Car and destination recommendations April - May

D

dstke

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2019
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#1
Hi, my wife and I are planning a cycling trip to Japan this April and May - little did I know about Golden Week!o_O We've signed up for the 8 Day Japan Highlights tour with Thomas and Japan Biking. After seeing how much great cycling Japan has to offer we decided to extend the trip by arriving 3 weeks early and doing some cycling on our own, or possibly sign up for another tour although it doesn't look like there are many group tours during GW.

We plan to bring our coupled Co-Motion tandem, rent a car and tour around - just like we did in the Pyrenees a few years ago, with the only difference that we don't speak or read Japanese - I'm crash coursing.

Questions:

What car to rent? We fit our tandem on it's side into the back of a 4-door station wagon in Europe any car recommendations in Japan? Was looking at Mazada 5 Premacy wagon or Honda Stepwagon van (it looks like we could fold down the back seats and fit the tandem upright down the middle which is what many people do here in Toyota Sienna vans).

Where to go? The 8 day Japan Highlights tour ends in Izumi so we're planning to fly to Kagoshima, rent the car, leave our bike boxes at the same hotel as we'll stay in at the finish of the tour, go for a couple of rides around Kagoshima then work our way up Kyushu. I've read the ride descriptions on KANcycling and several nice rides posted by Ian Dagnall on Ridewithgps and will look to incorporate some of those locations like North Kyushu, Aso and Yufuin (the 8D tour includes the Nagasaki peninsula, some of Amakusa and Kumamato to Izumi so I'll try not to duplicate those areas). From Kyushu we plan to take the ferry over to Shikoku, maybe stay in Uwajima, ride along the Shimantogawa river and other local routes then move to Kochi (looks like many accomodations are already sold out) and do a few rides from there. Then drive to Kyoto and do several rides from there along with sightseeing until our tour starts on 16th. Any other places anyone would recommend? I was thinking about the Noto Peninsula but don't think we have the time, plus with bike and car it's better to find a location from which we can do several rides.

Thanks for any suggestions and recommendations.

We just returned from riding on tours in Columbia, Chile, and Argentina so I would be glad to return the favor with recommendations for those areas or for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Doug Sherman
 
stu_kawagoe

stu_kawagoe

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Jun 23, 2018
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#2
Welcome to the site, Doug🙂 I have a Toyota Sienta here, which is probably like a baby version of the Sienna, and I can squeeze my roadie in the back with the seats folded down, so I’m guessing you should be good with a similar vehicle from any of the brands in a class above mine.

Kyushu and Shikoku are both really beautiful, btw.

Enjoy your trip!
 
Kangaeroo

Kangaeroo

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Jan 24, 2018
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#3
Hi Doug,
I'd say driving around Japan is not as much fun as it can be in Europe, and rarely as picturesque. You'll also have to drive on the "other" side of the road. Have you thought about the train? You can get a Japan Rail Pass that can take you all around the country on a tremendous rail network, you won't have to worry about parking and you'll get a chance to get closer to Japan and many Japanese people. (You will need to buy a bike bag to travel with your bike on the trains). Rail travel is simpler, easier and more picturesque. Being able to flit from place to place by train and bike could enable you to see a lot of the country over three weeks. Anyway, food for thought, perhaps. Knowing Japan, that's what I'd be doing.
Incidentally, Thomas's trip is absolutely awesome! You're gonna have a sensational time! Wish I could be there, too.
 
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Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy

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#5
I went to a cycling event with two friends last year and we rented a Toyota Isis. It was huge in the back and easily fit three road bikes, three people and plenty of gear. The only downside was the cream interior. I got chain grease on one of the seats and we had to stop at a drug store to get upholstery shampoo to clean it off.
 
Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy

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#6
If you search the site for "Tandem" you'll find plenty of discussion on the issue. My personnal feeling is that while riding a tandem may technically be illegal in some areas, few police would have an issue with it because the laws are intended to prevent two people riding on a one person bike (on the rack, for example). People looking to rent tandems may have issues, but if you're bringing it with you I think you'll be fine. It could, however, be an issue if you want bike insurance while you're here (not mandatory).
 
kiwisimon

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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#7
Have you thought about the train? . Being able to flit from place to place by train and bike could enable you to see a lot of the country over three weeks. Anyway, food for thought, perhaps. Knowing Japan, that's what I'd be doing.
Hey Doug. I too think using the trains with bags to carry your separated frame and a wheel each is a good idea. I'd encourage you to start at the top of Honshu and slowly ride your way down the Island. The east coast is more visual but the three can be a bit brutal with a heap of short but steep climbs. The Sea of Japan side is a little more forgiving and will take you closer to your starting point. And it includes Noto Pen, a nice ride.

No matter what you do you'll enjoy it a lot and have so many memories. If Rental the the Stepwagon is a very good choice. You will probably need to drop the front wheel off. Buying a "blue sheet" (a big flat tough plastic sheet) from a home depot type place to protect the seats is a good idea.
 

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jdd

jdd

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#8
Yeah, I have a couple blue sheets on hand for hauling when I want the car to stay clean.

Not as comfy, but you can also rent a toyota hi ace/regius ace at some places. You'd need the cargo version, which typically seats two in the front, with a second seat for three more (that folds forward for more space).

(Obviously, avoid the versions that have seating installed for 8-10 people.)
 
D

dstke

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2019
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#9
Gentlemen,

Thanks for your responses. Re train, I'd love to but think it would be a huge hassle with the tandem. We ran into a situation once in Scotland where they wouldn't allow the tandem on the train from Oban to Glasgow (narrower gauge than other trains), we uncoupled the bike and hung it on two racks, once the conductor saw this he had no problem. But it's a hassle to decouple and re-assemble plus we would have our bags to deal with. Although more exensive the van would be more convenient and give us the flexibility to drive to rides if needed. I booked a Toyota Noah, the rear seats fold to the sides but it looks like on most models the middle row is designed to seat three and only folds forward which would block the bike from fitting between the front seats. I'll keep looking but the one way, pick up in Kagoshima and drop off in Kyoto is limiting availability.

With regard to destinations my first draft plan is three nights in each of the following locations; Izumi/Kagoshima, Yufuin, Saiki, Sukomo/Uwajima, Kochi. Then roughly a week in Kyoto, figuring 3-4 rides and a couple of days sight seeing.
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Thanks again for any additional suggestions.

Doug
 
kiwisimon

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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#10
Doug, look at a commercial van. Rates are lower than a minivan and with something like this you are not worrying about space or getting the seats dirty. Good point about a tandem on the trains. I have a regular road bike that has couplers but it's only been broken down about twice in its life.
https://www.nrgroup-global.com/en/car-guide-price-table.php#target05 Mazda Bongo DB-5
Commercial vehicles are not smoke free vehicles.

 
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D

dstke

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2019
7
7
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59
#11
Doug, look at a commercial van. Rates are lower than a minivan and with something like this you are not worrying about space or getting the seats dirty. Good point about a tandem on the trains. I have a regular road bike that has couplers but it's only been broken down about twice in its life.
https://www.nrgroup-global.com/en/car-guide-price-table.php#target05 Mazda Bongo DB-5
Commercial vehicles are not smoke free vehicles.

View attachment 17183
Thanks! I'll call on Monday.
 
D

dstke

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2019
7
7
3
59
#12
Doug, look at a commercial van. Rates are lower than a minivan and with something like this you are not worrying about space or getting the seats dirty. Good point about a tandem on the trains. I have a regular road bike that has couplers but it's only been broken down about twice in its life.
https://www.nrgroup-global.com/en/car-guide-price-table.php#target05 Mazda Bongo DB-5
Commercial vehicles are not smoke free vehicles.

View attachment 17183
Booked! Saved me about $1,000. Doumo Arigatou!
 
kiwisimon

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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#13
Brilliant. Now even if the hotels are all full you still have somewhere to sleep. Can save even more cash.
 
D

dstke

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2019
7
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#14
Quick question regarding Saeki - Sukumo Ferry. From the website sukumoferry.com it appears that the ferry is no longer in operation. Anyone know if this is a temporary closure for example due to low ridership in winter or permanent?

Thanks,
Doug