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Today April 2024


Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
1000022543.jpgThis is your monthly thread for rides and bike-related adventures!

Winter seemed to last forever, until this weekend when the rain ended and temperatures jumped. And the cherry blossom season has started!

I got the AR Nihonbashi Trace ride done as part of a 4 person team (230 km in total). I was too exhausted to write a report right after I finished but will do that this week.
View attachment 40275This is your monthly thread for rides and bike-related adventures!

Winter seemed to last forever, until this weekend when the rain ended and temperatures jumped. And the cherry blossom season has started!

I got the AR Nihonbashi Trace ride done as part of a 4 person team (230 km in total). I was too exhausted to write a report right after I finished but will do that this week.
Epic photo,Joe.
View attachment 40275This is your monthly thread for rides and bike-related adventures!

Winter seemed to last forever, until this weekend when the rain ended and temperatures jumped. And the cherry blossom season has started!

I got the AR Nihonbashi Trace ride done as part of a 4 person team (230 km in total). I was too exhausted to write a report right after I finished but will do that this week.
Looking forward to your report and well done.
Now retired and moved to Sasebo. Waiting for some decent weather to get out and ride. Been rainy, windy and cold since I got here.
What's your potential max square in Kyushu, @Chuck? I see many new rindos and new tiles in my crystal ball for you!
On the Easter weekend I rode the AR Nihonbashi Trace event (230 km on Strava, month #139 of Century a Month). This is the second year in a row in that event, with three of the four team members carried over from last year's event and also from the the three times we had attempted the Flèche event.

Last year we rode from Matsumoto in Nagano to Tokyo while this year we did an out and back loop from Kawasaki to Mt Fuji and back to Tokyo.

The Trace format is similar but a bit more relaxed compared to its cousin, the Flèche: The minimum distance is only 200 km vs. 360 km, the team can be 2-6 people vs. 3-5 and the time limit is quite loose. Basically you can start any time after 00:01 on Saturday and need to ride together as a team until the goal which is at least 200 km from the start, then one team member has to show up at the "Nice Place" (aka goal reception site) with the receipts before that closes at something like 10:00 or 11:00 on Sunday morning. So that's up to 34 h for 200 km vs. 24 h for 360 km.

While it's still a long distance group ride on a reasonably challenging course, the generous limit means there's time to stop for sit down meals and for properly sleeping somewhere during the night. This year we stopped at the Manyo-no-Yu onsen in Hadano. The bath was the typical onsen experience with rotenburo (outdoor pool) but the room was actually like a capsule hotel (first time for me).


Starting at the beginning: I got up at 05:30 and left home at 06:45. The actual ride start was at Shin-Yurigaoka, a straight run on Setagaya-dori for me. We met up at a Familymart near the station, received our brevet cards and attached the frame numbers to our bikes. At exactly 08:00 all of us made a purchase to get a receipt with matching time, then took a group selfie and uploaded it to the AR Nihonbashi website. Then we set off towards Machida.


The first hour or so the roads were still urban as we crossed Machida and Sagamihara in the Saturday morning traffic. It was not too cold and I was already riding in shorts. At Tsukui-ko we stopped to take pictures of cherry blossoms. The car park at the park was full with people coming for ohanami. After the break we continued towards Sagami-ko and Rt20 (Koshukaido) to Uenohara.

There were some minor hills. I had not really prepared all that well for a ride of this length at randonneuring pace but I wasn't the only one. We slowed down a bit and it became somewhat easier. The morning haze burnt off in the sun and it quickly got warmer. From around 18 deg C in Machida it soon climbed to over 25 deg C.

We found a ramen place in Uenohara for lunch. We had to wait a little before we could get a seat, but with a Trace time is not of essence. It felt good to rest the legs for a bit. After lunch we continued on Rt20 to Tsuru. It got warmer and warmer. At every stop I filled up both my water bottles and went through them pretty quickly.


Somewhere in Tsuru all of us felt too hot and we decided to take a break at a newly opened cafe. We were the only guests. All of us ordered iced coffee with ice cream. We were there for 50 minutes, longer than our ramen lunch. Then we continued our climb on Rt139 towards Fujiyoshida. One of the team members got leg cramps, so we stopped again and enjoyed the close-up Fuji views. It was cooler at Fujiyoshida and we kept a moderate pace. Finally we joined the bypass towards Yamanaka-ko. I found some dirty piles of snow by the road side, as testimony to the real winters they get up there. We were gradually approaching 1 km above sea level.

Following a back road to Kagosaka-toge instead of the busier lakeshore route we avoided most traffic. Near the toge (1100+ m above sea level) we got changed into wind breakers and other extra layers for the descent to Matsuda. I had brought along my rain gear even though I was 99.9% sure it wouldn't rain - I simply couldn't shake off the memories of winter rides in recent months. All of this came in very handy, as I now had enough layers to be comfortable even descending at 40+ km/h with snow still lying in shaded places by the road side.


The downhill from Kagosaka-toge continued for almost 40 km. We were running behind schedule but we made the most of the daylight. Once we got down to sea level I no longer needed the extra layers and could ride in shorts and long sleeve jersey again.

I calculated that I would reach 162 km by the time we got to the Onsen, so it would be a full Century by the time we took a break for the night. There was some climbing on Rt246 after Matsuda but nothing too bad.

We passed the station at Hadano where I had previously finished many group rides with friends (them returning by rinko, me riding back to Tokyo). We locked up our bikes in the Onsen parking lot and checked in. After dropping off our stuff in our rooms and changing into the yukatta we all took a bath, then had dinner with some beer.

The rooms were not exactly four star, a bit noisy and too warm. I couldn't sleep much. I got up at 04:15 and got ready for checking out. We loaded up the bikes again. I was happy to find out that even at 05:00 it already had 18 deg C so I could start the day without extra layers as I had hoped. We had breakfast at a conbini that served as PC3 (3rd check point of the route).

The route our ride leader had picked was excellent for avoiding nasty parts of Rt246 without being too hilly. We passed through Atsugi on smaller roads and rejoined Rt246 near Machida. Rt246 probably is the least hilly way of getting from Hadano back to Tokyo in reasonable time on a bike. There were 3 places where we had to get off it because of flyovers closed to bicycles but other than that it was a smooth run. It was great to do the final descent to the Tamagawa. We crossed from Kanagawa into Tokyo at Futakotamagawa.


Our official goal was a conbini in Sangenjaya, the required 50+ km after PC3 (in a Trace, all controls need to be at least 50 km apart). From there it was another half an hour to the reception at Yoyogi-koen. Here we met our AJ NishiTokyo friends who had run from near Nagoya in the Flèche format and many other randonneurs from other clubs we knew.


Around 11:00 we left the event and headed home individually. I got back to the house before noon and met my wife, just before she headed out for ohanami with friends. I took a shower and slept most of the afternoon. It was a fun event and I'm looking forward to next year's.
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When I visited New Zealand with my family we hiked to the top of Roy's Peak in Wānaka, a 7 1/2 h round trip course with over 1200 m of elevation gain. There were 5 of us hiking together (3 of them younger than me), setting off at 08:00.

My legs were sore for 5 days afterwards, probably mostly from the descent.

Screenshot 2024-04-03 at 13.16.50.png
I don't know how much it helped prepare me for the Trace ride on Saturday/Sunday.

Comparing the heart rate data from my Fitbit, I was surprised just how different the data looked:

Screenshot 2024-04-03 at 13.17.12.png
While I only spent a fraction of the hike in the cardio zone, I was in there most of the time on the ride and spent a substantial amount of time in the peak zone.

Riding with stronger cyclists will make a HUGE difference in how hard you'll work!😅

Another interesting difference: My legs had fully recovered 2 days after the ride, a much shorter recovery time than after the hike.
While it's wonderful to cycle thru the falling cherry blossoms--kind of like it's snowing, and it emphasizes the 3D-ness of the world--when I got home I had a couple petals on my chain, a couple more inside my helmet.
Yesterday I took the BB Base cycle train to Choshi station and cycled up the Tonegawa cycle path turning right on to the Omigawa Ohashi then left on to the lakeside cycle path stopping at Ikisu Shrine and on to the Kashima Jingu shrine then looping back to the Omigawa Ohashi and continuing on the path to finish the 73km route at Sawara station and catching the cycle train back to Ryogoku.

As usual for this route, when the train stops at Matsuo station we are greeted by the town mascot and treated to fresh strawberries and rice balls. Surprisingly JR continues to refund the ¥840 one-way reserved seating part of the fare as compensation for the trains heating not working. Having finished with an hour to spare, I wished I had spent more time exploring the Kashima Jingu forest area as the giant cedar trees were impressive. The 30km Tonegawa path I rode is monotonously straight and barren with only one covered rest stop that was made even less enjoyable by a relentless crosswind. Once again I set a new personal distance record and even experienced a few kilometers of unexpected gravel riding in Kashima.

Next Saturday the cycle train makes a one-off stop at Yōkaichiba with pickup in either Sawara or Namegawa allowing for a rare gravel or road country-style ride thru rolling hills, riverside paths and ag fields.
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On Saturday I rode to the Nippara limestone caves near Okutama and back (162 km, on Strava). That completes month #140 of "Century a Month". It was a gorgeous day with lots of cherry blossoms, even though they are fading in Tokyo. Okutama is cooler than Tokyo and the limestone caves at about 600 a.s.l., higher than the top of Mt Takao.


My wife was out hiking with friends that day. I only left 3 hours after her, at 09:30. I rode in t-shirt and shorts but brought my wind breaker, rain jacket and rain pants in case I needed thermal layers. That approach had served me well on the Trace ride in March. This time I used the windbreaker and later the rain jacket when I felt chilly on the return ride, especially on the descent through Nippara valley and then down to Ome.

I had considered several different courses for the day, but opted for Nippara because it has little elevation gain for that kind of distance and I would have a chance to both go back to eat at Sherpa and to see my friend Ian, who lives in Ome.

There were many people having picnics along the Tamagawa. I expected the recent heavy rain would have knocked off a lot of the cherry blossoms, but they were more resilient than expected. I stopped at Haijimadaishi temple in Haijima to take pictures. Afterwards I had a second breakfast at 7-11.

Near Kabe station I visited the Sherpa Kebab shop, which is affiliated with the restaurant, to get a kebab sandwich. As I placed my order, the guy said: "Do you recognize me?" It was the head of Sherpa, whom I hadn't seen in the restaurant for a while. He told me that two years ago he had to close the business as a result of the Covid restriction. It was now under different management "but it's a friend of mine". He was planning to open a new restaurant near the East Exit of Ozaku station (Ome line), one stop before Kabe station. This is on the north side of the line. "Sherpa Kebab Curry Naan and Bar" will open on April 22.


I crossed over to the other side of the river after Ome and followed Rt45, which has less traffic than Rt411. A couple of km before Okutama I crossed back.


In Okutama I stopped at the visitor center to use the toilet, then ate my kebab sandwich. Across the road there was a fruit shop. I wanted to get some provisions before heading up the Nippara valley. I bought some Dekopon. The old lady who ran the shop looked at me and my bicycle and asked me: "Where did you cycle from today?" I replied: "From Tokyo." -- "Well, this is Tokyo too!" she responded. Of course she was right: Okutama is the most remote part of Tokyo-to, so it's technically part of the capital, even if it's 65 km from my home in Setagaya.


It was late in the afternoon when I turned around at Nippara village. There weren't many cars or people. I put on my windbreaker for the descent back to Okutama. I texted Ian that I would be passing through Ome. We arranged to meet for dinner at Sherpa.

Halfway to Ome I met a cyclist in a reflective vest at a traffic light. I complimented him on his classic looking bike. He was 200 km into a 300 km brevet from Katsushika to Tsuru toge and back to the east side of Tokyo. We chatted while the light changed a few times, then set off again. He soon disappeared ahead of me.


On the way to the restaurant I passed several omatsuri sites where local people had gathered around traditional performances. Local traditions are very much alive in Ome.

After a lengthy dinner and chat with Ian I cycled back to Setagaya. Closer to Tokyo I no longer needed a jacket. I got back just after midnight.
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