June 29th 2015

So it turns out that finishing our jobs, moving out of our apartment and setting off travelling for 18 months all on the same day is looking like it might be quite stressful! A lot of excellent touring cycling blogs have posts showing the preparation stage of the tour with neatly labelled and stacked gear ready well in advance of departure date. This cycling blog isn’t quite there yet. I’ll post some pictures anyway…

Sleeping bags and mats. still regularly in use!

We’re doing our best to be efficient and get things in order, but we’ve acquired a lot of stuff in our 5 years here, and selling it or getting rid of it takes time!

Ditto the tent and tarp

At the same time, we’re trying to collect together all the gear we’ll be taking with us. We’re lucky to have two spare rooms so one of them is for stuff we’re getting rid of, and the other is for cycling and travelling stuff. Apologies therefore to the Warm Showers members whose requests to stay with us have had to be regretfully declined. Our place is just too much of a mess and we have very little empty floor space left!

Brand new Schwalbe Marathons. Ready to….. roll (sorry)

We are also trying to make the most of our last month in Hokkaido, which of course involves hiking, camping and cycling with a lot of the same gear we’ll be taking with us. That’s making it extra hard to keep things organised!

Sweet new Topeak multi tool

We just got a nice box of cycling stuff from Wiggle delivered too. Really an excellent service, free delivery from the UK within a few days of ordering.

It’s here! Shipped for free from the UK within a few days

The imminent deadline of August 1st for us to move out and leave does at least give us the kick up the backside we need to get organised. We have to be ready, because we don’t have any choice!

Training & Sea 2 Summit

MontBell Sea to Summit. Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido.

June 21st 2015

The Asahidake range from Higashikawa

“Not long to go now. How’s the training going?” is a question we have been asked a lot recently. Our friends and colleagues know that we’re setting off on this trip in a couple of month’s time and so naturally will ask us questions. In terms of preparing specifically for the next 18 months of cycling, we haven’t really been doing any extra training. But we do try and keep fit through our hobbies, cycling being one, as well as hiking, running and in the winter, skiing. We also usually enter a few running races every summer to keep us working towards things.

The start line at Lake Chubetsu

The finish line up at 2,291m

One such event we took part in recently was the MontBell Sea to Summit. There are 5 (I think) different Sea to Summits in Japan, which involve a kayak, cycle and then hike from a body of water up to the peak of a mountain. They’re run and sponsored by MontBell, an awesome Japanese outdoor clothing and equipment company, whose stores are virtually impossible to come out of with wallet intact. We entered the Hokkaido version, which was held in the Daisetsuzan national park. There was a kayak course on the Chubetsu Lake, then a cycle up to the base of Asahidake – Hokkaido’s highest peak, and then a hike to the summit.

Transition area from kayak leg to bike leg

Although the distances weren’t huge, it was a testing event across different sports with a significant altitude gain. The kayaking part was especially challenging as we rarely get too involved in water sports – mainly because Hokkaido only has a very short season when the sea or lakes aren’t bloody cold, or actual ice.

Bike leg. Thank Andy Seward for the photo.

Bike leg. Thank Andy Seward for the photo.

Once we got the boats out the way, we were on more familiar territory with the bike ride up the hill. Our steel touring bikes weren’t as well suited to the climb as the super light road bikes that our competition were riding, but we managed to make up a bit of time on the ride.

The hiking section. Up the ridgeline to the right of the crater.

The hike was where we really made some good progress. We set off at a run over the first slightly more mellow section, before settling into a steady hiking pace when the gradient steepened on the main ridgeline to the summit.

Clare powering up the final stretch of the hike

At the summit once we crossed the line we didn’t know our times or positions as it was a staggered start and the transition times between events weren’t included in the overall time. As we stood around recovering and enjoying a mini summit beer, one of the race officials came over and told Clare that she’d won the women’s category!

Finish line

Finish line

A delicious and well earned mini beer at the summit

The walk back down to the base was a lot of fun as we were on a real buzz from the race and we were cheering and high 5’ing the other competitors as they were making their way up. The camaraderie and team spirit that you get in Japanese sports events really is something special. The biggest cheer was definitely for the team who entered wearing giant panda heads and kept them on for the whole day, despite the sunshine and heat.

Clare 1st, Andy 2nd

At the closing and results ceremony, Clare won the women’s category comfortably. Her time would’ve put her in 4th place in the men’s category too, so a really solid performance. I managed to get 2nd place in the men’s which I wasn’t expecting, especially after such an awful time splashing about on the lake in a kayak I never want to see again!

We both got a nice plaque for the metaphorical mantelpiece plus a big bag full of ham, pork and sausages each. You can’t beat delicious edible prizes!

Delicious prize!

So at this point, with about 6 weeks to go we’re in decent physical shape. But, those 6 weeks will involve a week’s trip to Honshu and a music festival, a number of farewell parties and no doubt lots of enjoying Japanese food favourites ‘one last time before we go’. Hopefully by August 1st we’ll still fit into our cycling shorts!

Pedalling West!

Welcome to our blog! We’re Andy and Clare and we’ll be cycling from Japan to England, starting in August 2015. We’ll be posting updates here as we prepare for the trip, and then from the road once we’re underway.

Please follow us, and come along for the ride!