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Old 11-05-17, 09:54 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Posts: 642

Bikes: Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer, Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

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I rode 189 km with 2200 m of elevation gain for a 'koyo' (autumn leaves viewing) ride in the mountains of Chichibu west of Tokyo. It's a 90+ km loop I've done every first November weekend since 2012, except last year when I was down with influenza. After the loop through the mountains I rode another 6 hours back to Tokyo after sunset.

The evening before the ride I left Tokyo just before sunset and rode out to Chichibu to stay at a hotel for the night. Otherwise I would have had to use a train either on the way to the ride or on the way home or make it a 270 km mountain ride.

Unlike my Bike Friday, the Elephant Bikes NFE doesn't easily pack for train rides. At the very least I'd have to remove the front rack and its attached dynamo headlight to fit into a standard size 'rinko' bag to take it on a Japanese train, which I've only ever done once. Staying at the hotel I could sleep in and have a nice breakfast before the ride.

At a quarter to 9 in the morning I met up at Seibu-Chichibu station with my friend Jack. He's a faster rider than me, but as he explained, his longest rides these days are 30+ km commutes. His goal with the 90+ km mountain loop was simply to finish it. I do long rides, but consistently slow. I take pride only in distance and I ride for views.

The weather was perfect. Blue sky and cool but not cold. I wore lined long trousers and a short sleeve polyester jersey. The lined trousers had kept me comfortable on the night ride on the way from Tokyo and I was worried they might be too warm for the sunny daytime ride, but they weren't. It was just right. I rode in my short sleeves t-shirt all the way to the 1250-odd m elevation high point of the loop, then put on a jacket and wind breaker for the descent. After the steep part of the descent I could again remove my jacket until sunset.

Jack and I stopped many times for pictures - I took over 160 of them. When we were riding flat roads or mild inclines I kept the pace up, but on the climb I made sure we could still effortlessly keep up a conversation. This was a slower pace than Jack had done on the course with others in previous years and he loved it. It let him experience it in a totally different way.

Once we got to the top of the small road we descended together on the other side until the road joined the major road. There's a fair amount of debris on the forest road from rock slides and cyclists often puncture there. Jack told me, in all the times he had done this course, he had punctured in all rides but one! Well, this time was the second time he made it back safely We descended separately on the main road to meet up again half an hour later at the first convenience store. It was late afternoon by then. I loved the soft evening light as we rode back to the station together. He headed back towards Tokyo by train, while I cycled another 90 km or so in moonlight to get home.

Winters in Tokyo are mostly dry and sunny, with temperatures rarely dropping to the freezing point. At lower elevations we only get a couple of days of snow, usually in February. As long as you dress for the temperatures you can ride all year round here.

Last edited by joewein; 11-05-17 at 09:58 AM.
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