June 10

Shimanami Kaido – The Essentials


Here is some key information about riding the Shimanami Kaido.

What:

A 77km long cycling route that links Honshu and Shikoku via six bridges between a series of islands.

Where:

The route runs from Onomichi, in Hiroshima Prefecture, to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture.

Rent or bring your own bike?

Unless you have a road bike and are particularly attached to it, it’s far easier to rent a bike, preferably a cross bike, at one of the many bike stations along the route. The only catch is if you want to book ahead, you have to do so over the phone and I’m not sure you’ll find many English speakers taking your call. Here is a list of the bike terminals.

A word on fitness:

The tourist guides bill this route as an easy ride.  It isn’t. Cycling 77km takes quite a bit of effort and you’ll likely spend around 6-8 hours in the saddle.  If you’re not accustomed to regular long rides, it’s best to break your journey into two days and stay at one of the hostels along the route.  Since there are plenty of interesting places to explore along the way, I’d recommend doing this anyway instead of my two-day ‘ride for your life so you make the train home’ round trip. In Onomichi, I stayed at Onomichi Guesthouse Anago, a great hostel in a restored traditional style townhouse. It’s also worth spending at least half days in Onomichi and Imabari to explore sites like this.

The route:  MAP

Before you start your journey, you need to by a book of tickets with which to pay the bridge tolls.  The 500 yen booklet is available from the tourist windows at Onomichi and Imabari Stations. Just tear the tickets off and drop the tickets into the toll boxes on the bridges.

If you start in Onomichi, the route actually begins with a short ferry ride from to Mukaishima, the first island.  There is a bridge but cyclists aren’t permitted.  Once on Mukaishima, just follow the ‘blue line’ painted onto the side of the road for the rest of the journey.  The blue line has distance markers every kilometre help you keep pace on your journey and make sure you’re riding in the right direction.

The entire route is well signed, the roads are wide and there are dedicated cycle paths up to and across every bride.  But be warned. Scooters under 25cc are also permitted to use the cycle paths up to the bridges, and they can be a dangerous surprise when they come flying around the corner towards you on the wrong side of the road.

For more general information about the area and it’s attractions, check out the official Shimanami Kaido site, Shimap and Onomichi’s Shimanami Kaido page.

Pictures from the route:

See Shimanami Kaido Part I, Part II and Kancycle.

One last word:

If you get a chance to ride this route, definitely do it. Even if just for bragging rights alone. “I rode across a sea this weekend.  What did you do?”

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