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Where & when

Azabu Cycle.
Open daily 10am-7:30pm, Sun 11am-7pm, closed Wed. 3-2-4 Shirokane, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3441-5910. Nearest stn: Hiroo.

Bicycle Seo.
Open daily 11am-9pm daily. Triton Square Complex, 1-8-16 Harumi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-5144-8254. Nearest stn: Kachidoki.

Pro Tech.
Roppongi branch: 6-8-21 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3423-0094. Nearest stn: Roppongi. Ebisu branch: 2-20-16 Higashi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3797-7721. Nearest stn: Ebisu. Shirogane/Takanawa branch: 1-2-16 Takanawa, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3440-3307. Nearest stn: Shirogane-Takanawa. All branches open 11am-9pm, closed Mon. www.protech-kk.co.jp

Shimizu Cycle.
Open Mon- Fri 9am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm. 2-11-8 Shibadaimon, Minato-ku. Closed every Thurs and third Wed. Tel: 03-3432-6025. Nearest stn: Daimon.

Wing Quarter.
Open 11am-8pm, closed Wed. 5-59-4 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5452-0098. Nearest stn: Yoyogi Koen.

Y’s Bike Academy.
Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7pm. 2-10-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5545-1525. Nearest stn: Akasaka. www.jitensya.co.jp

Tokyu Hands.
Shibuya branch: Open daily 10am-8pm. 12-18 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku. Nearest stn: Shibuya.

Eco Plaza.
3-6-9 Toranomon, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5404-7764. Nearest stn: Kamiyacho.

bar news and views
 PAST ISSUES

CARS & BIKES ARCHIVE:
499: Environmental charge
The futuristic electric-and-gasoline hybrid Toyota Alphard aims to take the financial strain out of owning a large van, while reducing emissions to boot. Justin Gardiner takes one for a cruise.
497: Thrills and spills
The next two weekends feature Japan's two biggest Grand Prix races, the Pacific Moto GP, and the final round of the Formula 1 Championship. Justin Gardiner gets pole position.
495: Time warp
It was christened the Japanese Ferrari when it was launched way back in 1991. Justin Gardiner reckons the intended compliment still doesn't do justice to Honda's NSX.
493: Point to point
Just how much faster is a 1,000cc superbike than a 50cc scooter in our sprawling megalopolis? Justin Gardiner borrowed a few Aprilia bikes to find out.
491: Future classic
The Audi TT Roadster has become the archetypal convertible of the decade, with good looks matched by great handling. Justin Gardiner gets behind the wheel.
489: Name value
Toyota's Lexus is one of the most respected brands in the West, but almost unheard of in its home country. Justin Gardiner wonders why.
487: Revolutionary ride
Mazda proudly proclaims that its RX-8 is peerless, and for once the claim is more than marketing hype. Justin Gardiner revs it up.
485: Thinking big
What’s behind the astonishing popularity of oversized scooters on Tokyo’s roads? Justin Gardiner and three veteran motorcyclists aim to find out.
483: Off the beaten path
Honda’s Element harks back to the days when a 4x4’s interior could be washed down with a hose. Justin Gardiner goes for a spin.
481: Track days
Tokyo offers amateur racers the chance to prove that they’re the next Michael Schumacher. Justin Gardiner hits the speedways.
479: My Fairlady
The Datsun 240Z changed the fortunes of Nissan Motors back in 1969. This year, the new 350Z heads up their international line-up for the 21st century. Justin Gardiner reports.
477: Small is better
Justin Gardiner gets the scoop on scooters to fit every taste and budget.
475: Two for the price of one
Justin Gardiner drives two cars that can fit into a single parking space, the Smart K and the Suzuki Twin.
473: Multiple personality
In a world of nigh-on-identical minivans, Fiat’s Multipla dares to be different. Justin Gardiner drives the distinctive import.
471: Days at the races
Honda, the traditional Japanese champions of motorsports in Japan, are facing a tough challenge on their home turf. Justin Gardiner looks forward to what promises to be a bumper year for racing enthusiasts.
469: The ride stuff
Just in time for spring, Don Morton tells you how and where to choose the perfect bike.
467: Most impressive
Justin Gardiner tools around in Subaru's Impreza, the automotive equivalent of a mild-mannered bloke who turns unruly after a few pints.
465: Outside the box
Justin Gardiner mourns the passing of the Toyota HiACE, a campsite favorite and the best of a dying breed.
463: Cyber Cypha
Justin Gardiner finds that Toyota's latest super-mini not only takes you out to dinner, but helps you decide where to go.
461: Award magnet
Mazda's new mid-size Atenza is attracting accolades the world over. Paul Thompson zoom-zoomed along to find out why.
459: Down the road
After a year of cute cars, 2003 promises more power, pace and raw sex appeal. Justin Gardiner peers into his crystal ball.
453: Fleet of foot
Japan's convoy of quirky emergency vehicles includes everything from mopeds to the country's fastest cars
451: Truck and treat
Paul Thompson tracked down the latest automotive trends from the 36th Tokyo Motor Show

ISSUES 500+
ISSUES 499-
ISSUES 449-
ISSUES 399-
ISSUES 349-
ISSUES 299-

The ride stuff

Just in time for spring, Don Morton tells you how and where to choose the perfect bike.

Pro Tech

As with many things in life, the best guideline for buying a bicycle is knowing what you need—as opposed to want. Puttering around town or to the station? Dirt trails? Some fast weekend cycling? As high-tech methods and materials make their way into the bike manufacturing business, the options balloon. Some of these, like aluminum or carbon-fiber frames and mountain-bike shock absorption systems, are useful and effective. Other “innovations” are just silly. And unless you’re planning on chasing Lance Armstrong around France this year, any bike over, say, ¥100,000, must be viewed as a statement.

 

Proper frame of mind
These days, you can get a bike with a computer-controlled automatic transmission or one with an electric motor. Such novelties often mean simply that there’s more stuff that can break, and mask the fact that properly lubricated bearings and something as simple as pumping up tires can improve efficiency more than these expensive toys. Even the lowly “housewife bicycle” has been altered, given a smaller front wheel and a larger basket, presumably so the little lady can carry more groceries. Recumbent bikes, however, which have the pedals in front and you practically like down on, are really efficient, but their riders are a bit hard to see in Tokyo traffic.

Y’s Bike Academy

The most important thing when selecting a bike is getting the frame size right. This means more than just adjusting the saddle height. On the downstroke, your leg should almost, but not quite, straighten out, for the greatest efficiency. Frame size also means how far the handlebars are from you. You should be 100 percent comfortable with your riding position and feel you’re part of the bike. Once you have the approximate frame size, you can move the saddle forward or back a few centimeters, and twist the handlebars up or down to fine-tune your fit. Women’s saddles are wider to fit wider pelvic bones, and are a good idea. As are the new, channeled men’s seats that prevent…well, that occasional uncomfortable numbness. Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?

 

Shop talk
The best bike shop is probably the mom-and-pop place nearest where you live, so you can get flats fixed and occasional adjustments done. Azabu Cycle is one such spot, where Mr Hara keeps his neighborhood rolling and races on weekends. Wing Quarter, bordering Yoyogi Park, specializes in mountain bikes. These places are typically comfortably cramped and full to the ceiling with bikes and parts. Their bread-and-butter are housewife bikes, but if you know what you want, most of them can order any model you choose. And they usually have at least one ultra-sophisticated bike on display just to prove they’re not wussies. Meanwhile, Shimizu Cycle, across from Wendy’s in Daimon, wins the non-wussy competition, with a ¥4.5 million Cinelli on offer. The Shimizus are likely to offer you a cup of green tea and a chocolate while you browse. Down the diagonal street from Roppongi Crossing and turning right just before you get to the bottom will bring you to the Pro Tech “bicycle boutique,” which caters to a younger crowd. They also have branches in Ebisu and Shirogane/Takanawa.

Y’s Bike Academy

Getting more serious and comprehensive, there’s Bicycle Seo, in the Triton Square complex (down at the bottom of Harumi Dori). Here you can find a huge selection of fold-up bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, road bikes, and a few that defy description, like a ¥350,000, ultra-high-tech fold-up. They also offer bike clothing, shoes, eyewear and packs (a bike-mounted golf bag?) in a large and airy space. Y’s Bike Academy in Akasaka is Bicycle Seo’s match in everything but the spaciousness. The place looks like a small bike boutique but actually houses eight floors containing every kind of bike. They have a cool machine with which they can measure your body and put together a custom-made frame, and also something called the “Spinning Studio,” where you can aerobically train for racing on one of 20 or so exercycles. Tokyu Hands, predictably, has bikes, but they’re on the 6th floor (Shibuya store) and the staff don’t let you test ride them. It’s a great place for accessories and parts, though.

Finally, the bargain basement. Each ward collects abandoned bikes from train stations and streets, refurbishes them and sells them off once a month. You’ll have to find out how your ward does this, but here’s the drill for Minato-ku: Go to Eco Plaza in Toranomon on the second Saturday of the month at 10am. You get about 30 minutes to choose the bike you like. If more than one person picks the same one, you draw lots. Prices range from ¥7400 to ¥8900, plus a ¥525 registration fee.

Photos by Don Morton