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KS Cover no. 78 2006 November

NOV 2006 :: 078

Beat the wind

Cycling is something that most people do through necessity – a cheap and healthy way to get around the city. Only a few cycle at a competitive level but Japan has a thriving and accessible road racing community. Amidst the autumn colours, and with winter almost upon us, now is a great time to get training for next season.

So, what do you need to start racing? Firstly you want a decent bike and it’s simply going to come down to budget. If you’re starting out, ¥100,000 should buy you something suitable but remember that clothes, shoes and helmet will need to go on top of that. Your best bet is to visit the Cyclemode show at Osaka Intex on Nov 11-12 showing all the major brands to compare and try out: it’s great fun.

Training is next. Find a mixture of routes that won’t get boring after a few weeks. Thankfully, even around Osaka, there’s an abundance of options. Riverside cycle paths and parks are quiet but the over eager cyclist should be aware of toddlers and animals if you’re getting up any speed. A better option could be the surrounding climbs of Mt. Ikoma or Mt. Kongo. Exploring with a good map is priceless for finding quiet, country roads which reward with incredible views. A bike bag (¥4,000+) is also a great way to allow you to do a one-way ride and return by train. Remember that a repair kit, pump, spare tubes and spare tyre are priceless — especially when you encounter problems in rural areas.

It’s a really good idea to start a relationship with your local bike shop, especially if they have a club. They’re invaluable for technical support and information but it’s also essential to start riding in a bunch, getting a feel for what a race can be like. Another benefit of group riding is drafting (when someone in front of you acts as a wind break, making pedalling around thirty percent easier).

The best way of getting comprehensive race information is buying a schedule, which comes free with some late winter editions of cycling magazines. April’s Cycle Sports magazine listed all types of road races as well as triathlons, bmx, cyclocross, track, mountain biking even cycle-soccer and cyclegymnastics events. Entry info comes with the schedule and the first step is picking a race and filling out a postal order to apply. You also need to know your category but for most races in Japan you don’t need a license. CATs are of an international standard and if you haven’t had a placing before, you enter CAT four.

Because of the large fan base, many races, such as the almostlocal Shimano race at the Suzuka circuit cater to all ages. It’s a real carnival atmosphere but with serious racing too. After a race or two you will be pretty sure of your level: aim low and build confidence. It must be pointed out, though, that circuit races, with their many corners, can be pretty dangerous.

Some of the races are expensive (the Fuji hill climb was ¥8,000) but the event organisation is exceptional. You are given a wearable chip to record your time and you are often greeted with hot food.

If you’re serious about racing, then get a schedule, pick what you can afford and get going. Just remember that you can’t buy training and muscle so getting up at 6 o’clock on a cold winters morning will stand you in good stead when the nice weather comes around. See you on the road.

Text: Stuart Kerr • Photos: Blackie Nakajima

:: Online Articles


International Bicycle Fund & Ibike
Sustainable transport


Arashiyama on wheels
Exploring Arashiyama by bicycle


A spin through ancient Japan
Cycling through history in Okayama Prefecture


One helluva of an FNQ ride
Cycling in Northern Queensland, Australia


Bike maintenance
Do-it-yourself guide to bicycle maintenance


Beat the wind
Getting into cycle racing

:: Kansai Listings


Up to date cinema listings guide so you always know what's on, where and when!

:: ART

Best exhibitions & listings


Best events & listings


Best gigs & listings


All the hot picks

:: Also in this month's mag


Asian Dining Rara, Shinsaibashi


Best festivals & listings


New releases & recommendations


OEFF + Best films & cinema listings


The bicycle law


Tatsu Sakamoto, world cyclist
55,000 kms, 51 month, 6 continents, and 1 man


Purchasing property
Advice from IFG-Asia


Autumn Hiking in Kyoto
Guide to Atago-san, Daimonji-yama, & Daigoji-yama


A pretzel in paradise
Yoga in Koh Samui, Thailand

Mount Fuji Hill Climb, Jun (easier than it sounds): www.fujihc.jp/index.php?catid=13&blogid=1
Oodaigahara hill climb in Nara, July (a real test): www.oodaigahara.com/hc.html
Shimano road race at Suzuka, Mie in Aug: www.shimano-event.jp
Cycle mode exhibition at Intex, Osaka on Nov 11-12: www.cyclemode.net/index_e.html
A cycling blog: www.stupot.com/blog/cycling
A cycling and touring source for kansai: www.kancycling.com