October 23, 2013

Japan's Inner Tube Vending Machines

What a great idea! The town of Imabari in Shikoku, at the beginning of the Shimanmi Kaido Cycling Road has teamed up with DyDo Drinks and Panasonic to install vending machines that dispense bicycle inner tubes in addition to their normal fare of sweet sugary drinks, and brown water deceptively labeled as "Coffee".

The vending machines sell three types of inner tube including road bike tubes with Presta valves. The tubes sell from between 1330 and 1400 yen which is comparable to their in store price, so cyclists aren't being charged a premium for convenience.

Bicycle inner tube vending machine in Shikoku, Japan

These are the first such vending machines in Japan and have yet to spread beyond Shikoku.

In general the Japanese public don't change their tubes, relying on in shop mechanics to do it for them so it is doubtful these vending machines will become a common sight all around the nation. Having said that, these vending machines would be a welcome addition to other popular bicycle touring areas such as Hokkaido and Kyushuu, and near popular weekend cycling routes, the kinds of places that attract cyclists who are comfortable changing their own tubes.

The Shimanmi Kaido is an expressway linking the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku via series of bridges and islands covering a distance of 60km from Onomichi City, in Hiroshima prefecture, to Imabari City, in Ehime prefecture alongside which runs the 70km Shimanmi Kaido Cycling Road.

The Shimanmi Kaido Cycling Road is a popular tourist destination with thousands making the journey every year, some covering the entire distance in a single day, others taking a more relaxed pace stopping ad numerous sightseeing spots along the way and breaking up the trip with an overnight stay in a local ryokan. While people do opt to make the return trip by bicycle many choose to return by bus or ferry.


It is possible to rent bicycles at your starting point for as little as 500 yen per day and bicycles can be returned to any rental terminal along the course. Electric assist bicycles are available for 800 yen per day, but they're not available at all rental terminals and must be returned to the terminal from which they were borrowed.

These vending machines will be a welcome addition to Shimanmi Kaido Cycling Road, and we can only hope that they become more widespread around the country. The only addition we'd like to see is an air compressor on the vending machine which would allow cyclists to quickly inflate the repaired tyre and continue on their journey with a minimum of inconvenience.

Visit the Shimanmi Kaido Cycling Road homepage for more information.

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