Suggestions and assistance wanted for Japan cyling story

Apr 19, 2013
5
1
3
51
#1
Hi TCC,

I’m not sure whether to put this in the introductions forum, or the routes forum, but since this covers a few things simultaneously I decided on the general discussion section. I hope that’s OK.

In short, I’m heading over to Japan in May to do a feature story on for an Australian road cycling magazine and was hoping to get some info on route selections as well as, if possible, a few riding partners and/or photo models. It’s not a piece that’s going to focus on riding in Japan in general but rather at some of its awesome hill climbs. I lived in Japan for 6 years in the 90s (albeit at that time I was a MTN biker and cycle-tourer rather than roadie per se) and so have a general idea of a few of the climbs I want to do; Norikura, Kusatsu and Fuji-san are definites. Doing the Venus Line is a probability as well. One of the issues though is that I’ve got no choice but to do this mid-May (13th to 21st), so snow over some roads may still be an issue.

I’m actually doing a backcountry skiing story first for another mag, and then looking at basing myself in Matsumoto for a week (from the evening of the 12th returning to Tokyo on the 20th), taking trains wherever necessary to get to the start and end of rides. Because I’ll be logging a fair few days, I’m don’t want to go out and crush it on any single day because then I’ll be too buggered to back up later on in the week. Also, I’m going to have to spend some time taking photos, as well as lugging around a few extra kilos of camera gear. So I’m thinking loops and routes mainly around the 120-150km mark a day, though possibly more (up to 200 or so) if anyone has any particularly cool suggestions.

And I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or comments on the rides I’ve got in mind already. Fuji-san is the simplest, starting from the sea via Fujinomiya to the 5th station. It opens the end of this month so I’m presuming snow shouldn’t be an issue. I’ll actually do Fuji at the very end, actually on the day I fly back to Oz, May 21 (I don’t fly until 8.30).

For the Kusatsu day, I’d train it from Matsumoto to Nagano and then this is the loop (137km) I’m thinking of:
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.actiongoat.com%2FforumImages%2FNagano-KusatsuLoop.JPG&hash=a689bfd46de193e0f2633a86fd48ba26

Here's the google maps link if you want to check it more closely: http://goo.gl/maps/AODlu.

Now, although I know the Kusatsu hill climb is taking place this weekend (so obviously it's partly open), I’m hoping to continue over Shirane-san. I was wondering if anyone who does the hill climb event might have any info as to whether it's open all the way through. According to this online road winter closures site http://www.jartic.or.jp/guide/hunou11/hunagan.html, the road should be open but it be interested if anyone could confirm this, or if anyone has any ideas for tweaking the route.

Norikura officially opens May 15, so I’m hoping snow shouldn’t be an issue, though I was wondering if anyone had experience with doing it so close to the opening date. I haven’t thought about a route for it yet. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

As I mentioned earlier, I was thinking about the Venus Line as another possibility (again, does anyone know how likely this is to be snow-free mid-May; according, from what I can gather, to the road closures site it should be open – it suggests April20 as the likely opening), either doing part of it as loop from Matsumoto, or doing the whole thing starting from Chino (143km), like this:
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.actiongoat.com%2FforumImages%2FChino-Matsumoto-VenusLine.jpg&hash=72c8afc3af3029ca2d07f38546d3cadd

And here's the google maps link for this route if you want to check it more closely:http://goo.gl/maps/8bTru.

So I’d like to come up with (or more pertinently wondering if anyone in TCC could suggest) one more route for a day of hill climbing. The remaining days I'll pad out with some really easy cruises (for example down the Kiso Valley and the Nakasendo, mainly just to revisit Narai-juku which I went to years ago and loved), as well as spending a bit of time in a rental car to get back to some cool spots to set up some more riding photos.

I’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions from the TCC community on any of this. And as I mentioned at the start, I’d love to have some company on some of the rides if anyone’s got time, and also doesn’t mind me mucking a bit to get riding photos for the mag.

One last thing, (whew! - sorry it's been a bit of an essay) I’m actually going to do a short piece on keirin as well just when when I fly in, and want to head to the Hiratsuka meet on Sunday May 5th before I head out to go ski touring. Any keirin buffs out there who might be willing to tag along and explain what’s happening?

Thanks in advance for any help you guys can offer.
 
Likes: Musashi13
Apr 19, 2013
5
1
3
51
#4
Blob, good to hear!! Just let me know what days you're up for. Have you spent much time riding around that area?

And Dude, no not Kurobe Tateyama, but not so far from it either; out the back of Shirouma-dake. Hopefully I'll have enough snow for skiing, but not so much that Norikura can't open.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
2,863
1,450
129
...
#5
Haven't done any cycling in that area but been through there on a motorbike several times.

Given that it is snowing as we speak up at kusatsu snow may still be an issue.
 

Jules

Speeding Up
Nov 8, 2009
143
21
38
Tokyo, Uehara
fairmean.com
#7
Action Goat

2weekends back I did a night ascent of odarumi, which gets you up to 2400m. I slept at 1500m for a few hrs, got up at sunrise and cyclocrossed my road bike (bit of snow and ice) up to about 1800/1900m and ran the rest (deep snow). The snow was firm enough to descend on with road tires for about 3km. You may be able to get up higher, even close to the top by May. It's a magic route. 2000m+ of climbing in 37km. Very compact. It only goes up. There are 2 routes up. A lot of deer, frozen waterfalls etc. descending through vineyards. I am definitely up for more of this. I have ultralight camping gear and bike bags. If you Facebook 'Fairmean' (my Facebook id) you can see photos if the trip.
 
Apr 19, 2013
5
1
3
51
#8
Jules,

I'd actually had Odarumi [taking the train from Matsumoto down to Koshu and then finishing at Chino] in my sights as a potential ride, but then found out some of it was dirt. And that was aside from whether it'd be snowed under or not. By the look of your pics, it certainly would be. It looked like the snow made for an interesting outing for you. The only thing is, for me, in terms of the story, I'm not sure that something like that, overnighting and potentially having to foot it to the pass, would work. Don't get me wrong, I know japan is great for that kind of thing, and I used to do it all the time back when I lived there. But I'm pretty keen to keep this just as day trips, basing myself in Matsomoto and taking trains to wherever I'm going to start from. On the topic of trains, though, and thus cycling bags, your stuff looked great for that kind of thing. 100 grams - that's awesome!
 
Dec 31, 2009
906
87
48
Matsumoto
#9
Hello,

I live in Ina, Nagano and know the area very well. I would have no trouble helping you plan out, recon and go with you on rides if you like. I will PM you my personal email.
I look forward to hearing back.


~Chuck
Cyclefit Japan
Peugeot Cycling Team Mechanic
 
Sep 2, 2009
5
0
0
#10
(Sorry that you had to use a screenshot of the Google map you linked to; still working on embedding Google Maps directly - they are for want of a better word, a bastard to get sitting properly due to all sorts of jiggery-pockery that Google uses for their URLs / Saving protocol. When I get it done, I will auto-update this thread for you.)
 

Jules

Speeding Up
Nov 8, 2009
143
21
38
Tokyo, Uehara
fairmean.com
#11
Yes. Odarumi is still in its bohemian phase, not straight ahead road cycling territory yet, a lot of debri up top even where you can ride. If you are hitting hills in Yamanashi and are short of a riding partner, let me know, I am up for a day ride for sure. Re the bags, if you'd like to borrow one for your stay I have samples/protos you are welcome to try.

Jules
 

DeltaForce

Maximum Pace
Sep 17, 2011
204
25
48
Toki, Gifu
#12
Looks like fantastic work, Action Goat.

You probably won't get as far as I live in Toki, the Nagoya end of Gifu, but I might be able to join you for one of your spins.

I've just moved here from Yokohama, but have found almost every ride so far fantastic. No mega climbs found yet though.

If you do have questions about this end of the Kiso valley, go ahead, make my day.

Dave
 
Apr 19, 2013
5
1
3
51
#13
Jules, thanks for the offer of borrowing a bag. It'd be darn useful, although I don't quite know how it'd work logistically in terms of meeting up to get it. As for riding in Yamanashi, I do wanna do Fuji-san, albeit from the Shizuoka side starting from the sea, on Tuesday 21st of May. I don't know if you can get a workday off, but I'd love to have you along.

And Dave, I actually used to live not to far from where you are now; I lived in Seto for 6 months, about 15km distant as the crow flies. I'm thinking of trying to fit in Magome and Tsumago at some point, which I went to years ago but remember as lovely.
 
Dec 31, 2009
906
87
48
Matsumoto
#15
I just finished up with action goat here in Nagano.

It was awesome! He showed me allot of great new rides here in Nagano and I will look forward to checking out the issue of Bicycling Magazine Australia when it is published!
 
Likes: FarEast