Ride for Kumamoto

We felt the tremors in Tokyo over a 1000 kilometres away. Immediate reactions are always where was it, how big was it, and is there a tsunami warning?

Thoughts like these were a luxury for those unaffected by the series of historically large earthquakes on the far-west island of Kyushu. The ground moved in the region of 4 to 5 meters, resulting in fires, power outages, collapsed bridges and the wide scale evacuation of over 44,000 people in and around the City of Kumamoto. Partly due to Japan's stringent building regulations the number of fatalities was reduced to a minimum.

It was in this region that the memorable Rapha Prestige Oguni was held 3 years ago, the first time for many cyclists to experience the vast untouched landscape formed over 300,000 years by the eruptions of Mount Aso, Japan's largest active volcano. Gradually as we became aware of the severity of what had happened through friends and local cyclists who had been part of the original Prestige we felt like we had to do something.

So during Golden Week the county’s longest national holiday, sacrificing what would usually be a chance to spend time with their families, the team in Japan took the Mobile Cycle Club across the country little more than a week after the disaster. Contacting locals, gathering riders and collecting donations in 9 cities over 15 rides. Beginning in Gifu with a surprisingly large turnout which helped diminish fears of lack of support, journeying west through the lush green forests of Kyoto on to Mount Rokko, Tatsuno, Okayama and Onomichi with huge support from the bicycle friendly U2 complex.

The rides culminated in Oguni over two days with 150 riders from across the country united in what we were trying to achieve. There were even charity rides organised by RCC members in New York and Melbourne. One rider directly affected by the disaster living in a shelter contacted us to express his gratitude together with the disappointment that he couldn't take part.

It's not only the immediate devastation of the earthquake that has effected people, Oguni was relatively untouched but huge cancellations in tourism, the regions main source of revenue at the most important time of the year has led to a crisis, creating a ripple effect for many who suffer in different ways. Staying in hotels, eating local food and visiting the numerous volcanic hot springs is one way of making up for the lack of visitors – areas that would normally be backlogged with cars were now relatively empty.

Connecting with local riders was important too in creating varied routes to accommodate all levels, from a challenging course that followed the original Prestige route to milder options more suited to beginners and determined junior cyclists who could all experience the unique landscape the area has to offer.

With little sleep, a lot of riding and even more driving, over 10 days through the help of fellow cyclists we were able to make a significant donation to help benefit an area important to all of us.

Through the cooperation of local riders and government authorities we were able to create a breathtaking route based on the original Oguni Prestige.

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