Cycling Kyushu: Foreword / by Ryan Mundt

TICKETS? CHECK. BAGS? CHECK. SHOES?…SHOES?

Going off my experience two years ago while cycling Tokyo to Kyoto, I knew there were a few things I needed. First, I needed stronger rims and tires. I had lightweight rims and thin tires, which are great for speed but not for carrying weight. Rookie mistake, I know. Second, a new rear cassette with a wider gear spread for the hills, especially because I was carrying a lot more equipment this time around. And third, I needed a front bag to carry more supplies as I will be camping half the time. This also helps to balance the load.

The mission

So I searched for the best deals, ordered everything, received it in the post and installed it on my bike in the weeks leading up to the trip. It was really starting to feel like a new bike! Definitely more solid. Having the confidence that your bike is up for the journey is a great feeling.

Now, where to stay? Being the cheapskate that I am, I was looking for business hotels or hostel in the cities and campgrounds or wild camping in the countryside. Thank you Google satellite view for that! Also being that Hiroshima is my starting place and the Carp were playing a home game, I bought a ticket for the bleachers (where all the fun happens!). I love the excitement of Japanese baseball and the Carp have a brand new stadium, Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium, so I’m really stoked about this chance!

The night before I leave, I’m packing all my bags and making sure I have everything. I’ve always been a light packer and this is when it serves you the best. Got all my tickets, itinerary and maps printed from the net. Got my tent, sleeping bag and a few changes of clothes and undies. Some instant coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. Cell phone charger and camera too. Looking good. Think I’m all set.

Last thing, cycling shoes. A no-brainer…I’ll just get them from the closet. Not there? They must be in the other closet…nope. Ok, maybe by the entrance, right?…wrong again, Bob! Where the f**k are my shoes!? This isn’t good! But it’s not the first time I can’t find my cycling shoes. They always pop up from behind a pile of clothes or a suitcase or something. So I go looking deeper and deeper in the closets. Still nothing. Hoping that another set of eyes will help, I get my girlfriend to give the apartment a once over as well. Still nothing. I keep hearing my mother’s voice saying, “when was the last time you saw them?” Trying to “retrace my steps” as she would say, I can’t even remember the last time I used them!

After receiving “no” responses and laughs from friends hoping that I left them at their places, I figure the only option is to buy new shoes. Normally I wear a 44, which isn’t super hard to find in Tokyo, but my cycling shoes are 45s…which ARE hard to find. Thinking I can’t risk it and buy them in Hiroshima, I figure the safest bet is to buy them at the same place as my now allusive ones.

The original plan was to hop the 8 a.m. shink, arriving at noon, drop my gear off and go to the game at 1:30 p.m. That isn’t gonna happen! The damn Specialized store doesn’t open till friggin’ 11 a.m.! 11 a.m., really!? Alright, so no game this time, bummer!

The next day, after an easy morning, I head to the Specialized store in Gaienmae and pick out some new shoes. I must say, the new ones are much, much better than the previous ones, and the same price. Black so they don’t show dirt and super easy to walk in. I tell the guy to keep the box and warranty card, I slip them on and I’m off to Shinagawa station to get the train. The weather is awesome and it feels great to cycle through the city today.

Everyone knows, the preparation alone for any big trip can be half the fun. Planning your days, researching places to stay and see, buying new things to take and the excitement of packing it all. I arrive at the gate, pack my bike down and put it in its bag. Carrying two bags around my neck and an awkward bike on my shoulder, I make my way through the turnstile. I stop and grab an Asahi Super Dry and Jyagariko and I’m ready! The journey is officially under way! Next stop Hiroshima!