A Tour of Tokyo's Newest Bicycle Lanes

New bicycle lanes are appearing all over Tokyo, and thats great even if the lanes aren't so great themselves! We cycled as many as we could and here are our observations.

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.

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 28, 2009

Sanyo announces carbon frame hybrid


Sanyo announced the addition of a new model to the eneloop bike lineup, the CY-SPK227 electric hybrid bicycle, to be launched in Japan. The Sanyo CY-SPK227 electric hybrid bicycle is the world's first commercially available power-assisted bicycle with a carbon composite frame. Due to its properties, carbon composite is a material that facilitates the optimal design of each part of the frame in terms of rigidity and vibration absorption. It enables a comfortable ride and helps efficiently convert human energy into propulsive power.

The new Sanyo CY-SPK227 electric hybrid bicycle features Two-Wheel Drive System- where conventional pedal power is applied to the rear wheel, while an electric motor powers the front wheel. As a result, both the front and rear wheels grip the road securely, thereby increasing a stable feeling while riding, and providing a smooth ride with forward traction that is very steady and straight. The CY-SPK227 is equipped with a Sports Traction Mode. The mode improves the ridability so that when the rider puts pressure on the pedal even if the wheel is slipping, the mode detects this and causes the front-wheel motor to rotate and grab the road.

Rather than increasing the battery capacity to meet the need for traveling longer distances, Sanyo developed the Loop Charge Function as its exclusive technology for generating and storing energy during bicycle operation. The Loop Charge Function System generates electricity by switching the motor to a dynamo and charges the hybrid bicycle's battery during riding (regenerative charging).Other features include- 3 high intensity LED’s battery light, Central Controller (equipped with back light) indicating various operating information on its liquid crystal display in real time and Magnesium Suspension Fork to further increase the ridability under various road conditions.Sanyo CY-SPK227 electric hybrid bicycle will be available only in Japan from October 1st for approximately 627,900 yen (Ouch!).

Source: fareastgizmos.com

Sanyo announces folding electric hybrid bicycle

Until now, Sanyo's lineup of electric hybrid bicycles has been mostly composed of more basic models. However, with the expansion of electric hybrid bicycle users, there has been growing demand from urban consumers for more upscale and sophisticated models. Many people who live in high-rise condominiums are looking for bicycles that they can store in front of or just inside their units, rather than leaving them in vehicle parking areas. In order to meet this need, the CY-SPJ220 has been developed as a folding bicycle with 20-inch tires that can be taken into even smaller elevators, while also making it easy to store in an apartment foyer. As an example of the portability benefits of a small lightweight folding bicycle, riders can travel a long distance by car, and then use the bicycle for getting around at their destination. Therefore, Sanyo’s new hybrid bicycle CY-SPJ220 l offers the possibility of a new transportation lifestyle called "micro park and ride" utilizing the benefits of both a car and bicycle together.


The Sanyo CY-SPJ220 electric hybrid folding bicycle features Two-Wheel Drive System. In this system conventional pedal power is applied to the rear wheel, while an electric motor powers the front wheel. As a result, both the front and rear wheels grip the road securely, thereby increasing a stable feeling while riding, and providing a smooth ride with forward traction that is very steady and straight. With compact design that can be loaded into a car, the Sanyo CY-SPJ220 electric hybrid folding bicycle will be available in Japan by September 21st.

Source: fareastgizmos.com

July 27, 2009

Japanese police get tough on law breaking cyclist.

This morning the police upped the ante on red light running cyclists. Beware, they're getting tough, you may never want to risk running a red light again after reading what follows.

While waiting at a red light an intersection with a koban on the corner a fellow cycling in his office kit passed me on the inside and proceeded to cross the intersection against the light. In response to this one of the police officers in the koban leaned out the door, put a whistle to his lips and blew it sharply three times "Pi! Pi! Pi!". It was a tense and confrontational moment in Japanese law enforcement.

The cyclist continued on his merry way oblivious that the whistle had even been blown. If he did happen to hear it over the background noise he would have no idea it was directed at him as he was already a good 15 meters past the koban.

Cyclists be warned, this is an intersection at which I have regularly gone against the red light without consequence, but no more! Ignore this red light at your peril because there is a hard ass cop at the koban looking to correct your misbehaving ways, he's armed with a whistle and he's not afraid to use it.

July 22, 2009

Tandem Touring in Japan

I was recently contacted by a couple with some questions about bringing their tandem to Japan for a summer tour of Hokkaido. They had some concerns about Japanese bicycle law that I had not considered before.

Their first concern was bicycle registration. As all bicycles in Japan are registered and being caught on a unregistered bicycle could at the very least take a few hours out of your schedule, and at worst could earn you a fine. What is a bicycle tourist to do when they bring a bike with them from overseas for a short tour?


Firstly I believe its unlikely that you will be stopped by a policeman for a random registration check as you ride your fully laden touring bike around the Japanese countryside. But on the off chance that you are, simply explaining your situation should get you off the hook with a pleasant wave and a smile. If the officer is more of a by the book type then I suggest you show him your passport, itinerary, and return tickets etc. Explain there is no way to register your bike as a non-resident of Japan and you should set right to go.

What if that isn't enough? Have a picture or two of you and your bike on other trips in other countries on hand. An old Polaroid with the date in the corner adds further evidence to support the case that it is in fact your bicycle.

At the end of the day I think bicycle registration is a non issue for the short term visitor.
Their second and bigger concern was that riding of tandems is deemed illegal all over Japan with the exception of Nagano. Surely that would put a stop to their plans?

Japan does outlaw the practice of futari-nori, or two people per bicycle, but this law was put in place to stop the dangerous practice of giving your friend a lift home on the luggage rack or handlebars of a bicycle clearly designed for a single rider. As that law was being written I'm certain nobody was even considering the case of tandems. But the law is the law and two people per bicycle is specifically banned, well in writing at least.

I've heard numerous stories, and read many a blog about tandem riders all over Japan, not just in Nagano. I have even heard of tandem riders approaching policemen to ask for directions with no ill effects. I believe the police are sensitive to two people on a bicycle built for one, but when a tandem rolls by it probably doesn't even register in their minds that something is amiss as a tandem is specifically built for two riders.

As with all bicycle laws in Japan the law around tandems is fuzzy. Yes its against the law, as is riding on certain sidewalks, riding with an umbrella, and slinging a bag of groceries over your handlebars, but those laws are ignored by the populace on a daily basis and are rarely, if ever, enforced. If you're on a tandem, obeying common sense rules of the road and not putting yourself on anyone else in danger then you're unlikely to run into trouble with the law, but nothing is certain.

So, can you ride your tandem in Japan? The law clearly states two people per bicycle is unacceptable, despite being drafted without tandems in mind, so technically you shouldn't be considering bringing a tandem to Japan. But all technicalities of the law aside, others have and continue to ride tandems around Japan in full view of the local constabulary without any ill effect.

When you're riding a tandem in Japan you're bending the already quite flexible cycling rules, how comfortable you are in bending the rules will ultimately determine if you'll risk riding a tandem in Japan or not.
If you'd like a fully legal run on a tandem bicycle in Tokyo, you can borrow one for free at the Imperial Palace Cycling Course between 10:00am and 3:00pm each Sunday.

July 15, 2009

Where to get an Xtracycle in Tokyo?


f.i.g Bike Daikanyama thats where. I first spotted the Xtracycle Radish (pictured above) in their Daikanyama store but expect it is available at their Harajuku store also. I haven't had a chance to revisit f.i.g Bike and talk to the staff, but assume that as they carry the Xtracycle Radish they must also stock the Xtracycle FreeRadical and accessories.

f.i.g Bike Daikanyama is easily accessible from either Daikanyama or Ebisu stations. Check their homepage for access details.

July 13, 2009

Electric assist bike, energetic child give dad an easy ride

While waiting at a traffic light near Setagaya Koen this morning I noticed a father and daughter on an electric assist bicycle. OK, nothing unusual about that. But in this mornings case it was the little girl, no more than 6 years old, who was doing the pedaling. Dad sat back on the seat, hands on the handle bars, legs dangling, while the daughter stood on the pedals in front of him propelling the bike forwards.

I don't have any idea how long she can keep that up, but the denki assist bike certainly must be giving a fair amount of assistance.

July 07, 2009

Busted Pedal

I broke a pedal on the way home last night. It was a Shimano DX, an SPD pedal with a metal cage from almost 9 years ago, unlike the DX of today which sports a plastic cage.

Anyway, the bolt that holds the outside of the cage to the SPD had disappeared, as had the spring inside. It made a terrible rattle but didn't really affect the ride. But I figured being left like that for the rest of the ride home it might suffer even more damage so I jerry-rigged it back together using some folded note paper just like you'd see McGyver do. It got me home.

During my lunch break today I took the bike to The Trail Store to see if replacing the bolt and spring were an easy matter. Initial analysis revealed that with the purchase of just a few parts there was a good chance the pedal could be saved. The friendly mechanic whipped off the pedals and replaced them with some new platforms so I'd be able to get home, as ordering in the parts would take a couple of days and it seemed pointless to leave the whole bike in the shop for the sake of repairing a pedal.

Unfortunately further investigation of the pedal revealed more damage inside. In other shops, in other parts of the world, the mechanic would simply suggest buying new pedals but The Trail Store mechanic was keen to save my pedal with the purchase of a few parts from Shimano.

It was the first time I'd seen the schematic of a Shimano DX pedal and there sure are a lot of fiddly little parts in there. So in the end it was I who suggested to the mechanic maybe it would just be easier to simply purchase some new pedals. After all, the existing ones had lasted me a good 9 years initially for racing and later for commuting, they'd done their job and deserved retirement.

So now I've got some shiny new Shimano XT pedals on order. The new SPD design sheds mud a lot easier than the old so there is less need of a platform as backup when your shoe and pedal are clogged up with mud. Therefore I forwent the platform and saved almost 200g in the process.

After the purchase of a new bike, the replacement of an entire set of Hayes brakes with Shimano XT, and now the purchase of new Shimano XT pedals I certainly hope this is the last of my purchases for a long while as my wallet is starting to sting.

I'm not on The Trail Store payroll, they don't even know this blog exists, but I mention them at every opportunity because each time I go there the staff are friendly and the service is faultless. If you're a cyclist of the mountain bike, downhill, dirt jumping, freestyle or trials persuasion I couldn't recommend The Trail Store more highly.

July 06, 2009

Bag Your Bike Poster

A few weeks ago I wrote about taking your bicycle on the train in Japan, the following weekend I noticed this poster at my local, Keio operated, station:


This is odd because cyclists in the know have always known that bagged bicycles on the train are perfectly acceptable. We've always garnered pained looks from station staff and passengers, but our presence has been tolerated as we're careful to be as unobtrusive as possible.

But your average Tokyoite has never considered taking their bicycle on the train. If they did then I can't imagine that they'd entertain the idea of rolling it on fully assembled as depicted the poster. Its unprecedented, I've never seen it and I'd wager a bet that 99.999% of the population of Tokyo have never seen it. If it were attempted the station staff would prevent the person from even reaching the platform let alone entering the train. Wouldn't they?

So is the poster saying "Our staff are so lax and unconcerned for your safety and comfort that they'll let anyone old nutter roll a fully assembled bicycle onto the train."???

Petty criticism of the poster for my own entertainment aside, any education of the public is worthwhile. I don't believe there will be an influx of bicycle bag toting, grocery laden, obasan on our trains, thank god. But I do think that making it known to all that bagging your bike is perfectly within the rules of train etiquette us existing bike baggers may earn a few less stern looks from fellow passengers next time we bag it.

July 02, 2009

Japanese Police Bicycles

The rider in the distance was out of the saddle of what appeared to be a mamachari, pumping hard and swaying side to side. "Get off the road, you're a danger to yourself", I though to myself as I approached. In the little time it took me to catch up I realized this was no ordinary rider, this was a policeman, on his heavy mamachari like police bike. Interested to see where this was leading I dropped into his slipstream, sat up in the saddle and rode at a leisurely pace behind him as he exerted a considerable amount of just keeping his bike moving forward.

As we reached the line of cars waiting at the intersection he disappeared onto the sidewalk. "Wonder what that was all about?", I think as I ride between two rows of cars leading up to the red light up ahead. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green I peer back down the row of cars to see the policeman dismount, knock on the window of a van and instruct the driver pull his vehicle into a driveway. The driver complied, the light turned green, I rode off, and maybe, just maybe one more dangerous driver was taken off our roads.

If you've ever seen a Japanese police bicycle you'll know they are not designed for pursuit, they're more like what you'd expect your local postman to ride if you were living in the 1950's. They're manufactured by Japanese bicycle maker Bridgestone especially for the police departments of Japan. However I believe Bridgestone was awarded the contract purely on account of being a Japanese company rather than on the quality or design of the bicycles they provide to the police departments across the nation.

Don't get me wrong, Bridgestone make some terrific bicycles, both road and mountain alike, but the bicycles developed for the police department are not much different than your regular mamachari. Being "mens bikes" they have a traditional diamond frame rather than the sloping top tube of a mamachari, but that is just about where the differences end.

The rear rack supports a small lockable metal box which judging from is size holds a clipboard full of paperwork (in triplicate), and the only other noticeable difference from a mamachari is a tube attached to the front fork designed for holding a baton. (Japanese police love their batons, bokken, staffs and sticks. Overcompensating for a deficiency in the stick department perhaps?)

Although I'm unsure of the gearing of the police bikes, judging by the effort it took the policeman in front of me to keep his bike above 20km/h, I don't believe they're geared for sprinting. So unless these bicycles behave in the same manner as the Tommy Lee Jones' car in Men in Black, I consider them woefully inadequate for police work.

Which do you think will come first. Cops on more practical police bikes, or cops on electric-assist mamachari? (Both with stick holders, of course.)

July 01, 2009

Bicycles designed to carry 2 kids go on sale

From the Kyodo News Agency:
TOKYO - Bicycle manufacturers launched models strong enough to be ridden by an adult plus two small children Wednesday as the ban on riding bikes with two kids was lifted in almost all prefectures across Japan. The move resulted from strong objections to the ban from mostly mothers, prompting the National Police Agency to issue safety standards for bicycles suitable for being ridden with two children earlier this year. The agency had previously attempted to fully enforce the ban. As the new models are priced higher than conventional bicycles, ranging from 60,000 yen to less than 200,000 yen, some local governments, such as the Maebashi city office in Gumma Prefecture, are moving to subsidize purchases.

Under the safety standards the NPA released in April, riders should be at least 16 years old and can carry up to two children less than 6 years old on special auxiliary seats installed at the front and the rear of the bike. Bikes that meet the standards are marked with either a BAA, or Bicycle Association (Japan) Approved, sticker or an SG, or Safety Goods, sticker of the Consumer Product Safety Association. Those riding nonstandard bikes with two children could be fined, but the police agency plans to start issuing directions and warnings instead until the sale of new models becomes full-fledged and the public gets thoroughly acquainted with the rules, an agency official said.


Until the price comes down or the police get serious about educating parents and enforcing the law I can't see a very rapid adoption of these stronger bicycles. I believe this will become another in the long list of inconsistently or unenforced bicycle laws in Japan.