Help Shikoku Pilgrimage - any advice?

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Warming-Up
Aug 28, 2014
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#1
Hi All,
I am very new to long rides, but I will be attempting the shikoku henro come next March, pretty far away I know, but I'll be leaving for Japan in a few weeks for my year abroad and was hoping to purchase any gear here in the states I might still need(my friend can help me with discounted gear).

I'll be riding a cannondale cadd 10 with a osprey flapjack backpack, revelate seat bag, and a handlebar bag.
I hope to camp most nights, maybe stopping into a ryokan for a night or two, but I'll have to be as frugal as possible. I'll be camping with a hammock and tarp setup, mostly for convenience of setting up pretty much anywhere, and for space conservation.

I have a few questions I haven't been able to answer on the net, even after reading a couple of blogs.

Will camping be plausible? I know it will be pretty chilly at night, into the 30s F.
What is the best way to load a sleeping bag? I haven't done any camping touring yet.
Can I get by with 3 or 4 bottles of water?
How often will I go through towns to refill?
Should I bring a small water purification kit?
Is it pretty easy to eat cheap within the towns?
I'll probably be living mostly off of probars, tuna, peanutbutter, and protein powder.
How much of a risk are flats? I've heard the roads are incredible in Japan in general ( nothing like the Tucson roads I ride that devour tires and tubes)
How much is a nokyocho (stamp book)?
Does each stamp also cost you? I'd love to complete one but I'm afraid it will be too pricey.

Sorry if I seem a bit unorganized and lost, I'd greatly appreciate any advice for the ride or what to bring.
Thank you, all!
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,519
650
133
Kanazawa
#2
I've seen some blogs, people who've done the 88 on a bike. Have you come across some of those?

Also, from what I've read, in some places you can "camp" indoors at temples. Some other places there are dorm-like rooms at what you'd otherwise think to be minshuku.
 

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Warming-Up
Aug 28, 2014
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#5
Thank you all for your responses!
There was one important question I forgot to ask, what's the best way to get from tokyo to hiroshima with your bicycle? I've heard it can be a hassle to bring your bike with you onto a bus or train, and some night busses won't even allow bicycles under the bus
 

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#7
I'll be riding a cannondale cadd 10 with a osprey flapjack backpack, revelate seat bag, and a handlebar bag.
For camping equipment and sleeping bag and the rest? Hmm. Some time very soon, try loading it up, and see whether the result is pleasant (or possible).

In your situation I'd get a bike more or less designed for this kind of thing. (It would not have to be a "touring" bike. Something old but not "vintage", with a sound frame and wheels, lots of spokes, and low gearing.)

You want the heavy stuff as low as possible, and therefore the (lower density) sleeping bag goes at the top, e.g. across the top of a pannier frame.

I'll probably be living mostly off of probars, tuna, peanutbutter, and protein powder.
Not a good idea.

Well, canned tuna is cheap and easy to find. (And I suppose it supplies you with cadmium, mercury....) For probars, you've got "Soyjoy", sugary options, and very expensive options. I don't think that peanut butter or protein powder are available in Japan's convenience stores.

Rice balls and bananas, Sir!

I'll have to be as frugal as possible. [...] Is it pretty easy to eat cheap within the towns?
You can sit down somewhere and fill your face, not unpleasantly, for 800 yen or so. (If you're not full, a refill of rice is normally free.) Maybe twice that for a pleasant dinner. Convenience stores have what you need, but they won't have the items on your list. Supermarkets should have peanut butter etc. Bread from obvious places (to go with your peanut butter and tuna) tastes of nothing (don't be fooled by brown bread; this just seems to be ... colouring). Excellent bread is available, but you have to know where to look -- and come to think of it, it might be very hard to get outside the cities. I don't know about north America, but coming from Europe I'm surprised by how cheap meals out are given how expensive the ingredients are.

How much is a nokyocho (stamp book)?
Does each stamp also cost you? I'd love to complete one but I'm afraid it will be too pricey.
Wild guess: the book would be a few hundred yen and the stamps would be free.
 

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Warming-Up
Aug 28, 2014
3
0
1
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#10
For camping equipment and sleeping bag and the rest? Hmm. Some time very soon, try loading it up, and see whether the result is pleasant (or possible).

In your situation I'd get a bike more or less designed for this kind of thing. (It would not have to be a "touring" bike. Something old but not "vintage", with a sound frame and wheels, lots of spokes, and low gearing.)
I've put new wheels with plenty of spokes on my cadd, so hopefully this will help. As far as gear goes, I was hoping to get by without a stove, cookwear and what not, kind of like ultralight backpacking but on bike. My camping hammock and tarp will be pretty light weight and the revelate seat bag is a beast and will have to replace panniers for my bike.

I'd like some more opinions on the bike; is it a poor idea? are there cheap alternatives? I'll be using this bike around tokyo a lot, especially with the cycling club from my university. I'm very comfortable with and use to the bike.

Good to know about the food situation! I'll make sure to try and save away extra yen for my meals when the time comes.


rommelgc, thank you for the google map with all the temples!
 

rommelgc

Maximum Pace
Sep 3, 2009
362
101
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Setagaya
#11
In your situation I'd get a bike more or less designed for this kind of thing. (It would not have to be a "touring" bike. Something old but not "vintage", with a sound frame and wheels, lots of spokes, and low gearing.)
:tup


I've put new wheels with plenty of spokes on my cadd, so hopefully this will help.
32s? 36s? Wheels with a good spoke count is good but those spokes must be user/shop replaceable (no need to send it to the manufacturer for replacement). If one spoke snaps the others will soon follow suite, specially if you're loaded. A normal spoke (the J-type, for lack of a better term), you could get from a regular bike shop (even a mamachari shop), is a very good option.

the revelate seat bag is a beast
Mind your seatpost if it's carbon. It's the possible weak link in the big (afaik the revelate can really be a beast starting at 6L) seat bag equation.
 
Likes: jpeg

Sikochi

Maximum Pace
Sep 13, 2010
1,181
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Kochi
#12
I`ll have more time later, but there has recently been a relay bicycle ride around the pilgrimmage...just can`t find the homepage that might have the route details on it they followed. See here for a brief write-up.

This guy rode it by bicycle a few years ago. Admin: the link i was trying to put in for this keeps disappearing. Anyway http://www.shikokupilgrimage.com/

There is also a Shikoku Henro pilgrimmage forum site

I believe you do have to pay for the stamps. Not sure on the price, maybe a few hundred yen each.
 

Gunjira

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2009
1,003
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Tokyo
#13
I did the pilgrimage on a fixed gear - 17days in 2009. I didn't camp, but can briefly address some of your questions.
- book AND stamps cost. Google the current price
- 2 bottles is totally sufficient. You can get water everywhere, no purification needed.
- likewise cheap food never is a problem, the longest uninhabited stretch is 60k only
- bring spare spokes
- you will not always be near the coast, but at altitude, which will be cold in March. Even with an insulating emergency blanket and a down sleeping bag, you will probably still need a bottom quilt for your hammock to sleep. Disclaimer: I hammock camp as well.
- the usual order starts in tokushima. I took a plane there, but there might be a ferry From tokyo as well.
- major drawback about camping is spare clothes/washing.
- road surface is great, but there is some climbing. I had two flats total.
- All temples can be reached on concrete, except one where biking is impossible.
- I had a flat rate iPhone, which rwally helped. Get a pocket wifi as well. "Blind" without speaking the language in March will put your adventure on another level ;)

Enjoy!!