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!!Mamachari!! – Undeniably Cool Utility Bikes in Japan

Posted by: | Posted on: March 9, 2012

(Let's hope this is actually in Japanese)

Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは) Bike Commuters!  All around the world, it seems there are micro-cultures and macro-cultures of bike commuters and their preferred two-wheeled breeds of choice.  Dutch city bikes, single speeds and fixies, fendered beach cruisers, ghetto-rigged MTBs, folding bikes, electric-assist, road bikes and the like…  Going along with my love for all things cute and AZN (that’s my college sorority – Alpha Zeta Nu, we luv yoooo!) I have developed an internet stalker crush after Japanese MAMACHARI bikes!  Oh Mamachari, where have you been all my life and why have I never found you until now in my Google search results?  Apparently, there are all kinds of blogs out there for the originally women-specific bike, tailored to child/dog/grocery-toting around Japan.  Let’s take a looksy:

In Treehugger’s blog post “Introducing: The Mamachari Bicycle” their author admits to owning and riding a mamachari (as if it were a guilty pleasure).  When asked for the textbook definition of a mamachari, the author defined it as:

“…a really simple bicycle that you see all over Japan. Usually mothers use them for quick trips to the grocery store or to bring the kids to kindergarden. Thus the name, a combination of “mama” and “chariot”. Nope, the mamachari is not particularly sexy, but it is easy to ride and always comes with a basket up front. Plus a baby seat. Or sometimes two babyseats: one up front and one in the back.”

Fenders, baskets, chainguards, skirtguards (what IS that!?), three-speeds, child seats, racks galore, bells, dynamo lights, and kickstands.  Sounds like a commuter bike to me, whether you’re towing Costco groceries, kids, or other bikes!  These things are the all-in-one package, with more appendages, accessories, and equipment than the actual bike.  I’m surprised there’s not a dog-walking leash attached or something.

This photo is totally internet ganked... but it is Ultimate Utility Bike COOL!

And this post from Tokyo by Bike has a nifty table summing up the benefits of riding a Mamachoo-choo (I can’t get enough of these mash-up Japinglish words) over a good ol’ mountain bike for commuting and utility cycling:

Mamachari Mountain Bike
Unlocking The frame mounted lock can be unlocked by simply pushing in the key. A wire lock has to be untangled from around the wheel, frame and whatever the bike is locked to, potentially dirtying everything in the process.
Lights They’re attached to the bike, difficult to steal and don’t require batteries. Have to remember to bring them downstairs and attach them to the bike. Also have to remember to remove them when I arrive at the supermarket lest they get stolen, reattach them after I’ve finished shopping and remove them again once arriving home. Thats a lot of work.
Chainguard Keeps everything nice and clean. Have to remember to bring a velcro strap downstairs to keep clothing from rubbing on the chain.
Bell Gets pedestrians out of your way. Saying “Excuse me”, “Coming through”, “On your right”, or “Ding! Ding!” just doesn’t work
Mudguards Dry bum Wet bum
Parking Pull in. Kick down the stand. Push a lever to lock the bike. Go shopping. Look for something to lock the bike to, not always easy. Remove the wirelock from handlebars, lock the rear wheel and frame to a solid object. Careful, you might get dirty.
Child seat I can take someone for company, or to push the supermarket trolley for me No chance.
Basket Holds any amount of groceries I’m likely to buy in one go. Squash groceries into a backpack or hang them from the handlebars which not only interferes with the bikes balance, but is also frowned upon by the law. 5kg of rice? Impossible.

And from the mama bicycle blog (written by a Japanese dad who likes his Mamachari bike and practicing his English) I delved further into the land of cheap, heavy-as-a-bloated-ox utility bikes, and found the Maruishi Cycles Frackers bike!

Mama-Frackers in every color!

Anyway, I’d like to take a jaunt around my hood with a mamachari!  The best part is, you don’t have to be a Mama to ride one either!  Anyone seen these types of bike popping up in the USA at your local bike shops?

Image taken from Hello Sandwich. This is less "mama"-specific.





16 Comments to !!Mamachari!! – Undeniably Cool Utility Bikes in Japan

  1. Ghost Rider says:

    I haven’t seen bikes like this popping up in U.S. bike shops, but we DID see a lot of the child/cargo carriers at Interbike a couple years ago. Skirtguards, too!

  2. BluesCat says:

    I love this quote from the Tokyo by Bike blog: “When the government implemented a ban recently on carrying two children on a mamachari mothers across Japan campaigned against the ruling and the government was forced to back down.”

    We need to import some of these gals to Washington, DC! Put them outside the offices of Eric Cantor and some of the other anti-bike/anti-pedestrian congressmen!

    We’d have World Class Bicycle Superhighways all over the U.S. by the end of the year!

  3. Chris says:

    My preferred bike for commuting is my folding bike since I can take it on the bus with me. But for kids, I can see the appeal of the mamachari.

  4. Erik says:

    I beg to differ on the child seat no chance for mountain bikes. I had my Wee Ride mounted on my mountain bike when my kids were smaller without any trouble whatsoever.

    It doesn’t diminish the fact that these mamachari bikes are incredibly practical though.

  5. Anna says:

    My friend saw one of these up on Craigslist recently. I wanted her to get it to ride and be able to carry around her tiny dog (it’s a lot like that red bike in the first photo, with that weird looking basket thing on the front). We were wondering how stable it would be though, with just one down tube?

  6. Mir.I.Am says:

    @Anna…. I hear they are totally stable, but only one way to find out! GET ONE for a test ride! Or, read the many links above, mama bicycle is pretty good since it is exclusively for mamachari riders. People are towing 2 or 3 kids on each one, some with one smaller wheel in the back I think to keep the center of gravity lower.

    So far I’ve only google-searched for Mamachari and found a New Zealand company that imports from Japan and refurbishes them. Guess it’s time to plan a trip!

  7. Great article on the Japanese Mamachari. I’m glad these bikes are finally getting the respect they deserve.

    I could never see the attraction in my testosterone filled mountain and road cycling days, but now as a man of mature years with a wife and two children I find myself opting for the convenience of our mamachari more and more and my expensive machines being used less and less.

    Manufacturers have to adhere by strict new rules to ensure the bicycles are safe and stable, much different than 10 years ago when the way some people carried their children scared the life out of me. Recently the front mounted child seats have changed radically in design to provide much more safety for child passengers.

    I believe one of the reasons you can’t sell cycling to the public in countries such as the US is that for the most part the bicycles just aren’t suited to everyday cycling. I’d live to see Japan export the mamachari to the world.

  8. A New Bike says:

    Whoa, agreed. Those are all ultra-badass.

  9. MLC40 says:

    The photo at the top is Japanese and reads “Jitensha” (bicycle) and “tsuukinisuto.” A “skirtguard” is the grid-like panel just under the seat covering the top quarter of the wheel under the rider. It helps to prevent long skirts from getting caught in the spokes.

    I rode a mamachari for 10 years in Japan and for the 2-km commute to work on flat ground, they were great. I did almost no maintenance on mine and it never gave me problems aside from the occasional flat.

    One thing I saw about 10 years ago was keyless entry. The standard lock on these is a bar that goes through the rear spokes from a metal loop around the seat stays. The model I saw had a key fob like a car that would retract the bolt without having to reach in to do it manually. If the bike is crammed into a train station parking lot, it would be very convenient.

  10. Tsuukin (通勤) is the Japanese word for commuter. There is a trend here to add “ist” to the end of words to make new ones. In English a guitarist is someone who plays guitar, a stylist, one who styles etc. So what they’ve done here is made up a new word “tsuukinisuto” (ツーキニスト) to mean one who commutes. So the poster basically says “Bicycle Commuter”, spot on for the topic of this blog.

  11. Mir.I.Am says:

    @Tokyo By Bike – Thanks for the translation… I pulled it from a legit govt. website so I assumed it was right but had no clue! Let us know when you guys start bringing the mamacharis to the USA… I got to get me one!

    and @ MLC40 – keyless entry? too cool.

  12. JazzyJ says:

    This is an awesome post! And timely too as I am moving to Tokyo in July and wondering about whether I should ship my bikes over or start fresh.

  13. Ghost Rider says:

    @Jazzy — buy a bike when you get there…and keep your eyes out for cool “mini velos” which should fit nicely within a smallish apartment.

  14. ChristiKitty says:

    I have been searching for a mamachari for a while now. I had one when I lived in a Japan a few years ago and loved the convenience of the basket and the ease of the lock. Anyone know of how to get a simple one to the US? A lot of the places I’ve seen that ship them to the us are too fancy with the child seat and multiple gears. I don’t need that, just the basket and the lock :)

  15. Norizzuddin says:

    ChristiKitty,
    I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here’s my second hand mamachari (http://norizzuddin.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-first-mamachari.html). I bought it 2 days ago from a shop who import it from Japan. My bike cost me RM350 (USD106.52) comes with 3 speeds Shimano Nexus internal gear hub and other bells & whistles.

    A single speeder (without basket and lock) cost a lot less than USD60.

  16. 焼きそば弁当(yakisova bent says:

    plz look this
    land-walker KARUGAMO

    http://www.google.co.jp/search?q=%E3%81%8B%E3%82%8B%E3%81%8C%E3%82%82+%E8%87%AA%E8%BB%A2%E8%BB%8A&hl=ja&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=eNTMUrv1NIbkkgXx-oCQDQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAA&biw=360&bih=320

    It is a three-seater bicycle auxiliary wheel mounted.
    Auxiliary wheel will be moving separately.

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