Friday, December 14, 2007

Smooth, Twisty 40kph Glide

Today’s glide was over the popular 897m Yabitsu Pass which is in the mountains behind Atsugi, southwest Tokyo.
It was a long weekend, Friday being a public holiday. So many Japanese take the opportunity to ‘get out of town’.
Generally the roads into the mountains to popular places are packed. Speeds for vehicles are lucky to be over walking speed for many kilometers if not all the way. I’ve seen bumper to bumper traffic late into the night. It’s a testimony to the patients that the Japanese people have. Maybe this is what DVD players in cars are for…..
Climbing on a bike in situations like this is fine. Even with the narrow winding roads you generally have room to sneak up the inside or around the outside…With traffic like this even motor cycles find it hard to make progress due to the narrowness of the mountain roads… I must admit, it does take the fun out of descending though…!

Yabitsu is different; it’s not busy because there is nothing at the top, no city, no lake, no temple, no cable car, just a toilet block with Hilton like polished marble floors! That’s at least in the ladies toilet. I inadvertently choose the wrong side … thought it was strange there wasn’t a shooter in the joint! Sometimes is good to have ‘gaijin’ status…

I decided to climb the eastern side so I would have some sun for company for the early part of the ride. When I started out from Sagami-ono at 7am it was 1’C with a top of 11’C forecasted. On the climb I passed several rides some going up and some descending. A few weren’t using ride shoes. They were just out having a go on their hybrid styled bikes. A similar kind of rider in Australia would be found on a beach side bike path. Not 500m up a mountain.
That’s not a criticism of the quality of entry level riders in Australia but I think more a testimony to what low vehicle speeds have on a cyclist resolve, not to mention the abundance of mountains… Posted vehicle speeds vary from 30k to 40kph on most mountain roads unless it is an elevated mountain Toll Road in which case cyclists are not invited. The tolls by the way on some of these private roads can be in the order of $20 to $40 AUD….!

The decent of Yabitsu on the western side was longer and less steep with some flats every now and then. The surface was to my amazement a little rough in the high sections. I understand a few cracks in a road surface at snow levels but there were several bumps. If you get the chance to ride this pass try the west side first and descend the eastern side.
The east side like so many mountain roads is mirror smooth hotmix with a constant grade, tight corners every 20 or 30 meters, the kind that you need to use the mirrors installed to see round the bend to make sure there is not a vehicle coming with your name on it!

Half way down the west side there is a lake, most probably a dam to supply some water to Tokyo. It was truly a beautiful sight with and almost aqua colored water fringed by high mountains covered with autumn leaves of every shade…The red steel suspension bridges and tunnels that ring the steep sides of this lake are like eye candy for someone from one of the oldest landscapes on earth…

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