February 25, 27, 2017: 175 km ride to Atami and back
My Big Spring Fun No 1 is finished. It all went well, and served as a trial run for Big Spring Fun No 2, which begins on Friday of this week. As I mentioned in my last post, this Fun was a ride from home to Atami (114 km) in order to participate in a work-related overnight. My wife joined me the following day for free time in Atami and one more night at the hotel before I rode home yesterday. The route out:
I left home at 5 am, and arrived at 4 pm. Total time actually moving was 6 hours 48 minutes, since the cycle computer doesn’t count time spent at traffic lights or on breaks. For the first time in weeks it was a calm day (the Tokyo area has terrible winds during the winter and early spring) perfect for cycling. The first two hours through the dark city were fun, as was seeing the sunrise at the Tamagawa River crossing:
From the fourth hour or so, the terrain turned flat and rather dull, from a sightseeing perspective. Here is the crossing of the Sagami River. Not very exciting until I rode down to the pedestrian underpass – it was ablaze with graffiti! Riding with one’s eyes opens sometimes pays off.
I normally take breaks every 60-90 minutes, and count myself as fortunate when I run across nice parks to relax in. I didn’t find many this time, so some breaks were roadside impromptu types:
Some breaks led to interesting chance encounters with locals. I wasn’t sure whether this dog wanted to give my tire a washing, or was just curious so kept watch:
In contrast, the city of Odawara was full of good stopping places, as well as a famous castle for photographs. I had an hour lunch break here.
From Odawara the route runs along the historic coast road known as the Tokaido, or Route 1. Glimpses of the sea tantalize, and more than a few attractive buildings and old pine trees dot the roadside. Hill climbs on the Izu Peninsula gave fine sea views:
My arrival at the destination was an hour before I had figured, so had plenty of time for a dip in the hotel’s elegant sea-facing hot spring bath before the arrival of my colleagues and dinner. Proof:
A few words about my bike for this ride. I chose my Brompton folding bike, partly just to see if I could do 115 km with a loaded bike, and partly because of the ease with which it folds. I was ready to check into the hotel within 5 minutes of arrival. All there was to do was to take off the front bag, fold the bike and carry it in. My other folder, a Bike Friday from the USA is most definitely a faster and more comfortable ride. But it is messier to fold, and with limited space in the shared hotel room, the tiny folded package of the Brompton won out. Because a Brompton is slower than a road bike, I’ve been training hard in strong headwinds this winter, which paid off. Hills were doable (at least, the ones I encountered on this ride), and with bar ends attached I was able to tolerate the handlebars without drops for position change. Both bikes are great, and I learned quite a bit by doing this one on the Brompton.
Sunday was spent relaxing in Atami city with my wife, who chooses not to go places by bike (strangely enough!). Atami has a fine beach and natural setting. Some good shopping is to be found, as well as more than a few rundown, closed buildings. Those I found more interesting than the “pretty” places, so my photos don’t really give the best impression of the city. Some places I liked:
Since there are natural hot springs in the town, interesting collections of pipes are to be seen, carrying the hot water here and there:
Being a seaside town, fish and related edibles are available to purchase. Here, a shop person grills squid for the passerby.
And, as in all Japanese towns, there is a popular ramen shop:
The return trip on Monday was shorter (67 km). I had already decided not to bother with the dull flats between Atsugi and Tokyo, so was prepared to take the train from some point along the return route. In addition, I had a strong headwind the whole way back that slowed down my progress considerably. Even so, I did find several attractive places for breaks. Here are a few I found before settling in to battle the winds and forget about photography for the remainder of the ride.
Now that “Big Fun No 1” is safely out of the way, I’m getting ready for “Big Fun No 2.” This will be a four day ride to choir camp on the Boso Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture. The choir will join me there (they too forgo the use of bikes and ride a bus!) on Tuesday. I’ll leave home after 4 am this Friday, so wish me luck, both for equipment and weather, which isn’t looking so nice at the moment. There’s no turning back; hotel reservations are made, and bags are packed, so come what may. Photos and reports of Big Fun 2 to come this weekend.
July 19, 2016: 140km 3 river ride (Arakawa, Edogawa, Tonegawa)
Today’s ride began with an hour run across Tokyo to Mizumoto Park, where I started riding up the Edogawa river cycling path. A 5 am start meant that the traffic and heat were tolerable, and Mizumoto Park is a fine oasis for a break at anytime.
The river dike is like a super highway much of the way to the river’s start. To my surprise, a beautiful new toilet and rest stop has been built along the way to Sekiyado, meaning that you can run along for a couple of hours without leaving the path to look for drinks or toilets. Very much appreciated!
The river dike path and view from the road near the toilet:
As usual, I took a longish break to cool down at Sekiyado Castle park in Noda. And as usual, the castle was closed for the day – I’ve never managed to be there when it was open.
From Sekiyadojo the path turns to run along the Tonegawa River. For quite some distance there is nothing but the river, heat and humidity. It is very flat, though one can spy mountains in the far distance. I always turn off the dike road and cross back to the Arakawa, normally getting lost in doing so. This ride was no different, which led to finding two interesting rural temples.
Jofukuin （定福院）in Kurihashi-cho, Saitama, has an amazing collection of carved Buddhist images. One website I found says there are over 500. Wherever you look, literally, there are whimsical carvings. Here are a few:
The other temple was rather forlorn, with three tiny buildings, a gate, and a graveyard.
A last photo op was found in this shinto shrine in Hasuda City, Saitama:
A wrong turn took me into Omiya City where my son lives, so I dropped in for a bit of chat before huffing it back into the city, arriving at 6 pm. It was a really pleasant sort of ride – the one where you don’t think too much, but just pedal and observe as the world goes by.
October 26, 2015: a 121 km ride from Tokyo Bay in Chiba, up the Hanamigawa cycle path, and back to Tokyo
I took a 5:30 am train from my local station to Kemigawa station in Chiba, where the ride began. This time I took my Brompton folding bike rather than a road bike, planning to ride 50 or 60 km and then take another train home. The autumn weather being so fine, I wound up riding 120+ km on the Brompton. Though they are not as fast as a road bike, you really can do some serious distance in flat or rolling terrain. It would be a different story in the mountains, but I was quite pleased with the Brommie during this ride.
The ride up the Hanamigawa river path （花見川サイクリングロード）was really a pleasure. 50+ km of uninterrupted cycle path with changing views. After a long stretch of river riding, the path takes the rider around several large ponds (called numa in Japanese). Photos:
As usual, the rider with his/her eyes peeled can spot unusual and photogenic things.
My plan was to ride 50 km up the river, and the fold the bike and ride the train back to Tokyo. I arrived at the goal at noon, though, and the weather was so fine that I decided to go on, and to find my way back to Tokyo. Some of the country roads were dead ends:
Thanks to (and, at times, despite) help from my Garmin GPS cycle computer, I did make it home without resorting to trains. The ride took 12 hours, and covered 121 km. Would I do it again? Given the same weather, of course! I’d be sure to plot out a better course for the way home, though. As you can see in my ride map, there was a fair amount of aimless wandering while trying to find the way back to Tokyo. Arrival at dusk, with Mt Fuji and the Tokyo Sky Tree outlined by the brilliantly colored sky where reward enough.
July 14, 2015: 192 km ride along the dikes of the Edogawa, Tonegawa, and Arakawa rivers.
Every once in a while I feel the need (or, more accurately, a screaming, undeniable urge) to get out of the city and away from music making. In the busiest seasons of the year I ignore the call of the wild and carry on. But around this time of year I have the time to escape, and do so as often as possible.
Last Tuesday I managed to take a very long day ride, using the river dike system as my personal bike highway. The route varied from a cycling super highway (the Edogawa River dike in Tokyo): to the narrower bike path along the Tonegawa River in Saitama. The farther you get from Tokyo, the fewer the cyclists and pedestrians, until you can ride for nearly an hour without seeing anyone.
It was a fine day, but rather hot. Mid-afternoon along the Tonegawa cycling path was a bit brutal – 38 C/100 F. Riding for hours on end without any shade in such heat does mean one has to be careful about heat exhaustion. I find headaches to be good early warning signs, and pull off for cool-down breaks when I feel them coming on. Tons of fluids are needed, and salty food (even me, of all people!) help.
To summarize the ride, I left the house at 4:30 am, and returned at 8:30 p.m. 192 km was covered in 16 hours, with half-hour breaks taken here and there. Three major rivers were used: the Edogawa, Tonegawa and Arakawa, with many other, smaller, streams crossed along the way. Here is a route map:
Things seen along the way:
1. Mizumoto Park, my first stop before hitting the river dike system. The lotus flowers were in full bloom.
2. Sekiyado, at the point where the Edogawa river forks from the Tonegawa river. It is a nice little park with a museum in the shape of a castle.
Behind the museum is a green space with picnic tables, benches, and gorillas.
3. Bridges across the Tonegawa connect Saitama and Ibaraki prefectures
4. The wide-open views from the Tonegawa cycling path
5. The dike along parts of the Tonegawa are being strengthened, so houses, roads, temples, etc., were all being moved away from the river to allow for the construction. Here is a newly relocated set of Buddhist images I saw in one spot.
6. The last stop on the Tonegawa dike before going across country to catch the Arakawa river dike was a rest area at Hanyu. This was the only time I really felt a bit close to the edge, physically, so indulged in the saltiest thing on the lunch menu, drank buckets of water, and enjoyed some ice cream before getting back on the bike.
7. It is about an hour’s ride to across the countryside to the last river dike system (Arakawa), and not the most interesting of terrain. Even so, by getting slightly lost I found this rural Shinto shrine, with its welcoming series of torii (shrine gates). Somewhere near Gyoda City.
The last part of the ride was a 4+ hour battle against headwinds from an incoming typhoon. Not pleasant! I was shooting for 200 km, but eventually threw in the towel at 192 km, with knees screaming, butt aching, and all other various parts of the body clamoring for an end to the day. Not to worry, though, I plan to do it again in a week or so when the winds settle down. Anyone want to join me for a 200 km hot ride?
Here is the last light of the day before I found myself pedaling in the dark.
Azusa and I manage to get together about once a year for a summer ride. This time we rode down the Arakawa river path, around Disneyland, then up the Edogawa to Shibamata for a look around before heading back home. Ride map:
I am a great fan of Disneyland. That is, I LOVE the outside, though I have never set foot inside the attraction. The outside is calm, quiet, and beautiful (set as it is along Tokyo Bay). The inside (I imagine) is crowded, noisy and expensive. See what you could enjoy if you were circle Disneyland, rather than going inside?
Shibamata is always a fun place to take a break. There is the great Taishakten Temple, and an area of nostalgic shops and restaurants related to the Tora-san movie series.
July 7, 2014: an 80 km day ride from Tokyo to Chiba on the Brompton
I decided to use the Brompton to explore Tokyo Bay between Shin-Kiba and Chiba Stations. I took the subway at 5:30 am from home down to Shin-Kiba to avoid the dull ride through the city. There were already so many people riding that I had to stand all the way! Next time I take the first train of the day. Here is a map of the route (click to enlarge). The ride started out in familiar territory – the Gate Bridge Kasai Rinkai parks. Nice riding and views, albeit with fog at the beginning.
Urayasu’s bayside area proved to be the biggest surprise of the day. It included an elegantly developed cityscape with a large park providing a breathing space for residents along the bay. Other miscellaneous views from the ride: And the goal: some 80 km later in Chiba City’s beautiful seaside beach (Mihama). An easy train ride home finished the day. The Brompton is good for 100 km days, I discovered. Not as fast or comfortable as a road bike, naturally. But it is nice to have the flexibility of hopping on a train whenever the fancy strikes.
June 16, 2014: One-day 100 km river ride
It has been quite a while since I’ve ridden all day in the summer heat (since last fall, to be precise). I found it harder going than the last time, so took longish breaks, spent time reading a book in parks, etc. This route, which goes around the perimeter of Tokyo Disneyland, gets interesting from Urayasu City up to the Edogawa River dike cycling path. I plan to go back soon to check out the parks along Tokyo Bay. Here is a route map:
Since getting the Brompton folding bike last month, I haven’t spent much time on my road bikes. The Brompton is not a slow bike, by any means, but my Bike Friday (the folding touring bike I rode) felt like a rocket by comparison. It is not only faster, but the 20″ wheels and steel frame absorb much more road noise, making for a calmer ride. Photos of the day:
March, 2014: a 300 km loop from Tokyo to the Boso Penninsula and back I recently used work as an excuse for a longer ride, spread out over several days. The choir I conduct spends a week in Iwai, Chiba Prefecture in March for intensive training. I normally take the bus with the students, but decided to ride my bike there and back this year. As the trip directly to Iwai would be too short to be a challenge, I rode 130 km to Katsuura on the Pacific Ocean side, staying there one night before riding 70 km the next day to Iwai, where I spent the week with the choir. At the end of camp, I rode 90 km back to Tokyo, using the Tokyo Bay ferry to cross the bay. Here is a map of the entire ride. Details below. Day 1 (March 2) Rain was forcast for several days in advance, so I had time to beef up my rain gear with shoe covers, goretex gloves, and a new hooded rain jacket. I’m glad I did, since it poured for 9 of the 10 hours of the 130 km trip. The ride to Chiba City is not that interesting, but once one reaches Ichihara City and heads across the peninsula, the scenery goes rural. 3-4 C (upper 30’s, F) and rain made for a less-than-enjoyable slog. AND, for the last 30 minutes my brakes were non-existent. All the grime of the road combined with the rain to wear them down to stubs, so the mountainous portion of the ride was far too thrilling. Ride map:
I stayed at the Kampo no yado Katsuura, which was a real pleasure after the ride. Perks included a hot spring bath to ease the body, and great food to refuel and recharge for the next day. I dried out all my things, cleaned the mud and grime off my bags and bike, and had a good rest. Photos of the day (all taken with my cell phone, as it was too wet to get my camera out).
Day 2 (March 3) Much better weather – a good day for a ride, thought I, as I set out. A thorough cleaning of the brakes and rims didn’t do anything to give the brakes more grip, so I had to learn how to ride without brakes. Which meant walking down any steep slopes, and using my feet as brakes for the others. I was certainly glad when the road flattened out for the last half of the day. Rather than ride around the southern tip of the peninsula as planned, I headed across land to reach Tateyama, where I hoped to find a bike shop with brakes. No such luck – all my calls and visits to local shops produced the same answer – “we don’t handle those.” So I continued on to Iwai brakeless. 8 hours and 70 km (thanks to the slow pace going down hills). Map and photos:
Day 3 (March 10) Brakes ordered, and replaced during free time at choir camp. What a pleasure a bike with brakes is! I had a couple of pleasant shorter rides during choir rehearsal breaks.
The route map. Not very scenic, other than the Yokohama Minato Mirai area. Continuous strong head winds made for a very slow pace. It took from noon to 7:30 pm to do 80 km. You think I’m kidding about the joys of the day? Here’s a selfie I took upon arrival at home. What a face! The summary. 1. I’m glad I did it, though the weather was rather uncooperative. If doing it again, though, I’d try and avoid the dull parts – riding from home to Chiba city (3 hours of dull city riding) and the slog home from Yokosuka. I’d either find more scenic routes and spend another night somewhere on the way home, or fold the bike up and take the train home through the city part. 2. My Bike Friday was a pleasure to ride, despite the rain. It handled well in all conditions, and was very stable even when loaded. The Brooks B17 saddle (now fully broken in) was comfortable even for 10 hours of constant cycling. Good rain gear saves the body from the worst of the weather, and the simple joy of being out under one’s own power more than makes up for any inconveniently wet weather. 3. Big lesson learned: replace brake pads before long rides!
January, 2014: the joys(?) of winter cycling
Well, there aren’t that many, actually. One sweats less, I suppose. On the other hand, getting dressed for a ride takes 10 times as long as in the summer, and long breaks only serve to chill the blood. I’ve done quite a few rides over the holiday season, the coldest being just after sunrise on Jan 7, when the mercury hit -5C. Sunrise and the weak heat it brings are a pleasure of the season, I suppose. Photos of recent early morning rides:
September 1, 2013: a difficult 185 km day ride that included everything from hot sun to thunderstorms, torrential rain and night riding. 6:00 a.m. departure with Tom Jansky, arrived home at 9:00 p.m. Here is the map. The morning was great – warm and sunny. We arrived in Yorii at 10:30. The route I plotted on the computer took us across this (apparently) historic bridge:
After an early lunch, Tom proposed riding into the mountains. Oh no! Off plan! No GPS route plotted! Well, we had maps and the weather was good, so we climbed toward Chichibu. Within an hour the blue skies went black, and a thunderstorm hit. Luckily, there was a park and shelter just before the lightning arrived.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day varied between hazy skies and torrential rains (HOURS of them). Once we were in Chichibu we realized there were only 2 more hours of light, and that we still had a long climb to get out of the mountains. Never ride Rt. 299: on the map it’s the stretch between Chichibu and Hanno. It is an hour climb to a 2 km tunnel that has no sidewalk. Partway to the tunnel a flat tire on my bike added levity to experience. Once in the tunnel there was temporary dry, but with only a very narrow emergency walkway on which to ride (Tom) or walk (me). Once safely past that, it was another hour-long descent into Hanno in pouring rain with cars whizzing past in the dark. When we finally reached Hanno the rains stopped, and we could laugh about the tense bits of the ride. Now only 3 hours of night riding back to Tokyo awaited. This was one of those rides that you don’t actually enjoy at the moment (well, Tom did), but look back on as an accomplishment.
August 20, 2013: a 75 km ride to an onsen (hot spring resort) with Morita Azusa
Azusa is a graduate of the Rikkyo choir, and is presently studying law at graduate school. The day was his plan, and he led, which was a refreshing experience for me. All I had to do was follow and enjoy. That being said, Azusa is one fast rider, so I got plenty of exercise keeping up with his sprints. The plan involved a break in Kichijoji’s Inokashira Park, followed by lunch at the 8th-century Jindaiji （深大寺）in Western Tokyo, and then a ride off west to the Yukemurino sato onsen in Kanagwa Prefecture. This was only the second time I’ve visited an onsen while cycling, and it is refreshing. We spent 3 hours there, sampling all the different baths, and eating in the restaurant. One could easily spend all day. Though rain storms were predicted, we both arrived home dry, if sweaty and tired. Thanks, Azusa, for a great day!
August 16, 2013: The League of Foreign Gentlemen Cyclists (newly formed today) do Kawagoe and environs. Impervious to any hint of heat, humidity or distance, they cycle through the wilderness of Saitama Prefecture in search of adventure. Each member boasts a unique form of transportation. David cycles with a massive white mountain bike, leading the way when mountains challenge. Brian, with his cross bike, takes charge when cross-country riding threatens. Scott the scout guides with his trusty GPS-equipped road bike. And when simplicity, endurance and strength are required, Patrick leads the team with his custom single speed. But seriously, folks, it was another good all-day ride to Kawagoe (110 km for me) despite the heat. New riding partners and new topics of conversation made for an interesting day. Most impressive member? Patrick, with his single-speed bike. Not only keeping up with the likes of me, but actually easily leading the group in terms of speed.
August 12, 2013:
Rikkyo graduate and former bass part leader Shuichiro Kaneko and I did a city ride on two folding bikes. We rode to the palace, Tokyo Station and Odaiba areas, then took the train back in the afternoon. Discoveries: YES, they have mega beer mugs at Odaiba (where we had lunch). YES, you can take a folding bike on the Tokyo metro system (as long as it’s got a cover on). YES, we have violent thunder and rain storms every day at 5:00 p.m. this summer (or so it seems). We arrived back at my station and were just re-assembling the bikes when a tremendous storm hit. Power outages and flooding were reported throughout Tokyo, and we were soaked on the quick ride to my house. Cooler, though.
August 10, 2013: The hottest day in Tokyo in six years and a 120 km ride.
Tom Jansky and I decided it would be fun to challenge the heat, so rode from 7 am to 7 pm in 38C/100F degree temperatures. We were careful to chug plenty of fluids and to take longish breaks in parks along the way. Not all of the fluids were beer.
August 7, 2013: my usual morning exercise route.
40 km on the Arakawa cycling path, with a stop for a can of coffee at Akigase Park. Just over two hours of pedaling time. Today I left the house at 5:30 a.m. People who hear this uniformly ask me WHY do you DO it? (in those exact tones) Perhaps to feel the only cool breeze there will be that day? Or perhaps I enjoy seeing the sky from the river dikes, where it is big? Or is it because of this type of beauty in miniature? Probably all of the above. The route:
August 4, 2013: a ride to Kawagoe and beyond.
This ride was also taken with Tom Jansky from the Tickell organ firm. We left at 8 a.m., arriving back around 6 p.m. and covering 110 km. This ride can be done mostly on the river dike cycle path system, and the few bits outside Kawagoe that were on regular roads were covered in the countryside. Fine riding conditions, if hot. I happened to see a sign pointing to the Toyama Museum [遠山記念館）, which turned out to be the highlight of the day. It is a a wonderful mansion built in traditional Japanese style, and sits in the absolute middle of nowhere. One wonders why it was ever built where it is, but the scenery made the find all the more interesting. Click to visit the museum’s website (available in English or Japanese). The map of the ride:
July 20, 2013: another recommended ride.
I took this with Tom Jansky, who is here from England, working on the new pipe organ for Rikkyo University. He is also an avid cyclist, so I thought to show him some of the river cycling path system, as well as Kasai Rinkai Park, the Odaiba area, and the area around Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. This is a route full of contrasts. Approx. 90 km.
July 15, 2013: a 100+ km ride on the Tokyo river path system.
Highly recommended. I do this route regularly when I have most of a day. It is mainly flat, since it is on the dike system. It allows for stops at four big Tokyo parks. Particularly nice are Kasai Rinkai Park, Mizumoto Park, and Akigase Park. Each has loads of green, as well as water, and lots of open space to enjoy. The dike ride is always fun, though there are bits of road riding between parts of the ride. Here is the map. I did it when the temp was 35 C in the shade, and 40+ C in the sun. Hot, but still enjoyable.
July 2, 2013: 100 + km ride, Tokyo to Kawagoe, round trip.
You can get almost all the way to Kawagoe without ever going on a road by using the Arakawa and Irumagawa cycling paths. I missed a turn off and ran on 10 km farther. The return to Kawagoe using GPS took me by a most amazingly colored shrine. See photos below. My favorite moments while riding are these accidental finds. (Unfortunately, I messed up the GPS for the 10 km back to Kawagoe, so you see me riding in a perfectly straight line through the rice paddies. Oh well.) Photos below the map.