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
Whats behind the astonishing popularity of oversized scooters on Tokyos
roads? Justin Gardiner and three veteran motorcyclists aim to find out.
483: Off the beaten path
Hondas Element harks back to the days when a 4x4s 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 theyre 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, Fiats 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
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
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 needas 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 youre 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 theres 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.
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 youre 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. Womens saddles are wider to fit wider pelvic
bones, and are a good idea. As are the new, channeled mens
seats that prevent
well, that occasional uncomfortable
numbness. Why didnt someone think of this earlier?
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 theyre
not wussies. Meanwhile, Shimizu Cycle, across from Wendys
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.
Getting more serious and comprehensive, theres 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. Ys Bike Academy in
Akasaka is Bicycle Seos 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 theyre on the 6th floor
(Shibuya store) and the staff dont let you test ride
them. Its 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. Youll have to find out
how your ward does this, but heres 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