Like on the first November weekend
two years ago I also went to Chichibu for an autumn leaves viewing ride (I had missed last year’s ride due to influenza). Originally intended to be offered as a Half-Fast ride, I changed the date late in the planning to move it to the first day of a three day weekend (Culture Day), which meant the Half-Fast ride will now be two days after this and only my friend Jack and I rode on Friday.
We had perfect weather for the ride - not a cloud in the sky and pleasantly cool but not chilly, except on the descents, for which we brought sufficiently warm clothes.
Because I wanted to do the ride on my Elephant Bikes NFE, which I can’t easily pack into a rinko bag to take on a train, I decided to ride out to Chichibu the evening before, staying overnight at the Route Inn across the street from Seibu-Chichibu station. The ride was uneventful, except for one deer that ran across the road in the moonlight near Yamabushi toge.
I left a little before sunset and arrived in Chichibu late at night, after 23:00. The coldest part of the ride was the descent from Yamabushi toge on Rt53 and Rt299 to Chichibu, with temperatures of only around 11 C. I wore my cycling winter jacket and a wind breaker, knitted gloves and an ear cover. After checking in, I ate a conbini bento dinner in my room and went to bed.
The hotel car park at the back where I parked the bike over night has two spaces for EV charging. The charging infrastructure is growing. I suspect my next car may be battery electric too.
The Japanese buffet breakfast at the hotel was delicious and offered plenty of variety. After I checked out, I headed over to the nearby station, which appears to have undergone a renovation since I last visited.
Soon Jack arrived. We talked about the ride as he was assembling his bike. I told him it would be a slow ride, but that was fine by him. We rolled over to the nearby Familymart to fill up on water and buy some food. At 09:11 we hit the road and headed west.
I was wearing lined trousers, which are quite warm, with a polyester t-shirt. The trousers were needed for the cold night ride but I was worried they might be too warm for daytime. That turned out not to be case. I was just fine.
I had planned to fill up on water at the dam, but as it turned out access from near the tunnel side (away from the car park and buildings) is now fenced off for security purposes.
The water level in the lake was the highest I had ever observed, not really surprising after the amount of rain we’ve had in the last couple of weeks!
We cycled around the lake, occasionally stopping for pictures.
At a food stall further up the road that also sells grilled fish and local food we bought bottled water
On route 210 there are two tunnels that you could bypass by following the river. However, the second of those bypasses is closed due to a landslide that completely buried the road under big boulders. And by “closed” I mean in a “do not lift your bikes over the fence” kind of way That river path had already been closed two years ago. Rather than remove those boulders, the local government seems to have used the dead end space adjacent to them as a dumping ground for material from other landslides. I don’t expect that road to reopen anytime soon.
In my opinion, that second bypass is actually the most scenic part of the entire ride.
After that we continued our climb towards the Ogurazawa ruins or “Nichitsu ghost town”, as it’s popularly known.
The bridge leading to the doctor’s office at the bottom of the village has been blocked off to discourage trespassers from entering the company’s private property.
We climbed the last 5 km to the tunnel at the top at a moderate pace that let us hold a conversation.
About halfway up we met a cyclist on a tiny folding bike (YS-22G Tourer with 14" rear wheel, 16" front wheel, 3 speed internally geared hub) who was resting by the road side. This must have been a tough ride on a 3 speed!
At the top we put on our jackets for the descent. This was around 14:00. My GPS thermometer indicated 16 C, but it’s always colder the other side of the tunnel. We enjoyed the views there, especially the pretty momiji (Japanese maple) along the road during the long descent.
I didn’t take many pictures on the descent, to more enjoy the moment. We rode together until the route 299 junction, in case one of us had a puncture, and I didn’t go too fast to minimize puncture risks. Both of us had punctured here before.
Once on the main road we descended at our own respective pace, until we regrouped at the first convenience store after the mountains, a Lawson at the Rt299 / Rt37 intersection. By then we could take off our jackets again.
We got back to Seibu-Chichibu station around 16:30, after a long descent in the warm evening light. While Jack packed his bike for the train ride, I headed off for the second half of my ride. I stocked up on bananas at a conbini on Rt299. It soon got dark as I climbed towards the tunnel. I turned off onto Rt53 to Yamabushi toge. Again it got cold, but not quite as cold as the night before.
I got to Oume around 20:00 and came across an omatsuri at a Shinto shrine.
Another three hours later I finally reached my home in Tokyo. Strava reports 189 km with 2192 m of elevation gain. This was my first century ride (i.e. a bike ride of at least 160.9344 km a.k.a. 100 miles) for November. I have done at least one Century ride a month for 63 consecutive months now
I am looking forward to more rides with sunny skies in the cold dry winter season here.