Mountain Biking: Nagoya Urban MTB・名古屋 MTB

Photo above. Playing around with multi exposures.


When you think of big Japanese cities I doubt that mountain biking comes to mind. But if you know where to look even in the major urban sprawls you’ll be able to find potential trails. Lots of cities have rivers running through them so with a little exploration it should be quite easy to come up with a decent off road urban route. Sure, you won’t be mountain biking deep in the Nagano mountains but you’ll be able to feed that off road mountain biking urge without leaving the city. Luckily for me there’s a 25km trail right on my doorstep with at least 85-90% of it being off road. I’m never more than 7 or 8 kms away from home either.

Mountain biking along the Shonai River.

As you’d expect there’s nothing technical to be found, so it’s safe and easily ridable on either a mountain bike or a gravel bike, and if you look closely you’ll find wildlife too. Over the last week I’ve ridden the trail 3 or 4 times and seen kestrels (or are they hawks?), a fox, a couple of pheasants, plenty of herons and cranes and a dead cat being picked at by crows, no doubt a reminder from mother nature to let me know who’s boss. Not bad for a big city renowned for its cars and concrete.

Mountain biking along the Shonai River.
A kestral (or is it a hawk?)

The 25km loop that I do is along the Shonai River (庄内川) bordering Nagoya and Kasugai. It’s best ridden between late autumn and early summer as the river bank can become overgrown in summer which makes certain parts unrideable at other times of year.

Herons early morning near Mizuwake Bridge.
Early morning Mt. Ontake.

To get there just ride north out of Nagoya (if you’re coming from that direction) and drop drown off the road onto the river bank when you reach the Shonai River. Just make sure to stay off the adjacent roads during morning rush hour. It’s genuinely frightening to see all the cars screaming past at 60kph or more with drivers still in a morning daze glued to their smartphones.

Playing around with multi exposures.

There’s a screenshot below of what I usually do and a link here to Ride With GPS. A word of warning though, the local authorities have been clearing land and doing river maintenance since autumn 2019 which will continue in some places until the end of March 2020.* Riding the route on Sundays should be fine (I’ve ridden it numerous times), just jump the half-arsed barriers, but for other days you’ll have to skip one or two places until the maintenance ends.

*I’m unsure how I feel about this. On one hand it seems like a sensible way to help with flood and river management, but on the other it seems like it’s just another excuse for a government agency to use up its yearly budget. There’s no doubt, however, that it’s devastated an extensive area of local wildlife habitat which isn’t good.

Cycled since I was a kid, moved to Japan in 2001, bought my first 'serious' camera in 2005. Spent the later half of the 1990s travelling in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Japan, and the Philippines and wish I'd photographed a lot more back then.

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