Return of the Furry Onigiri

Onigiri wrapped in kombu with a bite taken out, showing umeboshi center

Typhoon 11 kept us guessing about the weather right up to the last moment. José and I finally agreed at 7:40 a.m. to ride. José wanted to start out with an easy one as it’s been five months since he’s been on his bike, and we settled on Haneda even though I’d just been there two weekends ago.

When Nana heard that José was coming along for the ride, she prepared some konbu onigiri, because she knows he likes them. Thus laden, I brought Kuroko up to street level to await José’s arrival. In doing so, I noticed the front tire had gone soft again, even though I’d just pumped it up an hour previously. And so I was reinflating the tire when José arrived.

The ride went smoothly overall. I was expecting it to remain overcast all day and so didn’t use any sunscreen (but I did have my UV mask and sleeves). I should know not to trust the forecast (and also keep in mind that I can burn even under full cloud cover).

José was taking it easy, hanging back enough that at times he’d get caught by a traffic signal that I’d passed through. He’d always catch up with me by the next light. When we got to Futako I joked that the last time I’d kicked his ass this badly was when he’d been riding a bike with seized wheel bearings.

Once on the river, José picked up the pace so that he was always just over my shoulder when I looked — except when I was beating my way up a switchback. When we stopped to drink some water, José realized he hadn’t washed out his bottle since his last ride, and in fact there was still water in it. He quickly emptied it in the drain and rinsed it before filling it again.

We had a bit of crosswind as we continued, a few puddles, and more than a few pedestrians and cyclists who weren’t being careful how they shared the path.

Surprise on arrival

The shrine at Haneda was just where we’d left it, but José immediately spotted an addition: a miniature shrine complete with a memorial post, torii (sheltering its own, even smaller torii), and Buddha in a pebble garden. After getting our snapshots, we retired to the shade to polish off the onigiri. We dawdled more than necessary in the park — we were making good time while riding, but weren’t racing the clock overall.

Onigiri wrapped in kombu with a bite taken out, showing umeboshi center
Return of the Furry Onigiri

On the way home we had some crosswind again, and possibly some help from a tailwind. When the path allowed it, José rode beside me and we chatted as we cycled along. As we approached Futako I told him I’d been thinking of riding back via the St. Antonio climb — which takes us abruptly up out of the Tamagawa valley at a gradient touching on 16% — but I wasn’t feeling it now, with 50km under my belt. José replied he wasn’t feeling the need for any climbing at all.

But when we reached our usual climb, a more moderate 4-5% over a slightly longer stretch, he rocketed ahead to wait for me at the top. His time was within seconds of my personal record for the climb (although more than 20 seconds off his own PR), while I dawdled along and arrived more than half a minute later. We had another relaxing pause at the park at the top of the climb and ate the ice cream I’d bought from a convenience store at the foot of the hill.

Steady on

I checked the time and let Nana know I’d be home in an hour, give or take. José seemed reluctant to mount up again, but we were soon back in traffic. There was enough traffic now that we had to wait two light cycles in Yoga as a few cars dribbled through, turning left, during each cycle. Again, José was lagging behind between lights, knowing he would catch up with me at the next red. I warned him at one light that I was going to sprint to make the next light on time, and he was there with me.

We split up at the corner of Central Park, and he continued on his way as I turned downhill towards home, arriving a good 10 minutes before I’d told Nana I would.

GPS record of cycle route
Return of the Furry Onigiri


In addition to the leaky front tire, the rear brake continues to squeal. It’s annoying enough that José suggested we stop at a bike shop to have it looked at. Instead, I’ve brought Kuroko home and up to the Workshop in the Sky, where I can try to sort her out next weekend (with rain in the forecast).

Meanwhile, I passed another milestone on the ride, unawares:

Screenshot of distance tile with legend Kuroko (Bombtrack) 12,007.4km
We’ve been together four years and 12,000km

Twice in a row?

Azaleas surrounding Japanese temple building

Following a tempest of rain Friday night, Saturday dawned bright and clear. It looked like a great day for a ride (and my only chance this weekend), so I quickly prepped Kuroko, fresh off not one but two days of maintenance, and set out.

I wasn’t up for a lengthy jaunt, but I did want to try something new. Every year at this season a friend posts photos from Tōgaku-in, the azalea temple in Kawasaki. It’s not even 5km from Futako Tamagawa, where I join the Tamagawa cycling course when I ride, so I had plotted the route for the Garmie.

I’m still getting used to having the handlebars raised on Kuroko, and it took me a few kilometers to get over the feeling I was riding too high and didn’t have control. Once I adjusted, I was riding with confidence again. Soon I was rolling across Futagobashi and then I briefly stopped to select the course for Tōgaku-in on the Garmie.

A sadist’s idea of a cycling course

It’s pretty straightforward from Futako to Tōgaku-in, but the roads are narrow and heavily trafficked, with intersections every couple of hundred meters. The course passes by two train stations, a railroad crossing and the ward office.

The temple was worth the fight in traffic. I was probably about a week late to see the best of the azaleas, but it was still a very nice addition to the day’s ride. After spending a few minutes to enjoy the sights, I mounted up again and set off back to the river.

Into the wind

The moment I got to the river I was riding into the wind. It was quite a stiff breeze. I didn’t fight it too hard, but just slowed my pace a bit. I was still making better progress than most of the riders I encountered.

The cycling course was rather crowded. It seemed that every Tokyoite who hadn’t gone to Hawaii for Golden Week was out strolling on the course, with one or two toddlers zig-zagging across the path of oncoming cyclists.

I was getting hungry, so when I stopped at the usual rest spot about 11km from the end, I ate half my lunch before continuing on my way.

Pigeon perched on bicycle handlebar under tree
Unexpected lunchtime visitor

In addition to the wind, I knew I’d encounter some puddles following the previous night’s rain. I was not disappointed in this, but they were smaller than I expected. I’d been seeing flooded baseball fields and driving ranges for more than 10km, so I was expecting the worst.

I pressed on into the wind, dodging toddlers and other cyclists, until I arrived at Haneda. I’d been noticing some odd vibration the last few kilometers, so after finishing my lunch I checked the rear wheel for trueness. It was nice and straight. I shrugged my shoulders and mounted up for the ride home, after letting Nana know I was on the way.

Don’t overlook the obvious

It was easier going on the way back upriver, with the wind behind me for the most part. The vibration continued, and after a few kilometers it started getting more noticeable. I realized it went away when I wasn’t pedaling — was something wrong with the drivetrain?

Finally, with the vibration getting rapidly worse with each passing meter, it dawned on me: the rear tire was running low. In fact it was nearly flat. I quickly stopped at the side of the path and pumped the tire up again. I gave it a couple of turns, making sure there were no punctures and I couldn’t hear any air leaking, and then mounted up again. But I hadn’t gone more that 50m when the tire was flat again.

I was less than 1km from my first lunch spot (where the pigeon was perched on my handlebar), where I could sit in the shade as I worked on the tire. So rather than risk damaging the rim on a flat tire, I walked the bike until I’d reached the spot.

I removed the wheel, thinking I’d have to put in the innertube (I’m glad I remembered to pack it after having removed it from the other wheel!). But before going through that bother, I tried once again to pump up the tire as it was. And it seemed to be holding this time. I did the latex dance, swirling the sealant around inside the tire so that it would coat everything. I bounced the wheel repeatedly on the ground and checked the bead to make sure it was seated everywhere.

In all I spent about 5 minutes making sure the tire was holding pressure. And it was. At last I replaced the wheel in the bike, glad that I didn’t have any trouble with the hub falling apart as it had on the previous occasion. I mounted up and was off again, riding with the wind, and no odd vibrations. Each time I went over a curb or hit a seam in the pavement, I felt a reassuring jolt that let me know the tire was holding pressure.

Bicycle leaning against azaleas
Kuroko among the azaleas

I reached the little park at the top of the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, the last rest stop on the way home. I gave the rear tire a pinch and decided to add a bit more air. Then I noted the time — with the walk of nearly 1km and the time spent sorting out the tire, it was later than I’d expected. I messaged Nana that I would be home about 3:15 and set off. I had no further issues aside from the usual traffic, and rolled up to a stop at our tower just before 3.

GPS record of cycling route
Twice in a row?

With the time spent walking and fixing the flat, the average speed suffered. Based on the moving time of 3 hours 58 minutes, the average moving speed was a bit better at 18.4km/h.

The Garmie behaved throughout the ride, not dropping any segments. The regularly updated weather information confirmed what I was experiencing with the wind. And the legend it shows me when I’m on a road without a name (very common in Japan) always amuses me.

Finally, yesterday’s ride netted me Garmin’s Golden Week Badge for 2022. And I’ve just given Kuroko’s tire a pinch this morning (Sunday), and it’s holding up well.

Koi nobori "rising carp" with 2022 legend
Golden Week Badge

Wind and Construction

Selfie of biker with Japanese shrine torii

Nana and I had plans for the afternoon, so I set out for Haneda with the goal of returning within four hours. I’ve done this run in less than four hours on several occasions in the past, but it’s not easy. It depends as much on discipline in keeping the breaks short and luck with traffic lights as it does on pedal power.

When I set out just after 9 a.m. it was cold and clear … and windy. I didn’t push the pace hard through the city traffic but right from the start I was feeling a bit weak. I resolved to keep on and not worry for the time being about making it in four hours. Before long I was hitting pockets of construction, watching for the signals of the flag and baton wavers. On one particularly narrow street I got caught behind a couple of trucks carrying construction materials, but I was soon able to leave them behind as they waited a turn at an intersection.

I left my legs in Shizuoka

I got down to Tamagawa in pretty good time, all things considered, and set out downstream. The wind was very changeable: at times coming from ahead or behind, but mostly from the side. I soon discovered I didn’t have any power in my legs. What low hills and switchbacks constitute climbs on this course were taking the wind out of my sails. It’s been six days since the Hamaichi ride, but my thighs felt as if it was just yesterday and they were still recovering.

There was more construction on the Tamagawa cycling course. In addition to the detours I noted on my last Haneda ride at the end of December, there was a length of a couple of hundred meters where the path had been torn up and left as just a gravel trail. Apparently they’re paving a couple of hundred meters at a time (probably working overnight). Fortunately, Kuroko is very rideable in gravel.

On schedule

Despite the wind, construction and lack of legs, I arrived at Haneda just 1 hour 48 minutes after setting out. And that included a rest stop during which I’d devoured one of Nana’s world-famous mentaiko onigiri. With the goal of four hours still in play, I quickly wolfed down the remaining onigiri and some water, and set out homewards.

Upstream, into the wind

The wind which had bedeviled me on the way downstream was now unabashedly in my face. I found myself dropping a gear, and then another. I’d intentionally set my Garmin to show the map so I wouldn’t focus on stats, but I was dying of curiosity to see what kind of progress I was making. It felt like I was just crawling along. I was very surprised to see a 5km segment drop in less than 15 minutes (meaning I was averaging more than 20km/h).

I took a break at my usual spot just long enough to drink some water, catch up on messages, and work out the numbness in my fingers. I wasn’t eager to head back in the wind, but I wanted to see if I could still make my sub-four hour goal. 風神 was doing his best, at times as strong as we’d encountered during our first few kilometers at Hamanako, but I just tucked my head down and kept grinding. Big shout-out to the half-dozen or so riders who passed me like I was standing still, as if the wind were nothing to them. This includes the guy on a chari standing upright on the pedals.

Back at Futaka — finally! — I dropped to my lowest gear on the modest climb out of the Tamagawa valley (further evidence of my absent legs, as I’m usually a gear or two up from this). It was about 12:15 when I reached the park at the top of the hill. I sipped some water and messaged Nana that I would be home by 1:30. In truth I was wondering if it was possible I’d make it home by 1:05 — the golden four-hour mark.

No reprieve

I’d been hoping for a rest from the wind once I got out of the river valley, but in this I was sadly disappointed. I had a headwind the entire ride home, and at times it was substantial. Taken together with my lack of thighs on the few remaining bumps — and more construction, including a new detour I hadn’t encountered in the morning — I was certain I was not going to make my goal.

I resolutely kept the GPS on the navigation map so I wouldn’t be checking my stats at every chance, or taking chances as a result of seeing the data. As it was, I needed all my concentration for the traffic. Just shy of halfway from the river to home, there was a sudden long queue of traffic, resulting in a sequence of missed traffic lights. I was doomed!

My resolve finally broke when I was waiting at a light just 3km from home. It was 12:52 — I was still in the game! Making 3km in 13 minutes is by no means a given in traffic, and my thighs were now completely spent. When the light changed I crawled up the scant rise following, and was gratified to clear a metro bus before it left its stop.

From there on I had excellent luck with the lights, making a string of greens in a row where I usually stop and wait at light after light. I made the turn at Central Park just before the light changed, then sped downhill. The light midway down the hill changed as I was approaching, and ditto the light at the major crossing at the bottom of the hill. Moments later I rolled to a stop outside our tower and hit the save button on the Garmin. I messaged Nana that I was home, and I took my time getting Kuroko down the ramp into the parking garage.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Wind and Construction

I’d made it! 3 hours 55 minutes total elapsed time. Based on a moving time of 3 hours 11 minutes 50 seconds, I had an average moving speed of 20.0km/h. No one is more shocked than I to see that figure, as I’d felt all day long as if I was crawling on a treadmill towards a jet blast of wind.

The bell doesn’t toll for thee

Kuroko was perfect through the day’s trial. The only mechanical was a loose bell. The lever was rotating further and further from my reach with each ring, until at last I gave up and just shouted a warning when it was needed. I kept meaning to adjust it each time I had a break, but of course I forgot at each break.

Record for forgetting planned maintenance at the next break: 100%

Guy Jean

I took care of it after I got home. It took a few tries to find the right hex size on the multitool, and to guide that into the screw on the bell. But I didn’t mind as I’d already stopped the clock. I gave it a few experimental rings and then gathered up my bottles and wallet and chapstick, etc., and headed for the elevator.

Shifty character

Now that I’ve got the Di2 shifters and the wireless hook-up with the Garmin, I can see my shifting stats after each ride. Exciting!

Compared to last week at Hamanako, with all the climbing, I shifted the front chainrings a lot less. (I only shift to the small one when there’s some serious climbing in store.) Curious now why I shifted the rear more, given the shorter ride distance. One explanation could be the time spent in traffic, where I shift down X number of gears at each stop.

Achievement Unlocked!

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

After a hiatus of two weeks, I braved the cold yesterday with a brief jaunt down the Tamagawa.

I had three goals in mind for the day’s ride:

  • Don’t set any records
  • Have fun while getting some kilometers under the tires
  • Avoid freezing my fruits off

The first one was a near thing. Thanks in part to what was probably a stiff tailwind, I made good time from Maruko Bridge down to the Otorii for a 2nd place on my personal best time.

The last point was never in question. Although it was very chilly on the Workshop in the Sky before I set off, it was about 5C with hardly any wind when Kuroko and I emerged from the elevator at the ground floor. I’d only been riding in the sun for a couple of minutes before I was sweating in my double black winter jerseys, heat tech undershirt, black tights and winter socks.

As long as I remained in the sun and out of the wind, that was the case. Arriving at Futako, I unzipped the outer jersey more than half-way. But there were times in the shade or when I turned into the wind that I was glad for all the layers I was wearing.


With the dry winter weather and reduced traffic on the cycling course, I encountered a few “mawari dori” (detours) around construction — three or four at least. They were well marked but I did have to read some directions on the fly. On one, the path was separated between pedestrians and cyclists. Then on the next one, it was pedestrians and cyclists to the left, cars to the right. The sign for this latter one was partially blocked and I found myself in the car lane (the first character is the same for “car” and “bicycle”: 自). I was fine because there wasn’t any traffic, but when I got to the end I had to back-track a bit and get around a barrier to get back on the cycling course.

A quick break

I didn’t have any onigiri — Nana had asked the night before if she should prepare the rice, but I told her not to bother as I wasn’t sure I’d be riding. So I had a brief rest at Haneda before heading back up the river.

Bicycle parked near ice patch
I told you it was cold

I was immediately heading into the wind, expending a lot more effort to move than I had on the way downstream. I mentally shrugged and kept riding — it’s not as though I could get home by continuing downwind.

I’d only gone about 5km when my empty stomach announced itself:


It’s true I could struggle my way home on an empty stomach, but I’d be pretty miserable when I arrived: hungry, cold and exhausted. Instead I continued as far as my usual rest stop and then visited the nearby convenience store for a quick top-up. I might have added 30 minutes to my total ride time in this way, but the warm food in my stomach went a long way towards making the remaining ride enjoyable rather than a mere slog to get home.

At my final rest in a small park at the top of the climb out of the Tama river valley, I had a quick peek at the Garmin. The battery level for my electronic shifters hadn’t budged.

From there I made it home well before the 3 p.m. target I’d given Nana. The ride wasn’t very long, but my thighs were telling me they’d done a full day’s work. And I’d met all my goals for the ride. Strava even tells me I’m trending faster over this course, although I have no idea how that happened.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Achievement Unlocked!

A couple of more achievements: I’ve cycled more than 4,000km this year, and I’ve racked up more than 10,000km on Kuroko since new.


Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine

With heat, rain and typhoons, I’ve been off the bike for more than a month. The forecast for today looked good, so I asked the Halfakid to join me. He agreed to a short ride, so long as we could be back by 10, and that pretty much left Haneda as our only workable destination.

Atrophy begins at 60

When I first mounted up shortly after 6 this morning, my body said, “What is this thing between your legs?” Particularly surprising as it usually has no objections. I felt pressure at first in the same location I suffered a bad saddle sore in England, but after shifting my position everything was OK. Within a couple of kilometers I was back on form, although I was taking things pretty easy.

I arrived at Futako on the dot of 7 to find a message from the Halfakid saying he’d left home at 6:30. It typically takes him more than half an hour to reach Futako, but he arrived within three minutes, while I was still fiddling with my derailleur. His Strava record now shows a string of PRs for that portion of the ride.

We made a quick jaunt down to Haneda, although when we stopped for a rest along the way, neither of us was in a particular hurry to get moving again. The day was overcast but with no threat of rain, and the path was dry — at least until we reached a familiar point under a bridge:

After that we made good time, and I set a PR of 30km/h over a stretch of 2km as we approached Haneda.

Selfie of two cyclists in front of Haneda peace shrine
You two again?

We reached Haneda about 8 a.m. Often I’m just setting out at that time! After resting and chatting for about 20 minutes, we mounted up for the return ride.

Revenge of the puddle

I was a bit slower on the way back upstream and we fought a crosswind. The puddle was right where we’d left it — if anything deeper than it had been a month ago. The Halfakid took to the gravel to bypass the puddle this time.

After that we were fighting our way through gaggles of little leaguers who ignored our warning bells and shouts. Steady on — we got through them. We took another, even longer break, before continuing. Coming back into Futako, I could feel the aching of my thighs even before getting to the climb.

From Futako I got home without much incident. A couple of drivers cut me off, but I was watching for them.

About that derailleur

I was having trouble with a couple of mid-range gears first thing in the morning. The derailleur would keep jumping off one, and was making a bit of noise on the adjacent one. I’d just swapped out the wheels and I’d adjusted the derailleur as part of that, but evidently I’d not got it quite right. While waiting for the Halfakid at Futako I added in some tension via the barrel adjusters. That helped — the derailleur was staying in the selected gear, but it there was still some chattering on the mid-range gears, and shifts were a bit clumsy and noisy.

Finally, during a long straight stretch on the way home, I backed off the tension about one-quarter of a turn, and that sorted everything out. The gears were silent, the shifts crisp and quiet.

The tires held pressure the whole ride. I’d pumped them up before the start, the first time in the two weeks since I’d remounted the front, and in the meantime the front had held more pressure than the rear. Happy.

The only other sort-of mechanical thing was the food pouch I added yesterday. I put a water bottle in it today to give it a try. It held the bottle without any noticeable wobbling, but it didn’t make it any easier for me to drink on the fly than having the bottle in the regular bottle cage. Meanwhile, the pouch got in the way of riding on the tops, and one strap kept working up against the bell and muffling it. It did keep the bottle clean while I was splashing through the puddle, but apart from that it doesn’t really solve any problems while creating a couple more. I removed it at the end of the ride and it will go in the parts bin for now.


From Futako I’d messaged Nana that I would be home by 11. I rolled into the courtyard and messaged at 10:37 that I was home. I was starving and thirsty, my thighs and butt were aching, and my energy level was negative. After parking the bike, showering and wolfing down a lunch of fried rice (and after a lengthy chat with Fearless Leader Joe), I laid down for a nap and nearly didn’t get up again.

GPS record of bicycle ride

One before the thunderstorm

Selfie of two cyclists in helmets and masks in front of Japanese shrine torii

It’s rainy season in Japan, and more often than not there’s no chance to ride unless you’re willing to brave the elements. Today was a brief respite in the rain, but with a deadline: thunderstorms were in the forecast starting at 3 p.m.

I’d gone to sleep with a forecast of a small chance of rain only, so I was thinking perhaps we’d ride today to Takao-san or maybe — for a new destination — Enoshima.

Then I woke up this morning to this:

Rain-enshrouded cityscape
Not looking very sunny at 5 a.m.

Before I had a chance to check the forecast, I already had a message from the Halfakid: thunderstorms from 3 p.m. OK, with that deadline, Enoshima was out. Takao-san was doable, but iffy. The only safe bet, really, was Haneda.

Nana was up (with no more than the usual amount of prompting) not long after 6 a.m., rustling up a mess o’ onigiri, and I was on the road at 7 to meet the Halfakid at Nikotama at 8. The traffic was neither lighter nor heavier than usual, and I arrived on the river near the appointed time. By the time I’d taken a photo of my location and posted it to the Halfakid, he was there, waving at me from under the bridge. I donned my UV-block sleeves and he daubed on some sunscreen, and we set off down stream.

Ripping the Halfakid’s legs off

The Halfakid has taken up golfing in a big way, and as such hasn’t been on the bike since we did Shimanami Kaido. We made pretty good time downstream, despite the weeds growing over the cycling course, and at the first rest break he asked if we were making exceptionally good progress, or if he just was sucking. The truth was he was a bit slow on the uptake, accelerating from a stop or climbing what little hills there are along the way, but overall he was right behind me every time I checked over my shoulder.

We reached Haneda in good time and sat down to a feast of Nana’s world-famous onigiri. In the time it took me to relate to the Halfakid my upgrade plans for Kuroko, and to make my way through half my first onigiri, he’d finished off three.

Selfie of two cyclists in helmets and masks in front of Japanese shrine torii
Give us all your money

More of the same

The way back was just more of the same. The wind was a bit more mixed, and the long puddle across the path we’d encountered on the way down was even longer and deeper. The temperature was rising, but when I checked the time it wasn’t yet 11 a.m. This was all to the good, as we were racing not only the forecast for thundershowers but also the burgeoning heat.

We continued to make good time upstream, and it was still before 11 when I messaged Nana that I’d reached Nikotama and should be home before noon. I was feeling the heat by this time — it was already 32C, which is about my limit — but I made passable time on the way home, not pushing overly hard, and rolled up to the courtyard before 11:30.

GPS record of cycle ride
One before the thunderstorm

Still waiting

It’s early evening as I write this. Dinner is done and Nana is watching baseball on the television. There’s no sign yet of the forecast thunderstorms, or even of rain.

I don’t mind.

Meant to be longer

Red Japanese shrine torii under cloudly blue skies with river in foreground

I’ve been planning a ride down to Enoshima, which I don’t think I’ve ever visited, with a return via the Daibutsu at Kamakura and then Yokohama. In all about 135km (and some climbing). I estimate 9+ hours for the ride, and so planned to set out about 7:30 so I could be home by 5.

That was the plan. I was up in plenty of time to get going, and Nana had even awoken by herself to get the onigiri ready for the ride. But a stomach ailment kept me in the house for another 2 1/2 hours. As I set out just before 10 a.m., I knew I’d have to take a shorter ride today. I could also feel I didn’t have my usual energy, perhaps as a result of the tummy bug.

My new goal was down the Tamagawa to Haneda, and then to visit a park a bit upstream from Futako on the Kanagawa side that I haven’t seen in several years. Finally, home. That should have given me a ride of 85-90km.


Looking out the window of our flat, I wasn’t sure I would need my shades, or even sunblock. The moment I began riding, though, the sun came out strong and bright. The blue sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, so the sun was coming and going frequently.

When I got to the Tamagawa, the wind was rather strong. I wasn’t riding directly into it for most of the way, but it was slowing me a bit. That was the only thing slowing me down, apart from traffic. The river course is flat and my lack of energy wasn’t a real issue. I reached Haneda without any problems, and sat down to finish off all three of the onigiri that Nana had prepared for me.

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, shades and black mask in front of vermilion Japanese shrine torii
Haneda Peace Shrine (Former Anamori Inari Shrine)

Bicycle leaning against tree in rock garden
A place in the shade for eating onigiri


Not long before my stop for lunch and coincident with a stretch of direct headwind for a few kilometers, I felt cramping in both calves. I kept going and rode it out. After lunch, though my calves were fine, I had cramping in my thighs. It didn’t prevent me riding or even slow me down, but it added an unwelcome note of pain to the ride.

I made better time back upstream, with the wind more at my back, but by the time I reached Futako I’d given up the plan to visit the park further upstream. If I’d had a particular goal to reach before the end of the day, I could have ignored the pain and continued. As it was, I didn’t see any reason to prolong things. I crossed the river at Futako and took a short break at the top of the climb before continuing on home.

I made better time back through the city, sheltered from the wind and with the promise of a cold one waiting for me at home.

My dear Alphonse

I made mention of traffic: I’ve had some encounters recently. Last week on my commute home, I waited behind a line of cars at a traffic light and proceeded with them when the light turned green.

Just as I reached the intersection, a driver coming from the other direction turned right (Americans, think: turned left) just in front of me, forcing me to brake.

Oh no, after me!

Later that same ride, making pretty good speed on a four-lane boulevard, I saw a parked car ahead of me. I checked over my shoulder and there was a car there. I slowed and waited for him to pass and … he slowed and kept pace with me. A couple of seconds later he was beside me, still pacing me, but not moving fully into the next lane to give me room to pass the parked car. We both finally came to a stop a couple of meters from the parked car, and I gestured for the driver to go ahead, which he did (again, without moving fully into the adjacent lane). I realized he was expecting me to go around the parked car without checking for traffic (it happens a lot) and was preparing to brake when I cut him off.

As he passed, I saw he had a shoshinsha mark on the car, so he was a new driver. It looked like he was getting coaching from an older man in the passenger seat, so I think Papa was probably at fault this time. Overall, not really an example of the “after me” syndrome, but it stuck in my head.

The following morning, again on my commute, I moved out into the middle of the lane to go around a bus that had stopped to take on passengers. Just as I overtook the rear of the bus, the driver put on the turn signal and pulled out, cutting me off. He saw me and stopped after he’d already blocked my passage and I’d been forced to come to a stop to avoid a collision. Oh no, after me!

Professional drivers are supposed to be trained to watch for things like this.

This morning on my way down to the river, a driver of a large truck on a cross street waited for the van ahead of me to pass and then pulled across the intersection, forcing me to stop. Both the street I was on and the cross street he was following were narrow, and I had to wait a good 45 seconds or so for him to clear the intersection.

Just a few dozen meters further on, a car came out of a cross street just ahead of me, forcing me once again to brake. The driver turned onto the road I was riding, went a couple of dozen meters, and then came to a full stop while waiting for the next intersection to clear before turning right. Oh no, after me!

There were a few more examples like that today, and then there were the other cyclists. I was waiting for a light and then just as it changed, a woman on a mamachari tried to pass me on the right and turn left, cutting me off. I’d moved off the moment the light changed and so we both came to a stop in the middle of the intersection, narrowly avoiding collision.

A few kilometers further on, I had a similar encounter with two guys on bicycles. This time when the light changed, one shot past me on the left and another on the right, both nearly hitting me as I moved off. I overtook them both within a couple of dozen meters and left them for dead.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Meant to be longer

On a bright note, I managed to wear my UV cut mask the entire ride. The wind helped by keeping my glasses from fogging. It wasn’t too hot today. The real challenge will be to keep it on when the temperature is in the 30s.

One before the rain

Selfie of cyclist in mask, sunglasses and helmet with torii and flagpost, with flag and streamers flapping in wind

I’d planned to cycle at least 100km today, and perhaps go as far as 140. I was starting to get ready at 8 a.m. when Nana said, “You’re not going riding, are you? It’s going to rain.”


Well, I have plenty to do around the house. I relaxed for a bit and then started thinking about the housework.

Then around 10 a.m., Nana said, “According to Yahoo, it won’t rain until late afternoon or this evening.”


I decided to make it a short ride, and started getting ready. I chose Haneda for the destination, and the decided to travel light. No GoPro. Get out the door.

Well, maybe not that light …

After putting my smartphone and wallet in the cockpit bag and putting the water bottles in their cages, etc., I started wheeling Kuroko towards the elevators. And then I realized I’d forgotten the Garmin. That’s OK, I don’t need help with the navigation, and I can use the Strava app on my phone to track the ride.

The ride to the river was uneventful except for one driver on a one-way street who was a bit upset that I wouldn’t just pull over and let him pass. I could hear him revving his engine behind me, and then he honked. I didn’t let him bother me. Not long after his honking, we got into pedestrian traffic and parked vehicles on the road, and I was able to race ahead while Mr. Horny was stuck.

On the river, there was no wind at first and I made good time heading downstream. There were a lot of pedestrians out, and the little leaguers and tennis players on their bikes — returning home after the game or match — were riding three or four abreast and typically not looking where they were going. A couple of them got shirty when I called out for them to watch out.

After the first brief break for water, with about 10km to go to Haneda, the wind started picking up. It wasn’t bothering me for the most part: a crosswind that was probably coming more from behind than ahead. I was keeping up a good pace and watching out for children on scooters.

Bit of a breeze

By the time I got to Haneda, the wind was blowing pretty strongly…

Selfie of cyclist in mask, sunglasses and helmet with torii and flagpost, with flag and streamers flapping in wind
What wind?

Bicycle leaning against Covid warning sign underneath tree in park
Lunch spot in the shade

I made a quick lunch of two onigiri (store-bought; Nana had not made any rice) and was soon on my way back home. Heading upstream, at times I was fighting the crosswind and at times it was helping me along. I felt good and knew I was making pretty good time, so I was keeping my breaks short. I was thinking of an alternate route home: there’s another bridge just about 1km beyond Futagobashi that leads to a 16% climb out of the valley, which is good practice for me. (My usual climb is 4-6%.)

Reconsider that decision

I’d pumped my tires up to about 45psi before departing, compared to my usual 50-60psi. The ride was noticeably more comfortable — of course the tires can’t do a thing about the big breaks in the pavement, but they were smoothing over the smaller stuff. More importantly, there was no feeling that the tires were underinflated or getting squirmy under my weight.

That’s all to the good. The bad came about 1km before Futagobashi (the bridge where I usually cross the Tamagawa on my way home). Suddenly Kuroko was making a grinding, crunching noise. I immediately eased up my pace, and then went through my usual checklist. No noise when I wasn’t pedaling. The noise seemed to coincide with the cadence of my pedaling, not anything else. The noise was present whether I used the larger or smaller chainring.

Things were pointing to the bottom bracket bearings or a loose crank. Less likely to be mangled chainring teeth as the noise was occurring on both chainrings. Kuroko has had a bearing habit, when she was sporting the ill-advised FSA crankset. Since I switched to the Sugino (and the bearing size Kuroko had been designed for) things have been smooth sailing. Has Kuroko reverted to her old ways?

So, a change of plans: rather than challenge that 16% grade, I reverted to my usual route home. After crossing the Tamagawa and just before starting the climb, I stopped and gave the crankset a good manual check, pulling up and pushing down on each pedal. No sign of looseness that I could detect. I shrugged and mounted up again, and climbed the hill without a further sound (well, none from Kuroko).

At the top of the hill I took a break in my usual spot and messaged Nana that I would be home within an hour. I was still making good time, and if my little mechanical could hold its nose for a few minutes, I’d be home well before the time I’d given Nana.

The traffic was smoother on the way home, for the most part, and Kuroko was silent — for the most part. I could still hear a bit of ticking from time to time as I sped homewards, but nothing like the crunching I’d heard along the Tamagawa cycling course.

I got home a full half-hour before I’d predicted, and brought Kuroko up to the Workshop in the Sky. I’m going to have a look at everything when I get a chance: chain wear, cleaning and lube (if not worn), bearing wear, crankset tightness, chainring and sprocket tooth wear, even the saddle (which has recently developed a slight rocking). In the meantime, I can ride Dionysus to the office and back.

GPS record of bicycle ride
One before the rain

I knew that I would now

Bicycle, helmet and water bottles on and among decorative rocks in park

I didn’t go far today, just the usual run down to Haneda and back. The weather was really nice, with bright, hazy skies and not much wind. With such nice weather on a weekend, though, there were a lot of careless people out on the Tamagawa cycling course. I had to stay alert.

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, sunglasses and UV mask in front of Japanese shrine
Still life with mask and torii

I made the effort today to keep my mask on for most of the ride. This was more for the UV blocking than Covid protection. (It’s not really necessary to mask for that while riding as I don’t ride near other people.) I only had to lower it on occasion when my sunglasses would fog up, usually at a stop. On the other hand, it was only about 17C at most today. It will be a different proposition when it’s 30C this summer.

Purple and white blossoms against field of green leaves
Even our weeds are beautiful

I was making good time today and felt strong — certainly better than I have since coming down with pneumonia last month. Even the few short climbs on the way home didn’t phase me. I did have to come to a screeching halt when passing through a small shopping area and a young boy biking in the opposite direction wasn’t watching where he was going. I shouted out to him and he looked round at the last second. He braked hard and just bumped into my front tire. I tried to smile and said, “Eyes front, fellah.” His father (who had already passed me safely) called out an apology. No harm done, I’m glad to report.

GPS record of cycle ride
I knew that I would now

I didn’t have any mechanical trouble during the ride. I’ve been fighting with the front tire since returning from Shimanami Kaido. I’ve replaced the valve but it continued to leak, so I added more rim tape around the valve, and now I can’t get the tire to reseat. Rather than fiddle with it further today, I just pumped up the tire on my spare front wheel — the one with the dynamo hub that I used for Lejog. I recently put a new tire on this, the same make as my usual tires but with a bit of a knobby tread. So with that on the front on the usual slick on the rear, I had a semi-mullet set-up.

The tire with the tread makes a bit more road noise than the slick. I’m sure it is fractionally less efficient, and ditto the dynamo hub, which is also a bit heavier (but wasn’t under load today). But apart from the additional noise — just scarcely enough to be noticeable, honestly — I didn’t notice much difference. The slick tends to hunt over lines in the pavement (particularly ones parallel to the direction of travel), while the tire with tread doesn’t. I think my strength and well-being today overshadowed any minute loss of performance this set-up entails.

I’ve got kawazuzakura on a cloudy day

A bicycle leaning against one tree in a row of kawazuzakura trees

I don’t have a lot to say about today’s ride. I’ve been thinking about a new route that includes both Tamagawa and Arakawa. But the short version of that ride clocks in at 125km, and as Nana pointed out this morning, I should have got going before 9 a.m. if I’d planned to make that kind of distance.

So I set out with just “Tamagawa” as a destination, and along the way remembered I hadn’t seen the kawazuzakura yet this year. These are an early blooming variety of sakura, with dense, intensely pink clusters of petals. So I decided that was the first order of business.

I was making good time until I hit the river, and there I was heading into the wind. I just kept shifting down to keep my cadence up, rather than trying to power my way into the wind. I realized at this point I didn’t have my legs today, and similes involving the strength of kittens came to mind.

Masked biker selfie in front of row of kawazuzakura trees
Pink as you wanna be!

The kawazuzakura were in full bloom — in fact a bit past it, as the green leaves were vying with the pink blossoms. Some joggers and cyclists were stopping for photos, like me, but others were simply passing by. I should have come last week, when the skies were blue.

Masked biker selfie in front of Japanese shrine torii
Masks for peace

I continued fighting the wind all the way down the river to Haneda Peace Shrine. I’d set the GPS on navigation mode, so I wouldn’t be constantly checking it for stats, but I did sneak a peek now and again. I’d been making 16-18km/h into the wind, whereas I typically make 25-30km/h on this stretch. After grabbing the photo at the shrine, I had a lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri and then messaged her I was on my way home.

There’s not a lot to report about the ride home. The wind was more or less with me at this point and I was making much better time. At Futako I had a brief rest and ate the last onigiri. After consulting the time, I messaged Nana that I would be home by 2 p.m.

When I ride to and from Tamagawa or my office, I pass by Blue Lug, a bike shop specializing in custom and made-to-order bike builds. I was ahead of the schedule I’d given Nana at this point, so I decided to finally stop in and have a look. I was not disappointed: If they don’t have it (or can’t order it for you), it’s likely you don’t need it. I’ll make an effort in future to buy things through them rather than Amazon. And maybe I’ll stop in the café

Despite my brief stop for window-shopping, I still arrived home well before the time I’d given Nana. I messaged her that I was home and then walked Kuroko to her berth in the basement. Bath and beer awaited.

GPS record of cycle route
Non-suprising stats