The most difficult part of this trip was certainly the prep work I did *before* the trip even started. There were so many aspects of a multi-day trip that don’t apply to my normal rides. In addition to making sure the bicycle itself was ready to ride I also had to worry about lots of other things. The portions written in BOLD are the notes I’ve written after the trip, so you can learn from what I’ve learnt.
–Buying ‘Panniers’ (bike bags) Should they be hard or soft? How big is too big? Do they need to be waterproof or will a raincover be good enough? Is the mounting system compatiable with my bike’s frame? How do I install them? How many do I need? I ended up buying soft bags for the rear of the bike from ‘Ostrich’, a Japanese company. As far as price goes, I’d say they’re middle of the road. Not cheap, not expensive. The Soft bags were really nice to handle going in and out of the hotel. Even though I checked the weather several times a day I still got caught in the rain. My water ‘resistant’ bags were FINE. Mounting and unmounting the bags was only a problem the first day. With a little practice it was easy. Front bags may have been nice to spread out the weight of all my stuff, but if I’d had the extra space, I probably would have just loaded them with stuff I didn’t need. I thought I’d packed pretty light. Next time, I’d take even less. Carrying the heavy bags up stairs at the end of the day SUCKED.
-Making a Checklist of what I really NEED versus what I would like to take. This was essential, as I had wanted to take MUCH more than I really needed. Even still, the bags were heavier than they should have been. My laptop will NOT be coming along next time!
-Finding a route. I’m a big fan of the website MapMyRide.com Their maps and mapping tools are great. But on the bike, I didn’t know if I’d have internet or how reliable it would be. I decided to buy and ‘offline’ map which I could download to my phone and use with it’s built in GPS to guide me without internet. I’d also go “old school” and buy a book of high detail maps. Keeping my phone in ‘flight mode’ would turn out to really extend battery life. The map book was not used. Not even once.
–Figuring out my average daily ride distance, by finding the total distance of the ride, dividing by the number of days and leaving some extra to account for bad weather. I may end up riding in the rain, but I’d like to avoid it if I can! Then finding suitable places to stay near where I expected to be at the end of each day. Did a pretty good job of this. I did learn that effort and distance are not related. 38km through a busy city is a LOT harder than 75km on a flat road in the country.
–Booking the hotels for the first few days. The rest I’ll do as I go. This also worked well. I didn’t have any problems booking hotels as I went.
–Buying supplies that I normally wouldn’t take on a short ride: Bike tools, spare parts, emergency food, water and a medical kit. Hey, you never know when you’re travelling out in the countryside alone! I did end up eating and drinking some of this as some of the places where I thought I would find supplies didn’t have *anything*.
–Calculating cost and withdrawing enough money for the entire trip. I do NOT recommend this, but since my personal bank card only works at one specific bank in Japan, I didn’t want to take chances. In the smaller towns they may not have that bank. I took too much money. Risking loss or theft, I really shouldn’t have done this. But…I didn’t have problems…
–Making backup plans, like explaining my route and estimated time of arrival for the trip to several of my friends. Worst case, at least somebody would coming looking in a few days. I also looked for several alternate options to shorten or lengthen the trip depending on how it all goes. I arrived exactly on time at the end of the trip and checked in with *someone* every single night as soon as I stopped riding. No problems.
Now that all the work is out of the way, you can read about the ride itself and see some of the pictures I took along the way:
Day 4, Arrival in Nagoya