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Tag Archive: japanese bikes

!!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.

The Bike That Kept Coming Back…

A couple weeks ago, my friend Davey called me and said that he was bringing a couple bikes down for me to use as projects — a fairly new Trek 4500 mountain bike that had been slightly damaged in a car accident, and my old faithful, a 1984 Trek 460 road bike.

The odd thing about the Trek road bike is that I’ve owned this bike FIVE times before…and it keeps coming back to me! Here’s the story so far:

I moved to Florida in 1992 with $70 in my pocket and my only possessions being a suitcase of clothing, a box of bike tools, a rusted-out International Scout and a 4-year-old Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike (in classic “smoked chrome”). Within the first year, that Schwinn was stolen out of my garage — I lived in a really bad neighborhood in Sarasota, and things had a way of disappearing around here unless they were within eyesight.

A coworker at the health food store I was working at told me he had an old Trek road bike that he’d sell me for $75.00. I really needed a bike to commute to work and to the beaches, so I jumped at the chance.

This is how the bike looked when it was new (from a page scan from the original Trek catalog):
Trek 460

When I got the bike, it was in virtually new condition — the paint was pristine, the decals and headtube badge were intact, and the components were in good shape. The bike had been somewhat clumsily converted into a 1×6 drivetrain when the previous owner lost the shift lever for the front derailleur.

This Trek is a bit unusual because it represents one of Trek’s first forays into foreign production. From 1984 until 1986, a factory in Japan produced several models for Trek. This is one of those Japanese babies…True Temper tubing, clean lugwork and all the bells and whistles one might expect from a midrange road bike.

I rode that bike for most of 1993…numerous trips to the beach, daily commuting to my crappy job, etc. One day at work, I found another bike in the dumpster behind our building, and I converted that one into a commuting machine. Since I didn’t really need that Trek anymore, I sold it to someone for $60. Six months later, that person sold it back to me for $25. Two months later I “leased” it to a friend who had just moved to Sarasota…he gave me $20. Five months later, he decided to move back to NYC so he gave the Trek back to me with $20 and some other incidentals. I sold it to someone else I worked with for $40, and bought it back for $25 about three months later. I just could NOT get this bike out of my life…until a couple years after that, when I cleaned the bike up, rebuilt some components and sold it to my friend Davey for $125.

That was six years ago, give or take a few months. Then the phone call a couple weeks ago…

Here’s how it looks right now:
The frame...

Years of neglect and a poorly-fitting headset locknut allowed sweat and rainwater into the fork, effectively freezing the stem into the steerer tube. The bottom bracket was shot — both bearings and cups were badly pitted. The wheels were shot. The handlebars had a hairline crack in them…and this bike had been repainted a couple times — painted right over the original decals and headtube badge. Ugh.

Don’t look if you’re squeamish:

The stomach-churning news...

I hacksawed the head off the stem and went to work with a 1/2″ drill bit, a hacksaw blade holder and assorted rasps and files to drill out the remainder of the stem’s quill. After literally 6 hours of drilling, cutting and filing, I was tapping out a large piece of aluminum when the steerer tube split right at the keyway, effectively ruining the original fork.

The dead fork:
dead fork

Over the next couple months, I will be rebuilding what’s left of this bike into a fast weekend commuter — stealth-mode all the way with a fixed/free singlespeed drivetrain. Stay tuned for all of that, and remember, if you have a bike with a quill stem, DON’T FORGET TO GREASE THAT QUILL from time to time, or you will be faced with some ugly surgery, too.

By the way, anyone got an old steel Trek fork laying around? You know, one with at least 180mm of steerer and at least 50mm of threads? If so, let me know and I’ll make it worth your while.