I arrived with a crew from Salsa Cycles a few days before Grinduro Japan was set to go down. With the impending storm putting a slight damper on the length and rideability of the course for the weekend, I started to look for some alternative riding in the immediate area around the mountain. While the mountain offered plenty of dirt roads, they remained forested-in which didn’t do the Japanese landscape justice. On the map, I noticed that the coast wasn’t too far away and would be a big ole descent for most of the way. Once we secured some fellow folks to shuttle us back from the beach in our rental cars, I got to work cobbling together a GPS track for us to follow. I connected the small bits of off-pavement and tried to string them together with bike paths as well as a visit to a city park that had a castle, duh. Lets go to the beach!
The nice thing about planning this kind ride was that everyone was gonna be riding the new Cutthroats, so barring some gnarly singletrack, everyone would have a bike capable of just about any kind of riding we might encounter. Pavement, fine. Dirt, even better. There would be seven of us in total; myself, Andy (a Salsa dealer from Colorado) and five Salsa employees. While everyone had the same base frame, the builds were quite diverse. I was most jealous of the Cutthroats that had been outfitted with dropper posts, which I feel truly unlocks the potential of a bike such as this.
Once the usual morning ritual of herding cats was done, we all threw our legs over our fancy steeds and jetted down the mountain. Pavement quickly gave way to moist two-track undulating along the side of the mountain. Then, a screaming paved descent got us down to the valley floor, leading us out into the river valley and a winding path along the river. We found a sweet little back road through a brief but stunning cedar grove between two small farming towns. As the valley opened up, we biked between the rice fields while criss-crossing the river a few more times. Our final few miles took us back into the hills on the south side of the valley. Some winding back roads took use past a few incredible temples, before we popped out on the sandy coastline. We had a few mishaps; missed turns, roads that didnt exist, and one path that turned too overgrown even for our stubborn posse. Nonetheless, the route went quite well for guessing what might be cool from a base map.
We only had a few hours in the morning to squeeze the ride in before setting up for the Grinduro expo, so this was a short but sweet ride. The fact that we descended over 5000 ft helped with the time constraint. Nonetheless, it included so many nice vignettes of Japan that we hadn’t yet been able to experience in the ski resort town we were staying at for the event. To cap it off we had an incredible sushi lunch in Joetsu, because what else are you gonna eat in Japan after a sweet ride, c’mon.
Big thanks to Salsa and their team for lending me an amazing bike and following me blindly around rural Japan for the day!