our goal by much despite the half-hour delay in setting out in the morning.
I’d done nearly 108km in 6h35m, which is not bad overall. The Garmin put my moving time at 4h55m, for a 21.9km/h average. That’s just less than my fastest time for this route: I’d averaged 22.1km/h in June 2017, on Ol’ Paint, with a total elapsed time of 6h11m.
Paint vs delivery trucks
There’s not much else to note about the ride except for the delivery trucks parking in the bike lanes. Over the past 7 years or so, Tokyo has painted blue chevrons along the side of many roads to indicate bike lanes, and in some cases a full meter-wide stripe of blue paint — with accompanying markings. Naturally, it’s still legal to park (or at least stand for up to 5 minutes) where these lanes are marked. A couple of times stood out on my way home from Futako as delivery trucks passed me just to put on their signal and pull over to park in front of me. In one case the truck had barely cleared Kuroko’s front wheel when he put the signal on and pulled over.
I had a day off work and so I decided to give Otarumi Touge a try. When I told Nana, she said, “Alone?” Why not? I’ve done it alone several times.
Anyway, I dawdled around this morning and didn’t get ready until nearly 10. Then when I took Kuroko off the parking rack, the rear tire felt a bit soft. I checked it and it wasn’t just soft — it was completely deflated. I quickly topped it up with the new Panaracer pump, and I noticed a bit of sealant seeping around the rim, near the valve. With luck, that will have sealed up whatever leak there was.
It’s Friday and there was a lot of traffic in the morning. It took me far longer to get down to the Tamagawa than expected. At the second rest stop of the day, after eating some onigiri, I checked the time and took stock. At my current pace I wouldn’t make Takaosan Guchi before 1 p.m. Add an hour to climb the mountain and then descend it, and I’d be getting home about 6 p.m. — well after dark and well into Nana worry territory.
Facing this reality, I did the only logical thing and copped out. Instead of turning off the Tamagawa for the Asakawa and hence Otarumi Touge, I would just continue along the Tamagawa to Hamura. If I found I was running too late, I could turn around at any point.
I benefited from a tailwind all the way up the Tamagawa. I didn’t really press my advantage: just continued at a good, steady pace. Since I’d already eaten all the onigiri, I stopped at a convenience store a few kilometers short of Hamura and loaded up on carbohydrates. Soon I was wheeling into Hamura in the shadow of the Tamagawa Bros, and I stopped to enjoy my goodies.
I’d dressed in the morning for the 6C weather I’d be setting out in. As the temperature rose to 15 during the morning, I grew more hot and sweaty. But now, sitting in the shade and wind as I ate, I grew quite chilly. It helped to motivate me to get back on the bike and head for home. I let Nana know I was heading back and I set out.
You can benefit from a tailwind for 30km and not really appreciate it, but the moment you turn back into the wind, you know it. I had roughly 30km to fight back into the wind before leaving the river course and heading back into city traffic. I put my head down and concentrated on spinning the pedals, no matter how much I had to downshift or how slowly I was actually progressing. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was maintaining a hair under 20km/h average.
As I neared the end of the river course, a construction worker on a bike entered the course from the side of the path without checking if the way was clear, “Hey hey!” I shouted to stop him cutting me off. “Hey hey!” he mimicked back, sarcastically. I ignored him and kept pedaling. At that moment the headwind picked up and my speed dropped. After a minute or so, the construction worker passed me — electric bike. I was glad he didn’t try to hassle with me. After another minute the wind dropped off, and I passed him again. That was the last I saw of him. After another couple of kilometers, I turned off the path and back into city traffic.
At the last rest stop of the day (with luck!) I checked my progress. I’d done 82km and had 15km to go — just shy of 100km. I decided to see how close I was to 100 when I got home, and how I felt. With that, it was back into traffic and homewards. There are a couple of small hills on the way, just 2% or so, but after more than 80km they feel much steeper. My knee was aching at this point as well, but I just put the bike into progressively lower gears and continued to spin. I put both climbs behind me and continued on my way home.
A little shy
When I got near home I checked the GPS. I would be at about 97km if I went straight to the door. A lap around our block would be about 2km so I needed a bit more. I continued on towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, did a lap around Central Park, and then returned home and did a lap around our block (taking me to Nakano Sakaue and then down Yamate Dori). That did the trick, pushing me nicely over 100km for the day.
I contacted the Halfakid last week to let him know I’d be biking on Saturday, and he responded that he and Kare no Tomo were planning on riding the length of the Tamagawa cycling course. We arranged to meet at Futako Tamagawa at 8 a.m.
The day dawned clear and cold, at -2C with some wind. I set out with a bag full of Nana’s world-famous onigiri just after 7 a.m. for the meet-up. I stopped briefly at the office to take care of something I’d forgotten on Friday. I messaged the Halfakid as I left the office, and saw a message from him that they were running about 10 minutes late. Perfect.
I was glad that our meeting place was in bright sunshine. With my black jacket, tights and shoes, I spent a few minutes warming in the sun while I waited.
The Halfakid showed up soon enough with Tomo in tow and asked to borrow my tire pump, and he topped up his tires as she looked on. We spent just a couple of minutes discussing which way to set out and then we were off, headed upstream and into the wind with me in the lead, followed closely by Tomo and the Halfakid bringing up the rear.
When we got to Tamasuido Bridge I was looking to see if we could proceed straight onto the bridge. But construction had narrowed the path to the point that two cycles would have difficulty passing each other, so instead we turned and went under the bridge, coming back to it from the opposite side. Soon we were across (after stopping in the middle to enjoy the view of Fujisan). Tomo missed a turn and I back-tracked to find them. The Halfakid (who is as familiar with the route as I am) had caught up to her and they were coming back to meet me. From there it was one traffic light and another turn and then we were having our first break at Nishigawara Park.
Everyone was happy with the pace, so we set out again with Persimmon Park as our next stopping point. With a continuing strong headwind, our pace held at a steady 20-21km/h. We passed through a group of runners practicing along the course, probably a high school track team. At Persimmon Park I broke out the onigiri, and Tomo (who had skipped breakfast), pronounced them delicious.
It remained a struggle in the final 15km upstream to Hamura, with occasional glimpses of Fujisan between the buildings, trees and mountains across the Tamagawa from us. We didn’t encounter too many other bikers or pedestrians — perhaps the cold and wind was keeping others from the path. I gave a hand signal to my followers to warn them of the tree roots pushing up through the paved path, and then we descended to the gravel pathway through the park that had been closed for more than a year following typhoon damage. Nice to have it open again, and the gravel is smoother than it’s ever been.
Hamura was sunny, but the wind was bitingly cold. We arrived on the dot of 11, which is early — not because we were making good time, but because we’d set out earlier than usual. We sat in the sun (I usually choose the shade here) for warmth and wolfed down the remaining onigiri. No one wanted to wait any longer in the cold, so we turned around and started back downstream.
At last, some help from the wind
As soon as we turned around, the wind started helping us. We’d been making 20-21km/h on the way upstream, and were now easily going 25-30. I was able to sit up to take pressure off my hands and let the wind push against my back. The cold remained, though, and as soon as we got back to Persimmon Park I got a hot café au lait from the vending machine there.
We returned to Nishigawara Park at 1 p.m. As we were resting I set out the next steps: cross over Tamasuido Bridge once again into Kanagawa, and from there it’s 7-8km to Futako. Another 3-4km after Futako is a resting place with benches and kawazuzakara (although it’s still too early for blossoms). When I returned from the restroom, though, Tomo said she’d had enough. We rode together back to Futako and there said our farewells for the day.
I continued alone downstream, and kept on past the kawazuzakura rest point. The wind became very changeable: it was with me at times, and other times I was riding into it for stretches of multiple kilometers. My power was flagging, to the point where when faced with the choice between waiting at a light or passing under it via a switchback, I decided to wait rather than climb up the opposite side of the switchback.
At Rokugodote, I left the path for a nearby convenience store, where I bought some much-needed food and a bottle of hot ocha. The last time I’d stopped here it had been on the way home from Yokohama with the Halfakid in 30C-plus weather, and I’d lain down in the parking lot behind the bicycle stands out of exhaustion. (Note to owners: place could really use a couple of benches.)
Thus refreshed, I continued on my way downstream to Haneda. I encountered more traffic here — cyclists and pedestrians — than I had all day, but still not as much as would be on a typically sunny weekend. I finally reached Haneda at 2:30 p.m. I usually stop here for a rest and lunch, but as I’d just topped up in Rokugodote, this time I just got my photo and started back upstream.
The final grind
The wind remained mixed on the way back upstream. My goal was to get home about 5, before it got too dark, and I seemed to be ahead of that. I was comparing my pace, though, to the time I usually make when I just ride to Haneda and back. Obviously, I wasn’t making the same time now. I got to Futagobashi and joined the throngs of cyclists and pedestrians crossing the river in Futako. The narrow sidewalk was densely crowded and I nearly got into a jam. A hard application of the brakes and some quick footwork got me through.
I wondered if I would have the energy for the half-kilometer climb out of the Tamagawa valley. I did, but only after dropping to my lowest-of-the-low gears. I checked the time, drank some water, and messaged Nana that I would be home about 5 — feeling pretty confident that I would beat that estimate yet. I turned on the lights, stashed my sunglasses, and set off for the final 12km home.
It was getting fairly dark by the time I reached Kannana, with about 5km to go. I took a shortcut after that, through some denser pedestrian traffic but avoiding a bit of up-down on Inokashira Ave. With 3km to go I was struggling, but visions of a hot bath and a cold beer propelled me forward. The final sweeping downhill past Central Park sped me the last few hundred meters and I was home. I saved my ride on the Garmin, took off my gloves, helmet and glasses and put on my mask. Then I messaged Nana I was home: 4:48 p.m.
It was a great ride, and I was exhausted. The bike behaved beautifully. The new stem meant no neck and shoulder fatigue (which was good as I had a stiff neck all day from sleeping in a bad position), and the tubeless tires were perfect, with no sign of air leakage.
Strava reminds me I last did this ride on 27 Jan. 2019, two years ago, together with the Halfakid. On that occasion I managed a slightly better pace, with six minutes less riding time despite somehow also clocking in an additional 3km. I’ve done the same route prior to that as well, but in the summer when the days are both longer and warmer.
The Halfakid was supposed to join me today for my first ride in more than a month (not counting a commute last Friday), but he had a tummy bug. Our last ride together was to Yokohama in the heat of August, when I was nearly overcome in the 30C+ temperatures. All through September we had rainy weekends (or the forecast of rain, even if it didn’t materialize in the end).
The forecast for today had been for a high of 26C, with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon. When I checked it again this morning, the chance of rain had risen to 40%. That and the Halfakid’s cancellation would have given me an excuse to drop out, but I was itching for a ride after the one-month hiatus. Besides, Nana had already whipped up a batch of her world-famous onigiri. So I pumped up the tires, put the wheels and bags on the bike, and set out optimistically at 9 a.m.
I made very good time down to Futako, keeping an average pace of 22km/h and elapsed time of 45 minutes. I was a bit concerned I was using up all my power at the beginning of a day-long ride, but I felt fine. I was soon on the Tamagawa river, enjoying the bunches of spider lilies springing up here and there along the path. I kept up the pace through to the first rest stop at the 20km mark. While I drank some water and enjoyed the cool of the park, I pinched the tires to see if they were holding air. All good.
On the river course again, I was keeping an eye on the speed (perhaps too frequently), trying to keep it above the 22km/h average. I soon encountered a marathon in progress, and so scolded myself to keep an eye on the runners (and pedestrians) on the path rather than on the GPS. I was making good time though and skipped one of my regular break spots, putting in another 16km to reach a small but shaded park on a side street. It was just 11 a.m. when I arrived, so I helped myself to a couple of onigiri.
After that point, the going was a bit more rough. The pavement deteriorates and there’s more “road furniture” — bollards and gates designed to keep scooters off the path. One positive note was that the path had reopened where it dips under a bridge that had been damaged a year ago in Typhoon Hagibis. Seeing that made me wonder about another spot, several kilometers further along, where the path crosses a tiny branch of the river on a pedestrian bridge that has been closed since Hagibis. Nope: still closed.
It was only a short bit of backtracking from there to the detour, which I know well by now. But my average speed had fallen below 22.0km/h, and it slowly dropped further after that as the pavement quality steadily worsened. (I’ve been riding this route about 11 years now, and this section has always been bad. Long stretches of it have not been repaired once during that time.) But there were even more spider lilies everywhere I looked.
Hamura — right where I left it
I reached the end of the path at Hamura just after noon, and sat down to eat the remaining two onigiri. I’d been playing cat-and-mouse with a couple of young, fitter riders since the last rest stop, and I was surprised to see them ride in after me. I hadn’t noticed when I’d overtaken them again. After finishing my lunch and topping up my water bottles, I left Hamura ahead of them and didn’t see them again on the way back.
Puttin’ the pedal(s) down
On the way back, I was eager to try to get the average speed back up to 22km/h — I was at 21.6 and with 53km under my belt, it would take some concerted effort to budge that (at least upwards). I was making good time overall and watching the needle creep upwards, but I didn’t let that prevent me from stopping to snap a few flowers along the way.
As I zipped along, I sensed that the limit for improving my average would be Nishigawara Park — the same park where I stopped in the morning and took the photo with the water fountain. Soon after that I would cross a bridge into Kanagawa, then continue another 8km to Futakotamagawa before crossing another bridge back into Tokyo. I knew I wouldn’t make as good time during this part of the course. And then once I was back in Futako, I would be in traffic again. I was pleased to see as I came to Nishigawara that I’d reached 21.9km/h. (Strava subsequently informed me I’d posted a couple of personal bests for this section of the ride.)
Across the bridge, I found the cycling course had reopened where it had been closed for the construction of an emergency water reservoir. I happily returned to the former course even though it added to the distance. (It avoids a dangerous spot riding alongside traffic where the road narrows.) From there I tried to keep the speed up, but fatigue was clearly setting in and I was dodging more pedestrians.
By the time I reached the bridge back into Tokyo, I’d done 100km (at a satisfying 4 hours 40 minutes) and my average speed was 21.5km/h. I knew I wouldn’t make much change in that on the way home — particularly on the short but intense climb out of the Tamagawa valley, with a brief section topping a 16% gradient. I made it, but took a long breather when I reached the top.
It was just after 3 p.m. at this point, and I knew it would be about 50 minutes to get home. So I messaged Nana that I would be home about 4:15 (leaving myself some breathing space). I turned on my lights as it was getting dark and threatening rain, mounted up and continued on my way, keeping up the usual pace except in the few brief climbs along the way, where it was clear my thighs were completely shot.
The ride home was uneventful, and I beat the rain home. (Not sure if it rained after all — once I’m in the tower condo, I have to make an effort to see if it’s raining.) In the end I did 106km at 21.5km/h in just under 5 hours (just under 7 hours total elapsed time). My fastest speed of the day was 52km/h on the downhill into Futako in the morning, where I tucked in and put the pedals down to see how I could do.
(lack of) Mechanicals
The ride was pleasingly free of mechanical issues, which was good given that I didn’t have the usual minitool with me. (It was in Dionysus’s bag and I decided to tempt fate by being too lazy to fetch it before the ride.) There was still a bit of squealing from the front disc brake despite my having changed the pads, and yes, I did seat the new pads first thing this morning. It may be time for a new brake disc.
The only other area of concern was whether the tires would hold air for the entire ride. I had Kuroko in the Workshop in the Sky for the entire month of September, and most days I pumped up the tires twice per day (morning and evening) and swirled them around to try to seal up the weeping sidewalls. I had a couple of promising days where the pressure would still be at 20psi after 12 or 24 hours of rest, but then it would fall back again to 15psi.
As recently as yesterday, when I pumped up the tires to 60psi, a number of latex bubbles appeared in the sidewalls. And this morning when I pumped them up again, I was starting from 15psi. It was looking as if I hadn’t made any progress in the entire month of twice-daily inflating-and-swirling exercise. So I’m happy to report that during today’s ride the tires remained firm the entire time (which is a significant improvement over what I saw during the Kasumigaura ride) and I didn’t have to stop and refill them.
One thing is sure: I will not be scrubbing these sidewalls when I clean the bike. I don’t want to take off whatever latex blob has filled a pinhole in the sidewall.
I was off to a late start this morning as I waited for Nana to wake up, but mostly I was watching the weather and hoping for the temperature to come up a bit. It was just 2C when I first checked, and when I finally set off about 9:20 a.m., it had risen to 6C.
For a while it seemed my fears were unfounded, as I was hot and sweating quite a bit by the time I reached Futako at 10. Soon after, though, a large black cloud blanketed the sky. It looked like I was in for quite a rain, but that never materialized. The temperature, though — at least as I was experiencing it in the fierce wind — plummeted.
I’d carefully checked the wind forecast before leaving home, and saw a mild 2-4m/s. It seems that someone forgot to inform 風神, though. As soon as I reached Tamagawa I was battered by headwinds, and my average speed soon dropped below my target of 20km/h.
I didn’t let the conditions bother me, though (so long as it didn’t rain!). My goal for the day wasn’t to set any personal bests but just to complete 100km. This is a distance I reach on a regular basis, but hadn’t done so yet this year. I was content to push on even at a reduced speed, as long as I was making reasonable progress.
Spring is in the air?
Signs of spring were everywhere, despite the chilling wind: from children playing with soap bubbles in the park to buds on a cherry tree.
There were several detours along the way, including a couple left over from last year’s typhoon. In the case of one, a major bridge is being rebuilt, and the usual path passes right underneath. Another has no such major construction going on, but it may require some major repair work regardless. In addition to the typhoon reconstruction, there was a new detour around some riparian works.
After 10 or more kilometers upstream along the river, the wind tapered off (or perhaps just changed direction to become a tailwind), and I was soon making good progress despite the detours. I took a brief rest at the 20km mark and ate a Snickers bar, and then at the 36km mark for an onigiri (a store-bought one — alas, Nana did not make any rice before going to bed last night).
In the final stretch towards the goal, I was treated to the sight of the early-blooming Kawazuzakura.
The cycling course had been full of picnicking families, little league baseball teams and joggers. When I got to Hamura, though, the park was nearly empty. There were just a couple of other cyclists in addition to me. As I enjoyed my lunch of convenience store onigiri, an older couple strolled in to enjoy a picnic lunch.
I ate quickly. With the cloudy sky and the wind, I was chilling off from the moment I had stopped pedaling. I took just a few moments to enjoy the view of the river before mounting up for the return trip.
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
On the return I was making good progress, although I continued to battle the wind at points. My winter gloves and tights — good quality Pearl Izumi wear — aren’t padded quite as well as their summer counterparts, and I was taking more frequent breaks to relieve the pressure on my hands. I noticed a couple of small blisters on the heal of my thumb. In addition, the pressure of my weight on the saddle forced me to take more rest stops as the Perineum Falcon took its toll.
Again it was a case of not setting records but continuing towards the goal as I fought off headwinds and numbing fatigue. As I approaching Futako once more, I decided to try a steeper route up out of the river valley, despite my fatigue, as a test of the lower gearing I’d spent so much time and effort to achieve. As I struggled up the 16% grade, I confirmed I’d succeeded in making an easier time for myself with Kuroko’s modifications.
At the top of the rise I rested and checked the time. I’d told Nana I would be home by 4, and I was just a bit behind that schedule. I messaged that I would be home by 4:30 and set out through the city traffic. Despite the fact I was coming up on 100km for the day, I was not far off my typical commuting pace for the end of the ride. I pulled up beside our tower at 4:11 and messaged Nana that I was home.
According to the GPS, as expected, I had not set any records for the day. But I hadn’t done badly, either. I’d beat my target of 20km/h and gotten home well before the sunset.