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Motorcycle Paradise

Japan Ride 2010

Despite a major incident on tour I again enjoyed riding in Japan.

My original plan got washed out due to the unseasonal arrival of a typhoon off the coast of Japan at the same time I had booked the motorcycle rental. I waited till the last minute scanning the weather reports and reluctantly cancelled the booking. Fortunately the company has a clause that allows you to cancel without penalty due to unforeseen bad weather. I then was lucky to be able to secure the CB1100 for the following week, at first it was showing as unavailable for that period however a phone call revealed it was ok.

Shops open 10.00 in Tokyo and thus by the time I had the paperwork and everything done it was 11.00 and midday before I was out of town. First day destination was Isu, and to ride the Hakone Skyline and neighboring roads. The Hakone Skyline would have to be a near perfect road for motorcycle riding. With spectacular views from high up on the mountain ridge, the ocean far below on one side the a lake on the other it would be nice even with a few corners however it has numerous and they all seem to have been surveyed by a rider such is the perfect radiuses. The CB1100 was showing itself to be a very capable machine, comfy on the highways yet good handling in the mountains.





Next day I rode around the base of Mt Fuji. Lovely ride amongst the autumn foliage with Mt Fuji popping into view in breaks of the trees to the side. You are already up quite high hugging the side of the mountain before it gets very steep and can look down below on the city of Gotenba which is where I stayed the night before. Amazing that these roads barely rate a mention in the Japan best rides yet I could spend the day just riding around Fuji.




After this I again hopped on the highways, which are all toll roads in Japan, and headed north west to Suwa to ride what was my favorite road last time, the Venus Line. You see a portion of the Venus line every visit to Motorcycle Paradise, the header photo was taken there. I really enjoyed this road again, it is as good as it looks. Unfortunately descending down the other side I had a unexpected incident.





Dropping down the western side I was in the shade and the temperature was cold. The road had some tight switchbacks, after rounding one switchback I saw a motorcycle rider down on the road ahead in the middle of some water run off across the road. I slowed with the intention to stop near the rider and entered the wet section of road to then realize the water was mostly frozen to ice. A few things flashed through my mind, ‘that’s why the other rider is on the ground’ ‘maybe I can make it’  and ‘it’s impossibly slippery’ before the bike slide out from under me.

After trying to get up and slipping back over on the sheet of ice I checked myself over and seemed ok and then crawled over to the bike and it seemed ok also, lucky I was nearly stopped. Broken indicator, some scratches to engine cover and mirror and instrumentation pod. After a short while some riders come over to help me and we managed to get the bike up and off the first sheet of ice (no mean feat) and then over another sheet to get to where it can be wheeled clear via the left hand gutter which was full of freezing water but free of ice. The other guy that was on the ground was part of this group and had been leading coming up the range and like me had not been able to see the ice hidden amongst the water in the shade until on top of it.

So after about an hour of cleaning myself and the bike up and checking everything over and helping others I thanked my fellow riders and headed off down the rest of the range. At the bottom I pulled into some shops to get a bite to eat and a coffee and when trying to set the steering lock found out the key would not releaseso thought maybe bars are bent but now think it was Hondas HISS security thinking someone had tried to steal bike. So over some very late lunch I had two thoughts troubling me, chance of more ice on the other alpine roads and the bike seems ok but obviously cannot lock it at night was a problem. I decided to change my plans and not attempt the other two high alpine passes I had mapped out and to return south to Isu which I got to after dark. Had been a long day. 



The riding along the north west coast of Isu was wonderful next to the ocean with Mt Fuji on display across the water.The hills behind this are also very nice to ride, I wandered from road to road and didn't find anything not to like, wonderful low traffic curvy mountain roads. I could east spend a few more days riding and exploring around there and the rest of Isu, a really nice area of Japan that is so close to Tokyo.



Finally though I had to return to the big smoke and rounded off the ride with the famous (in Japan) Isu Skyline and roads around Hakone and then the Toyo tyre turnpike before heading back to the bike shop to see what I was going to have to pay excess on the bike insurance. These roads along with Hakone skyline are all toll roads which for a rider cost between 250 to 400 yen at the toll booth (touch more than $2.50 to $4.00).




The excess on the bike was less then $500 which was a relief and the shop was fine about it not agro or really worried. As for the CB itself I really liked it. Surprisingly good handling, very easy to ride, brakes were fine, engine is in a low state of tune so has a broad spread of power and it looks great. My criticisms are the fuel range with the small tank could be better, the seat is a little low for most people and despite looking nice Honda could have still done a bit more on the bike styling wise for the money being asked eg. quad exhausts more retro tank, spoke wheels.  I do still like it a lot and if I had one would make it look more like the original CB’s which could be done quite easy. I’ll think about it, if they bring the ABS model over that would more tempting.

I really enjoyed riding in Japan again. The roads are amazing quality and the mountain toll roads seem to be very low traffic and not be policed. I guess I tried to ride too high too late in the season yet the other riders at the ice said they had just come over many passes and there was no ice anywhere else. Not getting very cold here it’s something I have never experienced before. Riding in the traffic in Japan is a nightmare so you do need to factor in the added expense of using the highway system which is all toll roads. Much like last time my fuel bill was about equal to my road toll bill, however hotels there are cheap and include breakfast as well and you can eat very cheap there as well which evens things out. See my last posts on Japan for some more info. I stayed at the Super Hotel chain this time and rented the bike from Rental 819.



  1. Great report as usual. Glad you're ok after your bike-curling incident.

    Looks like I'm definitely going to have add Japan to my list of riding destinations. I had a poke around in Google Maps using my patented "look for twisty roads" method of gauging riding desirability, and was amazed at how many green and twisty roads there are.

  2. Great post IC. Sounds like you had a fantastic trip, and its good that you weren't injured during the icey slide.

    Great to read a "real world" review of the CB1100. Well looks great in the photos, i'm looking forward to taking one for a test ride some day.



  3. Japan has some amazing roads Rob, the alps are nearly as high as Europe but roads are even better quality thanks to Japan spending insane amounts of money of infrastructure in the middle of nowhere to buy votes in marginal seats.

    The CB1100 is a really good bike Anthony, reserve will come up about 200km which is not really a problem for me. Engine almost feels like a triple it has very broad spread of power so you can simply roll on and off in one gear. Bike gives a lot of confidence to rider and corners with a very neutral feel. You really can just enjoy the ride and forget about the bike. I am tempted by it despite not being in the market.

  4. Nice road report! It is always great to read from places that I will probably never touch with two wheels. I am surprised that the roads are not more crowded, since Japan is a very dense populated area.
    Ice on the road sucks. Been there a few times myself, but was lucky so far. I am glad that you weren't seriously hurt in the accident.

  5. The towns and cities are very crowded and you will crawl along in the traffic. There is a set of traffic lights every block in every direction, none of which are timed together so even a small journey can take a frustrating amount of time.

    The country side however is low population and confined mostly to the flat land where rice is usually grown. Once you climb any hill you generally leave all behind and will find very few if any houses, perhaps a temple and the odd cafe at the top of very tall mountains, however I note that many of these are closed, the economics in Japan outside of the mega cities is in very bad shape now.


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