A Day of Vertical-Climb Cycling Torture in Western Kyoto

The problem with adding a new hobby is that it takes time away from other things. I've been cycling a fair amount lately, but still must devote time to family and my Lightroom work, so what falls behind is my blogging. 🙁

Yesterday I led a 100km extreme-mountain cycle ride with some friends from Cycling Kyoto. I was the slowest/weakest of the five guys, so lead was only in the map sense, but I purposefully made a route in the mountains of western Kyoto with as much vertical climb as I could fit in.

It ended up being a hot, brutal day. (Cyclists apparently love to use words like brutal and hard.)

Starting Out 7:43am - taken while moving at 26 kph (16 mph) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/550 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Starting Out
7:43am - taken while moving at 26 kph (16 mph)

Because I knew it was going to be a tough day, I didn't bring my heavy camera... just my phone... so I don't have any good photos.

I didn't even think I'd actually do much of the ride because I had cold symptoms from the previous day, and I would have bailed on the whole thing had I not been the leader. As it turned out, the hard effort seems to have pushed the cold aside, and I got through the whole day.

We started with a warm-up 160m (525') climb, then moved on to Koshioyama (小塩山) and the 570m (1,870') to its top....

Not From the Top from 415m (of 600m) up Koshioyama (小塩山) 9:14am - taken while moving at 2 kph (1 mph) -- Koshioyama (小塩山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/3600 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Not From the Top
from 415m (of 600m) up Koshioyama (小塩山)
9:14am - taken while moving at 2 kph (1 mph)
The Top Salvo Manino, Thomas Busch, Gorm Kippenberg, Manseki Kanemitsu -- Koshioyama (小塩山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
The Top
Salvo Manino, Thomas Busch, Gorm Kippenberg, Manseki Kanemitsu

We were quite the international group, with folks from Italy, Germany, Norway, Japan, and America.

The road to the top is a dead end, so we headed back down the way we came, moved to the next mountain road to the south, and headed up it. On the way I noticed a monkey in a tree, only the second time I recall seeing a monkey in the wild. It just sat there not giving me much though, so I had time to take a picture, but of course the iPhone camera doesn't do a good job so you can barely differentiate it from the branches....

Manseki and Monkey the monkey is in the far upper right -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Manseki and Monkey
the monkey is in the far upper right

The second big climb had a pause halfway through at the Konzo Temple (金蔵寺), which I posted about six years ago, and also here and here. A the time I wrote those, never in a million years would I believe I could ride a bicycle there, but there I was...

Pause at the Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺) photo by Thomas Busch -- Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Thomas Busch
iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Pause at the Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺)
photo by Thomas Busch

We then continued up the mountain, which includes a couple of short (350m long) segments of extreme slope... not as bad as the 21% slope that I posted about the other day, but almost as bad. We plowed through them, then mostly down for a long enjoyable ride through scenic countryside...

Mountain Countryside -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/2800 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Mountain Countryside

Somewhere along the way I broke one of my spokes. Luckily Manseki had a Band Aid with him, so we used it like a piece of tape to hold the spoke inside the wheel, to keep it out of the way and unmangled...

Bicycle First Aid -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Bicycle First Aid

We eventually came into the mountains of northern Takatsuki City, and took a detour to the Honzanji Temple (本山寺). This involved a 350m (1,150') climb over 3,100m (2mi) of road, giving an average slope of more than 11%, but it was the final 730m (half mile) that set this segment apart... it had a fairly-consistent, average slope of almost 19%.

Manseki Going Straight Up -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/40 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Manseki Going Straight Up

The photo above of course doesn't show the slope well, they never do, but it was ridiculous. When taking the photo above, I was standing still, having stopped on a big climb for the first time since a month earlier (after which completing climbs without stopping became a specific goal). Manseki also stopped for a moment, the first time I'd ever seen him stop on a climb. It was tough.

But we all made it.... eventually.

Resting at the Top Honzanji Temple (本山寺) Takatsuki, Japan -- Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 50 — map & image datanearby photos
Resting at the Top
Honzanji Temple (本山寺)
Takatsuki, Japan
Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Down Manseki douses himself with water -- Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Down
Manseki douses himself with water

In Japan, convenience stores and drink vending machines seem to be ubiquitous, so one gets used to relying on them. But on this course, there were long sections without drink vending machines, and most of the course without a convenience store, so those who didn't heed my warnings about lack of services got tuckered out for lack of energy.

So after finally making our way down the mountain and into Nagaokakyo City, we could stock up on food for the first time since the early morning. I ate a lot, and drank even more.

So with bloated stomachs, we made our way to the toughest climb of the day, up to the Yoshiminedera Temple, and then beyond.

Overall the route we took entailed 420m (1,400') of vertical climb over 4,400m (2.75mi) of distance, yielding an average slope of 9.5%, but this includes a long section of relatively-mild leadup. Some sections of road were considerably more steep.

We paused at the entrance to the temple. We didn't go inside, but I've posted it about it many times before, including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As I mentioned before, photos never seem to show the steepness well.... the section of road leading up (on the right) was really Really REALLY steep....

Looks So Flat but was anything but parking entrance to Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/140 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Looks So Flat
but was anything but
parking entrance to Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺)

The particularly tough thing about this section of road was that it wasn't the end... the next sections would be even worse.

Looking With Trepidation -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking With Trepidation
Cooling Off Dipping a towel into the river -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Off
Dipping a towel into the river

I headed up first, and stopped part way up ostensibly to make sure no one took a wrong turn at an intersection I'd forgotten to explain, but mostly that was just an excuse to stop. It was tough.

Here's Thomas coming up after me...

He's Down There toward the right -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
He's Down There
toward the right
Still Going -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Still Going

Despite these steep climbs, it only got worse.

Eventually we all made it to the top...

Happy at the Top Manseki wearing Gorm's sunglasses, which Gorm had dropped along the way and Manseki had found -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/350 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Happy at the Top
Manseki wearing Gorm's sunglasses, which Gorm had dropped along the way and Manseki had found

When I arrived at the top to find Gorm waiting with a worried look, he asked me whether I'd seen his sunglasses. I had not. The look on Gorm's face said everything.... "I really want my glasses, but I even less want to go down looking for them if that means having to claw myself back up here."

Luckily, Manseki had found them so there was no need to go back down.

The original plan allowed for one more steep climb, but we were all exhausted, so we called it a day and headed back into the city.

I processed my ride data (as per The Voodoo of Elevation Gain and Strava) and uploaded the correct data to Strava, yielding this report. All in all it was 99km of distance, but the real number is the 2,500m (8,300') of vertical climb. By a little bit, it's the most I'd ever done in a day.

I slept well.


All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

You might want to get your wheel checked out with another spoke breaking. Replacing individual spokes is okay on occasion but, if you are getting a couple of breaks, there may be issues with the wheel as a whole and a trip to a wheel builder to have it rebuilt might be in order.

I think brutal is the perfect word for some of those climbs!

— comment by Rob Edgcumbe on May 29th, 2015 at 3:26am JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

The photo right after “Manseki and Monkey” should have been titled “Gorm and Manseki and Monkey”

… and you wonder why I treated you badly when we were kids 😛 —Jeffy

— comment by Marcina on May 29th, 2015 at 1:48pm JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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