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.
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:
|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!
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?