Speedy Haneda ride

I’ve had a stuffy nose and raw throat the past few days, so I spent a couple of hours this morning debating whether I really wanted to ride today. In the end, the beautiful weather convinced me. It was still about 12 degrees while I was preparing to ride, but the temperature was warming and I took my jacket off before I even reached the river.

Biker and pedestrians on the cycling course under a tree
Beautiful day for it

I was fighting a crosswind on the way down the river, but I put my hands on the drops and pedaled on. I picked up a follower for the final 8km or so, but when I reached my destination he had disappeared.

Bicycle under a tree with helmet on a rock
Lunch spot in the shade

I reached Haneda just before noon, meaning I’d spent less than two hours getting there. I sat down to a meal of Nana’s world-famous onigiri and wondered if I’d be able to maintain the same pace on the return trip. Having started out at a leisurely pace, thinking that I might have a cold, I was now contemplating a sub-4 hour ride.

For the return upriver, the wind was a bit more on my side. The GPS was showing that I was averaging more than 22km/h, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep that up all the way home.

By the time I reached Futagobashi, the bridge across the Tamagawa river at Futako, I’d racked up 48km at an average of 22.6km/h. But crossing the bridge means dodging pedestrians, and the lane gets very narrow and tricky at the far end. Following that there’s a good climb up out of the river valley. When I reached the park at the top of the climb, I’d gone 50km and my average had dropped to 22.2km/h. The challenge then was to maintain that in the remaining 12km of urban riding to get home.

Inspired by the goal I’d set myself, I pushed harder whenever I had the chance, and begrudged the stretches of road where I had to be wary of cross traffic. I probably glanced at my GPS just a bit more than I should have been doing. And when I got caught behind a bus on the final stretch before home, I impatiently looked for an opportunity to pass it.

That chance finally came, and I flew down the last hill towards home. At the bottom of the hill I stopped the clock, and there it was: 22.2km/h.

By keeping up the pace, in the end I’d done 62km in 2 hours 48 minutes of riding. Furthermore, my total elapsed time was well under 4 hours at 3 hours 50 minutes. When I’d left home at 10 this morning I told Nana I’d be back between 2 and 3 p.m. She said, “Probably closer to 3, right?” I agreed. But in fact I was home just a whisker before 2.

GPS record of Haneda round trip ride
Haneda Round Trip in less than 3 hours

Really bright, fairly windy

Selfie of biker in helmet and shades in front of red torii

I had to fit my riding today in between a doctor’s visit in the morning (just a meds refill) and a dinner date in the evening. The Halfakid was unavailable — we’re looking at riding tomorrow but the weather may have other ideas. And Nana hadn’t made any onigiri. So I just rode down to Haneda and back, which has become my default ride.

Butterfly on a red spider lily
Butterfly on a red spider lily

Spider lily
Spider lily

Before I started the ride, Nana and I walked through Shinjuku’s Central Park, and we found some spider lilies. The weather was fair and the sun very bright, and this continued as I set out on my bike. I stopped at a convenience store for onigiri and then continued down the Tamagawa towards Haneda. I was making good time, but definitely fighting the wind. Then when I got to the picnic areas around Maruko Bashi, I had to contend with picnickers walking abreast on the path and ignoring my bell and warning shouts.

With my late start, it was noon when I reached the next rest stop. I had some water and a little snack and considered whether to go ahead and eat my lunch. But then I decided it was just another 10km to Haneda, and I would tough it out. After the next bend in the river, the wind let up a bit, and I arrived in Haneda less than half an hour later.

Tourist boat passing under bridge
Whistleblower

Tourist boat in front of Haneda Peace Shrine
Tourist boat in front of Haneda Peace Shrine

Just as I was sitting down to eat I heard a whistleblower — er, a boat horn — so I got up to investigate.

I rested about half an hour at Haneda, in the shade, and ate the onigiri and remaining snacks. As I was resting the sky clouded up, so I didn’t bother to put on my mask for the return trip.

On the way home the wind was often helping me, and so I picked up the pace. When I got to the climb at Futako I though I was going strong, but Strava did not give me a trophy so I must have done better on other occasions.

With the climb behind me I focused on improving my average speed, and I did get it up a couple of ticks as I worked my way through the traffic on the way home. (No one tell Nana how I ride to improve my speed in traffic … )

Route map of Tokyo-Haneda ride
Tokyo – Haneda solo

Mt Fuji in sunset and clouds
Surprise visitor

When I arrived home, after I had a shower, I discovered a surprise visitor out on the balcony.

Mechanicals

Following my recent time spent adjusting the derailleurs, shifting was butter-smooth, almost dreamy. I was very pleased with that. The front disc, on the other hand, has been squealing since the return from the Tour de Tohoko, so during my lunch break I adjusted the front caliper. Blessed silence after that.

The only concern now is the bottom bracket bearings. Yes, I just replaced them at the beginning of this month, and yes, they’re already making noise. I’ve done some research and discovered that when I changed the crankset it meant a reduction in bearing size from 7mm to 4mm. It’s a much stiffer spindle on the crankset, at 30mm, but the change in bearings may have been ill-advised. I’m weighing now whether to seek out other bearing providers (and they aren’t cheap), or to go to a different crankset with a 24mm spindle.

Hot, sweaty and flat

Two cyclists in front of Haneda Peace Shrine

We chose to ride to Haneda today, a short ride, because of the brutal heat and the fact I hadn’t verified everything was working OK with Kuroko. By the time I’d reached the Halfakid’s apartment, I knew that I had to tighten up some of the spokes in the rear wheel following the spoke replacement job. But aside from that and the rear derailleur needing some adjustment, Kuroko seems to be in good shape. I’ve got a replacement bottom bracket on order, but if it ain’t broke then I ain’t gonna fix it.

The Halfakid encountered a bit more pressing of a mechanical with a flat on the rear. I had a pump and he had a spare innertube and some tire levers, so it didn’t take us long to get back on the road.

Cyclist with bike upside-down, removing the rear wheelCyclist inserting innertube into bicycle wheel
Removing the wheel and inserting a new innertube

The flat gave us a good excuse to have a rest in the shade and drink some water. Despite the fact we’d loaded our water bottles with ice, just 45 minutes after leaving home the water was already warm. After sorting out the flat we stopped after another 5km to refill our bottles before continuing on the final stretch to Haneda. We were riding into the wind and we could both feel it fighting us. For a while the Halfakid let me slipstream him, and it made quite a difference.

Two cyclists in front of Haneda Peace Shrine
Haneda Peace Shrine in the brutal sunshine

At Haneda we sat in the shade to eat onigiri and drink cold water from a vending machine. According to my phone it was 35C, making it hotter than my last ride two weeks ago. This was precisely the reason we wanted to take it easy!

The ride home was hot and sweaty, but with the wind. The difference in speed was as much as 6-7km/h over the ride down into the wind. My rear derailleur was making more noise, but I judged it would get me home without trouble. We came to the climb out of the Tama River valley, 20m up at a bit more than 4%, and even the Halfakid said he was dying. But he was up the hill long before I was and waited for me in the little park at the top. From there the ride home in traffic was uneventful.

Haneda Round Trip route
Haneda Round Trip route

The peak temperature was not as high as my last ride, but the average was higher. The vertical drops in temperature indicate when we were sitting in the shade: to fix the flat tire and to have the onigiri.

Temperature profile
Stinking hot

Finally, Mr Gouty Toe was aching moderately all day. Not being gouty, but just reminding me that certain lifestyle choices have consequences.

Haneda half day

Kuroko with Kawazuzakura

I had a few constraints on my ride time today. First, Nana reminded me we’re having dinner at 5:30, and then the forecast called for rain in the afternoon despite it being a bright, sunny day. (There’s been no rain yet and the forecast has been revised.) So I decided on a quick jaunt down the Tama river to Haneda.

Nikuman, still hot
Nikuman, still hot

The weather really was clear and beautiful, with a bit of wind. There were a lot of children out playing little league baseball on the riverbanks. I lost count of the number of times a kid in a baseball uniform would swerve his bike right in front of me because he was busy watching the game down on the riverbank instead of where he was going. With the great weather, there was also a huge number of joggers and people out for a stroll and toddlers on pushbikes to watch out for on the path.

Nana hadn’t made rice last night, so instead of onigiri I stopped at a convenience store a few kilometers before the end of the river and bought a couple of nikuman and a Snickers.

Haneda Peace Shrine
Haneda Peace Shrine

Despite the obstacles, I made it to Haneda in less than two hours. It was warming up by this time and I was really sweating. I found a bit of shade to sit in while I ate the nikuman and sent photos to Nana.

Kuroko waits while I eat
Kuroko waits while I eat

On the ride back I had a tailwind, so I made better time. Say what you will about middle-aged men chasing lost youth, but I did several 4-minute miles today … The biggest challenge again was avoiding the strollers and weekend riders, as well as knots of people stopped with their bikes held right across the middle of the path. I even came across a large group of seniors walking behind a banner and massing across the path from side to side. I slowed to a crawl as I rang my bell and called out, “Excuse me, excuse me … ”

That’s just complaining, though, as it was a beautiful day and I really made good time, returning home less than four hours after setting out. The kawazuzakura blossoms are nearing their end, but it’s a couple of weeks yet before we’ll see the regular cherry blossoms. I could see the buds burgeoning on quite a few trees as I raced by. I’ll need to come back when they’re in bloom (and the path will be even more crowded).

Kuroko with Kawazuzakura
Kuroko with Kawazuzakura

Haneda half day
Haneda half day