Cycling on a Single Ladies Course

Taking on a course unfit for strapping boys

 By Robert Kodama   Feb 5, 2017

A friend bought me a book detailing different cycling routes around the Kansai area not too long ago. Since then, we tried a crazy route up and down a gravelly mountain that was incredibly tough. I also fell off the mountain (perhaps a slight exaggeration) going down a steep slope. As a result, we had another look at the book for an easier course. This is when we stumbled across what was titled as a “Single Ladies Course”. No problem, we thought. Emphasise the word thought.

We took a train to Kyoto Station with our bikes and instead of taking another train to the starting point, we decided to cycle over to the starting point. This portion took a bit of time but it felt rather easy going along the flat roads of Kyoto. At the starting point, we had a mediocre lunch and proceeded to start. The map led us onto a back road which had a few hidden temples – a pleasant ride so far. The map then guided us towards a large road full of trees, also a pleasant ride. We stopped at a convenience store for water and looked at the map again. There was an arrow pointed to the road we were about to embark on with “slight uphill” written alongside it.

We eventually made it to the top, panting and sweating, gear on 1. Slight?! These single ladies love a challenge that’s for sure. Reminiscent to the mountain I fell off, it was a very steep climb. To catch our breath, we threw our bikes down on the side of the road and had a walk around a temple we arrived at. A beautiful temple I’m sure but the view was slightly masked by the blur of tiredness.

Another “slight uphill” climb led us to a hidden garden which was stunning. A man with two daughters in seating attached to his bike also followed effortlessly. However, I called him out in my head for cheating – he was using a battery powered bike instead of muscle power like us. Boo him.

The reward of the work expected by single ladies awaited us after this garden. A nice, long drop down a smooth road with a beautiful view of Kyoto city in front of us. The sun started to set and the view surrounding us was pure beauty. I stopped halfway to look at the colour rich mountain we sped away from. We had to take some rights and lefts which initially got us lost, and we were greeted with another “slight uphill”. Gears all the way down, we panted our way up again, with my friend muttering “ladies course, ladies course” with each leg stroke.

Our return after the final uphill struggle was fast and easy. Cycling around Kyoto is a must as it takes you to beauty untouched by public transport, and thus away from tourists. You can easily rent bikes close to Sanjo station for a day if you don’t have one at hand.

On a final note…

The book should have a strapping men’s course – just flat ground and finishing at a pub.

If you want to know more about this, or other courses from the cycling guide book for Kyoto, please search for: 新版 京都・奈良・琵琶湖自転車散歩 at your local bookstore or online.

Directions: Start from Kitayama Station (Kyoto) and just head for the mountains!

Written by Robert Kodama
Japan Travel Partner

Join the discussion

Bronwyn O'Neill 8 months ago
This was a really entertaining article!
Robert Kodama Author 8 months ago
Thank you very much!
Terrie Lloyd 9 months ago
Robert: Ha, ha, this is great. I've lost track of how many times I decided to cycle across a bit of Japan and took the short cut - only to find out it was an upgraded old mountain track from several centuries ago, when it didn't matter too much how steep the slopes were because most people were walking. Sounds like your challenge was one of those. Google maps really needs to include an elevation analyzer - so that we cyclists can get a more realistic idea of what we're in for. BTW, a good friend of mine told me the best way to take a hill is to go as slow as possible and think about something else to while away the time - almost like a meditation. Providing you have the gears to chop down that low, it really works. I'm seldom troubled by Japanese hills any more, even the long steep ones, and I get a lot of work problems solved by the time I get to the top!
Robert Kodama Author 9 months ago
I'm glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for commenting. We were surprised that it was on a guide and the book said it was even simple enough to do it on a mamachari and yet it was tough for us with gears! It was a great ride though!