“Loco” Cyclists, and Other “Crazy” Japanesisms

Today I was scanning some cycling blogs, wondering how the throngs celebrating Golden Week were coping with the extreme weather, and I came across a term I hadn’t seen before: ロコサイクリスト (roko saikurisuto), or “Loco Cyclist”.  As an American West Coaster the first thing that came to mind was “crazy cyclists”, but it turns out that is not it at all.  The “loco” is apparently short for “local”, since the definition I found for this term was 地元の (jimoto no), and it appears to refer to people who are natives of a given region willing to share local knowledge and guide newcomers around.

Here are some other English-derived terms which might be misinterpreted by native speakers of English:

パンク (panku), “punk” = flat tire (from “puncture”)

マイペース (maipeesu), “my pace” = describes a person who does things in his/her own (self-indulgent) way or at his/her own pace (usually inconveniencing others!)

ジャージー (jaajii) = jersey

メット (metto), “met” = helmet

ピットイン (pittoin), “pit in” = pit stop or SAG station



Japanese cycling jargon ②(サイクリングの専門語②)


Recently I came across a cycling-related word which I didn’t initially understand:

バイコレーター (baikoreetaa)

Once I looked it up, I realized that I actually have experience with this thing, but I just didn’t know its proper title.  In short, it is another of those portmanteau katakana terms, created from “bike” (baiko-) and “escalator” (-reetaa).  I have also found them referred to as 自転車コンベア (jitensha konbea), from the native Japanese word for “bicycle” (jitensha), added to an abbreviation of the English word “conveyer belt” (konbea).

The image above left is made by a company called 協栄システム (Kyouei System) in Saitama Prefecture.  To use it one places the wheels of his or her bike into the groove on the right, and the conveyer belt begins to move. The rider then walks up the stairs along side, steadying the bike as it rises.  While from a cyclist’s point of view this may seems an unnecessary extravagance, I remember it being wonderfully helpful at late in the afternoon as I headed home on my one-speed mamachari, with a heavy load of groceries in the front basket!

What does in some ways seem to be a complete luxury is the more elaborate system pictured here.  it is made by 横浜特殊船舶株式会社 (Yokohama Tokushuu Sempaku) in Yokohama, and it carries the bike up for you, without any need for help from you, the rider!

NHK TV Program Aimed at Cyclists


A cycling-themed program appeared in September 2013 on the Japanese public TV station NHK-BS1.  Based on a special shown in May 2013, the title of the show is チャリダー★ (Charidaa), or “cycling enthusiast”.  The term charidaa is created from two words: ちゃりんこ (charinko, a casual term for a bicycle) and ライダー (raidaa, from the English “rider”).  Unfortunately, I do not have access to Japanese cable TV so I have not had a chance to watch, but I’d be curious to hear from people who have.  In particular, I’m wondering if/how woman riders are portrayed.  The images on the home page for the program are all of men, with the exception of the actress and model Takehashi Maryjun, who is listed appearing as the 新米アシスタント (shinmai ashisutanto), or “greenhorn assistant”. There are a few short videos posted on the site, after watching which makes me think it could be another in that genre of themed travelogues on Japanese TV that I remember enjoying so much.

Anyone out there who has seen the show and can give us a review?


Japanese cycling jargon ① (サイクリングの専門語①)

Rental bike, Takamatsu

Rental bike, Takamatsu. Photo © site author.

In the US, according to a poll conducted by ACTFL (revealingly, no national statistics are kept), just 18.5% of K-12 students are enrolled in a foreign language course.  In contrast, nearly all Japanese students study English over several years of their academic career.  As a result, English vocabulary is comfortably incorporated into much of day-to-day Japanese.  For example, the term for someone who commutes to work by bicycle is 自転車ツーキニスト (jitensha tsuukinisuto), from 自転車(jitensha, bicycle) + 通勤(tsuukin, commute)+ the English-language suffix “-ist”.  Even the basic term for the sport of cycling, サイクリング (saikuringu), comes from English.

When I lived in Japan one of the most indispensable items of my daily life was a bicycle similar to that pictured above.  In the 1980s, when I first arrived there, bikes like these were not used by adults in the US.  As a matter of fact, when I returned to the US and sought out something similar for sale, I couldn’t find anything even close.  The one bike shop guy I encountered who actually understood what I was looking for had lived in Asia as well, and he said my only option was to but one in Japan and bring it back with me.  Nowadays, at least in the Pacific Northwest, it is not hard to find something like this, as a quick online search through outdoor outfitters such as REI (see example here) will attest.

But returning to Japan and cycling language, bikes like these – which in my experience are owned by nearly every person – are called ママチャリ (mamachari) or, more recently, シティサイクル (shiti saikuru)Mamachari is a rather endearing word, created by the union of ママ (mama, mother) and ちゃりん (charin), the lovely old-fashioned sound of the bells commonly mounted on the handlebars.  This name evokes a quiant image of a mother riding along, small child in a seat on back and groceries in the basket in front.  A little less lovely on the ears but more up-to-date, shiti saikuru (which sounds to American ears a lot like “shitty cycle”), is made from two English words, “city” and “cycle”.

Though my current housing situation allows me the option of just one bike – and I have chosen this to be a hibrid as the ultimate compromise between speed and function – I hope that someday I can again enjoy the daily pleasure of hopping – in whatever I happen to be wearing – onto my ready-to-go mamachari and heading out to do errands.