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Saturday, June 22, 2024

My Toughest Cycling Challenge Yet…& That Is Snow Joke!

Watching the evening or morning weather forecast is such an important part of daily life for Japanese people (as indeed it is for many other nationalities around the world) who subsequently plan their day accordingly. It’s something of an obsession. Personally, I don’t always look so closely at the forecast details as I don’t want it to dictate my life or influence my mood. However, I did see it last Monday morning (February 5th) when heavy snow was forecast for later in the day. I feel it’s often wrong or exaggerated, and as it was dry and cloudy that morning I totally dismissed it and stubbornly cycled the 15 kilometres to work as usual. I don’t mind a challenge for going home but didn’t quite expect what was to come!

The moment I got off my bike around lunchtime it started to snow very, very lightly. As the hours passed whilst I slaved away I could see the snow falling from my restricted window view but I was unable to see it at street level. I eventually left my workplace at 7:30 pm and stepped outside for the first time and had to laugh at the conditions that lay before me. There were 2-3 inches of snow on the ground! I was on a backstreet though so thought (hoped!) the main roads I use would have been cleared of snow. Wrong!

The ride home along the wide paths of Route 317 was actually quite fun at times but for the main part was not, particularly the numerous clashes of thunder which accompanied the ride. The falling snow going straight into my eyes on occasion was also not so pleasant. I could thankfully follow in the tyre track of where a fellow cyclist had ridden before me but it really was not easy and the bike was naturally slipping and sliding quite a lot.

I wasn’t the only fool to be cycling in a few inches of snow though and a couple of people were even trying to ride with an umbrella in hand as is commonly done in the world’s most umbrella-conscious nation! Utterly ridiculous and it must’ve been impossible for them as my hands have never gripped the handlebars so tight!

What my bicycle looked like around the half way point of my 2 hour ride home

With five layers on my top half I wasn’t cold at all but my hands were as my gloves had a couple of holes in them and had generally just got wet very quickly. About half way home I stopped at a 100 yen shop to get some new gloves. When the shop assistant asked for the money I reached into my bag for my wallet but then realised it wasn’t in the usual spot as I’d put all my belongings inside plastic bags for protection from the wet snow. I then had to basically unpack my bag and untie the plastic bag to eventually find the required coins which left me rather red-faced. The neck warmer on my face thankfully hid my embarrassment!

Sadly I couldn’t get straight into a hot bath when I did eventually get back to the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Itabashi-ku after two hours in the saddle as I had to wipe my bicycle clean of all the snow that had accumulated on it during the whole ordeal. That took a while and I then had to use some rags to dry it all to help prevent rusting. Many people just leave their bicycles outside in the open air in Tokyo so I hate to think what they’re like in the wake of such snow.

After such a vigorous workout I really was expecting to wake up the following morning with some pain in my body, particularly my hands which had gripped those handlebars so tightly for a couple of hours. To my surprise though I was feeling fine but chose to not use my bike that day as I still wanted to give my body a bit of a rest.

I’d been preocuppied with other stuff on my arrival home the night before so hadn’t looked too closely at the data recorded on my Runkeeper app. In fact I had never looked at such information before despite recording all bike rides (of note!) and runs for over a decade! The breakdown of my average speed for each kilometre was quite interesting to see, and surprising that I had even managed to cycle at 10 km per hour at times in such relatively deep snow. The low points must’ve been when I had to push the bike uphill even though the gradient is never that steep on the journey.

I immediately compared it to the previous week’s ride for the same route which took around 55 minutes and had a top speed of 23 km per hour with the average at 16 km per hour. That is cycling fairly quickly so I think to have done it all in such extreme conditions (for a city) in just under two hours was quite impressive as it sure felt like I was going at far less than half the normal speed.

Of course I’ve cycled for longer (much longer!) but never had to endure such conditions to this extent before. That’ll teach me to not pay more attention and respect to the weather forecast! I highly doubt I’ll take such a chance again.

Click here to read ‘Pain & Glory! The Story Of Cycling To All Inari Shrines In Tokyo’s 23 Wards’

Click here to read ‘A Rainy 2-Hour Cycle Ride In The Hope Of Seeing An Appearance From The World’s Oldest Professional Footballer!’

Click here to read ‘Cycling Round The Yamanote Line In The Opposite Direction To 12 Years Ago!’

Click here to read ‘A 100km Return Bicycle Journey To Haneda Airport To See Tokyo’s Most Elusive Inari Shrine (+ Some Quirky Ota Ward Sights!)’

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan

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