Japan largely missed out on the first bicycle boom of the 1880s and 1890s but when the bicycle became hot again in the 1960s and 1970s – mostly for recreational and fitness desires – the country was not about to be left on the side of the road. Japan zoomed past the United Kingdom to rank second only to the United States in the value of bicycles exported. Japanese bicycle manufacturers also shifted away from the utilitarian aspects of the human-powered vehicle to a specialty in high quality light and sport bicycles and parts.
The center of this high technology revolution was Osaka Prefecture. Osaka is responsible for 46 percent of all bicycle production in the country; Tokyo, with just 10 percent, is second. The city emphasizes innovation and production in bicycle parts and accounts for 59 percent of Japan’s exports in that sector. It was the traditional techniques of tempering steel by gunsmiths and swordsmiths in Sakai City that laid the groundwork for the city’s dominance of this trade.
The Cycle Mode Ride Osaka is western Japan’s largest sports bicycle festival and a chance for the public to check out the best new metal on offer from the country’s top cycling minds.
It is the industry’s trade show and in addition to looking over the new bikes, attendees can investigate frames, parts, tools, gadgets and clothing. There are demonstrations and seminars on everything from race training to the physiology of high speed pedaling to preventing a flat tire. More than 500 brands will be represented in the bike expo.
The exhibition is not just for gearheads. There are over 1,000 manufacturers of bicycles and parts in Japan but most of them are small concerns with only a handful of employees. This configuration encourages innovation and there is plenty to see at Cycle Mode Ride Osaka. The imagination on display may not always yield commercial success but you may find yourself the first owner of a triangular bike or a stow-away-bike or a string bike or a wooden bike.
And, yes, test rides are available – bring a helmet and prepare to stand on queue. Veterans of international bike expos will know it is a rare treat to get astride professional-caliber wheels. Banpaku Park, north of the city, is the location for Cycle Mode Ride Osaka and the site of the 1970 World’s Fair presents open ground suitable for a two-kilometre test course that delivers plenty of ups and downs for samplers of sport bikes. There are also rides to try on road bikes, cross bikes, and even bikes with an electrically assisted boost. Attendees can prep themselves for the Osaka Castle Triathlon that will be held on June 25th.
The dates for this year’s Cycle Mode Ride Osaka are Saturday, March 4 and Sunday March 5; it is the second half of the country’s two-week extravaganza that spends week one north in Tokyo. The hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and you can get full details, including ticketing and admission fee information, at cyclemode.net.