- 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.
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