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Can I get some tips for riding in Kansai in November/December?

Archimedeez-Nuts

Cruising
Nov 8, 2021
3
2
Hi,

I should be moving to Kyoto for November/December for work reasons and I'm seriously considering taking my bike with me. For reference, I live in Okinawa and I have never cycled in the mainland before. Okinawa is very quiet and cyclists are generally well-respected by motorists. I have lots of questions, and it would be great to hear from anybody in the area!
  1. What is the riding like in November/December?
  2. From what I can tell, Kyoto seems to be in a "bowl", with hills surrounding it on all sides. What are the famous/best climbs in the area?
  3. Are there any groups of strong riders that would happily accept a gaijin to tag along?
  4. Do you recommend investing in any warm weather gear? In Okinawa it usually gets down to about 12C in "winter", so I currently don't own any cold weather clothes.
  5. Are the mountain passes safe to ride? Do they become too cold to ride in winter?
  6. Are there any general hazards that I might not expect from city riding?
  7. How safe are the roads in mainland, generally?
  8. What's the best bike shop in Kyoto?
Also, if anybody is in the area and is willing to take on an extra rider in their group, that would be great! Please hit me up.

Thanks,
Archimedeez Nuts
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
2,233
1,933
Welcome back to the main land. I have not lived in Kansai, but in Fukuoka (Kyushu), Nagoya and now Sendai.
  1. What is the riding like in November/December?
That depends on where you want to ride. If you stick to the coastline, it should be safe on most days. However, even in Fukuoka we had a few days of snow. If you are used to it, it is not a big deal, though.
  1. Do you recommend investing in any warm weather gear? In Okinawa it usually gets down to about 12C in "winter", so I currently don't own any cold weather clothes.
Yeah, you will need cold weather gear to keep you warm: a warm base layer, a pair of arm warmers, leg warmers, a skull cap and a decent set of gloves should be enough for the good beginning. However, make sure to be properly dressed when it is raining.
  1. Are there any general hazards that I might not expect from city riding?
  2. How safe are the roads in mainland, generally?
Usually Japanese people drive very defensively. Typically, the biggest hazard are taxi drivers and other cyclists. Also, there is a tendency of Japanese drivers to not use their turn signals (far) in advance, so I usually try to be clearly visible by being ahead of the car and not overtake cars at intersections from the left.
 

Trek DJ

Maximum Pace
Jan 27, 2009
261
143
1) Kyoto has world class riding
2) Excellent climbs to the north and west
3) 1-2 nice groups of mostly foreigners/bilingual Japanese that do weekly monster rides...
4) Some passes do get too cold in the winter due to ice, but less of a problem in recent years due to warming
5) Excellent pavement routes as well as some great forest roads where you are better off with some fatter tires
6) Prepare for some steep climbs and correct gearing
7) You will need winter gear: tights, jacket, booties
8) Get bike insurance. Unfortunately (and I don't know if this is a Kyoto thing) but seems to be quite a few older folks in the countryside drive without insurance...two friends in Kyoto have had (luckily) hit and runs with drivers without insurance. Police eventually found them but it was a mess.

Bottom line, Kyoto is a gem for riding. Short 30km hilly loops or big rides to Japan sea, its great for riding.

You can DM me directly and I can put you in touch with a couple of people.
 
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microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
1,336
882
Do you recommend investing in any warm weather gear? In Okinawa it usually gets down to about 12C in "winter", so I currently don't own any cold weather clothes.
Yes and no. Yes; but no if "invest in" suggests a major expense. Look in "Book Off Super Bazaar" for warmer clothes. Avoid stuff for really low temperatures; instead, supplement clothes designed for cool temperatures with a warmer variety of Uniqlo "Heat-Tech" undies. As for the lower half, when the temperature gets really low I wear long pants of a very thin material, over "Heat Tech" long johns. (I also have a pair of lined, warm cycling pants; I haven't worn them for years. Neither have I frozen without them and wished I'd worn them.)

How safe are the roads in mainland, generally?
Phone use while driving is widespread. People with poor vision, subject to epileptic fits, etc, can easily have their licenses renewed. There's reason to believe that flashing lights are counterproductive, but I try to wear a jersey that's at least moderately garish, so that it will compete with the phone for the attention of impaired drivers.
 
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