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Japanese mamachari bicycles arrive in London

20 Comments
By Byron Kidd

Mamachari bicycles are the perfect bicycle for city cyclists, ridden by everyone – old/young, female/male, students, salarymen, mothers, grandmothers and fathers in Japan. No other bicycle is better suited for cycling cities around the world. But sadly Japanese bicycle manufacturers are reluctant to export their bicycles overseas leaving most of the world ignorant of the benefits this style of bicycle presents for the city cyclist.

In 2012, Noah Fisher established Mamachari Bicycles in London with a simple mission: to bring mamachari bicycles to the UK at affordable prices, for that is one of the main attractions of the mamachari here in Japan -- its affordability.

Having worked in the bicycle industry since 2001, the idea came to Fisher during a conversation at his London workshop. A customer who had lived in Japan came to look at bikes and was shocked at how fancy and expensive the bikes were. "In Japan a normal city bike is cheap and built like a tank. Why doesn’t someone load up a container and bring them here?"

Fisher filed the idea away, but increasingly heard from customers who had spent time in Japan about the convenience and affordability of Japanese mamachari bicycles. With their upright cycling position, and standard accessories such as baskets, racks, mudguards, mudguards, locks, chain guards and dynamo lights they seemed to Fisger much more suitable to your average London-based cyclist than the expensive sports style bicycles on offer from the major manufacturers. After all, the Dutch have been riding similar bicycles for a hundred years and look how cycling flourishes in the Netherlands.

Exploring the idea of importing bicycles from Japan, Fisher found the Japanese manufacturers unhelpful, but later discovered he was able to import refurbished secondhand mamacharis by the container load after making the right contacts in Japan.

The first shipment of mamachari bicycles has arrived on British shores, and Mamachari Bikes is open for business at 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London. They currently have over 400 bicycles in stock, and prices range from £100 for a simple single speed to £300 for a deluxe model which includes a front mounted child seat.

All their bicycles regardless of price come with standard accessories including mudguards, chainguards and lights at no additional cost. Repairs and parts are no problem either as Mamachari Bicycles offers an after sale bicycle repair service from their well stocked workshop.

If you're in London and want to experience a Japanese mamachari bicycle then I'd strongly recommend you pay a visit to Mamachari Bicycles London, and be one of the first in Britain to try a little piece of Japanese cycling style. I'm sure you'll be amazed at both the usefulness and affordability of the mamachari bicycle. After all, over 100 million owners in Japan can't be wrong.

The author runs the Tokyo By Bike website.

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20 Comments
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Or buy an English built Pashley if you want real quality - a stylish tank that will last for life and won't be lining the pockets of the Chinese.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

A fine picture as to why these bikes should be banned. No helmet on either kid, mom certainly isn't strong enough to balance that bike out if she were to be hit or hit something AND riding on the sidewalk... I also believe the kid in back isn't strapped in. Folks, walk with your kids as these things are not safe.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Surely there are better, locally made alternative to these front heavy, hard to maneuver bicycles. Once you turn the friction light on pedaling is like running through deep mud.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The UK government should impose import restrictions on these things: they are a plague on Japanese society.

If they should be allowed, the only glimmer of hope is that people in the UK need to take a cycling proficiency test so actually know how to ride a bike and navigate the streets with ride with some degree of common sense (cycling on the right side of the road, not on the pavement, stopping and looking when pulling out of a junction, signalling when you make a move - all things that are not taught or enforced in Japan).

1 ( +3 / -2 )

No helmets! It wouldn't be quite so bad in countries with dedicated bike paths, but this is Japan where the streets are narrow, cramped, and crowded and both pedestrians and cyclists have terrible street manners. And some of those bicycles actually appear quite flimsy to me. I saw a shocking incident where a young mother got off her mamachari just for a second to pick up something she'd dropped. A strong gust of wind blew her bike over ... along with her two unhelmeted babies. Fortunately they were not seriously injured, just shocked, but how they screamed.

On a lighter note, one of my students told me that she fell off the back of her mother's bike on the way to kindergarten, and mother didn't notice the child was missing until arriving at the school gates! And this happened not once, not twice, but three times!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Mamachari is the devil of bicycles. Pure evil, I tell you. They should be done away with, not marketed as something to use. First of all they're ugly. They are heavy. They have weird handlebars making the difficult to turn and while that might wirk going straigh, you sometimes do have to turn. Even if everyone over the age of 50 cannot understand that.

It always surprised me to see what I (once) thought was a modern nation, riding around on what looks to be something imported from the heydays of chairman Mao...

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Just one problem. The mamachari is solid, but it's basically a crap bike. Heavy to ride, inefficient and totally unsafe for taking kids. The fact that people do it here is no reason to copy them, still less to import the actual bikes! Just take a look online and you'll find loads of safer designs for transporting children. You need a lower centre of gravity if you increase the amount of weight you want the bike to carry. Is the article trying to say the Dutch also transport kids a lot on mamacharis? I thought they had front and rear carriages, with extra wheels for this. Also, if you compare the leg position of someone on a mamachari to something better designed, you'll see it takes much more effort to push the mamachari.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Exploring the idea of importing bicycles from Japan, Fisher found the Japanese manufacturers unhelpful,

And to think Japan used to have an economy based upon export!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Japanese bicycle manufacturers are reluctant to export their bicycles overseas"

Aren't they all made in China nowadays?

British urban cyclists are accustomed to high-quality high-tech bicycles, like the Moulton and Brompton, with gears and lightweight frames. It's gonna be a hard sell to get them to switch to something cheap and heavy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Living in Japan for more than 7 years, having myself used mamachari for part of this time, I never heard of accidents with injuries involving this type of bicycles. And they are used not only for mamas, as the name and the picture can lead people to imagine, but also by school students and salaryman, as highlighted by the text. And riding on sidewalks is allowed by law, in some situations. Many sidewalks large enough have two different spaces for walkers and bicycles. I was never hit by one of them, while walking. Cyclists in Japan are more likely to respect pedestrians and traffic lights. (My experience in Amsterdam, for instance, led me to hate city bikers since they are all the time ringing their buzzing as they feel superior to other people in traffic.) Mamachari and other types of bicycles are really safe in Japan despite of all the stupid comments I've read here and all the prejudice of you, guys. Sorry to say that. But getting a real bite of the thing before commenting.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Wonderful news. I wish I had my Indonesian Wymcycle here in Australia (similar to mamachari), but I left it in Taiwan. Built like a tank, yet faster than many more expensive bikes even loaded with my son and groceries. Hub gears for the win!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And to think Japan used to have an economy based upon export!

Export (=self-interest), yes.

Import (=simebody else's profit), no.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Just one problem. The mamachari is solid, but it's basically a crap bike. Heavy to ride, inefficient and totally unsafe for taking kids. The fact that people do it here is no reason to copy them, still less to import the actual bikes! Just take a look online and you'll find loads of safer designs for transporting children. You need a lower centre of gravity if you increase the amount of weight you want the bike to carry. Is the article trying to say the Dutch also transport kids a lot on mamacharis? I thought they had front and rear carriages, with extra wheels for this.

The picture on the article does look like an accident waiting to happen... it doesn't exactly scream "safe".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Lots of hate here against the "mamachari":

The only thing I see wrong in the picture is that the rear tire can use more air.

These bikes are heavy (chromoly steel), low and slow. If you want a bike for touring a town or loading up this is definitely the way to go and the bike shops sell tons of accessories for these. Millions of Japanese mothers are never wrong.

"Mamachari is the key to understand the relationship between bikes and Japanese people" -a true statement that I did not make.

For conventional bikers you must think Surly Pugsley here = heavy duty and slow.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

And riding on sidewalks is allowed by law, in some situations. Many sidewalks large enough have two different spaces for walkers and bicycles. I was never hit by one of them, while walking.

In some places it IS allowed, but riders don't distinguish between where it is legal and where it is not. They simply ride on the sidewalks EVERYWHERE, in spite of the fact that most sidewalks are not only narrow but also crowded. Not only that, riders and pedestrians alike ignore that white line completely. This results in more accidents as riders and pedestrians jostle for space.

Just because you've personally never been hit doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I've been hit numerous times, and according to the police the numbers of complaints are rising every year- thus the recent crackdown on people riding on sidewalks. This is just an observation, but in my personal experience the mamacharis are the worst drivers of them all. Just yesterday I had to jump out of the way as a woman with a little girl on the back of her bike rode past me at a dangerous speed. If I hadn't heard the little girl talking, I wouldn't have known she was behind me and she would have hit me, likely injuring me, herself, AND her little girl. That's completely and utterly irresponsible, and I'm sad to say, quite typical.

Cyclists in Japan are more likely to respect pedestrians and traffic lights. I'm a cyclist myself, and every morning as I ride to work I count the number of near accidents that I see. On average, I count five going and three coming back. This is usually because people run lights, don't stop before entering a main street, ride on the wrong side of the street, weave all over the road instead of riding in a straight line, talk on the phone, smoke, ride side by side chatting with a friend (usually high school students are the culprits here), don't look behind them when they are passing someone, and ride too fast. A woman who wanted to get past me (who knows why she was in such a hurry) nudged me with her front tire, and I had no choice other than to hit her, or pull into the path of a car. Lucky for me, the car was able to stop in time.

As I said: I'm a cyclist. I have been in Japan for twenty years, and I ride my road bike to work every single day- and even I think that there should be a licensing system for bicyclists as well as a requirement for each bike to be outfitted with a license plate so that reckless driving can be reported.

For the record, I don't ride on sidewalks. I use the main roads around town, and to and from work. I see such a lot of bad behavior because It so happens that the majority of my commute takes place along a very long one-way side street that has few cars and a lot of bicycles.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not a good picture to promote the Mamchari:

No Helmets. 2.The Kid on back seat hasn't got his seatbelt fastened. 3. Kid on the back seat should not be carrying moms bag, his hands should be free to hold on to the bike. 4. A minor one but They aren't the best shoes to cycle in.
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A fine picture as to why these bikes should be banned.

What? Ban 'em? Yeah, health and safety can't be having that. It's more than their jobs are worth. Good grief! How did Britain get through two world wars? Bring back common sense - yes! But don't we have enough laws telling us what's good for us already?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The real story is the recommissioning of otherwise wasted bikes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The bike in the picture is actually an electrically-assisted bicycle (with the rather chunky battery located below the seat) so rather different from a 'regular' bicycle. The kids not wearing helmets is not a fault of the bicycle, but agreed, a more accurate photo would have been better (and saved lots of comments here!).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

95 % of the Mamacharis in use were made in China, they are made from the lowest steel grade tubing you can use, that is why they are so heavy. Yes they are cheap that why real bicycle shops here in Japan do not even think of selling them as most of them are junk. Have you ever wondered how home centers here can sell them for sometimes less than 10,000 yen - if the home center is making a profit on these types of bicycles how much does it cost to make them - 2500 yen ?. They were built as a throw away bicycle which is my mind is unacceptable, a good bicycle can last a long time if it is built of decent components and the owner takes care of it. Ever wondered why the local Mamachari shop does not take out the rear wheel to fix a flat - look at all the crap bolted onto the rear end - chaincase, fender stays, rear rack stays, double stand and sometimes even a nexus 3 speed - they are a real pain to fix and unnecessarily heavy and rust in no time because of the poor quality parts. That is why you do not see such poor quality bicycles in most countries .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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