Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cycle Lanes in New Zealand

Hi Everyone

I have just returned to Japan after a visit home to New Zealand, so many things have changed since I was last in NZ after all it has been 6 years since I was home. Bicycle shops are booming, there is another kickboard / scooter boom thanks mainly to the Australian brand MGP and almost every kid rides a scooter to school . The schools have had to build scooter racks to keep the playground tidy and shops can not keep up with the demand for scooters and custom parts. One thing that really impressed me was the cycle lanes, they are everywhere making it safe for cyclists to commute to school or work. The photos in this post were taken in Napier City in the North Island of New Zealand and show the parking lane for cars on the left then a wide cycle lane ( 1.5mtrs ) and then the traffic lane . Everybody seems to follow the rules and I spoke to many cyclists who said the system works very well. Not all cycle lanes in NZ look like this as it depends on the total width of the road but every road has at least 1 mtr for cyclists to ride safely.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Japanese cycle tourist - Yusuke Ishida

A week or two back I met a Japanese cycle tourist called Yusuke Ishida who was in Niigata city for an  event sponsored by a local English school called Speak Up . He is a famous cycle tourist in Japan and cycled around the world by bicycle for many years and to fund his passion for cycling adventures he has published many books and when not touring in some far off country he travels around Japan promoting his books and giving talks on his adventures. Even when I was teaching English I saw the posters advertising his slide show and thought they looked interesting but due to work commitments I never had the chance to attend. One of the events he held whilst in Niigata city was a short group ride in the city and I was asked to go to the Minato tunnel park and show off one of our fat tyre bikes - The Surly Pugsly . It was my 1st real chance to take it on a longer ride and enjoyed the spin along the seaside bike path with a short detour to the top of a small hill in a local park, that bike can climb really well with is super fat tyres and low gearing. Pictured below is the Pugsly  at the top of the hill over looking the sea of Japan .

At Minato tunnel I met up with the owner of Speak Up English school and Ishida san and gave the crowd of cyclists a brief description of the bicycle and the type of surfaces you can ride it on e.g sand, snow etc . Many of the riders jumped at the chance to take a spin of the Surly and loved it. There was a large grassy area at the park that was perfect for a test ride. 

Pictured below is Ishida san and I with the Pugsly and it would be the perfect bike if he intends to cross Australia , others have already used fat tyre bicycles to cross some of the interior deserts of Australia with good success. Although I loved riding it I think I will stick to my cyclo cross bike , but if you are looking for a bike that can go anywhere get one. A quick search on Youtube with give you a good idea of what these bicycles are capable of and the amazing places they can be ridden unlike normal bicycles. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Kona Jake 2013 review

Well as I have owned the 2012 model of the Kona Jake for almost a year now and love it for my daily commute plus I have done a couple of longer road rides of 100km , it really is a great all round bike that lets you go anywhere. On a recent Sunday shop ride I took a short cut along a very rough 4WD track that was full of large puddles and mud with no problems at all. As I live in Niigata I also ride it in - 2 deg snowstorms and have cycled in snow almost up to the hubs and the Jake has never let me down yet.

Just recently the new 2013 Jake arrived at my shop which is pictured at the top of this post with the 2012 model below it for comparison. Basically it is the same frame although the seat stays have been flattened and the chain stays where they join the BB are deeper as well and the Shimano 105 rear mech is gone being replaced by Tiraga instead . The most noticeable difference apart from the colour of course is the addition of disc brakes , I think disc brakes are fine as they offer better stopping power and there is of course less maintenance involved ( ie. cleaning your rims after riding in the rain etc ) but I wish they had put a better quality disc brake on the Jake. The bike comes equipped with Tektro Lyra brakes which only offer a very basic adjustment from side to side and you can not tilt the mount to get perfect alignment of the rotor, once set up they work quite well, but if it was my bike the 1st thing I would change apart from the cheap pedals would be a better quality mechanical disc brake. Also for 2013 the tires are more of a road tire than a cyclo cross tire so if you fancy a bit of off road riding or a winter commute swap the tires out for something with more grip and save the new tires for summer. It rides very well and with a few basic changes would be a great bike but at the same price as the 2012 model it is a really good deal considering the added features.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Cycle Mode 2012

As I had not been to the annual bicycle industry trade show Cycle Mode for 2 years I decided to attend this year so took an early bullet train down to Tokyo passing through the newly renovated Tokyo station bustling with early morning commuters and hopped on the train bound for the shows venue Makuhari Messe which is just a few stops past Disney Land. I had to stand all the way until most customers got off at Disney Land ( I am so glad I do not live in Tokyo ). Anyhow I arrived at Cycle Mode early and the line for bicycle shop owners and staff was sill rather short, not so for the general public as already thousands were lined up waiting for their chance to test ride or just look at the latest in bicycle designs. I had a lit of our suppliers to visit plus I was also on the lookout for new products that would be suitable for our store. The 1st main hall contained many of the large makers such as Colnago , Gios etc, at present the main brand of road bikes I sell are Cinelli and recently Orbea which have great deals on 2013 bicycles with Cinelli dropping the price of their road bikes which will now be equip with Shimano instead of Campy. While some people might not like this if you have always wanted a Cinelli road bike 2013 is the year to get one. While Cinelli does not attend Cycle Mode I received a new catalog from them yesterday showing their products for 2013. This year most most makers have cut their single speed/ fixie lines as that boom is now over in Japan and as ever road bikes are most popular but cyclo cross bikes are very popular now as well. Japan has started to hold more high profile cyclo cross races so there has been a big interest in the type bicycle. As I ride a 2012 Kona Jake I can easily see why they are the perfect all year round bicycle, slick tyres for the summer and nice fat off road tyres for the winter months and now many of them come with disc brakes as well.

 One of my favorite bikes at the show was Soma Fabrications Trademans Cargo bike , A fantastic design based on the old delivery bicycles of long ago - 26 inch wheel in the rear with a 20 inch wheel up front and disc brake mounts with a nice sturdy platform at the front for mounting a large basket of any type. This is available as a frame set only but gives you the option of making your very own custom cargo bike. The upper portion of the frame would be perfect for mounting a sign board as well. If I buy another bike this will be it !.

Apart from the bikes above there were lots of new colors like the bright yellow Surly pugsly pictured below and some interesting frame designs from some of the smaller builders and even a few classic road racers as well. If you have never been to a bicycle industry trade show check it out as they are a lot of fun as most makers also have a test ride bike as well. At Cycle Mode there is a large indoor test track which proved very popular , where else can you test ride so many new bicycles at one time. If I was not so busy I would have loved to test ride a few new bikes myself, instead I ended up walking the aisles loaded with new catalogs and my camera - 2013 looks to be quite exciting !

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Furumachi Bicycle event Oct 28th

For those riders who did not stay up all night partying at The Local we held a Sunday morning ride starting from the bike shop at 8am. The original plan was to do an 82km ride out along the coast and head inland to the Mt village of Yahiko but as the weather looked suspect I decided on a new route and headed to Sakata lagoon instead, on riding out of the city we could see in the distance some approaching rain clouds but as we were only riding out 20 km to the lagoon I thought we should be ok. There was a good mix of riders and bicycles and on arriving at the lagoon some riders headed off to the local bakery for a late breakfast while others enjoyed the view of the lagoon. At that point we thought about pressing on to the village of Yahiko but upon checking out the weather on somebody's smart phone we could see the rain was rapidly approaching from the sea and heading towards us. My cycling pal Brian was acting as lead guide for the day and quickly came up with a slightly extended course  which went around the lagoon and over a small hill ( not so small for some riders on their fixies ) and then headed back towards Niigata city on the popular coast road. On the return leg of the ride we encountered some rain but everybody had waterproof jackets with them so it was not a big problem. On arriving back at my bicycle shop we had cycled about 50 km and for some of the newer cyclists in our group this was the longest ride they had ever done. I plan to hold a 50 - 60km Sunday morning tour about once a month next year as everybody had such a great time. Pictured below are a few photos from our 1st ever shop ride.

Furumachi Bicycle event Oct 27th

Just last weekend my shop held a 2 day event and on the Sat an alley cat  ( stamp rally ) was held with about 15 riders taking part. This type of event gets people out on their bike no matter what type of bicycle they ride , single speed, mini velo, road bike, cyclocross , mtb, city bike etc and they get to explore the city and have to locate various check points and answer some questions. Everybody had a great time and the final check point was at The Local a kiwi owned bar in the center of the city where a DJ was playing and we handed out some great spot prizes kindly donated by Knog the maker of bicycle accessories such as Blinder lights etc . The after party turned out to be a rather big night as the bar was also holding their annual Halloween party with a live band , free dinner and finished in the early hours of Sunday morning. Pictured in this post are a few photos that were taken on Sat