The Tweed Run Tokyo 2015

It’s Autumn in Tokyo which means it’s time for a the annual Tweed Run. Here I followed members of the fashion industry who dressed up in good ‘ol English tweed and cycle around on vintage bicycles like it’s the 1900’s. This year the event crammed itself into the back of the Daikanyama T-Site which provided some stylish backdrops for these sophisticated cyclists to show off their old-fashion attire but also seemed to cause havoc on the usuals. With that said, everyone looked absolutely fabulous, which comes as no surprise from this pre-selected, pre-evaluated, pre-paid gang of fashion aficionados.

The photogenic participants were divided into groups and sent on their merry way but not without a few hiccups with the many weekend drivers trying to visit T-Site’s Farmers Market. Attendants relentlessly announced the arrival of each vehicle as it arrived in the parking lot and cut through the shutter-happy crowd. This was just a warm-up for the rest of the ride, as the streets in this wealthy neighbourhood are not designed with cyclists in mind. Ironic that it was the English cycling clubs of the turn of the century, whose attire this ride emulates, that fought for modern paved streets and now days cyclists can barely use the roads.

T-serve, a courier service in Tokyo, provided the guides. Each with their standard messenger radio and decked out in tweed. They did their best to corral the group and maintain the leisurely pace that would define this “run”. Yet not surprising, the cool autumn air of the morning gave way to a warm day and the sun beat down on the backs of the wool laden riders. Already at the first break many of the riders were parched and could use a short break in the shade of Yoyogi Park.

It must have been a delight for onlookers to see a blast from the past making its way through the park and around town. The detail and dedication of the riders to make it an authentic tweed event was astonishing. Yet events for cycling don’t have to be exclusive to show off a style or theme. A high entry price and approval process may promise a more groomed batch of riders but it also gives the message that classy looking people are only those who can afford the latest (or in this case “most authentic”) fashion. Classiness isn’t owned by the wealthy, especially when it comes to cycling. I would hope everyone would take up the banner of cycle chic and show the world that they can cycle in style without breaking the bank.

From Steampunk to Manga-clad Lycra there are so many subdivisions of cycling attire in this town it’s hard to envision. Thankfully the Tweed Run showed off a great collection of some of the most fashionable cyclists in Tokyo and helped prove that cycle fashion is not restricted to spandex or skinny jeans, you can wear quarter length tweed pants with high argyle sock as well.

No matter what you decide to wear remember that the fashion industry agrees that riding a bicycle makes everyone look good.

This has been a guest post by Chad Feyen Deputy Head of Mission at the Cycling Embassy of Japan.

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Fond Memories of Track Racing in Tasmania in the 70's and 80's

Recently an article I penned about the success of cycling in Tokyo despite the lack of cycling infrastructure was published in Treadlie Magazine, Issue 17 to be exact.

As part of the submission process I was asked to write a short piece of my earliest cycling memories which I did:

When finished I realised that I had written a short but touching tribute to my father, the man who taught me to ride a bicycle, the man who would buy me a number of bicycles during my youth (many times giving the credit to Santa Claus) and the man who would often take his young family to the summer cycling carnivals to watch the local heroes battle it out on the track.

As a child I spent many summers camping at Hawley Beach a (then) small seaside town consisting of a lone General Store and a number of holiday homes. Practically deserted in winter months, the population of the town of Hawley would explode in summer as people fled the stifling heat of the city.  Our stay would inevitably coincide with one of the annual summer athletics and cycling carnivals which we would visit as a family even when I was at a very young age.

It sounds like a disaster, taking children around 7 or 8 years old to the track, but the summer carnivals on Tasmania's North West coast in towns like Latrobe, Devonport and Burnie were experiences most unlike visiting today's velodromes. For starters these were outdoor velodromes. With no roof events were often cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather (I remember my father checking the forecast regularly in the days leading up to an event) and lack of modern lighting was compensated for by long summer evenings where the daylight held on to as late as 9pm.

Instead of relying on airconditoning to cool down families would take a cooler (Esky to Australians) full of ice cold cold beverages yes alcoholic beverages, in glass bottles, I kid you not! There were no rules in the 70's and early 80's forcing spectators to buy alcohol at the venue, nobody counting the number of drinks they bought in, and the concept that adults could not be trusted with glass containers had not entered any ones mind.

While a grandstand may have existed the majority of spectators chose to lay a picnic blanket out on the grassy banks surrounding the ground to soak up the sun without a second thought for hats, sunglasses or other sun protection (we still had ozone in the upper atmosphere back then).

From the early afternoon we'd take up position on the grass and enjoy a picnic lunch prepared lovingly by my mother while watching the proceedings take place in the centre portion of the track which would almost always begin with wood chopping. Yes, wood chopping. Don't scoff until you've witnessed one, because these guys can go through a log of wood faster than a bad curry through a tourist, not to mention the multitude of ways a log of wood can be chopped. My favourite involved competitors cutting notches in a tall log into which they'd slot planks climbing ever higher until they reached the top and cut through the entire width of the log. Fastest man (yes, man, 70's remember?) wins and the fastest man at the time was David Foster, World Champion Axeman. Even now as a 40 something adult I remember that name and looking him up on the internet he appears just as I remember him even today.

David Foster World Champion Axeman, just as I remember him from my childhood.

With wood chopping out of the way the athletics program would begin. Athletics wasn't my thing, so as the velodrome was outdoors and not chock full of seats I'd use that time to run about, make some new friends and organise a game of frisbee or cricket. Just try that in an indoor velodrome and see how far you get. This was another great attraction of the outdoor velodrome, freedom to move, to walk about rather than being stuck in a seat for hours on end which as a 7 year old boy I was physically incapable of. Anyway, as I said athletics was never by thing, but I remember there always seemed to be a disproportionate number of people with the surname "Skeggs" amongst the top runners.

As a child I was at the velodrome for the cycling because cycling involved crashes and when you're 7 crashes are awesome, more-so when its someone else crashing, even better when its a whole pack going down at once. Aside from the crashes the main event at any cycling meet in Tasmania at that time was the appearance of Danny Clarke, World Champion and winner of a silver medal at the Munich Olympic Games. Danny hailed from my home town of Launceston and to nerdy child who, in the age before the internet, collected stamps from all over the world he represented the pinnacle of achievement. He had travelled the world in an age when even travelling interstate wasn't an option for many, he had defeated the worlds best cyclists but above all we loved him because despite his superstar status in the cycling world at the time he was not too proud to compete at the summer carnivals that set the stage for his cycling career when he was a youth.

Danny Clark wins the Latrobe Wheel in 1981.

It is these fond childhood memories that make visits to Japan's velodromes to watch Keirin races so depressing. Sure the majority of Japanese velodromes are outdoor facilities, but they're surrounded by deserted concrete stands as Japanese Keirin fans are predominantly men in their 50's who love drinking, smoking and gambling at the track more than watching the actual races. They spend afternoons in the tracks concrete bunkers and could go an entire race meet without seeing a single cyclist as all they're interested in are the results as they flash up on the screen. No families, no picnics, no festivities, no cycling heroes or personalities, just an army of depressing old men reeking of tobacco and alcohol glued to monitors filled with numbers.

As time passes the number of quaint outdoor velodromes with grassy banks either disappear or are replaced by modern indoor facilities that host more concerts and caravan shows than cycling events I feel nostalgic for simpler times when going to the track was a family event, a social event, not always about the sport but enjoying a great time outdoors and being entertained by champions like David Foster, Danny Clark and a disproportionate number of people with the surname "Skeggs".


night pedal cruising

Night Pedal Cruising Halloween Ride in Tokyo!

Its on again everyone, the Night Pedal Cruising Halloween Ride in Tokyo!

Growing larger and larger every year this is Tokyo's one and only Halloween themed night ride, and with Halloween falling on a Saturday this years event promises to be bigger and better than ever. So get in costume, decorate your bikes, load up your iPod with a spooky Halloween soundtrack and join in the fun.

This years ride will begin at 15:30 from in front of the Farmers Market at the United Nations University in Aoyama from where costumed cyclists will cruise the streets Tokyo until 18:00 when the ride will finish at the opening event for this years Bicycle Film Festival, also in Aoyama, Tokyo.  With such an early finish o the ride you can enjoy the Bicycle Film Festival, head to later ghoulish Halloween celebrations or join a handful of riders who are planning to visit the Halloween Cosplay Parade in Nakano.

Night Pedal Cruising rides are social rides at a slow pace for relatively short distanced with the emphasis on having a good time with bicycle lovers from all walks of life. No matter your level of experience you can complete a Night Pedal Cruising Ride with ease.

As this is Halloween please do come in costume (or not!) and decorate your bike, bring lights, your camera and if possible a sound system with music fitting for the occasion. (Just what is fitting for a Halloween night ride around Tokyo? I'll let you decide.)

Also feel free to download and print one or all of our Halloween Ride Posters below and post them around your workplace or hand them to the owner of your local bike shop. The more participants the more fun to be had! 

Get all the details about the ride at the Night Pedal Cruising Halloween Ride Facebook Page.