Our Ride Ireland Challenge – Malin Head to Mizen Head 2018

Well the dates are now fixed for our next challenge. The last week in June will see us embarking on our Ride Ireland Challenge. So, as previously posted, Malin Head and Mizen Head represent the start and finish points with the promise of the absorbing beauty of the Emerald Isle to take in from the saddle over 7 days covering 430 miles.

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Click on the map to check out our proposed route.

Although the specifics of the route is currently a work in progress, we will leave Dorset on Friday 22nd June at 5pm, drive to Liverpool (4.5 hours) to take the 22.30 ferry to Belfast which arrives at 06.30. It is then a 2.5 hour drive to our start point at Malin Head. We hope to achieve a 9am departure time from there.

 

Day 1 Saturday 23rd June Prologue – Malin Head to Buncrana 30 miles

We like the idea of a gentle prologue ride on the first day. A warm up, or perhaps an excuse to not overdo things after a long trip by car and ferry. Maybe just pure laziness. Even so, it gives us  an option to ride further than planned if we feel comfortable and the weather is good. Our overnight stop will be at the Lake of Shadows Hotel

Day 2 Sunday 24th June – Buncrana to Enniskillen 71 miles

Apparently it’s a flat start but this is thought to be the hardest stage due to some challenging climbs towards Newtonmore. Our overnight stop will be at the Westville Hotel

Day 3 Monday 25th June – Enniskillen to Longford 59 miles

A supposedly flatter day. we are told it will be a day of lakes and winding roads. Our overnight stop will be at the Longford Arms Hotel

Day 4 Tuesday 26th June – Longford to Nenagh 84 miles

This stage is meant to be the flattest terrain of the challenge and let’s hope so as it is the longest. The finish at Nenagh is steeped in history. Our overnight stop will be at the Abbey Court Hotel

Day 5 Wednesday 27th June – Nenagh to Mallow 68 miles,

The mountains of the south-west will provide a dramatic backdrop for much of this stage. Even so, this is meant to be a fairly flat route, although it gets hillier nearer to the mountains. Our overnight stop will be at The Hibernian Hotel

Day 6 Thursday 28th June – Mallow to Clonakilty 64 miles

From Mallow, the ‘Crossroads of Munster’, we’ll ride past the remainder of the mountains towards the south coast. Flat sections are interrupted by some challenging climbs. Our finish point is on the coast and our overnight stop will be at the Clonakilty Hotel

Day 7 Friday 29th June – Clonakilty to Mizen Head 51 miles

We will head further West to the finish with hopefully some stunning coastal scenery as we reach Mizen Head. From Mizen we will drive to the fair city of Cork (2 hours) for our final overnight stay at what will probably be Hotel Isaacs. See https://www.hotelisaacscork.com

Day 8 Saturday 30th June – Return home

We will drive to Rosslare (2 hours) after having celebrated in Cork overnight for the return ferry to Fishguard leaving at 9.15pm (3.5 hour crossing). The drive home should take 4.5 hours so we will be home early Sunday morning!

So that’s the planned trip which will no doubt evolve as time goes on. Our thanks to Marie Curie Charity for helping us plan our trip as we have based it On their own Charity cycle ride so we we will make a donation to them.  For details of their organised ride please see https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/charity-events/cycling/malin-to-mizen#itinerary

Our thanks also to Robin and Tim who have both kindly agreed to be our support for the challenge ahead. No Challenge can succeed without its support.

We will once again be raising funds for the Bournemouth Heart Club (BHC). Heart disease is the UK’s leading cause of death and we are fortunate in this part of the Country that the BHC is a charity at the forefront in helping residents of East Dorset recover and then maintain their health and fitness after major cardiac events and procedures. The centre houses two gymnasiums, members changing areas and lounges as well as the Club’s Administrative Offices. The centre is open 6 days a week offering over 40 hours of exercise sessions led by exercise professionals qualified in Cardiac Rehabilitation.

You can donate to the BHC via the button below:

 

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Our South Downs Way Challenge – an enjoyable but heroic failure

We had been contemplating another mini adventure for some time. One major difficulty in organising it was finding a mutually convenient weekend or week days, coupled with our support team being equally available. In the end we had to opt for a mid week trip. Sadly neither John or Robin were available. Fortunately, Graham’s friend Tim stepped up and provided us with what turned out to be essential and invaluable support on our two day trip.

We had calculated that two days would be more than sufficient given that we had split the 100 mile route equally in two and we felt 50 miles a day was comfortably within our range. Wrong. It became apparent very early into the ride that all of us had woefully underestimated the difficulty of this challenge. Be in no doubt: the South Downs Way, for all its lovely scenery and charming picture postcard villages, is an absolute monster of a ride. The near-vertical hills are relentless and after a few hours in the saddle you begin to wonder if it would be quicker walking! What we found was that it was just not possible to compensate for the slowness of the climbs with quick descents as the track or ground conditions were generally too dangerous to trundle down at any significant speed.

In the week leading up the end of August, the South of England had basked in late summer sunshine. As the challenge date approached (30/31st August) needless to say the glorious weather was breaking with a cold front edging slowly eastwards. It looked like we were on for a repetition of our Ride Wales adventure which we started in wet stormy conditions. This is the link to the interactive map of the route we intended to follow – South Downs Way Route

Day one

We hit the road at 6.30am so that we would be on the outskirts of Arundel for breakfast which we took at The White Swan. Our drive to Eastbourne had been dry and uneventful until we hit the outskirts of the seaside town. The heavens opened and the wind whipped up with a marked drop in temperature.

Although we were on schedule for our planned 9.30am start we quickly decided it was counter productive to begin with a real soaking and fighting a strong headwind.

We decided to delay the start and drove up to Beachy Head drowning our disappointment in soggy 99 ice creams. We cogitated abandoning the morning session completely beginning instead from Devil’s Dike.

As we drove inland the weather improved so we headed to Jevington about 5 miles in from our original start point at Holywell. We started cycling at 11.15am. The track out of Jevington was a monster climb and ostensibly the first section was unrideable. It set the tone of the day ahead! Across to Windover Hill the visibility was poor due to low cloud and we missed out on viewing the Long Man (a giant human figure cut into the hillside). It was on the first major steep descent down to Alfriston that Shaun went over the handlebars. The track was very steep, rutted and littered with flint and chalk nodules. Despite a bit of injured pride and a twisted ankle it did not stop his enthusiasm on later descents nor his 3 later crashes!

After safely navigating our way through the pretty town of Alfriston, we re-found the Trail which threw up another monster “you’re having a laugh” climb. It was very slow going as we headed up to Bostal Hill and then Firle Beacon. Another descent saw us climbing yet again to the radio masts on Beddingham Hill and across the ridge before tackling a difficult descent into the hamlet of Southease.

It was just out of Southease at Mill Farm that we made our first and only major navigation mistake – missing the South Downs Waymark and heading in the wrong direction for about a quarter of a mile.

We probably lost about half an hour here only to be then rewarded with another monster steep climb up Rodwell Hill. We seemed to be constantly climbing until a long descent took us down to Housedean Farm near Falmer to the crossing of the A27. There then followed the king of steep ascents to the woods above Long Hill where we took a break and sheltered during a heavy shower. It was a long gradual upward climb thereafter on a difficult rutted track at a desperately slow pace. Time was ticking on and progress continued to be slow. So much so that it was clear that reaching Ditchling Beacon by 5pm was the only realistic goal for the day – 25 miles short of our original destination of Houghton where we were due to stay overnight.

It proved to be a godsend that Tim had earlier decided to stay the night as originally he was only going to support us during the morning and afternoon. We reached Ditchling Beacon cold wet and bedraggled having hardly seen a sole on the Downs all afternoon apart from a few hardy walkers. Even so, given the conditions and late start we felt we’d done pretty well.

We then hot footed it in the van to Houghton and our overnight stay at Houghton Farm. A very beautiful picturesque old farmhouse exuding character and charm. We received a very warm welcome from our equally charming host Kate. After hot baths and a few glasses of wine we were all back in the land of the living and made the short walk over to the George and Dragon pub for supper. We had a super meal and were well looked after. What a lovely pub.

We decided to recommence the ride back at Ditchling Beacon in the morning and see how far we could ride during the course of the second day recognising that a finish at Winchester would not now realistically be on the cards.

Day two

We all woke to a glorious autumnesque morning with bright sunshine and dragon’s breath rolling along the valley floor. The unkind weather of yesterday now already seemed a distant memory. After a magic breakfast we were met by Tim and the van and were soon back on the road for part two of the challenge.

At Ditchling Beacon two remarkable cyclists, Lukas and Tom aged 13 & 14 respectively, were already a third of the way into their “Everesting” challenge cycling 63 times up the Beacon. Lukas stopped everesting after 32 reps having been violently sick earlier in the morning. Tom completed an astonishing 65 reps! Chapeau to them both. See http://road.cc/content/news/228771-14-year-old-sussex-cyclist-‘everests’-ditchling-beacon

It was a welcome relief to start day 2 without an initial climb and we soon made good headway towards the Clayton Windmills followed by a long steep descent through the golf course to Pyecombe. Again our descent was slowed by the condition of the surface and it’s steepness. We then climbed West Hill followed by one of the few fast descents to Saddlescombe Farm with glorious views across to Devil’s Dyke in the distance. Once we were through the farm we faced another monster climb up to the ridge adjacent to the Dyke following which we stopped briefly at the Dyke itself to meet up with Tim and generally regroup. We had made good progress but by now it was already approaching 11.30am but a little early for lunch at the Devil’s Dyke pub. More challenging climbs ensued across Fulking Hill, Perching Hill and Edburton Hill.

We regrouped again at the pig farm on Annington Hill where we snacked followed by another relentless drag up to the stunning Chantonbury Ring with the final climb along the old Roman road itself. At this point the weather was changing with a cold front visibly fast approaching. The heavens opened as we made a trecherous steep descent from Frieslands to the crossover on the A24. Here we met up with Tim and were able to change into dry kit. Another ridiculously unrideable steep climb followed up Barnsfarm Hill followed by an easier but still slow grinding ride along the ridges of Kithurst Hill, Springhead Hill and Rackham Hill. We then descended along yet another steep and dangerous track to Amberley.

Although it was only 3pm we decided to call it a day and refresh ourselves at the Bridge Inn. 24 grinding miles on the day. Although we could probably have covered another 15 miles or so there would be no meaningful finish so completing our original day one in two days had a certain symmetry about it as well as a feeling of some accomplishment. More to the point we were all in need of beer!

We all agreed to return and finish the Challenge at some future date – probably over a further two days. Realistically, the South Downs Way is a 3/4 day challenge and not 2 days as we had envisaged. Our eternal gratitude must go out to Tim for all his time freely given driving us and the support he provided to us. Without him our attempt would not have been possible.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but in terms of timescales for a SDW Challenge this site probably hits it on the nail assuming all other factors are in the riders’ favour. See http://southdownsdiscovery.com/south-downs-way-cycling/

Finally, we can empathise with the good folk in this YouTube clip commenting on their first day of cycling the SDW  – “Can’t believe we’ve only done 20 miles”

The Crask Inn

One of the most memorable experiences of our John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle in 2014 was our visit to the Crask Inn. Since then we have kept an occasional eye on Tripadvisor to gleem any news of the pub particularly as it has been on the market for sale for a wee while. The reviews continue to be upbeat and understandable so as the place is as unique as the landscape is situate in. See Tripadvisor.

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We recently stumbled on this article about the Crask which is quite a twist in the tale!! see: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/771866/pub-scotland-offer-daily-prayers-religious-ceremonies-the-crask-inn

Even so, it is pleasing to see that the Crask’s future appears to be assured and that Mike and Kia will enjoy a happy retirement without having to move from their magical surroundings. We wish everyone involved well.

Insta-Mapper – where have you gone?

It was such a disappointment to discover (perhaps a bit late in the day) that Insta-Mapper is no longer functioning as a tracker App. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is that there has been no formal announcement and no information at all about what has happened across popular media platforms. We even directly emailed the good folk behind the App but to no avail.

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Even so, in fairness, despite a few hiccups along the way the App did us proud on our JOGLE in 2014 and on our Ride Wales trip last year. It always had so much potential so we do wonder what went wrong.

So to pastures new. Prior to discovering Insta-mapper we had experimented with the App Followmee and we are now giving it another whirl. It looks promising and is very similar in functionality and ease of use as Insta-Mapper. Check it out at Followmee.com

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Essentially, we are just looking for a cross platform phone tracker which is easy to use and equally accessible to plot our ride progress when we are out on a challenge.

We will keep you posted as to how we get on.

A First Night Ride

We’ve not posted for a while but we are still very much alive and well cycling regularly as a Team. We’ve been doing more Mountain Biking at this time of year but we have had a couple of road rides in the last few weeks as the weather has improved.

For some time we had been contemplating a mainly off road night ride. We thought it might be fun to be a little more daring and adventurous. We would also hope to see one of our regular routes in a completely different light – maybe spotting the odd bit of wildlife we might not normally encounter during the daytime. So we finally got around to organising an outing yesterday evening combining it with a visit to one of our local Indian Restaurants located in Woodlands near Verwood Dorset – the Cinnamon Lounge – see cinnamonloungeverwood.co.uk

We made sure we were well kitted out with bright lights given the complete absence of street lighting and set off just before 7pm. In fact some of us looked like mobile Christmas trees we were so well illuminated!

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We headed down the Castleman Trailway to West Moors continuing onward across the southern side of Holt Heath. The weather was generally kind to us – overcast with occasional light drizzle and very mild.

Of course it was only a couple of miles in when the inevitable happened with two of us colliding. We had been half expecting something to happen! It was just a question of who, what, when. Fortunately there were no major casualties apart from a smidgen of dented pride and a snapped front spoke.

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Oddly we saw none of the expected wildlife whatsoever on the outward leg apart from a few dog walkers wrapped in the complete darkness. It was a real joy to see so little traffic on the country lanes as we headed towards Chalbury Common and onwards to Horton & Woodlands.

We were very well looked after at the restaurant taking full advantage of their Wednesday Banquet night – great food – well worth a visit. After a couple of hours of merriment it was time to hit the road for the return home – our route back took us through Verwood and the Moors Valley Country Park. It was whilst worming our way through the park that a small group of deer crossed our path. Some wildlife at last! Then, as we neared the Visitor Centre, we encountered hundreds of frogs littering the road embarking on their spawning/mating migration. It was a bit of a challenge to work our way through this unexpected yet delightful obstacle course.

All in all a very fun evening out and one definitely to be repeated. If you do ever have the opportunity, it is well worth giving Night riding a bash. Check out this Wiggle guide to night riding which contains some useful tips – Ultimate night riding guide

La Vélodyssée revisited

La Vélodyssée may be back on the agenda as an alternative to Malmiz in 2018. So, if we do opt for a ride from Northern Spain to Northern France along the West Coast, these are our thoughts for an itinerary. Since our original post on the subject, an extra day has now been added in to reduce one heavy ride day that was in version 1 into two lighter days – see days 4 & 5.

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Departure days are limited because currently the Portsmouth/Bibao ferry only sails on Tuesday, Wednesday or Sunday each week. There is a problem with a Sunday departure, it’s a two night ferry trip – it departs 10.30pm & arrives 07.45am Tuesday morning!

The Tuesday ferry out of Portsmouth is on the économie service – the Baie de Seine. (Limited cabins & less vehicle capacity). It leaves 8.45am arriving Wednesday afternoon at 2.15pm. One drawback is we would not able to start our prologue ride until say, 4.15pm

The Wednesday ferry (the Cap Finistère) departs 11.45am and arrives 12.45pm on Thursday. It is quicker, which means the Prologue should KO before 3pm. So, out of these three options, It looks like a Wednesday departure is the best for us. So this is how the trip might look:

Wednesday – ferry Portsmouth to Bilbao – D 11.45am A 12.45pm Thursday. It is then a 75 mile drive to Irun on the Spanish/French border.

Day 1 – Thursday – Prologue – Irun to Biarritz – 25 miles – Hotel Du Palais

Day 2 – Friday – Biarritz to Mimizan – 73 miles – Hotel Atlantique

Day 3 – Saturday – Mimizan to Lacanau Ocean – 84 miles – Hotel Cote d’Argent

Day 4 – Sunday – Lacanau Ocean – Royan – 51 miles – Hotel Le Grand Hotel de la plage

Day 5 – Monday – Royan to La Rochelle – 47 miles – Hotel ibis La Rochelle

Day 6 – Tuesday – La Rochelle to St Jean de Mont – 90 miles – Hotel L’Espadon

Day 7 – Wednesday – St Jean de Mont to Redon – 75 miles- Hotel – ibis Redon

Day 8 – Thursday – Redon to St Malo – 79 miles – Hotel St Malo Western Balmoral

Note: There is no evening ferry on a Thursday out of St Malo (the only one is on a Tuesday).

Day 9 – Friday – D St Malo 10.30am A Portsmouth 6.20pm

This itinerary would allow a weekend for recovery!

Our Route Map

Cycling the Length of Japan – Cape Soya to Cape Sata

Japan, the land of the rising sun, is an 11 hour flight from the UK if you’re lucky. But of all the end to end cycle adventures, this one may have the most to offer given the contrasting landscape of the four main islands.

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The archipelago consists of 6,852 islands of which 430 are inhabited. The four main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu; Honshu is the largest and referred to as the Japanese mainland.  Japan is famed for its dense cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Shinkansen bullet trains connect the main islands of Kyushu (with Okinawa’s subtropical beaches), Honshu (home to Tokyo and Hiroshima’s atomic-bomb memorial) and Hokkaido (famous for skiing). Tokyo, the capital, is known for skyscrapers, shopping and pop culture.

In the north lies the start point, Cape Soya. The cycling distance to the southern tip of Honshu at Cape Sata is roughly 2,500 miles. A 1,570 miles option based on this tour itinerary of Japan Biking includes bullet train sections and rest days. The tour will be next run in Setember 2017:

HIGHLIGHTS

Cycle from the 45th parallel to the 31st in one event!
Soak in outdoor onsen hot springs
Enjoy exquisite Japanese cuisine
Ride up Mount Fuji
Dance the awa odori in Tokushima
Visit the Hells in Beppu
And finally… enjoy a well deserved steaming sand bath in Ibusuki !

TRIP STATISTICS

ride days 28
8 ride days on Hokkaido
10 ride days on Honshu
10 ride days on Shikoku+Kyushu
2 train days (Honshu)
4 ferries
total distance 2,500 km
total elevation gain 30,000 mt
average day 92km
average gain 1100 mt
2 longest days 144km/136km
2 biggest climb days 2500mt/2400mt (Fuji-san and lower Kansai)

ITINERARY

Welcome to Wakkanai !

We join the group in Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Japan. Wakkanai is a small fishing port with a regular ferry that brings day tourists from the Russian Island of Sakhalinskay. Our first day will be spent getting our bikes set up and meeting our new cycling partners.

1 – 96 km: Wakkanai to Hamatonbetsu

As we leave Wakkanai, our first 40km segment of riding takes us north to Cape Soya, the northernmost point of Japan. After a group photo at the Soya Monument, we immediately head south which is our general direction for the next 2600 km’s. Our flat route today is along the coast where we’ll see massive piles of scallop shells along the deep blue coastal waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean.

2 – 112 km: Hamatonbetsu to Nayoro

Leaving the coastal town of Hamatonbetsu we head inland to venture into the lush interiors of Hokkaido. We’ll have a slightly longer day, but still quite flat. It’s usually along this section where the sounds of our bikes will be drowned out by the loud chirping of crickets as they dominate the local sound-scape.

3 – 80 km: Nayoro to Asahikawa

We leave the small town of Nayoro and head down a quiet river valley dotted with farms to Asahikawa, the second largest city in Hokkaido. The city is dense, but geographically small, so in less than 10km we enter and leave the city limits. For dinner, we’ll be sure to have the town’s signature dish, ramen.

4 – 64 km: Asahikawa to Furanosho

Our 5th cycling day takes us to the ski town of Furano that receives over 8 meters of snow each winter. This will be our first taste of the hills of Japan; we’ll be seeing plenty more as our journey progresses.

5 – 112 km: Furanosho to Sapporo

Today we head to Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido (and the 5th largest in Japan), known for hosting the first Winter Olympics in Asia in 1972, and for its famous Sapporo Brewery which we can tour if we arrive early enough after a long day on the bikes.

6 – 104 km: Sapporo to Toyako Hot Springs

This will be our largest climbing day so far as we leave Sapporo heading into the Kimobetsu foothills up over the 837m Nakayama Pass. We spend the night along the placid Lake Toyako; known for its many hot springs.

7 – 112 km: Toyako Hot Springs to Mori

Today we take a coastal route that winds us around Uchiura Bay where we’ll have a clear view of the active volcano Mount Komagatake that dominates the skyline of our destination, the small seaside town of Mori.

8 – 48 km: Mori to Hakodateko FERRY – Aomori

After leaving Mori, we head to the ferry port at Hakodateko across the hilly Kameda Peninsula. Despite the peninsula’s topography, this short route is relative flat, because the roads cut through the hills giving us a seemingly endless number of tunnels to pass through. We take the 4-hour ferry ride to Aomori on the northern coast of Honshu. Aomori sits at the base of the massive Aomori Bay and enjoys one of the highest snowfall records on Earth.

9 – 72 km: Aomori to Towada-Ko

Today is our first of 10 cycling days on Honshu. Our route out of Aomori is one of my favorite stretches of road in Japan. After only a few kilometers from the city center, we slowly wind upwards through some of the best cycling so far. Near our first summit we will stop at one of the courtesy roadside tea stands and take a break before our next section of climbs. The views along this road are breathtaking. The descent takes us deep into wooded parklands as we cycle through miles of dappled shade. We end at Lake Towada after an exhilarating day with over 72 km’s and 1800 meters of climbing on beautiful scenic roads.

10 – 139.2 km: Towada-Ko to Kakunodate

We leave earlier than normal today to climb out of Towada-ko as we work our legs winding upward through the seemingly endless hills of northern Honshu. This will be one of our biggest days on the bike with over 135km, and 1300mt of climbing. We end in the ancient castle town of Kakunodate. Our plan is to arrive early enough to walk through the historic Samurai Village before dinner. Today is Japan’s National Respect for the Aged Day… so be nice to everyone over 60!

11 – 136 km: Kakunodate to Sakata

The first half of today’s route takes us west to the coast by way of small rural roads with a few climbs, but mostly through a patchwork of farms and connected river valleys. The second half of the day is a flat coastal ride that meanders along the adjacent foothills that fall steeply into the sea. Our destination is the small town of Sakata, the “city of rice”; know for its old rice storehouses. Today we pedal over 135km, but with little climbing overall.

12 – 96 km: Sakata to Murikami

Our ride to Murakami follows the coastal road passing fishing ports on a flat, easy day of cycling. Murakami is known for its salmon, which can be seen hanging from many local shops, and even the train station!

0km: Murakami to Nagano – TRAIN

Today is a rest day where we board the train for Nagano. Most of this trip will be on the Shinkansen bullet train as it quietly travels at speeds up to 300km/hr. We’ll have plenty of time in Nagano to visit its famous Zenkō-ji, a 7th-century Buddhist temple that overlooks the city.

13 – 72 km: Nagano to Sakuho

It doesn’t take long cycling out of Nagano to understand why it was home of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The hills start quickly, and continue. This is a fantastic cycling route, often used by local clubs for their hill training. The beautiful surfaced roads are quiet, and are a joy to ride.

14 – 104 km: Sakuho to Kofu

Leaving Sakuho we start out along the Chikuma River basin. But don’t be fooled, the road eventually turns upwards giving us two big climbs. Much of the route is on very small roads that twist and turn through the rural mountainside. We end in the flat river valley near Kofu.

15 – 64 km: Kofu to Fujinomiya

The ride today is longer than yesterday, but overall not has hilly, as we head to Fujinomiya, which sits at the base of Fuji-san, the world famous UNESCO Cultural Heritage site. Depending on the weather, we should start seeing Mount Fuji about half way on our route. Fujinomiya is a starting point for many hikers and visitors going to the mountain.

16 – 72 km: Fujinomiya to Mt Fuji/Return

Today will be a ride to remember, and the biggest climbing day by far. We’ll do an out and back route that covers 72 km’s and climbs 2364 meters. The ascent starts slowly within a kilometer of our hotel, but once we leave the industrial fringes of Fujinomiya, the climbing really starts. There are no elevation drops as we continue up and up to the parking area of Station 5 on the south side of the mountain. This 3-4 hour climb is a cycling meditation, with all our energies going into being on the bike. This ride challenges many of the classic European Alps climbs, and will be a noteworthy personal achievement for us all. And then… get ready for the downhill!

Tuesday 0km: Fujinomiya to Igaueno – TRAIN

We will have a leisurely start today, and our legs will thank us for this being a rest day. Once again, we’ll have a chance to travel by Shinkansen to our destination in Igaueno.

17 – 96 km: Igaueno to Oyodoko

After a flat 20km leaving Igaueno, we pass the small town of Nabari in Southern Kansai. Once leaving Nabari, we follow a hilly route on tiny roads that create a serpentine path through the quiet mountains. Much of this route is almost like being on big bike lanes, just wide enough for one car. There are many beautiful and remote sections of road throughout these wooded hills. We end in Oyodoko, which sits along the Yoshinogawa River.

18 – 72 km: Oyodoko to Wakayama FERRY – Tokushima

Today is a short, mostly downhill ride to the ferry at Wakayama. The 2 hour ferry takes us to Tokushima on the Island of Shikoku. Shikoku is noted for being home to Japan’s most famous pilgrimage route – The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (hachijūhakkasho-meguri), a 1200 km loop around the island founded by Kobo Daishi in the early 9th century. We’ll have plenty of time to explore Tokushima, a mid-size modern Japanese port city, home to Temples #13 through #17.

19 – 96 km: Tokushima to Kaiyo-cho

We follow the coastline along the Kii Channel and then along the Pacific Ocean. For the coming two days we’re on the heels of the ohenro, the 88 Temple pilgrims and we’re sure to see some of them today, although it is a bit late in the season to start the pilgrimage.
We leave Tokushima on the boards of Katsuragawa River, then cross to the banks of Nakagawa River and further upstream on Akamatsugawa River. We crest at 185m before plunging down to the Anan coast. The deep blue Pacific Ocean is influenced by the strong Kuroshio Current. Long way away from cities & factories, the
seawater is extremely clean with abundant marine life including rare sea turtles visiting the coast in crowds to lay their eggs every summer. Shishikui and Ikumi are also known as surfer’s Mecca’s.

20 – 128km: Kaiyo-cho to Kochi

We ride the beautiful shorelines throughout the day today. Soon we reach Cape Muroto. Kobo Daishi found enlightenment on this gorgeous, wild cape, and it’s easy to ponder why as you reach the ‘doorway to the land of the dead’. We round the cape and head back north towards Kochi.
We stop to admire the old streets of Kiragawa. Through late 19th into early 20th century, Kiragawa town prospered thanks to its high quality charcoal called Tosabinchotan. The streets with old buildings of charcoal dealers and shipping agents still retain the culture, history and atmosphere of the old days. We see traditional building techniques peculiar to typhoon-prone Kochi such as Tosa plastered walls, with their rows of water draining tiles, and windbreak fences called ‘Ishiguro’ made of round stones.
Nearing Kochi we enjoy riding on an old railway turned designated cycling path. Soon the 400-year-old Kochi Castle rises gloriously above the Kochi skyline, symbolising the spirit and heritage of Kochi.

21 – 136km: Kochi to Uchiko

This will be another long and hilly day as we cycle due west through the quiet and twisty roads of central Shikoku. We’ll need to start early to reach Uchiko before cocktail time! First along Niyodogawa River. Above Odo Dam the name mysteriously changes to Omogogawa River. Then further up Kurokawa River, cresting at 1003m Shishigoeto Pass. An exhilirating 10km descent drops us 700m lower on Odagawa River to coast into town.
Uchiko is a photographer’s dream. The town got wealthy thanks to tree wax and became even a global exporter. Entire sections of Uchiko have been perfectly preserved as a living museum, where people still reside and where traditional crafts are still alive. The candle shop may be the only place where Japanese candles are still made using the traditional method.
We stay in an old merchant house once owned and renovated by Mr. Takahashi, Japan’s beer king. It is now run by 5 neighbourhood ladies.

22 – 32 km: Uchiko to Yawatahama FERRY – Beppu

We have a short pedal, mostly downhill to the ferry at Yawatahama. From the ferry we see steam rising above Beppu, the famous hot-spring town on the island of Kyushu, producing more hot spring water than any other resort in the country.
We visit some of Beppu’s 7 Hells and then it is time to relax in the soothing hot water of our authentic ryokan in Kannawa Onsen.

23 – 104km: Beppu to Aso

Prepare for another epic day on the bike. Not our longest distance, but another hilly ride from the hot spring town of Beppu to the volcanic mountain region of Aso. Our ride takes us into the mountains that surround Beppu, and after a few hours we will be able to see the volcano range that makes up Mount Aso far into the distance. As we approach Aso, we drop down into the massive Aso Caldera, the largest in the world, measuring over 120km in circumference. Legend is that the outer crater was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break (through which rail and bus pass) emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation. We stay at the foot of the climb to Nakadake.

24 – 128km: Aso to Yatsushiro

Have a hearty breakfast because the day starts with the climb up Nakadake, one of the five volcanoes of the Aso Mountain Region. If the volcano is not too active, we are allowed a peak accross the rim. After the descent we sneak through the hole in the caldera and follow the Shirakawa river to the west. Our ride ends in the perfectly flat farming delta that surrounds the port city of Yatsushiro.

25 – 80 km: Yatsushiro to Izumi

We dance a tango with a little railroad and continue along the splendid Shiranui Sea. Mitachimisaki and Ashikita Beach merit a stop. Without noticing we arrive in Izumi, winter resting grounds for Siberian cranes and home to Japan Biking. We visit the samurai residences before another hot bath to finish the day.

26 – 88 km: Izumi to Kirishima

You won’t see the sea today, it is an inland ride. After a leisurely warm-up along Hirosegawa River we start climbing again, all the way up to Utsura Tunnel (378m). After the descent we reach the spectacular Sogi no Taki Waterfall. Here we have lunch. We then cross Sendai river and continue on Koganero Road up and down through the rice fields and some beautiful forest roads. Last task of the day: making it up the 600m to Kirishima.

27 – 88 km: Kirishima to Minamiosumi

In the morning we visit Kirishima Jingu, a Shinto shrine known for its red highlights which seem to permeate the place. You can feel the end is coming near as we come down our last mountain of the trip. A whole day along Kinko bay with views on Sakurajima Volcano and a visit to the Kurozu amber vinegar brewery. We end in Minamiosumi, within reach of Cape Sata.

28 – 80 km: Minamiosumi to Sata (rt) – Nejime FERRY – Ibusuki

On our last day cycling we head for Cape Sata at the southern tip of Kyushu. Cape Sata lies just below the 31st Parallel and is the most southerly point in the main Japanese archipelago. This last ride will be hilly, ending at the access tunnel for the Cape. If our legs are up to the challenge, we can make the final 30 minute hike to the Sata Monument (no bikes allowed) overlooking the deep blue waters of the East China Sea to our right, and the North Pacific to our left. We backtrack to Minamiosumi to take the ferry across Kinko Bay to Yamagawa. A short final ride to Ibusuki and that’s it. You’ve made it !

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This all looks like a well planned tour.

For a full North to South ride (2,500 miles) check out Yumi and Thomas’ Blog from 2011 which gives a real feel of the adventure of cycling the full length of the main islands.