The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour’s “amazing one-day” bike tour delivers a fun and memorable spin on city touring

By on October 7, 2015

With a few years of Tokyo sightseeing under my belt, and perhaps, most importantly, with three energetic teenage sons, I was in the need for some new, active, and family-friendly adventures in Tokyo.  As always, I first started with my ever-reliable “mom network” for word-of-mouth recommendations (thank you, mom network!)  Then, out of curiosity, I went online to tripadvisor.com – although quite hesitant that I would learn anything new about Tokyo from short-time visitors. OK, I was wrong to think that. And, I was happy to be wrong. It was on tripadvisor.com that I found out about The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour (TGCT), a top-rated Tokyo activity, and one of my favorite Tokyo experiences.

Persuading two friends to join me for this adventure,”family practice run” was   easy. We all enjoy being outdoors, biking casually around the city, trying new activities, and learning more about Japan. Signing up with TGCT was even easier. All you need to do is choose one of their tour routes online, show up, and pedal. TGCT does the rest.

TGCT was started seven years ago. Inspired by the increasing popularity of city cycling tours in Europe, Yukiko Koezuka, owner of the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour and one of the guides, researched bike tours in Tokyo. When she did not find any, she started her own company. “In 2006 I started with one tour and four bikes. We now have four tour routes, 23 bicycles…and four kayaks.” Since 2006, thousands of guests worldwide have taken the TGCT’s “amazing one-day bike tour,“ with the majority from United States, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom and Canada.

Originally designed with the “one-day” foreign visitor in mind, TGCT bike tours cover a lot of ground  –  and a lot about Tokyo. Each tour (approximately 25 km) visits popular Tokyo sightseeing favorites, of course, but also tours through modern and old neighborhoods, quaint side streets, amazing scenic vistas, and some hidden gems around the city. Even for seasoned Toyoites, it was a day full of fun discoveries and unexpected delights. Along the way, the knowledgeable and professional English-speaking guides share interesting history, culture and personal stories. For our group, Yukiko was our guide. Like all the other TGCT guides, she is fun, friendly and enthusiastic. Yukiko and her team clearly love Tokyo and want the tour group to love it as well.  “My motivation is to introduce Tokyo to foreigners and to meet people from all over the world,” says Yukiko.  “Cycling around Tokyo as a guide of TGCT with fun and nice people is always my extreme happiness!” (Another TGCT guide joked, “My motivation is that Cameron Diaz would take my bike tour someday in the near future!”)

From start to finish, our city cycling tour lasted six hours, with multiple breaks to rest, enjoy the local sights, have a lunch and a snack, and take photos (and one of my friends takes LOTS of photos!). Most tour groups have two tour guides one leading and one in the back; and are capped at 10 participants. If our group was any indication, it doesn’t take long for a small set of strangers to feel like old friends. According to Yukiko, it is not unusual at the end of the tour for guests to exchange information and photos and make plans to meet later for dinner or karaoke. “Sometimes they even invite me,” laughs Yukiko.

TGCT is welcoming to families. “Young kids may not get all the history and culture, but they love cycling. They are energetic and have a happy mood,” says Yukiko. “So far, our youngest guest ever biking by himself is six years old!” TGCT has a variety of family-friendly bikes, including adult bicycles with child seat (for ages 1-4), kid’s trailer (up to 2 kids can sit; maximum weight is 22 kg per child) and kid’s trailer cycle (for kids 110-130 cm tall who can pedal or relax as they need). If families are concerned about the pace or distance, they can contact TGCT with questions.

biking2-copy-300x336The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour puts a new spin on city touring – whether you are in Tokyo for one day or one decade. For visitors, it is a refreshing alternative to the conventional touring by bus, car or subway (which can be intimidating for Tokyo short-timers and long-timers anyway) – and it can be a great way to push through jet lag. For residents, it is a fun, new, and memorable way to experience the city. I also learned it is a great way to meet fun friends from all over the world. Yukiko agrees: “When I retire, I hope to travel the world with my husband and meet all the people who were once guests of the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour.”

For fun, for fitness, for a fresh perspective on the city – or possibly for a chance to meet a visiting celebrity (right, Masa san?), the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour should be on your Tokyo “bucket” list.

The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour offers three cycling tour routes. Price includes bike rental, helmet, food and drinks.

For more information about the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour, Kayaking Tour or Running Tour, please visit: http://www.tokyocycling.jp

About Karen Pond

Karen Pond is mother to 3 boys and author of Getting Genki In Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo