Grueling “Rooftop of Kyoto” Ridge Road Gravel Grind
Ancient Pre-Ride Ritual part of the Cycling Kyoto! narrative for hundreds of years ( It wasn't explained to me, and I didn't ask. ) -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 30mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ancient Pre-Ride Ritual
part of the Cycling Kyoto! narrative for hundreds of years
( It wasn't explained to me, and I didn't ask. )

Yesterday's cycling was a bit different from what I normally do of late. I was honored to be invited on Vincent Flanagan's annual Kyoto Rooftop birthday ride, on an often-gravel forestry road that follows the undulating ridgeline across 65km of mountains north of Kyoto. (You might remember Vincent from my bike fitting at Pedalforth.)

First we ride about 60km (37mi) northwest of Kyoto to get to the far end of the forestry road. Then snake around on the ridgeline road for about 65km (40mi) east. Then return home over Hanase Pass.

I added a little extra at the end, the easier half of a Kyoto Heart Loop, and ended up for the day riding 163km with 3,880m of climb (101mi with 12,700' of climb):

It was by far the most climb I've done in a day.

Because there are sections of heavy, rough gravel, I didn't want to use my road bike, so I dusted off my original Trek bike for the first real ride since this epic adventure last September.

Morning Meetup Vincent and Neil look too chipper for 6:30am -- Demachiyanagi Station -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Morning Meetup
Vincent and Neil look too chipper for 6:30am
Heading Across Town to meet up with another group -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 60mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading Across Town
to meet up with another group
The Gang's All Here L~R: Neil, Christoph, Tomas, Nigel, Vincent, Ryota, Antti, Joshua -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
The Gang's All Here
L~R: Neil, Christoph, Tomas, Nigel, Vincent, Ryota, Antti, Joshua

Until looking at the photo above, I'd never noticed the 25% Slope sign. The location is near the top of Kyoto’s Nasty 21% city-bike hill climb, and at the start of the descent there's an appropriate 21% slope sign. This one is a bit premature, and a bit incorrect.

Getting Started after the first little climb to Kyomi Pass (京見峠) -- Kyomi Pass (京見峠) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 25mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.8, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Started
after the first little climb to Kyomi Pass (京見峠)
Water Stop -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 25mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Water Stop
Little Descent -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Little Descent
Through Japanese Countryside -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Through Japanese Countryside
Through a Little Tunnel -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/80 sec, f/1.7, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
Through a Little Tunnel
More Gorgeous Countryside -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 31mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
More Gorgeous Countryside
More Fun Little Descents near Hiyoshi Dam (日吉ダム) -- Hiyoshi Dam (日吉ダム) -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
More Fun Little Descents
near Hiyoshi Dam (日吉ダム)
Last Refueling Stop for the day -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 33mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Last Refueling Stop
for the day

After about 2½ hours of riding, we got to the last store before we would enter the forestry road. There are no services whatsoever along the entire 65km-length of the road, so we'd not be able to buy drinks until exiting it toward the end of the day, nor get food until returning to Kyoto. So we stocked up here.

Just before entering the forestry road, we stopped by a little temple for a photo op...

Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

And then finally we started the day's ride proper.

Western Entrance to the Tanba Forestry Road 丹波広域基幹林道の西入口 -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Western Entrance
to the Tanba Forestry Road

丹波広域基幹林道の西入口

The road is closed to unofficial motor vehicles, but it's fine for bicycles and hikers.

Coincidentally, this road appeared on my previous post because the road I took that day crossed this one, though quite far from this morning's entrance point: it would be 4½ hours of rough riding before we'd get even that far.

Most folks walked their bikes around the gate, but some rode around...

Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

And so at 10am, we were off on the ride proper.

It starts out fairly steep, but I've given up trying to show steepness in photos... I just can't do it.

Take My Word For It this is steep -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Take My Word For It
this is steep

At least the pavement at the start is wonderful. Later, both the steepness and the road surface become worse. Much, much worse.

Road Slicing Through Rock the beauty of the construction often complimented the beauty of the nature it passed through -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Road Slicing Through Rock
the beauty of the construction often complimented
the beauty of the nature it passed through
King of the Mountain Vincent rode straight up the embankment -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
King of the Mountain
Vincent rode straight up the embankment

Here the road is rough gravel, and probably by this point has alternated numerous times among pavement, rough gravel, and compact gravel. The areas of rough gravel were quite tough for me when steep, either steeply descending or ascending. I'd ridden on parts of this road two other times, but something about today was much worse than I remember. The rough gravel seemed to be laid over a bed of quicksand that just grabbed the tires.

I've never walked through a pool of oatmeal up to my hips, but that's the mental image that came to me while riding some sections of this road.

Returning for a moment to my inability to capture steepness in a photo...

Doesn't Look So High -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Doesn't Look So High
But Here it Looks Very High -- Funai-gun -- Funai-gun, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/2000 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
But Here it Looks Very High

I just snapped these as I rode by. I suppose I should be able to learn something from this sequence about perspective and a sense of slope.

This Also Looks Very High 40 minutes into the climb -- Funai District -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 35mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
This Also Looks Very High
40 minutes into the climb

It's not uncommon to have beautiful vistas like the one above spoiled by power lines, but in these cases it's the presence of the power lines themselves that create the vistas. The only reason the view so steeply down wasn't obscured by vegetation is because it's kept clear for the power lines. You see the same effect here.

View Over the Edge -- Funai District -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
View Over the Edge

There was some discussion about the bridge we could see from that spot, with folks offering different ideas about what area we were looking at. I though it was hilarious when Christoph muttered That's Sanjo Bridge, you fools to no one in particular. (Sanjo Bridge is a location in Kyoto City where we often meet up for rides).

In reality, the bridge is the Nagase Bridge (長瀬大橋). Here's the view from the bridge up to where we took the photo, via Google Streetview:


View From Google Streetview
we were in the little clearing at the top center
New Rockfall the green indicates how new it is -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
New Rockfall
the green indicates how new it is
Waiting joking around while waiting for others fixing a flat -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Waiting
joking around while waiting for others fixing a flat
On The Move Again -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
On The Move Again
Road of Questionable Safety even with pristine tarmac, you couldn't be too careful -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Road of Questionable Safety
even with pristine tarmac, you couldn't be too careful
Road of Questionable Quality these sections were really unfun when going downhill, and worse still when going up -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Road of Questionable Quality
these sections were really unfun when going downhill, and worse still when going up
Theme for the Day -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Theme for the Day

Of the nine folks on the ride, four got punctures, though the two lucky folks above (Ryuta and Neil) got three punctures each.

Not long after I took this photo, the three of us were racing to catch up to the main group, who were likely 15~20 minutes ahead by the time we got moving. After a long set of wonderful downhills, I paused when I came across Vincent fixing a grate in the road, and waited for Neil and Ryuta. Neil arrived momentarily, but Ryuta never showed, even though he had just been right behind us. He must have gotten another flat, so I turned around to head back, and Vincent tossed me a spare innertube of an appropriate size for Ryuta's tire. 70m of vertical climb later, I came across him, and he appreciated Vincent's tube (and the new pump I'd bought after my day of many flats).

He didn't have another flat for the rest of the day, but he was certainly nervous about it for the rest of the day.

There was some correlation between type of bike (and hence type of tire) and the number of punctures. Particularly after my day of many flats, I didn't want to try this kind of gravel with a road bike, which is why I brought my Trek and its relatively new 32mm wide Scwalbe Marathon Plus tires.

But there's some matter of luck (or the lack thereof) as well. One experienced rider with 40mm-wide tires got a flat for no apparent reason.

Common Sight one reason, I'm sure, these roads are not open to public cars -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Common Sight
one reason, I'm sure, these roads are not open to public cars
Finally Caught up to the Group Hara Pass (原峠) -- Hara Pass (原峠) -- Nantan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Finally Caught up to the Group
Hara Pass (原峠)

This was three hours into the forestry road, and the first of the few places where the forestry road crosses a public road. This particular location is close to the photogenic scene that's appeared on my blog a couple of times.

An hour and a half of ups and downs later, we were finally at the place I mentioned before, where Gorm and I had crossed the forestry road in my previous post. This time we had no Gorm, but we did have antlers...

Ryuta Horsing Around (so to speak) with some antlers found along the way -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ryuta Horsing Around (so to speak)
with some antlers found along the way
Pristine Views wide, expansive views with no evidence whatsoever of human presence -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Pristine Views
wide, expansive views with no evidence whatsoever of human presence
Ugly -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ugly

Some of the ugliest sections of road awaited us, with 11~12% gradients both up and down, with loose sandy rubble as the road surface. It's been a long while since I had any worry about falling over while riding clipped in, but on some of these steep uphill gravely sections I grew quite worried about losing traction, seeing my forward motion suddenly stop, and falling over before I could unclip my foot. I felt immature as a cyclist to have this worry, until I found out that two very experienced riders in the group had actually fallen over for exactly that reason. It brought to mind the Japanese proverb Even Monkeys Fall from Trees.

In any case, these sections were not fun at all. I'd done them twice before without such a strongly-negative feeling, so maybe it was the condition of the road this day, or of me.

I brought 3½ liters of drink with me (almost a full gallon!) for the forestry-road section of the ride, but it was running low, so when I came across a mini road-side waterfall created by recent rains, I took the opportunity to fill up my bottle....

Filling From Nature's Tap -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Filling From Nature's Tap

I also had an empty 2L bottle that I filled up, for the less-prepared folks waiting at the summit of the ride.

Summit of the Ride Nabetani Pass (鍋谷峠) 818m Elevation -- Nabetani Pass (鍋谷峠) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 33mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Summit of the Ride
Nabetani Pass (鍋谷峠) 818m Elevation

The road undulates wildly up and down, but this particular up is the highest of the entire 65km length of road. There's a little marker indicating so:

High Point (photo from a ride a year earlier.) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 40mm — 1/320 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
High Point
(photo from a ride a year earlier.)
Vincent on his Birthday Throne -- Nabetani Pass (鍋谷峠) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 50mm — 1/125 sec, f/5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Vincent on his Birthday Throne
More “ Road Through Rock ” Scenery this is more common in the eastern areas ( I would not want to be here during an earthquake or heavy rain ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
More Road Through Rock Scenery
this is more common in the eastern areas
( I would not want to be here during an earthquake or heavy rain )
Little Village -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic LX100 at an effective 75mm — 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Little Village

This is another photo from a year ago, one of the rare places you could see clearly down into a valley (without power lines, that is). This village is on the road leading to Sasari Pass, which I'd taken with Gorm the other day.

I finally exited the forestry road at about 4:15pm, more than six hours after entering. A few folks had exited much earlier, and others would still take a while due to flats, but once we were all out and had restocked our drinks at a vending machine, we headed home over Hanase Pass. The non-gravel road surface gave me renewed energy, and I gave the 30-minute climb some effort, but I missed my PR by 23 seconds. Drat.

I really did not like the heavy gravel sections — it's just not my cup of tea — but otherwise it was a great day with great folks.


One comment so far...

Hi Jeffrey, writing to you from Maryland, USA. Have to ask, the photos where the other riders are riding – are you dismounted or taking those while riding? I find it really challenging to take photos of other riders in my group while we are actually riding, without getting dropped in the process. 🙂

Most are taken while riding. I’m by far the weakest rider of the bunch, but it was a social ride. —Jeffrey

— comment by Fuad Kamal on June 29th, 2016 at 1:15am JST (11 months, 27 days ago) comment permalink
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