Looking Back

Brandon Milardo

In the March 1970 issue of Wheelpeople, John Vanderpoel (any relation to Matthieu?) wrote the first of three articles about cycling in Japan. It would be interesting to see whether any of his pointers are still the norm today, as well as to see how much some advice may have changed in 50 years. Some of the better bits:

  • There are two types of Japanese bicycles: the “beast of burden” bike and the lightweight 21” frame size. Of the two, the former “is so strong that I have seen one ridden with three sacks of cement on the carrier”, while the latter “is of inferior quality”.
  • Travel with your own bike, if possible, but be ready for the shipping process to be challenging. In sending his own bike ahead, John notes: “Not much money was involved, but an awful lot of nuisance.”
  • While Tokyo has a high volume of traffic, it’s not an unsafe place to ride. “Without any exceptions, all the auto and truck drivers are ex-bicycle riders, and in my opinion, do all in their power to give the bike rider a good break.”
  • Tokyo is an expensive place to stay, but a cheap one to get around. John suggests getting out of the city or finding a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) to save money, and notes that cab fares are only 25 cents for the first 2km of travel and 6 cents for every few hundred meters after that.