SSA’s Central Sapporo Winter Fatbike Touring Route

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

77 0

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Distance

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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.

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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.

GPX route file download

KML route file download

Topographical Map

Route Map

Need to know details

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General notes

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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
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Onsen nearby
Windy.com weather forecast for Central Sapporo City

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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.

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SSA’s Central Sapporo Winter Fatbike Touring Route Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.