Where the f#*k is that mountain??

Damn, that's a fine view right there!

Fred, a friend of mine called at my place at around 8am this morning for a run up through Gifu to Mount Ena, about 2.5-3 hours ride from my house. We took a meandering route up through Fujioka in northern Toyota to Origawa Dam in Gifu. I’ve been a Origawa a few times now, so getting there is no problem without a map or navi, but I’ve not ridden as far as Ena before. We stopped off at the dam for a quick coffee and a feed of gohei mochi and then we went looking for a series of roads that would take us through Jibusaka Pass and up to the foot of Ena. But we got lost. And lost again! Even though we had a Mapple road map, and a navi. We didn’t know the kanji for Ena, so we were stumped on using the navi, and we couldn’t make head nor tail of the Mapple map either. Much fun was had, I can tell you!

After swinging right on leaving the dam, we headed along Route  363 towards the Ishikki junction. I had a mental map of where we need to be going and I had memorised the road names (numbers in Japan) reckoning the road signs would be enough. Fool! From Ishikki junction we were to head right along Route 253 and turn off left some distance down the road onto Route 418 to Hiraya village. There we would turn left at the junction with Route 153 and that would take us through Jibusaka Pass and up to Ena. But alas, my capacity for holding onto mental maps is not what it used to be, and we found ourselves running all over the area trying to get our bearings. But all was good. We consoled ourselves with countless excellent roads for riding and the fact that we were learning the area really well.

We visited another small dam in Gifu, the sign for which I’ve passed a few times, but never bothered to stop. Now, if I could only remember the name of the damn dam, but I can’t. Anyway, I took a few photos when we stopped.

Fred and his 'slant-nosed' Transalp 400v. His is a later model than my old Transalp.

Looking down from the dam

The water cascade

Into the distance

The back of the dam

At one stage we found ourselves on a large, two-lane road called Route 19, heading towards Gero. It was not the kind of road we were after, just a typical built-up, retail and commercial thoroughfare through towns, but we found Route 363 again and that was a revelation. What a road! It wound and rose up into the mountains for miles, and even better still, we hit a junction at the top and I immediately remembered where we were. Over a year and a half ago, another mate David brought Fred and I to that road from the other side of the mountain, and we got caught in an almighty hail shower. Just a couple of metres down the road from the top of the hill, there was a bus jammed in the the tightest of bends. It’s a tiny mountain road. Whatever possessed the bus driver to try to get down it in those conditions baffles me.

Route 363 running from Route 19

Anyway, after much searching and farting about up all sorts of roads, we finally got onto Route 418, which is itself an extraordinary wee road. It winds on for miles, mostly single lane. Initially it’s a village main street, if you can call what we rode along a village. There were houses along both sides for a few kilometres, but often the road was so narrow you’d not get two cars down it abreast. There’s a long stretch where it winds alongside the most breathtaking mountain river, chrystal blue water running over white and grey rocks, under overhanging trees and forest.

Soon we hit the junction with Route 153 at Hiraya village. Then we had a dilemma. I had arranged to meet LTyama in Seto at 3 o’clock, and it was 1 o’clock already. Should we head towards Ena then blast down the Chou Highway, not knowing how long that would take, or head south towards Toyota along 153, at least knowing the road? We decided that the safest bet was to head towards Toyota. We whizzed down that way as best we could, and not far off Asuke I swung right towards the Green Road while Fred headed on straight down towards home.

I hit the Green Road and hammered along as a fair pace and managed to arrive at the Komeda Coffee shop in Owari-seto for the meet with LTyama more or less on time, at around 3pm. I’d been riding almost constantly from 8am and my arse was aching. Time to put the feet up over a mug of brutally thick Japanese coffee, eat some chocolate cake and have a good yarn with LTyama who turned out to be a really nice and very interesting guy. He had borrowed his brother’s Suzuki Gladius 400, a damn fine looking bike (but not a Honda!).

Mr LTyama of the Transalp Tribe, with his bro's Gladius. Nice bike!

So, all-in-all a good day, but very tiring, even though I never even got to set eyes on Mount Ena. We notched up about 350km I reckon. Next time, I’ll make it to Ena for sure. I might even manage to ride the cable car up to the hiking heights and go for a wee dander for a few kilometres to get some good air into my lungs.

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17 Comments on “Where the f#*k is that mountain??”

  1. Klaus Says:

    Darned, even meeting my friend LT Yama! You definitely had a great time. As for us – we went to Takamatsu – by car *~*.

    But since my 2 German bikers had left we decided it was time to take some care of ourselves.

    Oh, by the way, pics of the 2 are on my website http://virtulanguage.com. Just go to the Heidi & Bernd section.

  2. gurahamu Says:

    Great to see you out and about on the bike. I’ve had my (non Bol D’Or) CB400 for 5 years, and whilst I thinking about buying a new bike, it’s mainly only because of the wind – I’ve never had an issue up in the mountains, and on a run, you can feel that VTEC kick in ~6000rpm (your model may differ and I forget the exact number!).

    It looks like a beautiful part of the country, and there’s something nice about riding the mountains. Maybe some time I should get up there and give it a try. Can you ride year round up there?

  3. Hi Graham,

    The Bol D’or faring is a bit of a step down from the Transalp fairing, but it still helps, that’s for sure. 120kmph on the Bol D’or feels a lot more like 120kmph than on the Transalp.
    Gifu is still accessible in winter, but the higher reaches can get a bit hairy. A lot of places will also get a lot of snow, so they’re out of bounds.
    We’re really lucky here, in terms of location. We can be on free roads in minutes and in the mountains in way less than an hour.
    About your riding on the CB400. Do you thrash the engine, i.e. hit the red-line every so often? If so, how does it fare?

  4. Ah, you’re looking after your compatriots Klaus. You a good man indeed! And I see you have betrayed the Transalp for the car. Shame on you, leaving it at home, all lonely and underused :OP

  5. gurahamu Says:

    I tend not to thrash it; if anything, for an inline 4 I should keep the revs higher – I need to stay on top of the throttle a little more. That it’s a VTEC means it should go well at much higher revs, but with a smoother power/torque(?) curve.

    I do prefer higher revs in high wind for some reason.

    So… a new photo due in your blog’s banner?

  6. Simon V サイモン Says:

    Looks like you had a fun day!
    I’ve put what I could onto a map so everyone can see what you’re on about. Only guesswork of course!

    I’ll be staying in Gero with my club on the 15th. Have to work till noon so I’ll probably use the Chuo Xpway as far as Ina, or thereabouts. If you joined us at Gero, we could ride together the next day.

    It’s hard to choose the way home for Sunday. So much on the menu!

    Cross the valley and follow 152 down to Tenryu (pretty wild but popular with adventurous bikers),
    take a route like yours cross-country toward Hamamatsu, while you split for home en-route.
    go back north and around Mt Ontake to Nomugi Pass, Ina Takato and Minanmi-Suwa IC. You could go back from there (or from Ina) south on the Chuo, or come back to my place (marked “home”) if you don’t have to work early on Monday (my day off!)

    Let me know by this weekend so I can book you a place.
    (14,000yen including party.) There’ll be 50 or 60 people there but we don’t ride in convoy. Small groups, different paces, different places.

  7. Simon V サイモン Says:

    Oops forgot the map link:


  8. Graham,

    I’m pretty much the same with revving the CB400 engine. The Transalp had a much lower rpm so it gave off a much deeper sound at higher speeds. The four little IL4 pistons give off such a high pitched whirring that I feel that I’m over revving even at 6,000 rpm, especially in 1st and 2nd gear.

    I was thinking about a new photo, but I kind of like the current one. Not sure how to proceed just yet. Now if i could only get a bosom, naked lady to drape herself over the CB400 for a photo……

  9. The 15th is out for me Simon. I’ll be at a research conference on the 15th and 16th. I was hoping to do a solo run to Ena that weekend and head up the cable car to hike for a bit, but that sneaky little plan has been blown out of the water.

    Cheers for putting the map up. I’ll have to work out how to do that myself.

  10. gurahamu Says:

    For a minute I thought it was going to be you draped over the bike 😉

    Time for a trip to shoot the exact same picture in the same location?

    I do like my CB400 though, it’s been a great first bike, perhaps too good, as it’s made it difficult for me to see where to go to next. I looked at the CB1300 but just seems a bit to bulky and heavy to me, but the Bol D’Or faring must help with some wind, which is my only problem?

    Have you practiced putting the seat back on? On mine, there’s a real knack to it, which I didn’t appreciate at first….

  11. Yeah, I’ve had the seat off a couple of times already. I had to take it off today to mount my panniers. I got the knack of it, but it took a couple of tries.

    I had seriously contemplated a bigger bike, I came to one very tough conclusion, that my desire for a big, chunky bike was driven by my ego. i.e. wanting to look better than others on the road, or, not wanting to look lesser than others on the road. It’s a really sad reality, but the roads are men’s catwalks, where we parade ourselves in our cars and on our bikes.

    I sat myself down and had a really honest think about what I was at, looking at CB1300 Bol D’ors and other bikes of that size and class. I came to the conclusion that anything over 400cc was over-kill. A 400cc engine meets my needs and then a whole lot more. That’s not to say that I won’t get a bigger bike in the future, but it’ll be for the right reasons if I do.

  12. Simon V サイモン Says:

    ”anything over 400cc was over-kill”

    My conclusion too, for Japan at least.
    In fact my TA is in the garage and the Serow (225) is seeing a lot of use these days. Commuting 18k each way in country and town, plus a bit of shopping. One topbox takes all my gear, so it’s really light and manouverable, and has as much speed as I can use on my regular routes.

    But “catwalk”? Speak for yourself! 😀

  13. Simon V サイモン Says:

    P.S. re: the map
    These things can be made collaborative.
    I think I need to “sign you up” to a particular map, and then you too can edit it. The only condition is that you have a Gmail account.

  14. LTyama Says:

    Hello, Damien san.
    I spent good time with you talking about motorcycle.
    I hope we go to Ena area when I go back to Nagoya at the end of this year.
    Have a nice trip with your CB!!

  15. gurahamu Says:

    My decision to buy a CB400 – and why I kept it even after getting my Oogata, was more about reliability and simplicity more than anything else. I’ve never been into cars (I drive a Toyota Ractis!), and frankly I couldn’t care less what I look like on the road – a motorbike to me is somewhat a means to an end, and I don’t have much money to throw at it, so I tend to be cautious on purchases.

    That said, I have a lot of respect for people willing to put the time, effort and money into some beautiful looking machines, and riding them enthusiastically; stopping at the halfway point on the Izu Skyline, and you’ll often see some great bikes, and really keen riders, who broadly speaking are always up for a chat, and that’s the other side of biking.

  16. Hi LTyama-san,

    I’d a good time drinking coffee with you too. Let me know when you’re back and surely we’ll go riding together.

  17. I’m the same mate. I drive a Toyota Sienta here, and back in Ireland I drove a Vitz (Yaris in Ireland) and before that, a Corolla. For what I paid for the CB400 I could have done the oogata and bought myself a pimping bike, but it would never have had the reputation for economy and reliability of the CB400. They’re a pair of sensible shoes, so to speak.

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