Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bicycles in Japan


Lana is partially used to it by now: we're walking down the street, talking, and she turns to say something, and there's no David.  He's back at the beginning of the block staring at an unusual deraileur, frame, crank, or logo on a bicycle.  In Japan, she had to explain to a tour guide that David was taking a picture of a bike.  "Why?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.  David's gotten odd looks for taking pictures of a lot of obscure things, but taking pictures of bikes generally get the most confused glances from passersby.  It's also one of the few things that David's never caught another photographer surreptitiously sizing up for a me-too photo.  If you're in the "Why?" camp, this may not be the post for you.  However, if you know anything about Japan or bikes, David has some burning questions about some of the peculiarities he observed in Japanese bikes.


In a case of small-world or just convergence, David's brother and sister-in-law are visiting Japan as we type, and one of the first bikes that his brother posted an image of was one that David immediately recognized because he'd also taken a picture of the same bike--and it's parked at the exact same spot.  Seeing their pictures (not just bikes) inspired us to climb back onto the wagon we'd fallen off of, and finish posting about our trip there in the spring.


In Europe and the US, Gios is a high-end, Italian racing bike--you don't see many of them in the US.  David easily saw twice as many in Japan while we were there than he's seen in the rest of the world, but none were equipped or even built like a racing bike.  This frame definitely has the signature of Alfredo Gios on it, so it's unlikely to be a knock-off, but it was really weird to see a ladies-style frame, with kickstand, mountain-bike pedals, no front deraileur, and fenders on a Gios.  It would be like seeing a Ferrari with knobby tires, a roof-mount luggage case, and a trailer hitch.  


Bike parking was quite common; in some areas, it was pay parking, which is not something we'd seen before.  There were lots of old bikes that are clearly used for deliveries; generally seen in markets or on sidewalks like this Welby Cycle.



Small wheels and interesting frame style on a Stussy above; color coordinated fashion bike below--surrounded by "No Bike Parking" signs.



More old-school cargo bikes.  Above a Welby Cycle, below a Sogo Bicycle Union.  Both with rod actuated brakes.



Above, a Panasonic "Regular" retrofitted for cargo.  Below, the official Pocky bike?  It was in the tower of Pocky--that's a story for another post.



Stussy "How I Roll" in full chrome, and a close-up of the headtube logo.


Above, a more normal looking Gios, though the cranks/pedals and chainring are just odd.  Below, finally, what a Gios should look like.  It even has downtube shifters.  The "Vintage" model name makes David reasonably sure it is not actually vintage.  What is the fascination with Gios in Japan?  We did not see a large number of any other "racy" bike names in our time there.



Double-decker bike parking.  The top tier rails appears to pivot so you can easily get your bike on and off.  Below, another weird Gios.


We didn't see a lot of modern cargo biikes, but couldn't miss this one.  Great hi-vis paint!  Below, another Gios with small wheels and odd geometry, and the first of another interesting trend, which was car brands on bikes.  Even the saddle has a "Hummer" logo.



This "Cadillac" has a hinged joint in the middle so you can fold it up for smaller storage (at home, or on the train).


Another Hummer above, and a "Peugeot" with a weird Mixte reminiscent frame below.



And two more folding, car-branded bikes; above a Chevy, and below, a VW, each with the appropriate logo.  Does anyone know why there are so many car names on bikes in Japan?  Quirky humor?  Marketing?


This is something David has taken an inventory of in lots of other countries. Interested in other bike postings? Here you go.