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2 weeks in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) where to ride

Matthew delves

Feb 5, 2018
Hi friends,
I'm starting to plan my trip to Japan at the end of February and have convinced myself that I should bring my bike.

There are two things though which daunt me and cause me to hesitate so am hoping that the friendly faces here can provide some insight.

1. Getting from Airport to my first hotel in Shinjuku and then from Tokyo to Osaka at the end of the first week.
2. Getting lost and having no way of getting back.

So, for the first one I think I have myself covered in that I have an evoc bike bag (https://www.evocusa.com/collections/frontpage/products/evoc-bike-travel-bag). Is this okay for use on the trains? I'm thinking of taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka so want to make sure that my bike comes with me. Also, flying into Narita means my current plan is the Narita Express through to Shinjuku station.

Figuring out where to ride is the trickier part. I'm going to be based in Shinjuku for the first week then close to the centre of Osaka for the second week. Are there any good rides (around 70km) with some climbs in them which would be enjoyable at the end of February and start of March? I will have my Garmin and iPhone with me so should be able to follow a GPS route easily. The bike I have is a road bike so would want to stay on the roads as much as possible.

In previous trips (without my bike) I've been able to pick up a data sim for use with my iPhone. If I'm travelling outside of major areas, is there anything I need to be aware of for mobile coverage?

Also, what's the etiquette of bikes in hotel rooms? Is it okay or will I need to find somewhere to store my bike when I'm not out and about?

What kind of weather should I expect during the end of winter? Should I look to pick up some warmer cycling kit for the trip?

Many, many thanks for any and all input and help to make this upcoming trip amazing.

I think the best way to ride climbs for someone in Shinjuku with limited time is take your bike on the train about an hour and a half west to where the mountains are, start and finish the ride there, and get the train back again. The bike bag you need for this kind of train travel is much simpler than that evoc one: https://www.tokyocycle.com/bbs/wiki/taking-a-bike-on-the-train/
There is a bicycle shop in Shinjuku that sells these bike bags. Otherwise, it is at least about 45 km to reach decent climbs from Shinjuku (one way).

As for data coverage, there are apps that give you offline maps and show you where you are with only GPS coverage, so that covers every eventuality. They also let you add a route to the map. These are apps like 'maps.me', 'galileo pro' or 'ridewithgps'.

I don't know much about hotels in Shinjuku, but I'm guessing it depends on the hotel. If you keep it in the type of bag mentioned in the link above it should be fine, but you should check.

Average temp/rainfall data is online.

As for routes, there are many nice ones from stations easily reachable by train from Shinjuku if you decide on that path.
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I forgot to say, the evoc bike bag looks fine for Japanese trains as well. You should have no problem with it.
Hey thanks heaps GrantT.

I got in touch with the hotel and they advised about taking the Narita Express to Shinjuku. They also don't have any problems with having a bike in the room though advised the use of the cloak room. Has anyone used a cloak room in a hotel for storing a bike? As I'll be hopefully riding most days, my preference would be the hotel room instead of the cloak room. First time travelling with a bike so any input is great.

Taking the train out to the start of some rides is a good idea. Is there anywhere closer into the city that's worth riding?
Taking the train out to the start of some rides is a good idea. Is there anywhere closer into the city that's worth riding?

Note the wiki, above, about taking bikes on trains. You need a relatively lightweight/minimalist bag for that, preferably one that you could carry in a bottle cage, light backpack, etc., since when you get off the train to ride, there'd be no place to store that large case of yours.
Hey Jdd,
Yeah, that's why I want to cycle from Shinjuku out to where I can. From what I can gather, the evoc bag is fine for airport -> hotel -> airport but as it's rather large there isn't a good option for using it when getting out somewhere to ride.

Thanks again.
Taking the train out to the start of some rides is a good idea. Is there anywhere closer into the city that's worth riding?

There is the Ara River to the north east, and Tama River to the south west. They have cycle roads, but are obviously flat and still about an hour ride from Shinjuku. Also, these segments are okay if you are looking to get your heart rate up.

That's about it.
Nice. I saw that there is a good ride around Tama that includes some small climbs in it. I'll take a look at the Ara River and Tama River segments after work.
The Tama is nice enough as a way to get out of the city. It is narrow in places and can get crowded with walkers, kids, dogs, slower cyclists, older people who suddenly stop/turn into you etc... It is mostly clear during the week, however, so you are likely to find it less crowded earlier in the morning on a week day. I ride it often and, even when crowded, it is fine as long as you are careful. It is the best way to get out of the city from southern Tokyo. In general, riding on city streets is also fine; the people I ride with generally ride the cycle path or surface roads to get out of the city. I find cars to be fairly attentive (make sure to use hand signals so that they can anticipate what you are doing). Unlike places in the US, however, there generally is not much of a shoulder and I would never ride roads of this size with US drivers. Depending on where you're coming from, it might take some time to get acclimated to being so close to cars on the city streets. Compared to places where I've lived in the US, there are also many many more stop lights here. This keeps traffic speed down, but it also means lots of starting and stopping on the surface streets.

At any rate, it is definitely possible to ride from Shinjuku; the question is whether this would be a good use of your time. If I was here on a short trip, I would not want to spend 1-2 hours just getting to the place where the nicer roads start. I don't know Osaka all that well, but it seems to be even more sprawling than Tokyo. If you are interested in taking the train out, but are worried about the cost of a bag, you aren't going to have to pay a similar price to what you paid for the Evoc bag. For example, you can get a bag in Japan from Montbell for around $45 US. https://en.montbell.jp/products/goods/disp.php?product_id=1130425
Ostrich is another company that sells bike bags, which I think are a bit more expensive. You can find those at most bike stores.
If you are near Shinjuku station, you can take the Chuo line train out to the hills around Takao and start your ride from there.

At any rate, I'm sure you will have fun regardless of which option you choose. I don't mind the Tama as a regular training route (especially earlier on weekdays when it isn't as crowded), but it might not be as fun if you've come a long way to ride here. Regardless, best of luck.
Thanks Ryan,
some definitely helpful tips in there. I'm confident on the roads as I'm living in Australia at the moment. It's great to hear that the drivers are respectful of cyclists.

I'll probably invest in a bag for the train as well so I can get outside of Tokyo and Osaka as required.
Yeah, the bag is mandatory. I once had a puncture near a train station about 15 km from home. And that day I forgot my spare tube. I didn't have a bag and Japanese don't make exceptions. I had to walk home.
Just another thought. I don't know how small that evoc bag packs down to but if you didn't want to go out and buy a more compact bike bag but still want to take the train out west to go for a cycle, then you could stow it in a station locker while you ride (if it will pack that small). The lockers are pretty cheap and you might save a bit of cash. Almost all of the stations have them.
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