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MTB in Hakuba


MTBing in Hakuba

MTB HakubaHakuba needs no introduction as one of Japan's best sporting playgrounds and as an area sportsmen and women can enjoy the outdoors with some of the world’s most fantastic scenery in the background. It is renowned for its extensive and busy outdoor sporting and mountaineering programme and over the past few years Hakuba has seen its popularity significantly increase within the mountain biking and general biking community. With the Japanese Northern Alps as its impressive backdrop, the Hakuba valley is definitely a great place for mountain biking as the different and varied terrains suit bikers of all levels. whether you enjoy a leisurely cycle around some of the lower level trails encircling the valley floor, or a day's hardcore downhill mountain biking exhilarating extreme action is more your ‘thang’, Hakuba definitely has something to suit all tastes.

When is it best to come mountain biking

Hakuba MTB minekataWeather permitting, May, June, September and up to mid November are the best months to mountain bike as trails are quieter and the temperature a bit more ambient. Too early in May or too late in November and a number of the higher trails maybe covered in snow and are therefore unsafe to traverse. Be careful in the fall months the leaves cover the trails and rocks.

Whenever you choose please remember to respect others users of the mountain, especially walkers, and control your speed of descent...

Full Suspension or Hard Tail?

FS MTB Hakuba

The decision on whether to go Full Suspension or Hardtail is a difficult one.... A full suspension (FS) bike is one with both front and rear suspension that is effective at absorbing many bumps thus providing better performance and smoother ride. A hardtail refers to a bike with no rear suspension. Suspension forks may be added to the front of the bike but its back post is rigid. There are numerous makes and models of both types available to the potential buyer so when deciding on which type of bike is best, it is important to consider the following:

  • Your budget !!
  • The type of riding you and your bike will be undertaking; and
  • The typical terrain and angle you will be riding.

In general, hardtail bikes tend to require less maintenance and perform better on steep uphill climbs and sprints to the finish line, whereas full suspension mountain bikes are much more comfortable and arguably have more control over the rough stuff. Sadly, along with an increase comfort, FS bikes increase in price quite significantly.

Whether to go full suspension or hardtail is one which can create a lot of healthy debate amongst the mountain biking community. Inexperienced or beginner riders may prefer to start with a hardtail complete with front, lockable suspension; progressing to a full suspension bike after they have got a feel for their preferred type of riding. Although a full suspension bike will give you more options to adjust to suit the terrain, it can be more energy intensive on the uphill as unless you have a ‘lock out’ facility on the rear suspension as energy can be lost through ‘suspension bobbing' as you climb. Furthermore, you could potentially have more moving parts to repair should anything go wrong. On the positive side, it is worth remembering though you can make a full suspension bike ‘lock out’ so the experience is like riding a hard tail, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to make a hard-tail ride like a full suspension bike!

What sort of bike do I need?

project 01

Different areas within Hakuba are suited to different types of mountain bikes so if you’re an experienced rider then you’ll undoubtedly be bringing your own mountain bike with you and you'll already know your preferred terrain. However, if this is your first mountain biking experience and you’re not familiar with the lingo or sure between a cross country (XC), trail, freestyle or downhill bike; or whether to take the hardtail or full suspension option, then here’s a few thoughts for you to consider:

These days different bikes are designed built for different terrains and uses.

Cross country bikes offer only a small amount of suspension movement. Whilst they can handle most trails they are not as effective on the rocks and roots that come with rugged terrain as seen in Hakuba.

"All Mountain" Bikes are generally heavier than their XC relatives, and provide more suspension travel at the front and possibly rear. They are generally designed to ascend and descent the mountains, integrating some of the cross country bike’s climbing attributes with the strengths of a downhill/freeride bike.

Freestyle bikes are heavy and designed for hardcore abuse by the rider. They’re most suited to riders who enjoy big drops, rough terrain and park jumps so they therefore have a significant degree of suspension travel.

Downhill bikes are the biggest of the ‘bad boy’ bikes out there. Designed for the experienced and highly technical downhill rider, they are generally the heaviest of full suspension (FS) bikes and are capable of high speeds whilst absorbing most obstacles (within reason!) thrown at them. They are most definitely not good for ascending Alpine trails – that’s what the lifts are for!

Bike Rental


If you don’t own your own mountain bike and plan on renting equipment then there are a few rental shops in Hakuba hiring out both full suspension and hard tail mountain bikes. The cost of daily rental varies from store to store and on the type of bike you choose to rent. On average you can expect to pay between 1500yen - 3000yen for a days hire. Prices vary depending on whether you select a basic bike without suspension, or a full on free ride descent bike. (It is also possible to hire mountain bikes for children from around 1000 yen a day.)

Hakuba is sadly lacking in biking shops that sell plenty of spare parts and components for your bike. And is sometime difficult to get hold of parts However, some parts like rear mechs, pedals, cranks, chains, cassettes, brakes, brake pads, cables can be found. The exception to this rule is the rear gear hanger; bring one with you for your bike, especially if it’s of the super funky alternative/rare type. This is probable the most frequently damaged part in the event of a crash. Even a relatively innocuous fall can damage this part and although they can often be bent back into shape, it would be a shame to ruin your holiday if this were not the case. (Most of the rental shops will also do a good line in helmets.)

Best MTB Trails

mtb singltrack hakubaFor full on downhill trails then head up the back of Minekata Ski Area then follow the signs for Lavender Resort. From there, there are 3 good trails down back down to the valley. Sanosaka has a couple of good trails that can be tricky to find.

For a X country riding - head to Snow Harp X Country skiing area.

For beginners to MTB, Iwatake forest, next to Iwatake Ski area has some good singletrack trails, with no real climbing. Another option is to follow the rivers down the valley.

For the more sedate follow the towns MTB map and signposts all around the town.

MTB Tours & Guides

mtb hakuba1Hakuba is lucky to have some quality English speaking MTB guides and companies in town. Sweet Riders offers MTB Clinics, and Road and MTB Tours in the Nagano region. Run by Karey Watanabe, a CMIC licensed and 17 year veteran pro-rider/racer in Japan, Sweet Riders cater to all levels and ages. Groups and private tours can be customised according to the client's wishes. Rental bikes are available with given notice. Join Sweet Riders today for a cycling experience you will not forget! For more info check out 


Evergreen Outdoor do MTB guiding with shuttle access for the downhills. They have a large stock of rental bikes available. More details coming soon.

Lift accessed MTB riding.

hakuba 47 new logoHakuba 47 have lift accessed MTBing. The trail down to the base area is a double track and quite easy. This would suit families more than hard core downhillers. The course is 3.6km and drops 360m of vertical. There is bike rental at the base and you can also book a guide/instructor. Click here for MTB at Hakuba 47