28 December 2009

Tour du Aso

Greetings from Kyushu!

Kurokawa Onsen is the most beautiful onsen town I know of. There are no big hotels, not tour groups and buses, each ryokan looks very nice and serves great food, and the village itself looks very beautiful. This time, we stayed at a ryokan four kilometers upstream out of town, which meant there was even more nature around the place than there is already inside the village.


Kurokawa Onsen is located ideally for doing some great cycling rides. Just north-east of it lies the Kuju Plateau, with a couple of peaks around 1,800m and the famous Yamanami Highway passing through it. South of it lies Aso-san with its huge outer crater which fits a lot of villages and farm land. In the middle of the crater rise the peaks of Aso-san. In between there are bizarre looking hills formed by what Aso-san once spat out when it was even more active than it is still today.

We have been visiting the area quite often over the years, but this time I wanted to experience it on my bicycle. It is just a different feeling - one sees even more of the great beauty.

With breakfast in the ryokan being served relatively late, I was able to start only at 10am and thus do only a relatively short ride. But it was sufficient to surround and climb Aso-san. 122km in total, with 2,000m of climbing (the only flat stretches in the area are on the bottom of the outer crater rim - everything else is hilly!).

Just as I was returning to Kurokawa Onsen, the cable for the front dérailleur tore inside the left gear shifter. Very strange. Is this normal wear and tear after 13,000km? Or was it caused by taking the bike onto the plane where the left gear shifter was sticking out of the bike bag and was protected by just a bit of foam wrapped around it? Hopefully I can get it fixed today, so I can try another ride tomorrow - though no longer in Kyushu.

Neko-dake seen from the ascent to the pass to the west of it

At the south-eastern rim of the active creater - the highest view point was accessible (and free to bicycles), though due to relatively high levels of gas in the air, not all areas where open. Still, this was my luckies visit so far: upon three prior attempts, either was the weather bad or the access to the crater rim was blocked

It was cold - and icy wind. Maybe not surprising I did not see a single cyclist all day!

The active Aso crater from the north-eastern part of the plateau

Daikanbo - an impressive part of the outer crater rim

The Kuju mountains seen from the northern part of the outer Aso rim (on top of Daikanbo)

6 comments:

James said...

It's like asking how long a piece of string is, The front shifting cable actually takes a lot more of a beating than the rear due to the larger amounts of stress placed on it and the distance it has to travel with each change.

If one thread of the wire goes then the rest will break away very rapidly and snap when you shift up a gear. If you are riding a lot especially in the mountains where frequent gear changes are the norm, I would recommend changing gears out every 12 months and also change out the bottom bracket.

Very cheap to do as the Ultegra SL BB sells for around ¥3,000 JPY and very easy to do yourself as well.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Thanks, James!

What about brake cables? I'm actually most worried that the front cable might snap one day when I really need it to brake! Losing gear shifting is less of a problem (unless it happens at exactly the wrong moment).

James said...

Should read "I would recommend changing gear cables out every 12 months and also change out the bottom bracket."

While I'm on the subject of maintenance, installing a new chain and also jockey wheels in the rear derailleur would probably be a must for mountain riders.

James said...

Ludwig,

How often do you spot check the bike? I normally clean the bike every two weeks and do checks on the cables and make sure all of the nuts bolts are tight, crank, pedals, headset and so on so forth. adeadot

Manfred von Holstein said...

I clean my bike after almost every ride, and of course while doing it would detect any obvious issues.

However, the only way to detect a weakening gear cable would have been by physically removing it from the tube - which is something one would not normally do.

It's fixed now and I'm looking forward to riding tomorrow.

Cheers, Ludwig

TOM said...

Beautiful pictures of the scenery! I'm envious!