Thursday, August 27, 2009

Japanese work bikes

There was an interesting post over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic recently called "Top 10 List of Gorgeous Bicycles for Stylish Ladies". It was great to see such an assortment of gorgeous bikes. The bikes were mostly European except for one bike from the US and one from Japan. The bike from Japan, Arrow Barkley is a stylish and minimalist bike, but I wasn't really sure it was the best Japan offered.

My personal preference of a stylish Japanese bike is the Japanese work bike.
As it is really made for actual work, it's not thought to be something stylish to ride around town on, but I like their old school looks and ruggedness. I'm not sure if these bikes meet the criteria of being "Gorgeous Bicycles for Stylish Ladies", but I thought I'd show a few of them as I'm not sure people outside Japan know about these kinds of bikes.

Bridgestone Jupiter

Bridgestone is world famous for their car tires, but they make bicycles as well. Their bicycle division in Japan is over a half century old (since 1949) and they had a US division directed by Grant Peterson (who now runs Rivendell Bicycle Works) from mid 80's to mid 90's. The Bridgestone Jupiter is typical of Japanese bikes which is made for carrying heavy loads. The rear rack and stand is different than those of European bikes. The rear rack is not made for pannier bags, but is made to carry things on top of it which is why it's so wide. You will see working people carrying all kinds of things on a bike like this in Japan from Sake, fish, tofu, etc. The stand which is attached near the rear spindle is bulky, but will stand the bike upright perfectly, so there is no worry about the bike falling over with a heavy load.

Panasonic Regular

Panasonic, the electronics giant makes bicycles as well although compared to Bridgestone, I'm not sure if they are as serious as a bicycle manufacturer. The
Panasonic Regular is very much similar to the Bridgestone Jupiter, but I think the Jupiter looks a bit classier than the Regular.

These two bikes are ones that are currently still available, but I really like older bikes of this type like this one I spotted in front of Inoda Coffee in Kyoto last Winter.

Inoda Coffee

This bike has the good old rod brakes instead of the cable cantilever types. While the cable brakes may be superior in performance, rod brakes look really awesome on these bikes, I think.

Bridgestone News-kuru

This is another bike by Bridgestone which is made specifically for newspaper delivery. As you can see, it has a very large front basket to put newspaper for easy access. Usually a delivery person will carry newspaper both front and on the back. It also has a lever on the handle bar to lock out the front wheel, so that it won't fall over with the weight of a loaded basket when you get off the bike.

Panasonic Business ViVi

This is the Panasonic ViVi which is not really as nice looking as the others and I wouldn't really want to ride it myself, but I thought I would mention it because it's an electrically assisted bike which are becoming increasingly popular in Japan especially as working bikes. I'm not against electric bikes, but it would be nice if they can make them as nice looking as the others. They can start by replacing that chain case.

As I am now in the US and can't just go out and spot old work bikes in the street, but the next time I'm there, I will look for them and document them.

I've been thinking when I move back to Japan and if I could get a second bike, I would love to get a used work bike and fix it up nicely. They are made for work and people don't treat them like they might treat an expensive road bike, but if I get one, I will definitely take great care of it.


  1. I'm living in Kyoto now. I've been trying to figure out what second bicycle to get. I brought my cyclocross with me when I immigrated here from the States. I'd like to have a work bike similar to the Welbey (Webley? Not a gun, I don't have a gun) work bikes that I see parked outside old traditional businesses.
    Your blog post helps me focus more on Bridgestone. I was keen on their Wedgerock for awhile but the welds and other details of the bicycle's design were too horrific for me to stomach. I'm a bit bobbish about these things.
    Thank you for a helpful post.

  2. Check Bridgestone Owners Bunch Facebook page, also for more on Bridgestone bicycles :)