Mamachari (city bike)

This is the type of bike you most commonly see in Japan, as well as in cities around the world. They are designed for daily, local rides—shorter-distance commutes, trips to the nearby grocery store or shopping center, trips to visit friends who live locally. They often feature only one, or a very low number, of gears.

They are affixed with a basket and/or a rear rack for hauling goods. The seat is typically wide and squishy, often with springs, and is designed to absorb the shock of going on/off sidewalks, over road bumps or dips, etc., and so is comfortable over short distances. Normally, you travel at lower speeds, around 10–15kph.


Usage: Transportation (Casual Exercise, Exploring)

Major Benefits:
 You can often find them relatively cheap, particularly used. You can haul luggage in the basket or on the racks. You’ll “fit in” with most others you see on bikes, and even those tiny bike repair places can do basic repair/maintenance.

Major Drawbacks: Less thought on the ergonomics of the bike, so longer distances can be difficult or painful. Little or no gearing for hills. If you’re taller than an “average man” in Japan (about 175 cm, give or take) finding a proper size can be difficult or expensive.

Basic folding bike

These small bikes are becoming more common, particularly in cities. The frames are small and collapse after undoing a few clips, so they are great if you haul your bike in your car, or live somewhere where it would be more efficient or necessary to store it inside. They are similar to mamachari in that they are designed for everyday use, although they may or may not have luggage capabilities.

Usage: Transportation (Exploring)

Major Benefits: Small, collapsible, and fairly cheap. You can put it in a bag (sold separately, of course) and take it on most train lines for free.

Major Drawbacks: They are “one size fits all,” so if you’re taller or bigger you might find riding uncomfortable or difficult.

Cross bike

If you’re looking at the usage for this type and thinking, “cross bikes can be used for anything,” then you’re pretty much right. Cross bikes take the best of several types of bikes and mash them together to create a bike that is as multi-purpose as possible.

 From road bikes, they take a lighter frame, higher gearing, thinner wheels, and a harder, more ergonomic seat, to allow for distance riding at higher speeds. From mountain bikes they take higher frame durability and a more upright-position (good if you’re not used to road bikes).

Often, you can purchase a rear rack and sometimes a front rack for hauling luggage. If you’re interested in using your bike for more than just day-to-day commuting/shopping—particularly if you live in more hilly areas—then a cross bike can be very useful.

Usage: Transportation, Casual Exercise, Exploring, Serious Transportation, Serious Exercise, Bike Touring

Major Benefits: Highly versatile. Lots of gears for climbing hills and cranking up speed, optional racks for storing gear, easy to use over either short or long distance.

Major Downside: Price is higher than mamachari or folding bikes. Used bikes can be more difficult to find, and start from around ¥35,000. New bikes start from around ¥60,000. Although some can be fitted with mountain bike tires, most are made mainly for paved routes or the occasional cinder path.


Road/Racing bike

These bikes are built pretty much for one reason and one reason only: speed. Their frames are extremely light (think balance on two fingers without effort), their tires extremely thin and with little traction, and they typically have anywhere from around 20–30 gears to help you challenge any speed or slope.

Most often they come with “drop” bars, allowing you to create the most streamlined form possible when cruising downhill, and typically the saddle is higher than the handlebars for the same reason. If you’ve never ridden a road bike before, it can take time and practice to become used to (or even unafraid of) the different position. In general, road/racing bikes are for serious bikers, not for everyday or leisurely biking.

Usage: Serious Exercise (Transportation; Bike Touring; Exploring)

Major BenefitsFast, easy to climb hills and rack up the kilometers going downhill. 

Major Disadvantages: Expensive; prices start around ¥40,000 used, ¥75,000 new, for low-end bikes. No potential for luggage. Body position makes it difficult to carry a pack, and can be difficult/scary for those not accustomed to it.


Mountain bike

Mountain Bikes resemble cross bikes in many ways, and can often be used similarly. The major difference is that the frames are bulkier and heavier, and the tires wider with more grip, to handle most types of terrain.

Prices are similar to that of a cross-bike, although there are some cheaper models around. If you’re looking to do any off-roading with your bike, you’ll likely want a mountain bike.

Usage: Transportation, Casual Exercise, Exploring, (Serious Transportation, Serious Exercise, Bike Touring)

Major Benefits: High stability, several gears for handling hills, and can be used on most terrain. 

Major Drawbacks: Can get expensive. You might not find as many locations where a mountain bike is required. Are not always designed for long-distance, road riding (if you’re interested in that).



Though originally denoting a bicycle intended for BMX Racing, the term "BMX bike" is now used to encompass race bikes, as well as those used for the dirt, vert, park, street, flatland and BMX freestyle disciplines of BMX. BMX frames are made of various types of  steel, and (largely in the racing category) aluminum.

Cheaper, low end bikes are usually made of steel. High range bikes are mostly chromoly or high tensile steel, although the latter is noticeably heavier with respect to strength. High-performance BMX bikes use lightweight 4130 chromoly, or generation 3 chromoly.

On most freestyle, street, and park BMX bikes, the wheels have 36 spokes. Race bike wheels also usually have 36 spokes, but wheels for the smallest racers, sometimes as young as three years old, can be built with 18 or 28 spokes. More aggressive riders may opt for wheels with a spoke count of up to 48 spokes, however hub and wheel combinations for this are becoming difficult to source.


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