Volume One – Tokyo
On May 20th Trevor, Fleck, Grayboy and I did a 10-day, four city tour of Japan. The theme of the trip was “Ride With Surly,” which was aimed at getting people together to ride their bikes (Surly or not) and have fun. No sales pitches, no hassles, just good clean fun.
This is the first of four blog posts documenting our travels, and since I am writing the first one I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain what the Surly-Japan connection is all about. When I was fresh out of college I went to
The Japanese market is a fickle one, where consumers tend to follow the latest fashion trends, which has lead to boom-to-bust scenarios for countless companies who failed to understand that aspect of the market. Having lived there I have been very keen on staying on top of the Japanese market, and to do this I’ve facilitated several trips there over the past several years.
May 21 – We landed at Narita airport near Tokyo, gathered our luggage, exchanged money and boarded an express train for Shinjuku. All of us brought Travelers Checks to ride, which we hauled with us on trains, planes and automobiles, not the easiest task considering how congested Japanese cities are.
After getting checked into our hotel in Shibuya we headed out for dinner with Rie Okamoto and Shuji Yamamoto. Rie owns Motocross International and Shuji is a freelance writer. They are two of the hardest working people I know and deserve much of the credit for Surly’s success in
We ate and drank our fill and then walked back to the hotel to build our bikes. By the time I got mine built is was 1:30 a.m. and I had officially gone 22 hours without sleep. I fell asleep before I even hit the pillow.
May 22 – We ate breakfast at the hotel and met outside with our bikes at 9:30. Today we would be touring Tokyo with Shuji as our guide. Our first stop was FIG Bike Shop in Daikanyama, which was a 15 minute ride from the hotel. There, we met up with around 30 folks for the day’s ride. At 10:30 we rolled out, following Shuji through a myriad of back streets, alleys and bike paths where we stopped to see temples, historical landmarks and shrines.
After around 3.5 hours of riding we stopped to buy lunch and then headed to the Tamagawa riverside to relax and hang out.
After lunch a topless derby ensued and the winners were the ladies.
Thanks to Nozomu of Bicycle Magazine Japan for the images.
You might remember Hanzi san from a recent blog entry of mine. He was there on his pimped out Big Dummy along with his lovely wife who rode a Long Haul Trucker. Not only did Hanzi san join our topless derby but he also busted out his guitar and played some songs for us. Hanzi has got some PIPES on him, and reminds me of d. boon both in sound and stature. Others said they thought he sounded like Frank Black.
When the party started to wind down we got back on our bikes and headed back toward base camp, stopping at BMX RIO bike shop on the way. This shop is where I had my first meeting with Rie seven years earlier, to convince her to pick up the brand. I still remember that day very clearly. I sat talking with her and Makita san, the shops owner, for about three hours while it poured rain outside before she finally said she would do it.
We rode back to the hotel, showered up, and headed to Shinjuku to eat sushi, drink sake and wind down from the long day. While Rie and I played pachinko after dinner, Dave, Trevor, John and Shuji went shopping in Shibuya.
I always miss the weird stuff.
May 22 – We woke up to a dreary rainy day like the ones I have seen so many times during the rainy season. Today we were scheduled to ride
We left the hotel at around 9:30 and rode about one hour to the shop. The rain was not falling hard and traffic was light, it being a Sunday, so we enjoyed the ride and did not get too wet.
Baren (meaning bear in German) is one of the first shops in
We witnessed the construction of the Tokyo Sky Tree, visited Asakusa Shrine (this place really sucks on rainy days with everyone wielding umbrellas, attempting to cut the jugulars of tall people), The Sumida Riverside, and the Asahi Brewing Company’s brew pub. After a couple hours of sampling the craft beers and whiskies we realized that the fun had to end and it was time to ride back to Shibuya in the now soaking rain.
The ride back was much wetter as we were riding into the wind and the rain was falling much harder than in the morning. But, since it was still early enough Rie took us to visit two bike shops on the way back to give us a break from the misery.
The first shop was Slow
The second shop was Blue Lug, which is a very new shop specializing in urban fixie/commuter culture bikes and accessories. This shop is very spacious and has a lot of inventory. They do a lot of custom clothing and bags, and have a very original flavor that is refreshing. The owner, Ashikaga san, is a hard working, ambitious businessman who clearly knows what he wants and is working very hard to accomplish it.
After the shop visits we headed back out into the rain for another 20 minutes until we arrived at the hotel, but that 20 minutes felt like hours as the rain seemed to come down harder and harder, and seemingly from every possible direction. I couldn’t see much through my glasses and no amount of wiping them seemed to help, so I focused on Shuji’s blinky light and tried to keep it rubber side down.
Safely back at the hotel we dumped the water out of our shoes, got cleaned up, and went out to eat at a ramen shop. Hot noodles, cold beer and soggy dispositions rounded out two great days in
After packing our bikes up in our hotel rooms we hit the hay in preparation for the