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Tag Archive: japan

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

(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.

Honolulu Century Ride Approaches: Heat stroke anyone?

Aloha two-wheeled commuters… Just a reminder to all those reading from the mainland, Japan, and Hawaii that the annual Honolulu Century Ride is on our tails!  The ride is coming up at butt-crack of dawn next Sunday, September 25, 2011 (butt-crack = 5:45am for open ceremonies).  With over 2000 riders each year, 30 HBL friendship ride leaders, and a buttload of volunteers (that’s right, I said it. Buttload.) the HBL century ride is equivalent to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for cyclists on Oahu.  Okay, maybe a really really long parade and without balloons.

Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of 100 miles of iron okoles.

The route stretches from Kapiolani Park all the way to Chinaman’s Hat on the windward side and back.  Turn around points are at 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100-mile markers; it’s really a ride for everyone!  I’ll be volunteering putting up and taking down signage for the ride in my BikeCommuters.com tee shirt, so come say “hi” if your in HI for the ride.

HILLS! yes, we have them!

I might add that this is a COMICAL parade of bicycling awesomeness ranging from insane riders from Japan – about half of the riders fly in from Japan just for this course – which results in some crazy cycling outfits.  Last year I saw dude dressed up as the jolly green giant and a woman wearing a jersey and a skort printed to look like denim. Kids and families come out for the ride too since it is a very safe and fun day to ride for everyone.  I saw a family on a five person tandem (what the heck is that called anyway, a five-dem?) bike.  The smallest kid was such a peanut that it looked like there were only four on the bike with an empty seat!  There were teams from Texas, Nebraska, Idaho – you name it.  My comical event last year included throwing up HEED out of my nose and mouth… Heat stroke took me down YET AGAIN since – apparently – I am incapable of riding any significant distance past 11:30am in Honolulu.  AND it was overcast…sigh.  I made it to 90-mile turnaround point (we made this one up since I wasn’t about to make it to 100) and considered that enough puking for the day.

It was a bike like this, but blue, with uhh, three fetuses and two full grown humans on it. In MATCHING outfits!! WHAT!?

Also, to note: the Zach Manago Ride in Paradise resulted in tons of camaraderie with first names written on the back of all rider bib number thingies… you could shout out to people and chat on the ride, or let people know if you were passing.  (During the Honolulu Century Ride, listen up for the Japanese riders “on your Reft” …so cute!)  HBL has recruited 30 volunteer riders to act as friendship leaders, to encourage groups to ride together and regroup at each rest stop.    The idea is to promote “bike-friendly Hawaii” as Zach Manago’s dream.   Maybe everyone will swap emails at the end – you could meet your future ex-spouse or next best friend on the ride.  I have made friends commuting before, but that’s more of a regular sightings than one-off event.

Click on the image to watch a sweet vid from our friends in Japan - Century Ride 2010!

I’ve never done one of these anywhere else, but I can say that despite the cluster-eff at the beginning of the race (still dark outside with 2000 peeps and 4000 wheels, that’s a lot of wheels) – the ride is funtastic with awesome views.  Even if I’m just proving to myself that I don’t need a car to make it to the other side of the island: as long as I have my bike, a lot of water, and commiserating friends!  I know several cities offer some type of century ride, any other BikeCommuters readers hit the saddle for that long?  Thumbs-up or Thumbs-down to riding with 2000+people?  Hit us up in the COMMENTS.  Catch you later, cycle gators!