I will go into more detail of the whole setup I had, and in hindsight what I would have done differently.
The bike is a 2016 VASARA from G.S Astuto. When I was in the market for a new bike, I only had a budget, and the fact I want disc breaks in my head. I then consulted my local bike shop and the whole bike was customized to meet my demands. (higher bodyweight, kind-of-racey but still all day comfort geometry, sturdy parts with cost performance in mind)
The bike was perfect for the task. No issues whatsoever. I did have to replace my chain and rear cassette, but they already had approximately 15,000km on them anyway.
I was fortunate to being able to borrow the top-of-the-line bikepacking gear from G.S Astuto, as they are expanding their rental services more towards all-in-one bikepacking rental services.
The bags I used were the Ortlieb waterproof bikepacking series. Waterproof was the only way to go.
This guy basically saved my life. Due to the high volume and sturdy fastening mechanisms, it felt as a part of the bike not swinging all around when off the saddle. During the first days I had some issues with balancing my luggage, but I came to the conclusion that all the heaviest stuff should be in this guy, as it made steering much easier.
This was the bag where I put items I definitely do not need to touch during the day, as the road handlebars kind of block the access. Again, the fastening and securing straps were ample. Huge, strong velcro straps plus the orange clip-in made sure the bag stayed in place.
I attached the accessory bag on top of the handlebar pack for easy access and stored all my electronics and daily necessities here. It was also easy to transform into a waist pouch, for the off-the-bike days. I was able to make holes to the bottom due to my own sloppiness when fastening the bag, and my front tire burned a few holes to the bottom. I ghetto fixed it with a 100 yen shop tire repair kit, and it was good to go again!
In hindsight, I wish I had a small top tube bag (which I purchased beforehand but did not take with me…) to have easy access to my phone, GoPro or snacks. I ended up wearing my windbreaker a lot, which restricted my access to jersey pockets, making it just a bit more annoying at times.
My original wheels are great. I love them. With 26mm wide IRC tires the ride is comfortable and fast. However, with this trip in mind, I was able to test new set of wheels from G.S Astuto.
38mm x 26mm TLR Clincher mounted up to a G.S Astuto prototype CLD hubs. 24 /20 equi-tension lacing and IRC X-guard Tubeless 28 tires. What can I say? Almost 2,500 km with no flats, no issues, no nothing. The 28mm tubeless tires also made my ride very comfortable, which is quite important during such days on the saddle.
Here is a video from the wheel-builder after trip:
My kit was mismatch of the best and available parts I had. I took a pair of summer bibs and winter bibs, but only ended up using the winter bibs once because the pad of MAAP BASE bib shorts were just superior.
I was also provided a Kali Protectives Maraka helmet to use during the trip by G.S Astuto. The helmet was just much more comfortable than the Bell I have myself, and in the long-run the comfort triumphs all.
Other than that, I had a windproof GORE baselayer and a Castelli Gappa short sleeve jersey, which proved to be a very versatile combination for warmth as well as breathability.
The Food, oh so much Food
This shocked my body the most. During the first days it was difficult to eat enough, and in the end I could easily down a 4,000 kcal dinner and not even feel full. Did I need a 4,000 kcal dinner? Most likely not, but just because.
I aimed for a sufficient breakfast, smaller lunch and big dinner in order to maximize riding comfort. Sometimes I overdid the breakfast and the first hour was quite uncomfortable. Also, a heavy lunch did not sit well in my stomach, so I opted for more easily digestible foods on the bike and feasted during the night.
Overall, my plan was to stop every 50km for food, but I also kept looking at calories burned and well, overall feeling. On some days it was uphill straight from the morning, so I had only small breakfast but started to eat much earlier to keep my energy levels high.
Japan is bikepacking paradise from the perspective of food, and there are convenience stores everywhere. I never needed to worry about bonking on the bike or running out of water. I just made sure I had a few gels at hand in worst case scenarios. At times the gels provided by ATHLETUNE really did come in handy when I started feeling weak in the mountains.
Again in hindsight, I could have survived with less food, but I love eating and it was my motivator to keep going. It was an experience, not a food camp.
Navigating in Japan
I had created courses for each day using RidewithGPS and was viewing them with my Garmin 820. This made navigating easy and fun 90% of the time. The rest was due to my own sloppiness, where I had made road selections that were either non-cyclist friendly (high traffic, many trucks etc.) or an IC road that can not be accessed by bikes. During these times I just had to wing it and search for detours. Then I usually just relied on Google maps on my phone.
I dragged a lightweight sleeping bag with me for most of the trip until I realized its quite too cold for the type of lodging I was planning to do. Also, after spending some nights at dormitory type hostel rooms, I realized I could not get good quality sleep with other people coming and going, snoring and whatnot. So before the final week I shipped that and some other clothes I did not use to my own house.
I ended up not needing any of the tools for maintenance, but, you just have to have it just in case.
Something else? Ask and I shall tell!