SSA’s Central Sapporo Winter Fatbike Touring Route

Posted on Jan 28, 2019
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Posted on Jan 28, 2019

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Reading time: 2 min
15km

Distance

0.5 days

Time

100m

Ascent

25m

Highest point

3/10

Difficulty

20%

Paved

NOTE: While winter cycling is growing in popularity in Sapporo City, it is still somewhat of a fringe activity, with varying degrees of acceptance among the populace. Please cycle with an extra degree of defensiveness and always allow pedestrians right of way.

This 2-3 hour winter cycling route, developed by Arimori-san at Sapporo Sightseeing Adventures (SSA), cuts through central Sapporo City, taking in some historical and scenic sights along the way. It is best enjoyed on a fatbike, but any mountain bike with good winter tires would also be suitable. The route passes over the grand Toyohira River, past the impressive Sapporo Gokoku Shrine, and through Nakajima Park before making its way across Odori Park, Hokkaido University, and back to Toyohira Ward. We did the trip guided by Arimori-san (on his client-use fatbikes), but if you've got your own bike, it can also be a great, self-guided way to see some of the winter city sights.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This winter city cycling route makes a large loop through and around central Sapporo City in Hokkaido. The route officially starts and finishes at Southern Wind Bike Shop (here), but if you’ve got your own bike, then you can of course start anywhere along the route.

General notes

This route will suit both complete snow-biking beginners (under the guidance of Arimori-san), those who happen to be in Sapporo with their own fatbike or suitable mountain bike (studded tires highly recommended), or even visiting cycling/snow-biking veterans wanting a unique, half-day active jaunt around Sapporo City with a guide. Unfortunately, as of winter 2018/2019 there isn’t anywhere in Sapporo that rents out bicycles suitable for winter riding, but on Arimori-san’s guided tours, he can provide up to 5 fatbikes for clients for the duration of the tour. Arimori-san also does fatbiking night tours around Sapporo City (see it here). He offers the guided tours in English or Japanese.

  • Fatbike rental: As of January 2019, we don’t know of anywhere that rents out fatbikes in Sapporo City.
  • Disclaimer: When our friend Mr. Arimori-san from Southern Wind Bicycles mentioned to us that he was setting up a winter fatbike guided tour business in Sapporo City (website here), our ears pricked up. Astonishingly, no one has offered something like this in Sapporo City before. As winter-long cyclists here in Sapporo, this surprised us – Sapporo has some really beautiful locations, made even more beautiful when covered in a fresh layer of snow. So when Arimori-san asked Rob to join in on a ‘monitor tour’ (to get feedback on the route etc), he jumped at the opportunity. Arimori-san kindly allowed us to share this beta route on the Hokkaido Wilds. See the daytime tour here, and the nighttime tour here. His English is pretty good, and his pure effervescent enthusiasm is contagious. The fatbikes he provides to clients are all customized KHS fatbikes (brand new for the 2019 season).
  • Follow Sapporo Sightseeing Adventures: Instagram, Website, Trip Advisor

Route markers

This route is not marked.

Route Timing

If moving at a very leisurely pace, this route will take up to 3 hours to complete. This includes wandering around the Sapporo Gokoku Shrine, stopping at other sights, and a quick lunch at the Hokkaido University cafeteria.

Physical maps

Explore the official Japan topomaps online for the area around Central Sapporo City here. Follow these instructions to print out the area you would like as a hardcopy.

Route safety

Unless you’re accustomed to cycling in traffic in winter in Sapporo, we’d highly recommend just pottering along the sidewalks on this route. It depends a lot on the condition of the road (i.e., when it was last cleared), but the roads can be somewhat of a sand-pit or an ice-rink. Also note that pedestrians have right of way on the sidewalks, so always call out a friendly ‘konnichi-wa‘ when passing, to let them know you’re coming past. Generally pedestrians won’t be expecting anyone on a bicycle.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Central Sapporo City
Other resources
Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments.
Onsen nearby

If you’re cycling this route self-guided, and you’re up for a soak during or after the ride, there’s a large super-sento, Gokuraku-yu (スーパー銭湯 極楽湯, 440yen per person) just off the route here.

Photo Gallery

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Route Trip Notes

We haven’t got too much to add here, apart from that the route that Arimori-san took us on for this monitor tour ticked all the boxes in terms of attractions. Nakajima Park, Hokkaido University campus, Gokoku Shrine, Seikatei historical house, and the Toyohira River. No doubt he will refine and hone the trip more as he gets his first clients on the bikes on the route. He announced the launch of the tours in early January 2019, and as of the end of January, he has a number of English-speaking groups lined up for February. As a cycle-technician cum cycle-law expert cum Sapporo historian, he’s a mine of nuggets of Japan and Sapporo cycling trivia.

It was quite interesting to chat to Arimori-san about his motivations for setting up the tours. He explained that traditionally, due to a sharp drop-off in demand for bikes in winter in Sapporo, most bike shop owners in Sapporo more or less shut up shop during the winter, and offered other services, such as snow clearing. Arimori-san, however, feels that there needs to be somewhat of a renaissance in winter cycling in Sapporo, with bike shops leading the charge. “We need to change residents’ attitudes towards cycling in winter,” he argued. “If we can get more people out on fatbikes, enjoying cycling in winter, then we can show that winter doesn’t need to be a time when you have to give up one’s healthy cycling lifestyle. It would, of course, also be beneficial for bike shops’ bottom line – everyone wins.”

Arimori-san is not the only one trying to change the winter cycling culture in Hokkaido. Sam’s Bike, another favourite bike store of ours, with their new in-store cafe, is helping nurture people out onto their bikes, even in winter.  

Back to the route on this page…many readers of the Hokkaido Wilds may be locals with their own bikes, so we’d recommend perhaps dropping by Ajito for lunch (a great local vegan place that Haidee loves, here), and having a post-ride soak at the central Sapporo Gokuraku Sento (here). Either way, this route gives a solid lay-of-the-land overview of the city, and is well worth the time in order to get a feel for winter cycling in Sapporo.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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