Tama-Iruma-Arakawa

Barrier on cycle path with signs giving details of construction work

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.

bicycle leaning on hedge with fountain in background
First rest

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.

Irumagawa

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.

Detour ahead

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.

Ka-chunk!

Bicycle leaning against barrier on cycle path
Ka-chunk!

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.

Rice paddies and mountains
Rice paddies and mountains

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.

Bicycle leaning on sign for Arakawa cycling course
My ol’ pal Arakawa

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.

GPS record of cycling route
Tama-Iruma-Arakawa

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.

Kanreki ride

Selfie of two cyclists in front of statue of Tamagawa Brothers

It’s been nearly a month since my last ride with the Halfakid. I had a week off while he was working, and then I was traveling with Nana two weekends in a row. Meanwhile, the Kid had his second vaccine and was ready to flex his wings. We huddled over the plans for this weekend, and he readily agreed to the Three Rivers Ride.

I’d last done this ride a month ago, and I did a pretty aggressive time: 5h49m moving time and 7h15m total elapsed time. In my few goes round this route, I’ve always left the Iruma river course and cut through traffic to Kawagoe old town. This time I decided to stay on the Iruma course as it rounds Kawagoe to the north and east, and finally joins up with the Arakawa. It would add a few kilometers to the overall ride, but spare me 15km or so of riding in traffic.

Still life with cycles and fountain
Still life with cycles and fountain

The Kid agreed to meet in Futako at 8 a.m. and we lost no time heading up the Tamagawa cycling course. We arrived in Hamura, the end of the course, at 10, less than three hours after I’d left home. We were making good time, but paused here to wolf down some of Nana’s world-famous onigiri.

Cycles leaning against railing with river in background
Hamura
Selfie of two cyclists in front of statue of Tamagawa Brothers
Two-shot with Tamagawa Bros

Into traffic

From Hamura we turned into traffic as we entered Saitama and traveled overland to meet up with the Iruma river course. I’d warned the Halfakid in dire terms about the condition of the pavement on a 5km downhill, where we’d hit a rough spot in the middle of a shaded corner at speeds of up to 50km/h. The moment came and went and the Kid told me he’d expected much worse from my description. Meanwhile, the cars trying to pass us as we were doing 50 in a 40 zone presented a much greater safety challenge.

Faff

As soon as we passed beyond the course I’d previously ridden, we got into a bit of bad navigation (courtesy of your humble narrator, and a very liberal definition of “cycling course”). Considering the amount of terra incognita, though, we did not spend a lot of time searching around for the right way to go. A bit further on, we encountered construction, but we soon routed around it. The Garmin fortunately updated quickly, and finally guided us back to the path just as the construction ended.

Not long after that, we came round the northwest corner of the course where the Iruma river joins the Arakawa. I was back on familiar footing. We paused for a brief rest with water and cheese before continuing.

The wind!

The wind had been against us all day, almost as if the gods had bet against us, but never in a very aggressive way. I’d told the Halfakid that I’ve never had a favourable wind on this upper reach of the Arakawa, and today was no exception. It was gentle enough for the first handful of kilometers, but didn’t disappoint in the final 10km. At our final rest about 6km before we left the river course, the Halfakid ate the final onigiri and we continued onward with our energy refreshed and the wind much abated.

I remarked that I felt as if I was really sucking, the wind holding me back, and the Halfakid replied that our time was about normal. Garmin trumps perception. We weren’t making bad time overall, but the wind was making a slog of it.

Two cycles in front of the Arakawa river course sign
The now-famous sign

When we reached the familiar sign, we hurried on to the nearest convenience store to recharge with Snickers bars and a fresh bottle of water.

Selfie of cyclist in manga jerset
Alcohol may have been involved

From the Arakawa back home was neither faster nor slower than normal (although it felt slower as I was tired). My right thigh was cramping, but I ignored it and pedaled onwards. The Halfakid was provoking me by laughing about my new jersey, as he had been all day, in a good-natured way. I’ve been the source of enough embarrassment in his life that he’s quite inured to it by now.

I missed the final turn to our tower and spent a couple of minutes faffing about back streets. The tower is the tallest thing around and so hard to miss, but few of the streets lead directly to it. At last I pulled up outside our building, just a few minutes before I’d promised Nana I’d be home.

The shadows were lengthening and the Kid had another 30km to go before home. He set off double-time, and got there after just another 1h20m, quite a good time in traffic. I’d done 135km for the day and was exhausted, but he’d made a century of it at just over 161km.

GPS record of cycle ride
Kanreki ride

I’ll be 60 tomorrow. That’s the meaning of “kanreki” — 60th birthday. I’m apparently not dead yet. Compared with the very similar ride a month ago (when I’d passed through Kawagoe’s old town), this route was an additional 9km. The riding time was nearly 30 minutes longer, while the total elapsed time was an additional hour. That works out: the average speed based on moving time for both rides was identical, while we’d easily spent an additional half hour today in rest breaks and faff.