I finally made it down to Tokyo Bike Gallery in Nezu/Yanaka, Tokyo this past Tuesday and it was a really worthwhile trip. The place is pretty small and really serves as a showroom for their current line of bikes which can be found on their site here. You can also rent bikes for the day, although not their sporty range, only the town cruisers. When I entered the shop a young guy wearing a hat came out from the back and I asked him if I could take some photos and he said it was OK.
As you can see from the photo, there are bike frames and hanging on the walls with some built bikes on display. There are wheels hanging from the ceiling and you can pick and choose what components you want on your bike, but you will pay more. The pre-built standard colourways currently in stock work out cheaper. They also sell accessories such as bike locks, pedals, clips, keychains, etc.
After I had finished snapping the interior I asked if I could rent a bike, but it wasn’t possible to rent the kind of bike I wanted to try out, so the guy let me test-ride a couple of versions for 10 mins each. It suffices to say I fell in love immediately flying down the narrow streets and downhills towards Ueno. That was until I got a wave of paranoia as I approached a stern-faced policeman outside a Koban and it was then I decided to stop and take a picture for this blog.
When I came back to the store the guy was waiting for me with a set-up bike from the other range. This one has gears and is quite a bit more expensive. The geared version was great, but the bike itself doesn’t look as cool, and it’s expensive. The simplicity and style of the first bike appealed to me more.
Anyway, I’m going to pick up my new bike next week from Tokyo Bike HQ. People in the UK and Australia you can get these bikes at home too. I’m still thinking about which colour to get though. Red, purple or black?
The people of good taste at Tokyobike sell simple, well designed and well made bikes via their website tokyobike.com. These bikes are somewhere between the fixed gear bikes that have such a strong ridership in Tokyo right now, and the kind of practical urban cycles that Muji used to stock in it’s Yurakucho store before the range changed to the meagre offering of mamacharis that it is now. Needless to say, it’s been added to my wants list.
I’m not a keen cyclist, but sometimes you’ve just got to get your bike from point A to point B. The problem was, point A was really, really far from point B. My journey took me past famous spots like Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya (I crossed the main crossing in front of Shibuya 109 on my mamachari!), and Meguro. Nice ride!
I’ve probably only ridden my bike about a dozen times, but I’ve been stopped by the police twice already in the space of about 2 weeks! They pull you over and talk politely before radioing in your bicycle’s registration number (most bikes have registration marks over here, just like cars do). Both times I was stopped by a policeman on foot, they carry their radio equipment around their necks. To begin with I thought this was due to a prejudice towards foreigners, stemming from an alledged culture of belief in Japan that they are responsible for much of the crime in the country, but having thought about it, the first time I was stopped I don’t think the policeman had had a very good look at me, because he addressed me very much like a native with a torrent of polite but colloquial Japanese. I suppose with my dark hair which has grown pretty long now, I can kind of blend in. From a distance. At night. If I’m kneeling down.
In my first post I was on about getting a bike from Muji. Then I realised how much money I’d already spent, so I went to Takeya and picked up a granny bike instead. It was only ¥9000, which is very good considering it has an integrated lock, a dynamo light which you can engage/disengage. It’s pretty clever all the stuff that comes with it. As you can see, it has a basket on the front which perhaps doesn’t look great, but actually it’s come in useful for sticking bags in on the way back from the supermarket. I think I overloaded it last time and almost buckled the wheel going up and down kerbs. The shop I got it from, Takeya-San in Okachimachi (my neighbourhood), consists of more than one building, spread across a few blocks, with the DIY and bike building detached somewhat from the others. The buildings are all tiled purple on the outside and sell everything related to homewares and furniture, as well as cheap supermarket produce, and even fashion, watches and mobile phones. A very useful thing to have on your doorstep. A bike is pretty much essential in Tokyo if you don’t drive, and it’s a good laugh weaving through the pedestrians and other cyclists (cyclists normally ride on the pavement in Tokyo).