Welcome

Hi and welcome to a blog mostly about motorcycle touring. I started the first Motorcycle Paradise web page in 1994 with a few photos just for fun while I learnt HTML. Later I added some roads around Brisbane to ride. Back then I was just another "jackass on a motorcycle" (thanks Fuzzy Galore) and the internet was still new so some photos or comments that were ported over to here might look or sound dated. More recent information for Australian roads can be found in my ride reports and suggestions. Lately I am riding in Japan - hope you enjoy visiting this blog.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fantastic Fukui

Starting to know a few of the roads around Nagoya now but it would take years to explore them all. I set off to revisit route 157 in Gifu. I previously started down this road but turned back at what appeared to be road closed ahead type signage which I later found out to be no large vehicles permitted ahead. Well the road turned into a narrow goat track and was more suiting a off road bike not a big tourer. Perhaps the signage should have also said no large bikes ha-ha anyway I made it through eventually to the bridge I turned back from before arriving at the abandoned picnic spot by lunch. Hmm ok I still have 3/4 of my route ahead of me but doesn’t matter how long it takes.

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In the middle of nowhere everything is still engineered.

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Don’t overbalance, sheer drop to the water below.

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A disused bridge to a abandoned picnic area I found last time on this road made a nice spot to have lunch.Afterwards I swept away the spiders webs to climb the steps from the picnic area to a viewing platform.

I’m back to just using my iPhone as a camera. All the Japan ride photos are from it as I sold my Olympus Pen. Wonderful camera but still too big, so it too often ended up being left in the bag. Also when riding I find the the phone can be taken from my pocket and used one handed to grab a photo almost anywhere in seconds. As much as I want to have the better quality photo it is more important to get a lower quality one then nothing at all so I will have to consider what I can have that I take with me. Perhaps the Sony RX100M3. I have been using one in the camera shops here but you have very little control over depth of field due to the small sensor.

After my slow ride to Ono I continued on small back roads towards the Fukui. Exploring Japan by its many small back roads can be slow going but if not in a rush very rewarding. Small towns that new roads have bypassed are always interesting anywhere in the world but perhaps even more so here where some seem totally abandoned or others are locked in the 80’s.  The trick for me here is finding back roads that are not one lane as the FJR is just too big for tight and narrow roads. I prefer riding sweeping corner roads these days but if I find myself wanting to explore the old Japan more then I will need a smaller lighter bike.

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Back roads, Ono district

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A beautiful rural bus stop with some art work from My Neighbour Totoro. 

Eventually I reached the sea. I arrived at the area I was going to have lunch about 2.30pm but it had not rained and the cloudy morning had turned into a sunny afternoon so I enjoyed riding along the coast and some cooler air on what was a hot humid day.

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The old road alignment can be seen to the right.

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33 degree, so hot. Rest time with a cold drink. Forgot the vending machine photo this ride.

Besides the ocean level road the was a 2nd road running parallel above me in the hills which I decide to take a look at. On the sea level road there were abandoned hotels and tourist parks and on the upper road I found many abandoned upmarket holiday homes positioned with great views of the ocean. I wondered what one would be worth to buy but then your a long way from shops and work as is the case with these things. (sorry I messed up those photos, iPhone is hopeless with backlit subjects)

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Well the sun was getting low so I decided to make a move back towards home on what is the other side of the country, but the road south continued to be a lovely ride as seen below so I stayed on it another 20km or more like this. Very enjoyable.

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Along the coast in Japan you find these concrete shape block things. There are a few different shapes and sizes in use. I have seen them all along the west coast when I travelled here before. Many millions of them.

An interesting thing in Japan is every town has it own unique street lamps. Often there is generic street lights for the majority of the town but then one part, usually a older 70’s style shopping street will have special street lights. I have been taking a few photos of them but since the iPhone cannot deal with backlit subjects the photos leave a lot to be desired but I am going to start posting them anyway.

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The crab street lights in Tsuruga, Fukui. No prize for guessing what the area is known for.

Once back on the Japanese expressway system the FJR comes into it’s element. Cruise control on and screen up it’s a luxury highway ride compared to a naked or small bike and a 2-3 hour highway ride is effortless. I was quite critical of it in my review I posted and make no mistake some things are so very dated on this bike but if I move to something smaller in future I know I will miss it whenever I am facing a long highway ride.

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Dedicated motorcycle parking in the expressway rest areas. Nice to be in a country that doesn’t hate motorcycles however riders pay the same tolls as cars which is disappointing as in most countries bikes are less.

This ride Route

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trip to Toyama

It is rainy season here in Japan now but when the weather permits I am loading up the bike and heading out to explore. Most recently I went about as far north as possible in one day to Toyama district and enjoyed one of the best rides I have completed so far.

I am beginning to know a few of the better riding roads around Nagoya now. One is the 156 route from Gifu district to Toyama district that follows the valley. It is very scenic hugging the shore line of a large man made lake. Despite being a minor road serving small towns it still manages to have significant infrastructure along the way which never ceases to amaze me coming from Australia where large bridges are limited to cities and tunnels are very rare. Here tunnels are everywhere in the mountains, hundreds of them within any area, 10’s of thousands of tunnels across the country. My rides can pass through 30-40 tunnels in a day on rural country roads and more on major roads which can tunnel under mountains for kilometres. Obviously Australia has been conned to thinking tunnels are prohibitively expensive given the few built were said to cost billions of dollars each.  

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From here you enter into the area of Shirakawa where there are many historical villages still with traditional buildings before you climb into the mountains where it almost has a European look at times.

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Next you climb from the valley over a very narrow mountain pass on route 471 which is spectacular but perhaps not the best riding as it is a series of sharp blind corners with nowhere to pass or stop. Fortunately it is remote so cars are few.

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Route 41 then climbed from another scenic valley over a small pass with exellent sweeping roads before it dropped into a rural farming basin that had a certain country charm to it. However I could not stop to take any photos as there was a huge thunderstorm off to might right hand side! Despite sometimes hearing a crack of thunder I was just managing to stay in front of it. My route eventually turned and I crossed the edge of this large storm having to don my wet weather gear but only for 20 minutes before I rode clear and then had fine weather for the trip home.

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Here is my route. I used the expressway to and from my start point to be able to complete the distance. I hope I can do this route again before I relocate.  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

2014 Yamaha FJR1300 detailed review

I have now completed over 7000km on a 2014 FJR1300 so feel able to give a detailed review of the bike and talk about some issues the bike has that have not been explored in other brief reviews that seem mostly based on short rides. First a recap how I ended up with a FJR1300.

After a series of naked/standard bikes I had been thinking maybe I should try a motorcycle designed for the sort of riding I actually do, namely touring. Like many riders I am drawn to certain motorcycles often by a look or style but I decided to buy my next bike based purely on function.

Thinking of touring three things came to mind I would like in a new motorcycle. Electronic cruise control for one. If you have never experienced it you have no idea how good it is on long tours and wanting this eliminated many motorcycles on sale. Decent protection from cold wind to extend the riding season (now I am in Japan) was next on my list which eliminated the adventure bikes. Lastly reasonable cornering clearance, which eliminated the touring cruiser motorcycles. So now I was left the narrow field of the BMW R1200RT, BMW K1600GT, Triumph Trophy, Yamaha FJR1300 and Honda Goldwing.

These motorcycles are all rather large but there is no smaller bike with the combination I wanted. I half had my mind made up to get a BMW R1200RT that I had previously ridden in North America but that one had some electrical faults that plagued the screen and cruise control and heated grips. Then the recent stop riding order by BMW of the new R1200RT due to rear electronic suspension failure made me question the brands quality control. The FJR1300 at 1/2 the price of the other bikes was too tempting. 

I chose the Japan designated 1300A model without the electronic gear shift or electronic suspension. I played with electronic suspension on the R1200RT previously then after a couple days simply left it on standard for the rest of the tour. After riding dirt bikes I lost my sensitivity regarding suspension, long as it is compliant I don’t care. I would however option it in Australia where the roads can be terrible but here they are all beautiful so I thought this to be unnecessary weight on an already heavy bike. I felt same about the electronic gear shift option.

Even without those two electronic features there is still a lot of technology. You can read about specs galore elsewhere on the net as most reviews seem full of that but very short on actual ‘bike review’.

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Drive train

The 1300cc engine is very powerful and turbine smooth up to 4000rpm but after this it gets a buzz that you feel in the seat, pegs and in the bars that is intrusive. Fortunately I rarely exceed this rev point such is the amount of torque available. Passing anything is just a twist of the throttle in any gear, even lumbering along in 4th gear 2000rpm it will surge forward. The engine only needs regular fuel not premium. Using premium Vs regular sees no noticeable power or fuel economy difference in my back to back full tank comparisons. Once run in the engine consumes an average of 5.0 litre per 100km which is good considering the size and power. There are two engine modes Touring and Sport however the engine output is exactly same either mode, the only difference is the throttle needs to be turned more in touring mode. This is not my imagination but confirmed so using the Touring mode is just fatiguing with the extra amount of twist needed. It would have been nice if the touring mode could have been a Eco mode for highway to save fuel.

Overall I like the engine however the vibrations around 4000rpm are disappointing considering how long Yamaha have had been producing this engine in this bike. Comparing to the Suzuki 1200cc Bandit engine I toured in NZ or the Honda 1100 in my CB those engine were both much smoother. The engine does however sound great, Yamaha have done a excellent job with the exhaust which while meeting the required noise limits offers a wonderful (for standard mufflers) sound back to the rider.

Some people complain the gear box is missing a 6th gear but since top gear ratios rarely change in 6 speed Vs 5 speed boxes all you are getting is a further ratio split on the way to top which is completely unneeded on an engine with this much torque. Small capacity engines can benefit greatly from an extra gear but on the FJR I often shift from 1st to 3rd and then shortly after to 4th all in the space of a 150 metres from the lights and simply leave the bike in 4th the whole time I am not on a highway. The gearbox is very clunky, more so than the Harley Davidson gearbox in my Buell which people love to ridicule but I found quite acceptable. The FJR gearbox makes the HD one seem buttery smooth by comparison. Click into 1st at the lights results in a very loud ker-thud and slight jerk of the bike. Reminds me of shifting a old Ford V8 with 3 speed auto into reverse. It’s a very agricultural gearbox however it does find neutral easy and it needs to as I will now elaborate.

Old school is a term I would use to describe the clutch which is the heaviest hydraulic motorcycle clutch I have ever experienced. I have to put the bike in neutral whenever stopped in traffic as after a few hours riding I cannot hold the clutch in for any length of time. I prefer manual control but I regret not getting the electronic shift as the clutch is so heavy. By the end of the day your hand muscles are sore and you get to a stage where you groan when coming to a red light as it means having to operate the clutch. Final drive is via shaft which is excellent. Quiet with little lash and of course no mess from lube.  

Brakes are linked with ABS. They need a very strong pull on the lever to slow the bike down. They have a slightly weak initial bite and cannot deliver the stopping power I am used to. Like the clutch I get a sore hand by days end such is the pressure needed to be applied on the lever to stop the bike and I am not talking from speed, just regular urban riding. Different pads might help, the early Buell XB brakes were like this but a pad change transformed them. Yamaha should have better brakes on such a heavy bike and they should be easy to operate especially after so many years producing this model. I have purchased new levers that can be adjusted to sit closer to the bars thus provide better leverage than the factory levers. I hope this helps with the effort required for brake and clutch. (update – yes has helped reduce effort and I now try shift between 2nd to 5th not using the clutch which is bit jerky at times but the clutch is just way too heavy)

The combination of underwhelming brakes, heavy clutch and clunky gearbox at times makes me feel I am riding a bike from early 90’s but lets look at other aspects.

Ergonomics

Seating is excellent. The seat is height adjustable and this was another feature I wanted.  I am 6’ and in the high position I find the distance to the pegs is very comfortable for all day riding. Much like BMW, Yamaha offer a ‘touring’ seat as an optional extra which is annoying considering you are buying their touring motorcycle however the standard seat is quite good over bumps and I can easy do a couple hours on the bike before thinking of a rest. 

The position of the handle bars is very poor. Even for someone like me who is tall with long arms they are too far forward and lower than one would expect. This puts the rider into a odd semi sports ride position which is ridiculous on a big heavy tourer. The bars can be adjusted in 3 positions which I assumed would bring them back to a more standard position however the amount of adjustment allowed is so small to be of little benefit. The bike needs a fair bit of input to turn in and hold a line (more on this later) so after a couple of extended rides with a long stretch to the bars and lacking leverage I knew this was really a design flaw. I fitted a bar riser plate at considerable expense to bring the bars up 25mm and back 40mm which given my long arms has them almost back to a neutral position but they could still come back another 25mm. I have not seen another FJR on the roads here in Japan and the bars probably are the main reason as very few Japanese guys would have the reach needed. (and be comfortable)

Wind protection is spot on. The fairing strikes a good balance between protection from cold air and allowing some breeze to the rider in summer. Some reviews have commented that the riders hands are not shielded from wind like the other bikes in this range however I think that is one of the FJRs good points. In summer the rider can get fresh air to his hands and into his jacket sleeves from the cuffs if wearing shorty gloves to keep arms cool which makes a big difference to rider comfort. In winter you can always add hand guards or simply use those large windproof bar end mitts to cover your gloves and cuff area but in the high temperatures in California  my arms got heat rash on the RT as so little air circulated.

The electric screen is excellent. Lowered it allows reasonably good air flow in summer and raised it stops cold wind very effectively with almost no turbulence, I can even ride with my visor up at lower speeds. The screen is perhaps the best feature of the FJR for me and one I am constantly using. During a ride it can start down in city traffic and then raised on highway returning down when slowly riding in quiet mountain back roads to feel a the cool mountain air then raised if really up high where the air even in summer can be cold. I don’t need so much focus on my riding gear as I can control the temperature by the screen and I get no turbulence unlike the shorty screens on adventure bikes but YMMV.

The instrumentation or dash is one of the nicest I have encountered on a motorcycle. Made up of two LCD multi readout screens and one analogue tacho. On power up the LCD on the right displays an animation using the FJR logo and then read outs as per your selection from the multifunction trip computer. You can also see info on the heated grips, electric screen here. The main screen has fuel, speed, drive mode, gear indicator, clock and the usual warning lights. I find no need to look at the tacho with the huge torque on tap. Actually after my first couple of years riding I have never looked much at a gauges. Maybe that comes from my time riding motocross where you have no gauges, but except around cities where you must be mindful of speed I never refer to instruments at all preferring to ride by my own sense of speed and engine revs. Over all the cockpit is a nice place to be.

On the road

The FJR is a heavy motorcycle which any buyer would be well aware of however the issue is the weight is not positioned well and so the bike is very top heavy. For example it’s large battery is placed in the upper fairing on the right hand side next to the dash. (yes really) Possibly the worst place it and FJR’s wiring harness could be placed for mass centralization. While on this, Yamaha have made access to the battery and fuses extremely complicated requiring disassembly of the some of the dash panels which took me over 2 hours the first time a fuse blew. Terrible design.

This lack of mass centralization really shows on the road. It produces a bike that is reluctant to turn in to corners or change direction. If I compare to the BMW R1200RT you can feel the weight of the BMW in the car park or petrol station but once moving it is light to steer. The FJR never feels as light as the BMW on the road. It requires more input to initiate the turn and once into the corner requires constant input because it refuses to hold a line wanting to run wide. This is not use of brakes and altering suspension and tyre pressure only slightly improves this. I have never ridden a bike that dislikes cornering as much as the FJR. Beyond a gentle lean angle the FJR needs to be muscled hard to get it to lean. Forget just pushing one bar to tip the bike over you will also need to be pulling the opposite bar with all your might at the same time. At the end of a days riding I am sometimes yelling at the bike in my mind ‘come on you POS turn FFS’ - it really is so tiresome to ride.

I joined a FJR owners forum to try get some answers. People suggested the FJR is a heavy bike so this behaviour is to be expected and you need to hang off the bike (lol on a tourer) however other heavy bikes don’t exhibit this trait. Even the massive Goldwing is known to steer light and neutral. People suggested the FJR is tyre sensitive but I doubt a different tread or compound will make much difference. I have ridden a Suzuki M109R which weighs exactly the same as a FJR yet turned in easy on its massive 240 rear tyre. Add the slower steering geometry on the M109R and by comparison the FJR should fall into a corner on its 180/55 tyres. Another bike the Suzuki 1200 Bandit I toured on in NZ had a rear tyre worn and squared off when I got it but was still light to turn and none of these heavy bikes run wide just because of their weight. No I think the problem is unfortunately much deeper. I was then told by what appeared to me a Yamaha employee to ‘not say unflattering things as it hurts the brand, nothing is wrong with the bike, the problem is me so I should sell it and piss off’. Troll or not needless to say what faith I had in the Yamaha brand is slowly evaporating.  

The suspension does a reasonable job soaking up bumps but the weight of the bike overwhelms it when hitting dips mid corner. Firm things up and the handling improves but you end up with a touring bike that is not so comfortable anymore. I am not able to find a good compromise so far . Update – I have backed the front preload off to soft setting and increased the rear spring load to firm setting and this works the best for cornering in conjunction with a bit of extra front rebound damping. It has not solved any issues but making the suspension hard does nothing better.

The FJR has a huge 25 litre fuel tank and range is a good 400km. That is really great and you can expect to feel the weight of all that fuel push the front end until the fuel load reduces a bit.

The electronic cruise control that I wanted and probably steered me onto the FJR is wonderful even if I don’t use it as much as I expected I would. End of the day I can jump onto the highway and set the screen up and the cruise control on and effortlessly cover a long distance to get back home. I guess ultimately that is where the FJR works well, on the highways and on gentle sweeping country roads. Off those into the mountains with tighter corners with frequent change of direction the bike is a lot of work and not so much fun to ride. It probably suits many parts of USA hence why it has a fanatical group of followers there. The tour I did in the North Western states would have mostly suited the FJR but I recall the BMW being so much lighter in the national park forest roads and canyons.

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Fit and finish

The paint in Dusty Grey finish as it is called here looks better in real life than in photos. Plastics and panel alignment seems tight everywhere however the heel plates have already become badly scuffed after just a few months the silver finish has worn off. The screen is not showing any signs of scratches, the chrome on the mufflers is not discoloured yet and switch gear seems all sturdy. 

There are two storage areas under the seats one looks like the original battery compartment. There is also a glove box in the left hand side that central locks with the ignition off and contains a power outlet but the glove box is very small compared to say the BMW and it’s actually too small to be of much use. You cannot fit a drink in there which was handy on the BMW. If there wasn’t a huge battery on the right hand side a nice sized storage area could have been added there perhaps. 

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The glove box is full with just a cleaning cloth.

I have the factory Yamaha panniers which size wise I find strike a good balance and hold plenty without making the bike too wide. They operate by the same key and look quite stylish as far as luggage goes but the black plastic parts of the panniers mark very easy as does the chrome/stainless lock mechanism and surrounds which seem not very sturdy.

The headlights have a LED daytime running light bar but you cannot see this when the lights are on, which in most countries is all the time hardwired. An oddity is the headlights have twin height adjustment knobs in the dash. Along with the LEDs this all seems more pointless extra weight sitting up high in the bike. There are adjustable side panels in the fairing which you are lead to think offers the rider the option to deflect additional wind in winter however all these do is let more air escape the motor in summer and seem to serve no benefit to the rider whatsoever. The shop could not even work out how to adjust them, the manager apologised and said this was the first FJR he had ever sold - which probably should have rung some alarm bells even if it was already too late ha-ha.

Summary

While the FJR in some aspects works well it is lacking in other areas. Overall I would summarise the bike as not bad just out of date in some aspects however the way the bike corners is a true weak point. If you ride twisty roads then the FJR is not the best option. Highways and sweeping corners on country roads and the bike works well. The brakes lack power to me but as long as you are not pushing it they are able to do the job albeit with considerable pull effort on the lever. The clutch and gear box are not good. No way to polish that aspect, terrible old school heavy clutch and a agricultural gear box. You probably won’t find too much said critically about this or any other motorcycle on commercial sites. Naturally motorcycle journalists need to tread carefully with reviews if they want to keep working. So I hope this more honest review might help others. Personally I am undecided if the bike will work for me long term but it’s what I have for this season so I will persist. The tyres are wearing very quick as would be expected on a heavy bike so I will change from the Metzler Z8 fitted to something else and see how that goes for steering. Come end of the ride season this year I’ll  see how things panned out and give an update.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Renting a big bike in Malaysia

Seems my rides in Malaysia are popular and people continue to ask where to rent a big bike in Kuala Lumpur.

One answer is The Big Bike Shop in Puchong. I have rented there and they are good guys. They have a variety of rentals, helmets and jackets too. I took a Kawasaki ER6N pictured here.

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Unfortunately their web site still seems to be offline. Jump on Facebook where you can find them and send a message.

Update – I have been contacted by another shop in Kuala Lumpur, Klez Bike who rent Harley Davidsons one of which being a XR1200 which would be quite nice machine to ride in the Cameron Highlands and they also have a Kawasaki ZX800.

You can find the great roads in Malaysia on my ride report and also check my ride from Singapore to Malaysia as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Coast to Coast

How often can you say you went from one side of the country to the other in a day. How about back again same day. Welcome to Japan.

I did not set out to purposely to see two different oceans on the same day however leaving Nagoya bound west I entering the elevated expressway system and was faced with a fork in the road. Being somewhat stubborn I have been persisting with my existing outdated GPS navigation and took the wrong turn thus ended up riding towards the port. It actually was a interesting road with many bridges and now I can also say I rode from the North Pacific ocean to the Sea of Japan.

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Nagoya port

I actually attempted to ride to the Fukui district twice already. The first time I was not far into my ride and that old GPS of mine locked up as it sometimes does. However on this occasion it simply kept freezing so I was unable to continue. The Ibuki Driveway is a scenic mountain toll road and was close by to where I had stopped so I decided to take a look despite the expensive toll fee as otherwise I was just going to return home.

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Ibuki Driveway

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Nice enough ride but better roads for free. On my next outing to Fukui I had planned a route that ran further north first into the Gifu region. The route followed some interesting looking roads past two lakes. Japan has 1000’s of dams and as you ride into or away from the mountains you can enjoy both the scenic flowing streams and many dams as often the river will be dammed a number of times before it exits the valley for both hydro power generation and flood control.

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Beautiful Gifu

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Despite a fine forecast this is the rainy season and I took shelter from a downpour in one of the ‘snow sheds’ the cover the road in places then got out the wet weather gear. In the next mountain valley it was fine again so I stopped at a roadside rest area to have some lunch. Having luggage fitted to the bike I bring a cooler bag with drinks and sandwiches and choose a nice place to stop. Better than any cafe!

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What a spot for lunch!

Next I came to what I thought was a road closure. There were many signs which seemed to say the road ahead was closed. I went on a bit not sure and then waited but not a single car came in either direction and looking at the fuel gauge did the math if there was no petrol in route and I had to backtrack. I was in a remote area so decided to play it safe.

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Bridge built just to a picnic area back in another time. (now abandoned)

The road closure meant I had a large detour to make and also had to abandon my planned ride however I was optimistic the weather would improve so set a course on the GPS to Shiga lake the largest in Japan.

Arriving ahead of the rain behind me I enjoyed some superb views of Shiga lake from the Okubiwako Driveway, a scenic road on the northern edge of the lake.

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Big lake. Also big drop off that edge!

If at first you don’t succeed… Third time I set off with yet another new route planned. South to Suzuka then across to the southern edge of Shiga lake near Kyoto. Would you be surprised if I said things did not go to plan. Riding up towards the Suzuka skyline the road is a joy on a motorcycle, but alas the road was closed due at the tunnel just as I was starting to enjoy it. 

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This was not good and in prompted me to look for a government site about road conditions for future. I backtracked and tried the detour button on my GPS which took me into a small hot spring resort town at the base. Besides the cable car to the top of Mt Gozaiho which was still popular with day trippers, the majority of the town had been abandoned. A ghost town built in another time. I returned to looked at this later and some of those photos appear in this post.  P1012743

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Abandoned town of Yunoyama, all the hotels below empty.

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The view from above back to Yunoyama

The GPS wanted to just route me back to the Suzuka Skyline rather than look for new route. I think the detour mode is just for small road blocks. Time to navigate old school via map. Hmm well Google map was on my iPhone so not exactly old school but in the right spirit! I ended up on another large detour but the riding was still all good via another scenic road across the mountains to Shiga lake. It had a very long road tunnel right under the whole mountain before exiting to a pretty valley full of pine trees. I cut back south on farm roads to get onto on my original route much later in the day but determined to go on regardless.

I was following what was designated a national major route. It started out wide but this later turned into a very narrow and remote mountain pass that meandered all over the place like a sealed version of a forest access road. I am using Google street view more now in planning rides and find that the minor almost invisible roads on Google can in some cases be wide and well surveyed while the major road reduces to something unpassable. What I need is a good old fashioned touring atlas with road descriptions. Mapple make these specifically for riders so I shall get one soon but they are only in Japanese.

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Everything is engineered, reminds me of Switzerland. 

Eventually I start to exit the mountain and my second major descent for the day on route to the Sea of Japan. The narrow roads had been rather challenging and while I took some photos none captured the roads well. I was rewarded once at out of the hills with one of the best motorcycle rides I have yet had in Japan. A beautiful sweeping road wound its was along the valley floor and I knew immediately it was something special by the number of motorcycles I was passing going the other way. My photos again did not capture the road so here is a snapshot from Google.

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Photo via Google

I pushed on as it was already 3.30pm and I was still not at my goal but from here it was not far to Obama bay and the first of two roads I was aiming for called Angel Scenic drive. It was once a toll road but the toll gate lay abandoned and I had the road to myself. And so I arrived at the Sea of Japan.

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Obama Bay

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Next stop North Korea

About now I was starting to feel tired and it was 4.00pm and I was on the other side of the country. I decided to say that’s enough and head for the nearest expressway onramp to go back home. The toll roads in Japan run elevated on structures or via massive tunnels right across the country and so are very direct and fast way to travel (albeit expensive) Safe for riding at night as no animals due the the elevated construction I was not concerned if I was back late as my time is my own.

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Typical of the expressway system in Japan.

As it turned out the ride back on the expressway took only 3 1/2 hours plus a 15 minute coffee break at a highway service centre. I set the cruise control and the bike almost rode itself back. Exceptional bike on the highway, less so elsewhere. But that is another story.