From the last signs of a winter with record-breaking snowfall, to unusual warmth that has brought early cherry blossoms in Tokyo, March has been a meteorologically mixed month in Japan. Fukushima prefecture, further north and more mountainous, is still cool. Snow remains on the peaks around Koriyama, but the roads are now ice-free, and safe for cycling.
We’ve spent the month getting ready for our planned trips in April and May. We’ve been receiving and testing out equipment, and building up our daily cycling distances. As ever, we’ve been reading cycle touring journals and articles from around the web, the cream of which we’ve collated into the reading list below.
This month saw the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The subsequent tsunami caused damage throughout the Tohoku region, including to the nuclear power station in our home prefecture of Fukushima. Two years on, and many people are still suffering. Cyclists are contributing to charitable efforts through sponsored rides. We supported the Tokyo Brits (link) ride with a donation, and we signed up to participate in two local rides as part of Cycle Aid Japan (link). You can find out more at our post about charity cycling in Tohoku here.
The biggest news of the month is that our bikes have arrived! Well, kind of – they’ve been delivered the bike shop. Mr Sato emailed us near the start of the month to let us know, and to ask for our dynamo hubs so he could build them into our wheels. Though our bikes will be ready a little earlier, various scheduling conflicts mean we’ve pencilled in April 6th as the day we collect them. We’re very excited! In Japan uncovered bicycles are forbidden on trains, but bagged bicycles are daijobu. Kan Cycling’s guide (link) to Bike Bags in Japan has been very useful. The imminent arrival of our bikes got us thinking about the best way to prepare them before our planned trips, and that got us thinking about the Cycle Touring Question of the Week that we’re working on now. When it’s ready, you can read about it here (link). Other gear arrived too: Laura’s panniers and lights, our pump, our sleeping bags. As the snow thawed, we took advantage of a midweek public holiday to try erecting our tent. This time next week, we’ll have virtually everything we need for our spring tours.
This month we signed up for a course of cycle touring newsletters via Bicycle Touring Pro (link). The advice that his newsletters contains is great for newcomers to cycle touring, and offers useful reminders for old hands too. We also signed up for the cycle journal network Crazy Guy On a Bike (profile). We often spend a spare hour browsing through other people’s touring journals for inspiration and ideas, and we’re looking forward to contributing to the community too. We’ll be journaling our springtime overnight (info) there, and our Honshu Coast to Coast ride too. Lastly, the improved weather means we’ve been building up our cycling distances in advance of those two trips. Our dawn rides along the Abukuma river have brought us close to the smells and sounds of springtime, and to the sight of creatures getting ready for more active days ahead. Just like us.
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Our top cycle touring story this month is Tom Bruce’s journey through the Karakalpakstan desert. He carried 23 litres of water through temperatures of 43 degrees Celsius, so hot that his tyres exploded. It’s a great read.
We really like Sidetracked Magazine, a carefully curated online collection of inspiring stories of adventure, travel, exploration and expedition. Among the tales of Arctic surveys and solo Atlantic boat crossings, there are some fascinating cycle touring stories too. We enjoyed Michael Kroese’s decription of his journey on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and we shuddered and winced as Eleanor Moseman recounted a painful and perilous afternoon in Tajikstan.
For a beautiful portrait of a journey across Scotland by bicycle and ferry, look no further than this wonderful diary entry by Cycling Scot. Not only does he describe the trip elegantly in words and pictures, but also he offers advice for anybody wishing to make a similar journey themselves.
Del and Kayla are preparing for tour of the contiguous US states. All forty-eight of them. Their blog covers their preparations, and this post covers their first training expedition. It was especially pertinent for us, as we are also about to set out for the first time with our new gear. We liked their upbeat tone, despite bad weather and disturbed sleep, and their nice photos.
Lastly, we were really impressed with Ian Street’s post about ideas for cycling activities to help the city of Leeds celebrate hosting the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. The visit of Tour is a real opportunity to raise the profile of all kinds of cycling in the UK, through ideas like those Ian has suggested.