Riding in Tokyo
Tokyo is the world’s largest metropolitan area and no-one would blame you for feeling anxious about riding there for the first time. But fear not, in Tokyo, as in Japan in general, the road culture is rather civilized and most important signs are also in English. Tokyo is not much different to for example London, where roads are narrow and traffic is on the left. Perhaps even easier.
There are a few notable differences though. For one, there is virtually no lane splitting. Sometimes you see bikes passing cars on the curb side!! but those are usually delivery bikes using cycle lanes for a very short distance. Perhaps for this reason, and narrow lanes, you do not see as many bikes in the city as you might expect to see.
The second strange feature is that if you are riding 2-up, it is important to remember that the central part of the Tokyo ‘Shuto’ Expressway system is off limits. The restriction only applies to this centre section and you can join the highway slightly further out of the city center. If you are riding solo, no problem using the ’Shuto’. Don’t ask why! BUT WHY?
Finding Your Ride
I contacted a few bike rentals and by far the quickest response came from Jonathan at Japan Bike Rentals in Akasaka, Tokyo. Dealing with JBR was easy over their web pages and they were very quick and helpful with their response. I did try others but with very poor results. Language is still a big problem (unless you speak Japanese) when dealing with bike rentals but with JBR that was not an issue. It made things easier that Jonathan is an Aussie and Dorian from France.
Our bike for the ride this time was a BMW R1200R. The bike was in very good condition with new tyres and the gear we hired was also good. Apart from a GPS, JBR also provided advice and printed material to help us with the ride.
Particularly the ETC card is very handy, as it allows you to pass the many toll booths smoothly. JBR provides you with the card, takes a deposit and charges according the use of it.
Now we were geared up, set to go and headed out of town…
Out of Town
Getting out of town in this huge metropol may require some planning. In our case we headed towards Mt Fuji and Izu Peninsula. Both national park areas with less urban houses and traffic and more woods and scenery.
There are plenty of stops available for refreshments ranging from good quality chain cafes and restaurants to more local stops. Out of the city you will also find the bikes! Japan is a great place for biking and has many great biking roads once you get out of the city.
Our route back to Tokyo took us by Yokohama and Kawasaki and that was practically all in the city. the Japanese highway system however, allows you to pass through the cities quickly, if you so wish.
Although I must say that biking in central Tokyo and through Shibuya crossing is also an experience to remember!
Some further reading about biking in Japan can be found here.