The Giant STP1, this is no commuter bike

Last Friday I decided to ride my Giant STP1 to work.  This is no commuter bike.

The STP is designed to take a flight of stairs at full speed, to survive large vertical drops, and is much more at home in a skate park, than on the streets of Tokyo.  The correct way to ride such a bicycle is with as few wheels on the ground as possible, which is the direct opposite of commuter cycling where rubber on the ground is considered essential.

To my surprise the ride to work was a lot of fun.  The STP1 is a very playful bike, with just a single stroke of the pedal I'm transformed back into my 10 year old self.  I want to go fast, I want to ride through the puddles, not around them, I want to hit those bumps in the road that I normally try to avoid.  But above all the urge to launch myself into the air is just irresistible. 

With time on my side I managed a few detours around Shimokitazawa, and Setagaya Kouen to take in some terrain not normally accessible by commuter bicycle.  Needless to say the ride to work was one of the most enjoyable in a long time.

The mornings ride left me in a great mood for a day at the office, and I spent all day looking forward to the ride home.   Unfortunately the return journey was a chore.  I was in no hurry to reach the office in the morning, but in the evening my main goal is to get home to my family as fast as possible and for that I require a much different bicycle.

Would I commute on the STP1 again?  Sure I would, but maybe on a day when my family aren't waiting at home for me, because as enjoyable as spending time with my STP1 is, it just can not compare to the pleasure I receive by being with my family.



23rd Night Pedal Cruising in Tokyo

This months Night Pedal Cruising promises to be a wet and wild affair, being smack bang in the middle of Tokyo's wet season.  But don't let that discourage you from participating, just come prepared for the worst!

Riders will assemble from 20:00 on Omotesando near the enterance to Cat Street for the 20:30 start.  This month's course is roughly 11km and will take riders on a round about route from Harajuku, to Shinjuku Central Park before finishing up in Yoyogi Kouen.

View larger map.
Date: June 24 (Thursday)

Reception: 20:00
Start: 20:30 Omotesando
Finish: 23:00 Yoyogi Kouen

Cost: Free
How to Join: Simply assemble on Omotesando between 20:00 and 20:30

What to bring:  Your tricked out bicycle, lights (lots of lights!), sounds (lots of sounds!) drinks, camera etc.  Helmets and insurance are optional but recommended.

What if it rains?  Its July so you can expect it to be wet.  Whatever the weather the ride will go ahead, just make sure you and your bicycle are prepared.

See you there!



Bicycle brand t-shirts from Uniqlo Japan

Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo has teamed up with a number of bicycle manufacturers to produce t-shirts for some well known bicycle brands including Giant, Jamis, and Pinarello.  On sale now while stocks last for Y1,500.



Mortality Check

On my commute home from work on Monday evening I was given a quick reminder of my own mortality.

I was cycling west on a reasonably heavily trafficked road just south of Shimokitazawa when a traffic light roughly 100m ahead of me turned red.  As I began to slow, the impatient driver of the car behind me decided he couldn't coast the short distance to the traffic light and began to overtake me.

Partway through this overtaking maneuver the driver realized that he'd better get back in the left lane or he'd be left with half of his car in the lane of oncoming traffic when he stopped at the red light ahead. Clearly not wanting this he began to slowly move to the left forcing me ever closer to the gutter.

In Japan the gutters in front of driveways often have metal plates or ramps installed.  This is because the gutter in front of a driveway may be up to an insurmountable 2 inches high!  Obviously no modern motor vehicle can overcome such a rapid change in altitude over such a short distance, thus the use of a ramp is necessary.

As I was forced further and further into the gutter I clipped out of my pedal in preparation for what might come.  While in the process of clipping out I noticed the ramp beside me but was unable to lift my wheel on to it before the side of my tire came into contact with the front lip of the ramp and began to travel parallel with it leaving me without steering.

The grating of rubber on steel continued for what seemed like forever as I tried to maintain my balance.  The only thing that saved me from falling over was an almighty crash as my left bar end (followed by my left shoulder) came into contact with a utility pole on the sidewalk.  This rapid deceleration allowed me to touch ground with my clipped out foot, regain balance, shoot past the front of the killer car and continue on my way.

As I looked back I noticed the vehicle that caused all the trouble was an imported, left hand drive vehicle.   Typical!   Why the authorities allow left hand drive vehicles on Japanese roads is beyond me.  They're a menace, but I've ranted about that in the past.

I'm naturally wary of a lot of situations when cycling, getting pushed off the road is one of them, but the metal driveway ramp was new to me.  I will be more aware of them from now.

Anyway I'm alive, the bicycle sustained little damage and I've related enough of this story as my wife may be reading and I haven't told her of this little encounter yet!



Bicycle parking in Japan, I prefer the old way.

Articles about bicycle parking in Japan have been a popular topic on cycling blogs worldwide.  They usually describe Japans high tech underground bicycle parking garages where customers place their bike on a small rack, punch some buttons and their bicycle is automatically whisked underground and parked with thousands of others.  Bicycles can be retrieved from the system in under 30 seconds.  Convenient, safe, tidy, cheap and awesome.

But while the number of automated underground parking lots around Japan are on the increase, lets not forget that in reality bicycle parking in Japan is a lot more like the photo on the left which was taken at our local station just last weekend.

When the day arrives that bicycles are all safely stowed away underground, off the streets and out of the way of pedestrians, I will miss the random chaos that was once bicycle parking in Japan.

I won't miss the damage my bicycles have received in this chaos, but I will miss crazy scenes like the one in the photograph because surely this sculpture is more interesting than a stretch of empty pavement, is it not?



7th Mt. Fuji Hill Climb

This weekend is the 7th Mt. Fuji Hill Climb bicycle race.  Unfortunately around the time entries opened I was preoccupied with the Tokyo Marathon and didn't get an entry in before the race was full, but four guys from my office will be taking part.

The Fuji hill climb takes place each June starts at the base of Mt. Fuji and is a mere 24km long, the only drawback being that the 24km is directly up Mt. Fiji to the 5th Station, a total gain of  roughly 1300m in altitude. 

If you're thinking you'd like to climb to the 5th Station of mount Fuji by bicycle you don't have to wait until next years event.  Its a public road, its open to bicycles and you can do the ride anytime you like without having to pay an expensive race entry fee and without having to share the road with thousands of other cyclists.  Just get yourself to Fujiyoshida and follow the signs, its that easy.

If you climb the mountain early enough you'll still have time for a nice leisurely, and mostly flat, ride around one or more of Fuji's five lakes before heading back to the metropolis.



The Loaner Bike

Last week a friend of a friend borrowed one of my mountain bikes for a 4 day cycling tour of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka.  Last night he returned said mountain bike along with a six pack of Sapporo Black Label and a new set of brake pads.

This got me thinking.  I should lend out this bike to anyone who promises to return it with a six pack of beer and a new component, until it has been fully upgraded and I have a beer gut that reaches the floor.

Obviously this will only work while it is possible to upgrade a cheap component such as a cable, or the grips.  Nobody is going to borrow it on the condition that they return it with a new set of cranks!

But hey, its worth a try.


Señor Crankee, at a book store near you

While out for a walk on my lunch break I stepped in to the local book store to peruse the bicycling magazines.  Who did I find staring back at me from page 18 of "SIMPLE BICYCLE STYLE 4", none other than Señor Crankee himself posing with his custom designed ShiskaBike.

Remember Crankee is currently cycling over the Southern Alps of Japan raising money for Hope International and that its not too late to donate to his cause.