Fitness isn't a goal, it's a side effect

If you or a friend are cycling to get fit and not enjoying it then cycle to the shops instead. Before you know it you'll be fit, car free and better off financially.

How to Turn Your Old Mountain Bike Into a Tidy Commuter

Need a new commuter bike? Maybe not, because with a few cheap and easy modifications you can convert your mountain bike into a lighter faster commuter bicycle. Here's how ...

Japan's National Bicycle Commuting Ban

Strict government regulations and inflexible insurance rules effectively force companies in Japan to ban their employees from cycling to work. It's time for a change.

Cycling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

We're excited that Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympic Games! Read on to learn what we know of the cycling events and facilities planned for Tokyo.

The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour

Tokyo, its better by bike. Don't simply witness Tokyo through the window of a bus or a train, take a bicycle tour and get out there amongst the action.

Cycling My Fuji and Fuji's Five Lakes

Climbing Mt Fuji by bicycle is a ride you have to put on your bucket list. The Pro's do it every year at the Tour of Japan, but us mortals can do it anytime we like.

July 19, 2014

Street Girls Ride Presented by SUGAR BOY

SUGAR BOY organise a monthly skate school and other events for the women who love Tokyo's street culture. As part of Tokyo's Pedal Days of Summer they will be hosting a ride for the ladies of Tokyo.


Beginning at the Aoyama Farmers Market at 4pm on Saturday August 9 this relaxed 15km ride will take female riders to a variety shops around the young fashionable areas of Tokyo including Harajuku, Shibuya and Meguro.  Cycling the backstreets and alleys riders will visit selected thrift shops, galleries, and the famous WBASE Bicycle store finishing up at Baja, a Mexican Bar/Cafe in Naka-Meguro.

In detail the planned route is as follows:

1, Aoyama Farmers Market http://farmersmarkets.jp/
2, W-BASE (bicycle shop) http://www.w-base.com/
3, BLUEWORKERZ (thrift store) http://blueworkerz.com/
4,2 [Ni] (Alexander Lee Chang shop) https://www.facebook.com/projectni
5, VOILLD (Exhibition Gallery Ken Kagami) http://www.voilld.com/
6, SUNDAY'S BEST (shop) http://thesundaysbest.blogspot.jp/
7, Baja (Mexican BAR) http://bento.com/rev/4431.html

The ride is limited to 10 people and costs ¥3,500 per person. More details can be found here.

July 14, 2014

3 Big Events to Kick Off Tokyo's Pedal Days of Summer

Tokyo's Pedal Days of Summer get underway in ernest this weekend with three big events so come along and get involved.

Bunny Hop & Trial School

Learn to bunny hop like a pro at this the first event of the Pedal Days of Summer. Beginners and intermediate riders alike can learn to get more height and distance, invaluable experience for anyone planing to take part in the Pedal Day Bunny Hop competition in August.


In addition to bunny hop skills riders may also choose to brush up on the basics of trials riding under the eye of expert instructors.  The Bunny Hop School will take place at the Aoyama Farmers Market from 3 until 5pm on July 19th and is open to anyone with a BMX or mountain bike and a sturdy helmet! More details can be found here.

Night Pedal Cruising Umi No Hi Ride

As it is the Ume No Hi (Marine Day) long weekend the Night Pedal Cruising Crew will host a summer/beach themed ride from the Aoyama Farmers Market to the waterfront at Tennozu Isle. Gather at the Farmers Market from 5:30pm on Saturday July 19, for a 6:00pm start and remember to get into the spirit of the ride by wearing an Hawaiian Short, board shorts, hat and sunscreen. Full details can be found here.

Old Tokyo Sightseeing Ride

Sunday July 20th the Night Pedal Cruising Crew will host another ride from 14:30. A slightly longer ride the route will pass through  Aoyama Ichome and Akasakamitsuke before swinging by the Imperial Palace to Tokyo Station where riders can enjoy a short break and great photo opportunities.  From there the ride will continue through Akihabara to Ueno Park and Ueno Station before ending up in front of Kaminari-mon in Asakusa.



If you're new to Tokyo or just visiting this is a great way to take in the sights of the city, from the vantage point of your bicycle which allows you to really experience the city, not just observe it from behind the window of a car or bus.

Gather at the Aoyama Farmers Market from 14:00 on July 20th for a 14:30 start. More information here.

I will be at the Bunny Hop School, observing, not competing and will be along for the Umi No Hi Ride, so come along, and say hello. As always it promises to be a great social ride with a wonderful bunch of bicycle loving people. See you there!

July 12, 2014

Umi No Hi Ride - Let the Pedal Days of Summer Begin!

The 71st Night Pedal Cruising ride once again heads towards Tokyo Bay over the Marine Day long weekend break, but this time will finish at Tennozu Isle rather than the beach and parks of Odaiba.

This ride will mark the beginning the Pedal Days of Summer, one and a half months of organised rides around Tokyo in celebration of the 5th Pedal Day Festival which will be held on August 16 and 17 at the United Nations University Farmers Market, and August 18 in Yoyogi Park.

Riders will gather at the Aoyama United Nations University Farmers Market at 5:30pm on Saturday July 19, and will set off at 6:00pm.

The ride will proceed along 246 from Aoyama to Roppongi Midtown, through the Roppongi Crossing and on to Tokyo Tower before taking a break in Shiba park. From there we will continue past Tamachi Station and along the old Shibaura Waterfront before ending on Tennozu Isle.

As this is the first of the Pedal Days of Summer rides its the perfect opportunity to slap on a Hawaiian shirt, board shorts and a pair of flip flops to celebrate the ride and the spirit of summer.

As always bring lights, sound systems, a camera the means to blow bubbles, streamers and whatever else you think will add to the party atmosphere of the ride. I've just bought a new bike speaker and am already contemplating a summer soundtrack for the ride consisting of The Beach Boys, Tube and Southern All Stars so be prepared.

The pace is slow, the distance is manageable, and the company is excellent. The number of regular riders is increasing and we're attracting a great mix of riders not only from Japan, but from all around the world.

If you do post pictures from the ride to social media please do tag them with #NPC71 to share with us all.

Full details about the ride can be found here.

July 09, 2014

Pedal Day Tokyo 2014 - Pedal Days of Summer

Pedal Day Tokyo is an annual celebration of cycling in the city and is celebrating its 5th anniversary in style over an entire month and a half of organised rides culminating with the Pedal Day Festival on August 16, 17 and 18th.

The celebrations kick off on July 19 with a Bunny Hop School at the Aoyama Farmers Market followed by the monthly Night Pedal Cruising Ride. Between July 19th and the Pedal Day Festival starting August 16 a number of themed rides are being planned, rides that take in beautiful parks, others that sample great food, rides touring temples, picnic rides and rides just for fun.


If you have a suggestion for a themed ride we'd love to hear it.

I'm planning to lead a ride to Kichijoji's beautiful Inokashira Park where we can enjoy a picnic in the sun.

Watch this space for the complete ride schedule once we have it cast in stone.

On the 16th and 17th of August Pedal Day festivities will be held at the Aoyama Farmers Market and will include stalls with food and the opportunity to meet and speak with bicycle lovers from around the city, and indeed around the globe not to mention bicycle store owners and other cycling organisations from around the city.



On August 18th the celebration will move to Tokyo's Yoyogi Park where a number of activities and events are organised.

Pedal Day is an event organised by Tokyo's cycling community for Tokyo's cycling community, please do come along on a ride and join us at the Tokyo Pedal Day 2014.


July 01, 2014

Bicycle Lane Outbreak in Tokyo

Bicycle lanes have burst onto the urban landscape of Tokyo almost overnight, its astonishing the speed at which new lanes are appearing in newly developed areas of the city.

On a recent night ride with Night Pedal Cruising we decided to visit "New Tokyo" or those areas that are undergoing rapid reconstruction and redevelopment for the Tokyo Olympics, namely the man made islands of Tokyo Bay. On the way we stopped at the newly opened Toranamon Hills building for a short break before setting off towards Tokyo Bay.

When cycling away from Toranamon hills I was surprised to find kilometres of this :

A bicycle lane, real live protected bicycle lane .. 

Protected left and right.

Continuing the Japanese bicycle lane tradition these lanes are at sidewalk level rather than road level which means that when the  red and white construction barriers are removed bicycles will be protected from cars by the kerb, although I assume railings will be placed along the side of the lane.

It appears a garden will separate pedestrians and cyclists as there is a 1m wide unsurfaced space between the sidewalk and bicycle lane.

Sorry I was shooting while riding!
While I'm extremely pleased to see some infrastructure popping up in Tokyo I have two concerns about this particular lane. 

Firstly, the lanes are much too narrow to be two way lanes despite the fact that the pedestrian space beside them is HUGE. There is barely enough space for two bicycles to pass each other safely rendering the dangerous and sadly, almost useless.

Two way?!? Really?

The second problem occurs at intersections where the lanes disappear meters from the crosswalk only to reappear a few meters away on the other side. No consideration has been given to these areas where pedestrians and cyclists will mix.

Narrow huh?

From Toranamon hills we headed over Harumi Bridge and on the other side we were greeted with similar lanes to the ones outside Toranamon Hills, protected from traffic, and ready to be isolated from pedestrians.  The lanes here were the same width as those outside Toranamon Hills despite the fact that the pedestrian space was obscenely wide. It certainly seems the lanes could have been wider here, but some bureaucrat with his tape measure must be fixated on the idea that lanes should be of uniform width.

Yes, narrow, but still welcome.

Occasionally the lanes took on a different format, where the surface was paved and the lane separated from pedestrians by a low concrete barrier, which conveniently had lights mounted atop so nobody accidentally crashed into them on our night ride.

Wider, and protected.

These lanes stretched from Harumi Bridge to just before the established area of Odaiba leading me to believe the plan is to introduce bicycle lanes to areas as they're developed land leave existing areas alone.  But that's not bad news as between Toranamon Hills and the new bridges connecting the islands of Tokyo bay is the Tsukiji Fish Market which is scheduled to be redeveloped in the near future and when that happens I'm sure cyclists will be able to cycle from Toranamon Hills all the way to the Odaiba Waterfront.

Yes, that really is a two way lane. I better lose some weight.

Sure on the world scale these lanes aren't perfect, but they're a welcome start and lets hope they become a permanent feature after the 2020 Olympics are over.

June 29, 2014

Bicycle Speakers - Which one to choose?

I've been on the lookout for a reliable bicycle speaker to use on our monthly Night Pedal Cruising rides and after much research I've reached the point where I can't choose between the the Philips ShoqBox Bluetooth Wireless Speaker and the Scosche boomBOTTLE Bicycle Speaker. They're both robust, have great sound quality and fit neatly into a bicycle's bottle cage.  I've summarised the features of each speaker below, but would love some advice from anyone who owns either.


Optimised for the great outdoors the Scosche boomBOTTLE Bicycle Speaker is a tough weatherproof portable bluetooth speaker that fits conveniently in your bicycle's bottle cage allowing you to bring great tunes out on any ride.

A very popular choice of speaker among my friends the boomBOTTLE delivers clear crisp sound even at full volume in high traffic conditions via dual 40mm drivers and passive subwoofer. The rechargeable lithium polymer battery provides up to 10 hours of continuous music playback, long enough for even the most intense endurance rides or day of cycle touring.

Devices can be connected to the speaker wirelessly via bluetooth or via a 3.5mm AUX cable.

When it comes to quality and value for money the boomBOTTLE seems a little expensive compared to the Philips ShoqBox Bicycle Speaker but from what I gather this is a popular and well known brand of bicycle speaker.


Click to enlarge
The Philips ShoqBox Bluetooth Portable Speaker is a rugged speaker built to take a few splashes and knocks and still keep on performing. Encased in a robust rubber casing this speaker fits perfectly in a bicycle's drink bottle cage and is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that lasts up to 8 hours.

Powered by two neodymium speaker drivers and Philips wOOx bass radiators, this speaker claims to offer loud, clear sound even in heavy traffic.

The speaker features wireless bluetooth connectivity allowing music to be streamed to the speaker from any bluetooth device which means less cables to get caught up on your bike. Devices without bluetooth however can be connected a 3.5mm AUX cable.

This speaker is a lot cheaper than the boomBOTTLE and while I don't need bluetooth compatibility at the moment it may be a handy feature to have in the future.

On the other hand I could save myself a lot of worry about prices and features and just go for something simple and cheap like the Ivation Multi-Function Bicycle Speaker but if I'm going to take the plunge I'd rather get something that will do the job and last well into the future.

I guess I'm torn on price. Friends recommend the boomBOTTLE, yet the ShoqBox is cheaper seems to offer more features so I'm kind of leaning in that direction. If you've had any experience with these products I'd love to hear from you before I buy.


June 24, 2014

Fitness Isn't a Goal, It's a Side Effect

In what I can only imagine is a very late New Years resolution my friend has started cycling to get into shape. Yet sadly after only a few rides she's losing her initial enthusiasm. She's discovered that when you're starting out, cycling can be hard work and to her it doesn't seem to be getting any easier.

I know how she feels. When I first took up running I was all enthusiastic, but running is hard work and its difficult to stay motivated. Running for fitness seems pointless, you have no destination, you're running for the sake of running, the stronger you get the longer you must run, you might as well be going around in circles. It's madness, and worse is that if you miss a running session you may start feeling guilty and nobody needs that kind of artificial pressure in their lives. Before long you justify quitting by concluding you just don't have time in your schedule for running.

Someone who has no love of cycling or bicycles who takes up cycling for fitness must feel exactly the same. Its a chore and we already have enough chores to get through each day.

This is why you need to turn your cycling time from dead time into meaningful time. I do this by cycling to work everyday. I'm getting daily exercise but the reason I'm cycling is to get to work, not to get fit. I cycle to the supermarket, I cycle to pick my daughters up from after school activities, I cycle with them to the park on weekends, I rarely cycle without a reason.

So, my friend lives in a small country town with a single main road and quiet backstreets, perfect. The town has a pub, a general store and a post office. So my suggestion to her was to forget cycling to get fit, instead decide that whenever she goes to the post office or general store she'll go by bike. Weather permitting, forget that the car is even an option for short trips within town. Before long whenever she leaves the house to go to the store she'll subconsciously head in the direction of her bicycle rather than the car.

Once you've established that pattern, you're getting exercise while actually getting something done. Your ride isn't as pointless as before, and the excuse "I don't have time for this" is no longer valid because going to the store is something you have to do anyway. Once cycling around town becomes second nature you'll never feel pressure to ride, you may not have to cycle every day either and as a result won't feel guilty about missing a ride because you're cycling when there is a real need, not an imagined one.

Before you know it your fitness will improve and you may even develop a love of bicycles and recreational cycling. But in reality, like millions here in Japan, you don't need to be on a fitness kick or even have an opinion of cycling in order to make the bicycle part of your daily transport mix.

June 14, 2014

Encouraging Employees to Cycle to Work

In an earlier article I outlined the benefits both tangible and intangible that bicycle commuters bring to businesses and I'd like to follow that up with another outlining actions that employers can take to encourage more employees to start cycling to work.

 I was recently contacted by the CEO of a company in Yokohama who has made the almost unheard of decision in Japan to encourage his employees to cycle to work. Citing environmental reasons along with physical and mental health benefits he believes that his company can benefit from happier healthier employees and has begun taking measures to promote bicycle commuting including providing access to facilities such as indoor bicycle parking and showers. He also encourages employees to commute by bicycle by paying for insurance and commuter fees, very forward thinking for a company in Japan.

These are all positive and encouraging moves from an employer but he contacted me asking if he could do even more to encourage his employees to commute by bike.

I suggested he consider the following facilities, services and incentives that various companies around the world provide their bicycle commuting employees. Some such as secure parking should be considered essential infrastructure, while other items represent incentives and bonuses that employers can offer employees to entice them away from their cars.

Secure Parking

The primary need bicycle commuters express is the need for safe, secure parking for their bicycles, undercover and out of the elements if possible. Wise or not many commuters have invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in their bicycles and ensuring they'll be there at the end of the work day is their main concern. In fact many people I contacted when researching this article said secure parking alone was their only requirement for bicycle commuting, anything more was considered a bonus.

Showers 

In hot and humid climates bicycle commuters expressed an interest in showers. Some may argue that we should ride according to the weather as to not work up a sweat, but during summers in Japan it is impossible to even stand in the sun without sweating let alone cycle, so dropping speed does not help. In the absence of showers many commuters carry an extra set of clothes, a towel, baby wipes and deodorant. For many showers would be welcome, but are not essential.

Lockers

Extra clothes, towels, baby wipes, deodorant, helmets, cycling shoes, bicycle commuters come with a lot of baggage and having somewhere convenient to store that during the day is is essential lest damp clothing get stored under a desk or, heaven forbid, forgotten for weeks in a desk drawer.

Insurance

The culture of fear has taught us that cycling is a dangerous activity (it's not) and we must insure ourselves. In fact Japanese companies are required by law to ensure their employees for the duration of their commute. As Japanese employers choose the most economical policies available cycling is never covered as a valid form of commuting to work, hence many companies ban cycling to work. To negate the issue and make bicycle commuting more attractive employers could cover their employees cycling accident insurance.

Commuter Fees

In Japan companies must also cover the cost of employees travel to work, usually in the form of a monthly train pass. Bicycle commuters currently occupy a grey space with the majority collecting commuter fees while cycling to work. Companies can save money by paying bicycle commuters a commuting fee based on the distance they travel, or the average number of rainy days that can be expected in a year. Whatever the method used to calculate the payment, bicycle commuters should not end up having to pay for the occasional train commute.

Cash Incentives

Related to the topic above, some employers go so far as to offer bicycle commuters a cash incentives. Based on the number of consecutive days spent cycling, distance cycled or simply an arbitrary lump sum a financial incentive is a great way to get people cycling. In return employers benefit from happier, healthier more alert and productive employees.

Skills Training

Many employees don't cycle because they lack the confidence and skills, others believe they're not physically fit enough and can't possibly go the distance. Without getting on a bicycle on the first place employees never come to understand just how easy, fun and invigorating cycling is. Employers can encourage more employees to ride by offering a day of bicycle safety and skills training, getting people on bicycles and giving them the skills to ride safely. In addition to promoting cycling as a valid form of transport, by including employees who have no intention of cycling they, as motorists, get a look at the issues cyclists face on the roads which will hopefully make them more considerate of cyclist in the future. Its a great team building exercise too!


Free Breakfast

A long commute can leave an employee famished, therefore some companies are known to give bicycle commuters free breakfast in the company cafeteria. Not only are employees being well fed, socialising over a cafeteria breakfast has the added benefit of improving communication at the workplace.


Dry Cleaning Pick Up and Drop Off

This is a luxury item, but it allows employees to leave business suits and shirts at the office rather than having to ferry them back and forth from home on their bicycles. This service could also be used to give bicycle commuters cycling gear a good clean up once in a while. Sure its a luxury, but one that makes a lot of sense.

Cycling Packs

Some employers provide bicycle commuters with a "Cycling Pack" of convenient accessories for bicycle commuting at the beginning of each year. The pack may include such items as lights, reflectors, locks, tools, inner tubes, rain wear etc. The presentation of the cycling pack presents another opportunity to educate cyclists about cycling safely and promote cycling to work.

On Site Equipment and Tools

A bicycle pump, patch kit, some simple tools readily available at the bicycle parking lot is a very small gesture employers can make, but one that is greatly appreciated by employees.

Mechanical Support

Not everyone is comfortable with the mechanical side of cycling and the thought of mechanical failure and ending up late for work could be preventing employees from cycling. Some companies have been known to have a bicycle mechanic visit monthly to take care of any issues employees may be having with their bikes. Others nominate a mechanically skilled employee to be available to assist with changing a flat tyre and other simple maintenance tasks as they arise. The security of knowing there is support available when things go wrong well help more employees make the shift to the bike.

Community

Bicycle commuters are social creatures. Giving them a forum to share ideas and information, be it a company mailing list or online forum is a great way to keep enthusiasm high among riders. Such a forum allows commuters to alert each other to dangers they've noticed on the roads around the office such as roadworks or particularly dangerous drivers, it allows them to share alternative route information, and to organise group rides to and from the office if they believe in safety in numbers. In addition to this a little friendly banter, and the sense of belonging to a group, may keep people who would otherwise drift away from bicycle commuting around for a while longer.

Cycling to work benefits employees, employers, the environment and even the economy. As an employer in the face of the numerous benefits cycling employees bring a company you'd be crazy not to support cycling to work.