[Preliminary note: This is a cycling-performance related post which emphasizes (and exaggerates) one’s own mediocre performances on a ride the day before. Don’t continue to ride if you expect something humorous].
I have to admit that I have problems to get out of the bed in the morning. It has been always like this and reached it’s highpoint during my rather long university career where I refused to go to lectures starting before 1 PM. So where can one do a meaningful ride at 11 AM?
I wanted to ride out to Hakone on Sunday but couldn’t get up in time. I also coulnd’t get up on Monday. Each time I tried to convince Dominic to join me. Then suddenly it was 11 AM on a Tuesday.
That’s when I left the house after spending the morning reading reflection papers from my students. I took the train out to Kamakura where I arrive at 12:10 and assembled my bike under the blue winter sky. I was slightly overdressed as it was a relatively warm day for the season.
But it was super day for cycling along the coast in direction Odawara, with a very strong tailwind. I guess I have written that many times already, but I would like to reiterate the point that I love riding along the roads at the sea. As a bicycle rider one tends to forget that Japan is an island. I like MOSBURGER because i am a MOS guy. And MOS is the abbreviation for MOUNTAIN OCEAN SUN. Oh, you didn’t know?
Sometimes I take other riders out to the coast at Miura or Shonan, but everyone finds the traffic three quite terrible. This is true however, the fresh, strong wind, the smell of the ocean and the sight of many familiar places compensate me for that:
I pass around my favorite German restaurant in Kamakura, the legendary SEACASTLE [Please check out the story in Japanese], then I pass my favorite Italian restaurant AMALFI just before passing Enoshima. And everytime I am passing Enoshima, I think that I should finally take a look at the naked Benzaiten, something I plan to do since I first heard about in October 1990. I never do and it is something which could be included easily on my list of new years resolutions just between „climb mount Fuji“ and „try to be nice to wife and children“.
Surfers were still in the water. Surfing is now a full year around activity and I saw many bikes which were refitted so that surfboards can be mounted for transport.
Lots of memories. Actually the first longer bike ride I ever did was in 1990 from Setagaya to Enoshima with my friend Tobias. I didn’t had a bike yet so I rented the „Samurai“ steel frame bike from my friend Juergen with toe clips. which I bought at a shop in front of Yokota USAF base.
We spend hours trying to get out of Tokyo on the road to the coast. We had maps which we showed to some local by passers which seemed to be rather surprised of the concept of maps at all. Somehow we made it to Enoshima where we arrived so late that we had to turn back immediately to reach home before dark.
Of course I forgot to get my foot out of the toe clip at a traffic light and toppled over towards Tobias who than fell as well. Domino-theory, I guess. Did I ever apologized? Someday I will.
Anyway, that was the start of a more or less serious cycling career and after that ride I bought a proper Panasonic steel frame bike in Meguro which I kept riding until 2000, when it was stolen.
So I was thinking about this and that when riding along the coast in the 36 – 40 km/hr bracket. The traffic was bad but there were almost no traffic lights and there was enough space on the left side to pass. Then I saw another rider going relatively fast in front of me. Good bike (TIME), old clothes, so this could be a rather competitive one, I thought. And indeed he was. When I overtook him he immediately got into my draft and continued to follow me for the next kilometers. So what to do, in the spirit of Deej’s recent TCC post?
I turned out that he couldn’t keep up with me anyway. One reason seemed to be rather large ears which were mounted perpendicular to the head and significantly increased the Cd-value (also speedplay pedals wouldn’t help here I guess). Another reason also might be that he also stopped at traffic lights quite often.
Then I passed another rider on a GIANT bike with an Oakley backbag [not competitive looking acc. to Deej’s classification] and he also stayed in my draft. And he wasn’t bad at all, overtook me from time to time and all this despite the fact that he was new to cycling evidenced by (a) listening to a music while riding on a public road and (b) giving hand-signals all the time.
Yes, hand-signals, a difficult topic. I try not to overdo it and restrict them to the most basic ones. But this guy needed at least four hands to give signals and keep one hand on the handle. He tried to signal something which, if I understood correctly meant:
„I am going to stop at the next light and make turn for the left to Odawara station, by the way, thanks for the nice ride“
Or, perhaps he wanted to signal instead:
„I have an itching eczema on my butt which I treated at the local doctor and the bill I got is that long.“
In the end I enjoyed 72 minutes of fast riding at an average of more than 32 km/hr without any stops and only a few slow downs. This was probably the longest, fastest stretch I did in a long time.
Followed by a very boring piece of road between Odawara and Hakone. The only interesting thing to note about this road is, that one can see on the right side another „Pinchers of Hell“ monument to traffic safety which I could pass unharmed.
Instead of continuing the Ekiden road 1 up to Ashinoko and Moto-Hakone, I took a left turn at Sanmaibashi (? 三枚橋) to road Ken 732 which seemed to be the old Takaido leading up to Hakone and took a rest at the (approved) 7-Eleven at Hatajuku (畑宿). I knew this road as I have tried to ride up to Hakone in 2001, one of the first rides on my new Cannondale bike. I never tried again after that.
I have a lot of respect for that climb. Hwen I was doing it in 2001 I took many breaks, walked a large stress on foot and was completely done when I reached the top.
Nevertheless I decided to define a new Toge-baka (#18) and went slowly for it. After about 100 meters of climbing up I noted the house where I had asked an old lady in 2001 if it would still be far up to Ashinoko. She said very politely that it wouldn’t be that far anymore, went into the house and gave me two bottles of green tea. I needed them because it was still 600 meters up.
This is a much nicer climb that road #1. There is much less traffic and the houses and resorts along the way are slightly more upscale. There are also some interesting shrines and temples of new religions with a battalion of guard men. The only disturbing thing is, that you sometimes get a good view on the new toll road almost running parallel at some points. Compared to road 1, the distance is shorter (10.6 to 13.2 km), covers less elevation (700m to 745m) but as in the end you arrive at the same point, some of the slopes are brutally steep.
For example there is the 七曲 hair needle section which is a nice challenge.
So after less than 53 minutes I arrived at the top and dutifully recorded my time on the blog. By the way, the top is even higher than the mighty Van Hai pass.
There was only a short stretch to Ashinoko where I took a rest at the (approved) 7-Eleven. It was very warm there as evidenced by the photo below.Then up to Hakone pass (which is not the highest point) and further on to my beloved route 20. The weather was beautiful and the road offers beautiful views to the pacific on the Eastern side (Odawara) as well as to mount Fuji and the pacific on the Western side as it is running on top of the ridge. And I just love the gentle incline and the many curves which leads on a fast and demanding ride to Atami Toge.
From there onwards it is brutally steep and fast down to the city of Atami. I had a shouting match with a minibus driver that overtook me in one of the curves and it got really close. The maneuver was completely senseless as he had to stop anyway in front of a right light some meters further.
The usual argumentation enfolded: I told him, that he was almost killing me and that he drives recklessly. I was told that if it was that dangerous I should stay away from the road. After all this a 車道 (car road). Well, it is not for the sole usage of cars, technically speaking： „自転車は車道が原則、歩道は例外“ （Bicycles shall ride on the road in principle and only in exceptional cases on the walkway) is stated in the pamphlets distributed by the local police station after revision of the basic traffic law in June last year.
I hate to be rude to people but I also dislike to be killed. Reckless drivers shall be shouted at in exceptional cases and only in regular cases not.
After that and within now time I was a Atami station where I took the Shinkansen back home. About 80 km, 1.100 meters of climbing and only 3:30 hrs of riding time. All together 6 hours away from home. An excellent alternative to not do a ride I guess.
Which brings me to the point that it doesn’t always have to be the long, demanding ride. I do a lot of one hour rides along the Tsurumigawa and I have found another road along the river that brings me within one hour to Onekan. This is good for a tow hour ride. I can combine this with Onekan and extend this into a three hour ride. I also commute to the university in Tokyo. In November I rode 19 out of 30 days, only four rides where longer than 100 km. Nevertheless I made more than 1.100 km during the month.
A late start is not an excuse for doing nothing.