Middle range trip/moving - Tokaido

nemanjaj

Warming-Up
Apr 11, 2008
10
0
0
31
Tokyo
www.jakovljevic.net
#1
Hello,

If everything goes well...

I am planing a trip starting on 15th of March which has to end on 31st of March in Shiga.
Basically my plan is to follow Tokaido all the way to the Kyoto and then to return to Shiga (Hikone).
Generally it would also be moving - if I get into the Shiga Uni. I am going there.
I am going to be riding full Shimano LX MTB bicycle with front suspension, 2.0 Schwalbe Marathon XR tires. Also - 100liters of panniers (back 60, front 40).

So basically - this is NOT a race. It is a pleasure riding with looking around - taking photos. Maybe talking to locals. Eating local food... I will also plan to sleep over using hospitality club where possible.

I need following information:

1. Does anyone have GPS track for Tokaido?
2. What are the maximum elevations I am going to pass?
3. Should I expect snow?
4. What are going to be minimum temperatures experienced? In that period should I expect rain?
5. Camping in Japan... legal or not? I don't mean in camp but just on my own to put a tent in mountain... maybe make a small fire in front of the tent?
6. Insurance - I plan to take a year round insurance from the company AIU - does anyone have experience with them?
7. How does police look on the bicycle travelers? I will be riding with the helmet off course, if it gets dark - I will use lights. In full bicycle outfit off course (but I will not shave legs ; ) ).
8. By my on experience of around 8 months on the roads in Tokyo - I shouldn't have problems with drivers. Am I right?
9. If I have to sleep over in a hotel - what is a treatment of my bicycle usually?
Probably they are not going to allow me to get it in the room ; )


See you guys!
 
#2
Hello Nemanjaj,

Saw your thread, thought to myself "that bike trip looks a blast", but then - horror of horrors - I saw that you're planning to cycle the Tokaido. I couldn't in all conscience let this go without telling you what I think, so ..... Don't Do It ! A hundred years ago I'm sure this would have been a picturesque adventure through culture and rolling landscape, just suited to a mountain bike ramble (well, assuming there were, er, mountain bikes), but now 90% is just an overcrowded, exhaust-fume filled, pachinko-parlour & barber-shop lined concrete nightmare (Route 1/Route 15). Well, in my opinion anyway.

It would be a real shame to do some decent bike touring and not see what Japan really has to offer you. For some general Japan cycling tips, I would suggest first looking at this thread (and the various links included in it):
https://tokyocycle.com/bbs/showthread.php?p=7522#post7522

Maybe, instead of strictly following the Tokaido, you could trace a rough route from Tokyo to Kyoto to Shiga using "places of interest" gleaned from a guidebook (Lonely Planet,etc) - these could be your "doses" of history and culture, if you like. Or they could be onsen (my personal preference). Then you could join these dots by chosing a decent route between them. More often than not, you'll find the route in-between offers up far more interesting surprises than the destination.

This may involve a few mountains, but you said you are in no rush, right ?! Your mountain-bike will have the gearing to get you up any climb, but you won't need an offroad set-up: dirt roads (that actually go somewhere) are few and far between in Japan, and I find the weight of a loaded touring bike is more than enough to gain enough traction. My guess is that you wouldn't find any, anyway. So I would suggest: replace the 2" Schwalbes with some lighter slicks, nothing wider than 1.5". Much nicer on the asphalt. Also, I'd reckon the two panniers at the rear (and a bag on top + handlebar bag) would be enough, including camping gear. If you really are planning to move all your worldly belongings up to Shiga, there are easier ways you know !

In answer to some of your questions:
2. What are the maximum elevations I am going to pass?
--> Depends on route, but nothing really over 1000m.
3. Should I expect snow?
--> Maybe at the top of a few passes, but the roads should be clear.
4. What are going to be minimum temperatures experienced? In that period should I expect rain?
--> Expect rain any time. Temperature above zero C.
5. Camping in Japan... legal or not? I don't mean in camp but just on my own to put a tent in mountain... maybe make a small fire in front of the tent?
--> You can camp just about anywhere: parks are particularly nice due to toilet/sink/etc. Fires are illegal in most areas I believe.
7. How does police look on the bicycle travelers? I will be riding with the helmet off course, if it gets dark - I will use lights. In full bicycle outfit off course (but I will not shave legs ; ) ).
--> Very little hassle, and basically pretty helpful to hairy riders.
8. By my on experience of around 8 months on the roads in Tokyo - I shouldn't have problems with drivers. Am I right?
--> Right.
9. If I have to sleep over in a hotel - what is a treatment of my bicycle usually? Probably they are not going to allow me to get it in the room ; )
--> No. Many minshuku/ryokan will allow you to put it in the "genkan" (porch), or at least round the back. Bring a lock, and dustbin liner to cover it. When camping, if you're paranoid, lock it to your leg ...

It'll be great ! Good luck --

Cheers
Steve
 

nemanjaj

Warming-Up
Apr 11, 2008
10
0
0
31
Tokyo
www.jakovljevic.net
#3
Thanks for your reply!
The thing now is that I will generally have to go trough that route. I mean - I am becoming too much a Japanese it seems. I now want to cover it also out of the respect to my sensei. She was like - if you can - go this way. That is also her dream to do - but on foot. That's the way I got the idea to take that route. I also got a book from sensei about it (old one), and she asked me to take pictures... I really can not say no.

The panniers arrived today and I am awaiting for my bicycle I used for tours to arrive also. This time I will cover tokaido with it. I covered with it the unexisting roads in Russia, went trough rivers, trough heavy mud... and basically anything you can not imagine ; )

I will have to cover the same distance once more this year probably. Because I will have to come to Tokyo to take a new passport - I will come by densha but I will ride my road bike then to the Shiga. That time - I can do the way you suggested.

Camping in the park... is that ok? I mean - like - opening a tent in the middle of the park?

About the locking the bike to my leg... I actually did that once ; )
It happened that on the tour (unplanned, I just joined some guys - made decision couple of hours before leaving) I packed 10 meters of UTP LAN cable... so on one place where I was paranoid I actually used it to tie it to my arm...

And no... I am not moving all my belongings with me ; ) But a lot of them - yes.
 
#4
Hi Nemanjaj,
If it's a promise, well shoganai... but look at the map and you probably still have options for small diversions, and at least it won't be freezing. I've been through some pretty atrocious conditions myself - yes, I can imagine it! - but Japan has always been pretty kind. I've actually had to deliberately go out of my way to find bad roads (my last trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stantopia/sets/72157607282985550/show/)

Camping in parks is fine - this is quite common among Japanese cyclists as well, though obviously chose one away from any immediate houses (small towns - Good, Roppongi/Shinjuku - Bad). There are also loads of campsites in Japan (marked clearly on the "Touring Mapple" maps). Most will probably not be officially open yet, but you can still stay in them - and in Japan you can generally leave the tent and cycle into town for dinner without worrying that your tent will be ransacked while you're away. No need for the LAN cable here ...
 

Phil

Maximum Pace
#5
I've been through some pretty atrocious conditions myself - yes, I can imagine it!
What Steve isn't saying explicitely here is that he came to Japan via bike...from London:

http://www.turnrightforjapan.com/

It does sound like you're committed to the Tokkaido, but I'd agree with Steve that it sounds like about the worst route to take by bicycle--like touring America on Route 1. Those big red lines look like good routes on the map, but they also look good to the millions of cars and trucks that are heading the same way.

Re: camping in parks, if you were to do it, being discrete is key. Maybe skip the tent if the weather is good, and wait until it's late and everyone has left the park before setting up.
 

nemanjaj

Warming-Up
Apr 11, 2008
10
0
0
31
Tokyo
www.jakovljevic.net
#7
@kevin_fixie: Thanks - will look it up. Actually I know about it but never used it...
@Phil thanks!

@Steve

Hey! I checked your route ; )
Actually it differs from the one that is my plan when I go to Europe. My plan is to take the ferry to Vladivostok and from there to trace the Transsiberian railway as close as possible. After that from Moscow to my home town also on bicycle.
And my home town is... Belgrade! In Serbia ; )
I had to read your experiences from there and I can understand a lot of things ; ) Things a little bit improved now. Now the average salary is not 100 eur - but average for whole country is around 300 ; ) And in southern part of Serbia... well... around 150...
The disobeying of the traffic rules... ok... you represented us much worse than it is ; ) But - ok, I admit - it is a bit... ok, it is dangerous - but I covered a lot of the roads there and it is ok ; ) (I am alive and well and didn't have close encounters with vehicles).
Hotels - existing. But yes - no signs how to get to them ; )
Well - as you said - you have to go there again... we can maybe go together ; ) Also - you missed a lot of Serbia by not going to the southern parts. The more south you go, the more poor the people are, but at the same time better people, more hospital, more generous... It seems to me that people who have less money are much better!


See you!

Nemanja
(It is pronunced Nemanya - ネマニャ)
 
#8
So you're from Belgrade then, Nemanya ?! Great city, and, well, I must say - beautiful women:rolleyes:

To be fair, yes, it was only that road from Novi Sad to Belgrade that was really bad. But a good experience anyhow, because worse than that was to come further east ! Would have loved to spend more time but with all my central Asian visas stacked up like a house of cards it was hard to build any more leeway into the schedule. You know, I still have a couple of thick books of Serbian poetry given to me by a kind fellow on the way to Pozarevac... and I had to carry those heavy things until I could post it from Istanbul :mad: and, of course, I can't read cyrillic or Serbian:cry:...

You know I often think about packing the job in again and going back the other way. Don't tempt me, just don't tempt me !...

Cheers
Steve
 

nemanjaj

Warming-Up
Apr 11, 2008
10
0
0
31
Tokyo
www.jakovljevic.net
#9
Hey Steve,

Don't worry - I don't have something like that in plan for next, say 3-4 years ; )

If you had that experience from Novi Sad to Belgrade... I think you "should have turned left at the Albuquerque... I mean - you probably took the route that we call "Novi Sad highway" - because it should be, I mean - it was meant to be... but never built to the end ; ) But people behave like it is - and police likes to catch us speeding there (limit is 60 kmph... I drive always 100 there ; ) )
There is much nicer way from Novi Sad to Belgrade - including passing over one small mountain with nice views on it...

However... that is not the topic now ; )
If you need help with cyrillic I can help ; )


See you!

Nemanja