My mamachari and I: The vehicle that's made my life easier
It is an electric assist bicycle that comes with a rechargeable battery and helps you whiz uphill, lugging groceries, multiple children, dogs, plants, strollers and more.
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Forget that LV bag you are queuing to have embossed or the red faux fur Prada flatforms you’ve had your eye on, the hottest accessory in town is the mamachari. No, I’m not talking about the rusty, cheap, easily disposable ones you run errands around your neighbourhood in, I’m talking about those glistening, electric, expensive ones you use as a family station wagon to run errands around your neighbourhood in. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you obviously don’t live in Tokyo and if you do and are still flummoxed, then you are totally missing out. Let’s start at the beginning.
Mamachari literally means “mother’s chariot” and refers to cycles for mamas (although more and more cool papas use them). Though some cumbersome version or the other has been around since the Victorian era, it was only in 1998 that Panasonic collaborated with Maruishi Cycle to develop the mean machine that I am so in love with.
It is an electric assist bicycle that comes with a rechargeable battery and helps you whiz uphill, lugging groceries, multiple children, dogs, plants, strollers, a baby elephant… It’s not a moped, you still have to pedal but the effort is zilch. It comes with all kinds of cool accessories like automatic solar lights, built in lock and bell, child seat — one or two, basket, mirror, a solid rear stand (that keeps you safe and sane when your toddler uses the cycle as a bouncy castle), rain-cover, smart phone holder and hairdryer. It has a low centre of gravity and though it is hugely heavy, it is the sturdiest bicycle you will ever ride. Acquiring this beauty changed my life as I knew it in Tokyo.
I live in the heart of this mega metropolis that’s so conveniently organised that days go by where I have no need to step out of my 3-mile radius. For the first six months I walked everywhere, pushing my 15 kilo child on an unwieldy stroller up steep hills. I would openly curse the cyclists zooming on the sidewalk that they had no business being on. On a bad day I’d nonchalantly block them, taking pleasure when they’d be forced to dismount to manoeuvre past. That was before I had my own and instantly, unabashedly switched sides. In this city you either own one or hate those who do.
Photo: Mail Today
I’m a speed demon on mine and when I don’t have my child at the back I can touch up to 30- 35 km/hour (downhill, but let’s not harp on that fact). Cruising down those very same sidewalks, incessantly ringing my bell to make the startled walkers jump out of my way — because in Japan the sidewalks are meant to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists (who knew!), or some are and the others are under-regulated. It’s the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to get from a to b. This could be the saviour for Delhi — no more driving for short trips to the market or school, no more paying for pricey petrol, no more polluting, no fighting with the parking-wallahs, no getting stuck in traffic jams and as for walking — what’s that?
My mamachari makes me happy, for so many reasons. I get to sleep an extra 15 minutes in the morning and if you knew me you would understand the preciousness of that. I can get five more things done in the day than when I was a walker or am I imagining it? Maybe I believe I can and then half way through that lazy coffee I now have the luxury to squeeze in thanks to my mamachari, I realise I’m late to my next meeting and no matter how fast I pedal I’m not going to make it.
Photo: Mail Today
Still, my two-wheeled machine is a happiness provider as the wind blows through my hair and makes me feel like an outdoorsy person without having to step into a park. I did notice that I’ve put on a bit of flab lately and I know it’s from all that walking I’m not doing. No matter how many kids you manage to strap in or how heavy your shopping is or how many hills you conquer in a day, pedalling a mamachari is not exercise. But to me it’s a no brainier — a cool mama zipping on gleaming metal vs a sweaty mama struggling with a stroller.
My daughter is happy too because she no longer has to sit in a push buggy meant for “small babies”. Although, ask her to walk 300 metres and boom, she goes right back to wanting to be a small baby who needs to be picked up. How I miss that stroller when I’m huffing and puffing carrying this deadweight bundle of joy across the museum or mall. It’s time they allowed the cycle or at least the mamachari indoors. I tell you, I would cycle that thing straight to my bed.