Toured on bike

Bike riders seem to look the same to the general public whether they are into track racing, mountain riding, road racing, touring, or street shredding, but they are not.

Even if people see bike riders in action, differences seem so minor between street and trials, pass hunting and touring, BMX and BTR, or road racers and track bikes, but they are not.

Still, it is true that each genre has its attraction. I myself am mostly a street specialist now, but I was doing a one-day tour from downtown Tokyo to the Takao Mountains and back when I was in high school. With a tiny bit of confidence from that experience, I said yes when offered this opportunity to go touring this time.

First I borrowed a normal MTB from a friend, as my everyday bike does not seem very suitable for this. I’ve been sick of having to replace the chain and sprockets and service hub bearing every time I check “friend’s everyday bike” up, but well, I’ve got to take it.

The first day entailed 150 km ride after 1.5 hours sleep, from Sapporo to Obira. One hundred km per one hour sleep is a good ratio, like some beef sold for 70+ yen per 100 grams. Happy meat party tonight!

Had instant ramen in epic fatigue. The sun will still rise next morning.

On the second day, there was a spot inland I wanted to stop by, the Sankebetsu Bear Attack site. The road leading there from Kotanbetsu was named “Bear Road”, and there were bear illustrations on the shutters of the stores along the road. I had imagined it was one of the most unnoticed secret historical tourism spot in Hokkaido, but is it not?

The site. Fifty-kilometer extra ride for this. Um, why did I see so many SHUTTERS along the Bear Road? And why isn’t there anything here other than the rotting shack and a plastic bear?

The clock tower surrounded by tall buildings, the statue of Dr. Clark with no arms, and the poplar trees with “keep out” sign are considered the three worst disappointing spots in Sapporo. This place, however, ranks way higher than those, making its way up to the top in the whole Hokkaido. I was like, “This can’t be it, there’s got to be some more ahead” and rode farther on the unpaved road, only to find a closed gate about 500 meters ahead. Thank you gate for being there, thank you very much.

So it was time to get back on track. Luckily the weather was nice. Although it was hot, the sun was scorching the skin, and drying you up.

An ex-convenience store had turned into a Kombu seaweed drying field.

The second night was spent in Shosanbetsu. Unlike the night before, the campsite, onsen and blowfish dinner were all great. On the third day, we made it to Wakkanai and took the ferry to the Rishiri Island.

The fourth day was spent climbing Mt. Rishiri, but it was cut short around the sixth step due to high wind, pouring rain, and mystery pain in both of my knees.

The fifth day saw a broad daylight again. It was still windy but the ocean was calling me.

Got to the secret beach that my friend who runs a guide company in Rishiri found for me. It may not be that much of a secret, but sand beaches are very rare in this volcanic island nonetheless. The deep cove offered rather warm water, so a good time was spent drinking Malibu and Coke, sunbathing and playing in the water. Up ahead you can see the next island, Rebun.

It happened to be the day of the “Sea Urchin Festival”, so we also stopped by there. There are few people because it was before the event started, and of course more and more people showed up later.

The sea urchin, raw and grilled. Both tasted great, with the kind of exclusive freshness you can expect only at the warf. Grilled octopus leg was also tasty.

Then we took the ferry back, got cheap train tickets in the town of Wakkanai and left by rail. Good sleep guaranteed aboard.

So it was the first time in a while for me, and it was fun. The borrowed bike had a lot to be desired especially with the seat and stem, but I’m grateful that it happened after all.

By the way, I adopted a new pedaling form recently, where the knees are spaced out as wide as the feet are so as to use the hip muscles efficiently. With the pedals going around for about 100,000 times during this trip, I’m psyched to think that I must have got it wired. Just as I say this, I realize that I kind of really love bicycles.

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