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Help Mamachari or N+1?

Nuff

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Jul 28, 2020
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So a bub is on the way. Time to grow up and get a mamachari like a proper law abiding citizen would.

Or should I get a gravel bike (I'm eyeing a low end Jamis Renegade) and slap on a rear rack. Then I can use it with panniers for some shopping or a baby seat.

Is there something that I'm missing that mamachari is better at? I guess lower centre of gravity, more upright position and most likely it being an e-bike to help out with going uphill, but I think that can be solved by low gearing on a gravel bike.

Personally I've only ever seen 1 person on a gravel bike doing groceries with panniers. But everything else is mamacharis.

My plan is to eventually take it out on some longer adventures and it being my bad weather bike, since washing my road bike in an apartment isn't the easiest task.
 

bloaker

Sincerely A Dick
Nov 14, 2011
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I have a mamachari and several bikes with racks in my house.

Once you throw a rear seat on a rear rack, you will not be using bags simultaneously.
Also - #1 injury to kids on bikes is their necks. You will not see when you kid falls asleep behind you. If you get a mamachari with a front seat, you can see their little head flop to the side when they randomly pass out. You can then either hold their head with your hand or you can find a spot to pull over and hang out while they rest.

My wife's mamachari is too small for me. I am 188 - so all mamacharis are too small - but a mamachari isn't for me, it is for the safety of my little monsters. Ultimately I wish my wife had used it more to justify the expense, however I have used it quite a bit and my kids enjoyed every minute.
 

OreoCookie

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Hard no on the mamachari. You can also use a trailer, which I found to be much more practical than a baby seat. I can easily put in 20 kg of groceries in addition to my daughter. Once our son becomes old enough, we can also put him in the second seat. But a seat could also be an option with the obvious caveats. Like @bloaker writes, this also represents a safety risk for you and your kids, one that is worse on mamacharis.

Mamacharis are heavy, likely not adjusted to you in terms of size and if you have good legs, you will eat through BB bearings like popcorn. I remember when I arrived in Japan first, I bought a cheap new mamachari. It took me 2–3 months until my BB bearings were crunchy. The shop kept on replacing them under warranty — after all, I wasn’t doing anything to abuse the bike.

Lots of parents at our day care have mamacharis with integrated seats (up to 2), and these are arguably worse: these bikes are very heavy (as most are electrically assisted), very long and unwieldy, very expensive and have a high center of gravity once the kids are in place.

For comparison, I have paid 67,000 ¥ for my Burley bike trailer, and it was their mid-range model. I could have gone for the cheap entry-level model, but honestly, this thing has already paid for itself 10x over. I can detach it and go grocery shopping (with and without my daughter). It is very robust. And it is very safe. It tipped over once when the inner wheel hit a marking stone of sorts (which was raised). No issue for the occupants.
 
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andywood

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If you are just looking for a good workout, walking with the child strapped in a carrier on your front or back is good. Running with a sporty buggy is also good, all the rage overseas but never really seen them here.

Andy
 

OreoCookie

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If you are just looking for a good workout, walking with the child strapped in a carrier on your front or back is good. Running with a sporty buggy is also good, all the rage overseas but never really seen them here.
The bike trailer I have can also be used for running. In fact, because of the vastly larger tire diameter compared to a normal buggy, it is much easier to push. When another kid’s mother suggested that thing must be very heavy, I released the brake and pushed it with my pinky. You can even buy skis or bigger, wider tires to go offroading.
 

andywood

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The bike trailer I have can also be used for running. In fact, because of the vastly larger tire diameter compared to a normal buggy, it is much easier to push. When another kid’s mother suggested that thing must be very heavy, I released the brake and pushed it with my pinky. You can even buy skis or bigger, wider tires to go offroading.

Sounds like the mother of all pleasure vehicles!

Wish I'd known about it when our two were little.

Andy
 

OreoCookie

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Sounds like the mother of all pleasure vehicles!

Wish I'd known about it when our two were little.
One of the best purchases I have made in the last 10 years, that’s for sure. The only slight downsides are somewhat longer length (which isn’t too bad, you just need to get used to it) and that you need to hitch and unhitch the trailer.

I love that once I unhitch the trailer, I have a completely uncompromised bike. And I can essentially use any bike I want — there are through axle adapters and a simple metal bracket you can use with all other axles. For my new mountain bike, I will probably want to insert a washer or spacer to protect the carbon frame.
So, a gravel version?
Yes!
Terrain is not the limiting factor, gradient, weight and your legs are. They even have models with suspension, e. g. the Encore X. I have the Encore which seems to have been discontinued. But my daughter loves when the ride gets bumpy.

The only model I’d advise against is their 1-seater: I don’t think you’ll be saving a lot of weight or width (the trailer is narrower than my mountain bike’s handle bars, which makes it super easy to judge whether or not I will fit in somewhere). They also have 2 wheels, which makes it much more compact when pushing it while you are on foot.
 
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joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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The only experience I have riding with kids is on the mamachari, so no experience with trailers.

I do all my grocery shopping on my Elephant NFE. Between the front bag and my backpack I often carry 10 kg of groceries which is quite sufficient for me. The biggest drawback compared to mamachari is the lack of a kick stand. Often I have to hunt for a spot where I can lean the bike against a wall when the bicycle parking is designed for free-standing bikes. Bicycle parking with a trailer is probably also a bit more complex than with a mamachari.

Mamachari have the biggest, most stable stands to minimize the risk of the bike tipping over with small children seated on them. Even a 2-leg stand like the Pletscher is not going to be as stable, though it will be perfect for grocery runs without children.
 

OreoCookie

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The biggest drawback compared to mamachari is the lack of a kick stand. Often I have to hunt for a spot where I can lean the bike against a wall when the bicycle parking is designed for free-standing bikes. Bicycle parking with a trailer is probably also a bit more complex than with a mamachari.
That's true. You could put on a kick stand, but at least for me the tradeoff isn't worth it.
Mamachari have the biggest, most stable stands to minimize the risk of the bike tipping over with small children seated on them.
Although I'd say that this is really necessary with the big, battery-assisted ones with child seats: they are very heavy. I have seen similar stands on Holländer-Fahrräder (Dutch-style bikes), and spiritually, these are the higher-quality versions of mamacharis.
 

joewein

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Although I'd say that this is really necessary with the big, battery-assisted ones with child seats: they are very heavy. I have seen similar stands on Holländer-Fahrräder (Dutch-style bikes), and spiritually, these are the higher-quality versions of mamacharis.
The battery-assisted bikes tend to have a different design of stand (3D vs 2D). While the regular mamachari usually just have a bar with several bends that are all in the same plane (with all points of contact on a single straight line), the electric ones are more elaborate, extending horizontally. AFAIK this type of stand is a requirement for having two child seats on the bike, though in practice -- as with many bicycle-related regulations -- this won't be enforced.

Even with the mamachari stands it's not uncommon to see parked bicycles toppled by strong wind and often in a domino effect, where one bike fells its neighbours.

These days I avoid mamachari as much as possible, but when me son was still a toddler, I did multi-hour rides around the countryside in Saitama with him.

Usually the seatpost is quite short, it's impossible to extend it far enough to get an efficient pedaling position. People are taught they have to be able to reach the ground with both feet while remaining seated, to stabilize a stopped bike with heavy grocery in two baskets or with two children on it. That makes anything but short rides quite tiring.

It is possible to get a longer seat post, then you only have to deal with the upright position and its air resistance plus the limited gearing. I know two randonneurs who have done 200 or 300 km randonées (brevets) on mamachari modified with a longer seat post. Yes, I have some crazy friends :D My own longest one day mamachari ride is only about 45 km.
 
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Nuff

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Thanks for all the replies and it's good to get some wisdom from people who have experience.

Just to answer some questions. I'm 184cm and yes, I need good bike fit, my knee is pretty busted, so unless my seat height is perfect, it suffers. Also because of that, running and caring heavy loads is out of the question. The best thing that has happened to my knee is discovering that I can ride properly fitted bike followed by losing 10kg over last year.

Good point about the head flopping while they fall asleep, although I don't think I would be allowed to leave the home by myself with the baby. As for a trailer, I'm not sure how convenient or even safe it would be on the narrow roads/side walks. Although I do want to move out further out of tokyo in 1/2 years and hopefully then it will be a lot more convenient.

Also not being able to carry luggage and baby car at the same time, I think front rack is an option, the low centre of gravity should help too.

Yes, I'm looking for a do everything bike, one that will slow me down. My wife wants to get back on her road bike and get some of her fitness back, which she lost over last 9 months, this way I think we can do some longer rides together.

Kickstand is something that I'm undecided about, often after a ride I pop into a supermarket to get some groceries (the packable apidura backpack is great for this), and very often finding a place to lock up my road bike is very challenging.

So far because of all the points the ministry of war and finance (or according to her, the emperor) has approved a new bike that's not a mamachari under one condition, no upgrades! :)
 

OreoCookie

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Even with the mamachari stands it's not uncommon to see parked bicycles toppled by strong wind and often in a domino effect, where one bike fells its neighbours.
Yeah, many places are just roofed, but don't have any actual racks. I hate that. At our house the bike “garage” often becomes a mess with bikes tangled up like spaghettis.
These days I avoid mamachari as much as possible, but when me son was still a toddler, I did multi-hour rides around the countryside in Saitama with him.
You gotta feed (y)our addiction any way you can … ;)
Usually the seatpost is quite short, it's impossible to extend it far enough to get an efficient pedaling position.
Yes, although that doesn't completely make the bike fit well, because in my experience, they only have limited sizes available (perhaps only one). On better Dutch-style bikes the stem can swivel up and down to help you adjust.
People are taught they to be able to reach the ground with both feet while remaining seated, to stabilize a stopped bike with heavy grocery in two baskets or with two children on it. That makes anything but short rides quite tiring.
I figured as much, but that sounds like a tatemae solution. Putting proper brakes on it, i. e. disc brakes these days, would definitely help, as would wider tires. Anatomically, it is also bad. One more strike against mamacharis in my book.
It is possible to get a longer seat post, then you only have to deal with the upright position and its air resistance plus the limited gearing. I know two randonneurs who have done 200 or 300 km randonées (brevets) on mamachari modified with a longer seat post. Yes, I have some crazy friends :D My own longest one day mamachari ride is only about 45 km.
Sounds like your friends have a masochistic streak in them. While I certainly don't have to understand everything, I really don't see the appeal. I call mamacharis “誇り持ってない自転車” (bikes without pride). This is quite different from Dutch-style bikes — while I really don't like them, they are well-designed and well-specced. The one I rented was as expensive as an entry-level hardtail.
I'm not sure how convenient or even safe it would be on the narrow roads/side walks. Although I do want to move out further out of tokyo in 1/2 years and hopefully then it will be a lot more convenient.
I live in Sendai, which is much smaller than Tokyo, but narrowness is not an issue. Like I wrote, the trailer is narrower than my handlebars, i. e. it seems much bigger than it is. I found the learning curve very shallow, I was really surprised.

The additional length is not something that has caused huge problems for me. It is about two regular bikes long if that makes any sense and roughly as wide as a regular bike. If you have a drop bar bike, you have to pay attention to the extra width, if you have a mountain bike, your handle bars are likely wider. (Mine are, and they aren't even considered wide this day and age.)

As far as safety is concerned, I can't think of a way that it is less safe for your child than a mamachari with a child seat. Even when my bike trailer toppled over once (user error), my daughter was safe in her seat. Think for a second, what is safer, a car or a bike? You have an additional metal cage around your child.
Yes, I'm looking for a do everything bike, one that will slow me down. My wife wants to get back on her road bike and get some of her fitness back, which she lost over last 9 months, this way I think we can do some longer rides together.
Oh, it will slow you down. First of all, there is the additional weight. The trailer weighs something of the order of 10–15 kg, my daughter another 12 kg. Then I usually take some stuff (blankets, snacks, water, diapers, etc.), and I think I have about 25–30 kg of additional weight.

And above 25-27 km/h, it is aerodynamics. You can go faster, but you'll really have to work. Especially if the plastic rain window is raised, this thing is a giant wind brake. For the last few weeks I went on my endurance ride with my daughter in tow as per request of my wife. This way she got a few hours relative peace and quiet, I got to spend quality time with my daughter and got my ride in.
Kickstand is something that I'm undecided about, often after a ride I pop into a supermarket to get some groceries (the packable apidura backpack is great for this), and very often finding a place to lock up my road bike is very challenging.
There are aftermarket kickstands you can screw on, at least if you have a metal frame.
So far because of all the points the ministry of war and finance (or according to her, the emperor) has approved a new bike that's not a mamachari under one condition, no upgrades!
Cause for celebration. What are you going to get?
 
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Nuff

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Jul 28, 2020
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@OreoCookie The cart looks like a great idea for longer trips. For baby seat etc I will look at it in the next few months.

I'm looking at Jamis Renegade S4/5. Online I can get S4 for the price of S5 at a store, but looks like there's a wait list for my sizes for S4 and I can get S5 now. The difference between them is S4 is 9 speed and S5 is 8 speed. It's steel frame with carbon fork, and I can attach front and rear racks to it. I will need to chain the gearing on it I think in few months if I decide to go with the cart, but that's few months away still.

I'm not looking at spending too much money on it, since my plan is to upgrade my road bike... Do I need a new road bike? Nope! Will it make me faster? Nope! But a want is a want.
 

jdd

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I think Jamis used to be well-known for their touring bikes--aurora/elite.
 

djentleman

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I've done ~20000k on my jamis renegade exile (now called A1), and honestly it's a really solid bike, and as a 'for fun gravel bike' or commuter I definitely recommend it.
I've only got room for one bike, so i've been using it as both a gravel bike and for road/touring, and it does a decent job of both imo.
When I bought it, it was outfitted with claris, but i've since changed it to a mix of 105/grx.

Lots of mounting points and clearance for big tyres (i think 45mm?). My only recommendation would be going for one of the models with thru axle rather than qr - the S5 looks decent.

Here is me and my jamis at fuji 5th station :)


1641888952747.png
 

OreoCookie

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I'm looking at Jamis Renegade S4/5. Online I can get S4 for the price of S5 at a store, but looks like there's a wait list for my sizes for S4 and I can get S5 now. The difference between them is S4 is 9 speed and S5 is 8 speed.
Since you are not allowed to upgrade, I'd advise against both: you really want hydraulic disc brakes IMHO. This will make a huge difference, and if you are carrying an extra load (no matter how) you need good brakes. The cheapest stock bike that does that is the S3, it seems.

It seems you also have the option to go for 650b wheels and tires, which is what I would do if I were you — more volume translates to more comfort and more grip.
I will need to chain the gearing on it I think in few months if I decide to go with the cart, but that's few months away still.
On a commuter I'd keep it simple and go 1x. I don't know what kind of hills you need to climb, but on the flats 1:1 is more than plenty. If you go up proper hills, you might need mountain bike gearing, though. (Keep in mind, on commutes you don't want to VO2max every hill in sight.)
 

Nuff

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@djentleman Thank's for recommendation, you've a great looking bike there.

@OreoCookie I think rim brakes would be more than sufficient on this bike, the gearing is fine too. There are no huge hills planned for this bike, it's all pretty flat. Even on my road bike when I go out of my way to hit some hills/climbs I struggle to get over 1000m lol. My current gearing is 52/36 + 11/28 combo and it's perfect.
 

OreoCookie

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I think rim brakes would be more than sufficient on this bike, the gearing is fine too. There are no huge hills planned for this bike, it's all pretty flat. Even on my road bike when I go out of my way to hit some hills/climbs I struggle to get over 1000m lol.
That wasn’t why I was suggesting hydraulic brakes: I’d recommend them for a commuter, because they require much less maintenance (because they are self-adjusting) and require much less force to actuate. (My mom’s bike had hydraulic rim brakes, and I don’t think they were even bled once.)
 
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