I’ve written before about the limitless reasons you should travel to Japan and explore it by bike, but with an e-bike the experience expands. Maximizing your adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun, an e-bike allows you to move faster. In turn, you can slowly take in the fascinating cultural and learning side of a tour. I’d like to share 9 solid reasons to explore Japan by e-bike for your next adventure consideration.
One type of Yamaha E-bike we use on Japan tours
How does an e-bike work?
First, let’s clear up what I mean by e-bike. It’s a bicycle that looks and mostly feels like a regular bike, but it’s not a regular bike. It has a lithium battery and a small electric motor integrated into the pedal/crank assembly. This provides augmenting power output to your own pedal stroke. You can’t not pedal and let the motor do all the work for you. You don’t have a throttle and you can’t lose control of the bike when it is stuck on fast. It just doesn’t work that way. It simply augments or boosts the power that your own pedal stroke puts into the bike, thus making you go faster than you normally would. There are three levels of power assist. This results in still getting a good workout on the lowest setting, but your average speed would be higher. If you struggle a bit on hills, then the higher assist settings might be very useful to you.
E-bike through Japan's meticulously kept streets, and lush forests
It’s also important to know that I’m actually trying to convince you to go on an e-bike tour of Japan where everyone else in the group will also be on e-bikes. It’s called the Japan E-bike Tour. Originally, Grasshopper Adventures introduced e-bikes as an option on regular tours and this option still stands. Then we got to thinking about the game-changing capabilities of e-bikes. We realized that there was an incredible opportunity to use this technology to create a better tour for everyone.
Now that we’ve clarified these points, allow me to share these 9 reasons as to why it's a fantastic idea.
1. You have more time to explore this exquisite destination.
Because everyone in the group is riding an e-bike, they can all achieve a similar average speed. The bikes are limited to a power-assist speed of 30km per hour, so that’s the top speed that most people will be riding at on the uphill sections or on the flat road. When descending, those who are more confident in their descending will move faster down the hills, but that doesn’t actually have a big impact on average group speed.
Kengo Kuma's public library
You can expect to ride at an average speed of 25-28km per hour. That means when you are riding 59km (37mi) from the exciting city of Matsuyama to the charming little mountain town of Yusuhara, it’s only going to take you around 3.5 hours. That includes the intriguing stops along the way. So, in turn, when you arrive into Yusuhara, you have the whole afternoon. You can explore Kengo Kuma’s beautiful library or enjoy a pour-over coffee from a barista who takes it all very seriously. You’ll have time to soak your bones in the authentic, outdoor onsen. It’s not like you are rushing the ride experience, there is still plenty of time to stop, have a chat, take some photos and enjoy the company of your fellow travelers. It’s just that you move a little more quickly and consistently, arriving earlier into your destination.
2. You have more energy & more recovery time.
Japan is a hilly country and if you aren’t riding those hills on a tour, then you aren’t on the best tour in Japan. What this does mean is that there are days when your legs are a bit jelly-like after the ride and unless you have sufficient recovery time, the next day you will be feeling pretty stiff. With the e-bike, even if you push hard on a low assist setting, at least you will have lots of time in the afternoon to recover. You also won’t be leaving too early each morning, so you have more time to recover and you’ll find the overall tour a lot more enjoyable.
Forested and beautiful terrain, and hills with ease
Again with the spare time. You could spend your afternoon visiting the Ikuo Hirayama Museum of Art in Setoda. Here, this most celebrated of contemporary artist’s work is showcased, including pieces depicting his journeys on the Silk Route. You might spend your time exploring the Gojo Onsen area of Matsuyama, a city of 500,000 people that you’ve probably never heard of. How you spend the spare time is obviously up to you, but there is no shortage of things on which to spend it.
3. You are never rushed.
Visiting the studio of the foremost authority on the art of Washi Paper and then actually making the stuff yourself is quite a special experience. The pace of an e-bike tour allows you to take your time, to hear the story of Washi Paper, and also of Rogier himself. As a Dutch national, he calls Japan home after being captivated by Washi Paper many decades ago. This is just one example of how a faster ride on the bike makes for a slower move through the cultural connection side of a tour.
Japan's delectable cuisine sits at your fingertips
4. You can still eat lots.
A big part of any visit to Japan is the food. The good news is that even on an e-bike, you are still getting a great workout. You can enjoy all the great cuisine that Japan has to offer, including the most amazing Sushi and Sashimi, you will ever have the opportunity to eat. To say that the tour has a strong food emphasis would be a mild understatement. You will fall in love with the culinary side of Japan just as much as the cultural side. Check out these 7 foods you must try in Japan!
More time to stop for photos with no catch-up stress
5. You can catch up after a photo quicker.
We’ve all been in that situation. There’s a great scene to snap a photo of, but it’s your sixth photo stop of the day. You’re pretty tired of playing catch up to the group and choose to miss the shot. Well, that’s not such an issue with e-bike tours in Japan. You just flip the control setting to the highest setting and power up the next hill to catch the tail of the group.
A variety of cycling skills can be combined
6. You and your travel partner can ride together.
E-bikes have been called the great biking equalizer. They provide the opportunity for people to ride together when they might not ordinarily be able to do so. My wife, Marie, and I are a prime example of this. Marie is a good rider, but I have a bunch of factors on my side that make me a much faster rider. This can cause obvious issues when we are touring together. About a year ago, we bought a couple of e-mountain bikes and started riding those together on the weekends. I can have a cruisy ride on the lowest setting and Marie can hold the same speed on the next setting up. It’s been so much fun being able to ride side-by-side again and chat while we ride.
E-bikes are a common transportation for daily use
7. You are in good company.
E-bikes have actually been a thing in Japan for a lot longer than most parts of the world. They were designed for short-distance travel — commuting in a city or dropping kids at daycare, doing the shopping, that sort of thing. What this means is that as you are humming along on your e-bike, you’ll be meeting lots of other people going about their daily lives. You can all exchange a knowing look that you have graduated to the future of bike touring.
Less vehicle transfer means more time to explore
8. There is less vehicle transferring.
Because the group is traveling at a more stable, more predictable pace, we are better able to plan distances on tour. Also, when we get some of the longer days, we can cover the distance with confidence. There are lots of variables that impact the distance range of the e-bikes. Still, we can say that you will comfortably cover up to 90km on a battery. As a result, there isn’t much need to transfer by vehicle and that’s great. Let’s face it, sitting in a van in your riding gear is just not something you do unless you have to.
A side note at this point is that just because we can cover longer distances, that doesn’t mean we do. We recognised that this game-changing technology could be put to better use giving you more time to enjoy destinations, forgo van transfers and enjoy the extra recovery opportunities.
Pristine roads snaking through incredible terrain
9. The routes and roads of Japan are world-class.
The quality of the roads is really a great mystery in some ways. The population density in some of the areas that we ride is presumably no longer sufficient to warrant that level of road investment, but the various layers of government in Japan continue to maintain even seldom-used roads to an incredibly high standard. The ride routes that this makes available to us are just incredible. You can ride routes through the mountains and along the valleys where you might see a car once every 20 minutes, but you are riding on silky smooth tarmac with lush shade overhead.
The big thing is the topography. It’s absolutely stunning. The winding climbs are breathtaking and the descents are just so much fun! On an e-bike, you can enjoy this riding every day without becoming excessively fatigued.
Bask in the renowned politeness and hospitality of the Japanese people
Beyond the gorgeous landscape, culture and food, the other experiences never cease to amaze. Encounter spiritual wonders like the 88 Henro Temples and indulge in the calming sense of peace and order offered by the Japanese people, alongside great consideration and kindness.
Japan is the place and e-bike is the way if your next adventure is about inspiration via beauty, culture, connection and giving yourself the time to take it all in. Learn more about our Japan E-Bike Tour on the website.