In recent years, bike rental services have been growing in popularity all over the world.
In Tokyo as well, one of the most populated cities in the world, renting bicycles has been gaining more and more attention and is becoming a larger part of people’s daily lives.
Many people now prefer using bicycles as a healthier choice for their daily transportation instead of driving or taking overcrowded public transportation. However, in big cities like Tokyo, owning a bicycle can become really pricy really fast (purchase cost, storage at home, parking space, insurance…).
An easy solution to these problems is to use rental bicycles! The concept is simple: you can pickup and leave the bicycle at special points located throughout the city.
In this article, I will explain how to rent a bicycle in Japan using the app Hello Cycling, and you will see that it is a very easy, convenient, affordable, healthy and sustainable method of transport, whether you want to make it part of your daily life as a long-term resident or part of your dream trip to Japan as a short-term visitor.
Table of contents
Why using bike renting?
The advantages of riding bicycles
Here are a few reasons why more people are choosing to use bicycle for transportation:
- Riding a bike is usually much cheaper than driving, using public transport or taking a taxi.
- Cycling is a good way to keep fit as it allows you to enjoy a nice time outside while getting some exercise at the same time.
- It can also reduce stress because riding a bike allows you to focus on the surroundings around you rather than worrying about driving or dealing with other motorists on the road.
- Many people also choose to use a bicycle rather than a car or a bus mainly because of the benefits to the environment. Riding a bike can help to conserve the environment and significantly reduce the amount of pollution being released into the air every day. In fact, it is estimated that if all the car drivers in the world switched to bicycles then over 800 million kilograms of carbon would be saved each year.
- Finally, riding a bike can be a very fun activity that the whole family can enjoy together.
The challenges of owning a bicycle in Tokyo
As you might have already noticed in the streets or in anime and movies, bicycles are widely used in Japan. You might even have heard of “mamachari”? Short for “mama no charinko”, it translates to “mum’s bicycle” and is pretty common in daily conversations. Especially seen in residential areas, it can be easily recognized by its typical basket installed in the front to facilitate shopping for housewives.
However, until recently, it was not common for workers to use bicycle to go to work. In Tokyo especially, public transport is widely used for commute. But recently, and as a consequence of the coronavirus, more and more workers prefer to avoid the hassle of overcrowded public transportation, when the distance allows.
However, owning a bicycle in Tokyo can be very expensive. The previously mentioned mamachari can vary in price from 6,000 yen to 60,000 yen, and a descent road bike would cost around 80,000 yen. Electrically assisted bicycles are popular and so easy to ride it is almost cheating! But their price ranges from around 110,000 yen to 160,000 yen. Not to forget the many accessories available, such as advanced child carrying equipment, etc.
Of course, second-hand options are also a good choice, since Japanese people tend to take a pretty good care of their bike. But added to this initial purchase cost, the necessity to have a parking at home and to find solutions to park your bike near your destination can present a real inconvenience and end up costing a monthly fee.
Also, you need to know that you have to register your bicycle in your name to be allowed to ride it (registration for a new bike, transfer of ownership for a used bike). It is usually done at the store at the purchase, or at the police station. It is not very complicated nor expensive, but just adds up to the list of rules of owning a bicycle in Japan!
Bicycle insurance is not always compulsory depending where you live, but it is also to keep in mind in your budget plan and it can be a bit overwhelming to choose and complete all procedures in Japanese.
If you don‘t have the possibility of owning a bicycle, or if you are just looking for a better way to get around while commuting or visiting Japan, please check below how to rent a bike!
How to rent a bike in Tokyo: Hello Cycling App
Today I will introduce the app Hello Cycling. There are other companies offering this type of service in Japan, like Bike Share from Docomo, but I think Hello Cycling is very easy to use for foreigners and it doesn’t require a monthly fee, making it ideal for city riding and sightseeing.
They cover many areas in and outside Tokyo, and their pricing is very affordable: charging 70 yen for every fraction of 15 minutes in the Tokyo area. They also have an option to pay 1,000 yen for 12 hours of unlimited use. Once you register as a member, you can use Hello Cycling nationwide with the same account.
It is easy to use as you just need to install their app on your smartphone. You can use it immediately after registering as a free member. From the app you can easily reserve a bicycle or search for a station at any time. Basically, you can rent a bicycle at any station with the Hello Cycling logo and return the bike at any Hello Cycling station, even if it is not where you rented it. In principle, stations are open 24 hours a day, but it is better to check beforehand your station on the app.
Mainly electric bicycles are available for rent, but there are also normal bikes and sports type electric bicycles (e-Bike “KUROAD”, please check the dedicated website here) in some stations. You can usually rent up to 4 devices at the same time per account, but it depends on your payment method (with PayPay and HELLO card, you can only rent one bike per account).
Create an account
- Install the app (free): the download is free and the app supports English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
- Register an account (free): fill your name, email address or Facebook account, password.
- Verify your account: you’ll need a working mobile number to receive the confirmation code by SMS. As long as you can receive SMS, a foreign SIM should work too.
Adding payment method
After you set up your account, you need to register your preferred payment method:
– Payment with PayPay balance
– Various credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, JCB, American Express, Diners Club)
– Various mobile phone carriers (docomo, au, Softbank)
– Yahoo! Wallet payment
– Prepaid card (one-day boarding card issued by HELLO CYCLING)
– HELLO miles (electronic money issued by HELLO CYCLING)
Once you register a payment method in the app, there is no need to re-register each time you use it. The usage fee will be deducted automatically. You can check the fees by region here.
Search / Reservation
- Search a station near where you want to ride: the map shows the nearest stations and stations that are close to your destination, they are often located outside convenient stores. Click on the station you want to rent a bike from and check beforehand if a bike is available for rent.
- Select a bike: you should check the bicycle’s battery level, as electric bikes can be really heavy to ride without assist (it depends how long you want to rent it for, but it might be better to always choose one with a charge close to full).
- Make a reservation: once decided on a bike, click on “select bike” and proceed with the reservation. You have then 30 minutes to pick up the bike before you start getting charged.
- Pickup your bike: go to your chosen station and search for your bike (the number on the actual bicycle should match with your reservation number). Enter the PIN number you received directly on the bike screen to unlock it. As instructed in your app, check for issues (battery level, saddle, brake, tire pressure…). If there is a problem, you can return the bike within 3 min without being charged, and rent another bicycle on the spot with the app. If everything is ok, turn on the electric assist on the left handlebar screen and enjoy your ride!
- Ruturn anywhere: when returning, don’t forget to check the app to see if a parking space is available, so you don’t need to waste your time checking every station. Hit the button “return bike” and reach the station within 30 min. Once you arrive, park your bicycle, lock the bike, and hit return on the bicycle screen.
*About locking your bike
If you need to park for a while to get groceries or lunch, etc., you can lock the bicycle from the bicycle screen, then unlock it with your PIN when needed.
*About charging your bike
If you need to return/exchange a bicycle because it ran out of charge, please note that it will be counted as a second rental and the 12 hour fee will not be conducted.
Bicycle charging is possible at some stations after you return your bicycle, please check stations with a battery icon instead of a bicycle icon on the map screen of the app (you can charge the battery by inserting the charging cable in the pocket in front of the bicycle when it is parked). It takes about 10 hours to charge an empty battery.