With Christmas ‚only‘ three months away my children have started drawing up lists to tell Santa Claus what they would like to receive. The lists are now stuck all around the apartment, including at eye level for both positions a gentleman assumes in the lavatory. So I thought perhaps I should send a letter to Santa explaining that I ’need‘ another bike and, as he is likely to be convinced by my reasoning, perhaps he could see to it that it is a Pinarello Dogma frame size 56.
So why do I need a second bike? This weekend the family and I headed up to our place in Tateshina in Nagano Prefecture. I had been there last weekend as well, driving around to map out future rides. Now was the time to try out some of these rides. Once the luggage, bike, wife and dog were in the car there would be no room for the children. Even leaving the wife behind would not have freed up enough space for both children so we had to take 2 cars. No question of leaving Humphrey (the dog) behind as he loves the long walks and swimming up there. So I reason, I need a bike to leave up there so that we do not have to exaggerate the family carbon footprint. By the way, there is something very satisfying about getting off the Chuo Expressway at 12:05am on a Saturday morning and seeing the toll is only Y1,000.
On Saturday, I left the house down a treacherous hill to join the Venus Line at Tateshinako. From here I rode up a few kms and then branched off on a road linking to the Marchen Kaido (Rte 299). The ride was an extremely pleasant 20km climb up to Mugikusa-Toge (2127m).
This is a very nice climb with only light traffic. The gradient varies between 6-8% and then becomes easier nearer the top. All the motorbikes were those of sensible middle-aged men out for a ride, rather than lunatics on hotted-up racing bikes (I would meet these the following day on the Venus Line). At the top I pulled up along side a Harley Davidson whose owner was photographing the sign to signal the top of the pass. He seemed non-plussed by a lycra-clad gaijin (why should he be?) but when I identified his bike as a Fat-Boy he was impressed and decided that despite my attire I was worth a quick chat. He explained that the newer model Harleys are much quieter and thus less interesting to him. When I then explained that I have a 1978 Ducati 900ss he became wildly excited as these bikes are well known for a great sound. We parted as buddies: he made his way back to Nagoya while I did a U-turn home to get home for lunch as promised. For some reason, on the way up the long climb I started to dream of a curry. Great descent but for the last 1-2km climb back up that treacherous hill to the house. As I pulled up to the house I was met by my fan club. Later I had that curry.
The following day (Sunday), I took the soft option and drove the 17km along the Venus Line to Shirakabako and parked. I then rode up Rte 152 and on to Rte 155. Instead of climbing up Rte 67, a steep climb up to the Venus Line, I chose a new route (Rte 142) which took me up „The Other Wada Toge“. This is a beautiful climb. About 550m elevation gain at a steady 6-7% gradient. I stopped counting the curves but a sign near the top was for Curve No. 70 – I think I started around Curb No. 20). Some beautiful views and a nice old open fronted thatched building for what purpose I do not know other than to offer shelter to cyclists and hikers.
This is no witch house!
From here I rejoined the Venus Line, turned left and rode to Kirigamine Highlands and on down to Shirakabako again. Being a holiday weekend the Venus Line was busy up here. Young bikers riding like lunatics and overtaking across yellow lines and various car clubs (a convoy of Mazda Miatas etc) took away some of the pleasure but the views were breathtaking.
When in a car one doesn’t always notice the gradient but in arts where I thought I would be riding along on a flat road I was in fact riding up a 6% slope and into a headwind. Had I had the time I would have turned right instead and gone on to Utsukushigahara Kogen. I drove this road last weekend. There is an 8km Alp d’Huez style series of steep switch-backs which look to be an interesting challenge.
These rides were for discovery purposes. Next time I will ride from the house to in a loop taking in Alp d’Huez v2.0 to Utsukushigahara Kogen and back along the Venus Line. About 110km with 3,000mm of climbing.
As I write this I strikes me that I have 2 motorbikes, neither of which I ride now, but only one road bicycle. Will Santa rectify the situation I wonder.