Text by Iris Slappendel. Photos by Maarten de Groot
We started our Japanese adventure in Sukumo, on the southernmost point of Shikoku Island, to join their local cycling festival. From there we traveled back north to Nara with several stops on the way. If you ever get the chance to visit Japan, we can definitely recommend the rides and destinations below!
27 Km of twisting turns and sharp inclines winding through the colourful autumn forest of Sugi, Momi & Tsunga trees brings us to the ridgeline of the Kamigamori-cho Road, also known as the UFO Line in the Ishizuchi mountain range on the island of Shikoku. We are rewarded with views of the Pacific Ocean to the south and an exhilarating, (slightly chilly!) descent through the bamboo back to our start point, where we end the day with hot ramen and an onsen for a truly magical day in the mountains.
We met up with Yu Takenouchi & Ryohei Komoriour as our local tour guides for the day. After a quick coffee & ice cream we started climbing through the dramatic, steep sloped Uji Green Tea & Matcha Fields, in Wazuka. The meticulously manicured bright green lines shape the landscape and we weave our way up the narrow steep trails for a closer look!
For lunch we stopped at Tenkaippin Kamiasamiyaten in Koka, for or a bowl of traditional sticky ramen, gzoza & rice.
Next we visited the Shigaraki ceramics where we were greeted by Tanuki gnomes in all guises and sizes. Tanuki; the full-bellied, large testicled shape-shifter is a mischievous prankster.
Tan-tan, the Tanuki’s testicles ring
The wind has stopped blowing
But still they swing-swing
With the local highlights completed, we ventured home on a fast valley road with a quick stop at Wazukacha Cafe to buy as much Uji-tea we could fit in our jersey pockets. 🍵
Our wheels glide alongside the crystal clear turquoise water of the Niyodo River, crossing over the low level ‘chinkabashi’ bridges where we begin a steep climb in the search of one of the many waterfalls flowing into the Niyodo Blue.
The steep terrain makes for tough climbing as you grind the gears up through the bamboo forests, alongside weathered stone walls padded with moss and pass by lush tiered rice paddies being harvested by the locals.
A fast and twisty descent brings us back into the town of Ochi in the Kōchi Perfecture as the sun begins to set.
Sukumo Cycling Festival – Kids
The second day of the Sukumo Cycling Festival was all about inspiring the next generation and giving anyone the change to come and give cycling a go!
We started the day with Yu Takenouchi and an intro to off-road riding skills for kids and parents. We tried out off-camber riding, turning in circles, descending and ascending stairs!
Next we moved to the youngest cyclists, where the little ones could race their strider balance bikes around a short course. Squeals of excitement as they whizzed around corners and raced each other to the finish line. A few crashes along the way but they jumped straight back on and kept going!
After a quick bento box for lunch, we went to join the Wierlerschool Japan, making cycling fun for kids. We all got very involved and quickly became kids ourselves on the bike!
The final part of the day, we joined an adult-only ride to cycle up to the Matsuda River Viewpoint. A short ride along the river with the sun glinting off the water, then we turned the corner and climbed up to the viewpoint, a short but sharp climb that burned the legs! On the way back we made a quick pit stop at a traditional Japanese house; admiring the intricate craftsmanship on the wooden architecture before rolling back to the Sukumo Sports Park.
Sukumo Cycling Festival – Gravel Ride
We rolled out of our hotel to the hub of the Sukumo Cycling Festival, an initiative to get more locals riding their bikes in Sukumo City. When we arrived we were offered breakfast, coffee, bike pumps, mechanics, snacks, water – everything you needed to set up the perfect ride day. The festival had a road ride and a gravel ride on offer and we opted for the gravel route to test our new Escape range on the trails!
The route rolled out on a smooth asphalt climb on the Kendou No.4 Line along the Matsuda River. At the top of the climb, we stopped at the viewpoint for the first feed stop – lemon ices!
The route then turned off into the Hashikamichogenjuyabu forest. A tough, steep climb followed through the bamboo. Riders took shade from the heat of the sun in the shadows of the corners as they made their way up the climb at their own pace. With the full group congregating at the top of the climb, we then made our way down a fast and technical descent to the river for the second food stop – Udon Noodles!
The final part of the route re-joined the road back into Sukumo City where we ended our ride with a celebratory lemonade and ice-cream sandwich. The final food stop of the day!
With bellies full and tired legs, we made our way back to the hotel for our well deserved Onsen.