Monday, July 27, 2009

A nice place to take a break

On my third ride out to Takao City, after visiting the top of Mikoromo tower, I decided that I'd try heading a little farther into the hills in the hopes of being able to prove whether I could ride up to the top of Mount Takao. Unfortunately, the only route up that I know about is a small service road behind the ropeway station across the street from the trick art museum, and I didn't remember exactly where that service road came out through the maze of alleys to the main street.

So, after passing the trick art museum, I rode up the main street into the hills. There's no shoulder along this stretch of 20, and at a couple of places I had to pull over to let the cars and trucks pass me. Fortunately, there's major construction going on at one point where a new train tunnel is being bored into the hills, and traffic is blocked off for 5 minutes at a time because the street is one-lane wide there. Means that for 5 minutes, I've got the road to myself, then there's five minutes worth of traffic that's built up behind me that I have to stop and let by. Then again, by this time I've been on the road for 2.5 hours and I really need the rest periods. The hill's so steep that I'm on the lowest gear on the bike.

Finally, I crest yet another hill and it looks like I've reached the far side of the ridge. I'm ready to turn around and go back home, but I cruise down the hill a bit to see where it goes. Rounding a curve, I get a full view of Fuji. This makes the ride all worthwhile.

I don't know how long it's taken to get up here, but it's at least 20 minutes. The maps indicate that I've only gone 4 miles. A nearby hiking map shows a number of trails running through the hills here. A later look at Google maps indicates that I'm maybe only 2 miles short from reaching a lake that may be a dammed part of the river, so I'll try getting out here one more time to see f I can get to the lake.

I turn around and this time I'm hitting speeds that scare me. I use the brakes a lot. In 5 minutes I'm back at the bottom and not once was there a car behind me. That was cool, and I want to see if I can go down it again without using the brakes next time.

When I finally get back home to Noborito, it's been 6 hours since I'd left, and I'm completely spent. With only 2 miles left to go, I have to stop at a convenience store to buy cold water mixed in with a little grape juice because I'm really overheating. I need to start carrying more ice with me on these kinds of rides...


Shiroibara said...

Sounds like you're getting further and further on your bike. Are you enjoying it beyond the view (which I agree is amazing)?

TSOTE said...

Do you mean "do I like the bike for more than just sightseeing"?

Well, I guess riding breaks up into three parts - the exercise, the freedom to explore bigger areas of the city than what I can reach just on foot, and sightseeing. They're all interrelated.

The weather's been weird and unpredictable the last few months so I haven't been able to ride as much as I like. I'll try to get in at least 3 1-hour rides per week, which are strictly for the exercise, and are limited to just riding out along the river 30-45 minutes and then back. The bike's been good for the exercise, at a minimum.

For exploring the city, it's been more limited. The streets around Tokyo are dangerous, crowded and twisty. Unless I have a specific place to visit, I don't explore as much as I used to. So, in this sense, the bike hasn't lived up to its potential as much. But, I've also gotten more busy with different projects on the computer and haven't had as much free time for exploring on the bike.

Then for sightseeing - this has been the main focus of the longer rides. I try to get in a 50-60 mile ride once every couple of weeks, usually on a Friday. These rides go along either the Tamagawa or Asagawa rivers, to the north or west of Tokyo. Out along the Asagawa, there's Takao, various temples, the big hills and a lot of scenery. Farther along the Tamagawa there's some hills and lots of hiking trails, plus the weir. The rivers are generally tree-lined and there's more scenery to look at, making them nicer for the long rides. So, in this sense, I've really liked having the bike. (So far, the farthest I've gone is about 4 miles past Takao).

The drawbacks are that the bike's a little too small for me, and it's not a road bike. So, I'm not getting the speed or distance that I used to get on my older bike in Austin. Plus, the trail along the Tamagawa is crowded with old people walking or going 2 miles an hour on mama chari bikes, and that slows everyone else down. There are quite a few Japanese riders on the trails also riding really good bikes and wearing cycling jerseys - about 20 of these guys are faster than me. The rest are just out for a little exercise and to show off their bikes.