Bicycle!

Bicycle!

Written by sonicsuns

Topics: Blog, Everything, Tips

Judging from my posts on Orientation, you might surmise that I’m having a bad time in Japan. I’m actually having a great time, which is why I added those little disclaimer notices to the top. Sometimes complaints are funny, ok? Anyway, here’s one thing I’m not complaining about: bicycles.
/
/
/
/

My bike


/
/
/
/You gotta have a bicycle in Japan; they’re everywhere. There’s isn’t enough space for everyone to own a car.
/
/
/
/

This is the path leading up to my building


/
/
/
/But beyond that, I just love bicycles! They’re…
/
/

    /
    /

  • Cheap (compared to cars)
  • /
    /

  • Fast (compared to walking)
  • /
    /

  • Environmentally Friendly
  • /
    /

  • Good Exercise
  • /
    /

  • Open (you actually feel the air around you, rather than the little bubble of air you get in a car)
  • /
    /

/
/Till and I bought our bikes at a place called Olympic, right next to Gakugei. Our conversation (translated) went like this:
/
/Till: We want to buy a bike.
/
/
Shopkeep: What kind of bike?
/
/Till: A cheap one.

/
/(Shopkeep gets cheap bike, about $90)

/
/Me: I like it.
/
/Till: Great, we’ll get two.

/
/
/
/

Till and Jimmy's identical bikes


/
/
/
/ Features you’ll need in a bike:
/
/

    /
    /

  • Lock
  • /
    /

  • Brakes
  • /
    /

  • Basket
  • /
    /

  • Kickstand
  • /
    /

  • Light
  • /
    /

  • Registration
  • /
    /

/
/Thankfully, all of these features come standard.
/
/
/
/Lock When I first arrived, I thought “Wow, there must be a really low crime rate, ’cause no one is locking up their bicycle” Actually they are locking up their bicycles, it’s just that the Japanese bike lock is different than the American kind. Instead of attaching to something else (like a bike rack), it’s just this little slip of metal that stops the back wheel from spinning.
/
/
/
/

Locked...


/
/
/
/

...and unlocked


/
/
/
/Brakes are also standard, even on a really cheap bike, and they work just fine. (Though my left brake has gotten really squeaky for some reason, so I only use the right brake. But that’s still fine.) Baskets are kindof rare on American bikes, but they’re standard on Japanese bikes because people actually use their bikes for normal things, like going shopping. You’re gonna need a way to bring your stuff home with you, hence the basket. Some people have an extra basket on the back, or they have something else on the back such as a carrier seat (for babies). The Japanese kickstand is very different; it actually goes under the wheel. This is more stable than the American kind.
/
/
/
/

Kickstand up (suspended behind the back wheel)...


/
/
/
/

...and kickstand down (the wheel is held midair, about an inch off the ground)


/
/
/
/The light is attached to the front (duh). It doesn’t need any batteries, because it’s powered by the movement of the wheels. (Yay, environmentalism!)
/
/
/
/

The light, as seen from the front


/
/
/
/

...and now from the back


/
/
/
/Turning the thing on and off is a little weird; it’s not your average button or switch.
/
/
/
/

To turn it on, push DOWN on this part. (The generator-thing will rotate into place)


/
/
/
/

To turn it off, pull BACK on this part. (The generator-thing will rotate along with the pull)


/
/
/
/It makes some sound when it’s on; that’s normal. The light helps illuminate the ground in front of you, but more importantly it lets other people see you from a distance. It’s important to have your light on when it’s dark out, or else the cops will (politely) pull you over, ask for ID, and check the registration to see if the bike is really yours.
/
/
/
/Registration costs an extra 1000 Yen ($10) or so. You give your name and contact info to the bike people, who forward it to the police. If the police ever question someone who was riding a bicycle, they can check the registration to see if the bike is really his. (I think registration might be required by law). Registration-related Tips:
/
/

    /
    /

  • You can’t sell your bike or give it away without updating the registration info. Otherwise, whoever buys your bike will be branded a bike thief if he ever has a run-in with the police.
  • /
    /

  • As a matter of fact, you should hesitate even to borrow someone’s bike for the day, or let them borrow yours.
  • /
    /

  • Also, if you find an apparently-abandoned bike somewhere, don’t just take it. The registration stuff can still be a pain.
  • /
    /

  • Don’t peel off or obscure the ID stickers on the bike.
  • /
    /

/
/As I said, bikes are really popular here
/
/
/
/.
/
/
/
/

Frick,where did I park?


/
/

By the way, nobody over the age of 10 wears helmets.

/
/

/
/

I didn’t realize this until I got here, but I hadn’t ridden a bike since sometime in the middle of high school, far as I can remember. I went like 6 years without riding a bike!

/
/

That…was dumb. Glad I’ve changed my ways.

  • Mom

    I like your new bike! Shall we send some stickers to make it stand out? Does everyone where helmets there? Having the pictures is so cool.

    • Sure, send some stickers!
      /
      /Nobody wears helmets.
      /
      /Glad you like the pictures. =)

    • Sure, send some stickers!
      /
      /Nobody wears helmets.
      /
      /Glad you like the pictures. =)

  • Mom

    I like your new bike! Shall we send some stickers to make it stand out? Does everyone where helmets there? Having the pictures is so cool.

    • sonicsuns

      Sure, send some stickers!
      /
      /Nobody wears helmets.
      /
      /Glad you like the pictures. =)

  • JohnMark

    I wish we had a bike-oriented culture. I get tired of cars passing by with drivers looking seriously ticked off. by the way my bike lock is called “Fahgettaboudit”. seriously.

    • I wish America was more bike-oriented too. It’d help solve our obesity and our gas shortages simultaneously.

  • JohnMark

    I wish we had a bike-oriented culture. I get tired of cars passing by with drivers looking seriously ticked off. by the way my bike lock is called “Fahgettaboudit”. seriously.

    • sonicsuns

      I wish America was more bike-oriented too. It’d help solve our obesity and our gas shortages simultaneously.

  • Klutz Lament

    When I was in high school carried stuff around on my bicycle all the time without a basket.

  • Klutz Lament

    When I was in high school carried stuff around on my bicycle all the time without a basket.

    • Well, the Japanese carry a lot of stuff on their bikes sometimes. Like groceries, or babies.

  • Klutz Lament

    When I was in high school carried stuff around on my bicycle all the time without a basket.

    • sonicsuns

      Well, the Japanese carry a lot of stuff on their bikes sometimes. Like groceries, or babies.

  • Dear Jimmy,

    I remember having a ten speed bike once upon a time. I went riding far from home, but because there were so many cars flying past me all the time I was afraid of being hit. I wonder if I would be more comfortable in an environment that was more friendlier to bicyclists?

    Warm regards,
    Buffy

  • Pingback: How to Park Your Bike | The Man In Japan()

  • Pingback: All about trains | The Man In Japan()

/ /