An adventure of a lifetime... (ok, until next week)! Two days, one hot ass Ducati Monster 698, gung-ho attitude & experience and a road (and some off road lol). Ohh yeeeeeeaaaahh baby! Riding a motorbike around Japan was a driving force of me getting onto bikes in the first place, so this achievement has left me grinning like a little fluffy furball.
Starting off with the best motorbike rental outlet in JAPAN- with over 100 shops, and English speaking staff, I rated them the best equipped and well suited to me as an English speaking foreigner wanting a two wheeled adventure. With super slick, new, high performance machines, competitive pricing and comprehensive insurance, lets have a big drum roll for the superstars at RENTAL819!!
HANDS DOWN SUPERB TO DEAL WITH. Special mention going out to Adrian, Yosuke & Kohsuke at Ikebukuro and the mechanic from Hatogaya who setup the GPS and Ducati :) They helped me put together a route on Garmin navigation, sort out the highway toll charges, get kitted out in spunky Dianese moto-gear, book a Ryokan and Onsen AND get a brand new 2015 Ducati Monster 698.
I tossed up between the new Yamaha MT-09 and the new Ducati's, but settled on the Duke for a few reasons. Experience had taught me about getting into all sorts of little situations can be more cooly navigated when you are not having to fight your machine. On motorbike trips there are always adventures inside the adventure!! Gravelly side roads, multiple short notice u-turns, possible inclement weather, steep inclines and the fact that I was doing this solo, were all thoughts that helped me on my decision. Plus I was keen to try out the new Ducati's engineering.
Weather in April in Tokyo is a mixed bag. One day sunny and 23 deg, the next, 3 and snowing! I checked to see when the full moon was (I bet $$ on this trick and always book my snow or fishing adventures around this date as it brings clear skys and reliably settled weather) but alas it was a new moon. SO I stuck my finger in the air, waved it around a bit, missed the weekend and landed on the 23rd/ 24th.... and ca-boOOM- I was blessed with THE BEST you could get. Warm, sunny and ab-so-lutely-bloody-purrrrfect.
Triumph v Ducati
Miss Piggy, as I affectionately nicknamed her was one fun ride- as long as you kept moving! The Monster is nimble, light, grunty, LOUD (Oh this was SOOO FUN in quiet Japan), looks super sexy and had a never ending petrol tank. Interesting notes: down changing (esp 1st) was like slamming a hammer, no matter how sleekly you attempt and the HEAT from the engine was UNBELIEVABLE. I swear to God, I had to check multiple times my jeans hadn't burnt right off- to the point on the return trip, where I had entered this crazy 16km long, winding underground tunnel beneath Tokyo at 40 deg air temp, that I couldn't bear idling in the traffic jam so resorted to tearing up the left (never a good option) side emergency lane (under a meter wide) to get out of the damn thing. I found out later the Pannigale is even hotter?!- their slogan should be "Ducati- just keep 'em moving"...
If the bikes were girls on a night out- the Triumph would be a sleek, well groomed, sassy lady oozing sex appeal on just the right notes, where as the Ducati would be leopard print naughty fun, with a skirt just a little too short, a husky smokers voice, whisky on the rocks and the lady with the tricks at 4am. Both a bit of awesome; dynamo team- but for me TRIUMPH all the way.
Arriving in the dark after a couple of hours of night switchback corners- which was ridiculously good, boot scraping fun to the most beautiful traditional Japanese hotel; Amagiso Ryokan. Three levels high, it snuggly wound it's way down the valley to a spectacular waterfall and hot springs.
Riding in Japan is magnificent. The road charges are expensive, and I advise you carry lots of change in a handy to access pocket- because your going to need it at the toll routes. Most windy runs have mirrors on the corners, which is pretty neat. The highways are superb, well policed and there are speed cameras (that shoot from the front... ^=^ ......)... but with your wits about you and good decision making, you can have a blast!
I pulled on all my skills and resources, absolutely can't even put in words how much fun I had, and HIGHLY recommend you come and play RIGHT HERE. ^=^