I'll fire off this topic to hopefully get some links and discourse on rental bikes in Japan.
Since I have firsthand experience through our shop, I can provide directly that information. But if other resources are available it would be great for everyone to know about. Also for visitors coming to Japan - what to expect, etiquette, etc.
Firstly, our shop, GS Astuto, has been renting higher end carbon bikes for quite awhile. And through this process we've refined things more and more and also learned alot about the domestic practices and issues as well as the visitor related issues.
One of the biggest gaps I've personally seen is a decent booking system. So, if any of you developers out there wish to tackle something like this, please let me know! I've tried all of the existing systems (private and cloud) and hacked a bunch of stuff together - but nothing is really geared for cycle rent. This means having suitable booking, payment integration, communication and package building.
The key points -
1) Booking a bike. This generally takes quite a bit of communication. And the more complex the request, the more communication. Everything from pedals, bike fit, equipment, saddle, etc is up for discussion. If you are just renting a simple city bike or mama-chari, then it's easy - jump on the bike and go. But for day trips in the mountains with little to zero support, there is alot more to consider.
2) Visitor preparing. As a renter, it really helps if the visitor knows some simple fit data from their existing bike. Mainly the saddle height. That is generally enough for us to choose and appropriate bike. Size of the bike doesn't mean much, since bikes all have differing geometry so a size 50 in one brand might be a 52 in another. For the most part, I see people requesting bikes that are too big for them. You can almost always fit a smaller bike reasonably well, but hardly ever a larger one. So:
- Know your saddle height
- Bring your own shoes. (Shimano cleat types are preferred)
- If you aren't using Shimano cleats, then bring your own pedals
- Helmets are not required legally, but we (and other shops) do require them. Bring your own. Japanese helmets are generally round fit and do not fit European / Caucasian heads. We have helmets for rent - but I'd say its always better to bring your own.
- Bring your cycling clothes. It's not so easy to find Euro / American sizes in Japan
- If you plan on night rides - bring your own light lit or be prepared to purchase some here. Most rental bikes include the minimum safety requirements - but those wont work for road navigation.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers personal injuries , theft and other stuff. So far, we've not been able to find a supplemental insurance provider for sports equipment. Like you can do in the US or Europe with a simple add-on fee. Doesn't exist here. You break something or yourself - you'll need to pay for it.
BiSPA -we do register our bikes with BiSPA - this is a rescue service that allows the rider to call for a pickup if they have a problem. The rider will eed to cover the costs, however, the rescue service is available in most parts of Kanto and you can be assured to at least get transportation back to a nearest station or bike repair facility.
Japanese ability - English is not spoken widely in Japan. If you do have issues, make sure you have emergency number of staff who can assist you in English and Japanese. If you do know Japanese, even basic, it will help alot! Especially as you travel outside the city.
Touring in Japan. Multi-day trips in Japan are generally easy to route and set up. Essentially you make reservations at the daily rest or stay over points and then send you bulk luggage there by Takyubin (truck service). And then just repeat. Any Hotel or Ryokan with a desk can help you with this. AirBNB people - sorry, you will be out of luck unless your ABNB host is around to assist you. Think about that when you plan your stays.
Trains - Bikes may be taken on most trains in Japan as long as they are covered with a bike bag (rinko). We provide rinko with all our bikes and will also show you how to use them.
Pickup / Delivery - This is possible by large parcel service. We use a couple different ones. Depending on the distance and hassle, they generally charge between 4000 yen - 8000 yen EACH WAY, it's not a cheap service, and you'll generally need to be available at the location for pickup and delivery. Hotel guests have it better as the Concierge staff will generally be quite helpful.
Routes - The primary routing services in Japan are RideWithGPS and LatLon (yahoo). RWGPS will have routes in English and Japanese. LatLon only in Japanese. You can also use MAPPLE books (paper maps) which can be purchased at major book stores, auto rest stations and some convenience stores.
Bike Shops - There are many bike shops in Japan, most are geared towards fixing city bikes or mamachari - and may not even have seen a 700C tire in their life. However, they will still try to help. Roadbike Shops are more typical in the city center areas. Some department stores have bike parts and bikes - and are open longer hours than indepedent bike shops. I'll list a few here --
- BIC Camera. Surprisingly has one of the best selection of parts. Generally on upper floor. Also some are open quite late.
- Donki (Don Quioxte) Also generally has some bike parts. Many are open 24hrs.
- 100yen Shops. All over Japan. You wont find any high end parts, but you may find just enough stuff to rescue a broken down bike. Patch kits, basic tools, nuts and bolts, etc.
Communication. Getting a 'SIM' in Japan can be a bit of a hassle. We recommend getting, instead, a Wi-Fi hotpoint device. Then you can share internet among your group and be able to do almost anything you need in terms of communication, internet, etc. You can rent these at the airport or online and have them delivered to your hotel.
Money. Japan is a cash country when you start going outside the city. When you arrive at the sirport, visit the ATM (lower floor) and use your Foreign ATM/ Credit card to get your cash. The FX rates are the best and you aren't charged heavy commissions for buying foreign currency at the ripoff windows. Also, most 7-11 have Foreign Friendly ATMs. This also holds true for many small hotels and ryokans outside the metropolis areas. Cash Only!
I hope this helps to kick off this discussion! Happy riding!