Quick Disney before the rain

Selfie of two cyclists in helmets, masks and shades in front of Tokyo Disney Resort sign

I had to work Saturday to bring down the network for some electrical maintenance (and of course to bring it up again when the maintenance was done), and the weather was fine. The forecast for today had been for rain, so I thought the weekend was a wash. But since Friday afternoon, today’s forecast has been for rain in the afternoon. So I contacted José to see if he was available for a morning ride, and he said fine, so long as he was home by 2 p.m.

I said we’ll meet at 8 a.m. at Nihonbashi, meaning I’d leave at 7. I woke up this morning and poked Nana until she got up to make some of her world-famous onigiri, but I still didn’t have any acknowledgement from José before I left home. I finally got a thumb’s up from him when I was approaching the Imperial Palace. I sent him a photo from Sakurada so he would know I was near, and then from Nihonbashi at 7:48. Finally he replied about 7:58 that he was on the way.

Fortunately, he lives within a shout of Nihonbashi, and we were soon on our way to Tokyo Disney Resort.

A bridge too close

After the meet-up we continued east on Eitai Dori towards Arakawa and Tokyo Disney Resort. We stopped on the way at a convenience store so José could get a bottle of ocha for the ride and some breakfast, and I waited patiently while he enjoyed the sandwich and chocolate bar.

And then almost immediately we were climbing the bridge to cross the Arakawa. I started to realize I’d chosen almost too direct a route — I’d be lucky to get in 60km for the day, meaning 40km for José.

When we got into Kasai-Rinka park I missed the usual turning. We decided to continue on as I’ve been trying to work out a route through this portion that doesn’t have us tangling with major pedestrian traffic. Today was the jackpot: after a couple of brief cobbled sections were were back on course, and we’d gone around the lion’s share of the pedestrian traffic.

From there it was a cat-and-mouse game with a rider on an electric bike. We’d overtake him on the flats and then he’d outclimb us on the ramps up to the bridges over highways and the Kyu-Edo river.

We arrived quite early at Disneyland after a downwind blast down the Arakawa to Tokyo Bay. It was at this point I started to realize this was going to be a very short ride — I’d failed to consider I usually ride to Tokyo Disneyland by going north first to Arakawa, then down the riverside cycling course to the bridge. The direct route cut more than 20km off this roundabout way.

The next consideration was that we’d be reaching our usual lunch spot on the return before 10 a.m. I was hungry for the umeboshi onigiri Nana had made, but José had just had breakfast about 8:30. Would he be able to eat two onigiri by this point?

I needn’t have worried. We stopped at the usual convenience store and then the park, and José ploughed through his two konbu-encased onigiri long before I was finished.

Into the wind

When we got back to Arakawa we had a stiff headwind for the 2km or so we had to ride upriver. I was expecting this from the time we had been making on the downriver leg — you don’t really feel a tailwind unless it’s a gale, but we had been making very good time.

With lunch behind us, we crossed the Arakawa and continued west on Eitai Dori. We were mostly sheltered from the wind at this point, and the traffic was neither more nor less than expected. We continued to make good time.

We reached Nihonbashi at 10:37. I took off my jacket and bade José farewell, conscious that he’d be putting in far less than the 40km I’d originally projected for him. I continued on towards the Imperial Palace and Budokan, arriving at the latter about 11 a.m. after setting a personal record for the climb up Kundanzaka — due no doubt to my fresh condition after having ridden less than 40km to reach that spot.

I reached Budokan at 11 and messaged Nana I’d be home by 12. She replied she was just leaving for a hair appointment. I started off home and got mixed up with a taxi which raced ahead of me only to cut over two lanes at the next light to turn left, cutting me off. I avoided the taxi but was flustered enough to fail to recognize that was also my turn. I went along another block before turning and retracing my path.

Back on Shinjuku Avenue, I suddenly encountered a parade in Yotsuya. Bringing up the rear were the Highlanders — dozens of Japanese men in kilts playing the pipes. After overtaking them I was treated with the sounds and sights of multiple marching bands and twirling squads — all in the left-most lane that was my usual haunt. I had to keep one eye on the marchers and one on the traffic overtaking from behind as I continued on my way.

At Yotsuya 4-chome I decided to change tack and take a right turn. I’d been investigating various routes along this course and Google Maps had suggested this as an alternative to passing Shinjuku station at the south gate.

The alternative course brought me to Yasukuni avenue and hence to Shinjuku and Shinjuku station. It wasn’t really any less trafficked than my usual route through Shinjuku — in fact, there were more side streets where pedestrians or vehicles might suddenly leap in front of my path. And then once I’d passed the station, I got in the wrong lane and found myself turned back towards the station once again.

It was all easily sorted out, after waiting just an extra light or two. But the verdict was to continue using the route I’ve used until now, unless I find something better.

GPS record of cycle ride
Quick Disney before the rain

In the end, the forecast rain did not come before 5 p.m. Based on a moving time of 2 hours 37 minutes 29 seconds, I averaged 18.9km/h. Not a stunning speed, but I posted multiple PRs on the road from Shinjuku to the Imperial Palace in the morning, and then counterclockwise around the palace.

Glide, Switched

Bicycle with Tokyo Disney Resort sign in background

Apart from a quick spin around the block late yesterday afternoon, today was my first ride since upgrading Kuroko to electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes. And everything about today’s ride confirmed what I’d noticed during that brief jaunt. Shifting is effortless and flawless. Braking is very smooth, requiring very little force. And the Brooks saddle is still slippery and makes me feel a bit insecure as I slide around atop it.

It was a delight to start off up Yamate Dori and not have to think about trimming the derailleurs, just shifting to the gear I need. I soon learned that before each stop I just need to hold the downshift lever as I spin the pedals, and when I don’t feel any more shifting (there’s a small disturbance in the Force the chain with each shift), then I shift up once to end up in my favorite starting gear. The trouble-free experience allows me to focus more on traffic and the road in front of me.

Arakawa

When I reached the Arakawa I took a moment to adjust the saddle. It had been slightly nose-down, so that I was constantly pushing myself back up on the saddle. After raising up the nose a bit, the experience was much improved. I was still sliding around, but not constantly sliding towards the nose of the saddle. The pressure on my hands was greatly reduced.

I won’t have to worry about puddles today. It hasn’t rained in days and days …

Guy Jean

*snicker!*

Arakawa cycling course

There are still a few tidying-up chores to do following Kuroko’s upgrade, and one of those is to get the grommets back into the frame where the brake cable and front shifter wire enter and exit the downtube. I didn’t want to waste more time than I had already before setting off on the ride this morning, and I figured it wouldn’t be a problem as the roads were sure to be dry. The Arakawa had other ideas … I avoided the puddles where I could, and plowed on through where it was unavoidable. I saw several riders on expensive Italian bikes gingerly tip-toeing through the latter parts. I didn’t spray them with my rooster tail — not intentionally, anyway.

Detail of bicycle showing muddy splashes
Some splashing was unavoidable

Given my late start, I arrived at the mouth of the river about 12:20. The smart thing to have done would be to stop for lunch before continuing, but I didn’t want to interrupt the flow. I rode on and arrived at Tokyo Disney Resort about 1 p.m., and sat down for lunch (purchased from a handy convenience store) about 1:20. As can be imagined, I was ravenous!

Easy rider

After lunch I set off home at a more relaxed pace. I bobbled a couple of wickets on the ramp down from the bridge over the Arakawa, but apart from that had no issues. I knew I was behind schedule for my goal of returning home by 3 p.m., but I didn’t feel any real reason to rush. I was surprised after arriving home (at 3:15) to find I’d posted good time on this leg, including a couple of personal records.

Unadulterated pleasure

GPS record of cycle route
Glide, Switched

My first full ride experience following the upgrade matched my impressions from my short jaunt yesterday. Shifting was swift and effortless. Gear chatter was noticeable only by its absence — I managed to get a brief amount while shifting to the largest cog while climbing up a pedestrian overpass, less than a second all told. As I moved up and down the cogs I heard the reassuring “ZZzzzt- ZZzzzt!” of the front derailleur trimming to match the chain’s deflection.

The only bobbled shifts were rider error. I got a double-shift early in the day when a bump in the road just as I was shifting caused me to double-tap the lever. A bit later, flying down the Arakawa, my fingers had become numb, making it difficult to separate the upshift and downshift paddles from each other. Correcting for this — downshifting under load — was handled without fanfare. Likewise, if I got caught at an unexpected stop in a high gear, then downshifting as I started again was accomplished without any noise or protest.

The brakes were amazing. Fantastic. Superb. Can’t say enough good about how they silently went about their job, requiring much less effort than the cable-operated calipers I’ve been using for three years.

That leaves the saddle. After I corrected the tilt, things were much better, but I’m still sliding around quite a bit more than I’d like. I am holding out hope this will improve with age (and the shorts I was wearing today — Fearless Leader Joe’s favorites — have a very slick fabric). I may be tempted to speed the process with sandpaper or even a file if it doesn’t happen soon, though.

A big push!

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort sign

The day dawned clear and windy. Between the forecast for wind and some sneezing that started last night and continued this morning, I put off plans for a longer ride and decided to get out to the Arakawa and see which way the wind was blowing.

Fujisan capped with snow in pink early morning sunlight
Lovely start to the day

The ride in traffic to the Arakawa was uneventful. My thighs took some persuasion to get going, but were soon in their rhythm. The wind was gusting against me at times, so I just took it easy.

When I reached the Arakawa, the wind was very clearly blowing downriver. Well, OK! Downriver it is! I sped down the ramp from the top of the levee, splashed through some puddles and was on my way. And with the wind at my back (for the most part), I knew I was making good time without much effort.

Bicycle leaning against sign for Arakawa
Not tired of this

BFG

From the moment I hit the trail, a Big Friendly Giant was pushing me along. I racked up a 5km segment in 9m57s, and then another in 9m17s. Put together, that gave me 10km in 19m14s, for more than 31km/h average.

As the giant wind continued to push me along, I racked up some surprising numbers on Strava, including a 7.37km segment at 33.3km/h.

End of the line

Bicycle leaning against sign marking river mouth at Shinsuna
Back into the wind after this

In all, it took me 58 minutes to cover the 26.5km from my start on the Arakawa cycling road to the end at the Shinsuna River Station, averaging more than 27km/h for the run (including a brief rest stop). But after that I had to backtrack into the wind to the Kiyasunao Bridge to cross over the Arakawa to reach my true destination for the day.

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort sign
Kuroko goes to Disney

After snapping a quick picture for the blog, I made a leisurely pace getting back to the Kiyasunao Bridge, impelled forward only by my hunger. I reached the Seishincho North green space at 11:45 and promptly ate three of Nana’s world-famous onigiri.

Bicycle in front of ornate lamppost at Nihonbashi
Nihonbashi

Back across the bridge, I was in traffic on Eitai Avenue. The wind was gusty, but overall much abated from the giant’s hand that had pushed me down the river. I was thankful I wasn’t fighting my way back into the same wind that had propelled me to speeds of more than 40km/h on the flat!

I sent a photo from Nihonbashi to both Nana and Fearless Leader Joe. They both came back with the same response: You’re already in Nihonbashi? By the time FLJ’s response reached me, though, I was already sitting down outside Budokan for a final onigiri.

After finishing up the onigiri, I checked the time: 1:20. I messaged Nana that I’d be home by 2:30 and set off once more into traffic. I had to warm my thighs up again after the brief stop. I honestly didn’t know how long it would take to get home — I’ve always assumed about 45 minutes from Chidorigafuchi and have told Nana an hour. But as I rolled up to the tower and noted the time, I realized I’d done it in 30 minutes. (I’ll probably continue to give Nana an hour estimate, though.)

GPS record of cycle ride
A big push!

Garmin gave me a moving time of 3:20:58, for an average of 21.7km/h. Despite all the personal records set today, Strava reports my speed on this ride is trending downward. It’s certain that on other segments today I was taking it easy. My fastest time was in February 2019 when I averaged 24.3km/h in an even stronger wind and set a personal record for 40km of 1:24:35 (which I make to be 28.4km/h) in addition to a number of personal records on Strava segments along the Arakawa.

Today’s big push brought me a milestone: more than 10,000km on Kuroko since my first ride with her in July 2018. I know there are some who ride 10,000km in a single year, but I suspect most of them don’t have day jobs. At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.

Graphic showing 10,006km ridden on bicycle
Ten. Thousand. Kilometers.

Hot and still

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort fountain

Saturday was our last promised rain-free day for more than a week, so I was up early and on the road with a saddlebag full of onigiri. I wanted to be home in plenty of time for our dinner plans, but I was also feeling it wasn’t a day for big challenges.

It was nearly 24C when I set out at 8 a.m., with a promised high of 28-30. My goal for the day, apart from getting in some easy kilometers, was to keep my UV-block mask on. It was a windless day, so this immediately presented a challenge as my sunglasses began to fog up at each traffic light. I was fine when I was moving, but the moment I stopped it became a race between the cycle of lights and my breath clouding up my lenses.

Bicycle leaning against sign for Arakawa cycling course
My favorite Arakawa sign

I’m happy to report that I arrived at the Arakawa without incident. (I did pull my mask down at the lights where it was making a problem, but then pulled it up again before I began moving.) For the next hour, foggy lenses were the furthest thing from my mind as I spun my way 25km downstream. Without pushing myself, I was averaging 26-27km/h on the flat, broad pavement. That’s a good enough speed that I wondered if I had the wind at my back, but the tall grasses along the path were standing straight and still. I stopped once at my usual spot in the shade to rest my hands and drink some water.

There were lots of other bicyclists and runners on the path, and of course the baseball fields were overrun by little-leaguers, but I didn’t encounter any marathons, for a nice change.

Bicycle leaning against sign with river and bridge in background
Shinsuna, at the mouth of the bay

I arrived at Shinsuna at 10 a.m. and made a note of the time. I wanted to see how long it would take me to get from there to Disneyland and then back to the river. In November when Fearless Leader Joe accompanied me to this spot, I’d estimated an hour. We decided on that occasion not to continue on the Disney jaunt to ensure that FLJ could get back to Saitama before the sunset. On this ride, though, I knew I was well ahead of schedule.

Rickety-tickety

I’d been hearing a quiet ticking noise on my way down the river, and by the time I arrived at Shinsuna I’d figured it was time to check the spokes on the new rear wheel. I gave them all a squeeze and sure enough I located one that had quite a bit more give in it than all its neighbors. I gave it a few turns with the multitool and checked the wheel for roundness. It all seemed good, so I continued back to the bridge that takes me across the river and on towards Disneyland.

Bicycle in front of Tokyo Disney Resort fountain
I wanted to jump in
Bicycle leaning against tree in park
East of Eden

It was 10:30 when I arrived at Tokyo Disney Resort, and considerably hotter than it had been when I left home. I was also getting hungry. On my way back to a park by the river, I was hallucinating about the onigiri in my saddlebag. I took a shortcut back to the river and arrived at the park at 10:45. I tucked right in to the onigiri and finished all three in less than 15 minutes, putting me back on the road at 11 with just a few swallows of water left in my bottles.

Routine

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, sunglasses and mask with Nihonbashi decorative lamppost in background
Nihonbashi

Crossing the bridge back into Tokyo just brought me into traffic, and lots of it. It’s a long stretch on Eitai Dori but nothing really challenging. Some idiot in his BMW honked at me when I switched lanes to go around a parked car, after checking for traffic and making a hand signal — he had another full lane to go around me, but just wanted to demonstrate what a spoiled child he was. Nothing more of note happened as I continued on, first to Nihonbashi and then up Kudanzaka to Budokan.

Tayasumon Gate with construction barrier
Tayasumon Gate: Closed
Bicycle leaning against railing with Chidorigafuchi in background
Chidorigafuchi

At Chidorigafuchi I sipped the last of my water and posted the requisite pictures before continuing on my way. I arrived home just four and a half hours after having set out, hot and tired and ready for a shower and cold drink.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Hot and still