August 28, 2010

A week of biking to and from work

A good friend of mine, we'll call him DS for now, has been biking to work in Tokyo for the past few years. He has a very nice bike. His bike costs more than most cars that my family has bought (this though, is a terrible bar to measure cost by - most of the computers we've owned have probably been about as expensive as our cars.)

For quite a while I've been thinking of following DS's lead, and get a bike. He's a big proponent of commuting by bike in Tokyo, and has some good arguments. The main one is that bikes are often faster than the trains. The trains here are great, but there is still some overhead in using them. Usually you have to get to the station, which can take 3-20 minutes depending on where you live. Once you get to the station you probably have an average of five minutes waiting, then your transit time, and walk time from the endpoint station to work. For me, my total door to door commute one way on the train is usually around 45 minutes. On a good day, that only consists of 12 minutes on the train! After about a two years of this commute though, I know that it usually is around 45 minutes.

I tried a few times in the past few weeks to ride in to work on R.'s bike. She has a really cute Peugeot folding bike, like the ones at that link. It took a while before I could try it out because the back tire was flat. I eventually bought new tubes and a new tire, and one afternoon swapped out the tube and tire. The next week I managed to bike into work. It took 50 minutes, but it was possible. I don't think I would like to continue to ride R.'s bike though - it is a nice bike, but a bit of a rough ride for two hours a day.

The more I thought about it, the more I started to like the idea. Even if it takes the same amount of time as the train, I've been having trouble finding time to exercise, and I think even just getting some exercise each day would really make it worthwhile. So I talked with DS (who has been trying to get me to join the bike-to-work cadre for two years) and with R., and eventually decided to get a bike.

So at the start of this week, I bought a bike. I had been planning to get an inexpensive "cross bike" from Giant, since DS is such a fan, but when I went to the local shop, I ended up getting a slightly more expensive but higher spec'd Raleigh Radford-7 which was on sale (a $200 discount, bringing it just down into my budget.) I had some vague memory of Raleigh, and looked it up later. Raleigh is a company with a long history of bicycle manufacture, perhaps one of the oldest in the world. So that is kind of cool. This is the first serious bike I've ever bought - I bought a $300 or so compact bike when I first moved here. Looking back, that thing was kind of expensive. And I ended up throwing it out because R. didn't want it after the move to the new place, and I didn't have a good reason to keep it around (it was a small bike that wasn't too comfortable to ride.)

So what is the outcome? I've ridden to work each day this week. The switch to the Raleigh RF-7 is an amazing step up from R.'s little Peugeot. It is a lot easier to get up to speed and stay there. I have been riding on some of the normal roads in Tokyo, which worried me a bit at first. Of course, I always ride with a helmet while DS does not. That seems a bit crazy to me. I look like a total dork, but at least it is a little bit more protection in a worst case scenario. The ride to work is basically along the Yamanote road, the main circle loop that follows the Yamanote train line. This is a two lane road with lights, no bike lane, and often the slow lane has cars parked in it. It has pretty heavy traffic. At first it was a bit scary to ride on, but after only a few days, I've gotten used to it. The average speed on the road is posted from 40 to 50 km/hr, but I average about 20-25 km/hr on the road, and I think cars don't do too much better than 30 when you take the lights and traffic into account. Sometimes they do much worse.

So on the new bike, my trip into work is about 30 minutes either way. That really surprised me. I expected it to take about the same as the train, but I'm beating the train. I get into work pretty sweaty, and we don't have a shower at work unfortunately, so I just towel off, cool down, and then later change into my work clothes. After a week of biking to work my legs are sore. I was surprised at how sore my feet were after I got home. I work up quite a sweat, and my GPS unit says that one way is about 1000 calories. I'm not sure that I believe that, but still it has got to be more exercise than sitting in the air conditioned train every day.

Bonus: each trip on the bike saves me about $8. So I should be able to pay back the bike before a year has passed. Great! Assuming I can keep motivated to bike in. I think that will work though - I'm really enjoying the exercise, I'm getting a much better understanding of Tokyo, I think it will allow me to explore the city more. According to DS, the more time you spend on a bike, the more you feel you need to buy new, more expensive bikes, but I'll try to stay away from that. I know that at least, I do not want to get a fixed gear bike. Those things look like a nightmare to ride.


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Re: A week of biking to and from work
Hey Fugu! thanks for commenting on my blog! which made me realize I have been lazy about checking yours, so I will respond to several posts at once.
I love Royce's chocolate potato chips. I got them for coworkers as an omiyage from hokkaido, but ended up eating them myself. I ate about 10 until I checked the nutrition label and realized each chip is about 40 calories.
Oh well, your new 2000 caloriee commute sounds like you can eat a box a day and still stay fit! congrats on your new ride, it sounds awesome!
...Ahhhh I should reallllly go to comicket, especially since I draw comics definitely next year! I'll be going to tokyo game show for work , so that's something...
and that 'Giant Robo' is Al from Full Metal Alchemist, a great series. ;)

Those mouse pads were amazing! Maybe I'll get one for bikini boy as a gift.;)
Posted 9 years, 10 months ago by Kyra • • wwwReply
Re: A week of biking to and from work
I like your blog, and am contacting you regarding research for a new book I’m writing for ThingsAsian Press. I am looking for insights and quotable comments from individuals who have worked in Japan. I’m gathering information on a variety of fields, such as teaching, technology, office-based business, consultant services, visual arts, music, culinary arts, martial arts, entertainment, fashion, volunteer work, etc.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please respond and I will send you a questionnaire. The reward for your efforts will include writer’s credits and bio, plus six copies of the published book.
Looking forward to your reply….Celeste

Posted 9 years, 9 months ago by Celeste Heiter • • • Reply
Re: A week of biking to and from work
I guess I'm willing. As long as it won't take too much time.
Posted 9 years, 8 months ago by FuguTabetai • @wwwReply

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