It’s been a few months since I’ve been out on my bike for more than running errands and such, so when I was able to negotiate a whole morning to get out on the road, I had to decide how best to use the opportunity. I was tempted to just do a few hours of ‘take random turns’ up in the mountains, which is what I like doing, but it’s unpredictable time wise, especially on the return leg. Instead, I decided to go for a tried and tested – but fun – route.
Getting on the bike at 7am on Sunday morning means less, but not zero traffic – as I went down the 134 coast road, that Shonan is a surfer place is very apparent, especially at this time of year – lots of people in wetsuits on bicycles, with boards strapped in U shaped holders on the bicycles, people in cars just lazily drifting along, checking out the beach.
It was basically a nice, sunny morning, fairly warm, but not too hot, riding in my mesh jacket and Draggin jeans, in good sunshine, a nice clear view. It’s a good road to go down, you have Fuji ahead of you and the beach on the left, and year round there are a smattering of surfers in the water, fishermen (and women) on the beach, and the universal collection of people walking their dogs on the sand.
Some of the faster roads are toll based, but usually only a couple of hundred yen, and I have ETC on my bike, so I just slow down and go through, rather than in the old days when I’d have to stop and fumble for change in my tank bag with my gloves on. That’s always frustrating, and in the winter and in the rain, it’s a real hassle. On the Seisho Bypass there’s a small service station where a lot of bikers stop to meet up, and sometimes I stop off for the cinnamon coffee, made by an energetic vending machine which plays you upbeat, potentially Colombian music whilst you wait for the drink to be reconstituted. Today though I was against the clock a little, so I skipped the coffee and decided to head straight to my first real stop, turning off at Hayakawa, and heading up the Toyo Tyres turnpike (toll again) to the rest stop at the top which houses the Dammtrax Cafe.
As I got closer to the turnpike the road was getting damp and then wet, and at the top of the ‘mountain’ near the Cafe it was even raining a little and once more I was glad I keep my rain gear under the seat, just in case things got worse, but in the event the rain stayed off. The Dammtrax Cafe is in the corner of a food court in the main building, and is a homage to the Ace Cafe near London (where I really would like to go). They do a decent drink and a hot dog too, and the whole place has some great views. Whilst it’s a tourist spot in general, like most of the Hakone area, there’s always bikers and car enthusiasts there – the day I went there was a large BMW meet-up with some of the BMW reps there for what looked like an organized ride. It’s always a place to get into general conversation about bikes, custom work, and pick up some good routes and tips.
When I came back to my bike, I noticed the one next to mine was a Triumph Street Triple, with a great tank decal.
The weather was still wet, but most of the road was OK – no real surface water, but for someone of my skill level, definitely reason to be careful on the corners. Off I went then to the Izu Skyline, another toll road which runs a little over 40Km north to south down the spine of Izu – it’s all hills and twisties, and thus tremendous fun on a bike. For me, on a non sports bike though, I keep an eye out for people coming up fast behind me, and keep an and let them run past – we’re all just out for a good ride. Yes, it’s a fast road.
The route does give great views, and there’s a good selection of roadside stopping points for photographers. There’s also a selection of service stations, including this somewhat derelict one; it always reminds me of some neo-Communist building for some reason, grey concrete surrounded by grass broken car parks, a monument perhaps to Bubble times.
More than anything, it’s a fun route to ride down, slow or fast, beautiful tree lined stretches, which open onto the sides of mountains, with great curves and vistas which make you want to stop and take a photo.
Get to the bottom and there’s really not much there, beyond a sort of derelict cafe which may or may not be open at certain times of year – at least it’s never had any sign of life inside it when I’ve been there, despite the constant white van parked outside.
After reaching the bottom and having a nice cup of tea from my flask, I turned right around and worked north again, retracing my exact route back past the Dammtrax, back down the turnpike, and back down normal straight roads and traffic, back to Shonan having thoroughly enjoyed it.
I usually say that having a motorbike is very liberating in Japan, just taking the next turns at random, but even so, there are good mornings to be had just taking a route you’ve done plenty of time and just enjoying the bike and the road.
Tea is also good.