Riding Circles Around Mount Fuji

Visiting countries like Japan, you’re always drawn to hyper-modern cities like Tokyo, or classic, traditional places like Kyoto. While I’ve spent a lot of time here, I’d never spent much time in the countryside, much less the wilderness. I’ve always used a bicycle to explore an urban area. When Circles brought handful of US framebuilders and myself over to Nagoya for the Gourmet Century Asuke, they asked us to bring our own bikes. Not just to display at the Personal Bike Show, but to embark on a week-long bicycle tour with. This influenced what everyone brought greatly and ultimately, was a true test of each builder’s philosophy on touring.

My Firefly loaded up for five days of self-supported touring, with weather ranging from 40º and rainy to 85º and humid.

For me, my all-road or ‘cross bikes always did the trick for trips like this. I’m used to doing “road rides” on big, fat tires and am more than comfortable fully-loading a ‘cross bike with bikepacking bags. I packed my bike, along with all my camping gear, touring bags and flew to Nagoya for the Gourmet Century. After Asuke, we all had a day of downtime before loading our bikes up with bags, camping gear, hopping on the Shinkensen, or bullet train, and embarking for Fuji, a small town at the base of, you guessed it, Mount Fuji. The train ride took about an hour and a half, which we passed with stories of the previous-weekend’s events.


Our two-part trip began with a three-day route around the sleeping god that has inspired and influenced Japanese culture since the dawn of civilization. Remember, Mount Fuji is an active volcano! We’d begin and end on the coast, climb various mountains, enjoy the local vernacular, eat delicious food, and best of all, camp! All while (mostly) avoiding the oncoming rainy season weather. Then, we’d take a boat to Izu Ōshima for an even more epic journey! Now, you’re probably thinking, there’s no way a bunch of gaijin could successfully navigate the Japanese countryside unguided, right? Well, truthfully so, we could have, but we would have missed out on all the local knowledge!

Lake Kawaguchico

The Circles family is big, with a number of companies under its umbrella. From Sim Works, a company that manufactures components in Japan, to Early Birds, a restaurant attached to the bike shop, to Pine Fields Market, a bakery which shares space with Culture Club, a bike co-op, a few blocks from Circles. Believe it or not, in these companies, plenty of employees begged to come on the ride! Some did, even for just a day, but our main guides were Shige and Makoto, two rad dudes who had been planning this trip for months.

So as I was saying… our trip began in Fuji…

If you’d like to tackle this three-day trip, here are our routes, with pit-stops included:

Day 01: Fuji to Tanuki Lake

Day 02: Tanuki Lake to Lake Yamanaka
Day 03: Lake Yamanaka to Atami

Many, many, many thanks to Circles, Sim Works, Retrotec, Sycip, DeSalvo and Chris King for making this trip so memorable.

  • alex

    This is a great set, Japan looks incredible. That switchback road with those trees looked so unlike US roads.

  • Just got the Japanese itch – have to go

  • Ryan

    Looks like a blast. Rie’s helmet appears to have been crunched.

  • #63!

  • charlesojones

    I’m surprised the TSA let you anywhere near the flight with that slingshot! :-D

    • Danger Danger Danger!

      • Peter Raible

        Hey there, what type of slingshot do you take on your trips and… hmmm why carrying a slingshot? :)

  • alex

    What’s your sleeping pad of choice and where do you like to pack it? Not sure about the best place for my foam accordion, strapped outside is best but when it rains, it totally sucks putting my down bag on a wet pad.

    • Thermarest NeoAir. I pack it up front in a dry bag with my tent and bag.

  • Really rad set and captions, dude! The bikes, the people, the roads, the built environment… gah.

    • Wait til the next gallery! Shit got wild!

  • AdamBike99

    Off topic, but did you notice how pic #28 blends with your banner for the North Coast Collection? What an illusion!
    Love that old Land Cruiser BTW.

  • PEPE

    GOD I forgot about that Mother of a hill we had to do on fully loaded cross bikes when we arrived in Atami to get to the Hotel in the hills, after a full day of sweating behind measure… Aaaahhhhh I miss Japan… I miss Shimanami Kaido Road…

    • Those hills made LA and SF look flat!

    • jamie

      oh you already posted about how epic ! haha

  • jamie

    rode from fujinomiya up mt.fuji in summer , sunny at the bottom and practically snowing at the top ! the hardest climb ever !! but so epic !

  • Makoto looks like the japanese Kyle Kelley with that beard!

  • Luke

    Could I ask what the tyres on your firefly are? They look awesome, great pics

  • campirecord

    Probably one of the most impressive photo-blog trip I ever saw. Japan is truly a sophisticated country.

  • btompkins0112

    AMAZING! Excuse me if you have shared before, but what is your typical pack list for a 3 day overnighter?

  • Przemek Skrzypek

    I second Luke’s question. What are those nice looking tires on your FireFly?

  • Zac

    What kind of camp pour over is that in the morning coffee photo? I’ve been using my Snow Peak one for a while, but it’s reaching the last legs.

    • It’s called a tectra or something. Japanese made. It’s awesome, but kinda small. I like the bigger cones for sure.

  • Dimitri Nenkov

    Amazing photography – do you always shoot film?

    • This is digital. I do shoot film though, but mostly medium format.