Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kyoto on Two Wheels

I know very well it's a cliche for me to say that foreign travel makes me feel alive. But I must tell you, the most 'alive' and memorable moments I spent in Japan were on this purple bicycle:

I love this bike.

Unencumbered by road rules, I played in the traffic. I could feel the blood surging through me as I pedalled past temples, workshops and stores. Anticipating the movements of cars, pedestrians and other cyclists seemed to be so much more complex than what's involved in walking (because the risks are greater on a bike?). I couldn't remember ever being so alert. I got a huge endorphin high every time I rode that bike.
At one point, I was going at sonic speed down an exceedingly narrow overpass footpath and I was actually thinking to myself, "I'm dong it! I'm doing it! I'm threading the needle!". Dorky I may be but you must understand, even a slight wobble of the wheels at that velocity would have sent me crashing into the metal guards to suffer certain injury. I made it, though. So exciting!
I am now convinced that tourists must hop on bikes to get a more authentic view of Japan: you've got to see it like the locals. On the bike, I waited at level crossings with grannies, school kids and delivery bike guys. Although I had already spent many days in Kyoto, my perception of the place changed within moments of climbing on that bike. It allowed me get a sense for the topography of the city in a way that walking and transit prevent (hey, Higashiyama really IS on a hill!). On the bike, I became cavalier with my energy, zooming way down long alleyways just to see where they went.
Why is it that Japanese gear-less bikes are so much better than the pedal bikes we have here? It takes barely any effort to go great distances on Japanese bikes. All you need to do to ascend significant hills is to stand up and pedal normally. Getting around is so easy. It's way too frustrating to come home to my bike here which requires arduous pedalling even on a downhill slope...


Hikaru said...

was this pic taken before or after you were subject to racial profiling by the .jp cops?

Andrea said...

The picture was taken (by self-timer) the day before the incident with the police. But you have to admit that I do look verrry suspicious, don't I?

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