Help Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#1
Hi all,

My first post on BBS outside the 'Introduction' thread and I need some help. I am a month old road cyclist and I am planning (read thinking) to do Tokyo-Kyoto this December. I searched the forum but couldn't find a very relevant thread so bothered you all with this.. I have few questions:

  1. My biggest concern, is December end (time we have winter vacation in college) a suicidal time to do touring? Should I expect snow/heavy rain? (This will be my first winter in Japan so no idea about it)
  2. I expect many people here to have done this tour before so what should be the best route? I've read that the straight route 1 is not at all enjoyable.
  3. I am planning to do this in 5-6 days and return by train so what are good options to stay in the nights... any suggestions? I am a student so I am on a shoe string budget! :)
  4. Though I expect some of friends to accompany me in this trip but in case no one agrees, is it advisable to do it alone? In winter? With not enough Japanese language ability apart from asking directions?

I have more questions but for the time being these are what are the most important!

Also, if there is someone from the TCC willing to take this trip with a rookie then that'll be welcome..

yoroshiku
 
#2
Touring is great. You should totally do it.


[*]My biggest concern, is December end (time we have winter vacation in college) a suicidal time to do touring? Should I expect snow/heavy rain? (This will be my first winter in Japan so no idea about it)

Depends! Last December/January were cold but clear and dry and generally really nice for cycling if you have the right gear. Personally, if I can negotiate a little time off of work, I was planning to maybe tour in Shikoku... So, crazy is all relative. You'll probably have to stick to bigger roads as they are more likely to be snow free.

[*]I expect many people here to have done this tour before so what should be the best route? I've read that the straight route 1 is not at all enjoyable.


I haven't done it and can't help with specifics, but if I was you I would go to a big Daiso 100 yen store and but a bunch of their prefecture maps. Cover a wall of your dorm or apartment and start wrapping your head around different ways to get there. Buy yourself a Mapple or other map book to start the thinking process.

[*]I am planning to do this in 5-6 days and return by train so what are good options to stay in the nights... any suggestions? I am a student so I am on a shoe string budget! :) Aren't we all...

Look up warmshowers.org and couchsurfing.org both will be more difficult to organize during the holidays (as that's when everyone travels) and you need to invest some time making yourself look attractive to hosts, but it is the cheapest and most interesting way to travel.

[*]Though I expect some of friends to accompany me in this trip but in case no one agrees, is it advisable to do it alone? In winter? With not enough Japanese language ability apart from asking directions?

Depends... do you cycle much on your own now? Can you do a weekend trip beforehand to test your gear and mental endurance? It doesn't sound crazy to me.


Good luck!
 

mxs

Speeding Up
May 14, 2010
65
13
28
Tokyo, Japan
#3
[*]My biggest concern, is December end (time we have winter vacation in college) a suicidal time to do touring? Should I expect snow/heavy rain? (This will be my first winter in Japan so no idea about it)

Tokyo and Osaka during the winter are usually quite cold, but the skies are often clear and nice. Just make you have the right gear for the temperature.

[*]I expect many people here to have done this tour before so what should be the best route? I've read that the straight route 1 is not at all enjoyable.

I took route 1 out to Osaka this past June. It may not always be the most interesting, but you can see a different side of Japan than most travelers do. I will say though that there are some very beautiful scenery along the way (Hakone, the mountains out near Nagoya and Kyoto, etc). The one important thing though is route 1 and the Tokaido are usually the same road, but at some points splits into a freeway/highway (no cyclists allowed) and the normal road then rejoins a bit further down. Make you sure you check where this happens, especially out near Fuji City as I ran into some problems there.

[*]I am planning to do this in 5-6 days and return by train so what are good options to stay in the nights... any suggestions? I am a student so I am on a shoe string budget! Aren't we all...

It took me 4 1/2 days to get to Osaka having never attempted something along these lines before. My stops went as such Hakone, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka.

Here is the hotel I stayed at in Hakone. It was quite cheap and actually really nice for the price. http://www.pensionhakone.com/english.html

Stayed in a normal business hotel in Hamamatsu. http://www.3535.co.jp/hotel/sh.php (sorry no english site)

Stayed at Hostel Anne in Nagoya. The staff were very nice and helpful. http://j-hostel.com/en/

Stayed at K's House in Kyoto. The facilities looked almost brand new and very Ikea-esque and there were tons of other travelers from around the world. http://kshouse.jp/kyoto-e/

[*]Though I expect some of friends to accompany me in this trip but in case no one agrees, is it advisable to do it alone? In winter? With not enough Japanese language ability apart from asking directions?

I did my trip alone and had no real issues other than the occasional stop and ask for directions. If you have an iPhone or some sort of digital map it will be a million times easier. I just had a closeup of the route printed out from Google Maps. If you can at least ask for directions you will be fine.

If you need any extra help I would be more than happy to help you out.
________
Park beach condo pattaya
 

Gunjira

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2009
1,002
176
83
Tokyo
#4
In general, touring by bike in Japan means selecting just two of the following when choosing a route:
-scarce traffic
-direct
-no hard climbs

Having led a group of messengers from Kyoto to Tokyo last year here are some suggestions.
As you have said avoid route 1, which means gutter riding with tons of trucks speeding past you. That might also mean avoiding Nagoya, if you have the time.
Coming from Tokyo, for routing, I would go South towards Odawara first, then riding down Izu and crossing towards Toi. From there you can take a ferry to the other side of Suruga bay and with a little bit of luck get one of the nicest views of Mount Fuji. Alternatively you could ride around the bay. If you choose so, just avoid route one, which is just a walled highway with no view of either ocean or Fuji. Try to find the old Tokaido route running parallel instead. On some routes it is not properly indicated, but it's there, even if it just looks like regular roads.
Once at Shimizu, you can ride along the coast southwards - Ichigo line is particularly nice. We did camp out at cape Omaezaki, maybe there is other accomodation around as well. From there I would continue Westwards taking streets parallel to the coastline and route 1, which at this point is completely of limits, as a tollroad. After Bentenjima my memories are quite a blur - try riding with a group of 15 crazy foreign messengers in pouring rain down a national highway. As such I don't have any good advice for the Nagoya area. Maybe there is just no good routing through that ugly industrial city? After Nagoya crossing the mountains towards Kyoto on the fixed gear was doable and fun though. Along the way were some of the nicest Michi no Eki - restplaces, which are always a good find for cheap and locally produced food.

I think basically there is nothing to be done wrong or to be afraid of. Just pack some warm clothes and enjoy the ride.

For accommodations try planning your route, selecting your prime rest-places with an alternative prior and further up the route for each day. Write down or print that information. Also, for youth hostels I would always book in advance, since they are often fully booked.
 

WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
1,192
240
93
Kita-Ueno
#5
You can read about it...

Hey Badar,
Five years ago, I did a similar trip to the one you're planning.
Thanks to you bringing up the topic, I finally got around to writing a BLOG about it.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
Travis
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#6
I am in..

Thank you all for the valuable inputs, those words have atleast made my decision firm now. With someone or alone, I am going to do this!

@ koribeyer: I checked the weather history and I think December and January should be not that bad.. unless it rains in which case it is always bad... (like today:()

@ mxs: Thank you for the hotel websites, I am planning to include Hamamatsu in my stops so that'd be helpful and of course the Kyoto hotel. I can manage some Japanese so asking directions should not be a difficulty. Also I have a GPS enabled phone so yes, it is helpful.

@ Gunjira: Thanks for the route information, I am planning to take the Tokaido and have easily tracked it on the Google maps, let's see how dificult it is in reality :) Also, as you said, I'll check about the backup restplaces up and down the planned stops... great advice!

@ Yellow Giant: Thank you, thank you.. your experiences (and them written in such a detailed manner) will surely help me plan better. You must have had a great adventure!
I have many questions coming up for you.. and yes, thank you again for writing that blog entry and the maps!
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#7
Clothing

Hi all,

So now getting onto more serious planning.. It is getting colder in Tokyo and two days back I had my first ride in cold rain and I realised that 100 yen pants are good at keeping your bottom half dry! I think the ride in December is not going to be warm so need to plan for clothing, since I am completely new to cycling (and hence cycling clothings) I am writing down what I am plaaning to buy for this ride:

Upper half:
  1. A full sleeve base layer with front and back wind protection
  2. a half sleeve cycling Tee
  3. a thermal cycling jacket to cover it up

Lower half:
  1. cycling shorts
  2. leg warmers
  3. water proof 3/4 length shorts over them

Apart from these;
  • A cap/bandana under the helmet
  • a normal muffler to protect neck and nose
  • water-proof gloves (from combini) + 100yen glove lining
  • waterproof socks and 100yen socks over the shoes
  • some taping of helmet and shoe vents

What do you think about this list? Is it enough? appropriate?

Since I have none of these apparels (except thermal jacket and helmet) so I can change my list as per suggestions!

Yoroshiku
 
Dec 31, 2009
906
87
48
Matsumoto
#8
Clothing

Clothing will make or break you in the winter. One idea is, test before launch.
Only you will know what is good for you on those cold days.
I have too many options when it comes to clothing having worked in shops for many years, and shoestring it is not. I would just say dry is so important. Layer your clothing. Thin light layers with a waterproof outershell.

I like to travel in pairs
gloves
shorts
socks
base layer
I Always over pack though. I am never upset about that, only when I underpack. Mayee not as fast though being loaded.

Do you have a rack on your bike? A decent pump? Spare tire?

Waterproof feet can save the day. An easy job in a pinch is combini bags over the socks but your shoes still absorb so not the warmest. but you really feel every puddle without coveradge.

"By and By I took the road less traveled by and that made all the difference"

yup jus my 2 cents
 
Jan 13, 2010
39
0
16
Victoria, BC
#9
I took the route through Nagoya 5 years ago and it was awful. Endless sprawl of concrete jungle. If I did it again I would take Rt 42 and catch the ferry from Irago to Toba.

Have fun!
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#10
Ferry..

The ferry route seems interesting and scenic but the thing I fear is that after reaching Toba we'll have to cross a mountain to enter Osaka/Kyoto area which on the last day of the tour might be daunting... If I go through Nagoya then the Tokaido goes almost flat, doesn't it?

Is there a flatter pass to the Osaka side from Toba?
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#11
Hi,

I checked this website and found a similar route as I am planning. I think I can use this except for the initial part where I plan to take the seaside route rather than going through north of Mt. Fuji. I also checked their altitude graphs and it seems that Toba to Osaka might not be too hilly either.

I have few questions:

  1. For return I plan to take night bus (Shinkansen too costly), is it possible to take bike on the buses? If yes, where do you keep it inside the bus?
  2. Do I need to carry a spare tyre with me? My bike and tyres would have done 2500km when I'll start the jorney.
  3. What use is the chain tool for? Is it recommended to carry that also?
  4. I have a softbank connection but I have heard that in the countryside the reception is not good. I was planning to use Google map on my cell phone...

Thank you
 
#12
Softbank is crap on passes still within Tokyo-to and left me mapless for a lot of the time I rode in tohoku ( northern japan). I say get a Mapple and tear out the pages you need if you have a route decided and don't want the weight of the whole thing. It's in Japanese but probably easy to follow.

Are you going for a backpack or saddle bags?
I find day 3 is the hardest for many day rides but if you get through it, the body finds a groove.

So in other words, why not ride round trip :D
 

Ludwig

Speeding Up
Oct 9, 2008
871
0
36
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
#14
I'm pretty sure they won't allow a bicycle that is not wrapped in a bag for fear of damaging or soiling other luggage. But it is an open question how they would react if you put the bike into a rinko bag that covered the bike completely. It then basically becomes a big bag, and that is harder to reject.
 
#15
If you have time but no money conside the "seishun juhachi kippu" it five days within the holiday of slow train riding for 12500. Can be used by many people too, so you can split it with friends. I think it's a full 12+ hours by slow train from Kyoto but if you have some beer and friends...
I believe japan-guide has a good explanation. Check it out.
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#16
I say get a Mapple and tear out the pages you need
Are you going for a backpack or saddle bags?
So in other words, why not ride round trip
I have got myself a Kantou Mapple but that covers only half the distance so will be looking for some other maps. Someone wrote that Daiso too have good maps...
I am planning to take a rear-rack bag with no panniers and a backpack. I haven't yet decided on what things I'll carry so I don't know how much space do I need for luggage.
Round trip would be fun but I need to give some part of vacation to research! :(

I'm pretty sure they won't allow a bicycle that is not wrapped in a bag for fear of damaging or soiling other luggage. But it is an open question how they would react if you put the bike into a rinko bag that covered the bike completely. It then basically becomes a big bag, and that is harder to reject.
I'll use my bike-bag... one of my Japanese friend told me that if we negotiate then they can allow bikes so I'll try, btw Seishun kippu seems interesting.

If you have time but no money conside the "seishun juhachi kippu"
Thank you for the information, I found the details here - Seishun 18. In fact I was looking to something like this and 12 hours in train is not unbearable.
 
May 22, 2007
3,595
1,422
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#17
it is an open question how they would react if you put the bike into a rinko bag that covered the bike completely. It then basically becomes a big bag, and that is harder to reject.
I've taken my bike on Highway Buses wrapped in a bike bag. Take a couple of bungies to tether it to the substructure, or it will slide around and get beat up.

--HF Mike--
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#18
handlebars

I think I am now done with the winter clothings and already ordered mine... also these sunny but little cold morning/evening commutes are giving me some good winter protection training!

My next concern is regarding my handlebars... my bike has a flat bar which I find pretty comfortable for my runs till now, even on my 150km ride I didn't find any numbness as many people do report with flatbars. What I fear is what if they do become bothersome on extended rides for several days together :(

I don't want to go for drop bars as they might prove to be costly (with all thise new brake and gear levers), I am thinking of having bar ends but found that my bar only allows 125mm for the grip which I think might be too narrow for bar ends. Some bar-end integrated grips at Y's Road displayed 130/135mm size.
Has anyone got experience with bar ends? Is there a way to extend the bar a little to accommodate these ends without sacrificing grip length?

Is bullhorn/aero bar a better option? Can I fix my existing brake and gear levers on such a bar?

Thank you
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#19
Ok.... Bar ends are for climbing they allow you to grip the bike at a much more ergonomic angle and rock the bike between your legs while out of the saddle on long steady gradient climbs.

To be honest though I've never used them in all my years racing XC Mtb and believe they are more a personal choice for people that want extra hand positions than actually giving any benefits.

Save your money and go out and try riding several days in a row and see if they actually become "bothersome" to be honest though I think you will find you are very happy with your current setup.

Your sudden need to purchase things for the bike sounds like you have the unfortunate cyclist disease……..”Bikeblingitus

*symptoms include the sudden urge to buy new things, often not needed for your bike.
*An inability to walk past any bike shop without going inside.
*Symptoms will also include looking at other riders and thier bikes comparing “price vs engine” levels.

*Other members will be able to fill you in on other symptoms, and you may wish to stay away from me at any bike events or in general as I’m highly contagious with an advanced form of the disease referred to as “PaF” (Identified by La Gazzetta Della Bici in 2010)

Unfortunately once caught there is no cure, relief can be found in the purchase of any cycle over 200,000 jpy but this will normally only give you around 6 months reprieve from above symptoms and will give you a sense of utopia and smugness. Research has found that once you start on this method of self medication you can not abandon.

Anything carbon will also reduce the symptoms as well as anything Italian and shiny.
 
#20
As someone who bought a shiny carbon bike, I can only tell you -- it's a tough disease to beat BUT a friend of a friend cycled around the world in flip flops. So.
And recently I cycled up fuji with some crazy guy on a fixed gear with a huge crack straight through the frame. So.
Cultivate your attitude as much as you gear.
I'd say have fun and save your money. ( if you continue on the kick and love climbing youll start salvating over an entire bike upgrade anyways)

Good luck!