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Old 07-10-17, 02:43 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Tokyo, Japan
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Bikes: Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer, Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

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On Saturday I rode my first century of the month, 171 km (106 mi) with 1900 m (6200 ft) of elevation gain. The weekend before I could only go for a ride on Sunday afternoon, leaving only enough time for a metric century. With Saturday's ride, I am now up to 59 consecutive months of "A Century A Month."

A friend had announced a ride in the mountains that included a forest road I had never tried, plus a canyon with a waterfall that looked interesting. I set off early to make sure I wouldn't be late for the meeting at 08:45 some 45 km from home, but ended up making it there so early, I was almost an hour ahead of schedule. So I messaged my friend that I was going to meet him on the course and then headed to a cafe nearby for breakfast. From there I headed up the first climbs. It starts in a rural mountain valley and the trees offered welcome shade in what was going to be a very hot day.

After the last village the road turns into a closed forest road, with no vehicle traffic. It also gets pretty steep (15-18%). I only encountered 3 other bicycles on the whole climb, which I took slowly. The normal climb to the pass that is also open to cars and motorcycles is "only" 12-15%. Once at the top of the forest road, it descends again a little, then turns into a gravel path for a few hundred meters before finally joining the main road at Wada pass.

At the little refreshment place at the pass I was greeted by my friend Byron, who had made the climb on the main road and was just about to head down to the train station again. I told him about my friends' ride and soon they arrived behind us. He decided to join us for an unspecified portion of our planned route. Every time we came to a split in the road where he could have bailed out, he decided to stick with us. In the end he rode with us the whole day, including all the new bits to discover and explore!

First we bought some cool drinks and water and rested a bit, then we descended the west side of Wada pass while a team of high school girls was racing up the mountain on their bikes. In this heat every bit of tree cover was welcome, to escape the sun. The Sky was blue and the temperature was well into the 30s (C) from the morning.

Following a rural backroad we made our way to a local restaurant run by a local farmers' cooperative. The food was really inexpensive and the shop next door sold ice cream bars from the freezer.

It was a bit hard to get rolling again after lunch, but we made our way up a lengthy climb with a long tunnel at the top. The temperature inside the tunnel, which was over a km long, was very refreshing and the long sweeping descent on the other side exhilarating.

At the T-junction at the bottom, Byron again abandoned an easy return downhill to the station and climbed 4 km on the main road with us, then another 4 km of forest road, some of it quite steep. He had not done much serious climbing all year so he was feeling it in his legs, but this was the last major climb. The descent on the other side was fun. However, a part of the descent was unsurfaced. We were rolling over a bed of washed-out gravel. Some of us dismounted and ran next to their bikes to not risk their tires, but I took advantage of my 650Bx42 tires and went as fast as I safely could, getting ahead of everyone to take pictures as they all arrived at the bottom.

After about 10 km downhill on the main road we took a brief detour up another valley and again Byron joined us. Two km up the road we came to a small car park, behind which there was a canyon with waterfalls.

Some aluminium ladders, steps made from rebar and chains anchored in the cliff face to hold onto made it possible to hike up the canyon. We splashed in the cool water. One of us went for a swim. It was great!

Together we headed down to Musashiitsukaichi train station, where my friends got on a train back to Tokyo. I cycled the last 45 km back home. I saw the sunset on the Tamagawa river and the red full moon rise on the other side. I got home tired but satisfied.

I think this summer I will look for some more of these small mountain valleys with waterfalls, limestone caves and other spots off the beaten track.

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