Enjoying colorful early autumn cycling near Tokyo – Gunma and Nikko

Cycling through the bright yellows and the reds of the autumn mountains is the favourite time of year to ride for many cyclists, myself included!

The Gear – autumn cycling temperatures can vary

The mountains of Gumna can be quite high and temparture vary a lot from me station area. The higher passes can have snow and be below freezing. Consequently, I would definitely recommend a good pair of gloves and layers.

Location

The large number of mountains around Tokyo make it an ideal jumping off point to get to the fall colours.

With roads reaching as high as 2000m above sea level within easy reach of Tokyo using Japan’s extensive train network. Bicycles can be taken on any train in the country so long as they are put in a bag. The train to Gumna (Jomokogen Station) is about an hour and a half from Tokyo Station and the return from Nikko is about 2 hours.

The Route – Gunma to Nikko (Mid to late October)

Sporra Route – Gunma to Nikko

One of the small rapids along the Teruhakyo Gorge

This first route is pretty hardcore in terms of going over a pair of quite high passes. It is complete with all the scenery that autumn cycling promises. The colors on the way up make me want to continually stop and take photos. Starting climbing up from Minakami into the mountains is fairly light on traffic, save the first few kilometers. After passing through the past hot spring town, the road narrows and passes through Teruhakyo Gorge which is famous for it’s waterfalls along side the winding road. While, the name gorge might sound like it’s a harsh road, it stays under 5%.

Riding up through the Teruha-Kyo Gorge – full colour

Once over that first pass, Kenroku Pass, it’s a beatiful descent into Tokura, the entrance to Oze, and then lighter descent back to the main road, Route 120.

Kenroku Pass – Above the autumn colours but still looks great

Route 120 is the highest climb of the ride with a two lane road leading all the way up to Konsei Pass. It’s a two lane road the entire way up and generally traffic is fairly light so cycling is enjoyable. However, on weekdays the road can be largely empty so try and do this ride on a. At 1935m it’s one of the highest paved mountain passes in Japan. At this time of year when the lower altitudes are in full autumn glory, the higher altitudes can have snow. Please be careful, particularly on the descent. Konei Pass has a tunnel at the peak but it’s fairly short and traffic is light.

From Konsei pass, it’s a descent into the Senjogohara plain. The descent (video Below) offers great views of Mt. Nantai (one of the 100 mountains of Japan) as well as the lake at it’s base.

After crossing the Senjogahara Plain,it’s down the famous Irohazaka and down into the Nikko Station area. The road along the lake can be and the Irohazaka can be a traffic Jam at this time of year.

Recovery

For those weary legs after a day of climbing, there is a hotstpring that for just 700yen you can have a good soak

Yashio-no-yu Natural hot spring.