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.

June 30, 2008

The Trail Store - My New Favorite Place

I needed some SPD pedals for the second-hand Cannondale I bought at Suginami Green Cycle. But when you've paid just Y18,000 for an entire bike its hard to part with Y10,000 for a pair of pedals.

On the way home from work on Friday I swung by The Trail Store, where I had bought some shorts and a saddle a week earlier. After locking my bike in the rack provided I strolled inside and was instantly greeted with a smile and a "Hey, how do you like that new saddle?". Right away I felt at home.

We shot the breeze for a while before getting down to the business.

"What kind of SPD's do you have?", I inquired.

"Not many I'm afraid, just these ones that have a platform as well.", was the reply.

"Oh the platform is fine, they're for a cheaper bike I ride in normal shoes, but would just get more use out of it if I had SPD's.", I explained.

Now the pedals he had pulled from the glass cabinet were a staggering Y9,000, and I didn't really want to go there for a Y18,000 bike. Faced with a lack of options, I was prepared to get these for my Giant and put the Giant pedals on the Cannondale, but was hoping for something cheaper. Without a word a second staff member began rummaging around in some packaging behind the counter and came out with some Shimano SPD's with a plastic platform.

"How about these, they're a lot cheaper." he beamed.

"Perfect, I'll need a wrench too." Deal done.

He comes back with a wrench and a pair of SDP cleats. "Here take these cleats as a gift." he tells me.

Sweet.

Here is what I got at the Trail Store, I got recognized when I walked in and was treated warmly. I got listened to and I got understanding. With just the mention that I was buying parts for my second bike the staff understood that Y9,000 pedals weren't what I was looking for and went out of their way to find something cheaper. Then, in addition to all this, I got a Y1,300 set of cleats for free. All this on only my second visit.

The Trail Store in Setagaya is my new favorite bike store.




The Trail Store
Phone: 03-3411-4702
Hours: 11:00am - 8:00pm
Closed: Wednesday

June 26, 2008

Buying a Reconditioned Bicycle in Tokyo

The sheer number of bicycles abandoned around your typical Japanese train station is mind boggling.

The local council employ an army to visit stations in their jurisdiction and tag all the bikes parked in the surrounding streets. If you return at the end of the day to find your bike has been tagged, you simply remove the tag and toss it in the bin before riding home, thus indicating to the officials that your bike has indeed not been abandoned. After a period of time the stations are revisited, and the bicycles that have tags remaining are loaded on to the back of a truck and transported to a locked holding yard. The bicycles will stay in the yard for another period within which it is possible for the owner to reclaim their bicycle.

Eventually it becomes obvious that a number of bikes are not going to be claimed, and these bikes pile up at a simply astonishing rate. At this point, and I have witnessed this near Shimo-Ochiai Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line, a garbage truck is reversed into the yard and one by one the unclaimed bicycles are fed into the crusher. When I first saw it I couldn't believe it, perfectly good bicycles being crushedSome days I'd imagine setting up a business. Take some of the better bikes off the hands of the council at a token cost, give them a spot of maintenance, and re-sell them second hand at a fraction of their original cost. Of course being a geek, without an ounce of business sense to call my own, the idea went unrealized ..

... Until now ...

No, I haven't mustered up the courage to set up such a business by myself. But it seems that, in Suginami-ku at least, the local council has decided to act and try to save at least a small percentage of the abandoned bikes. They have established a bicycle recycling center voluntarily staffed by a number of retired, bicycle loving, gentlemen.

The recycle center is called Suginami Green Cycle and is located at Eifuku 2-1-11 (ph: 03-3327-2287). A timetable listing the dates they are open to the public can be found here.


These guys hand pick the most promising looking bicycles from those scheduled for destruction, transport them to their yard and get to work servicing them for re-sale. They open to the public once a month for three days in which you can purchase a second hand bike for a fraction of its original price.

In addition to the standard shopping bikes and mama-chari, if you arrive early on the first open day of the month you'll find they also have a selection of mountain, cross and city bikes including names such as Bianchi, Cannondale and Specialized, but you have to be quick as those obviously get snapped up quickly.

So, it happens my wife was there one afternoon with a friend who was collecting a ladies Bianchi she had purchased the previous day. She was chatting with one of the elderly volunteers about her bicycle nut of a husband. She told him how much trouble its is to transport my expensive MTB up and down the stairs whenever we want to go out as a family and how I was thinking of getting something cheap to leave downstairs for just these occasions, but that cheap bikes aren't my thing ...

Of course being a bicycle enthusiast himself the fellow understood where she was coming from, and led her over to a Cannondale MTB not yet ready for sale and offered it to her for a good price once it was complete. She sent the photograph below to my phone immediately, along with the price, to which I responded buy, buy, buy!


The bike is an aluminum frame Cannondale F300. Its a great frame which was used on all the F series bikes of its year from the cheapest to the most expensive. During its release year in Japan this bike retailed at Y99,000. My wife bought it for Y18,000 and when she arrived to pick it up they had included a complementary Cateye light for the front and a kickstand.

As I mentioned its a great frame, so the plan now is to continue to upgrade my Giant MTB (below) passing down the components from that to the Cannondale, starting with a new pair of SPD pedals as I can't stand riding on platforms any more.


Before closing I'd like to congratulate Suginami-ku on taking the initiative to recycle some bikes, it just makes sense. But perhaps more importantly it has given a group of retired guys a way to help out their community while doing something that they love.

I'd also like to state for the record that my wife is awesome. She's not a cyclist by any means, but there she was, in a mechanics shop, without me dragging her there, on the lookout for a decent bike for me. You've got to love that! I'm a lucky man.

June 18, 2008

Time For Some New Gear

I've had a pair of Perl Izumi cycling shorts for almost 10 years, the mountain biking type which look almost normal except for having a padded bum. Over the last couple of weeks they developed a pair of holes, one in each butt cheek which progressively grew larger to the point that if it weren't for the internal lining and pad they would have been deemed obscene.

I'd been meaning to drop into Y's Road in Shinjuku to grab a new pair for a few weeks, but family commitments meant I never found the time. By Monday my shorts had all but disintegrated, so during my lunch break I rode on over to The Trail Store, a shop specializing in MTB and downhill bikes and gear in Setagaya.

It was my first visit to The Trail Store. Usually it takes a few visits to a new shop to establish an understanding with the staff that you're serious cyclist and expect to be treated as such. But this time the fact that I had ridden the ass out of my shorts immediately earned me the respect of the shops owner.

I planned not to spend any more than Y10,000 but after trying on a few pairs I eventually settled on a pair of Oakley MTB shorts way over my budget. I justified my purchase with the knowledge that all the expensive gear I had bought in the past was still going strong despite constant use, while the cheaper stuff had fallen apart years earlier.

In addition to a ratty 10 year old pair of shorts I also have a ratty 8 year old saddle. It looks terrible with its cover all worn off, but is still comfortable enough and I had grown quite fond of it over the years. Like my worn out shorts my worn out saddle was kind of a status symbol. I had ridden my saddle to dust. Besides the sight of it bought down the entire value of my bike, thus making it a great anti-theft device.

After purchasing my new, more expensive than expected, shorts and returning to the office I realized that the holes in my old pair had been caused by constant rubbing on some old seams on my rapidly decaying saddle. Wearing my new shorts on the old saddle would do nothing but shorten their working life .. not something I wanted as I had planned to spread the cost of the shorts over a number of years.

So, having already gone over budget purchasing the shorts, on the commute home I swung by The Trail Store again and picked up a new saddle for just over Y10,000.

By the end of the day I had gone roughly 3 times over budget, but as my daughter noted when she saw my ride the next morning "Daddy, it looks like a new bike." And indeed it does.