2 Frogs on a Bike

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Buying a bicycle and riding about town.

For many weeks I debated on which bicycle to buy. I looked at every shop I could find and took forever to make a decision. Here’s why: A new bicycle will set you back at least 9000 yen (a friend got hers for 8000 a while ago but haven’t found that price anywhere since). If you want a subway bike, nicer tires, more gears, electric assist motor and so on, it will cost you more. I had my eye on one of the very normal, ‘everyone and their mother has one of these’ kind of bike.

But I didn’t want to spend all that money on a bike! And I had heard about some ALT’s getting hand me downs. On a mission, I was, to find a used bike. That was when I discovered the junkyards. Very different from in the states, these junkyards are small and well kept for the most part. Specifically, the one in Nanao has quite a few bikes in decent condition. I stopped by with a friend out of curiosity. We asked to look around and took a closer look at some of the bikes. Many were in disrepair but a solid 10 or so were ready to ride. I decided to think about it… for weeks because my schedule was funny and I wouldn’t get home in time to stop by there or it would be raining.

I prevailed. The gentleman at the junkyard was very helpful and let me ride it around the little lot. He even tried to sell me a newer bike (all bikes are the same price) but the handle bars were the curved in kind and I felt more comfortable buying handle bars I was used too. I checked the tires, tested the brakes, shook the front basket, and messed with just about every bit on there. I think the dude was impressed by my thorough inspection. For 3000 yen, it was mine. After 2 long rides on it thus far, I can tell you I’m very pleased with it. Even if it craps out by the end of the summer, I’m only staying for one year. I highly doubt I’ll be riding in the snow and ice.

As for cycling in town versus driving or walking, I like cycling much better. Driving is fast, climate controlled, and can carry more but going so fast, I miss some of the little shops and it’s difficult to park and drive in many areas. Plus there’s the whole paying for gas part. Walking is… well, it’s just slow. I like taking long walks but not alone. And carrying any kind of heavy shopping bag all that way is not my idea of a good time. Cycling, with baskets attached, affords some relaxation/exercise similar to walking and some of the speed and carrying power of a car. Maybe it’s silly but this is how I rationalized it in my head. And paying for gas here stresses me out (self-serve has lots of buttons I can’t seem to remember and full-service is more expensive.

A quick story: This past Saturday, I went on a nice little road trip with some new local ALT friends. We did a lot of walking around and shopping so I thought I was getting at least a little physical activity. As the day wore on, a headache I had been subduing manifested into a full on migraine that would not budge. By the time I got home, all I wanted was to slam my head into the wall and leave it there. In one of my smarter moments, I decided to head out for a ride on my bike to pick up a few small things. After maybe 5 minutes of riding, my head started to clear and my whole body felt much better. It was close to twilight and the mixture of warm air and the familiar smells coming from the bay made it lovely. I would’ve ridden around all night if my legs hadn’t started to get so tired. My booty was really sore in the morning, too. I’ll take that! If I can go for a ride instead of poppin’ pills for my headaches, yes please.

Maybe now I can burn off all those late nights at the local kaitenzushi…

With love – M

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