When people talk about Niseko the focus is always on the world-class skiing. But if you’ve enjoyed Niseko in winter, you’ll love it in summer. The air is clean, the food fresh and the streets and mountains perfect for cycling. There is something for everyone, from smooth, open roads and scenic cycling paths to rolling cross-country trails and exhilarating downhill tracks. There are many road cycling events as well as a growing MTB scene.
Ground zero for cycling in Niseko is Rhythm Japan. Now in its third year, the company began as a collaboration between Rhythm Snowsports and Groove Cycles. The shop has been instrumental in promoting MTB riding in the area, with staff putting in countless hours building and maintaining trails and galvanizing support from local businesses supporting cycling in Niseko.
Rhythm Japan offers rentals, sales tours and workshops. Stop by the shop for the latest info on what’s happening or their website to check out the full cycling calendar.
Grand Hirafu MTB Park
This largest mountain bike park in Hokkaido offers a lift-accessed three-kilometer downhill track, which drops about 500 meters in altitude. The trail has been given a major overhaul this year, making it longer, more enjoyable and easier to ride.
The dual slalom course is located at the base of the mountain and doesn’t require a lift ticket. It’s a great place to hone your skills or simply prove who is fastest. The skills park is next to the dual slalom track and gives riders the chance to try various terrain they might find on a downhill course in a safe environment. There are jumps, rollers, bridges and training lines.
The pump track, located across the road from the skills park, is where you can learn how to use your body weight to your advantage as you pump around the circuit, and it’s a great workout. You’ll also find an excellent cross-country track that leads to Niseko Village and back. Lift tickets for the park are available through Rhythm Cycles for ¥1,000 a run, ¥2,500 for three hours and ¥3,500 for six hours. A season pass is also available for ¥20,000.
Niseko Village Pure Park
Access to Niseko Village is possible via the cross county trail at the base of the Hirafu MTB Park as well as by car. Among other activities, they have a great cross-country trail and a skills area. This is an awesome place to experience MTB for the first time. Rental bikes are available.
Hanazono MTB Park
Hanazono has a large cross-country loop within the resort as well as a small skills area. Rental bikes are available.
Rusutsu Resort MTB Park
Established in 2013, Rusutsu Mountain Bike Park has a growing network of trails suitable for all levels of riders. Follow a winding trail through the forest, it is filled with flowing banked turns and great scenery. A selection of the latest premium mountain bikes is also available to rent. The park is open until Oct. 19.
Kamui Ski Links MTB Park
Kamui Ski Links is opening a new MTB Park for 2014 including three short tracks and lots of variety with one intermediate bike park-style trail, one intermediate single trail through the woods and one for the beginners. Developments are planed to open a longer trail from the top of the gondola for 2015. No rental bikes are available, but you can pre-book a bike through Rhythm Cycles. Opens July 5.
Niseko Cycling Calendar
- July 13: Niseko Nature Ride, Niseko Classic and Sun Sports
Niseko Nature Ride is a road race with multiple length races; Niseko Classic is a road race with 70-km. and 140-km. races; Sun Sports is a family event hosted by Cezar from Niseko Pizza featuring cycling activities, bouncy castle golf, music and delicious food.
- July 19: Grand Hirafu MTB Park Opening Day
The MTB Park is in its third year of operation and will see new trails and skills areas for 2014.
- Aug. 2-3: Hanazono Hill Climb
One of the biggest cycling events of the summer, the “Race to the Top” differs from other road races in that it is focused on climbing rather than endurance.
- Aug. 24: Iron Man Japan
Japan’s Iron Man is based at nearby Lake Toya. Spectators can watch the world’s top triathletes battle on the gruelling Iron Man course as they roll through Niseko. Local Iron Man competitor Jess Ripper runs Niseko Multisport (www.nisekomultisport.com), which provides training and camps for triathletes in Niseko.
- Aug. 31-Sept. 6 & Sept. 7-13: Tour du Nord
Experience riding the best roads in Asia followed by a soothing onsen and fresh Hokkaido seafood. Tours average 80-100 kms. a day.
- Sept. 13-15: Tour de Hokkaido
Part of the UCI Asia Tour, this event is a great way to see some awesome road racing form either in the saddle or as a spectator in Niseko.