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  1. #1

    Default Some thoughts on bikes in Japan

    I lived in Japan six years ago and it opened my eyes up to motorcycles in a big way. Now that I've been back for three weeks on a vacation (I fly back DC-wards on Tuesday) here are some things I've noticed:

    Motorcycles are treated like real vehicles here, even the little ones. Scooters also outnumber shifter-type bikes (except maybe Cubs [which count as a real bike IMO and not a scooter]) by a fair amount, at least in dense urban zones.

    Speaking of the little bikes, when I say little I do mean 125ccs and below - in the city here dailying a Cub, Ape, Grom, or other bantamweight is totally viable as speed limits are low, corners are tight, and gas is pricey

    Asphalt is wildly variable in quality and there definitely are gravel roads aplenty when you get a bit further out (especially in rural zones), so 250cc dual sports are really popular both as off roaders and also city commuters. This does a lot to explain the road biased nature of these bikes that USA and AUS based dualie nerds love to gripe about

    Fat tire bikes like the TW and VanVan are really popular and actually the most customized I've yet seen as a model, no joke every single one has something done to it

    I have indeed seen bosozoku bikes before here and they're really funny until you've been forced to listen to them bouncing off their rev limiters for a few minutes

    There are 4 hundred cc versions of many bikes that might be 5 or 6 hundred abroad, due to the tiered learning license system - the most notably recent I've seen was a CB400X

    Cruisers are popular here, albeit not the bike-defining category they are in the states. I've seen plenty of both metric and Harley, and saw one vintage Indian six years ago. Harleys tend to be Sportsters or the big twin roadsters (of any vintage, too - have definitely seen shovelheads and panheads), but especially near highways you will see the occasional tourer as well.

    The closer to the highways you get, the bigger the bikes you will see - huge bikes are rare in the cities unless people are showing off (saw a Ducati Diavel in Shibuya, for example), but at a truck stop in the major artery between Tokyo and Osaka you may see everything between a Ninja 250 and a VMax. Have even seen a R1100RT and R1200GS around.

    The bike I want the most that I've seen here but is unavailable in the states? Probably the Honda VTR250 with the Ducati style trellis frame. There are plenty other bikes here I'd also gun for, mind you, but those are almost all rare and/or fiddly while the VTR is simple and looks like really good fun.

    That little Motocompo moped that folds into a brief case? When I lived here before there was someone in my town who dailied one

    Sadly I am traveling with my brother who has little to no interest in bikes, so I have not gotten to ride any this trip, but I do hope to tour around the country on a rental in the future! I think I'd gun for a DRZ400 or really any good dual sport under 400cc, as those are all viable on the highways here (65 mph, woo!) while also being a good bike for small, poorly maintained roads.

    If anyone has any other odd questions I'll see what I can find for answers but tbh these are all my musings as a tourist or memories from when I was 18, so I'm not an expert on the local scene nor culture!

  2. #2
    Senior Member

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    Join Date
    Dec 2017


    and who remembers; The Japanese Harley-Davidsons?

    "Harley-Davidsons first began trickling into Japan in 1912, when the Japanese Army purchased a small contingent of machines for study, but oddly, they never requested any spares...Fukui’s Koto Trading Co. had set up a successful Harley-Davidson import and sales organization...They set up the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Sales Company of Japan in 1924...Their initial order included 350 H-Ds, each with a sidecar...After the global economic crash of 1929...the only future for Harley in Japan was to license the outright manufacture of H-Ds to a Japanese company: his company. He sailed in 1929 to Milwaukee, with a representative of the Sankyo Co to discuss a deal, armed with an undisclosed cash payment (reputedly $75,000) from Sankyo. This stunned the Harley-Davidson management, who granted exclusive rights to manufacture H-D bikes and spares in Japan to the HDMSCoJ. That reputed $75,000 payment from Sankyo, in the worst year of the Depression, probably saved Harley-Davidson from bankruptcy, and was a company secret for generations.
    In return for these rights, Childs promised never to sell Japanese-built Harleys or spares outside Japan...Childs brought motorcycle industry veteran and H-D employee Fred Barr with him to Japan, to set up a new factory in Shinagawa (Tokyo), using H-D tooling, processes, and blueprints to build parts and machines to exact specifications. No other Americans were sent, and none were ever employed. Production began in 1932, and no mention was ever made of this unique agreement in the American press, nor was it publicly discussed by Harley Davidson until the 1980s.
    The first Japanese Harley-Davidsons were built in 1935, the 1200cc Model ‘VL’, and were branded the Harley Davidson ‘Rikuo’ (Road King) model...In 1936, Rikuo was re-born an independent marque, with no connection to Harley-Davidson, barring its design...Rikuo produced 18,000 ‘VL’ models through 1942, which is about the same as Harley-Davidson’s production of the same model! In 1942, Rikuo switched to making torpedos, but after the war, in 1947, they resumed production of the old 750cc WL sidevalve model, and in 1950 the resumed the 1200cc sidevalver too. Rikuo continued production on these pre-War machine until 1962, when Harley-Davidson once again established a dealership network in Japan."
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    See the full story here:

    The Stranger-Than-Fiction Saga Of Harley-Davidson's Japanese Stepchild
    This article was originally published in the June-July 1998 issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.

  3. #3


    And Iíve recently visited Cyprus. I didnít travel there by bike but I used rental bikes in here. I chose Honda NC750X. And you know what? It was amazing! I just fell in love with bikes from that moment, you know, that feeling when I ride a bike by hours and enjoy the views and wind, and my head is free, I donít think about my personal problems and stuff like that, I am just free. Thanks to my bike during 3 days I visited such places as the Baths of Aphrodite, Avakas Gorge, Paphos attractions and Caledonia Waterfall. Also I tried Cyprus wine. Self-guided wine tours are also easy to do from Paphos for those who have a rental car or bike. Some of the best regions are the Akamas Peninsula which is famous for its Xynisteri grape and refreshing white wines, or into the mountains northeast of Paphos to sip Maratheftiko grape varietals.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2015


    Way too crowded, way too expensive

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