Urban Kyoto is of its own accord a great place to ride a bicycle if you are acclimated to city riding – and you can use this map and guide from the city’s visitor’s bureau if you are so inclined – but if you are aching to get away from the crowds and see a little of the countryside, one option is the 京都八幡木津自転車道 (Kyōto Yawata Kizu Jitensha-dō, “Kyoto-Yawata-Kizu Bicycle Path”).
Popularly known as the 桂川サイクリングロード (Katsuragawa Saikuringu Rōdo, “Katsura River Cycling Road”), this trail starts in Kyoto’s Arashiyama area (Nishikyō-ku, Kamikawara-cho) and runs 45 kilometers toward Nara along the Katsura and Kizu rivers. An overview map of this trail is provided below, but if you would like more detail (and information on how to connect this trail with trails in the Nara area), Kyoto Prefecture provides a regional cycling map and additional information in .pdf format on the trail page of its website.
If you are looking for a more personal read, 自転車で旅がしたい (Jitensha de tabi ga shitai, “I want to travel by bike”) is a blog written by a local woman, and the entry linked here details (with great photos) her ride on this trail in late March 2013. It includes descriptions of stops for food and a bicycle shop, as well as a hot spring foot bath. Even if you don’t read Japanese, the photos can help give you a feel for the day.
If you’re really into palpable vicarious experiences, check out this “straight-from-the-handlebars” video (taken by YouTube user kotw1974) of a section of trail between Hazukashibashi and Hachijō-dōri:
Finally, if you are traveling and don’t have your own bicycle with you, there are lots of options for renting. The tourism bureau site offers this page with a map and detailed info on shops in the metro area, and Kyoto-Melody Tourist Office offers this list of rental shops in the Arashiyama area.
If you already use this trail and have thoughts or information about it, or if you go riding this trail after reading this post, please share your experience in a comment below!