Traveling through the gorgeous rural scenery in the Suwa area of Nagano surrounded by lakes, valleys, mountains and forests, there is a need to get out, get off the path and experience the fresh air. One of the best ways to do this is by cycling the area and Suwa is well accommodated with multiple cycling activities and cycling shops available for the casual and enthusiast alike.
There are a number of locations to rent your bicycles and cycling gear in Suwa.
Fujimi Panorama MTB Park
Fujimi is the home of the downhill mountain bike course so the bicycles you rent here are only used on the course itself. As the courses are serious, expect to see a range of bicycles, suspensions and equipment here of the highest standards.
A high class Japanese cycling shop, located very close to the station for ease of access. There are hundreds of bicycles and gear for sale in the store of all quality ranges. For rental, there are numerous options including high-end Bianchi road bikes. The staff are friendly and experts in dealing with all bike-related issues, though most of the communication is Japanese. All of the standard gear (helmets, gloves, sunglasses, etc.) is available for rental and purchase as well.
Owned and operated by a couple who have been living and cycling the area for decades, the experience here is excellent for foreigners as the owners both speak fluent English. There is a nice variety of road bikes, cross bikes and mountain bikes to suit your needs. Even if not renting from them directly, the shop acts as a rest stop and cafe for passing cyclists looking for directions, tune-ups and friendly conversation. The owners offer guided tours and overnight itinerary courses that include a homemade barbecue lunch. The gear and tours available through Yatsugatake Cycling are recommended for all ages and skill levels. Located up the mountain and just outside the city, train station pickup is available.
Cycling Regions of Suwa
Now that you have year gear, next up is choosing your cycling area. Here are a few of the recommended cycling regions:
Suwa Lake area
The area surrounding Suwa Lake is certainly the easiest accessible as there are multiple train stations and cycling shops easily within minutes from the lake. Cycling around Lake Suwa is a beautiful ride for the most part with great views of the Lake on the inside and the convenience of the surrounding cities on the outside. There are wide paths in many areas and some stretches where cyclists will share the streets with cars. The total length of the paths surrounding the lake is around 16 kilometers, but there is not a single path so it is necessary to treat parts of the ride as city cycling especially if you are riding during heavy traffic times.
Cycling in Yatsugatake is an experience with nature, making the area better for those who don't mind getting a bit lost and fully exploring their surroundings. The Yatsugatake region has mountains and valleys providing both elevated, strenuous cycling as well as casual exploration routes through hilly paths and farm fields. There are a few options to get here by rental car, pick-up service from the train stations and it is certainly possible to cycle directly from the Suwa City area.
The Kirigamine Highlands area is an elevated plateau at the base of Mt. Kirigamine famous for wide, open areas. Elevated upwards of 1600 meters throughout, the highlands are a great training ground for athletes looking to push themselves. The views in the area are spectacular as well and include wetlands, valleys and mountain lakes. Nature lovers will be at home in the warmer months when the fields are covered with local flowers such as Japanese Azalea and Day lilies. As you ascend into the higher elevation, there are numerous areas where the land is partially covered in roaming fogs from the cooling water vapors of Lake Suwa.
Types of Cycling and Courses
There are several types of cycling in the area worth mentioning.
Cycling is a recommended form of transportation and exploration through the city areas around Suwa Lake. A road bike is an option, but a cross style bike that is better handled to hit the bumps and curbs may be preferred here.
Rural and guided cycling courses
For avid cyclists, there are numerous short courses and multi-day courses in the area. Typically not marked, the courses are often laid out and planned by the local cycling shops who can provide maps and guided tours. Road bike rentals are prevalent in the area so you should have no problems finding a high quality bicycle for a decent price.
These bicycles are distinct for the monster size tires often three to four times thicker than the average bike tire. The bicycles are perfect for cycling through the snowy areas and mountains, an up and coming attraction in the area. These fat tire bikes are a joy to ride on mountain paths and city streets alike and are available year round if you want to try one out in the warmer weather. Yatsugatake Cycling offers guided snow courses.
Downhill mountain courses
In the warmer months from April to November 6th, the slopes are taken over by downhill mountain cycling. Though possible to go out and brave the mountains on your own or with a tour there are man-made courses setup as well for a slightly safer option. At Fujimi Panorama MTB, there are numerous downhill courses, ranging in difficulty, and a basic beginner training area for those new to the sport. The courses wind through forest paths and include jumps, bridges, high ridge turns and obstacles. Everything is included in the rental package from bicycles to full padding and there is a gondola lift to take you and your gear to the top of the course. Outside of the beginner course, the downhill courses can be quite challenging and are recommended for experienced riders only.
There is much more to Suwa than what we have listed here. Check out the aditional links below.