Following yesterday’s lousy weather that curtailed almost all cycling, today shone bright as an opportunity to get back onto the bike.
While the pre-dawn was icy cold, it also showed a glow that suggested the sunrise was going to be a glorious one.
After a series of stumbles that included breaking a coffee cup celebrating the 2017 premiership victory by the Richmond Football Club and forgetting all sorts of thing, Kangaeroo could finally head off.
Wind was debilitating again, as it tends to be in spring. The wind swirls, so just when it seems unbearable, there can often be an uplifting tailwind, so it’s not all bad.
Nonetheless, today’s wind came head on and made for tough riding.
But making it to the Tama River brought wonderful rewards in the form of a brilliant sunrise, highlighted by the presence of many clouds in the sky.
It is an ill wind that brings no good, indeed, as the blustery conditions of the morning ensuring that nicer weather would be ushered in.
Summer is not always the most pleasant season in Tokyo as it’s stinking hot, humid and frequently raining.
Sometimes, though, nature turns on the charm and you get some delightful goodies.
This week’s sunrises have been precisely that.
Blessed (?) by a series of bicycle mechanical failures, Kangaeroo.com got a day to take it nice and slowly along the banks of the Tama River forming the boundary between Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, resulting in these delightful pictures.
And so it should have, considering the Latin word for storm is the name given to a great line of Aussie cycling gear from the Gold Coast that Kangaeroo.com was lucky enough to get to try out after being picked as a contest winner.
Kangaeroo.com doesn’t win too much, so wanted to treat the kit with the reverence it deserved.
Perfuro founder Martin Coleman contacted Kangaeroo.com in early June to notify him of the win. Then, 2020 hit again.
Japan Post has halted air mail to Australia because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t deter Martin and he found a way to get the kit to arrive in Japan within a month (at a time when Japan Post was saying that deliveries between the two countries could take anywhere up to six months).
Perfuro’s Synoptic Series Coldfront jersey and shorts, which Kangaeroo.com had won, were well-packed in individual plastic, sealable bags.
Sizes had been selected using the size charts on the company’s website. Being a lumpy old man with a funny-shaped dad bod, Kangaeroo.com always opens cycling kit with a bit of trepidation. But the measurements were spot on, and consequently, so was the fit.
Kangaeroo.com was worried. He doesn’t look the best in body-hugging lycra, and is highly insecure about wearing it because of this. But Perfuro’s Martin assured him that “nobody looks bad in my gear.” We reckon Martin might be right, too, and the photos in the gallery below give a lot of credence to the founder’s assertions. Kangaeroo.com is certainly not scared to show off the results to the world, which says something.
Having received the gear in early July, the urge to put it on and get out on the bike to try to it was immense. But, once again seeking the best possible conditions to do so, waited for a sunny day. And waited. And waited. And waited. The Tokyo area was hit by rain every single day for the month of July, the last few days of June and into the start of August.
Finally, though, the day dawned when it was time to get the gear on and take some shots.
And what a delight! Perfuro is made using Italian fabric and its’s very gentle on the skin. Also gentle is the lack of protruding seams, which means there’s no skin abrasions. Tokyo in early August is fiercely hot and the humidity is suffocating; perfect conditions for generating a sweat in anyone. The kit absorbed the perspiration well and stayed dry, avoiding chafing and keeping the body cool. The sponge chamois was a great fit and made for a comfortable ride. The designs and colors are also fabulous, with Coldfront’s red hue with white and black tinges one of the options.
Perfuro offers four men’s stylish product lines. There’s an equivalent number of women’s gear lines and the company also sells cycling tech accessories. You can also read Martin’s novel through the website.
All of this for half the price about half of what you’d expect to pay for equivalent quality cycling kit. And Perfuro has loads of different payment options, including partial payments, making all of its offerings highly accessible for even trifling sums.
In what’s been a bleak year for pretty much everyone worldwide, Perfuro has blown in with a fresh breeze offering at least a little delight.
Horse-riding is an integral part of living for many in country Australia, where Kangaeroo spent the formative years of life.
Incredibly, in spite of this, and despite a landmass 26 times greater and population only about 1/6th the size, Australian horse riding services are generally far more expensive than their Japanese counterparts.
Provided you’re happy enough riding in a relatively confined space, it’s unbelievably accessible to ride horses in Japan, financially and in terms of getting to places to ride.
Moreover, there’s far less red tape involved in riding in Japan, where helmets, high-viz and other rigmarole are not mandatory as they are in the Aussie nanny state.
Kangaeroo’s days of regular horse riding are long gone, but that doesn’t make him a “neigh-sayer” when it comes to Japanese gee-gees.
Having completed about two-thirds of a circumnavigation of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, the final day was supposed to be an easy jaunt to the train station and a comfortable ride home to Tokyo for the Kangaeroo crew.
“Ha, ha,” laughed the devil.
On paper, the last leg of the Biwaichi circumnavigation was a mere 60 kilometers on a flat course, nearly all of which was isolated bike tracks.
For the first hour, that was precisely what Kanageroo and the missus got as they headed out of Seta and off toward Hikone.
The bitter taste of a terrible time at the Royal Oak Shiga slowly dissipating as we rode along Biwa, which offered a clear view of its built-up opposite bank with mountains in the background.
Nearing Moriyama, however, the wind suddenly blew up a storm…right into our faces.
The gentle ride suddenly became a herculean task as we ground the Brompton and BD-1 into the face of the 30-km/h headwind.
The steady rapid pace of the day’s first hour of riding was almost halved in the near gale, and pedaling became even more difficult in the open farmlands near Azuchi, where cyclists got no protection.
Finally, though, we rolled into Hikone at around lunchtime, an arrival somewhat earlier than planned.
It was here that Kangaeroo was to fulfill a 30-year-long dream of visiting Hikone Castle.
Before arriving in Japan in 1988, Kangaeroo read a travel guide that raved about the feudal era castle and its surrounding gardens.
Life intervened, though, and he never made it….until now!
Hikone Castle was a delight! The early 17th century castle is one of only a dozen that is in its original state. Glorious gardens that had once been the havens of the castle’s lords remain intact, as does the inner moat around the castle.
Even more delightful, a yakatabune runs tours through the moat, giving a wonderful look at the castle and accompanied by (Japanese language) guides with expert knowledge on the national treasure.
What’s more, there was also a little touch of Australia with a black swan (endemic to Oz, but this one was born in Japan) swimming its waters and frantically chasing the boat as it headed through the moat.
After an obligatory photo with the castle’s nationally famous mascot, Hikonyan, it was off to Champontei for a bowl of omi champon, noodles that are a local specialty.
Following the hearty and delicious meal it was a short walk to Hikone Station, where the bikes ended their fabulous journey by being packed back into their bags for the train trip home.
Being the year’s last long weekend, the trains were packed as the Kangaeroo crew headed back to Tokyo.
But it was essentially an eventful, though long, journey on the stopping all stations kodama bullet train to Odawara and then suburban trains to get home.
It was an amazing and rewarding journey with special kudos to Mrs. Kangaeroo, Brommie and Birdy for jobs well done.
Blessed with a long weekend and loads of motivation, Kangaeroo and Mrs. Kangaeroo got out the foldups and built up the resolve to circumnavigate Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.
The 235-km shore length is not for the faint-hearted, though plenty make the trip in a single day, courtesy of the almost completely flat course.
Nonetheless, it’s a demanding distance for irregular cyclists, so Kangaeroo had cause for concern regarding the missus, who admittedly cycles day, but does so on an e-bike and not an old foldup with no track record of triple-figure journeys.
Anyway, putting aside the concerns, Mrs. Kangaeroo remained deeply confident of her abilities and plotted out the trip, designing it to have full enjoyment at the lowest possible cost.
Thus the Kangaeroo couple headed out from home late on Friday night, racing to Kawasaki to catch the bus to Hikone, from where their circumnavigation would start.
Arriving at the bus stop and folding and bagging the deadly treadlies, Kangaeroo was surprised when the jobsworth driver informed him that bus company policy was to not carry bikes.
“We’ll let you on this time, but take no responsibility for any damage that occurs in transit,” the officious driver said.
The driver then wrapped the bikes in blankets, ensured no luggage was around them and went to enormous pains to make sure the bikes would be safe.
And, indeed, the Brompton and BD-1 were safe and unscathed when the bus finally made its way to Hikone the following morning, arriving more than 1 hour late thanks to roadworks and heavy traffic.
The less than ideal start was compounded by Kangaeroo having caught a cold, leaving him coughing and spluttering with snot running riot.
Countering that, though, was glorious weather. Blue, sunny skies and welcoming warmth greeted the riders as the foldups were unfolded, the luggage packed on the Brommie’s racks, and the riders set off.
Just one problem….which way to go? Fortunately, there was a sign to Hikone Port not far from the station and that seemed a logical place to head for considering the city is located on the lake (and not the sea).
Within a few minutes riding along the moat of the city’s renowned and beautiful castle moat, the Kanagaeroo crew reached the port and found the huge blue arrows that serve as the indicators for the Biwaichi, the abbreviation of 琵琶湖一周 (biwakoisshuu), or circumnavigation of Lake Biwa.
The remainder of the day was simply exquisite!
We rode north from Hikone, essentially hugging the lake’s shoreline.
It didn’t take long to reach Nagahama, the first big town after leaving Hikone, and also with a notable castle of its own, surrounding with a lovely garden.
Kangaeroo was worried about the missus, having seen seasoned riders struggle a little on a less than 80-kilometer trip in Kyushu just last month.
But she was resilient, pounding away on the Birdy’s pedals and less susceptible to the call for a cuppa than Kangaeroo.
A snack was partaken at a delightfully quaint, lakeside cafe basking in the sun in Takashima.
From there, it was a couple of kilometers off the beaten track to the Makino Metasequoia, a row of redwoods leading to Makino Pick Land, where punters can at times gather their own fruit for eating.
On the day the Kangaeroo crew arrived, there was a local market going on.
While Mrs. Kangaeroo went of to get a French lunch, Kangaeroo clumsily carried the bikes up a flight of stairs to score a seat.
Well, it was a right mess, but people flocked from all sides to help out, including another Aussie, who was there with her hubby and we had a wonderful conversation.
True to form, her hospitality was outstanding and we tucked into our French fare armed with an invitation to drop by her home during our trip.
Having eaten more than out fill, it was off to Imazu, where we would end the first day’s journey.
We even saw a couple of wild monkeys along the way!
The Imazu Sun Bridge hotel, while being nothing flashy, was simply outstanding in terms of its handling of cyclists and bicycles.
We were warmly welcomed, the bikes wheeled into a protected area behind the Reception Desk and the staff treated the bicycles with great care.
Imazu would be a nondescript town were in not for the existence of a few prewar buildings designed by an American architect who would naturalize and spend the war interred in Karuizawa.
After a tour of these buildings, it was back to the hotel room to watch the Rugby World Cup final where the Springboks blanketed England, ending an amazingly well-coordinated event where Japan excelled itself both on and off the field, as well as turned Kangaeroo into a rugby fan having (erroneously) previously dismissed it as a rich boy’s sport with little appeal.