This is our first newsletter in almost a month.
The reason for this lack of noise is a trip we took to Japan, with a few productive days in China on the way home.
Japan: we have only quick impressions of a complex country, but the main thing we can report is that it is fantastic for bike riding. The roads are brilliant, for a start. And there are heaps of them, as you would expect in a country that packs over twenty times New Zealand’s population into a landmass about the same size as ours.
Drivers are the most cautious and polite we have ever come across.
Add to that the speed limits. While motorways have the same 100kph limit we have, the secondary roads are mostly restricted to 50. These secondary roads are often better than our state highways, and many have a wide, well-sealed bike path alongside.
We didn’t ride in Tokyo, but we saw an amazing number of locals doing it. They way they ride bikes in the biggest city on earth looks like anarchy, and maybe it is, but it appears to work. What the rules are, or even if there are any, remained a mystery to us. The natural patience required for so many people to live so close together seems to allow everything to function. People ride their bikes on the sidewalk, on the wrong side of the road, and in places where the sidewalk is marked for bike riding, on the wrong side of that too. In our country this would drive people crazy, and maybe it does in Tokyo, but if so they hide it well. Everybody just seems to get on with it, and each other.
The huge population means any interest group can have enough members to make supplying it viable. Every bike-related perversion seems catered for, with magazines and specialist shops for each sub-cult. We found a shop full of vintage road bikes, another full of designer gear for cycle touring, and one in a very flash-looking fashion district that was all high style based on a Belgian road racing theme.
The whole place is epically tidy, and appears remarkably free of graffiti or vandalism. We live in a land where the public’s natural inclination is to break stuff because it is there. For whatever reason, Japan is not like that. A by-product of this is functional vending machines, stocked with anything from iced coffee to hard liquor, literally everywhere. We never figured out exactly how, but they are even situated remote from any building, humming away on the edge of a farmer’s field, ready to produce a mid-ride refreshing beverage of your choice.
There must be mountain biking, we just didn’t get time to find any.
We are keen to go back one day to go off-road.
There are probably vending machines next to the singletrack too.