Teaching In Socks


I want to ride my bicycle
September 1, 2008, 12:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Finally, as promised, here is The Chairman in all his glory. That’s right, a heady blue, fixed gear, hell-raiser, complete with rear luggage rack, front storage compartment (basket), zero emission headlight and a presence notification system (technical and experienced riders refer to this as a PNS or “bell”). The Chairman is live and prime-time.

I hum the song by Queen on this bike uncontrollably

I hum the song by Queen on this bike uncontrollably

I suspect some readers might question the level of importance of such a device and amount of attention being paid to The Chairman. You have to understand, I’m not much of a biking enthusiast. I have had a cycling aversion from day one. It could possibly be traced back to an awful wreck I had once while improperly riding a big wheel down a hill, but I prefer to look at is as a predicament of logic.

I have problems trusting things with two inline wheels. They are unstable by nature. I find the physics behind the bicycle more unnatural than a curve ball or a gyroscope. Personally, I think the thing balances on black magic. The fact that this is a device championed by the French and Chinese does nothing to dispel my inclination to believe it is the product of dark sorcerers. Nor does the haunting image of the first bicycles- with their unnecessarily large front wheel and inconceivably tiny back wheel persuade me to believe that this is a friendly, stable device.

All witch craft and vectors aside, The Chairman is a necessary evil if I want to get anywhere in town. My firm resistance and commitment to more pedestrian means of travel was broken down a by a grocery run in 100+ degree weather. I don’t fear this change however. Historically, many great leaders have been known to make favorable and wholesome yet rash ideological shifts in the face of brutal heat: Indiana Jones, Pontius Pilate, Cortez…wait, this list is going downhill.

Anyway, there are many benefits to the people’s transportation: it’s versatile– you can chose both the sidewalk or the street as your terrain, plus any trek only contributes to my already Adonis-esque figure, and you can do jumps. Jumps are cool. There’s also the zero emissions thing, but enviro-friendly isn’t quite fashionable in Japan just yet and if it doesn’t help me score points with the lady-sans, I don’t count it as a benefit.

Unlike in America, bicycles are heavily regulated here in Japan. They don’t get a free pass like they do back home. Primarily, I believe this is because Japan likes regulating things (both good and bad) and because bicycles aren’t viewed solely as the transportation device of misguided fanatics, frivolous hipsters and persistent hippies. Essentially bicycles are very much part of the present and future of Japan, whereas in America, they are relics and toys.  Here, it is the people’s method and there will be rules. I haven’t determined all of these rules, but i have learned a few:

1.  No Umbrella holders. Older women often have these contraptions afiixed to the handlebars of their bicycles so they can bike in the rain and keep both hands free while remaining dry. This is a law where I understand the physics behind it. Umbrella holders present the bike rider with the dangerous possibility of simultaneously becoming a personal aircraft and a mobile lighting rod (neither of these transformations will be achieved in the cool, Chuck Norris, Delta Force flying motorcycle kind of way). It is imperative thse devices be removed.

2. Register your bike. Your bike must have a license. In the even your bike is stolen by ninjas, or involved in a freak cycling accident, they want to know who to call.They also want the 500 yen it cost.

3. Headlights are necessary. For some reason this is the one law that Japanese people like to rebel against. They want to bike around at night in the pitch black. I’m not sure why, they just do.  On Sunday nights, I often see several police cars parked outside the Ako City Train station running a bicycle checkpoint. Those without the proper registration or headlamps are detained, questioned and fined. It’s not Gitmo, but still a rather intimidating process (“Where are your papers? comes to mind). I’ve seen teenagers detained for twenty minutes on a sidewalk curbed while shamefully debating and mulling over the merits of the incandescent bulb.

So far, this is all the regulation I have observed. Nothing regarding helmets, speed, or proper gear inspection seems ot be in place.

As I am still new to the cycling phenomenon I lack some of the finesse of a professional rider. Regardless,  The Chairman and I will continue legally terrorizing the good citizens of Ako with questionable biking skills, white knuckle,  like a man trapped in his own invisible Peloton. That is, until I decide to be American about all of this and buy a motorcycle and a cool American flag leather jacket.

the witch's theme from the Wizard of Oz is also hummed time to time
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