Looking to rent a bicycle in Tokyo or surrounds? There are a few different names in the Japan bike share game, with the red Docomo rental cycles probably the most well known. Hello Cycling is a yellow contender worth considering—it’s cheaper and, in our opinion, easier to use.
Here’s what you need to know to use the Hello Cycling bike rental service in Japan, whether you’re a long-term resident or short-term visitor.
Looking to buy a bike instead? Find out where to get secondhand bicycles in Tokyo.
How to rent a bicycle using Hello Cycling
While Tokyo by far has the most bikes available, you can also use Hello Cycling in other parts of Japan, including neighboring Kanagawa (and Yokohama), Chiba and Saitama, as well as Shizuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka and even Shodoshima Island (in itself an awesome place to cycle).
For a full overview of where you can use Hello Cycling, simply zoom out on the map in the app once you’ve got it all set up.
Creating an account
First off, you need to download the Hello Cycling app, which is free. You can download it here for your iPhone and here for your Android. There’s no need to be intimidated by the Japanese—you can use the app in English.
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Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to sign up for an account (which you can do in the app). This is also free.
You can use your Facebook account, or sign up with your email address instead. You’ll need a working mobile number to receive the confirmation SMS (which contains a code to enter). I used my Japanese number, but presumably a foreign SIM card would work too, as long as you can get that SMS.
Choosing your payment method
Once you’re all signed up for Hello Cycling, you’ll need to select a payment method. Basically, you can choose from:
- Credit card (prepaid cards like Gaica seem to work just fine too)
- Yahoo Wallet
- Cellular carrier payment (in Japan)
- One-day prepaid tickets (these are for use in Saitama and Okinawa, and require registration using your mobile number)
- Payment using points (Hello miles, connected to PayPay, WebMoney and BitCash)
Reserving a bike
When you’re ready to roll, you simply open the app and look on the map (the default screen) for yellow circles with black bicycles in the middle. Each circle represents a bike station where you can collect a bicycle (or park one).
These “stations” are really just a few bike parking ports in a row, and tend to be outside convenience stores or in parking lots. They may be marked with banners, but equally may be non-descript affairs you have to hunt for.
Click on the station that you want to rent a bike from, and scroll up to see what’s available there. Be sure to check the battery level of the bike (indicated in the app)—Hello Cycling bicycles are electric, meaning they weigh a ton if the battery goes flat and you no longer have access to pedal-assist! You want that battery to be at least half full, but preferably full-full.
If a bike looks decent, click the yellow “Select Bike” button and proceed with the reservation. The app will then shuffle through a few screens in Japanese, and return to English to present you with the PIN code you need to unlock the bike. From the time you make your reservation, you have 30 minutes to pick up the bike before you start getting charged. You can’t reserve a bike any further in advance.
Note: Circles with grayed-out bikes mean that there currently aren’t any bicycles available to rent at that particular station, but you may still be able to return a bike there. Click on the circle and see whether there are any “parkable” bikes.
Picking up the bike
Follow the in-app map to navigate to the bike station and then confirm the number on the actual bicycle with your reservation number. When you’re sure the bike is the right one, punch the PIN code into the pad in the center of the handlebars. When it’s confirmed, you can unlock the bike (by pushing in the button on the backwheel lock). This is similar to the process when renting a Docomo bike.
Assuming that the tires aren’t flat and there are no other issues, you can simply turn on the electric assist on the left handlebar keypad, and off you go. If there is a problem with the bike, you can always return it within three minutes of collection and you won’t be charged.
I rented a bike in Nakano, and had no issues whatsoever. The tires were full, and so was the battery. The bike itself was a bit heavy and bulky (no good for kiddies, that’s for sure), and so kind of wobbly to get going, but within minutes I was zooming along like a Japanese housewife, enjoying the breeze and wondering whether I could cycle all the way to Hokkaido (spoiler: I didn’t).
Using an IC card instead of a PIN code
As with the Docomo bikes, it is possible to register an IC card like a Suica or Pasmo to use instead of punching in the PIN each time. You can’t use the card to actually pay for the bike, though—it’s just a kind of key card for unlocking. Read about how to register your IC card (in Japanese).
Making a pitstop: Locking and unlocking the bike
If you want to leave the bike parked while you nip into a restaurant for lunch or go about some other cheapo business, you can simply lock the bicycle, and then unlock it (you’ll need to re-enter the PIN code or touch your IC card) when you’re ready to go.
Returning the bike
When you’re done with your rental bicycle, you pretty much follow the same steps as you did when making a reservation. Open the app and find the bike station where you want to leave the bicycle, and—once you’ve confirmed that there are parking slots available—hit the return button. You’ll have 30 minutes to get to the return station.
Once you arrive, pop the bicycle into the open parking port, lock the bike, and hit return on the keypad in the middle of the handlebars. It will tell you that the return has been confirmed, and then you can switch off (it will too).
How much does Hello Cycling bike rental cost?
The prices vary depending on the region, but are between ¥60 and ¥100 for a quarter of an hour on the bike.
In Tokyo and most other areas, it costs ¥70 for 15 minutes. If you want to keep the bike for 12 hours, you will pay ¥1,000. Either way, it works out quite a bit cheaper than the red Docomo bikes.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.