Hokkaido Cycling Conditions

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
18
Posted on Aug 1, 2018
0 18
Overall, Hokkaido has some of the most comfortable cycle touring conditions in Japan. It is cool in the summer months, traffic is well behaved, the roads are generally wide and quiet, and the climbs are not overly steep. Hokkaido's charm, however, is in its rough edges - its frontier end-of-the-world feeling. The long winter takes its toll on the roads, so you can expect a few more undulations than further south in Japan. In mid-winter, you can expect full deep-winter expedition-cycling conditions.

Last updated Dec 6, 2018

  • Road conditions: For all intents and purposes, the roads in Hokkaido are beautiful smooth pavement. Note however, that at The Hokkaido Wilds, we have a particular penchant for gravel off-the-beaten-track routes, so many of the routes on the site include at least half a day of gravel, to keep things interesting. Those gravel sections are rough and steep, so consider a detour if that’s not your cup’o tea.
  • Weather and climate: Early May is the absolute earliest, and mid-November the absolute latest you can cycle tour in Hokkaido without it being a ‘winter’ tour. Earlier and later that this, and there will be snow on the ground and you’ll have to be prepared for shoveling snow as part of setting up camp. Most of the gravel routes and many of the cycle roads will be closed due to snow. Throughout the summer season (late July to early September), however, expect temperatures up to 30 degrees during the daytime, down to 10 degrees overnight.
  • Forestry road riding: The great typhoons of 2015/2016 have caused extensive damage to many of the gravel forestry roads in Hokkaido. Repair of many of the upper reaches of these roads is unlikely any time soon, so you’ll need to be very self-reliant when scouting routes. Take a look at our most recent Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route Scouting Tour for some examples. If you do find some open forestry roads, expect anything from smooth well-packed dirt to bone-jarring, washed out, rocky surfaces. Obey all signs posted.
  • Tunnels: Older tunnels in Hokkaido are some of Japan’s worst. Think sidewalk-less chasms of death which suck a cyclist in, terrorizes them, and if they’re lucky, spits them out the other end with only mild PTSD. The newer tunnels (of which there are an increaing number), are lovely though. Well lit with a very wide, raised sidewalk for cyclists and pedestrians.
Equally quiet roads along the coast near Konbumori, Hokkaido, Japan
Trans-Hokkaido Bikepacking Route (beta) | Cycling towards the Niniu road (Route 610) from Hobetsu Campgrond

Comments | Queries | Discussion

18 thoughts on “Hokkaido Cycling Conditions”

    1. Good question John! I would say either June (spring time) or September (coming into autumn). July and August are fine as well, but you’ll get more hot days in August. In the end, you can’t really go wrong with any month from June till September in Hokkaido.

  1. Hello Rob,
    Is a self-guided cycling tour in Hokkaido reasonable for those who do not speak or read Japanese? We will have a Garmin 830 to upload GTX files for the routes. Can you recommend any self guided tour companies? We are looking for a local company that will plan the specific route, and arrange for rental bikes and luggage transfer. In an earlier reply, you mentioned both Adventure Hokkaido and Cycling Japan, but neither appear to have self guided cycling tours?
    Thank you for your assistance.

    1. Hi Nino, for sure, self-guided cycle touring is well within possibility! I recommend contacting Adventure Hokkaido. They don’t have any self-guided cycle tours on their website (https://www.adventure-hokkaido.com/self-guided-tours/), but they may be able to arrange something if you ask them. Journey into Japan also appears to have some self-guided options: https://journeyintojapan.com/self-guided-cycle-hokkaido#cycle-hokkaido-self-guided. I hope this helps!

  2. Celia Wan Yu Ho

    Hi Rob
    wondering if this route is doable at the beginning of Oct?
    We want to cycle in hokkaido but we arrive end of sept, any tips and suggestions?

    1. Hey Celia, which route are you talking about in particular? All of the cycling routes in Hokkaido are still doable in October, but nights will be a bit cooler, below 10degC.

  3. I’m just about to head to Korea and have ‘tacked’ a month in Japan on the end so I’m just here to say I’m V grateful to have found this resource – looks SICK 😀

  4. Chad K Taniguchi

    Going from Sapporo to Shiretoko and back in a circle, along the coast, is it better to go clockwise for better view of ocean? If ease of cycling through wind was main concern is clockwise better than counterclockwise?

    1. Hey Chad, the summer prevailing wind in Hokkaido is generally from the southeast. So, if you can manage it so the coastal portion of the trip is heading back to Sapporo, that would be best. In terms of actual view of the ocean, I’m not sure either direction is any different – both really nice.

      1. Hi Rob,
        The details are not so certain but I am planning to do a solo bikepacking trip circling around the north half of Hokkaido above Sapporo all along the coastline. Probably it will begin on August 30 and take 10-15 days.
        My setup must be fairly light and minimal since I won’t have panniers. The plan is to use the campgrounds on the way mostly. There are many questions I want to ask but, above all, I wonder about the weather conditions. It will definitely affect how much and what I have to carry. I need to be prepared accordingly beforehand.
        I would be grateful if you can tell about how the weather usually goes there in the first half of September on the coasts, what sort of wear gear are better to choose and so on.
        Any other advices you like to share are also much appreciated. Thanks

        1. Hi Sinan, the weather in the first half of September can be cold at night (down to 15degC), but is generally warm during the day (up to around 25degC). It can rain at any time of the year, so you need to be prepared for any sort of weather. I hope this helps.

          1. Hello Rob,
            I plan to cycle from Sapporo to Wakkanai and back in late August to mid September this year. I would like to go inland via Bifuka one way and along the west coast via Shosanbetsu the other way. Which way should I cycle the west coast to get the best winds – north to south, or south to north?
            Regards, Terri

          2. Hey Terri, along the coast you might find more tailwinds pedalling south to north, as Hokkaido gets a southeast prevailing wind in summer. Hope you get only tailwinds and downhills on your trip 🙂

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Hokkaido Cycling Conditions 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.