FEATURED ARTICLE | December 23, 2020
Tokyo Techies is a tech company. We sit at computers all day long, eating unhealthy food, drinking coffee and making bad jokes. That’s the general image of software programmers anyway (so why we were called as computer geeks). And truthfully, it’s not completely false, during the weekdays.
On the weekends however, we encourage ourselves to enjoy life to the fullest. We gather, do BBQ, go camping, etc. Our last activity – happened last weekend (Dec 19th-20th) – was the most challenging and memorable of all. It was a bicycle ride of 100km, often referred to as a metric century ride.
Everything started with me (Yoshi) blabbering about my failed plan to go to Hakone on a motorbike at lunch with our CEO Duc and a few other members. Then I randomly suggested we do the same road on bicycles. Somehow they all were like “Yeah”, “Why not!” and started planning right there without giving me a chance to swallow what I spurted out. The final participants were:
As the originator of the idea, also the one with most experience touring in Japan, I took charge and planned the trip. However, it’s still my first time doing long distance cycling, so there was much to learn. I read about long distance cycling, planned the route, the things to bring, booked the bicycles and an AirBnB house, bought some necessary equipment from Amazon, and took the lead position in our 8-man formation.
The planned route. Google Maps cannot handle all the customizations so I need to separate it into 2.
We wanted to start early, but the bike rental shop (Asakusa) opens at 9AM, so that is the earliest time for us. After all the procedures, we got our bikes and were ready to go. We went very slowly at first since it’s everyone’s first time on a cross bike, so we need some time to adjust and become familiar with the gear system. After an hour or so, we reached Tokyo Tower and had our first break/photo session. The last autumn leaves were so beautiful!
Cycling through the cities wasn’t really fun with so many red lights. We could only pick up the pace after we’d gotten to Tsurumi river bank. Following the river was super nice, we were going at around 19-20km/h until it started raining ICE. Fortunately we only have to endure it for around 15 mins.
Saying goodbye to the river bank after 10km, we went for lunch at a Saizeriya restaurant along the way. After the 1-hour lunch break, we got back on the saddles to tackle our first big challenge: a long uphill slope. By long, I mean loooooonnnng 😃. Or maybe not that long, but it felt like we were going uphill forever. The difference in our physical abilities became apparent: Marc the French, Duc the 10km runner and Danny the 22 yo had little trouble climbing the slope while I and a few others struggled to do so, eventually gave up and walked the bikes to the top of the hill. All the energies from lunch burned away in a flash.
We continued through the Kanagawa prefecture toward the Sagami river, battling the slopes along the way. The sky kept getting darker and the wind colder. It becomes apparent that we won’t make it to Hakone at the time we planned. That also means we wouldn’t be able to get back to return the bicycles in time the next day. So we improvised: we would head toward Hiratsuka station instead, leave the bicycles there, take the train to Odawara station to have dinner and take a cab to onsen. We reached Hiratsuka station, 80km away from our starting point, at around 7pm. Duc’s fitness app reported the average speed was 12km/h.
After fulfilling a yakiniku dinner, we went to Tenzan onsen, one of the most famous onsen places in Hakone. There were some troubles as they declined to serve large groups (more than 7 people, probably due to Corona), so 2 of us decided to skip the bath and the rest, including me, went in. Dipping your body in hot water after a long day of cycling is godsend; all the muscle pain melted away like butter meeting a hot knife. Afterward, we took a cab again to our AirBnB lodge, which was very nice and all but we were too tired to enjoy it. I was sound asleep as soon as my back hit the mattress.
The next day, well rested and ready, we took the train back down to Hiratsuka. Well aware that we might not return the bike in time if we don’t give it our all, I changed the plan; we would go through a different route, forego lunch and try to survive with snacks/energy bars all the way home.
Not surprisingly, our muscle pain came back as soon as we’d gotten on the saddles, so we couldn’t go very fast at first. Another factor is the wind; we faced headwind on the way back, which hampered our speed greatly. Many times I thought we wouldn’t make it in time, but through sheer will we kept paddling and the target kept getting closer. We stopped only 3-4 times at some convenience stores to stock up energy bars and water.
Thankfully the final 30-40km or so wasn’t bad. There was a giant slope where I thought I might die midway, but after that there were many long downhills, so we sped through Chofu, went along the Tokaido highway toward Shinjuku and flew through the city (passing a few red lights) to Asakusa. We reached the destination 5 minutes before the deadline. 80km, 8 hours, not too shabby for a practice-lacking computer geek like myself.
All in all, the trip was a success and everyone had a great time. The pain in the ass (literally) will stay for a day or two, teaching some of us the invaluable lesson of not neglecting their equipment. We now know that our endurance limits are much higher than we give ourselves credit for, and so we shall plan even crazier things in the future.
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