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Today we went out and about town (mainly around Shibuya) but it was also an opportunity for me to try the newest version of the Koto-Ku bikeshare system. The procedure now requires that you register with a credit card, and the process is also much easier if you have an RFID readable card. I used my PASMO card.

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You’ll notice a couple of differences from the last time I posted about this system. The first is that more of the electronics have been moved onto the bikes themselves, and there is no kiosk at the bikeshare station. The second and more significant change is that the bikes are now e-bikes.

In order to use the system, you have to register as a user online, and use a credit card. This site gives some instructions in english of how to go about this, but the menus seem to have changed a bit since the webpage was put up.

This is how the webpage at docomo-cycle.jp looks like on my phone. Click on the button to login, and then it will take you to the registration page.

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The login page page has a “register” button.

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and then you’ll go through a series of pages like this one where you enter your account information. One note is that your password has to be at least 8 alphanumeric characters with at least one number and one letter.

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I’m already forgetting the details of the pages, but one thing that I can say is that it took my Canadian credit card number, my Canadian phone number (entered as +1416xxxxxxx) and a random Japanese style zipcode.  Once you register, you will get an email. At the same time, look for the option to register a membership card (such as PASMO), and then you will get a second email with an 8 digit code that you will use once to register the card.

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There is an alternative option to reserve a bike at a particular station, and you will get a shorter number code that has to be used with a particular bike. This would be a hassle as each of the stations that I saw had many bikes. To finish registering the card, you go up to a bike, press START and then ENTER, enter the code and then put the card on the reader. The prompts will appear briefly in both Japanese and English.

Here we’re ready to go.

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Yes, the bikes are still Bridgestone, but the e-drive was labeled Yamaha.

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Here is the control panel. The green button turns the system on, the up and down arrows toggle the motor between strong, medium and “eco” modes. I used strong. The black button toggles the display between %battery, remaining range in km, and speed.

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This was my first time on a pedalec and it was a revelation. The system applies quite a bit of torque upon launch, so it was very easy to accelerate from a standstill. We made the 1.5 km ride to the subway station in record time, and with no sweating.

When you dock the bike, you have to look for the green LED’s to light up to show you that the bike is registered with the local wifi associated with the station. Once you see the green light, you can engage the wheel lock, and then you are done.

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Here is the entrance to the underground bike parking at Toyosu station (some of us were not on rental bikes).

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and the bike turnstiles.

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Destination was Shibuya, and for me, that means Tokyu Hands.

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Just a few pictures of the bike area.

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also some leather hairnets from Rin Project.

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Tokyu hands has almost everything that you can imagine for sale. Here are some shells to save you the trouble of beachcombing.

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After some more shopping, we walked south to the trendy Daikanyama neighbourhood. We came upon the Log Road development, which is a new strip of shops on land that became available when a section of the Toyoko line was shifted underground several years ago. This was an incredible civil engineering project, where the actual shift of the tracks was done in the four hours between the last train at 1 am, and the first the same morning at 5 am.

Here are a few stylish but very heavy designer kid bikes. If you want a kid bike that has a Jones H bar styled handlebars, this is your place.

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The southwest end of the development is anchored by the Spring Valley Brewery.

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Through the windows, you can see where the rail line goes underground.

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The brew pub itself was very modern, and it was packed. We were lucky to get in without a reservation.

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These tanks were named Schroeder, Linus and Lucy.

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and this is a flight of today’s beers.

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My favourite was the second one from the right “Daydream” which was scented with yuzu, as well as a peppery seasoning.

You can also choose to have a few of the beers infused with flavour. Here is a beer being infused with cilantro. Fun, but not to my taste.

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The food here was also very good.  This was our last course.

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Afterwards we walked around more shops in the area.

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A bike with space to carry a purse built into the frame.

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An e-bike store. Now I know the word for a pedalec is ‘denchari’.

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Nearby was an elaborate branch of the Tsutaya bookstore. Here, for example, is an entire wall of fountain pens on display and for sale.

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Heading home, we are back at the bike parking to retrieve two kid bikes.

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A touch of the PASMO card unlocks a bike.

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This is a bad picture, so you can’t see that I’m starting off with 7% charge. I was told that this was not unusual late in the day (it was about 8:30 pm) and that batteries get swapped out for new ones each night.

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Once again, when dropping off the bike, make sure you see the green LEDs, then lock the bike, and press ENTER and you are done.

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The e-bikes certainly made the trip easier: each way they turned what would have been a hot, sweaty 15 minute walk into a 5 minute easy ride.

I had a little time on my hands to visit two bike shops in the same area of Tokyo that I had found on the web. The first was Tokyo Wheels, just a little east of Akihabara, near Asakusabashi station.

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The first thing that I noticed was there were three unlocked bikes out front that I think belonged to the shop. Most notable was this Seven Ti mountain bike, again totally unlocked.

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The tagline for the shop is “closet for cyclists and riders”, and that is more or less what it was, with a good selection of cyclist oriented clothing, ranging from a bit of racer clothing to Bradley Wiggins branded polo shirts.

DSC08733Aside from some typical US brands such as Chrome or Mission Workshop, there were many Japanese brands, including an in house “Tokyo Wheels” Label. I almost went for a blue blazer in thin stretch fabric, but I was a bit put off by a zipper down the centre of the upper back that could be opened for venting. As an alternative, I’m going to take a look at the ultralight suite jacket from Uniqlo if I have the chance.

I also liked this small wheeled ebike with drop bars and brifters.

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The second shop was Nois Bike which was oriented towards family cycling.

DSC08740They have their own line of bikes that are based on smaller wheels, mini velo style, that makes a lot of sense in a city like Tokyo.

Here is their Nois Mama Retro model.

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and an e-assist bike with one kid seat.

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Inside there were lots of kid bike things such as the Yepp Maxi seat, and some nice stride bikes from Rennrad.

One of the main reasons I wanted to drop by was this photo that was posted to their FB page a while ago.

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that links to a description of their small wheeled cargobike.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any in stock. The only thing they had was this picture on the wall.

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Salesman Kenji apologized, and said that they were in the middle of a model change, and new frames would not be delivered until later in the summer. He said that the Gen II model would make it easier to mount a Yepp kid seat, it would come with generator lighting, and a few other refinements.  From the pictures, there is a lot to like about this design, with the frame mounted front basket and the sturdy looking rack. Retail seems to be 97,000 yen, which is about $1234 CAN at Brexit devalued exchange rates.

Here is Kenji with his personal ride, a brushed aluminum Birdy.

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I wish Nois bikes success in their cargobike venture. The Japanese market for kid transport is dominated lately by e-assist dual 20″ wheeled bikes, with two kid seats. These are more common now than the last time I was in Japan, two years ago.

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It will be interesting to see if Japanese moms will spring for what is to my eyes a more stylish alternative. Hopefully this small company can carve out a separate niche in the market.

 

 

Tsuta Ramen

I’m in Tokyo right now, and one of the things that I wanted to check out was the world’s first ramen joint awarded a Michelin star. You can look at lots of places on the internet that explain the seating system. I went by at 8 am on a Friday to get one of the reservation cards. There was no line to get cards, and from the looks of the box, I was one of the first to pick up a card that day, so things seemed a little calmer than was apparently the case about six months ago.

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I picked a blue card, which meant I would be seated around 1 pm.

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I arrived at 12:45, and there was a line of about 10 people, about half foreign tourists.

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Since there are only nine seats in the place, if you show up with a party of four, don’t expected to be seated at the same time.  It took about 15 minutes to get to the front of the line, at which point it was almost exactly 1 pm.

Once you get into the door, you see that this is a bit Disneyland in that there is still a line inside. There are four seats for people waiting, and an additional two or three customers standing. Immediately to the right of the door, you are confronted with the ticket vending machine. With my limited reading, I decided to pick one of the two big button choices, and also opted for extra noodles (this requires a second button push). I was seated around 1:20.

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BTW the first link in this post has much better pictures of the buttons.

These are the reason for all the fuss.

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They were discouraging the taking of pictures, except of the food, so this picture only gives you a bit of the feel of the place.

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and here is my ramen.

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Verdict?  Well it was certainly my far and away the best shoyu based ramen that I have ever had. The noodles had great texture and the chasu pork was also not overly fatty or salty, and also undercooked by TO standards, which was a plus. The broth had depth without hitting you over the head with flavour, fat, or spicyness, in contrast to several of the places in Toronto (granted, many of the places in Toronto generally serve tonkotsu style broths).  Was it worth making two separate trips to this corner of Tokyo?  Maybe once for the experience, since I’ve had plenty of lousy ramen in Japan as well.

Or maybe you can opt for their other branch which is close by, and isn’t as well known, according to this article.

On the other hand, where else can you say you’ve eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant for less than twenty bucks?

 

There were plenty of bike related things going on this sunny, summer-like Saturday. I’ve posted elsewhere about the Yonge Loves Bikes ride. This post covers what I did before and after. On the way to downtown, I stopped by the “bikefest” at Henderson Brewery, co-sponsored by Sweet Pete’s.

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What I saw at midday was some obstacles laid out in the parking lot, a few displays, and a few kids biking around the parking lot. Oh and one food truck. The brewery itself was crowded and the beer of the month, Ride on Radler, seemed pretty popular. I was told that the procedure was to get food at the truck, and then to come in and have a beer.

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The lack of food trucks, plural, was compensated by the fact that the food was good. Tacos served on paratha, rather than tortillas by Feed the Six.

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Note that two tacos and a beer seems to be recurring theme on this blog.

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BionX had this repainted Yuba Mondo with e assist for people to try.

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Rob Z. checks out their fat bike. Note that the larger diameter D-series motor puts out a lot more torque, and I was also told that the regenerative braking works better as well.

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Next up, the ride downtown to join Yonge loves bikes. Along Dundas, we come up behind this gal, and it took a couple of seconds to realize that she had a canine buddy in her backpack.

The Yonge loves bikes ride was great, but one thing didn’t go as planned. Originally, this was to be a meetup of three of the four Bike Friday Haul a Day’s in Toronto. However, the other two were nowhere to be seen at Nathan Phillips Square.

However, Stuart materialized during the ride with his red HaD (#2 in Toronto), and told me that Boris had a mechanical and was going to catch up with us later on.

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Boris joined us at the end of the ride with his very spiffy British Racing Green e-assist Haul a Day. Here are some close up shots. The mid-drive:

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You can tell better in this shot that he had the accessories on the rear colour matched to the rest of the bike.

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Locking tool box on the front.

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I see that the newer version of the bags has elastic flaps, rather than the toggles and drawcords that failed on mine.

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Hydraulic discs, and a dynamo hub.

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All three lined up.

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The last shot, this time with owners.

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Stuart (to the right) is going to start distributing HaD’s in Canada. He will also be carrying other cargobikes, and I know that he won’t sell any model of bike that he hasn’t personally used for at least a couple of months. He will be setting up a website at bikefriday.ca  When I have more details, I will update this post.

Coda: the full zip “Bikes and Beer” jersey that I picked up at Henderson’s yesterday sure came in handy on today’s very warm ride out in the country.

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Yonge Loves Bikes

This year, all three rides down the three major downtown arteries were scheduled on different days. Today was the annual Yonge Love Bikes ride, starting at Nathan Phillips Square, riding down Yonge to Queen’s Quay, making a U turn, then riding north to just above St. Clair. The crowd gathers in the shade just in front of City Hall.

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I updated my flags just for today.

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Getting organized with the police escort.

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Regrouping while headed south on Yonge.

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Headed north under the Gardiner on the way back north.

Regrouping before crossing Bloor St.

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If dad is doing all the work, why does J look tired?

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All hail, the most beautiful LCBO in Toronto.

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Working it up the hill to St. Clair.

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The back of the pack crosses St. Clair.

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Everyone looks happy at the end of the ride.

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Thanks to the organizers, our friendly police escort (one of whom look the above picture), and everyone who rode on this very hot Saturday!

Remember:

Bells on Danforth coming up June 25.

Bells on Bloor (victory lap edition) Sept 25.

Towards Vision Zero

There was a press event this morning to call for the City of Toronto to take serious action moving towards Vision Zero, i.e. to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths by car. Cycle Toronto organized the event and brought in representatives from Walk Toronto, Kids at Play Safe Streets, Bike Law, as well as some of the road victims’ friends a family. Their report is here.

A little context is in order for the non-Torontonians. This past Monday, the mayor announced a plan to reduce the number of people killed in or by cars, which reached an all time high of 64 last year. His stated aim of reducing these deaths by 20% was widely criticized, to the point that after just a day, he came out to say that he now aims for the eventual elimination of road deaths. However, the proposed budget for this plan has not budged from the original figure of $68M over five years (and it is questionable how much of that money was already on the table). This road safety plan is to be considered by PWIC next week.

Things getting organized. Shortly before this picture, I missed getting a shot of the acrylic podium being pulled up by cargo bike.

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Jared and Maureen Coyle (Walk Toronto), getting set to start.

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Kasia Briegmann-Samson talking about the death of her husband Tom Samson. Heartbreaking quote: “I hope you never have to stand in my shoes. I hope you never have to have your husband’s wedding ring handed to you in a paper bag. I hope you never have to tell your children their father was killed.”

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Yu Li, a friend  of Peter Kang who was killed last June.

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Meghan Sherwin, Executive Director of Safe Streets Kids at Play.

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Patrick Brown of Bike Law. To his immediate right are the wife and brother of Edouard Leblanc, who was killed on the Gatineau hydro corridor. His killer just pled guilty to careless driving, and was fined $700.

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Jared Kolb.

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Maureen Coyle talks about Vision Zero.

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Councillor Jaye Robinson, chair of PWIC, who supports Vision Zero in principle, but  obstructs the installation of bike lanes.

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The representatives of the victim’s families being photographed for MetroNews, who is running a week long series on pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

DSC08658You can see their picture here.

The four victims represented were the same that attended a rally at Queen’s Park last year about Vulnerable Road Users’ legislation.

VRU laws are like an assault weapons ban in the US. An assault weapons ban is not going to eliminate deaths by gun, just as VRU laws are not going to keep all pedestrians and cyclists safe, but they sure would be a step in the right direction.

Enough talk. It is time for action.

Globe and Mail: “Family, friends of people killed by Toronto drivers blast city’s safety plan

CBC: “Toronto plan to improve road safety ‘very timid,’ advocacy group says”

Metro News:

Globe and Mail: “5 cities Toronto could copy to improve road safety

Toronto Star:

 

Beer and bikes

Over the last couple of years, quite a few microbreweries have opened up all across Toronto. In the west end, it’s to the point where a number of us have been talking about having a beer and bikes tour. In the Junction, both the Junction Craft Brewing and Indie Ale House have been around for a while.

On my commute home early this spring, I was drawn to this doorway on Pauline Ave, just north of Bloor (two blocks west of Dufferin), and I was delighted to discover Burdock was selling beer.

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Since then, I’ve been happy to drop by on a weekly basis to see what they have to offer.

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My favourites thus far have been two of the earliest varieties that I tried: the Brown Ale, and the Bloor Lager. Sadly, these haven’t been sold for at least a couple of months, but I was told that the Bloor Lager will be coming back later this month.

I’ve also dropped in on Folly Brewpub on College near Dovercourt.

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Nice, the only problem is that their bottles are a bit too tall to easily fit in my fridge.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I notice that Halo Brewing opened up on Wallace, again on my ride home.

I look forward to when they have a variety of beers in bottles.

Finally, just this past week, Hendersons Brewing Company opened on Sterling Ave, just north of the Nestlé factory. I couldn’t resist their beer from the Ides of May: “Dear Toronto, You Suck, Love Vancouver”. Notice that the Vancouver Lookout Tower is giving us the finger. Science World also seems to be in the wrong place.

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It turns out to be a smooth, lightly hopped “IPA”. Very nice for summer.

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The brewery was hopping at 5 pm this afternoon, and the bottle shop was nearly sold out. Looks like they will do well.

If there was just a way to cut back to the Railpath before riding to Bloor, this place would be even better.

Got to get working on that Beer and Bikes tour idea!

Update: Henderson Brewing is having a bikefest on June 18 in their parking lot, in collaboration with Sweet Petes.

Update #2: it turns out that there is an official rear entrance to Henderson’s from the Railpath! IMG_3324

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