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bar news and views

448: Spin city
Too busy working to work out? Turn your commute into a toning opportunity with two-wheel transportation
444: On the ball
With plastic exercise balls of every size and color invading sports clubs across the globe, gyms look more like playgrounds than the territory of fitness fanatics
440: Health kick
As Tokyo goes Brazilian for the weekend, Nicholas Coldicott investigates capoeira, the combination dance-martial art that's pounding its way into the heart's fitness fanatics.
438: Chasing beauty
When celeb makeup artist Chase Aston signed on with The Body Shop to develop and launch their new line of cosmetics, he'd finally caught up with his dream
436: Green house effects
At the foot of Mt Fuji, Solar Café and Earth Embassy offer weary Tokyoites a taste of an eco-friendly lifestyle and a reprieve from the city frenzy
434: Finger tips
Bored with summer pastels? This season nail art brightens fingers and toes
432: Reverse charges
With an eye on Tokyo's latest health craze, Nick Coldicott asks what's so positive about negative ions?
430: Summer shade
Play up that cappuccino tan with the season's glistening beauty products
428: In pods we trust
Relaxation capsules offer all-in-one healing and freedom from stress
426: Scents of a season
Tama Miyake unveils the sweet smells of summer
424: On your toes
Ballet follows hot on the heels of yoga and Pilates as the latest graceful way to work out
422: Smooth operators
Dermatologists are smoothing foreheads from Beverly Hills to Tokyo with Botox
420: Body art
Want to achieve the symmetrical curves of a well-chiseled statue?
418: Hand to mouth
Sony Plazas around the city stock the best in cutting-edge cosmetics from Japan and abroad
416: House of spirit
Relax and rejuvenate at Ogikubo's new Museum
414: It's only natural
Plant-based products bloom in time for spring
412: Smooth moves
Let Rolfing put pep in your stride
410: Beauty for busy people
How to get glamour in a hurry
406: The big chill
saving face with the latest skin care products
404: Fitness
High energy holidays 
402: Beauty

Paint it red 
400: Fitness
Fitness to fall for 


Spin city

Too busy working to work out? Turn your commute into a toning opportunity with two-wheel transportation. Don Morton brings you the ins and outs of cycling your way through Tokyo.

Fat-busting on the way to work

"The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy with the impedance of locomotion." Ivan Illyich says that in "Energy & Equity." He goes on to say that, "A man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than a pedestrian, and uses a fifth the energy in the process. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines, but all animals as well."


And he's right. Using the subway, I can get from my home in Azabu to my job in Shibuya in about 35 minutes. This entails a 10-minute walk to the station, about 15 minutes waiting for and riding the train, and another 10-minute walk from the destination station to work. If I were foolish and rich, a taxi would take about 45 minutes in traffic and costs ¥2,500. I can walk it in an hour. But on my bicycle, I can be there in about the time it takes to walk to the first station. What's more, it's fun, involves a little exercise, doesn't pollute, and lets me see a bit of the city I live in. And it's free.

"But it looks dangerous," you say. Not really. In fact a recent survey by the Ministry of Roads, Transport, Infrastructure and Other Gray Things showed that fully 85 percent of the taxi drivers polled said they were NOT trying to run down foreigners on bicycles. So there you are.

Cycle, tone and talk on the phone

This is probably because "traffic" is an inappropriate term for what cars do on the road in Tokyo. A better term would be "parking." A bike exists in a wonderful gray area, allowing you several options when negotiating the labyrinthine streets of this megalopolis. You can use the sidewalks ("pavement" to you Brits), you can go down one-way streets and even run the occasional red light. If you begin to commute to work, you will discover some great side streets and shortcuts.

But usually you want to ride in the street. This is because automobiles, even when they're moving, are more predictable than the dreaded pedestrians. It's amazing to see how two little old ladies in kimono can somehow completely block a three-meter-wide sidewalk without even looking like they're trying to. And pedestrians have gotten worse with the advent of cell phones. Especially the oblivious kind that likes to pace across the sidewalk as they talk, or the zombies sending e-messages as they walk.
But back to the street.

Stake out your meter of road on the left. Don't make any sudden moves; ease out to get around parked cars. Go fast; you make a more difficult target and blend with the traffic flow. Develop your peripheral vision (your "cow eyes") and be aware of what's going on around you. Eschew gadgets like glasses-mounted rearview mirrors; a quick glance over your shoulder and an examination of the retinal afterimage will let you know what's there. Practice makes this easier to believe. And if you listen to music on headphones while you're riding, please first bequeath me your bike. Your ears are in effect your rear-view mirrors. And watch out for those damned automatic taxi doors. Exercise extra caution when a taxi is slowing or stopped in the street. You eventually develop a sixth sense.


Rules of the road

Pick up the pace on the crowd-free back streets

The bike. For city riding, many of the things thought advantageous for sports cycling are not necessary. Your city bike doesn't have to be lightweight. Big tires allow you to hit curbs at speed with impunity.

You do not need springs or shock absorbers. These are for off-road cycling and merely soak up a lot of that energy Comrade Illyich was talking about. Keep the tires inflated. The harder they are, the easier they roll, and the less energy you will expend. You don't need 27 speeds for Tokyo's few zaka. I find my Shimano seven-speed internal rear hub shifter (no derailleurs) ideal.

Lock it up. Don't just secure the wheel; lock it TO something. Bike thieves are not impulse shoppers and will case a neighborhood many weeks in advance. Use a big lock. All most bike locks do is provide your average bike thief with a chuckle. If your bike is a good one, take it inside. Light it up. You don't need a headlamp in this floodlit city to see where you're going, but you need to be seen. Front and rear strobes are a swell idea; they're bright, attention-getting and last for hundreds of hours on their little batteries.

Bike shops. Tokyu Hands has bikes but won't let you test ride them, and what's up with that? Good source for accessories, though. Bicycle Seo in Trident Square down Harumi way is the biggest bike shop I've found, with a broad range of bikes and even used ones. My local is Azabu Cycle (3441-5910, Minato-ku, Shirokane 3-2-4), where the stoical Mr Hara stocks Trek bikes and will not sell you something you don't need.

You can ride all year. The winters here are mild, and anyway you are working up some heat as you go. In summer, I take a dry shirt to change into.

Coming up in future articles: weekend trips to Haneda, Odaiba and cycle-touring vacations in Europe

Photos by Carlos Sosa