Monday, December 16, 2013

A visit to Tokyo Bike, Yanaka

To understand the philosophy behind Tokyo Bikes' "take it easy with style" approach to cycling, one must first experience cycling around the capital city of Japan. With 16 million people living here, space is a premium. Though trains here are excellent, the best way to get through crowded and congested traffic is none other than the humble bicycle. It helps that the bike infrastructure here is first class and I really had fun cruising around Yanaka, the old town district of Tokyo.

30% of commuters here use a bike to get around and I was heartened to see Moms ferrying their kids on bikes, sometimes 2 of them. This is truly the best way to zip around and some even have special windscreens and covers to keep the princes and princesses dry and comfy.

It helps that bike paths are separated from the main traffic and shared with pedestrians, who seem to be happy with the arrangement. Of course one can zip onto the road too if that gets clogged up.

Bicycle parking is ample and very sophisticated - some multi-story and some are fully automated that goes underground. Many cyclists are switching to e-bikes too and for good reason. Prices for an e-bike has come down to under $1000 USD and range is fairly good 50-60km, which means a recharge once every 3- 5 days for the average city commuter.

So all in all, cycling in Tokyo is about riding slowly, having good maneuverability, an upright riding position for maximum view and of course, some style thrown in for good measure.

I arrived at Tokyo Bike's showroom in Yanaka with Sol after getting a bit lost. But 2 kind cyclists pointed me in the right direction and it was only 2km from Annex Katsuturo, my ryokan.

The welcome, as with most Japanese shops, was polite and friendly. The display was warm and enticing, and felt more like an upmarket fashion/art gallery than a bike shop. Clearly, Tokyo Bike is a lifestyle bike shop rather one where its all about the lightest and fastest. It is catered for the fashionable Tokyo-nites who don't mind paying more for a personal set of stylish colour-coordinated wheels than the usual deary Mamachari. Mind you, the good news is its not a lot of money as they range from US$600 - 800 only.

All the displays were meticulously arranged and color co-ordinated and truly, it was a real pleasure to just be in that shop feasting visually on the best way to lighten the wallet. The bait was too enticing and I wanted to order the limited edition Mini-Velo which I believe is not available in Spore.  What a lovely souvenir this would have been for my Japan trip, Kenda Kwest tires notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, business was too good and the earliest they could deliver one to my hotel was 2 weeks time! The 2 young sharp looking guys running the shop were extremely apologetic but when the stars are not aligned, its best just to say as the Japanese would - "Shikata ga nai" or it can't be help.

Perhaps I should pay a visit to the Spore showroom when I get back. We shall see...


My 300Y per day Mamachari...  rides surprisingly well. Comes with dynamo hub and centre stand with lock + basket to chuck anything and everything. Quite a hoot to ride!

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