Now in its third year, Alps Route Japan is still the toughest cycling challenge in Japan. Over seven consecutive days, riders tackle some of the highest mountains in Japan, and the world. The distance is a staggering 900km, while the climbing is a few metres shy of 19,000m, that is two Mt. Everest’s stacked on top of each other. However, for all the big numbers that come with such cycling challenges, the amazing thing is the camaraderie that forms as the tour progresses. New acquaintances become friends then become mates as they become bound to a unique bond; a bond of those who have struggled together. It is a magical process and those who endure, fight and battle become locked to the stories and the all knowing nod of ‘alright mate’ as they pass each other back and forth on another climb. It is connection of warriors, a connection of the Samurai and a tribute to just how tough it was and how they have shared those moments together. It is an extremely pure mate-ship.
“…acquaintances become friends, then become mates…”
Recovery gets harder, but the climbs get easier as the tour enters the latter stages. Legs adapt and what was once a steep 8% grade, seems to end up looking flat as steep is replaced by grueling 20% pinches. RideJapan and course designer Adam Cobain like to give its riders something steep enough to really complain about and Alps Route Japan has no shortage of 15+% gradients.
“There is no shortage of WTF corners in Japan. Mt. Fuji Azami Line is 12km of WTF,” says Adam Cobain.
What Adam is talking about is the dreaded and infamous Azami Line, one of the Mt. Fuji climbs that meets at the lofty 5th Station more than 2200m above sea level. He knows it well, having jointly Everested the climb in August 2016 with Everesting machine Dave Edwards from With All I Have. The Azami Line is neatly positioned as the last climb of the tour for a reason, it is brutal. 12km at an average of 12%. However, those stats don’t really do the climb justice, because jammed between the mind-messing distance markers at 6km through to 8.5km is a section near 20%. To ride it on fresh legs is tough, to ride with one ascent up Mt. Fuji and 130km already in the legs is tougher, to do it at the the end of 7 days riding and with 850km and nearly 19000m in the the legs is beyond torture.
“Sounds Fun! Where do I sign up!”
Beyond the torture of Mt. Fuji, there is a lot to enjoy off the bike and RideJapan serves up a great balance of accommodation, meals and experiences. You may just want to put the legs up after each day, but whether you have energy or not, you are well looked after and there is never a hot spring (onsen) too far away to help refresh the legs for the next day. Alps Route Japan is a tribute to high mountains and hard riding. So if you are looking for that next big cycling challenge and are curious about what the hype of Japan is all about, this is the tour for you.
Visit the tour page here.