14 February 2010

The Cycling Tokyo Gaikan [外環]

We skipped the Izu tour scheduled for Saturday due to the poor weather and instead opted for a ride in the flat floodlands of Tokyo today.

I left the house at 6:11 AM when it was still bitter cold and dark. I guess my Ciclo HAC4 cycling computer cannot display temperatures less than 0 degrees although manufacturer specs are indicating up to minus 19 degrees.
But it certainly felt less than 0 and it reminded me to check up one of the blogs I haven't checked for along while: Up in Alaska.

I choose my toasty Assos Fugu jacket plus the new Gore winter gloves with double inner linings.
Moreover, due to the heavy rain and snowfall on Saturday, the road was still wet and there were icy spots .... everywhere.
I rode carefully to the Rendezvous Spot at Tamagawahara Bashi when I saw some riders coming from the opposite direction. Later, when home, I learned from Toms blog that it was him and his Vlaams buddies on the way to Miura Hanto. Our ride would have been a nice one for Tom as well, I felt afterwards a little bit sorry that we didn't invited him to join us.
I met Fumiki, the Japanese rider who helped me out with my flat tire on the way down from Kobu Tunnel some weeks ago and Ludwig on time and we made good speed along the Tamagawa despite the ice. We were double careful in the corners and one time we had to move on the grass as the full width of the road was ice on top of some water poodles. But we managed well. The mountains of Okutama looked spectacular today, all in white and even mount Fuji was partly visible in the back. After a first stop in Ome we continued along some roads through Irima until we made it to the cycling path along Irimakawa. And after another break we were then on the Arakawa cycling path. Meanwhile it had become rather warm and I was sweating in my Fugu jacket and gloves.

The water accumulated on the ground was suddenly subjected to some sun radiation and we could observe some interesting phenomena.
It is also interesting what happens long the rivers close to the metropolises of Japan. In Europe we would see a path along a river as an opportunity to cycle, hike, or walk or get out with the dog. Nothing more. In Japan the floodland along the rivers and the pathes on its dykes serve much more purposes. It is the only accumulated mass of land that is wide enough to do different kinds of sports, free of the obstructions of space and noise that are limiting human activities in the cities. Too theoretical? Well, let me give you some examples of what I have seen today:
  • A whole parking place full of people in front of their cars practicing on rock drum kits
  • A Japanese traditional Taiko drumming group setting up their equipment for rehearsal.
  • A paraglider in the sky above Irimakawa (or perhaps Arakawa)
  • Many, many baseballs games
  • Many, many gateball games
  • A unicycle relay race along the Arakawa
And probably I would have seen even more, but hey, sometimes I have to keep my eyes on the road. Ludwig basically went in front for the first large stretch, but I felt pretty good later and we always managed to go with 30 - 36 km/hr along the river.Now there were many people out enjoying the cold but clear day. At one point a small child just crossed the bike bath running between our three bikes and I have no idea how she made it through. It was a very close call and I am really glad that nothing happened.

Within no time we reached the estuary of the Arakawa where we took another break and made some memorial photos.
I wrote it many times, but I just love to ride with my bike and experience different landscapes in one ride, notably mountains and the sea, and, in addition today, winter and spring scenery.
Despite going fast, Fumiki was able to hang on with us. Well he is still only 27 years old and perhaps we should groom him for the 2011 JCRC D class championship.Ludwig parted at Tokyo station to make his way home via Shibuya while Fumiki and me crossed the Ginza area (Sunday! Valentines Day!) and continued from Shinbashi to Shinagawa. There is this hill leading up between Sengakuji and Shinagawa to the Takanawa Fire station called Katsurazaka and as it has been on my commuting ride I have gone up there almost a hundred times. I challenged Fumiki to race against me and ... he won. Easily.

We then parted after Marukobashi in the area where my favourite cycle shop (Sekine Jitensha) is located in Kawasaki. It is run by an old man, I guess about 116 years old who has once repaired the track bike of Saigo Takamori when he was rebelling against Tokyo.

Half an hour later I was finally home.

One of the rare trips which didn't called for usage of the bike bag. More than 9 hours out today, total 180 km. Could have made less breaks but otherwise a very pleasant ride. Thanks Ludwig and Fumiki.

5 comments:

TOM said...

Beautiful picture of the vapor released in the morning sun! Looking forward to more nice shots. Yes, next time do send me an invitation (before 21:00 preferably) for rides on Sunday. Once Ludwig has his new Red Bull, let's all go R76!

David L. said...

Michael:

Thank you for the blog post. I enjoyed the picture of vapor rising. But most importantly, it moves the grotesque photos of your injuries "below the fold". It is safe to look at the P.E. blog again, for the time being.

I have not been to Sekine Jitensha ... not sure where it is, but I did see on NHK's Taiga Drama that they repaired not only Saigo Takamori's but also Sakamoto Ryoma's bicycle back in the waning days of the Edo period.

Sadly, they lost their best shop mechanic in a dispute over vacation schedules. He moved back to Osaka and opened up "Matsushita National Bicycles", initially as a custom frame builder, and the rest is history.

I took a short ride Sunday up to Tachikawa, where I stopped at the new Nalshima shop -- beautifully laid out, everything I needed, and somewhat reasonable prices. Also, they had a sign up indicating that on April 9, Nalshima Harajuku will move to and become Nalshima Jingu shop, on Gai-en Nishi Dori, near the Specialized Store a few blocks from Aoyama Dori/Aoyama Bell Commons. That will make it much harder to avoid quick detours on the way home.

Manfred von Holstein said...

It was a nice ride. But I definitely missed the mountains. Despite doing the pulling for most of the 162km, and going at a relatively high heart rate for most of the time, almost all the time against ever turning headwind, I feel almost none of the light exhaustion today.

Hope my cyclocross arrives soon, or the snow melts from the roads.

mob said...

I added some more photos for this ride shot by Ludwig.

Fumiki said...

Thanks for more photos.
I saved those.