This episode starts out with a short recount of Ami buying some more cycling gear; this time some bike pants and a skirt to go over them. I’ve actually never seen serious lady cyclists wearing a skirt before but I think it’s a great idea. I normally prefer a short skirt and leggings when I ride but I am not serious by any means, and I prefer wearing skirts over pants in general.
I can’t decide whether Hinako is actually being encouraging or is just laughing at Ami doing her best on her folding bike with the tiny wheel circumference. Maybe it’s a bit of both? It seems like a bit of time has passed and Ami has gradually increased her cycling skills and endurance, so the girls plan to do a more challenging ride.
On what definitely looks like a hot summer’s day, the girls head off to ride up Yabitsu pass. From the Long Riders website, you can see the ride details. It looks like a challenging cycle, with a maximum elevation of 744m above sea level and a planned 50km route. The linked Yahoo maps site suggests that cycling this distance would take about 3.5 hours, although I have no idea what kind of algorithm is used to get this result (if they’re assuming an average speed of 20km/hr or suchlike, it’s not really reasonable considering the incline, though I suppose going back down would be a lot faster (game cyclists can reach 60km/hr+ going downhill)).
Unfortunately, owing to the heat and Ami’s inexperience (this seems like a common theme), she gets a little dehydrated and some very bad leg cramps part-way up the mountain. This is the first time that the show has shown her failing at something which she has attempted.
Overall I think that it’s quite a positive potrayal of failure, as I know personally that it’s very easy to become discouraged or feel like you’re letting others down if you can’t manage to do something which you’ve planned to do as a group, and while Ami initially feels this way, on reflection it just makes her resolve stronger. While it’s perhaps an idealised view of failing at a challenge, it’s still an encouraging one. I wish that I could deal with life’s challenges in the same way!
The only thing which I did find disappointing about this is that it could have been a chance for some character development or revealing some back story for the other girls. While we see Hinako, Yayoi and Aoi all worried about Ami, to me it just felt like polite concern, and as though the other characters solely exist to showcase Ami’s experiences. It’s a light slice-of-life show and while I don’t expect any major drama (I’m enjoying this show for the cute girls riding surprisingly accurate bicycles), it felt like a missed opportunity for these characters to be anything more than ‘Ami’s friends with a shared hobby’.
Aoi decides to invite Ami on her family trip so they can spend some time together doing something which is not cycling to lift Ami’s spirits. I have to say, for a family trip, there’s a distinct lack of Aoi’s family. Who is in her family? Does she have any siblings? What are her parents like? It seems weird to call it a ‘family trip’ and not show us anything about her family at all. I guess that’s one way to save on character models. While they’re at Shibutoge, they meet a mysterious girl (the fifth girl featured in the show’s opening) cycling.
Mysterious dark-haired girl ends up saving Ami from a rather over-affectionate dog a little later, and they start chatting about cycling. Ami looks at the road bike and finally realises that all of her friends have road bikes as well.
A road bike will make long rides so much easier, being lighter and having a larger wheel circumference and better gear choice. Folding bikes are great for short commutes and being able to store them in your workplace or an apartment, they’re not really designed for distance riding. I’m really glad that the light has finally gone on and Ami is considering buying a more serious bike to match her serious interest in cycling.
Overall this week I’m still finding myself enjoying the detailed bikes and the interesting cycling experiences, though I feel like there’s been some missed opportunities for character development. I’m certainly not expecting this to be an especially deep show, but I am hopeful for getting to know a bit more about the characters outside of cycling as the series progresses.