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Cycling Japan on a folding bike. Why I keep going back

Paul Evans's picture
Traditional Japanese scenery. By Paul Evans, cycle touring Japan. Cycle Traveller

I'd had a nagging idea to ride a bicycle in lieu of a Shinkansen high speed train since my first trip to Japan in 2007. So in 2010 I took the plunge and cycled three cities for a week each and two weeks of rural riding on my Bike Friday Pocket Llama folding bike.

In 2012 I spent five weeks riding places like the Shimanami Kaido and coastal regions of the inland sea. Then came 2013 and I rode in winter from Narita city along the coast, taking two ferry trips to Shikoku. Unfortunately, unseasonably heavy snow put a stop to my cycling on Shikoku, but I was more than pleased to have cycled around 4,500 kilometres through Japan during all three trips.

Paul Evans and his Bike Friday cycling in Japan. Cycle Traveller

I like cycle touring in Japan because of the scenery, remnants of historical sites and traditional villages, the food, people and just how cheaply I can travel there – I have that down to a budget I can afford.

A word of advice: do not cycle Japan in summer – it is unbearable, like nowhere else I have been. The best times are between October and May; other times are far too hot, humid or just downright wet.

The seed is planted and I am off again for three months in Spring 2014, this time for a few more mountains and another coast line on my new Montague Paratrooper folding mountain bike, which I have modified for touring. To top it off I will celebrate my 63rd birthday while riding somewhere in rural Japan.

Paul Evans lives on the outskirts of Canberra and likes to escape the hot Aussie summers.

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Comments

Bruce Robertson's picture

Hi Paul,

That sounds awesome - I'm jealous! Interesting you're moving from a Bike Friday to a Montague - do you think you'll go better with the full sized wheels or was there another reason for the change?

Bruce

Paul62's picture

Bruce, my plan had been to use the Montague all the time, but it's weight with baggage was over the limit for airlines. Now I have enough points and can carry more luggage , so this trip will be on 26" wheels and the area I am going to has some very steep climbs and the gearing on the bike is better with a load than the Bike Friday. Outside of Nepal or Switzerland , Japan has some insanely steep roads, I found one on my last trip that took 4 hours of pushing uphill to get over. It was route 308 from Nara to Oji.

Hi Paul

Where do you stay on your travels in Japan?

Mike

Paul62's picture

Hi Mike, sorry for delay, am working on my next trip and detailing maps etc.

In Japan I stay in Business Hotels, mainly Toyoko Inns (grab a membership card and save) prices are well below anything in Australia, I average about $50 per night (breakfast is included). This is taking into account reductions for being a member and the nights that I get for free, prices vary from city to city, the time of the week and deals are available if you book in after 11pm. There are many chain hotels that I also stay at when there is no Toyoko Inn around. A Japanese Minshuku is another affordable place to stay, they can start at $40 a night up to $125 for a flash one, most supply an evening meal and breakfast in the price. Occasionally I stay in a Ryokan a more upmarket style of Japanese inn, these vary in price from a hundred dollars to "sky's the limit" for the very best. Onsen towns have ryokan, minshuku and guesthouses as well as hotels. A little research through sites like JNTO help heaps. I don't shy away from hostels or Guesthouses, many are cheap and centrally located to tourist sites. Have camped out on a few occasions with not a worry other than mozzies in summer. After my next trip I plan on building a detailed guide for cyclists touring Japan in .pdf form with links to a variety of sites.

Thanks for the descriptive reply Paul. I wish you all the best on your travels. Look forward to a detailed guide of your next trip. Have been to japan a couple of times though never thought about cycling through the country. You must have an adventurous spirit.
Wonder why you prefer to purchase a bike outside Japan?

Regards
Mike

Paul62's picture

Buying a bicycle in Japan can be hit and miss. Lots of low level bikes at reasonable prices and a few very good bikes , then even fewer touring bikes at $$$. I much prefer to take my own as I know them intimately and have carried out mods to suit me. I am no lightweight and am around 180cm, both of these statistics can make an over the counter purchase very iffy, not too bad for anyone under 70 kgs. Sometimes just finding a shop with something to suit your needs is a task all of its own. On one trip I found a shop in Morioka with some Taiwanese cycles for taller, heavier persons, but I was leaving in less than a week , the brand was Precision, very nicely thought out touring bike in aluminium. The best bikes tend to be for roadies with a very diverse selections have since found a couple of hand built bike makers but not ready to outlay 500,000 yen.

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