On Yer Bike!

Now that the heat is abating you can think about peeling yourself off of the tatami in front of your air-con and getting some exercise. Daniel Speight recommends some bike courses that will get you moving again!

I spent my first five years in Nagoya riding my bike for the express purpose of getting from one happy hour to the next as quickly as possible. Thanks to the ageless mechanical efficiency of the deadly treadly, I am proud to report that I managed to fit a lifetime of imbibement into a few short years. Sure, I crashed into fences and concrete barriers a few times, I even committed the mortal sin of spilling my beer while riding. But as my tires grew balder, I started to wonder if there was more to life than running red lights, jumping off curbs and making elderly pedestrians scream in fright. I tentatively removed my beer goggles and traded them for a pair of snazzy Oakleys, and… baby, seven years of scouring the countryside later, all I can say is there is a grand side of Japan out there waiting to be discovered. The lush greenery, the quaint little valley hamlets, the gurgling rivers and the little old ladies pulling radishes out of garden plots, all rushing by in a blur as I careen down a hard-earned descent at speeds that would make my mother very angry. No matter how many times I get out there, it never fails to take my breath away. Why don’t you go and take a look?

Beginner Level
Getting out of the city is a desirable, but not essential element of a fun day in the saddle. The best way to avoid the traffic and the lights is to find a waterway. The Yada river from Ozone will take you east all the way out to Seto City, where the mountains start. It’s about a 20km ride to Seto, and there’s a nice 5km stretch of asphalt walking/cycling track down by the water as you get close to Owari Asahi. I particularly like this little section, as there are no cars to worry about, and no red lights to slow you down. There are, however, people walking dogs and little kids running around chasing balls here and there, so it’s usually best to try not to run them over.

Intermediate Level
Following Route 30 north across the Yada river, five minutes’ ride brings you to the Shonai river. You can follow the embankment either left or right here, but right will take you in the direction of the outskirts of Kasugai, mountains, and eternal salvation. It’s about 20km from inner Nagoya to Kozoji station, with some nice sprawling river scenery along the way. From here you can go straight into the heart of the valley towards Tajimi, or go left and up the old Route 19 (now Route 53) and as far as you like into the heart of the mountains, en-route to Inuyama and a nice lake called Irukaike.

Advanced Level
My favorite long ride leads on from the above beginner course to Seto. About 1km after the station on the main road for Tajimi/Kani, a right turn at some traffic lights takes you up Route 33 and into the never never. It’s a long but fairly easy climb up to the top of this hill, with only one light along the way; make sure to go left there. The descent into Fujioka is fast and thrilling, and if there are any cars in front of you they will likely be going way too slow. From here the road unwinds and leads you northeast, inexorably up into the grandeur of the Yahagi River valley. Heading up past the Yahagi Dam and then looping back around past Asahi Golf Club makes for a nice 120km ride. This kills the better part of a day, and if you are still bored you can take just about any road you like up from the dam and you’ll have a ball.

A word of warning: lots of trucks frequent the road between Seto and Fujioka, and it’s actually pretty hard to get completely away from them up there where the trees are green and the (pre-diesel) air is sweet. Truckies can be nasty road hogs, so avoid riding two abreast and keep your wits about you when you hear one coming up from behind. Another popular course for Nag roadies is out along the Chita Peninsula, with some small hills and lots of wind. I personally prefer the smell of my own wind, and so tend to opt for the mountain courses.

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