Would you buy a Japanese city bike?

I’ve mentioned mamachari (pronounced “Mama chah ree”) bicycles on these pages before. They’re the ubiquitious Japanese city bikes used by commuters and shoppers.

Shuichi in Japan has been scheming for a way to sell mamachari in the United States for a couple of years now, and he’d like to gauge your interest. I don’t know what model he has in mind, but this Bridgestone “Beaute” is fairly typical.

Bridgestone Beaute City Bicycle

Features like heavy duty tubing, step through frame, racks, skirt guard, fenders, chainguard, lights, center stand and basket are all pretty typical of this type of bike. I don’t know if Shuichi plans to offer this as an option, but Japanese mamachari are also known for the huge, handlebar-mounted child seats, like you can see on this Bridgestone “Angelino.”

Bridgestone Angelino mamachari bicycle with child seat

These Bridgestone bicycles retail for $500 (for a base Beaute) to $900 (for a fully equipped Angelino). These run toward the high end of what’s available among mamachari; at the low end they can be as cheap as $150, and they’re regarded as almost disposable.

Shuichi is talking about shipping 100 bikes, which could probably fit into a 20 foot shipping container. It’s roughly $1500 to get a single shipping container from China to California, which works out to $15 per bike. I don’t know what customs and other associated paperwork might cost, and then once the container gets to Oakland or Los Angeles, he needs an agent to handle everything on this side of the ocean, and then you still need to get the box to the end customer, assuming US Customs doesn’t just seize the shipment because it lacks US CPSC approvals and labeling.

I suggest Kickstarter for Shuichi. If 100 people pre-order bikes, he’s in the game. If not, he’s not out that much cash.

Would you buy a mamachari bike? Let Shuichi know through his survey what you think.

Leave a Reply

  1. I had an older Mamachari for a hot minute this spring. More about that here: http://onelessminivan.tumblr.com/post/29709700072/regrettable-purchases

    If it had been a little lighter with at least 3 internal gears I would have held on to it. I love all of the other features that come standard with them, specifically chain cases and some kind of internal braking option which make them perfect for year round commuting with little maintenance.

    If he intends to import a child carrying model (which duh, why wouldn’t you), he should go with one that has the ability to carry two kids. Currently in the US, it’s simple to toss an Ibert or Yepp seat on a regular bike and be off but it becomes cumbersome and unstable to have both on a regular bike. The ape hanger bars and smaller front wheel on these mamacharis lower the center of gravity and make hauling two kids a breeze.

  2. Hi Richard. I am Shuichi. I will need your help when 100 orders come ;) But I have to solve another latest problem about lithium battery first. I want to talk about it.

  3. Given the appetite for Dutch city bikes and the like, I’m sure somebody could sell a hundred of these, especially if the price point can be maintained… the cheaper versions might not be as sexy, but would probably sell well since those aforementioned Dutch bikes and knockoffs retail for quite a lot.

  4. I have been in touch with Shuichi about getting a bike shipped to me in Boston. The price to ship a single bike is super expensive, but I might just do it…because these bikes are so unique. There really is nothing like them for sale in the US. I think moms and dads, along with regular commuters, would snap up 100 bikes in no time. These bikes have awesome features like bells in the handlebar, three-gears plus e-assist, full chain guard, better handling with squirmy weight (children) in rear and front, child seats that turn into baskets for hauling groceries or your work bag, super-low step-through (yet strong) frame for easy on and off…the list goes on. And they are pretty slick looking.

  5. Has anyone tried talking to the companies (Bridgestone, Panasonic, Yamaha, and so on) about this idea? You’d think they’d be interested in a US market…

  6. I would buy a mamachari if I didn’t already have one. It is such an amazing bike. Even though mine only carries one kid, it is so much easier to ride than my old bike with a child seat that it my daughter and I end up defaulting to it. Josette is right that squirming kids are not an issue with these designs. And the learning curve is basically zero.

  7. I live in Penang, Malaysia and have 3 second-hand Japanese bicycles – Maruishi, Jaguar-make, and a Scooma My friend owns a Panasonic, Miyata, Maruishi,.Bridgestone. I can tell you Japanese bicycles are really good. They are of good quality and their designs are amazing.

  8. I was just in Nagoya in March and went to three bike shops to buy a bike and have it shipped home…was willing to pay 500 dollars to ship a 100 dollar bike. So, the answer is YES!!! I have been trying for years to get a city
    bike home from Japan!!!

  9. I’m Japanese and I’m definitely interested. Would you let me know how your plan is working out? I’d live to know the cost of it. Thanks.