A New SchoolOnoda is introduced as a nonathletic otaku joining Sohoku High School. On his way to his first day of school, riding his city bike, he's nearly trampled by members of a martial arts club running through the sidewalk; the incident startles him, and Onoda thinks that he'd never join an athletic club even if asked to. Instead of using the main gate to his school, Onoda takes the 2km road to the back gate so he can sing Love Hime's main theme privately. However, he is immediately rear-ended by a car and is knocked off the road. The startled driver, Takahashi, approaches Onoda and is further surprised that the boy appears to be unscathed and thinks nothing of the incident because he falls off his bike so often. They apologize to each other as Takashi is called back to the car by his passenger, Imaizumi Shunsuke.
Imaizumi, impatient and tired from morning practice, is in disbelief when he hears that someone had been riding a city bike on a slope as steep as the back gate's which, while shorter than the road to main gate, has an incline greater than 20%. Imaizumi imagines they could only be pushing their limits. However, Onoda shows no signs of strain and is left smiling as Imaizumi leaves.After classes, while everyone is talking about athletic clubs, Onoda is determined to join the anime club since throughout middle school, he had no one to talk to about anime and so never told anyone his interests. Now in high school, he is excited that there's an anime club and that Sohoku is so close to Akihabara, where he plans to go every day with his new friends. Unfortunately, Onoda finds that the anime club has been terminated due to lack of membership and has a breakdown that entails beating on the former club's door.
Two female students, Tachibana Aya and Kanzaki Miki witness Onoda's despair; he initially asks them both if they want to rekindle the anime club, mistaking them as interested, but they decline and say they are joining the tennis and bicycle racing club respectively. Aya is creeped out by Onoda's otaku demeanor, but Miki remains respectful. When Aya suggests that Onoda is probably going to Akihabara, Miki reminds him that the next bus there leaves soon. Her concern flusters Onoda, and he blurts out that he's going by bike before running off, thinking her kindness is an exception to how sports club members usually are.
Meeting ImaizumiImaizumi, also a first-year student newly attending Sohoku, is seen preparing to go riding after classes. Although intending to join the school's cycling club, he has yet to do so. Both he an Onoda unknowingly line up beside each other at the back gate on their bikes. A startled Imaizumi asks who Onoda is, and the boy introduces himself. Onoda's given name, Sakamichi, is unusual to Imaizumi because of its connection to hills, but he dismisses Onoda's introduction and tells him (despite not being one to worry about others) that the back gate slope is too dangerous because while shorter than the main gate's route, the incline is much steeper, and if not able to brake, a bike's speed can hit 80km per hour downhill. After hearing of the boy's intended destination, he reminds Onoda that the Sobu Train Line is closer if going through the main gate, to which Onoda replies that he's going the full trip to Akihabara by bike, but Imaizumi curtly takes off with a warning not to get in his way.
Thinking himself alone, Imaizumi is in disbelief yet again to hear that an otaku is going to Akihabara by bike, speaking aloud. Onoda suddenly appears behind him to continue their conversation. Imaizumi yells at him not to follow and that it's too dangerous to ride down the slope, but Onoda tries anyway and while explaining his reasons for riding, ends up falling off his bike. Imaizumi stops and runs to help Onoda, but the boy simply smiles up at him and says that he's going by bicycle because it's free: the money he saves from not using the bus nor train can be used for capsule toys instead. Imaizumi, dumbfounded, disregards Onoda entirely, thinking him an idiot for riding a 45km trip from the school to Akihabara, which takes an hour by car. Although he wonders about Takahashi telling him the student they hit that morning was riding up the slope like it was nothing, Onoda's sudden panic over his missing wallet leads Imaizumi to abandon Onoda there as just an airhead.A short while later, Imaizumi is practicing by riding up the back gate's slope. To prove that he's better than when he lost to Midousuji, Imaizumi decides to overtake the rider he spots ahead of him as a test. On approach, Imaizumi hears them singing. This insults him. He speeds up until beside them and notes how slow the rider is moving. At that moment, he realizes that the rider is in fact Onoda singing his favorite anime's theme song while climbing the slope on his city bike with ease to retrieve his wallet. Upon being caught singing, Onoda is startled and embarrassed. Imaizumi's chase leaves him baffled, and with a pulled muscle.
Elsewhere at the school, Miki, standing with Aya and holding a timer, reflects on her brother's words that some people are born with an innate talent for cycling while other's aren't. While Aya mentions how some people have played a sport since they were young, Miki says that experience doesn't matter in cycling because everyone has their own strengths. She becomes excited as Sohoku's cycling club arrives at the school, but finishes that there are some people who appear normal but have yet to discover their true talent, foreshadowing Onoda's potential and contrast to Imaizumi.Onoda brings flyers to school the next day to stealthily recruit people to rebuild the anime club, but he's so nervous he gets pricked by the thumbtacks and drops many of the flyers. Miki and Aya witness this, which causes Onoda to run off embarrassed into his classroom as homeroom is about to start. However, he's stopped as Miki calls him by his family name - something Onoda never told her. She elaborates that she followed him until he got on his bike, saw his class number (4) on the registration plate, and then got his name from his homeroom teacher. Onoda, extremely alarmed, wonders if she's some kind of detective. He panics when Miki introduces herself and says she has something to ask him; it takes him a minute to remember that he met her the day before since he doesn't remember faces well. (Aya guesses this herself.) Onoda bows and apologizes for running off after scaring her that day, and thanks her for encouraging him. Aya scolds him for bowing to classmates, which she considers creepy.
Miki then asks Onoda if he really went to Akihabara by bike. Onoda freezes, his mind reaching a single conclusion after hearing someone ask about Akihabara: he tries to ask her if she's interested in anime, but is promptly silenced as Aya hits him in the face. Even though Miki thinks that wasn't necessary, Aya wipes her hands and says she just can't stand otaku. When it's clarified that Miki was asking about his bicycle, Onoda says that after he fell, his bike must have been damaged as the chain was broken by the time he reached home. Aya demands he say whether or not he went to Akiba by bike, but the bell rings, signalling classes will begin. Giving up, an annoyed Aya starts to leave, scolding Miki for being a "bicycle otaku" and getting so excited about bicycles, which Miki smiles and takes as a compliment, and Onoda smiles too.
When Aya says there's no way someone could go all the way to Akihabara and back by bicycle, Onoda clarifies that the chain on his bike broke after he'd come home from Akiba. The startled girls freeze and turn to him, but his teacher closes the class door, leaving them speechless in the hallway.At lunch, Aya claims Onoda was lying, saying that he probably just wanted to get Miki's attention because she's cute. Miki disagrees, saying he doesn't seem the type to lie and it would be amazing if his claim is true. Aya facepalms, as realistically, it would take someone four hours to get to Akihabara and back by bike. However, unbeknownst to her, Onoda, eating lunch, has a new capsule toy from Akiba thanks to the money he saved by not taking the train.
The teacher tears up the flyer and tells Onoda to go ask people to join himself, leaving him there to fester with frustration, to the point of tears, about how "sports types", while thinking they are doing the right thing, are always intimidating others with strength, raising their voices, and looking down on people who are small, quiet, and shy - while Onoda thinks he's fine the way he is. Onoda screams that he shouldn't be made fun of. At that moment, Imaizumi finds him, claiming they have a score to settle. He brings Onoda to the school's roof.
Onoda begins putting his recruitment flyers up after school and thinks of how wonderful it will be to have an anime club full of friends he could go to Akihabara with. Just as he remembers he never asked for permission to hang up the flyers, a physical education teacher shows up and demands to know what Onoda is hanging on the school announcements board. The teacher removes the flyer to read it over, and Onoda panics, knowing this isn't the type of person he's good with, and utters out how he was about to go get permission to display the flyers. The teacher suddenly laughs and smacks Onoda on the back so hard it hurts, saying that Onoda should speak up and go find friends himself instead of waiting, and calls Onoda a midget as the boy kneels on the floor.
Onoda initially believes that Imaizumi wants to steal his anime merchandise, but in truth, Imaizumi challenges Onoda to a race. At first, Onoda doesn't understand nor accept the challenge, and drops some of his flyers out of nervousness. Imaizumi retrieves one and after looking it over says he'll join the anime club - but only if Onoda wins, because, as he explains, otherwise the otaku won't try his hardest without some incentive. Onoda finally accepts.
Onoda accepts Imaizumi's challenge and admits to riding from his house to Akihabara on his mommy bike since 4th grade when he got the bike, confirming Miki and Imaizumi's suspicions. Onoda is surprised by his own speed during the race, as he has never really thought that he was "fast"; but he easily overtakes a scooter riding close to 30km/h, and arrives at the intersection towards the hill climb (3km) in only 10 minutes and 45 seconds, while Imaizumi still hasn't started biking. He was left in shock when it took less than 10 minutes for Imaizumi to catch up and overtake him. Shocked and in awe, Miki, Tooji and her friends find Onoda stationary on the road, and it is then that Miki corrects and raises his saddle position, making his biking more efficient. However, he still loses to Imaizumi despite a 15-minute starting advantage, and how he constantly slows down just to observe his technique in this race. Imaizumi tells Onoda that he has potential and should consider joining the cycling club, but he points out that his cardio and respiratory fitness is at very amateur level despite developing great leg strength just to carry the city bike.
During his Akihabara trip that weekend, Onoda runs into Naruko, who drags Onoda around looking for figures as gifts for his younger brothers. Despite Naruko's somewhat crass personality, Onoda thinks of him as a nice person and wants to become friends with him. Naruko is offended when a man flicks a cigarette butt on Onoda's bike, so he convinces Onoda to catch up to the man's car on their bikes. While they are trying to catch up, Naruko notices that Onoda has a front double gear derailleur on his bike that's specifically designed for road racing. Onoda reveals that Miki installed it as a bonus when he asked her to check his gears. Changing gears allowed Onoda to go even faster than before. This is also Onoda's first experience with the concept of a "slipstream" created when cyclists ride in a line; the one in front drafts the others, like migratory birds flying in V formation.
The next day, Onoda is still hungry from burning off so many calories and is determined to buy one of the sweet buns being sold for lunch, however after having to fight through the mob of guys, the same hand keeps snatching his choices. He is surprised to discover it's none other than Naruko. Sitting together outside, Naruko is pleased to discover that they both go to Sohoku and gives him an anpan (red bean paste bun) instead. He explains that he chose the school for the bicycle racing club; he plans to join the next day as the date is lucky, since he had been busy with his move before that and a race just before his family left. Like Imaizumi, he suggests that Onoda should join the club, but after witnessing Onoda fail miserably at trying to kick back a wayward soccer ball, realizes that Onoda considers himself unsuited for any serious athletic club activity. Asking if Onoda has time to meet after school, he times it so that Onoda sees the Sohoku High Bicycle Club during practice; Onoda realizes what club it is when Imaizumi rides by with them. The third-years also recognize him from his race with Imaizumi and wonder if he'll join the club. Naruko walks up right after to explain how cycling is different as the bike supports the body, and all one need to do is pedal, which Onoda excels at.
Talking with Tooji
On his way home after, Onoda gets a flat, but fortunately Tooji comes upon him moments later in his van and drives him back to the bike shop to fix it. Noticing him looking around for Miki, Tooji explains she's still with the bicycle club and they finish around six. Onoda says he saw them earlier and describes them as amazing, at which Tooji notes that some of them weren't like that when they started. They got better from cycling and he trained them as club captain when they were first-years. Unlike Onoda, some of them couldn't climb the school's super slope in one go. He steps inside to grab a road racer's guide for beginners and offers it to Onoda for free.
The next day at school Onoda reads the guide during lunch, but there's a lot of terms he doesn't understand. He decides to ask Naruko later, but is startled to find that he snuck up right in front of him as he was reading. Naruko is about to ask something when they are interrupted by one of Onoda's classmates, Sugimoto Terufumi, who noticed Onoda's guide. He begins extolling them with what he considers to be an extensive three years of experience, but the two leave for the roof in the middle of it.
Naruko completes what he was about say earlier and asks if Onoda made up his mind: to his joy, Onoda has decided to join. Naruko thanks him for helping him out in Akihabara and that his brothers loved their new figures, but Onoda instead thanks him for helping him see the bicycle club, and how it made him want to chase them. Onoda admits he is still a bit disappointed that he couldn't establish a new anime club, but realizes that he has already met some amazing people because of cycling, so he decides that if he really does have the potential for it, he'll join the bicycle club.
Joining Sohoku's Cycling Team
As it happens, Sugimoto is also joining the club that day, so the three end up walking together to the club room, where they discover the club's 'First-Year Welcome Race' is being held that day, and all the first-years have to participate.
Onoda is excited to compete against Imaizumi and Naruko in the First-Year Welcome Race, but he is easily passed by his fellow first-years. His utility bicycle only has two gears, while the other road racers have upwards of 10 gears. He falls when the chain of his bike slips off, and the broom wagon pulls up behind him. Onoda panics, thinking it is there to pick him up, but it turns out that he is instead being supplied with a road racer. Onoda is grateful for the chance to be on equal footing with the others, because then he can catch up to his new friends, Imaizumi and Naruko. When Kinjou gives him the choice of either keeping his pace and finishing the race in third or speeding up to catch his friends, burning up all his stamina and then retire, Onoda chooses the latter option.
Onoda is excited to finally catch up to Imaizumi and Naruko, but notices that Naruko seems to be having a hard time despite his previous use of the "sprint climb." As a sprinter, Naruko is weaker on slopes, so he asks Onoda to beat Imaizumi in his stead. Naruko tells Onoda that he has natural climbing talent, and then teaches him the dancing technique. Onoda increases his cadence by another 30 to catch up to Imaizumi, and then unleashes his newly-learned dancing technique. Imaizumi and the third-years are surprised at this development. Makishima, who had previously thought Onoda winning was nothing more than a dream, cheers for him. Onoda beats Imaizumi to the peak, earning the King of the Mountains title. However, he falls off his bike afterwards, while Imaizumi keeps going to keep Naruko at bay for the descent and final sprint. Tadokoro insisted that Onoda keep going because he won't get anything if he didn't finish the race, but Kinjou decides that it is better for Onoda to retire. Mr. Pierre offers Onoda a clean jersey, which Onoda gratefully accepts; unbeknownst to him, the jersey is the one given to those who earn the King of the Mountain title.
Onoda, Imaizumi and Naruko are paired with third-year members, each against their role counterparts: Onoda with Makishima; Naruko with Tadokoro; Imaizumi with Kinjou. Onoda is extremely hesitant because he considers Makishima terrifying after he and Naruko learn that Makishima created a hole in the club wall and asked them to not tell anyone. (Onoda imagines it came into existence from a powerful, rage-filled punch.) They try to hold a conversation while riding leisurely before the hill climb, but it turns out mostly silent and very awkward. When Onoda asks Makshima what he likes, Makishima bluntly answers "Gravure". The conversation dies. At the beginning of the climb, Onoda slowly crawls behind on his bike because he's terrified to race against Makishima, who is suddenly brimming with excitement. Makishima tries to ease his fear by asking him what he likes but can't bring himself to because of his terrible social skills.
However, once Makishima begins his signature "Spider Climb" riding style, as he "can only communicate through bicycles", Onoda becomes in awe of him and tries to copy him. He fails miserably, falling, but keeps trying even though Makishima insists he stop. Onoda tells him that his riding is just so cool he can't help trying it. This flusters Makishima, as he's used to people calling him and his riding creepy, at best. Makishima finally convinces Onoda to ride with his own style, not copy others, and the two race to the finish with Makishima winning. Afterward, Makishima confides to Onoda how he ended up making the hole as a first-year.
Unbeknownst to Onoda, Makishima spoke with Kinjou in private afterwards, excitably informing him that the first-year has "the right idea" and that they can train him to be an excellent second climber.
After the Inter High
Onoda is assisted by Naruko and Imaizumi in explaining to his mother why he'd been racing at Mt. Fuji. She has no idea what they're talking about, so Naruko puts it simply that Onoda became the fastest person to climb Mt. Fuji and shows her a magazine article on him. After she laments how she didn't have a camera to take photos herself, they're all shocked to learn she was at the race. Before they leave the Onoda family's house, Onoda's mother tells them to be careful but keep working hard at cycling, and for Imaizumi and Naruko to take care of Onoda.
The first-years arrive to meet Sohoku's third-years on the road. Because he won the Inter High, Onoda leads the next practice, and takes the team to Akihabara. The third-years feel extremely out of place. Onoda gives Kinjou a Buddha-kun figurine because it has similarly shaved hair. He gives a Love Hime theme song CD to Tadokoro, who is surprised that he had been singing such a song. For Makishima, Onoda gives a Kumotaro keyring, a spider character from an anime called Mogu-Mogurinko. Onoda admits that they're all graduation as well as gratitude presents for the third-years for bringing him to the Inter High. Onoda thanks them all for their help in realizing his potential. Although previously confused at being in a strange place, the third-years accept the gifts. Makishima asks why he received ten keyrings of the same character; Onoda gleefully says it's because Makishima helped the most as a fellow climber, and the amount is equal to his gratitude.
While the team is distracted as Onoda explains things about Akihabara to Tadokoro, Makishima looks on and thinks that there's no way to measure the gratitude he feels for his team like Onoda can. Onoda asks if the third-years will continue to attend practice, to which Tadokoro and Kinjou confirm. Onoda is unaware of Makishima's thoughts that despite his gratitude towards Onoda and the team, this is really farewell.
In the anime, Makishima's monologue is cut, as the team rides happily from Akihabara together, with Imaizumi and Naruko engaging in a race, knowing they will be the ones carrying the team along with Onoda.
The first-years all gain new equipment after the special trip to Akihabara, Onoda's being a yellow, lighter BMC road racer that he trades his old bike for at the Kanzaki's shop.
In the movie that follows anime canon, Onoda is invited to Toudou's family inn along with Makishima. There, Onoda reflects on the Inter High and witnesses the two rivals compete at ping pong, which Toudou loses. He also witnesses them test who can stay in a hot spring the longest. That competition remains undecided, as Onoda, praising them for their amazing energy, ends up passing out in the hot spring and nearly drowns if not for Toudou and Makishima rescuing him. Onoda is carried to his room by one of the inn's workers, where he rests unconscious as Toudou sits nearby and talks to Makishima about their rivalry. Toudou says he wishes that they will continue to compete with each other in the future. Makishima, silent for a moment, begins to tell Toudou something, but Onoda waking up promptly distracts Toudou.
The next morning, the three are yet again enjoying soaking in a hot spring. Suddenly, Izumida can be heard talking to Andy and Frank, and then bursts from inside a sauna, shouting "Abs!", much like an anime ending omake, with Shinkai seen behind him. The three surprised climbers turn to him, questioning "Abs?", and the movie ends.
After the Hakone Academy third-years have completed their day at a theme park, they look over the photos taken earlier and are startled to see Onoda and Imaizumi racing on children's bikes in the background of one. Behind them, team Sohoku (minus Makishima) rides on a multi-person bike, with Kinjou running behind them, shouting about how Sohoku never gives up.
Mountain God's Winter Party
Some time during the winter after the 41st Summer Inter High and before his graduation, Toudou is seen mentoring Manami and Onoda at Hakone. He invited them under the guise that there would be a party, but it turns out to be a race to decide which of the two will inherit Toudou's coveted titles of "Mountain God" and "King of the Mountains." Toudou himself does not race, as he states he'd never race in such cold weather. Since the road is full of snow, neither Onoda nor Manami can complete the climb, so Toudou declares that they'll have to settle it at the next Inter High. He scolds Manami for being late at the first Inter High, then tells Manami to give his phone number to Onoda. That way, Onoda can call Manami "on that day" so he won't be late.