Not long along Brian & I discovered a vast array of mountain roads in Mikawa, via google maps and many of these are unmarked on regular maps. While I had ridden part way along one of the roads many years ago I was keen to explore the entire road and made a map that would hopefully would guide me along the route without getting lost. Instead of battling early morning traffic I put my bike in a rinko bag and boarded a train bound for the small village of Mikawa on the banks of the Agano river. In Japan your bicycle travels for free on all trains if it is in a rinko bag , which makes escaping the concrete jungle much easier .
After unpacking the bike I rode a short section on a sealed road before I got to the start of the mountain route. Even by early morning it was already starting to heat up with the high for the day reaching 30 deg which is pretty hot for May. The road heads up a nice lush green valley and passes through a small mountain village , not long after that the sealed road ends giving way to gravel and steep climbs making me work hard on my single speed MTB, But I am happy to say that my choice of 33T - 16T gearing allowed me to ride the entire route.
After a hard off road climb to the summit we were rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and at the summit the gravel section ended and the sealed road started again making for a fast decent to a mountain village halfway down the mountain. My map had only one left turn marked at the village , but in reality I should have ridden through the village and taken the 2nd left turn instead which would have brought me out at Mikawa station as it was we took the 1st left turn and ended up on the other side of the mountain instead at Tsunogami Kohan next to route 459 alongside the Agano river. We were not lost but slightly off route and as soon as I reached the base of the mountain road I noticed the unfamiliar surroundings of Tsunogami onsen and the camp ground. All there was left to do was a short 10km ride along 459 back to Tsugawa station . After visiting a nearby liquor shop for a few cold cans of beer and some snacks it was time to pack up the bikes for the train ride back into Niigata city. On the train ride back we could relax and have a few beers which was a nice way to end the day. The next job is to make a better map with more detail so I do not take a wrong turn next time , but that is also part of the fun in exploring Japan by bike !
Every time I return to Madison, WI, for a visit I stock up on beans from Just Coffee, a co-op coffee roaster based in Wisconsin's capital. The good people at Just Coffee are committed to doing right. They purchase beans only from grower cooperatives, not single owner estates, for starters. At the other end of the product chain, Just Coffee delivers by bike in Madison. Bikes and brews. You can visit them here: http://justcoffee.coop/about/ ; Revolution Cycles, the inspiration for Revolution Roast, are here: http://revolutioncycles.net/ .
The 2014 running of the world's toughest mountain bike race gets underway June 13th. Most riders will gather in Banff, Canada, for the Grand Depart and cycle a southbound route; a few will opt for the reverse, embarking from Antelope Wells, NM, on a northbound journey. Jim Stansbury put together a fine 7-chapter video of the event's 2012 edition. Enjoy.
For some time now both Brian & I have been searching for a complete guide to all the campsites located in Niigata ken, it can often be frustrating trying to find things in Japan and campsites have been no exception. While there are a few sites listed on the net some of the information is out of date and they are still difficult to locate. But not anymore as yesterday in a local bookstore I finally found what we have been searching for - a book called Family Outdoor which lists 130 campsites throughout Niigata ken including Sado island. The book lists in detail each campsite with the range of facilities, they offer, plus contact numbers and a decent map on how to find the camp site. Surprisingly there are also quite a number of free camp sites listed as well. This book will prove very useful for planning overnight bikepacking trips and my extended 6 day tour in Oct of this year.