Okumusashi Madness


Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
Thomas said:
Even though it looks as if I shall have to assume the role of the lanterne rouge among so many hardcore adrenaline junkies. :warau:
david.anderson said:
I shall wrestle the latern rouge from Thomas no doubt.
Then I will come to the start line in a broom wagon - beat that, weaklings! :D


Speeding Up
Feb 15, 2007
My sincere apologies to Deej and everyone else for failing to show up for the ride. I overslept :( I have been busy at work and it finally caught up with me this morning.




Maximum Pace
Oct 13, 2007
Okumusashi Gladness

Over a year ago, I playfully dubbed this route (crafted with the help of Philip and Travis/YellowGiant) Okumusashi Madness, not because I thought it would literally drive one mad, but because I thought it had a nice ring to it. Specifically, if you must know, I was pleased with the alliterative aspect of the Musashi/Madness. Part of my day job involves writing headlines, and when inspiration fails to strike, alliteration is a handy crutch for hacks like me.

At the time of its crafting, the route included parts hitherto unknown to many of us TCCers, as well as some sections -- like Kaburi-toge -- that we had glimpsed and feared. So I suppose this is where the "madness" came in. What would it be like? Would we get lost? Could we finish it?

Is is hard? Well, difficulty is relative, but when the computer clicks past the 200km mark, and most of the day has been spent in the mountains, I for one would say hell yeah, it's hard. Especially if you're trying to keep up with Speedy Gentlemen like Alan and Clay.

One of the defining characteristics of this ride is that it almost always involves some drama. This drama ranges from the minor -- punctures, and there is always at least one puncture -- to the major -- broken chains and, most recently, exposed nipples (more on this later).

Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009

This Saturday, I rolled up to the Higashi-Ome 7/11 at about 8:35 a.m., where I found Thomas and Clay (echothree) already waiting. They had ridden from east Tokyo, up the Arakawa and along some nasty, truck-filled roads to get there, the troopers. Philip had already called me to let me know that he had overslept and would probably not make it. Bummers!

Sergey was there, as well, yawning up a storm due to a pair of noisy neighbors. Homeboy, who had rolled in from his new home in the conveniently located suburb of Tachikawa, was about to have a hard day in the saddle on only two or three hours of sleep. The warrior that he is, he only got stronger as the day progressed.

Next, Alan and Dave arrived after taking the train out to Ome and riding back to Higashi-Ome. Although I had carelessly forgotten to specify which 7/11 we were meeting at (and there are a lot of 7/11s out there), they managed to find it, and soon the six of us were headed for the mountains.

The pace was brisk, and in no time, we were up and over the first passes, Yamabushi-toge and Shomaru-toge. We stayed remarkably close to each other on the climbs, so there was no waiting at the tops.

The momentum continued as we sped down route 299. Until, that is, I got a rear flat. Damn, it was me this time. Sooner or later, Okumusashi Madness will get you. Once Tom got two flats on this stretch. Everyone kindly waited as I removed a sharp stone from my tire and put in a new tube (which actually turned out to be an old patched tube). Frustratingly, my expensive little titanium and carbon pump wouldn't work, so I had to use Alan's and, just for good measure since everyone was in a sharing mood, Thomas's. Today, I tested my pump on a new tube, and it wouldn't work. Time to give a little boost to Japan's consumer spending data.

Off we were again, this time to confront the harrowing steeps of Kaburi-toge. This sucker will take you down. Just when you think it can't go on any farther, you round the bend and -- boom! -- 22% incline in your face. But the torture eventually ended and we all made to the top, only to find Okey-san, resplendent in full Columbia Highroad kit -- waiting at the top and snapping photos of his fellow TCCers. His photo of me is appalling. My form is a checklist of what not to do on a bike, and my face is distorted almost beyond recognition by a simian rictus. Fugly is the correct term, I believe.

The good man had estimated that we would be arriving at that point about that time, and waited to greet us before heading off in a different direction. Always good to see you, Okey-san! See you on the road again soon!

After filling up our bottles and swapping war stories, the six of us set off toward Karibazaka-toge along the undulating spine of the mountain, misty valleys on both sides. Lovely. The cloud cover and recent rains had a significant cooling effect, helping us conserve our energy as we struck deeper into the hills.

From there, it was one pass after the next through damp forests and up to a sweeping expanse of green farmland full of cows, milk and soft-serve ice cream.

After cresting Nihongi-toge, we began our descent toward Chichibu. In dry conditions, it is fast and fun ride down, though the corners are tight and a tad gravelly in places. In the damp, it's still fun, but extra vigilance is required. Being a scaredy cat on wet descents, I hung back as I usually do, taking it slow. About three-quarters of the way down, I heard a metallic "clang!" ahead and hoped it was the sound of wheels passing over a grate. Frighteningly, it was the sound of Thomas's bike slamming into a guardrail. One of the turns proved too tight and damp for his brakes, resulting in one bruised and bloodied Austrian. The rail tore a little patch of fabric away from his chest, neatly revealing Thomas's left nipple. Somebody commented that it looked like he'd had a "wardrobe malfunction" like Janet Jackson.

After taking a break to make sure that Thomas and his titanium steed were OK, we rode on to the nearest 7/11 (god, we spend a lot of out money there) and stocked up on fuel, alcohol wipes and bandages. I think the sight of six tall, sweaty, dirty, bloody, left-nipple-exposing foreigners came as a shock to the four high-school girls behind the counter. I definitely heard some giggling. We were like a motorcycle gang rolling in, sprawling out next to the parking lot and claiming the area as our turf as we munched on jam sandwiches and shrimp-flavored corn puffs.

OK, off we were again, this time pointing our bikes in the direction of Higashi-Ome. It was time to go home. We decided to avoid the tunnel along route 299 and take the route 53 shortcut back to Yamabushi-toge. It was a wise choice -- fast, no horrible tunnel, and easy climbing.

The descent from Yamabushi was nice, but I hung back here as well because of the wet roads. Sergey, Alan and Clay plunged down quickly, however, and were soon out of sight. But once we got back on the flats, I went Cancellara on their asses and eventually bridged up to the breakaway, filling the trio with awe and, I can only imagine, envy.

We all regrouped and the intersection for the turnoff to Arima dam and from there rode back to Higashi-Ome as a group. We made it to back the 7/11 by about 4:00 p.m., said our goodbyes, and by 4:15, Thomas, Clay and I were riding back home, headed for the Tamagawa. At one point, we passed a foreign cyclist who decided to ride our slipstream all the way back into town. When we finally came to a stoplight, I turned and said, "You did a good job keeping up with us!" What I meant is that he showed tenacity in sticking with us through all the turns and gates, etc. But aware of how it might have sounded, I quickly added, "I don't mean that in a condescending way." Which somehow sounded even jerkier. But the light was green and the circumstances weren't exactly ideal for explaining myself clearly. He kept riding as we stopped for drinks along Setagaya-dori. As I was conveying my embarrassment about my comments to Thomas and Clay, Thomas said that I had made a similar comment to him the first time we rode together. The horror! Maybe I am a jerk! Thinking back, I remember it now: We were riding up a long incline along Setagaya-dori, and I went full gas all the way to the top. When I turned around, Thomas was right on my wheel. (or was it Thomas who went full gas and I who was on his wheel) At that point, I said something like, "You really climbed that well." I totally meant it as a compliment, but I can imagine how it sounded. Thomas, you are a cycling god and I beg your forgiveness. Actually, remembering back, I think we even joked about it at the time.

Goodness, how I ramble on here.

In closing, I would like to thank Alan, Sergey, Clay, Thomas and Dave for the spectacular day. Philip, next time, man!



Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
Thanks for organising the ride and the entertaining write-up. I think the ride does deserve its name, after all, Okumusashi Reasonableness does not have the same ring to it. And that section up the concrete circles is tough. I now think of it as "John McEnroe Boulevard", a real "You can not be serious!" hill.

Thomas, Clay, Sergey, & David: a pleasure to ride with you Speedy Gentlemen.



The Crank Engine
Nov 1, 2005
Truly a ride of epic proportions! I clocked 272km in distance and 3050 metres of climbing according to my Garmin. Deej, thanks for the in-depth report.

Sorry for delaying the ride by crashing. My advice: avoid guardrails at all costs, they are razorsharp. I sustained an interesting Zorro-esque mark across my chest and a deep laceration on my wrist. Funny, the pain has only started today. :warau:

Gentlemen, it's been unforgettable, thanks for the wonderful day.


Speeding Up
Dec 23, 2008
Speedy gents - thanks for a great day out. I hope that my less than quick dragging of the latern rouge around the route did not spoil your enjoyment of the day. Thanks especially for nursing me through to the jam sandwich pit stop.

Deej - thanks for the very entertaining write up of a great day out in the hills.

Thomas - i hope the war wounds are healing ok.

Cheers for now