We woke to rain today. It would have been a welcome change had it not been for the temperatures. That is to say, despite the rain, it was still muggy. The insects seemed to be liking it however, and this particularly curious creature captured our attention.
Curious creatures aside, after a breakfast of breads and cereal, we careened down the hill to begin our ride to Lake Toya.
The countryside scenery really is lovely here. I wouldn’t call today’s scenery spectacular, but definitely lovely. Flowers, green fields, gentle ups and downs.
Just outside of the small town of Rutsutsu, the troupe decided to split up into two groups. The boys and the girls. The boys (Rowland and I) wanted to take a side road which, on the map, connected with the main road we were on travelling towards Lake Toya. Regardless of what road we were to take, we all got drenched. The skies opened soon after we parted ways into our two groups, and it rained for a good solid hour. Rowland and I enjoyed our side road, however. A steep climb up to a small pass connected us with a gravel road which would take us back down to the main road leading to the lake.
Rowland was on an old-school 12-speed Miyata bike with skinny tires. I was on the mighty Surly Karate Monkey. As a result, Rowland’s ride down the gravel road was bumpy and out of control. My ride was plush and smooth. A long tour on gravel roads would be a very pleasant experience on the big 29-inch wheels of the Karate Monkey, me thinks. In fact, even the odd corrugations in the gravel did not both me much on the big-wheeled mountain bike. Coupled with a set of touring handlebars, the bike was a real pleasure to ride. I would say that the single speed gearing of the Karate Monkey (33t at the front + 17t at the back + Truativ Firex 1.1 + 29-inch wheels = 56.5 gear inches) is near perfect for all-round cycling. Even with a load on the bike. So far on the tour, I have not come across any situation when I had to stop and push the bike, but so far I have not had to cycle up steep gravel/side roads…I think that could be a situation where the single speed proves fatal on a bicycle tour. In other words, while gears would be the obvious preferred choice (I have a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub on order), this particular single speed setup on the Karate Monkey is great for day-to-day riding and on-road cycle touring. It bears mention that I do use SPD pedals. I think the situation could be different if I was not clipped in and using decent stiff soled cycle shoes. That is to say, on the uphills, I have spent most of my time standing up. Essentially spending up to three hours on a glorified stepping machine (albeit with much more interesting scenery than in a stuffy gym). This is doable though.
The downhill on the gravel road was over far too soon, and in no time Rowland and I were re-united with the ladies on the shores of Lake Toya. The Mizu no eki local produce shop sold us bowls of steaming noodles in soup, and I bought some corn which was so sweet, it could be eaten raw (peeling it first is always tastier).
Due to our early start and short distance (about 25km), we arrived at Lake Toya at around 10am. Not feeling like we had done enough exercise for the copious amounts of delicious foods we were consuming on this trip (which was becoming increasingly more like an eating tour punctuated by short spurts of cycling), a quick blat around the lake to the township on the other side was proposed and accepted by all.
We got rained on a couple more times during the 3 hour excursion (Lake Toya township is a dump, by the way; decrepit old abandoned hotels and the main street is open to all traffic, including long-haul trucks), but enjoyed the trip.
Route Map – the boys’ route is the bit to the right of the main road