Randonnée Japan | Rapha Travel

VIDEO: Ivan Kovac

LOCATION: Honshu, Japan

The victories are spiritual and the spoils of winning are long soaks in hot springs and nights filled with local cuisine.

The Rapha Randonee Japan is an opportunity to test oneself on the bicycle. It is an invitation to see a Japan that very few natives have witnessed—narrow mountain roads offer unrivaled cycling opportunities and further inhibit auto traffic in an already rural region. Along the way, riders visit fishing villages and ryokans high in the Japanese Alps, which are starkly silent contrasts to the bustle of Tokyo. The only thing that rivals the variability of the scenery is the weather, which only promises that it will change as the days pass. The mountains are beautiful under all conditions; swirling rain is as picturesque as a sunny day, fog only adds to the perception that centuries of stories lie around every corner, hiding just out of sight.

Japan is still a well-kept secret as a cycling destination, but its bicycle culture and impressively varied terrain offer world-class riding opportunities in a tranquil, breathtaking setting. The islands seem to rise straight out of the Pacific, which means that any given fondo might contain coastal views and magnificent climbs, inland flats and sweeping descents.

A Randonee is not a race. But that does not mean it is easy. It is a uniquely individual pursuit that encourages camaraderie and lacks clocks. Days may be grueling, but every one ends with a defined finish line. The victories are spiritual and the spoils of winning are long soaks in hot springs and nights filled with local cuisine. No two trips are the same, but every one promises its own set of surprises in a setting that very few are fortunate enough to witness. Getting there is only half of the journey.

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