235 km a day on my Bike Friday

A couple of weeks ago I did my longest ride on the Bike Friday yet – 235 km in a day, across the mountains west of Tokyo to a lake near Mt Fuji during the cherry blossom (sakura) season. This was part of my training for a 300 km brevet ride coming up this month. It was a beautiful ride, one of my most enjoyable so far.

Sakura (cherry blossoms) on route 413:

It took me about 16 hours, of which 14 hours were moving time. I had left home at 05:20 and was back in Tokyo at 21:20 (9:20pm). My Pocket Rocket has a Shimano hub dynamo and a Lumotec IQ Cyo headlamp which provided plenty of light on the last stretch after sunset.

Here is my route. I started from my house in Tokyo after sunrise and cycled out to the mountains some 40 km away, then followed Route 413 up a mountain valley and over a pass over 1100 m (3600 ft) high. I was climbing from virtually sea level (45 m or 150 ft) to 1.1 km high. I was cycling almost continually uphill for the first 96 km (60 miles). After 7 hours (including quite a number of brief stops for food, rest and pictures) I reached the highest pass.

More sakura:

I always want to see the remaining distance:

The exit of the tunnel at the end of The Longest Climb: It’s all downhill from here… NOT!

The shores of Lake Yamanaka at the foot of Mt Fuji, over 900 m (3000 ft) above sea level:

It can be surprizingly difficult to sea Mt Fuji (3776 m high) from just a few km away because of its frequent cloud cover. I cycled 235 km and all I saw of Fuji is this (its foot):

Almost home – at the top of the Mt Takao pass:

The humble Bike Friday Pocket Rocket:

and its crazy rider:

The ABC of distance riding: Always Be Consuming!

There is nothing exceptional about cycling this kind of distance. The key is eating and drinking sufficiently. Most people who first try long distances become exhausted not because of insufficient training, but because they simply eat and drink too little. The energy reserves in your body only last so long. Three meals a day will not cover the continuous energy use of long distance riding. You need to consume about 200-300 kcal per hour and sufficient liquids.

I carried water in two bottle holders, which I refilled whenever I could. Throughout the day I ate: 7 bananas, 6 raisin bread rolls, 360 g of yoghurt, a slice of pizza and several other pieces of bread. I drank about 4 litres of water, orange juice, cocoa, yoghurt drink and sports drink. Don’t worry too much about putting on weight while burning 6500 kcal. I am 10 kg (22 lbs) lighter now than I was the year before I got the bike. I’ve been dropping about one kg a month since I got the bike.

Stick to a speed you can sustain. I am not a fast rider, doing mostly 23-25 km/h on the flat (about 15 mph), with down to as little as 9 km/h (6 mph) on steep climbs, but that doesn’t stop me from going out to see nature, lots of it. I don’t go out there to set speed records, but to see the country, smell the trees and the ocean, view the rivers and mountains and bring back some pictures. Why settle for 3-6 hours when I can enjoy it the whole day?

Long rides on a folding bike

I did this 235 km ride a little over half a year after getting the Pocket Rocket, my first road bike in over 30 years. Some people are surprised that I do these rides on a folding bike. I usually point out that my house is small and a bike with small wheels is easier to store indoors. This is not just my touring bike but also my shopping bike. Almost daily I cycle to shops and carry my groceries home in a back pack. Other people may have a garage with several different bikes for different purposes, but I don’t.

The other part of the answer is that the Bike Friday is no ordinary folding bike. It has the geometry of a regular road bike and it rides like one, but also happens to fold and can even be packed into a regular size suitcase (which I’ve not done yet). It may not fold quite as compactly or as quickly as say a Brompton or Bike Friday’s smaller Tikit, bikes optimized for intermodal commuting, but it is much more suitable for going fast and far. Drop handles offer many different hand positions, which keeps your arms and back comfortable for longer. The wide range gearing with triple chain rings on the front and a 9 speed cassette at the back make it possible to climb steep mountains without too much strain on my knees but still go fast elsewhere. I love my Brooks leather saddle which keeps my bottom happy even after a whole day on the bike.

Ultimately however, it is not about the bike, but about you. If you want to ride more and further, you can do it on almost any bike. A bicycle is a tool. I’ve done a couple of 50 km rides on shopping bikes. When my son was still in Junior High School he once went on a 110 km trip (Yokohama to Enoshima and back) with some friends on a single speed folder. If you have a nice bike, you are more likely to ride it more often because it’s more enjoyable, but whether you ride it at all is still up to you. The type of bike makes no difference if you’re too lazy to ride, as I became once I got into cars, back in my 20s.

If you like longer rides, give them a try on whatever bike you have. If you find that you enjoy these tours and would like a more suitable bike, get a good one and you will not regret it.

7 thoughts on “235 km a day on my Bike Friday

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a while after finding it while doing a search of BF touring in Japan. I, too, live in Japan (have lived here on and off since 1969), have owned a Bike Friday NWT since 1998, and have toured all over the country. It’s been quite a few years since I toured, mainly because I’ve been doing mostly mountain climbing, but recently fixed up my BF with new bullhorn handlebars, Schmidt hub dynamo, Lumotec lights, and folding pedals, so I’m ready to get back on the road again. Your posts have been inspirational and I can’t wait to see the roads again. Just have to get back in proper shape. 235 kilometers in one day is still stretching it for now, but hopefully I can get there in 6 months.

    (my own blog was hacked in April and completely destroyed, so I’m in the middle of putting it back together)

  2. Hello Miguel, I am glad you enjoyed reading the blog posts.

    It is now 7 months that I got my bike. If you enjoy touring, you will be able to do longer and longer rides over the months. Maybe our paths will cross some day.

    Your message reminded me of an overdue backup of my own blog, which I have now performed. It must have been frustrating to lose your blog. Archive snapshots of your blog seem to have survived on http://www.archive.org (e.g. http://web.archive.org/web/20100908092138/http://laughing-knees.com/ ). You may be able to rebuild it from there, at least partially, using copy and paste, if you don’t have backups elsewhere.

  3. Thanks Joe, for the links to the archives. Luckily I’ve always backed up everything on my blog, so restoring the contents is no worry. It’s just that the MySQL files probably have the virus embedded in them, so I’m having to redo the entire blog manually, post-by-post. Since I’ve been blogging for 8 years, that’s a lot of content to transfer! Naturally all the permalinks are broken now, so everything will have to start up all over again, including getting my readers to return.

    Like you, I am taking my reentry into cycle touring slowly, letting my body adjust over time without overly pushing myself. Will be good to whiz down the roads again, feeling like I’m flying!

  4. I love reading you blog. My husband would like to cycle around Mt. fuji in a week and then trek to the summit (sunrise), and do other 5-7 day cycling near Tokyo or Kyoto. Any idea of Tours doing that? Thanks

  5. @Ramon, the official Fuji climbing season is July-Agust. Right now the upper regions of the mountain are still covered in snow and the weather is still too risky for regular hikers. The huts along the trail (6th-10th stages) that offer food, drinks and shelter are only open during the official season.

    Most people who climb for sunrise viewing at the peak start off at one of the 5th stages in the afternoon / evening and stop over at a hut (reservations usually required), then after a nap get up in the middle of the night to finish the hike to the top. Note that the last few hundred meters can take an hour and more because of the number of people wanting to get up there and because of two way traffic on some of the the narrow trails. Avoid the weekends if you can and climb Mt Fuji on a weekday, it will be much less crowded and more enjoyable!

    On Fuji you must be prepared for cold at wet weather at all times, no matter what the forecast. Mt Fuji makes its own weather.

    I recommend doing some practice hikes on other mountains first, as cycling and hiking do not exercise the same muscles, particularly hiking downhill for hours, for which the only real practice is… hiking downhill. I found a pair of trekking poles really useful on mountain hikes, even though I was reluctant to use them at first.

    At a bike tour around Mt Fuji you will have great views from many different direction, with a great variety of scenery, from seaside towns to mountain villages and mountain roads. Some of the best views are from other mountains around Yamanashi and Okutama (Tokyo). There are some camp grounds around Mt Fuji, as well as many minshuku (family pensions), plus business hotels and ryokan.

    The Tokyo Cycling Club BBS (www.tokyocycle.com) is a great place for gathering information about interesting cycling routes in the Kanto area, though people from Tokyo/Kanagawa/Saitama tend to do more day rides and less touring as Fuji is still relatively close. Ask and people will be glad to offer suggestions and experiences.

  6. Pingback: 300 km in a day around Mt Fuji on a Bike Friday

  7. Really interesting blog. Great photos. I wish I would have chance to make a trip on my bike around such a impressive siteseeings.

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