Route 28 up to the Hiraodai Karst Plateau. Max elevation 439 metres.
When I first started cycling, this was my first “big” target. I ended up doing a couple of bigger climbs before this one and climbing it from the other side first, but this was the climb that I started cycling for. It’s still one of my favourite climbs, especially on dark winter mornings when it’s still going to be dark on the way down.
The climb takes you up to the Hiraodai Karst Plateau, a quasi-national park of grassland, limestone “sheep” and caves. There’s also a couple of campsites, a great park and a massive limestone quarry. Hiraodai isn’t really that big an area but it makes up for it with its beauty. It’s not on the scale of Akiyoshidai, but it’s a refreshing change of scene and you can lie back and feel like you’re back in England (if that’s where you’re from and you’re in that kind of mood).
The climb itself is two lanes all the way up and features a number of speed-bumps in various sections (as far as I know they were put in to deter drifting after a few fatal crashes). This makes it less popular with motorbikes than the bump-free climb from the Kitakyushu side, but they are a bit of a pain in the arse for cyclists, too, forcing you over to the left of the lane or onto the (bumpy) centreline.
The lower part of the climb is nothing special; the road just winds through the trees and there’s the odd patch of concretedsideofmountain for your viewing pleasure. The best part of this climb is the last 2 kilometres. The road cuts across the valley, up through the trees and then there’s a beautiful set of cambered bends and viaducts up to the top.
Just before the “peak” there’s a junction – left takes you up to the main campsite and park.
If you keep going straight, there’s a car park on right which leads on to a track with great views back over Yukuhashi and the sea.
Stay on the main road and you go over a few lumps and on to the visitors’ centre where there are a few vending machines for drinks and ice cream if you’re in need of quick energy top-up. Across route 28 from the visitors’ centre there is a road leading up to the caves, another campsite, and a selection of trails that lead over the mountains.
Stay on Route 28 and there’s the road down to Kitakyushu or you can turn left just before the descent and loop up past the park and back down the way you came.