An Introduction -- Road Cycling Near Tokyo; Routes out of Town

MOB "rests" on Kanagawa Prefectural Route 76 climb South of Route 412 toward Tanzawa. 
This is not one of our recommended routes!

While Positivo Espresso continues as a blog, we wanted to add some additional pages of more durable content that will provide an introduction to road cycling near Tokyo for English readers/speakers who are new to Japan, for visitors who brought a road bike (or folding bike) with them on as tourists, on an extended business trip, or for longer term expats/residents who are just taking up road cycling -- for just about anyone who wants recent, English language information about cycling in the countryside near Tokyo.

These pages include links to places you might find out about group rides, some recommended bike shops, advice on what map to use, and other information such as how to take your bicycle on the train in Japan (very easy to do, and important to know about if you want to ride in the countryside and do not want to commit to a longer "all day" ride, or if you don't want to ride home in a downpour when you get caught by a sudden rainstorm).

And yes, there will be a selection of twenty or more mostly-beautiful rides just outside of the Tokyo mega city. We will try to offer a selection of short, mid-range and long rides covering mostly the mountains in the West and Northwest of Tokyo and neighboring prefectures -- Kanagawa, Yamanashi, and the Chichibu area of western Saitama Prefecture. This area is our home turf for classic Positivo Espresso weekend rides.

There should be something for beginners as well as for mountain goats. Some of the rides can be combined with each other to provide for longer distances or weekend rides with overnight stays in the countryside.  And if you try some of these, you will see that they are only a small sample of possible routes in the same general area!

Rides can be downloaded for usage with Garmin or other GPS systems. Or you can get a decent Japanese road map (see our recommendations on the "books and maps" page).

Using this information, we hope that even newcomers to Japan will be able to explore the hills and will be able to enjoy one of the hidden gems of Japan -- all of the great cycling routes that are within reach of Tokyo!


Getting Out of Town to the West
One feature of (problem with?) Tokyo is that it is a huge metropolitan area. In order to enjoy the best road cycling, you need to get out to the countryside.

Some people will put their bike in a "bike bag" and hop on a train, avoiding the urban part of the ride one or both directions. This can allow you to ride in the countryside without devoting a full day to the bicycle, and it can also dramatically increase your cycling range -- making it possible to ride all the way to Nagano Prefecture, then hop a bullet train back to Tokyo (just over one hour from Karuizawa to Tokyo Station) and be home for dinner! See the "bikes and trains" page for guidance.

For regular riders, you will want to learn a few routes to get to and from town, even if you do take the train one or both ways at times.

I. From Central/SW Tokyo to the Tamagawa and up to Tamagawahara-bashi

From central/SW central Tokyo, a popular route is to head out Komazawa Dori from Ebisu to the Tamagawa (the Tama river), then out along the Tamagawa, then to choose one of several further routes out of town.

Komazawa Dori has one lane of traffic in each direction and relatively few trucks. I use it to commute into town and find it a lot easier to take than Meguro-Dori to the South or Route 246 to the North. Here is a GPS track that shows you the route along Komazawa Dori from Ebisu Station out to the Tamagawa river and then about 10 km up the river via roads and the river's cycling path to a bridge called Tamagawahara-bashi, just beyond the Keio keirin cycle racing track/stadium:

Komazawa Dori from Ebisu and then along the Tamagawa.

Along the Tamagawa river, some people prefer to take the roads, some prefer the path. I alternate depending upon the section. There are a few short stretches where the path is gravel or dirt just after you pass under the Odakyu train line, though these are passable on a road bike except during/immediately after very heavy rain. There are also some times and places where the path is too crowded with runners, old people, children and dogs to be safe at normal road bicycle speed (25-35 kph), though it is deserted at other times and places. Some cyclists have a bell, even on a road bike, and ring it often when riding on the path to warn pedestrians.

Of course, if you live a bit further North, you may want to try Setagaya Dori as a route out of town to the Tamagawa. If you are further South, you might want to try Meguro-Dori or Nakahara-Kaido. If you are coming from Shinjuku/Ikebukuro or up from Yokohama ... then you will want to try a different route entirely. If none of these work and you need individualized advice, you might try posting on the Tokyo Cycling Club (TCC) bulletin board. TCC riders live and ride all over the Tokyo metro region ... and beyond, and there is a core group that checks the BBS regularly and offers useful advice. (See the "bicycle clubs and support groups" page).

II. Beyond Tamagawahara-bashi

Here are some possible routes beyond this point. Often you can take one of them out, another back, and have your choice of a number of the recommended rides.

A. One-Kansen-Doro

Cross the river at Tamagawaharabashi and follow the road as it continues from the bridge and snakes around to toward the right. This road eventually becomes One-Kansen road, which has some climbs, lots of "rollers", a decent shoulder at most places, and limited access/limited cross traffic. One-Kansen gets you out of town another 15 km or so. At the end you need to find your way through some Machida/Hashimoto/Sagamihara sprawl and, if you do so, can get to very nice rides. You can avoid some of the sprawl by riding through a park on a hilltop along a wide paved path we call the "tank road", because we were told it was used during World War II to test tanks. The former Mitsubishi tank factory grounds in the distance are now a U.S. military ammunition depot.

Here is the map and GPS track:

One Kansen-Doro, the Tank Road and Beyond -- to Tsukui-ko

Some of the rides you can reach after taking this route are:
  • Yabitsu Pass.
  • Doshimichi/Yamanakako.
  • Lake Tsukui North Side/Otarumi Loop.
  • Route 76/Doshimichi Loop.
  • Tsuru Pass.
(see our "twenty rides" page).

B. Yaen-Kaido

This is an alternate route that ends up in the same area as One Kansen-Doro. It avoids the rolling hills and the "tank road". You continue up the Tamagawa another 7 km or so beyond Tamagawaharabashi before crossing the river. It can be a fast ride coming back into town, as it is a very gentle downhill much of the way.

Yaen-Kaido and Beyond to Tsukui-ko

C. Up the Asagawa to Takao

This route takes roads and paths alongside the Asagawa through Hachioji and ends up at Takao, one of the key cyclist gateways to the hills near Tokyo. As with the path along the Tamagawa, some people prefer to take roads for some parts of this stretch where a path is available, especially staying on National Route 20 (Koshu Kaido) the last 5 km or so to Takao, where the road is tree-lined has decent room for bicycles.

Takao is reachable by the JR Chuo line, as well as by an alternate branch of the Keio line.

Here is the GPS track and map:

Tamagawa -> Asagawa -> Takao

Takao also is a jumping off place for many of the same rides as One-Kansen. A few rides that are near Takao would include:
  • Wada Pass/Kobu Tunnel.
  • Otarumi Pass/Bijotani.
(see our "twenty rides" page).

D. Musashi Itsukaichi

This route out of town gets you to the base of several rides up the Akigawa river. It takes Mutsumibashi-dori, which can have fairly heavy traffic in the first few kilometers, but traffic gradually lightens as you continue West. Also, there are trains to/from Tachikawa to Musashi-Itsukaichi.

Here is the GPS track and map.

Tamagawahara-bashi to Musashi-Itsukaichi

Instead of crossing the Tamagawa on Route 16, you can keep going up the bike path a bit further, cross the Tamagawa at Mutsumibashi (near the famous Fussa "Tamajiman" beer hut restaurant and sake brewery, only a few hundred meters from the East end of the bridge).

This map and GPS track shows the alternate route (including the restaurant side trip):

Mutsumibashi alternate route toward Itsukaichi

Some rides that start by climbing along the Akigawa include:
  • Wada Pass/Kobu Tunnel (reverse approach).
  • Tomin no Mori/Kazahari Pass.
  • The North Akigawa Teahouse (Chaya).
  • Kazahari Rindo.
  • Nokogiriyama.
(see the "twenty rides" page).

E. Oume

This route continues further up the Tamagawa river as far as Oume Station. From Oume, you can either continue on the main road up to Lake Okutama (and beyond), or you can go into Chichibu with its many, many routes to explore. Here is the GPS track and map:

Tamagawahara-bashi to Oume

Also, like Takao, Oume has decent train connections to/from Tachikawa and beyond to Shinjuku and Tokyo stations, so it is another good start/finish point for those who prefer not to ride all the way to/from town.

If you keep going out Route 411 past Oume to Lake Okutama, you can connect to
  • Tsuru Pass
  • Matsuhime Pass
  • Kazahari Loop
Or if you go into Chichibu, you can reach the rides to
  • Yamabushi Pass, Shomaru Pass and Karibazaka
  • Arima Pass
  • Nenogongen
or go over Yamabushi and down to Route 299 toward Chichibu City and beyond to points in Gunma and Nagano.

(Again, see the "twenty rides" page).

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