This year I joined GS Astuto / Tim Smith's annual Santa Claus ride to Tomin no Mori for the first time. I happened to have a Santa hat my son had bought at a Don Quixote store years ago. Tomin no Mori is also one of my favourite mountain routes and I hadn't been on any rides with Tim for probably at least a year.
I like cyclists who don't take themselves too seriously and you certainly wouldn't be joining this ride if you did
Joining this ride was a no brainer, even with the low temperatures forecast for the day (1-11° C). It really turned out to be as cold as in any day in January, especially before sunrise and from the later afternoon onwards.
Thankfully Tim had moved the starting time from 08:00 to 08:30, which gave me more time to ride to Musashiitsukaichi, about 45 km from Setagaya.
I set my alarm for 04:15, left the house at 05:25 and headed down to the Tamagawa in the darkness in full winter gear, including thermal underwear, knitted gloves, shoe covers and a headscarf to cover my ears. The temperature gradually dropped from 3°C to 0°C. I saw some car owners scrape ice off windscreens in the morning, which I don't often see in Tokyo.
I caught my first glimpses of Mt Fuji from the Tamagawa bike path at dawn. When the sun finally rose, Fuji turned pink.
I arrived at Musashiitsukaichi at 08:15. Tim's friend Dylan was already there:
Soon we were joined by Jerry, who was combined his Santa suit with elf-stockings.
Finally Tim arrived and supplied Dylan with a second suit he had brought along.
Together we rode out to the 7-11 two km from the station to pick up some food and drinks. After some last minute emergency repair of Tim's glasses, which had broken at the hinge, using a roll of gaffer tape we were off towards the mountains.
Having only just overcome a cold and not having cycled more than 5 km in the past two weeks and no fast training ride in probably two months, I wasn't really in good shape. I had no problems staying with the other guys until Hinohara, but breathing a lot heavier than I normally would. After that I struggled more and more and finally dropped behind.
The final kilometres to Tomin no Mori were a bit of a struggle after having gone fast on the first third of the ride from the station, but I finally made it and enjoyed a chat and some shared snacks in the sun with my friends.
A friendly couple agreed to take our group picture.
Then we put on our warmest clothes, ready for the chilly descent. Even though it was cold, it didn't feel anywhere near as cold as when I had descended from Tomin in the rain a couple of weeks earlier: Dry clothes are much better at keeping you warm than soaked ones, particularly gloves and shoes. Tim and I discussed my disc brakes and other subjects during the descent and when I stopped at the Kobu tunnel turnoff at the traffic light.
From there I climbed up to the tunnel by myself. At the top I had some bananas, then went through the tunnel for the descent on the other side. I got more views of Mt Fuji.
Navigating with my phone I followed routes 522 and 521 past two golf courses (Lake Sagami Country Club and Uenohara Country Club) to the bottom of the Wada climb.
The west side of Wada toge had been closed for ages after half the road had been wiped out in a land slide. For many months the road had still been passable by bike, but when reconstruction finally started, the climb was completely sealed off to all traffic including even pedestrians. Recently I had heard that the road had reopened.
I saw some monkeys cross the road from an adjacent field on a tree branch, who probably had been looking for food there.
Finally I was at the base of Wada toge, with only 2.5 km to go to the top of the last climb of the day. I felt pretty worn out and stayed in my lowest gear throughout. I'm happy to confirm that the repaired section is shiny and new.
Feeling too exhausted, I ended up walking a couple of hundred metres before the top, something I (thanks to my triple) don't normally do on rides.
I saw some signs for a trail running event on December 23. The trails around Mt Jimba are very popular with trail runners.
Having reached the end of the final big climb and the second highest peak of the day, I enjoyed my descent on the east side of Wada. I felt very confident with the disc brake on the front wheel.
Once I got to the outskirts of Hichioji, I stopped at the Panseikatsu (パン生活, "bread life") bakery and cafe for some pastries with complimentary coffee. This and a brief nap revived me and I rode the final 45 km home with no issues. At 162 km with 2100 m of climbing this trip to Tomin and Wada was my 23rd ride in 2015 of at least 160.9 km (100 miles).
My clothes worked quite well for the temperatures, nevertheless even with proper winter clothes riding in the cold means you will use more energy just to maintain body heat. Consequently you'll get more exhausted than you would during a ride in spring or autumn.