Yamaguchi to Tottori: the Spine of Chugoku

#1
A little late I know, but I've finally had to time to upload pics and comments on my Golden Week tour through south west Honshu, more commonly known as the "Chugoku" region. Covering the prefectures of Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Shimane, Okayama and Tottori, it is a definitely less travelled part of Japan.

As typical of my bike trips I follow the mountains, and keep off main roads as much as possible - but what was particularly wonderful about this route was that I actually could... for practically the whole way ! Sparce traffic, hardly any restaurants, and I came across on average only one or two shops/convini a day - actually causing me to always carry "several meals ahead" and having to cook myself most nights. And so few vending machines that I sometimes found myself sneaking into farmer's yards to fill up my water-bottles from their outside tap :)

Quiet farming valleys, isolated climbs, and some beautiful ravines - it's definitely a recommended area to get off the beaten track. But do plan ahead if you plan to stay in hotels and want to eat well...

My route is here:
http://ridewithgps.com/routes/399176

Photos (with commentary) here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stantopia/sets/72157626528744941/


Cheers!
Steve
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,512
639
133
Kanazawa
#3
Thanks, Steve!

That's another one (besides your two weeks down the middle of tohoku) for my bucket list.

John D.
 

Naomi

Maximum Pace
Apr 20, 2007
201
6
48
Tokyo
#5
Congratulations:)

All of the photos are very nice, especially like the last one, you standing on the Tottori sand dunes.
17,297m climbing must have been soooo tought:eek: But I am sure you got strong legs from the tour.

Hope to see you in the mountains soon.

Naomi:)
 

StuInTokyo

Maximum Pace
Dec 3, 2010
1,662
62
78
#7
Steve, could I ask you about your touring set up?

It looks like you are on a MTB, is that right?

What kind of tires do you use, and the panniers, are they Ortliebs? They look like the 40L classic roll tops, how do you like them? What do you usually pack for gear?

Just curious what you find works for you is all :D

Domo!
 
May 22, 2007
3,571
1,390
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#8
Steve - thank you so much for sharing this. I'm seriously considering this for a future GW tour. Just have to find:

1. alternatives to the puncture-inducing sections
2. a way to compensate for the apparent lack of MacDonalds branches
3. somewhere to plug in the blasted iPhone

(Macaroni a la Power Bar would sound less appetizing if my last two meals in GW hadn't been composed of fish heads and shredded cabbage.)

Is the GPS data your planned route, or your actual route?
 
#9
Thanks for the appreciate comments everyone !

Stu - The bike is a Thorn Nomad, touring specific with a long wheel base but with 26" wheels and MTB parts (XT and LX in my case) with bar-end shifters (can be mounted on the downtube as well at pinch). Perfect for long tours, bombproof, and the 26" wheels make it easier to replacement rims/tyres in most lesser travelled parts of the world. And yes the panniers are Ortliebs - I wouldn't go for anything else now! - and in 25,000km of service they haven't fallen off the racks, split or even let in a drop of water. And now that the colour goes with the new TCC jersey what more could I ask for :D. The full original spec & load is here:
http://www.turnrightforjapan.com/equipment.htm
For Japan, I now use much lighter rims, 1.25" tyres with a kevlar protection belt and don't bother with the front racks (or 10 litres of water for that matter:)). And of course I take a lot less stuff - I'll try to compile an updated list and post - could be interesting to compare with other "heavy tourers".
The handlebar bag & mount is Rixen Kaul and is still going strong despite miles and miles of bumpy roads and I do load it up pretty heavy - one of the best buys I made.
It's pretty heavy overall but by heck, when it's loaded up it rides like a cadillac - such a plush ride ;)

Mike - first, I've got to say I love your GW videos and I'd love to be able to do the same, but - lack of artistry and ability aside :( - I do wonder about how to go about charging the video-cam ? In any case, it probably works far better for multi-group tours - the prospect of setting up the tripod to film solo pictures of myself cycling down hills is even sadder than what I already do with the camera :eek:uch: So yes, charging gadgets - I took a spare battery for my phone and camera, and the two nights out of seven spend in a hotel was perfect for re-charging. I didn't take a GPS - I plotted the route map manually after the trip but it is accurate (though I'll admit the 17,297m of climbing is probably more down to the ridewithgps algorithms than my powerful thighs ...)
Actually I wouldn't worry about the punctures - some you can avoid completely (you can walk in & out Taisaku-kyo), and others you can just go a little more careful on descents. The biggest cause by far, however, was that these tyres had been left out on the balcony, rotting for the last couple of years :eek:

Cheers--
Steve
 

Mike

Maximum Pace
Sep 24, 2007
1,066
9
58
Kanagawa
#10
Steve, looks like you had a great trip. Thanks for the inspiring photo's and comments...makes me regret not doing something similar!
 

StuInTokyo

Maximum Pace
Dec 3, 2010
1,662
62
78
#11
Great info on your site Steve!

You sure take a lot of tools with you!

Did you take a hammer to drive your tent stakes or just use a rock?

How did the mask work on your high street adventures :D

The cooking stove, and fuel bottle, would the gas stand guys fill the bottle with gas, or kerosene?

When I used to tour, way back, we were way out in the boonies and could usually cook over a fire, and only used our stoves if we had to, areas not nearly as built up as Japan.

Again, thanks for the info, great read!
 
May 22, 2007
3,571
1,390
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#12
Did you take a hammer to drive your tent stakes or just use a rock?
LOL - this reminded me of an episode in Shikoku earlier this month - my friend Big Jon's chain had jammed down behind his cassette. I lent him my bike to try and flag down the others who'd gone ahead looking for shelter from the rain. When he came back I'd got the chain free.

"How did you do it?"

"I used Shikoku. About four pounds of it. Repeatedly."

One of those 'look away from your bike' maintenance moments.
 

StuInTokyo

Maximum Pace
Dec 3, 2010
1,662
62
78
#13
LOL - this reminded me of an episode in Shikoku earlier this month - my friend Big Jon's chain had jammed down behind his cassette. I lent him my bike to try and flag down the others who'd gone ahead looking for shelter from the rain. When he came back I'd got the chain free.

"How did you do it?"

"I used Shikoku. About four pounds of it. Repeatedly."

One of those 'look away from your bike' maintenance moments.
Yep, been there done that, a buddy crashed his motorcycle semi bad, the bike was damaged, but he was OK, the headset on the bike had come loose. We managed to duct tape, bailing wire and ziptie the bike back together, but the headset was a problem. We had a dig through everyone's tools and found a wrench big enough to fit, but the handle was only like 8" long, not long enough to get any leverage to tighten the head set, so I got a BIG rock and banged away on it, got it tight enough to ride most of the way home, had to stop and do it again, but we made it home!

:D
 

Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
302
130
63
Yokohama
#16
Wonderful pictures. Gave me ideas for another tour.

I did want to ask you how you protect your gear on those occasions you aren't in sight of it. I'm considering getting a Pacsafe lock (steel mesh that surrounds the gear). What did you do?
 

Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
302
130
63
Yokohama
#19
Hey Karl,
Ermmm, in Japan - I don't ! Just put your stuff in the tent, zip it up and head into town for dinner and drinks. I take valuables with me (wallet, camera, phone) and lock the bike to a post or tree when I sleep.

Cheers
Steve
Thanks. Just may do this.
 

paullb

Warming-Up
May 24, 2010
57
0
0
Fuchu
#20
The photos look pretty fantastic and the route stays off the major roads. I'll have to ride at least a portion of it. last year I rode Karuizawa to Yonago and managed to stay off the main roads for a good chunk of the time which was nice