June 29, 2013

Mamachari bicycles are the family station wagons of Japan, they're the perfect bicycle for city cyclists, ridden by everyone – old/young, female/male, students, salary men, mothers, grandmothers and fathers in Japan. No other bicycle is better suited for cycling cities around the world.  But sadly Japanese bicycle manufacturers are reluctant to export their bicycles overseas leaving most of the world ignorant of the benefits this style of bicycle presents for the city cyclist.

In 2012 Noah Fisher established Mamachari Bicycles in London with a simple mission: to bring mamachari bicycles to the UK at affordable prices, for that is one of the main attractions of the mamachari here in Japan, its affordability.

First Shipment of Mamachari Bicycles on Display in London
Photo by : Kuba Nowak, www.dokument.co.uk
Having worked in the bicycle industry since 2001, the idea came to Noah during a conversation at his London workshop. A customer who had lived in Japan came to look at bikes and was shocked at how fancy and expensive the bikes were. ‘In Japan a normal city bike is cheap and built like a tank. Why doesn’t someone load up a container and bring them here?’.

Noah filed the idea away, but increasingly heard from customers who had spent time in Japan about the convenience and affordability of Japanese mamachari bicycles.  With their upright cycling position, and standard accessories such as baskets, racks, mudguards, mudguards, locks, chain guards and dynamo lights they seemed to Noah much more suitable to your average London based cyclist than the expensive sports style bicycles on offer from the major manufacturers.  After all the Dutch have been riding similar bicycles for a hundred years and look how cycling flourishes in the Netherlands.

Exploring the idea of importing bicycles from Japan he found the Japanese manufacturers unhelpful, but later discovered he was able to import refurbished second hand mamachari's by the container load after making the right contacts in Japan.

Mamachari Bicycles London owner, Noah Fisher
Photo by : Kuba Nowak, www.dokument.co.uk
The first shipment of mamachari bicycles has arrived on British shores, and Mamachari Bikes is open for business at 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London. They currently have over 400 bicycles in stock, and prices range from £100 for a simple single speed to £300 for a deluxe model which includes a front mounted child seat.

All their bicycles regardless of price come with standard accessories including mudguards, chainguards and lights at no additional cost. Repairs and parts are no problem either as Mamachari Bicycles offers an after sale bicycle repair service from their well stocked workshop.

If you're in London and want to experience a Japanese mamachari bicycle then I'd strongly recommend you pay a visit to Mamachari Bicycles London, and be one of the first in Britain to try a little piece of Japanese cycling style. I'm sure you'll be amazed at both the usefulness and affordability of the mamachari bicycle, after all, over 100 million owners in Japan can't be wrong!

Check the article Introducing the Mamachari Bicycle for more information about the features that make Japanese mamachari bicycles the perfect city bicycle.

Mamachari Bikes

18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL

Phone: 0207 254 0080

Mobile: 07743 899 391

Email: contact@mamachari.co.uk

Homepage: http://www.mamachari.co.uk/

Opening hours:

Mon, Wed, Fri 08:00-18:00

Tues & Thur 08:00-19:00

Sat 12:00-18:00

June 22, 2013

Japanese bicycle manufacturers are missing a ripe opportunity by not exporting Japan's famous mamachari bicycles to the world.

Cities worldwide are beginning to realise that cycling is more than a hobby, its a viable form of environmentally friendly transport that reduces traffic congestion, promotes healthy lifestyles and contributes to a vibrant local community. Some countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Japan have known this for some time hand have perfected bicycles specifically designed for "everyday cyclists"; those who use the bicycle to commute to work, get their groceries and ferry their children to and from kindergarten etc.


Unfortunately in countries that are just warming to the bicycles as transport idea, the majority of bikes on sale are designed for the bicycle enthusiast market making them most unsuitable for urban transport. A bicycle with the wrong geometry, without a rack or basket, lacking fenders and dynamo lights is not the perfect machine for making a comfortable ride to the store and cycling home fully loaded.

The Japanese mamachari bicycles are perfectly suited to this style of riding, with their upright riding position, step through frames and ample luggage capacity. Japanese manufacturers must understand that the overseas demand for such bicycles is only going to increase over the coming years.

Japanese bicycle makers have invested substantial effort over many decades designing bicycles suitable for "everyday cyclists" in particular electric assist models with smaller tyres, long wheelbases, low centre of gravity and robust kickstands, kitted out with baskets and child seats. Bicycles such as these simply do not exist in many foreign markets, but the demand for them is slowly increasing.

Japanese manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Panasonic, Yamaha and Miyata must act quickly and open concept stores in select international locations to introduce their bicycles to, and establish themselves in, these emerging markets. A single boutique shop in the correct location would serve to educate cities about the benefits of their superior products. When people understand the practicality and accessibility of the mamachari sales will undoubtedly grow internationally.

Sadly the mamachari has an image problem in Japan, they're considered cheap, almost disposable items which are ridden, unmaintained, into the ground then simply abandoned. The influx of cheaply made bicycles from China has also tarnished the mamachari's image at home. Therefore it is difficult for many Japanese to believe that a market exists for the mamachari overseas.

In addition to this, evolution of products in Japan is often compared to the evolution of animals on the Galapagos islands. Products which flourish in the home market often find it difficult to compete overseas. Remember Japanese cellphones of the late 90's with their cameras, colour screens, internet access, TV and apps?  Leagues ahead of the world at the time, yet they unable to expand beyond Japan. Japanese businesses are well aware of Galapagos effect which may have shattered their confidence and blinkered them into thinking there is no market for their product overseas.

The demand for mamachari style bicycles, city bikes, or Dutch bikes, is only going to grow as the world embraces cycling as an alternative form of transport. Japanese manufacturers must lead the pack in educating the world about the benefits of a well designed urban bicycle in order to capture market share. They have the designs, they have he manufacturing capacity, they just don't realise there is a demand for their products overseas.

For Japanese bicycle manufacturers the time to act is now!

June 20, 2013

A free bicycle sharing system in Takasaki, has become a victim of both popularity and poor planning.

The Taka-chari bicycle share program consists of 100 bicycles and 12 docking stations around the city of Takasaki.  Bicycles can be released from the docking stations for Y100 and that deposit is refunded when the bicycle is returned.

Unfortunately locals have been using the bicycles for commuting and leaving them parked outside schools, offices or at train stations for the entire day rather than returning them to docking stations making them unavailable to all, in particular tourists to whom the scheme was originally targeted.

In an attempt to deter commuters fro monopolising the bicycles, administrators of the scheme have postponed the daily opening time from 7am to 9am effectively avoiding morning rush hour.

How can a free scheme such as this avoid the problem of people not returning bicycles if there is no incentive to do so (or punishment for not doing so?) Raising the deposit price may be one solution, can you think if others?

June 13, 2013

When your primary mode of transport is the bicycle, like it is for many in Japan, you have to be prepared for nasty weather.

Over the past few days a slow moving typhoon has bought unending rain to Tokyo, but most cyclists are prepared as June is traditionally the rainy season in Japan. In the weeks leading up to today stores around the country have been pushing wet weather goods in anticipation of the wet season.

Japanese cyclists use many methods to keep dry including rain ponchos or waterproof jackets and pants.  The dangerous (and technically illegal) practise of cycling one handed while holding an umbrella remains ever popular, with Japanese police doing little to stamp out the practise.

Cyclists battling the elements in Tokyo.
Cyclists battling the elements in Tokyo.
A page from a department store catalogue advertising rain wear for cyclists.
A page from a department store catalogue advertising rain wear for cyclists.
Cyclist in Tokyo wait patiently in the rain for a commuter train to pass.
Cyclist wait patiently in the rain for a commuter train to pass.
Cycling while holding an umbrella in Tokyo
Cycling while holding an umbrella is punishable by a Y50,000 fine. Police rarely enforce this and cycling with an umbrella is widely practised all around Japan.
Cycling in ponchos in Tokyo
Ponchos! Another popular way to stay dry while cycling in the Japanese rainy season.
Cycling in wet weather clothing in Tokyo
Waterproof jacket and pants. The ultimate way to stay dry in the bicycle but with the high humidity inside is like a sauna.
Personally I use, and highly recommend, a Cleverhood cloak in the rain.  What are your tips for staying dry on the bike?

June 10, 2013

Never before have I been so compelled to obey a "No Parking" sign.  These lovely hand painted signs outside a gift store in Kichijoji, Tokyo, politely urge cyclists not to park their bicycles in the street.

Beautiful hand painted No Bicycle Parking sign in Kichijoji Tokyo

Somehow the signs make you feel that your bike would really mess up the area and that you'd be better off parking somewhere else rather than disturb the scene.

Beautiful hand painted No Bicycle Parking sign in Kichijoji Tokyo

The city of Yokohama recently began an experiment in which they replaced regular no parking signs with drawings by local schoolchildren.  I know not everyone is like me, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable parking my bicycle on top of a picture lovingly painted by a 6 year old child, just like I feel would feel uncomfortable ignoring these signs.  I think they may be on to something.

June 08, 2013

The 5th stage of the tour of Japan is unique in that it is just 11.4km long and has an average gradient of 9.97%.  Its like no other stage in any road race because it starts at the base of Mt Fuji and ascends 1,137 meters to the 5th climbing station at 2,355 meters. The summit is another 1,421 meters higher but the 5th station is as far as the road goes. What a breathtaking ride!

So strong is the desire to ride this route that 6,000 non professional cyclists shell out Y10,500 every June to compete in the annual Fuji Hill Climb event. Competition for places in this event is so fierce that entries sell out in less than an hour after going online. Its a shame not everyone can experience this spectacular ride.

But wait ... Isn't it a public road to the 5th station? What's to stop a cyclist doing this ride anytime? Absolutely nothing at all.

Japan's Mt Fuji at Dawn : palindrome6996
Barring bad weather, the road to the 5th station is open year round and cyclists do make the ascent (and thrilling descent) daily without going through the frustrating process of attempting to secure a place in the Fuji Hill Climb and without parting with the Y10,500 entry fee.  While they don't enjoy closed roads, outside of the climbing season from July to October traffic isn't unbearable.

Cycling to the 5th Station of Mt Fuji is one ride all cyclists in Japan should aspire to complete if not for the experience, then for the bragging rights.

But why stop there?

Not many sightseers get to view all 360 degrees of Mt Fuji.  With an early morning start it is possible to circumnavigate the base of Mt Fuji by bicycle in a single day and view this spectacular mountain from every possible angle, not something that many people can boast.  Cycling anti-clockwise from Fujiyoshida, roads to the West and South of Mt Fuji are surprisingly quiet, but this does take a turn for the worst on the North and North Eastern sides of the mountain.

For those travelling with a less energetic party or those recovering from a hard climb or circumnavigation the previous day, cycling around Fuji's five lakes ( Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu ) is a relaxing recovery ride with few hills and spectacular scenery.

Mt Fuji can be reached by train from Tokyo by taking the JR Chuo line to Otsuki and changing to the Fujikyu line and traveling as far as Fujiyoshida station for a total cost of just 2,270 yen. The trip takes 1 hour 50 minutes and carrying bicycles on the train is free, but they will have to be bagged.

For cyclists looking for more, the ride back from Mt Fuji into Tokyo is the perfect conclusion to a Mt Fuji cycling adventure.


June 06, 2013

Researchers in Japan have created a Virtual Cycling system that allows stationary cyclists virtually cycle any city in the world using Google maps Street View technology.


Purpose built hardware connected to the stationary bicycle sends data to a computer which then updates the street view imagery at a rate which matches the cyclists speed. Helmet sensors allow the rider to turn left or right, and in a nice touch a fan blows harder as the cyclists speed increases.  While currently not a feature yet, using topography data from Google maps it would be possible to make pedaling harder up virtual hills.


Currently there is no launch date or pricing for the Virtual Cycling System.

June 03, 2013

The bicycle is an essential form of daily transport for millions of people around Japan, particularly those living in crowded cities like Tokyo or Osaka where car ownership can be expensive, impractical and often inconvenient.

The Mamachari bicycle is Japan's family station wagon

For tasks such as taking children to kindergarten, doing the grocery shopping and simply running errands around the neighborhood no other bicycle can compete with the mamachari. Its quick, convenient, has heaps of carrying capacity and newer electric models mean you can carry so much more without breaking out in a sweat.

The mamachari is the perfect bicycle for urban environments such as Tokyo, click here to find out why.

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