CR vs CR

WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
1,192
240
93
Kita-Ueno
#1
CITY RIDING vs COUNTRY ROADS!

I’ve thought long and hard about this one;
Which do prefer???
Do you want the uninterrupted (slow) flow of country roads? Or would you rather the everyday hustle & bustle of riding through the main streets of Tokyo, dodging buses, taxis, and everything else?
Each has its own good and bad points…

I will try to list a couple of the “pros” & “cons” of each, and then you can each make your own decisions about which one suits your own individual riding style.

Firstly, the main bad-point in regards to city riding is:
The TRAFFIC LIGHT!
I haven’t heard/seen a single nice word about them. We all hate them (especially when you’re in a hurry); they wear out your brake-pads, you lose your momentum, your average speed goes down, etc.
BUT, it is nice to have a rest once in a while!

Country roads, on the other hand, have very few traffic lights, and it’s easy to keep up a nice even pace for quite long stretches without having to stop. And this is great for when you’re touring, or have a long distance to cover in one day.
BUT, it also means you’re “alone” on the road for quite a lot of the time – which is sometimes discomforting.

Secondly, in the city, there’s the AMOUNT OF TRAFFIC!
“Cars” can just get in your way, sometimes! Buses, trucks, and (Thomas, I now share your sentiments in regards to Taxi-Drivers)…. The all-oppressive TAXI!!!
Just keep them away from me!

On the country road, you’re basically free from the worry of having so many vehicles around you, so you can simply concentrate on turning them gears over at your own pace, and just “get to where you’re going”!

However, I can’t be this objective for long…. You either, love the one, and hate the other, or vice-versa!
I realized in which camp I belong, after I came back from Kyushu.
I spent 8 days riding on (sometimes) terrible country roads, and although my actual riding speed was low (25-30km/h), at the end of the day, the meter would read, “av.spd. 24”-ish.
So I DID appreciate the lack of traffic signals along the way.

But after I came back to Tokyo, and I did my first commuting ride (of this year) through the traffic – weaving in and around all the obstacles along the way, with a riding speed of 32-40km/h between traffic lights, etc., I knew that the excitement and exhilaration of riding in traffic is something I really missed. And my average speed on the meter is usually up around the “26” mark.

With the wind vortexes that cars create when they go past, you can easily pick up an extra 4-10km/h on what would normally be your top speed – I know that riding along the river (flat, with no wind), I usually max out at about 32km/h over long distances; 36km/h for under 5km; and 40km/h for a 1km sprint. But in traffic, that goes way up!
Don’t dismiss the good ol’ traffic-light as a training opportunity – 0-32km/h in under 3 seconds!!! That’s cruising speed!
And once the wind vortexes from the cars kick in, that can go up again to 34, 35, 36km/h – I’ve sat behind trucks, and had to stop pedalling, then looked down to see 47km/h on the meter in some places. But the initial “jump” from the lights can be great “interval sprint training”. Jump on those pedals as hard and fast as you can, and try to match the car’s same acceleration (depending on how the traffic is flowing), and you can usually be riding side-by-side with the cars for quite a while. This will also help you make that next green-light!

One of the most useful skills you can develop for riding in traffic, is looking behind you without moving off your line.
Basically, lock both your elbows, AND your shoulders. Turn your head (to the right) so that your chin is resting in the crease between your shoulder muscles and your biceps. This may turn your bike a few degrees to the right, but not enough to worry about – much better than plowing (to the left) into the gutter – and if you can hold it for a whole 1 second, you will have a full view of all the cars coming from behind.

The second most useful skill, is taken straight from the “chess hand-book”;
Learn to look at least 5 moves (in this case, "cars") ahead! Look at every single indicator/blinker, every single set of hazard-lights that come on up ahead in front of you in the traffic.
As soon as you see them, it’s time to change lanes – do the “look behind” first – then move out into the traffic to avoid getting jammed into the kerb!
It’s common-sense, but you will be surprised by the amount of drivers who never notice that the car just in front of them is about to turn. Move out, and stomp on those pedals!

I've spoken to some other very accomplished riders who avoid traffic like the plague, but sometimes it's unavoidable, so you just have to ride with the "big metal boxes" as best you can!
Riding in/through traffic is an art-form, and is worthwhile learning. And it can be great fun!

I don’t know if this will really help anyone out there, but this is just what (I think) I’ve learnt from experience.
Any other handy-hints/advice/opinions are most welcome!

Rubber down! T
 

trad

Maximum Pace
Dec 4, 2006
393
30
48
Tokyo
#2
awesome synopsis

Humbled by T's synopsis. Have nothing meaningful to add... except stop lights give you a reason to practice balance through an occassional trackstand. Completely unnecessary with clipless pedals, but I find that its a good way to find balance.

Will say that at the age i'm at (and with small kids), its a joy just to be out doing what I love. I've been happy with traffic, open country, or mtb. For me, it just nice to be able to get out, go after something hard , clear your head, and occassionally find that elusize "zone".
 

thomas

The Crank Engine
Nov 1, 2005
1,812
219
93
多摩区
#4
Great post, Travis! I have made it a sticky. :)

First of all, for passionate cyclists both, the quiet country stroll as well as the hectic urban ride, have their attraction. However, the topic is slightly academic to me, as the bicycle has become a daily necessity, an intrinsic part of professional life. My priorities have therefore shifted from sheer pleasure to "surviving" the daily urban commute with all its challenges, such as geriatric taxi drivers, signal hopping, punctured tyres, rain and the permanent race against the clock. So perhaps for me the city ride has turned into an acquired taste that provides a daily adrenaline kick. :warau:


The TRAFFIC LIGHT!
I haven’t heard/seen a single nice word about them. We all hate them (especially when you’re in a hurry); they wear out your brake-pads, you lose your momentum, your average speed goes down, etc. BUT, it is nice to have a rest once in a while!
I agree, but according to Murphy's Law you usually get your rest all too often when you need it least, while sometimes you seem to float on a wave of green traffic lights when you're already totally zapped. ;)


“Cars” can just get in your way, sometimes! Buses, trucks, and (Thomas, I now share your sentiments in regards to Taxi-Drivers)…. The all-oppressive TAXI!!! Just keep them away from me!
To tell you the truth, I'm attempting to accept them not as a necessary evil, but as a professional group struggling for their survival on the streets, a group we have to share the roads with. Peaceful coexistence is the catchword. Well, I do my best to live up to these words... :D


But after I came back to Tokyo, and I did my first commuting ride (of this year) through the traffic – weaving in and around all the obstacles along the way, with a riding speed of 32-40km/h between traffic lights, etc., I knew that the excitement and exhilaration of riding in traffic is something I really missed. And my average speed on the meter is usually up around the “26” mark.
I can relate to that! The feeling of dodging slow traffic downtown is exciting. Just be careful, there are many other road dwellers weaving through the traffic, motorbikers, messengers (and the odd pedestrian). And all of them try to reach the pole position at the stop line. The perpetual competition!


The second most useful skill, is taken straight from the “chess hand-book”; Learn to look at least 5 moves (in this case, "cars") ahead! Look at every single indicator/blinker, every single set of hazard-lights that come on up ahead in front of you in the traffic. As soon as you see them, it’s time to change lanes – do the “look behind” first – then move out into the traffic to avoid getting jammed into the kerb! It’s common-sense, but you will be surprised by the amount of drivers who never notice that the car just in front of them is about to turn. Move out, and stomp on those pedals!
So true! Riding in strong rain today I realised that we need to think more than just five moves ahead, otherwise it's checkmate.

One thing I have noticed in Japanese motorists is that they generally indicate any change of direction quite late - in the very last moment when they are actually just about to turn. That makes sound predictions sometimes pretty difficult.


Riding in/through traffic is an art-form, and is worthwhile learning. And it can be great fun!
It's a skill that requires constant perfection. It is amazing just how many new things you can learn each and every day out there on the roads. So yes, rubber down and keep on learning! :)
 

WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
1,192
240
93
Kita-Ueno
#5
update:

I realize that this “synopsis” is far from complete.
And a big “Thanks” to all who replied.

Yep! Commuting on the bicycle does offer you the “adrenaline kick” that stops everyday from just being the same… Thomas, do you even know what the inside of a Japanese train looks like???;)
Seriously, in this case, I WILL call myself a religious man. Every time, before I clip-in, I say a little prayer; “Lord, please keep me safe on the road today!”
And I don’t know whether any of you believe in “answers” or whatever, but each time I say that prayer, I don’t know whether it’s just “the little voice of logic”, or it is actually the Big Guy upstairs, but the answer I get back is:
“I WILL KEEP YOU SAFE TO THE INVERSE PROPORTION THAT YOU ARE STUPID!”
So, it is always just a little reminder to me each time I go riding, not to be too arrogant or over-confident; to respect the others on the road, and to obey the traffic laws as best I can.

However, there are drivers, pedestrians, motorbikes, etc. who do stupid things in front of (and behind) you! – I will be honest; there are quite a few mama-chari riders and motorists who have received free English lessons from me at various times….
“You STUPID ARSED M@%#& - F&”#ING PR!CK AR$EHOLE BASTARD!!!”

Another thing that Thomas mentioned that gets on my nerves are drivers who indicate to turn at the last second – I have had it happen so many times before, and I’ve considered carrying around copies of the Japanese Driving Manual that says, “You must indicate at least 18 meters from the corner you intend on turning at”, and then chasing said driver, just to give him/her a “little reminder”.
Again, recipients of free English lessons.


The Mama-chari… I’ve railed on them more than once in a few different threads, and I don’t want to repeat myself, but…
Someone mentioned in regards to the “New Bicycle Bill” that if the law is passed, bicycles will just become “an irresponsible form of transport…”
My response is: “THEY ALREADY ARE!
I’ve had more accidents, and near-misses with mama-charis than any other kind of vehicle, so please forgive my animosity against them!
And it’s not the “mama-chari” itself, but the riders on them.
Have you ever wondered why it costs 10 times more to obtain a drivers license in Japan than it does in western countries? My theory is that they (Japanese people) – sorry, Sora-san – have to be trained so vigorously/strictly into learning to LOOK!
Foreigners/Westerners don’t have that problem – we were brought up with our parents constantly telling us to “look where you’re going!”
In Japan though, I’ve seen kids looking over their shoulder and walk straight into a pole, or a billboard sign. My father would have given a slap across the head for that, but over here, the mother just says, “Daijoubu? / Are you OK?”

To the western mind it’s completely illogical (I have a Chinese friend who told me that China is worse than Japan for people not looking), so I suppose as a final word, the word of the day – of every day – is “CAUTION!”

And as far as riding in traffic, “evasive manoeuvres” are what will keep you alive and uninjured! Look ahead! And Look behind!
Make sure of everything around you, and be watchful of the unexpected.

Travis
 

AlanW

Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
1,214
436
103
Tokyo
#6
Just call me Country Joe

Hey Travis,
Nice post, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on the preference. Given the choice I would always choose a quiet country road over city commuting. The less traffic the better as far as I am concerned.
For me a great ride is zipping through the countryside, at my own pace, hearing the almost silent purr of the drivetrain, and breathing air that has not passed through a million 2-stroke motorcycle engines. Sure, riding in traffic can be an adrenaline buzz but most of the risks are outside your direct control, and dependent on whether the drivers around you have a) seen you and b) have any idea how quickly you're travelling. On a country road the risks are much more within your own control and I for one feel a lot more comfortable with this.
I agree with your riding tips for traffic - you need to be 100% on-the-ball to do it safely. I'll add a couple of tips of my own
  1. Only assume a driver has seen you if you've made eye-contact with that driver.
  2. Always, always, always, check behind immediately before you make a move. Motorcyclists back home call this the "life saver".

Look forward to riding with you again - on any type of road :)
AW
 
Jan 14, 2007
2,516
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Noda
japanichiban.com
#7
My biggest problem in city traffic is waiting till it's almost too late before using the brakes. I hate using the brakes. Ill swerve rather than stop and one day that swerve is going to be too wide or not wide enough and I'm going to get nailed by an old tunnel visioned driver. Almost got killed twice in the last year from drivers who thought I was going at mama chari pace...

I've ordered myself a little mirror that fits on the down tube between your knees...this is going to give me more vision from behind which will let me know whether to hog the road and fly or slow down in the right safer spots to let cars pass me easily and to know when the last car is there so I can quickly jump on its tail and draft rather than peg my ears back listening for Mr. Doppler...

Country roads can be dangerous if a winding narrow road where young guys are playing rally driver.. I was coming down a quiet mountain road on the shady side so there were lots of damp leaves stuck in the shadows of the trees... it was steep and my wrists were worn out holding the brakes when a bunch of louts came hooning down in their V8s I couldn't stop, slow down or change my line as the leaves would have made me slide... they were revving and I was scared.... then I had to turn around at the bottom and go back and over to the other side.... I love that little mountain... but the city is safer... :warau:

I guess I'm an RR. (river rider)

If I want adrenalin I get it riding home along the Edo in the pitch black after work dodging cats and tanuki by the river...
 

tokyoscoop

Warming-Up
Apr 15, 2007
14
0
0
Itabashi, Tokyo
#8
Nice post and I agree with it all.

In cities I find the main, busy roads are actually the best to ride on. The quiet side streets are plagued with mama-chari riders who, because they don't hear an engine noise, assume there is no car coming and just whiz out of the junction. I've come close to nailing these idiots a few times. Now I just ride ultra conservatively on side-streets, if I have to take them.

The other annoyance is drivers who see me approaching and think I'm doing about 10kph so there is time to turn in front of me. The five-steps ahead theory means I usually spot this and am prepared to slow-down, but usually do so with drama and a large Italian-style wave of the hand and a "hey", to which at least I normally get a gomennasai bow from the driver :)

I haven't cycled much in the countryside in Japan but the lack of traffic lights would be nice sometimes, however, as noted those traffic light breaks are nice and are what keeps the average speed up.

Actually, I've found myself behaving steadily worse on the roads. When I am at a pedestrian crossing red I always used to stop, but then mama charis would whiz by ignoring the light so I started thinking "sod it" and doing the same if there was no one around. It can made a big difference - you might make the next light before it turns red and the eventual effect can cut several minutes off the commute!

Martyn
 

Pucci

Speeding Up
Jul 12, 2006
283
1
38
Yokohama
#9
John Denver

90% of my riding is commuting on city roads and all I can say is that I want my own own private tree-shaded one-lane mountain pass that leads from home to office and back. Failing that, I will take the city roads because they are way better than a trainload of marinated salarymen. 'Nuff said. :cool:
 

jun

Warming-Up
Feb 21, 2008
8
0
0
west tokyo city
#10
I miss country road

I hate when I wait for greeen light right next me , motor cycle's humes and noise makes me unpadaling. :eek:uch:
without this, riding is fun to me. :)

Without hesitate, country dirt road is best.
:)
 

marc

Speeding Up
#11
I love the idea of riding on country roads, but typically I find I'm more comfortable on city streets. Usually the moment comes when I'm grinding through a screaming headwind (because there are no buildings or trees for miles around to break up the airflow), and a huge truck comes screaming up from behind me missing me by an inch. That's when I start thinking I'd rather be back in the middle of Chuo-ku.

In the city, I actually feel safer because of the traffic, rather than despite it. During the morning rush (when I go to work) I can usually keep pace even when things are moving fast, and if I stay assertive about my space (and considerate about the space of others) things go pretty smoothly.

The biggest hazard in the city, by far, is other cyclists. Not the messengers or the speed demons, they seem to all know what they're doing. It's the &"%&# MAMA-CHARIS! What kind of a moron rides the wrong way up Showa-dori at 11pm with no lights? I get frustrated at drivers sometimes, but the mamachari idiots are the only ones I regularly scream at. Drunk, emailing with their keitais, weaving back and forth, they are far more dangerously unpredictable than any taxi.

Also,

- When a vehicle suddenly pulls into traffic without warning, odds are very good that they're going to pull off again soon, also without warning. Delivery drivers seem to think that signaling rules don't count if you're just going to be a moment.

- When someone steps into the street in front of me holding up their hand to hail a cab, I have to consciously fight the urge to stop next to them and say "ok, where to?"

- It's a mixed feeling of pleasure and disgust when you suddenly feel a warm gust of air on a cold winter morning, and then realize it's because you've just been blasted with a cloud of exhaust fumes.
 

Dan

Warming-Up
Sep 3, 2008
12
0
0
Planet Earth
#12
This reminds me why I left NYC for inaka. Although the giant kanko buses whizzing by 4cm off of your right shoulder doing 10-20kph over the speed limit aren't much fun I will stick to riding through the tanbo.:D
 

sakura

Cruising
May 15, 2009
29
0
11
Tokyo
#13
Country roads take me home...

I could probably launch into a long diatribe on any number of the points brought up here. Believe me its tempting, but a lot of what already has been said about city riding (in Japan) I also agree, especially:

In Japan though, I’ve seen kids looking over their shoulder and walk straight into a pole, or a billboard sign. My father would have given a slap across the head for that, but over here, the mother just says, “Daijoubu? / Are you OK?”

To the western mind it’s completely illogical (I have a Chinese friend who told me that China is worse than Japan for people not looking), so I suppose as a final word, the word of the day – of every day – is “CAUTION!”
I thought I was the only one that made this observation! My wife thinks I'm some kind of Western elitist whenever I bring up this point. I'm surprised there are not more pedestrian / mamashari fatalities in Japan!

One point I will touch on that hasn't really been mentioned yet is pollution. If pollution wasn't a factor, I would definitely enjoy a lot more the interval training and truck-drafting afforded by city riding. As it stands, riding through city traffic in Tokyo has caused, on occasion, headaches and a mild case of that same stinging sensation you feel when you get too much pool water up you nose! I am by no means a hypochondriac and rarely get sick, so this development is definitely alarming. In comparison, I never encountered this problem back in California (due probably to higher emission standards), but had a similar ‘choking’ experience when I lived in the Washington D.C. metro area.

With that, I must cast my vote for country riding.
 

Valentin

Warming-Up
Nov 3, 2008
4
0
0
Tokyo
#14
The worst thing about city riding is polluted air. (I hate trucks, buses and scooters)
The worst thing about country riding is bad roads and sometimes really long hills.
That's my own opinion.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#15
Coming from the South coast of Britain I really miss the quiet open roads of the South Downs, the ability to use the whole road as you speed down Ditchling Beacon ready to punch your way back up the other side. The smell of the country side as you cruise along with your fellows in a pack ready to make a break from the group to claim yet another sprint point at Dial Post bus stop or the King of the Mountain as you pass the Fox Pub at Hammer Pot Hill, longing for that pint that you know you haven't earned yet.

I really miss it and I'm hoping that there are riders out there that long for the open road and are willing to allow me to tag along and learn from them and the good routes.

City riding is a war zone and really is an adrenaline rush, I’m learning to pre-empt taxi drivers as well as sitting at least half a meter off the outside white line while giving the truck drivers all the room they want and wave them through or acknowledging that they are there and I will get the hell out of their way once there is space.

I've learnt to love thetraffic lights, I use them for sprint training and one or two other fellow commuters now enjoy quick sprint races together over 200m to the next set.

Given the choice I would take the open road and the country, where my imagination can run wild and that I'm amoungst the greatest and the Peloton really is averaging the same speeds as me.
 

shirokuma

Warming-Up
Nov 2, 2009
8
0
0
Kodaira
#16
I prefer riding in the country. I'm not a fast rider but I appreciate the solitude and the feeling of being one with nature. I NEVER feel that way riding in the city. The starting and stopping and the constant vigilance needed to ride in the city are not relaxing.
 
May 22, 2007
3,617
1,454
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#17
I just read through this great thread again. Thanks, Travis.

Is it just me? I feel like recently I'm seeing a huge increase in the number cyclists riding the wrong way in the road. Even saw a cop cycling the wrong way up R246 near Kamiuma a couple of weeks ago; what sort of example is that? </rant>

Back to the topic - I like both types of road. Big mountains with wonderful long downhills cleanse my kamikaze soul, while for the sprint starts and hills on my R246 commute I really feel the benefit of the strength I gained from crawling up the mountains. There are 68 traffic lights on my 20 km route to work!

City riding is a strategic challenge, as OP says. Another tip is to literally look through the cars - through their windows - and use reflections from cars and shop windows to maximize what you can see around you.

Planning the lights on regular routes is an intellectual challenge, e.g., I know that if I can reach 40 kph from a dead stop at Omotesando I can hit the green light at Bell Commons with enough time to scrape through Gaienmae as well.

I hope the rainy season doesn't, this year.

--HF Mike--
 
Apr 26, 2010
212
2
38
Shimokitazawa
#18
I'm totally spilt on this issue. I love the exhilaration of city riding, but the views and swooping descents of country riding are amazing too.

One thing that drives me nuts in the city though is late indicators. It seems that a lot of drivers in Japan think it's fine and responsible to flip the indicator on only when they are actually making the turn. Tell me if this has happened to you before: you're approaching a light and scanning all the traffic in the lane on your right looking for turn signals of cars planning to turn left, across your path. Seeing none, you start to pedal into the intersection, only to have one of the cars you just looked at turn, cut you off, and then click on his indicator. The whole point of the turn signal is to let others know your intentions in advance. Waiting until you are right next to the corner to signal is utterly useless, except for drawing my ire.
 
May 22, 2007
3,617
1,454
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#19
Tell me if this has happened to you before[..]
Surly, a while back I was trolling some Japanese motoring interest group boards and noticed a recurring theme. Early use of indicators (if at all), looking at mirrors, driving with your lights on, and use of most other vehicle features designed to let other road users know that you're there or what you're planning to do -- all these things are widely considered to be dasai (uncool). Seatbelts also dasai. By extension, having children and pets roaming freely around, texting, fixing make-up, being half-asleep, straddling lanes, driving in bus lanes etc. are presumably the epitome of cool. Heyyyy...

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I don't know where they get it from. it's certainly not how they drove when they passed their driving test. But it's endemic.

But I try to keep it real. I've 'driven' through Delhi.
 
Apr 26, 2010
212
2
38
Shimokitazawa
#20
Interesting. I knew my helmet was uncool, but I though it was because it looks ridiculous on my elongated muppet head. Now I understand it's nerdy due to it's job of keeping me from serious injury. What could be more uncool than safety??

You're right though, there are much worse places in the world to be a cyclist. The turn signal problem is my only regular gripe here, and I generally find Japanese drivers to be very accomodating of cyclists.