Conquering Kyoto’s Seryo Pass with Manu Mohan

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Well-Earned Refreshment
Manu Mohan at Seryo Pass (芹生峠)
680m of elevation (2,230')
Kyoto Japan

Today I went with Manu Mohan on his first real cycling ride.

Manu is a National Scholar student of linguists at Kyoto University who happens to part-time at the convenience store near me, and his easy smile and cheerful attitude made me want to connect with him beyond the 30-seconds snippets at the cash register. When he saw on Facebook that I was into cycling, he expressed interest.

So today we got together for an easy, untaxing first ride.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Meeting Spot
Nijo Castle (二条城)

I somehow had it in my head that he lived near Nijo Castle halfway across town from me, so I suggested that we meet there. It turns out that he lives a short walk from me, so it was silly that we both went over there to meet! But it wasn't totally out of the way from where we were going to go.

Wanting an easy yet satisfying route for his first ride, I thought of my first ride earlier in the year, so we headed north up the gentle slope that is Kyoto city proper toward the mountains.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 67mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
10:19am - taken while cycling at 15 kph (9 mph)

Manu's Wachen BF-70F folding bicycle is designed for convenient city travel, and not really appropriate for hills, but he hit his first hill better than I did...


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 38mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Unfazed by the Hill
10:23am - taken while cycling at 27 kph (17 mph)

He seemed to be fine to continue, so we headed into the mountains, up toward Kibune.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 49mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.7, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
On the Way to Kibune
at the same location we stopped the first time I rode here

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 50mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.7, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Through Kubune
11:03am - taken while cycling at 8 kph (5 mph)

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Kibune Shrine
貴船神社

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/60 sec, f/1.7, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Manu is a native speaker of English and an Indian language I don't recall (Hindi?), and even though I came to Japan before he was born, he's much better at Japanese than me. He also speaks Chinese and French, and dabbles in others. Out of my league.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Steeper
11:16am - taken while cycling at 12 kph (7 mph)

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.7, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
The Top of Kibune
Kibune Shrine Okumiya (貴船神社奥宮)

Manu's bike is not appropriate for the mountains... it's designed for convenience in the city. It can fold up into a conveniently small space, and it's intended for moving in city traffic.

At 14kg (31 lbs) it's heavy, it has short cranks so that you don't get much leverage on the pedals, and its lowest gearing is still a heavy 52/28 (1.86 front-to-rear ratio), meaning that for every revolution of the pedals, you have to give it enough power to rotate the tires 1.86 revolutions. If you're going up a steep slope, that's a lot of power needed each time around.

(By contrast, I think my bike has a lowest gear ratio of about 0.8, meaning it's much easier to keep going up a steep hill.)

Nevertheless, I asked whether he'd like to try continuing farther up the mountain. Beyond where we were, the road quickly becomes quite steep and twisty, and I thought perhaps a taste of this would be useful information for the future.

So we forged on...


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 40mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Going Vertical
11:29am - taken while cycling at 7 kph (4 mph)

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 40mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Really Tough
11:29am - taken while cycling at 7 kph (4 mph)

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Manu's This is Not Humanly Possible Face
11:31am - taken while cycling at 9 kph (6 mph)

Before turning around, I wanted to give his bike a try, and let me tell you it was difficult. Much much much more difficult than mine. When he tried mine, he felt like he was flying...


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 56mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
A Different Experience

With my bike he thought he could continue, so we switched and continued on...


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.7, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
Ridiculously Difficult
the photo makes it look like I'm going downhill, but it's very, very uphill
photo by Manu Mohan

Besides being inappropriate for the mountains, Manu's bike is really inappropriate for me. It's probably a bit too small for Manu to begin with, but for me it felt like I was riding a toy like this.

I took it as a challenge... my first assault (if you could call such a slow-motion effort) of Seryu Pass from the difficult southern approach would be on this bike.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.7, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Barely Enough Speed
to be considered movement
photo by Manu Mohan

We took our time... we'd ride for 50~100m, then rest, then ride again, then rest again. It got ever steeper.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/1.7, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Pausing
near the site of the famous snowball-in-the-wife's-face incident

Manu never gave up, never complained... just kept pushing on. After 3.3km (2mi) of ridiculous 12% grade, we made it to Seryo Pass (芹生峠). It was my first time by bicycle to the pass from this side.


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Top of the World

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Elated
to make it at all, but especially so on such a bike
photo by Manu Mohan

By this time it had started to rain — it's now the rainy season in Japan — so we headed down slowly and carefully. It's easier going down.

Some of the views were really nice, though the photo doesn't capture it at all 🙁


Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/60 sec, f/5, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Really Great View

We got quite chilly on the way down, so we stopped in Kibune for hot tea and hot noodles. But by the time we left, the rain was coming down in earnest, so we got soaked in no time, and absolutely froze heading home. The UnderArmour Storm windbreaker I brought along and used for the first time was not as waterproof as I had been led to expect, making it the first UnderArmour product (among very many) that I've been disappointed in.

Chilly return aside, it was a fun day and I really enjoyed to get to know Manu more. He's busy with school and work, so I don't know how much time he'll have for cycling (or, with that bicycle, how much inclination), but I hope we ride again soon.


All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

If Manu is indeed a student of linguists he will find a bunch of them hanging out at http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/ http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/ and http://languagehat.com/ If he’s actually a student of linguistics he may still find these sites interesting. 🙂

Ted Powell, Canadian, living in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver Canada, in the house I bought in 1975, when it was affordable. I gave away my Raleigh bicycle a long time ago (Vancouver traffic!) and now ride a Yamaha FJR1300.

— comment by Ted Powell on June 10th, 2015 at 1:38am JST (2 years ago) comment permalink

next time I am in Kyoto I must explore the mountains, looks great. Please tell Manu to raise up his saddle, his legs never fully stretch… very hard cycling this way and not efficient

— comment by Michael on June 11th, 2015 at 3:14pm JST (2 years ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting