Traveling from Narita Airport to Tokyo with a Bicycle

A question I'm asked time and time again is:

"Upon arriving in Japan, how can I transport my bicycle from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo?"

Of course, you could ride, but after a long flight I doubt you'd be alert nor energetic enough to navigate the 76km from Narita Airport to central Tokyo. It's an option if you're up for the challenge but not one I'd recommend if this is your first trip to Tokyo.

JR East's Narita Express train runs between Narita Airport and major metropolitan stations including Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. Depending on your destination, ticket prices vary from 3,000 to 4,500 yen and the trip takes about 55 minutes to Tokyo Station.

At the rear of each passenger carriage on the Narita Express is a space for storing luggage, and behind the very last row of passenger seats there is enough space to stow a bicycle. Japan Rail rules state that a bicycle must be covered in order to be taken on a train and this applies to most trains around the country. Given you've just arrived in Japan it is safe to assume that your bicycle is already boxed or bagged so you're good to go*.

While the Narita Express is fast and efficient, the departure platform is many levels below the airport's arrival gates so be prepared to haul your luggage and bicycle a long, long way.

Another option at your disposal is the luxurious-sounding Limousine Bus service. As with the Narita Express, Limousine buses operate between Narita Airport and major stations and hotels in Tokyo. Depending upon traffic the trip to Tokyo Station can take anywhere between 75 and 130 minutes and most tickets are around 3,000 yen.

Limousine Bus tickets can be purchased right outside the arrival gates at Narita Airport, and buses also depart from directly in front of the terminal building on the same level as the arrivals hall (meaning no long walk with your luggage and bicycle). Staff will stow your bicycle in luggage space underneath the bus, leaving you free to enjoy the journey into Tokyo. While the Limousine Bus trip does take longer than the Narita Express, you do get to see much more of the city from high up in a bus on an expressway than on the Narita Express which travels mostly at, or under, ground level.

Narita is, as one would expect, also serviced by a number of taxi companies, but a ride to Tokyo will set you back anywhere between 15,000 and 26,000 yen depending on your destination in Tokyo, so for most of us that's not an option worth considering.

If you really feel like splashing out, you could take a helicopter from Narita Airport to Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, which costs 50,000 yen per passenger one way, but I doubt they'll transport your bicycle.

If you're not in a hurry, I'd recommend the Limosuine Bus service for its convenient boarding and disembarking locations, trouble-free storage for bicycles, and the scenic value of the ride into the city atop the expressway.

For more information, including current prices and timetables, please visit the Narita Express or Limousine Bus websites (English available).

* This is a guest post originally written for Surviving in Japan, a goldmine of useful information for foreigners living in or visiting Japan.



Cycle Speedway Taking Off in Japan

The style of bicycle racing known as Cycle Speedway is virtually unknown in Japan despite having been in existence in the United Kingdom since the 1920's.  The sport really took off in Britain after the war with dirt tracks created through the rubble of bombed buildings hosting races by young men on otherwise non roadworthy bicycles.

The sport grew in leaps and bounds, primarily to its low barrier for entry, with East London being home to over 200 teams by 1950.  Intercity races began in 1946, but it wasn't until the formation of the National Amateur Cycle Speedway Association (NACSA) in 1956 that the rules for Cycle Speedway were formalised.

Sadly after bomb sites were restored the sport itself bombed soon after 1950.

Today Cycle Speedway is fully revived and fully funded by British Cycling, and enjoys popularity primarily among young cyclists.

Japan held their first CycleSpeedway event at Komozawa Koen in June 2012 attracting great interest from competitors and spectators alike. In cities such as Tokyo where space is at a premium the small size of Cycle Speedway tracks make the sport very accessible as events can be staged easily in parks or other open public spaces.

1st CycleSpeedway Japan, Komozawa Koen, Tokyo.

Japan is coming down off a fixed gear cycling boom with enthusiasts looking for the next "big thing" in cycling. Cycle Speedway Japan organisers hope the fact that almost any bicycle is suitable for Cycle Speedway racing will draw many to the sport.  The events are also being organised to be accessible to all riders regardless of age, or skill with most of the races centred around simply having a good time and introducing new people to the sport.

The 2nd Cycle Speedway Japan will be held in Yoyogi Koen in Tokyo on the 2nd of December 2012.  Hope to see you there.

Visit CycleSpeedway Japan on Facebook or, follow them on twitter, @csw_japan



Tokyo Bicycle Commuters - Cut that out!

My company recently moved to a new office building, so for me this means a new bicycle commute.  My new route takes me directly from the western suburbs of Tokyo straight into Shinjuku, avoiding the main east/west arteries of Route 20 and 246 which Tokyo cyclists will tell you are hell during rush hour. They'll also inform you that rush hour on those stretches began one sunny September morning in 1968 and is yet to subside.

My route to Shinjuku includes Honan Dori, which I've discovered is quite popular among bicycle commuters despite the fact that it has more traffic lights than many pacific countries, many of which seem to be permanently stuck on red.

As one who is quite opinionated about Tokyo cyclists and bicycle commuters I have been watching their behaviour closely in order to amass enough content for a blog post, namely this blog post. Here are some of the behaviours I've observed.

Cycling in the gutter - cut that out!

I see many commuters on my new route cycling as far left as they can go without striking their pedal on the curb. Some swerve to avoid drains, which is dangerously unpredictable for the motorists around them, others power over the drains which has its own dangers. The National Police Association are encouraging cyclists to use the road rather than the sidewalks, so Tokyo commuters show some pride, drag yourselves out of the gutter and take your entitled portion of the lane before I'm forced to slap some sense into you.

Jumping unpredictably from road to sidewalk to road to sidewalk to roa ... cut that out!

I'm a big fan of Japan's lax enforcement of cycling rules.  Despite what the law says cyclists are pretty much free to ride the roads and sidewalks as they see fit.  This is wonderful if there is a traffic jam or road works ahead blocking progress on the road, simply hop on the sidewalk, cycle around the obstruction, and return to the road once its clear. Perfect!

According to Uncle Ben (not Uncle Ben Kenobi, the other Uncle Ben) "with great power comes great responsibility". Cyclists have a responsibility for their own safety and for the safety of those around them.  When jumping onto the sidewalk few are looking behind for approaching pedestrians or sidewalk cyclists, and I swear few are even looking forward.  Of greater danger to themselves is that once they've finished their sidewalk jaunt they jump back onto the road without even a glace over their shoulder at traffic into which they're merging.

Cyclists also have the responsibility not to overuse their super transport powers. Constantly jumping on and off the sidewalk whenever it suits you is not acceptable. I witnessed one cyclist pumping away in the gutter and each time he reached a parked car instead of going around it he would hop onto the sidewalk (without looking for pedestrians) underpass the parked car then jump back out onto the road (again without looking). He did this for every single parked vehicle over the short stretch I was watching him.

If this convenient power is abused the police will crack down and we'll lose the freedom of being able to cycle where we like, then I'll slap you.

Salmoning - need I say it? Cut that out!

This doesn't occur so much amongst the long distance commuters, but shorter distance commuters and less experienced road cyclists seem to think that cycling against the flow of traffic is a safer alternative. Basically the only advantage to salmoning is you'll get a good fix on the numberplate of the car that is most certainly going to kill you.

I decided to play chicken with a salmon (huh?) a few nights ago maintaining my rightful place on the left side of the lane while she cycled directly towards me on her right, eventually I had to chicken out as she was also checking her mobile phone and had her headphones in meaning she was oblivious to our game, and oblivious to the danger around her. I was too shaken to slap anybody, but someone deserved a slap, maybe me for knowingly attempting something so foolish.

Its hard to believe that these people survived to adulthood given their lack of common sense and self preservation. While the National Police Association are encouraging cyclists off the sidewalks and onto the roads, which provide little in the way of cycling infrastructure, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government still suggests cyclists stay on the sidewalks. I believe the Tokyo Metropolitan Government do in fact realise that their citizens are not ready to ride the roads and that forcing them to would result in a nightmare, which is what I believe too.

Note to self: Never play chicken with a salmon, they're oblivious to the rules.


Pedal Asia Podcast Episode 8 - Japan Cup 2012 Special

Bumper issue from the Japan Cup 2012, We have a long interview  with Legend Robbie McEwen, CyclingIQ's Cam Whiting and a race wrap up from Gav. It was a great day with pro cycling as it should be, all about the racing and surprisingly free of Lance's dark shadow.

Listen Now!


Pedal Asia Podcast Episode 8A: CYCLE MODE 2012

After a long time away this week the boys go to Cyclemode 2012, talk to some of the exhibitors and give their take on the event and bicycle consumer shows in general.

Listen Now!


CYCLE MODE International 2012 Report

Japan's largest consumer bicycle show CYCLE MODE International opened at the Makuhari Messe exhibition centre in Chiba on Friday November 2.

Featuring over 2000 bicycles from 600 exhibitors the event is expected to draw in excess of 50,000 visitors over its 3 days.  Bicycle makers including Colnago, Bianchi, Ridley and Pinarello had the largest and most visited booths on Friday but conspicuous by their absence this year were some big players including Giant, Specialised, Cannondale and Mavic. Its was like a motor show where Ferrari and Porsche turn up, but Toyota and GM are absent.

The majority of floor space at the event which spanned two large halls was devoted to expensive high end road and time trial bicycles including a Y1,890,000 bicycle designed by Colnago for Ferrari.  Surprisingly fixed gear bicycles, which have been riding an unprecedented boom in Japan for many years were barely represented.

The second biggest group of bicycles on display after road bikes were electric bicycles, Despite being tucked away at the back of the show away from the glamour of the sports bicycles, exhibitors of electric bicycles took up a large percentage of floor space yet drew much smaller crowds than the makers of high end Italian racers.

Independent manufacturers and craftsmen were sadly few and far between.

Perhaps the biggest attraction for visitors was the opportunity to ride one of the over 800 bicycles made available to test ride on the purpose built circuit which snaked its way inside and out of the exhibition hall.

Various stages around the event hosted fashion shows, lectures, courses on bicycle maintenance, and training tips. While a half pipe allowed groups of BMX riders to display their skills.

Be it a sign of hard economic times, the absence of some big players in the bicycle industry or the general scaling down of trade shows, the atmosphere at this years event was very subdued.  No loud music, no big budget entertainment extravaganza, no touts enticing visitors into their booths to peruse their wares. The quiet atmosphere, lack of enthusiasm from exhibitors and lack of excitement among patrons took the shine off what should have been a much more enjoyable event.

Japan's premier consumer bicycle show left a lot to be desired.

All photos I took at the event can be found here.

We also recorded Episode 8 of the Pedal Asia Podcast live at CYCLE MODE 2012, give it a listen.