The three highest mountains around Kyoto are Minakoyama (972m), Atagoyama (924m) and Hieizan (848m). I haven't went to Minakoyama yet, but I could enjoy hiking and cycling on the two others several times. However I've never reach the top but by foot. Going there by bicycle was a challenge I was thinking about since long time ago. Then last week I finally decided to fight with the Hieizan !
So I searched an itinerary to the top. As expected there wasn't any road as no one is expecting someone to climb by bicycle. The nearest I could get was Hieidara (400m) on the road 30. After that this is a driveway, forbidden to bicycles. I've actually never ride on the road 30, and always used the road 143 through Yamashina, much easier but ugly, to reach Otsu. So I decided to ride up to Hieidara, and see where to go next once there.
As guessed from the map, the road 30 is a quite beautiful road in the mountain along a river. The traffic was not very dense and I felt reasonably safe with my bicycle. The way up to Hieidara is not very steep but long on the west side of Hieizan, while the east side is much steeper and shorter. Surprisingly there are no beautiful points of view on Kyoto.
At the entrance of the driveway, of course I've been refused to go farther even if I tried. Talking with the men about how to reach the top he told me about another road from Otsu. But he wasn't really clear at all if it was just a hiking course or enough to pass through by bicycle, or even where it was precisely. Also it was quite a pain to go down half the mountain I've climbed so far, and it was a big detour. But I was determined to go as nearer as I can.
From the information I could get through Internet, the only option seemed to me to go down to Otsu, go to the Sakamoto cable car, and climb through the hiking course, hoping it would be not so harsh.
Then I ride down to Otsu. As I said, the east side is steeper than the west. It's been a very fast ride, with several tight curves, on a somehow bumpy road. My brakes were yelling like crazy horses ! I had to take care to the road so it wasn't the most comfortable but still could enjoy the wonderful view on Biwa lake.
In Otsu, the road 47 brought easily to the cable car. This road is a little bit higher than the city, then you can almost always see the lake. It's very nice. And finally I started again to climb through the hiking course along the cable car. Start point altitude is at 80m, top of the mountain is 848m. It's going to be long ! So I took a little rest and refueled myself with fruits and sugar things.
At the beginning the road was ok, made of concrete. Then I've entered the woods but it was still ok. Then rocky parts started to appear and I had to carry my bicycle on my shoulder but it was still ok. And it became more and more rocky, with some sections heavily damaged by the rain. It wasn't ok anymore ! But I could still continue my way up by carrying my bicycle on my shoulder and the path wasn't dangerous. So I keep on fighting with the mountain.
At around 3/4 of the course I was completely exhausted. I took a long break and checked precisely how long lasted to the top. To have access to maps through my Galaxy Tab has been infinitely precious. If I couldn't check my way I would have probably gave up for safety, because it was getting too late. And I was wondering how I would come back !
And finally, I completed slowly the last meters of the course and reached the Enryakuji !
Being very tired I haven't taken the good decision about how to come back. I first thought about using a taxi to bring me to the entrance of the driveway. It would have been easy for me to ride down to Kyoto from there. However there was no taxi at all, I wonder if I called someone would come, and what would be the cost because of the charge for the driveway. So I changed my mind and went to the cable car. At first the man refused to let me enter with my bicycle, but as it is a small foldable one, and because it was clean, he has been kind enough to accept me.
And so I went down by cable car to Otsu.
I said it wasn't the good decision, because once I get back home and look again to the maps, I got convinced that going down through the hiking courses on the west side of Hieizan would have been a much better option. This is shorter to reach Yase, the steep is probably less difficult than what I've climbed, I would have been on the good side for the sun so would have been less worry about getting late, and it would have been a much more pleasant course to ride both side of the mountain. Also, it was too hard, I don't think I would do this itinerary again, then I've missed the chance to do it. Yet I feel more comfortable now to try the climb on the west side only.
Thanks to the cable car I reach Otsu quickly but I still had to climb once again half the mountain up to Hieidara, and then finally down to Kyoto. But there was no difficulties anymore, so I took my time, taking break, eating, drinking. The way between Otsu and Hieidara is not nice to climb, traffic is dangerous. But on the other side, this is a very long and pleasant slope. Curves are smooths and road is in good condition, I could let the speed increase a lot. It gave me a lot of pleasure to end up the day, before entering back into the bustling, noisy, dirty, stinky city...
Estimation of the ride : 7 hours and a half, a little less than 50km long, around 1.400 meter of ascent.