03 October 2010

Riding With The Russian

The title for this blog came to me while cooking tonight (a delicious ragout with fusilli which was very good even though I say so myself). I was listening to the B.B. King & Eric Clapton album called 'Riding With The King'. Now I am not suggesting my riding partner Laurent is regal in anyway other than perhaps being The King of The (Quick) Drink After Work. We met by the river at 7:15am and headed off while discussing the day's route. In contrast to the official Positivo style where a route is planned and then ignored, we didn't start with a plan. Both of us set out from our homes feeling tired and expecting a shortish ride but then The Russian mentioned a drive up to some caves he did with his son earlier in the summer and we started to think bigger. Along the way we met Pro Dave (James M) who was waiting for Mossad's man in Hachioji, Yair. They were to do the last ride before Pro Dave headed off to ride the Tour of Cameroon with his team. We rode for a few km before our paths split and sent Po Dave off with our best wishes and the warning of non-male-borne diseases in Africa for which we do not even have names.
Nowadays we ride along the road by the river rather than on the cycling/jogging/dog-walking path and this was definitely a good thing on this day as there was the 30km and 50km marathon walk going on. There were many hundreds, if not a couple of thousands walkers on the path. The variety of dress was interesting: some in T-shirts & shorts, others in jeans and collared shirts while others were decked out in full hiking gear with boots, gaiters, two cross-country style walking sticks, ruck-sacks, compression tights and GPS watches. And don't forget those bells to warn bears of your presence! I saw it all except for ropes and crampons. We arrived at Ome and paid our respects to the Aurora Bakery by buying a Royal Milk Bread each which we devoured sitting outside. it was on our last visit here that Laurent was cleverly unmasked as a Russian by an American agent pretending to be a stoned, mid-30s, shoplifting loser. Great disguise which had us all fooled.
We rode on to Okutama and then turned up Nippari Kaido, a new road for me. It climbs gently up to a shrine and some of Japan's longest caves. Much of this road is even prettier than the wonderful Yabitsu Toge. On the way up we met Steve ' Montezuma' Tallon who I had not seen since the Tokyo-Itoigawa ride. He was looking to blow off the cobwebs of jet lag with a warm-up climb up Nippari Kaido and then Nokogiri and Kazahari. On the descent we tried to explore roads leading off the main road but they went nowhere far before turning into rough tracks. Having briefly rejoined Ome Kaido we turned off up Nokogiri, another first for me. This climbs up 650m to 1,000m at the top. Almost all the way my Garmin reported a gradient of 9-10% with stretches at 13%. It is interesting to see how much stronger I felt now the temperature and humidity had dropped compared with August. I was surprised by how good I felt on the climbs considering not having had a good night's sleep for a few days. We were actually chatting on the way up unlike the near death experiences The Russian and I endured only a few weeks ago going up places like Shiozawa Toge. The descent however was rough and much time was spent on the brakes. Parts are already slippery with moss and wet fallen leaves are just beginning to accumulate. A fast run from Honjuku to Itsukaichi was interrupted by an ice cream stop at a tofu store. Tofu flavoured soft cream is definitely recommended.

Just as I was preparing myself for the uninspiring ride from Itsukaichi back towards Tokyo The Russian, no doubt utilising his orientation skills learned in an elite but secretive academy back in Moscow, led me on a great road through villages, paddy fields in which old men were hanging out the rice hay to dry, shrines and under highway underpasses until we popped out at Fussa. From here we made our way back to the Tamagawa road and raced with a powerfully built man in an ugly jersey who was up on the cycling path. After we pulled ahead of him I felt we had made our point and so did not bother when we got held up at a traffic light, but The Russian kicked hard to pass me saying that we cannot let this guy go. Therefore, after riding 160km already we found ourselves riding into a slight headwind at 40km just to overtake someone we did not know to prove a point - what point though I am not sure.

At the outset of the ride I think we were both a little tired and perhaps were hoping the other would suggest an easy ride but in the end we had a great ride in wonderful weather and had a lot of laughs. 190km, 8 hours and 1,900m of climbing.

8 comments:

David L. said...

Nice to learn about Nippara Kaido -- with that, Nokogiri, and the road to Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, the route between Ome and Okutama starts to look a lot more interests.

mob said...

The Russian always wants to ride up Nokogiriyama. He believes that is the most beautiful road close to Tokyo. And he isn't wrong.

mob said...

The Russian always wants to ride up Nokogiriyama. He believes that is the most beautiful road close to Tokyo. And he isn't wrong.

TOM said...

Thanks Dominic for another great hilarious story of yours about the Russian who also happens to be my "better half" compatriot-wise of course!

It was this Russian who initiated me into cycling (was that 6 years ago?) precisely on that Nokogiriyama route and I will never forget the agony I went through then!

Let's hook up for a joint ride with this fearsome Russian sometime!

Dominic H said...

Tom,
Would love to ride together one day. I am going to HK and Singapore this weekend so will be off the bike for 2 weekends.

Laurent said...

Tom,

I remember that first Nokogiri very well. We took pictures near the water tank on top. This was when I could reach the top of a mountain in front of you: those days are long gone! You'd probably wait 15 minutes for me now, but that's because I've been too busy working for the KGB.

Nokogiri's road surfaces are still as crappy in places as they were before, though at least they cleared up the landslide of a couple of years ago. But it is still as quiet as ever. That's what I like best about it, same as the ura-Kazahari approach to Tomin-no-mori (the main road is too busy, either way).

The Russian

Manfred von Holstein said...

The Nippara valley is indeed very nice. We tend not to explore dead-end valleys because they can't be looped, but actually they offer the advantage of far less traffic.

I can only recommend visiting also the caves. Pretty impressive. Worth leaving your helmet on, especially for anyone tall. And taking with you your rain jacket, because the caves are quite cold (which is nice in summer).

Manfred von Holstein said...

Oh, and the point of racing is... winning!