Bike As Free

Freedom" is the Keyword We Found in the Two Leaders of Motorcycle Culture

  • Photograph:Nobuhiko Tanabe

YUKI and Paul, who modeled for "THE SPORTY SWEATER," are old friends through bicycles. From their conversation, the keyword "freedom" that bicycles have came to mind.

Yoyogi Park was unexpectedly crowded with people enjoying running and walking their dogs on a Sunday morning. Although the summer heat lasted longer than usual, the sound of autumn can definitely be heard in the park. YUKI and Paul, our models for this shoot, were waiting for us in the park parking lot, the meeting place for the "THE SPORTY SWEATER" photo shoot. Paul is from France, and they have known each other since Paul's first visit to Japan eight years ago. NB, who was in charge of the photo shoot, is a photographer from the long-established cycle store "Bluelug," and from the morning we were having a good time talking about the old days.

Yuki is a well-known figure in the bike community, having started her career as a bike messenger in 2005 and becoming a leader in bike culture in 2009 when she finished 16th overall and 2nd in the women's division at the Cyclemessenger World Champions (CMWC). In 2009, she placed 16th overall and 2nd in the women's category at the Cyclemessenger World Champs. A graduate of an art university, Yuki is also an artist in her own right. She is also an icon who brings sports, art, and street culture together.

Paul, on the other hand, runs a bike messenger company in the south of France and enjoys traveling around the world to interact with the local bike community. Through his blog, podcasts, and newsletters, Paul's Slow Spin Society conveys the appeal of bicycles, from simple fixed bikes to gravel bikes and bikepacking, with his own unique sensibility.

We interviewed these two bridges between bicycling and culture.

Bicycles, Art and Social Issues

Yuki came into contact with the richness of the motorcycle community through her work as a messenger, and this circle has grown considerably, thanks in part to her success in CMWC and her own appealing character. On the other hand, in the field of art, which she has been interested in since she was a child, it was difficult for her to feel the expansion of such a community.

In the world of bicycles, there is a strong community, and I was part of it, but my friends who went to art school didn't have such a strong horizontal connection. So from now on, I would like to connect people like that."

Yuki's artistic activities are diverse, but on this day she showed us a zine.

I call this one "Subsidence Rose," and it uses the metaphor of a flower as a metaphor for the subsidence of a road. It is a counter to the fact that cities only accept new and beautiful things. The subsidence rose is a memory or trace in the road. I am attached to such things. In a city, I think the roads play the leading role. The city exists because of the roads. I want to preserve the expression of the roads, like wrinkles on a human face, in my own beautiful way. I would like to eventually compile them into a book, but first I made a little zine of them, which I had the opportunity to put on display in London the other day.


Her stay in London was a great inspiration for Yuki. This was her encounter with "Queers On Wheels. Queer is a term used to refer to people whose gender identity or sexual orientation does not fit into what is considered "normal. Once a derogatory term, it is now used positively by those who are queer, and a bicycle community centered on queers was born in London.

"A queer friend of mine in Tokyo told me he saw an article in GQ ( about a queer who runs a bicycle community. It was Santi, who runs Queers On Wheels in London. I emailed him and said, "I'm going to be in London and I was wondering if we could meet. I emailed him and he said, "We just had our community's second anniversary event, would you like to come? But I didn't have a bike there, so we decided to just have coffee and talked about all sorts of things.


by QUEERS ON WHEELS 's Instagram(

For Yuki, who has been interested in transcending gender barriers since childhood, which led her to become active as a bike messenger, her encounter with this community was a significant event.

" I originally wanted to say that what men can do, women can do too. That's why I got into messengers. I don't feel like a feminist. I just want to be on the same footing. I want people to see me as a human being, not as a woman or a man. When I go to races overseas, I see women who are on equal footing with men. I get along well with that kind of thing, but it is quite conservative in Japan. But in the last few years, Corona has been big, and so has BLM (Black Lives Matter), and I think it's a great time to say things that used to be suppressed.

There are a lot of queer people in their early 20s, and the people I met in London were all queer. Queer people and sports and the outdoors have never been connected in Japan, but I think it would be great if we could connect through physical activity, not through social movements."


The bicycle was also involved in the beginnings of women's suffrage, and the book "A Century of Bicycles and Women," which Yuki-san told us about, is covered with countless sticky notes.

In the GQ article, Santi Suarez, founder of Queers On Wheels, said, "In the end, everything is liberating.

"In the end, it's all about liberation. Being queer is liberation from all social structures, and cycling is about feeling liberated and free. It's a very radical thing to do."

In Yuki's mind, the freedom that bicycling gives her and the freedom from social constraints are connected in a natural way.


by QUEERS ON WHEELS Founder Santi QUEERS ON WHEELS 's  Instagram(


The Freedom of Simplicity

Talking with Paul, I naturally feel calm. This is probably due to his friendly Japanese, which he learned on the street, and the unique atmosphere he exudes. He used to suffer from depression.

He says, "I'm totally better now, but there are still down times. I feel much better when I ride a simple bike in my private life, not as a messenger. Ah! Simple is good! I thought. Life itself is difficult, isn't it? So when you go back to something simple once in a while, you can say, "Oh, this is it, this is what I want," and you don't have anything extra.

In the past, messengers carried mostly light loads such as documents and media containing data, but with the spread of the Internet, many of these loads have become heavier in recent years.

Flowers are the best thing to carry, because they are light (laughs). I spend 11 hours a day on the bike, so I'd rather walk on my days off, but I end up on the bike. At work, it's A to B. There's a fixed route. You have to be on time, and that's not freedom. So, if I can ride my bike freely, it's really easy. I don't want to go too fast, I just want to take it slow.

Paul's love of bicycles has led him to run a media outlet called "Slow Spin Society. While there are actually many different categories of bicycles, Slow Spin Society is a free media outlet that breaks free from those boundaries. Some of the topics include his roots in simple single-gear fixed bikes, while others include the recently popular gravel roads and activities such as bikepacking. 



I like bikepacking. I do a lot of bikepacking. But I don't go on long trips. I don't go on long trips, maybe a week at the most. Riding a bike is nice, but staying overnight, setting up camp, and relaxing is really great! That's what I'm talking about. When you travel by bicycle, you meet people you don't know. They don't know anything about me, so I feel free to talk to them about anything. When I am traveling, I think, "I will only meet this person once in my life," so we have a nice talk and that's it. And I like the feeling of traveling again.

And bikepacking is a complete detox. If you carry too much stuff, it becomes heavy and you don't feel good. So I naturally become a minimalist. It's amazing how much happier life can be with just a bike plus a few things. I don't know why I come home and there are six bikes or what it means (laughs). It's so freeing. Freedom is the key word, totally."


by SLOW SPIN SOCIETY  『A fixed-gear in the middle of the desert. Tracklopacking in the Bardenas Reales.

For the friendly but sensitive Paul, the casual encounters and minimalist style he enjoys while bikepacking are a welcome respite. On the other hand, Paul is connected to the global bicycle community through the Slow Spin Society, and he enjoys the company of local people wherever he travels.

The global bicycle community is so large that I meet people wherever I go. For example, this year I went to the U.S. for the first time in 10 years, and I got messages from all kinds of people through Instagram, etc., saying they'd love to meet me. It's a lot of fun. When you are in a city you don't know and you want to ride your bike, Google Maps will take you to the nearest road, so you have to ride in a big bluebird or something. So I would ride on a big bluebird or something like that. If you pedal with the locals, you can find a lot of back roads and hidden good spots. I really like that. It's a perspective that people who don't ride bicycles don't get. You often ride a bicycle alone, don't you? Riding a bike is my time. On the other hand, the community is great, and I like that duality. It's free, so I can choose the balance I want. I can pass on an event or I can go. Once you find your balance, it's not as hard as you might think to get that distance."

For Paul, the bicycle is a tool that symbolizes freedom, as he is able to enjoy life by focusing on himself, going back and forth between time alone and time with friends, time at work and time on the bike for himself.