End of an Era

My bike in the Fujitsu parking lot
This was a sad day for me. I’ve been riding my bike to work almost every day for the last decade, and today that all ended.

I’m moving on in my career, and that means all sorts of good things for my family and my life in general, but commuting by bike was one of my daily pleasures and I’m really going to miss it. Wearing a suit and tie and riding a packed train is going to drain me even more than it drains most people because I know it doesn’t have to be like that. The train ride is a part of a hard day’s work, but when commuting by bike, the workday is over the moment I swing my leg over the seat. Then it’s my time—just me and the machine and the wind, a daily dose of freedom.

My bike really isn’t designed for a rush-hour commute in to the heart of Tokyo, and the new parking laws and the recent spike in bike thefts makes me worry about leaving my bike anywhere downtown. Up till now, my commute has been skirting the outside boundaries of Tokyo rather than fighting a million other commuters trying to get downtown at the same time, and I was able to safely park my bike within Fujitsu’s walled and guarded compound. Now that is all in the past.

With a baby in the house, I haven’t been able to do much touring this year, but until today I still got to experience the joy of riding every day. I’m not sure how I’ll handle the stress of a new job without that daily adrenaline fix.

The positive side of it is that I’ll be working with my co-blogger Stinger, so we can spend the day talking about biker stuff even if we can’t ride as often.

15 thoughts on “End of an Era”

  1. Rat bike! Now there you go. Although even a rat bike in Japan costs 200k. So ben, you didn’t explain why you won’t be able to commute by bike anymore, just that you can’t. I’m not clear as to which job is in the heart of Tokyo, but doesn’t the new place have a parking garage?

    You know, part of the point of getting a job that makes too much money is that you can pay ridiculous prices to park. Just throw money at the problem and it will go away!

  2. I was seriously thinking of getting a Honda Cub or some other tiny bike that can fit between lanes more easily, but one of the main problems is that there is nowhere to park. I plan to look around to see if I can find a deal like GB managed where some nice local garage owner lets me park, but that’s not the only problem.

    It’s a commute that will take me at least an hour each way, because the whole time will be spent squeezing between gridlocked traffic and breathing cage fumes. That’s just not any fun. And then there’s the suit thing. I’d get to work with my collar stained with sweat and exhaust soot.
    I think I just have to live with it until the situation changes. After a few years of this I should be able to work wherever I want, so I can put up with it for a while.

  3. Pingback: Riding Sun
  4. I won’t recommend it in the summertime but Fall, Winter, and Spring, one can commute in an Aerostich Roadcrafter in a suit and come out a bit wrinkled but happy. If I need a jacket, I’ll put it in my Givi top box.

    If this new job means that you have to wear a suit every day and you can no longer commute on 2 wheels, I hope it’s at least 50% more than you are making now, because that’s at least what I’d need to give up those freedoms.

  5. ひとまずは、お疲れ様。そしておめでとう。



  6. I, too, am sorry to hear that your new job is one where you can’t continue with your very Zen commute via Harley. Perhaps there is a CD or podcast of motorcycle sounds you can listen to on an MP-3 player? With your eyes closed, you could almost forget you are in a subway car!

  7. GB and Gen,
    My back-of-the-envelope calculations make it out to be a 39% wage increase, and I was already really satisfied and making far more than I ever expected for a guy with nothing but a linguistics-related B.A. Even so, I’m a little conflicted about whether that really balances out against the pleasures of riding every day.
    The first step is finding parking. If that works out, I may look into lighter bikes and then follow Gen’s suggestion on the Roadcrafter.


    Thanks for the suggestion, but somehow I doubt any virtual approximation could come close to the full-body sensory experience of riding.

  8. 『川崎~都内246通勤の経験者から見て、走りを楽しめると思う?』

  9. Now wait a minute. Don’t go doing anything rash too hastily. From experience, it seems to me that your only real issue is parking.

    This weekend, scour the neighborhood around your new office. There is SOMEWHERE to park your bike. There always is.

    The rest is manageable. It is not ideal, but it is manageable. I’m a lawyer. I have to wear a suit every single miserable day. I have to drive through traffic…often for an hour.

    Yes. It’s freaking hot in the summer. Your right leg gets pretty damn toasty at times. I have fried the bottom right leg of many suit pants on my pipes, but that’s what dry cleaners and tailors are for.

    As for the sweat and wrinkles, that can be mostly overcome in one of two ways. If you have your own office or locker, you can keep a suitcoat or two and some ties hanging there. Or, if you just have the standard cubicle, you can bring your shirt and suitcoat in a back pack or briefcase strapped to your sissy bar or in your saddle bags. If you fold your shirt around a hand towel, then it won’t get creases where the fold lines are, and the suitcoat wont look any worse than if you drove a car.

    When you get to work, you change out of your t-shirt into your dress shirt, suit and tie and put your t-shirt in your bag.

    It takes a bit longer. It’s somewhat of a burden. It DOES get hot in the summer. But, you are still riding and it’s not so bad after dark. You will find side streets that cut down on your travel time. It’s also good to take the long way home sometimes to avoid the traffic.

    As for security, a couple hundred bucks gets you the H-D factory alarm, siren addition, and a remote pager with a 1/2 mile range that alerts you to any motion, attempt to start, or cut battery cables.

    It seems unpleasant, but just being on the bike compensates for a LOT of the discomfort.

  10. Wow! It’s sure nice to see all this support for maintaining Big Ben’s daily bike commute. A lot of good points have been brought up about ways to make it feasible on Ben’s new route. There are, however, several detractors.

    First, let me explain that Ben will be working with me now, in the finance sector. I’ve been working at our company for two years now. It’s right smack dab in the middle of Tokyo (in fact, the imperial palace is just down the street). And basically, it’s one straight road from where we live in Kawasaki to the heart of Tokyo. That road, Rt. 246, during rush hour, simply put: sucks! The congestion is unbelievable, and all the illegally parked cars and delivery trucks and other vehicles swerving the get around others making left turns means that lane splitting ability is severely compromised. In a nut shell: it ain’t fun. In fact, it would probably give Ben more stress than stress relief.

    The parking issue also is a serious problem. Professional Harley theft rings have been preying on Tokyo for years, and have found all ways of conquering any matter of anti-theft device. The only way to park your bike without worrying all day long everyday is to put in a parking garage. BUT, the problem is none of the parking garages in the vicinity will accept motorcycles! Only cages. And common sense does not prevail: “Hey may, OK, but can I just park my scooter in this little nook that no car could possibly fit in? I’ll pay standard fare.”
    “Uh, no, sorry our rulebook doesn’t say what to do in this situation, so we have to say no. Besides, we were never instructed to think outside the box. Go park it on the street with all the other two wheelers.”
    That’s the kind of situation we face.
    Unfortunately, this ain’t California. No six lane roads and no titanic parking lots. We’re talking bottlenecked traffic and no place to park.
    Sucks, but it’s just a trade off until we make a big enough name for oursevles to go freelance. Then it’s HOG heaven!

  11. That road, Rt. 246, during rush hour, simply put: sucks!

    Why not take the expressway? Costs a bit more, but…

    Also, I ride central-Tokyo 246 and Roppongi Dori to and from work every day. True, my total commute is only about 10km each way, but the roads themselves are not so bad.

    The key is to beat peak rush hour; I am on the road between 8-8:30am, which is fine. After 8:30, it gets worse. And I come home late usually, so there is no traffic then.

    Finally, I ride my scooter, which is more manageable in city traffic. I know Big Ben has had some trouble finding a scooter that will fit him. My suggestion: some European models tend to have pretty tall seat heights.

    Also, Jeff had the right idea: leave your suit jackets and ties in your office. You can ride to work in your shirt and pants.

  12. GB, I do ride like that (kinda).

    Of course, the whole discussion is academic if I can’t solve the parking issue. I’ll look into it once I start work.

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