My Most Brutal Ride: Round Trip to Mt. Rokko
Apparently Not a Good Day This tobidashi-kun doesn't look too happy at the 138km (86mi) point of a very long ride -- Toyono-gun -- Toyono-gun, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 56mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Apparently Not a Good Day
This tobidashi-kun doesn't look too happy
at the 138km (86mi) point of a very long ride

On Wednesday I did what must have been the roughest ride of my short cycling life, a ride that left me absolutely exhausted to the bone before I was even a third done with it. In the end I rode the entire big loop I'd planned, 175km (110mi) to Kobe City's Mt. Rokko and back, but it took 12 hours and a lot more willpower than I thought I had.

It was almost a spur of the moment, and I didn't think it'd be all that difficult for me, and I left the house in good spirits.

About To Enter the Mountains (well, they're still 9km away, but I'm heading there) -- Kuga Bus Stop -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
About To Enter the Mountains
(well, they're still 9km away, but I'm heading there)
Odd Tobidashi-kun ( Tobidashi-kun are explained here ) -- Haigata Bus Stop -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Odd Tobidashi-kun
( Tobidashi-kun are explained here )

The first climb of the day is the nasty Osaka East segment mentioned in my blog post about better Strava segments. Overall it's only 8% for 4km, but it has some very steep sections.

It's always beautiful.

Heading Up -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.7, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading Up

I wasn't particularly trying, but it turns out that on a 23-minute effort I missed my PR by 15 seconds. Had I known I was so close I might have tried, but at the same time, I knew I had a long day, so I was trying to be efficient more than fast.

Selfie after the first climb -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ + front camera — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — image data
Selfie
after the first climb

It was a bit chilly (5℃), made worse by the strong headwind that appears once I got over the pass. I was glad that light spring/fall gloves aside, I was still in full winter kit.

Isolated Shrine Gate along a road cutting through rice fields (I suspect the shrine is nestled in the mountains nearby) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Isolated Shrine Gate
along a road cutting through rice fields
(I suspect the shrine is nestled in the mountains nearby)

Not long after this gate begins a long, lovely descent that I'd never taken (though I'd climbed it the other direction twice before, including this ride). It was long and sweeping and fast, so I would have loved to have fun with it, but with the wind I felt like I was trying to swim upstream, so I just let gravity do its thing and hoped it was enough to overcome the wind.

By this time I was just following the route on my Garmin cycling computer, so I had little idea where I actually was, but for the most part it was deserted mountain roads...

Typical Scene -- Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Typical Scene
Halfway To the Halfway Spot at one of the many small villages along the way -- Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ + front camera — 1/720 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Halfway To the Halfway Spot
at one of the many small villages along the way
Steep Tobidashi-kun -- Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Steep Tobidashi-kun

I ended up chatting with the guy seen in walking in the background. He excitedly told me that more and more cyclists were coming by this area, in groups. He seemed to like the idea, and was amazed by it (as the road is quite steep).

Typical Non-Mountain Scene -- Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/640 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Typical Non-Mountain Scene
12% Descent -- Ibaraki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
12% Descent

Most of the route was new roads for me, so other than what was around Kyoto, and the main destination of the climb (Mt. Rokko), I didn't have any sense for what awaited me, so I never knew what was around the next curve. In this case, it was a steep descent, which is always nice.

Way Up There on a really hazy day -- Minoo, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 43mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Way Up There
on a really hazy day
Mino Dam I'd passed by twice before; this time taking the road that cuts across it -- Minoo, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Mino Dam
I'd passed by twice before; this time taking the road that cuts across it

Taking the new road, I was rewarded with a long 12% climb that was most brutal in its layout: it was long and mostly straight, so you could see the long rising road waiting for you. For me, this is much more difficult than the same climb on a twisty road, since I can't see (and be daunted) by what lies ahead.

In the end, though, I got a nice (but still super hazy) view.

Ikeda, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 38mm — 1/640 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Again, I didn't know this road so didn't know what might be coming next, but I assumed there would be some sort of descent eventually, and I was not disappointed. The descent from turned out to be a lovely 6km at 6%. And again, I tickled myself by just taking it easy yet still registering a top-10 time (in this case out of 446 people who have done it a combined 1,400 times).

And that's where, a third of the way into the trip, the day effectively ended for me.

10km of This -- Takarazukao Bridge -- Takarazuka, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/640 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
10km of This

That long lovely descent ended in a big city, near the Osaka Itami Airport, and the moment I got into city traffic, a profound weariness hit me like the most crushing of post-Thanksgiving-dinner food comas. It was amazing in its abruptness, as if a switch had been turned off. At first I thought it might have been because I used so much energy concentrating during the descent, but even after resting for 10 minutes and eating again, I didn't feel any better.

I didn't think it was the dreaded bonk (cycling version of hitting the wall) because I had eaten before leaving, and on a regular schedule along the way. I didn't know what it was, but hoped I could shake it off during the 10km of city riding I had to get through to reach the start of the main climb of the day, Rokko East, whose 880m (2,888') of vertical gain averages out at 8% over its 11.6km (7.2mi).

Gentle But Unrelenting Start to the day's main climb -- Takarazuka, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Gentle But Unrelenting Start
to the day's main climb

I had hoped that the easy city riding would let me shake off the deep fatigue I felt, but it didn't. I was so tired, that closing my eyes for a second brought the most wonderful feeling of complete comfort, to be followed at the end of the second by the dread of not being able to keep them closed.

A minute or so in, I gave in and stopped, parked the bike, lay down, and closed my eyes for 45 minutes.

Looking Back at the small area of pebbles that was my roadside bed -- Nogami Bus Stop -- Takarazuka, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Back
at the small area of pebbles that was my roadside bed

It felt wonderful to lie down, close my eyes, and just quietly listen to the passing sounds, but in the end it didn't do anything to help, so after 45 minutes I collected myself and trudged upward on the unrelenting climb.

When thinking of the big climb up Mt. Rokko, I'd had in mind how easy it was the only other time I'd done it, but it had dawned on me during the 10km across the city that my previous climb was over a 25km route, and that this time I'd be doing the same elevation over less than half the distance (and thus the slope was twice as steep). Ugh, what a stupid mental mistake. But anyway, I was here now and I just had to get through it.

Kids In Over their Head taken while slowly plodding up at 8 kph (5 mph) -- Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Kids In Over their Head
taken while slowly plodding up at 8 kph (5 mph)

The only other people I saw going up, besides the occasional car, was one hiker and some kids (junior high or high school) on heavy mamachari city bikes. Well, they weren't on them, since they were pushing slowly uphill. I let them know how much farther it was (4.2km), which shocked them, but they kept on.

Another “ 12% ” Slope but just what I need.... this time it's uphill -- Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Another 12% Slope
but just what I need.... this time it's uphill

There are absolutely no services of any kind during this long climb, except at the main road's pass there's a restaurant and some vending machines, but you're not quite at the top yet, because from there there's a short intense climb (300m @ 15%) to the top...

Getting Close to the Top Restaurant at left, final bit of road at right -- Mt Rokko (六甲山) -- Kobe, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 32mm — 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Close to the Top
Restaurant at left, final bit of road at right

I guess a lot of cyclists don't know about the last little bit to the top, or choose not to take it. It's really daunting if you're not used to steep stuff, especially after having killed yourself for an hour to get here. I'd been wanting to make a Kyoto-Rokko round trip for a long time, and was inspired to actually do it now by an acquaintance's ride a few days prior. He's much stronger than me (his time up to the restaurant was an hour faster than mine), but for whatever reason he didn't make the final push to the top.

In fact, of all the friends and acquaintances I follow on Strava, only one has ever made the full eastern climb I was doing, and even then, the two other folks he was riding with opted to skip that last steep climb.

I didn't skip it, and was surprised that my two-minute effort was only 12 seconds slower than my PR.

At The Top -- Summit of Mt. Rokko (六甲山山頂) -- Kobe, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ + front camera — 1/1400 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
At The Top

The mask, by the way, is to warm the air as I breath. My tonsils are apparently very sensitive to cold, and even a short spell of exertion without the mask would give me flu symptoms for the next couple of days. A combination of some allergy medicine and this cheap ($7) mask makes it possible for me to cycle in the winter.

Blah, Hazy View Summit of Mt. Rokko (六甲山山頂) ( better photos last time ) -- Summit of Mt. Rokko (六甲山山頂) -- Kobe, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Blah, Hazy View
Summit of Mt. Rokko (六甲山山頂)
( better photos last time )

I didn't stick around. Being inactive at the top meant that I was starting to get chilly, and knew I'd freeze on the long descent so for the first time in months I put on a windbreaker as an extra layer. The long descent should have been thrilling, but I just plodded along.

The second half, the gorgeous Ura Rokko descent, should have been the highlight of my day, but my fingers were so cold I could barely feel the brake levers, which is not any more conducive to a safe descent than my fatigue.

I wasn't hungry, but thought that a real meal might help. Unfortunately, I didn't come across a restaurant in a timely fashion, so I made do with a convenience store and had a cup of coffee, some bread, and a natto rice wrap.

This was followed by some more steep climbs, but nothing as long as Mt. Rokko.

Raccoon Tobidashi-kun -- Arimaguchiekizen Bus Stop -- Kobe, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Raccoon Tobidashi-kun
Arima Wanda Garden 有馬わんわんランド -- Arimahigashiguchi Bus Stop -- Kobe, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 56mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Arima Wanda Garden
有馬わんわんランド

At the top of one climb I came across this forlorn sight. Wanda is verbal play meaning more or less the woof, so it seems it was some kind of doggie amusement park. Indeed, I found this urban-explorer report on the place.

Eventually came the next big descent, which turned out to be one of my favorites, the Arima Highway (5km @ -6%). It was long and mostly straight, which means one can really get up a head of steam. I spent most of the time stuck behind a truck spewing dark blue fumes, and then when he kindly let me by I quickly got blocked by an elderly driver in a tiny tin box, but it's just as well. The light meal at the convenience store had perked me up much more than any of the other food I'd been eating, but I still wasn't fit for a mentally-challenging descent.

I had to make my way through some urban areas for a while...

Pretty River, Ugly Road -- Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Pretty River, Ugly Road
Not Particularly Fun -- Namase Bus Stop -- Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Particularly Fun
Back to the Grind next climb starts off at 10% -- Namase Bus Stop -- Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 65mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Back to the Grind
next climb starts off at 10%
Mini-Plot Farms just another day in the countryside -- Kawanishi, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Mini-Plot Farms
just another day in the countryside

After a long while of climbing and descending, I started to feel lethargic again, which told me that it was indeed the light meal at the convenience store that had perked me up. I have no idea why the yokan and calorie cookies I normally use weren't doing it for me this time, but I finally decided to find a real restaurant. I came across towns and villages, but it took a while to find an appropriate restaurant where I could park the bike safely, but at the 120km (75mi) point in the ride, I did, and I ate.

Beef and Chicken Set and Coke and coffee and tea かめたに -- Toyono-gun, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Beef and Chicken Set
and Coke and coffee and tea
かめたに

More ups and downs ensued; I eventually started to feel much better.

More Mountains -- Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 41mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
More Mountains
Getting Late -- Toyono-gun -- Toyono-gun, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Late
Happy Tobidashi-kun -- Kuragaki Bus Stop -- Toyono-gun, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Happy Tobidashi-kun
Roadside Entrance to a shrine that should be spectacular when cherry-blossom season hits in a week or two -- Toyono-gun -- Toyono-gun, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2017 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 46mm — 1/125 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Roadside Entrance
to a shrine that should be spectacular when cherry-blossom season hits in a week or two

The wind, which had been brutal in the morning but then had subsided for me on the other side of Mt. Rokko, had picked up again for hours around the restaurant stop, but mercifully turned into a lovely tailwind toward the end of the ride in Kameoka. That, combined with the energy from the meal, and I was felt good for the first time since the first climb.

I actually didn't feel so bad by the time I got home; I just wish I could have said the same for the bulk of the ride. The ride savaged me, and I'm still not sure why. I want to do it again, but with energy next time, so I'll bring a bike lock so I can stop more easily to eat.

Overall at 176km (109mi) it was my 8th-longest ride ever, and with 3,491m (11,453') of vertical climb it ranked fourth toughest of my rides so far. But on the painful grind scale, I think it ranks #1.

Here's the Relive.cc video of the ride.


One comment so far...

I really enjoyed reading this! I wish I’d taken the opportunity to ride when I visited Japan; I loved seeing the variety of bikes there (and photographing them). The picture of the bridge with traffic and no bike lane makes me wince.

Also, your plug-ins rock; I’ve been using several for years. I just stumbled across this post while looking for some technical details, and reading this was a a very nice break.

— comment by David Bump on March 26th, 2017 at 11:29am JST (4 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink
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