Life on a Bike

Spring is here and the bicycles are out in full force. I mean, why walk when you can enjoy the beauty of spring with a light breeze around you? And here’s the lovely things about bikes in Japan- they’re all circa 1952. Bicycles here are all vintage classic, complete with a bell, basket, and only three speeds. In my six months here, I think I’ve only seen one mountain bike. But I love it, especially seeing grandparent-aged people riding on their bikes.

But one of my favorite parts of owning a bike is parking my bike in the bike garage at Kanayama Station. First, let me preface by saying that the bike garage is just like a parking garage, only for bikes. But the garage attendants are these cute old men, who all know each other and I think have little secret parties when no one’s dropping off or picking up their bikes. But they’re always so jolly whenever I go there, greeting me with big smiles and big voices. And lots of times, they guide me right to the closest parking spot when I come in. And whenever I leave, they tell me thank you and to go slowly. I seriously think they’re the greatest!

But, you should see me on my bike. When I first started riding, I seriously looked like a moron. Okay, maybe I still look like a slight moron when I ride my bike, but now for the most part, I’ve acclimated to riding a bike, and I thoroughly enjoy it. I actually find that I go through withdraw if I haven’t ridden my bike in a few days. But there are some things that I never think I’ll get the hang of, no matter how long I ride a bike and here they are:

1. Riding a bike with an umbrella. I tried this once, and I got just as wet riding my bike as I would’ve walking. Also, I about fell off my bike when trying to ride up a hill one-handed. Okay, if we’re being perfectly honest with ourselves, I did fall off my bike, but I managed to make it look not completely awkward…more like a stumble.

2. Riding with no hands. I maybe got the hang of this as a kid, but Japanese bikes just don’t get up enough speed in order for the bike to control itself so you can go hands-free.

3. Using my cell phone while riding. I have no idea how people manage this one, but I’ve seen plenty of Japanese people texting while riding. Strictly speaking, I think it’s a safety hazard.

4. Smoking while riding my bike. Okay, this one will never happen because I’ll never be a smoker. But I thought I’d mention it for the pure irony of the situation. I mean, why bother riding a bike if you’re just going to defeat any aerobic activity gained by taking a long drag on your cigarette.

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2 thoughts on “Life on a Bike

  1. barnes says:

    Interesting. I have always read/heard of heavy bike usage and other Japanese culture stuff, but whenever I read your blog it makes it real and is more detailed than “Japanese people tend to use bicycles as a primary mode of transportation” that I read in my textbook. Hope all is well.

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