What comes to mind when you think of Kyoto Japan? For most, it would be temples, shrines, gardens, and the epicenter of traditional Japanese culture. It is all that, but it is also home to world class cycling that only minutes away from downtown.
The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains to the west, north, and east. Also nearby is Lake Biwako, Japan`s largest inland lake and locally famous for the flat 200km cycling route known as “Biwaichi” that circles the lake. It’s the mountains though that really make Kyoto a cycling paradise, especially if you are a fan of steep climb and twisty forested descents that are nearly free of automobile traffic.
Our recent Castelli photo shoot saw us head west near the bamboo forests of Arashiyama, and then north to the grueling Hanase climb which winds its way out of Kyoto and into the countryside. With some route planning its entirely possible to ride all the way to the Japan sea by using small forest “rindo” roads that feature few cars and quiet solitude.
One key feature of Kyoto is that most of the well-known climbs are easily accessible from the city. Within about 20-25 minutes of riding one can easily be on a long steep climb and headed towards the Japanese countryside. Road bikes or gravel bikes are equally suited, perhaps the latter being more convenient to explore the forest “rindo” roads that often have rough pavement. A critical point is gearing, low gears are recommended as its easy to find climbs well over 10% in the mountains around Kyoto. The Hanase climb we rode is 9 kilometers in length and while it starts at a friendly 2-3% the last 2 kilometers average over 11%, making for one respectable climb.
Keep in mind that these mountains surrounding Kyoto also turn it into an oven in the summer months, trapping in the heat and humidity. Lightweight clothing like the Superleggera or Premio, which we wore over the two days of riding, help keep things a bit more bearable. Winter months usually stay above freezing, for some it’s the perfect time to explore Kyoto.
So when you think of Kyoto, of course think of its rich culture but be well aware that world class riding is waiting for you just at the city’s edges.
Enjoy pictures from our 2 days Kyoto adventure:
West Kyoto, Saga Toriimoto, heading west to Atago and out of town
West over Atago, leaving Kyoto city area
Following Katsura River
Quick gravel detour to the rice terraces of Koshihata-Shikimigahara
Heading out to Hanase Climb
Up the last few KM of the climb – 7-8%
Ride done, Dango/Mochi time
Cruising back into town, day done