10 July 2009


Lately I was thinking about riding a cycling guide for the greater Kanto area. I thought about it, when I was in a train riding home and it seems to took forever. This is a commonly observed phenomena, in particular when one is travelling in the opposite direction of where one wants to go.

After changing the trains I thought if I would really by the appropriate person to write such a book? More doubts came yesterday.
The weather was as good as it can be during the rainy season and after arriving relatively late at Nakayama station I took the train out to Hachioji, this time in the right direction. After a few junk miles within Hachioji I found myself behind a Japanese rider with an ugly OAKLEY jersey who was going fast on the flat in direction Takaoguchi. He even rode free handed so I thought, if this is the competition it might be interesting to race up to Otarumi.

With fresh legs I stayed behind the guy and watched his leg muscles at work. They didn't seem sooooo impressive. And right, just when the road started to have a little bit of a slope he started to struggle at 25 km/hr, going slower to 23 km/hr. Strategically it is better to wait longer behind him until he is complete exhausted by my presence, but I felt confident enough to go ahead. So I accelerated to 30 km/hr, flew by and within seconds I had laid quite some distance between us.

Now the bad thing about doing this kind of manly, competitive riding is that if you do not have the self confidence that you are really, really superior, you are getting really, really worried and start to look over your shoulder, which is very, very uncool.

I am still lacking stamina and when my speed dropped to 15 km/hr at the higher part I got worried. But in the end I made it up in 14:25 min which is not such a bad time for me and which deserved a toge baka entry. Done.

I immediately descended on route 20 which was awful as usual and then took a turn at Fujino station in direction Wada, Tawa, Tsuru and Kobu. My plan at this point in time was to do a re-run of a terrible ride I did with Tom, Laurent and Nishibe during a time of extreme summer heat last year.

Last year the idea was to leisurely ride out to Ensan on Saturday, play with snowwhite at her bar, take a good nap and tackle Odarumi Toge the following day.

It was the idea of Tom to avoid some of the busy streets and add some more spice to the ride out, so that's why we went over Wada, Tawa, Tsuru und Imagawa Toge before arriving at the climb for Yanagizawa Toge. On which point I returned home, completely exhausted. I never went to Odarumi, something I still have to make up for.

Anyway, so I was planing to do Tawa and Tsuru first, also because David is constantly telling that this is such a nice ride. I have been there only in winter and my memories are somewhat different, so I wanted to check it out again.

So I was climbing up through the bloody golf course hills of Uenohara, a climb I doesn't like at all and then the landscape got nicer and I thought, "Hm, David is right after all". And then I arrived at Kobu Tunnel.

Which is very, very wrong, because this is the way to Kazahari Toge or the return to Itsukaichi. I have missed a crossing further down and I was pondering whether I should ride back or if I should just continue my trip but substitute Tawa and Tsuru with Kazahari. This would add some more climbing meters to the plan but would surely be the manly thing to do. So I went for this option and slowly I made my way up to Tomin no Mori.

Where I had a nice conversation with an elderly motorcycle rider who has ridden on his bike all the roads we want to go : Odarumi, Mikuni, 76 to Tanzawa-Ko, Kami Hikawa, Sasago ... we could exchange some information.

The ride down from Kazahari was perfect, on weekdays there is not that much traffic on the road and the road itself is now in perfect shape. It was easy to go beyond the magic 60 km/hr mark.

Then I continued along road 411 to climb up to Yanagizawa. And I arrived at the entrance to Matsuhime Toge. Again I have missed a turn and took the wrong road. Surely it was now time to abandon the original plan and return home either via Matsuhime or Ome. But I could not get used to the thought so I decided to climb up to Imagawa Toge and take the "shortcut" back to route 411.

Imagawa Toge is hard, especially if you have a speedy Otarumi, Kobu Tunnel and Kazahari already in your legs. Some stretches are really steep. Still in my memory from the ride last year I remember Laurent who didn't wanted to demount his bike and was desperately clinching to a lamp post along the road with both hands.

But I made it somehow up to the final elevation of almost 1.000 m although I was awfully slow (I would require a lighter speed vest with one digit). And when I returned to road 411 it was already late and I had no food as I didn't bought anything since Otarumi but I thought, OK, now up Yanagizawa because otherwise you can not write something on the blog.

So I rode up Yanagizawa which is long, long, long and long. Also on this road to nowhere there are some new tunnel constructions or abandoned constructions. And after a very long ride I finally arrived at the top after 5 PM. Somehow My stomach was empty and I also ran out of water but the last 300 meters I was climbing faster than up on Kazahari. Strange.

The restaurant or shop at the top of Yanagizawa was closed. That was very bad news, because I needed food and water. And also the weather was completely different on the other side of the pass: Thick mist, maximum visibility perhaps 50 meters, bridges leading to nowhere in the clouds. A surrealistic run down.

i also checked out the entrance to the Kamihikawa Toge road but I was not stupid enough to add this one to my list of achievements.

And so I arrived at Enzan.Almost 2.900 meters of climbing but only 120 km of distance as I cut out all the junk miles at the start and at the end. Six hours on the bike, almost no longer breaks.

Still a mystery to my why I was so confused with the directions. Was the train trip the day before some kind of divine hint that I should be more careful. That was, what I was thinking going back on the train to Yokohama. Next to me was a blond gaijin woman sitting. I am pretty sure I saw her at the Russian embassy when I was visiting Thierry there.


David L. said...


Please work on your directions!

As for a guide to riding, I suggest we start with a website (not just the blog, but somewhat organized webpages with edited content) on bicycle rides/riding in the Tokyo area.

A website can be built piece by piece over time, it makes the information much more available to those who want it when they want it, and a website can link to Google maps, Mapmyride, etc.

Plus I am not sure there is sufficient demand for a book. ... of course, in Japan, lots and lots of books do seem to get published on low demand topics, so if you want to go ahead ....

On a completely different topic, I see that in my home state of Oregon, the American Automobile Association (AAA -- equivalent of JAF in Japan) is going to offer "bicycle roadside assistance." Since they don't have trained bike mechanics, they will give stranded member-cyclists (and their bikes) a ride up to 25 miles (40 km). An essential service in a country where there is no train or bus home from even the highest pass, as there is in Japan, and where the average passerby who picks up hitchhikers has several hunting rifles and a handgun in his vehicle and is on early release from the local prison.

Let's try to ride on Sunday.

mob said...

In the original entry I forgot to write that the general result after the ride was this year exactly like last year: Completely unable to move my legs any longer I stayed at home almost the whole day and did not spend one thought and ever riding a bicycle again.

OK, but now I am looking forward to the gigantic Sunday ride.

9.15 AM at Ome Station (Aurore bakery).

Assortment of difficult climbs for various levels:

casual : Kazahari
cool : Yanagizawa
super cool : Yanagizawa + Kamihikawa
super super cool : Yanagizawa + Kamihikawa + Sasago
beyond human belief : Yanagizawa + Odarumi