Niigata City has a super easy to use renta-cycle system that is definitely worth a try!
Regretfully, all of the information about this system can only be found in Japanese here (until this post! ) so I will try to explain the system in such a way that it makes sense but you will need at least basic Japanese- better yet bring a friend who can speak/read Japanese if you can’t (useful Japanese phrases can be found throughout this post)
Basic step-by-step to the system
To use the renta-cycle system is actually quite simple.
- Go to a rental station (maps at the bottom of this page)
- Fill out the following paper and pay the 200 yen to become a member
- Hand them your new member card
- Ask to rent a bike
- Pay the 100 yen
- Let them guide you to a bike while they fill out your card
- Go bike riding!
- Bring bike back to ANY RENTAL LOCATION (pay for any extra hours)
- Repeat steps 3~8 as many times as you would like, as often as you would like.
Becoming a member
To apply to become a member, go to a renta-cycle station and once you tell them that you would like to become a member (“renta saikuru no memba ni naritai desu”) they will give you the following application form (available in Japanese only).Fill it out, give it back to them, show them your ID and they will create your member’s card (and you pay 200 yen).
The typical bikes (like the one pictured above) cost:
100 yen for 3 hours.
100 yen per additional hour
Yes, that means if you take it back at the end of your 3 hours and immediately check it out again you can use the bike for 6 hours for a mere 200 yen (not counting registration)- when I rented a bike they almost encouraged the use of this “trick.”
Once you have your membership card this part is super easy-just hand them your card say that you would like to use one of the bikes (“renta saikuru tsukaitai desu”) and they will take you from there.
The will fill out the time that you borrowed the bike, take the 100 yen fee, take you to the bike, and politely wave to you as you leave.
When you are done, go to literally ANY of the stations (that are not “registration only”) and go to the desk like you would to rent it, hand them your card so they can fill it out (and ask for additional rental fees if you went over the initial 3 hours).
If it is in a parking lot, just walk the bike in and they will have you park it in the rack. When taking it back to a station where the desk is inside the building, it would probably be best to park it outside, run in and say you are returning the bike (renta saikuru wo kaeshimasu) and they will take the lead from there.
*NOTE* Not all locations have bikes at any given time (and a couple of the locations are member registration only).
Finding the locations can be a bit tricky- meaning that even when using the maps provided below, if you don’t know what to look for it can be a bit daunting- but that is why I am writing this!
The stations are located namely at the front desks of hotels and sightseeing locations or at the attendant’s office/station at parking lots. This page has the map (also found below), pictures of, and hours for each of the stations. Most are open from 9:30am~7:00pm but hours may vary so refer to the site linked above.
Smart Cruise Renta-cycles
The second type of renta-cycle that they have is called Smart Cruise. These are your long distance, sport bikes. To use these you must have a renta-cycle membership but you must also fill out the following form EACH TIME YOU RENT.
These bikes cost:
1000 yen per day
Optional items (such as helmets, messenger bags, etc) are free to borrow.
The procedure is practically the same- show up, ask, fill out form, pay, etc. However, as these bikes are much more limited (find out which bikes are where on this page) you may call ahead and reserve them.
Additionally you MUST RETURN THEM WHERE YOU RENTED THEM FROM. The hours of the rental locations are presumably 24/7 as they are mostly hotels… but basically as long as they are open and there is someone at their front desk you should be able to rent. (For example the parking lot near the station, 石宮公園地下自転車駐車場 is open from 6am to 11pm).
Renta-cycle stations (green locations are member registration only. the red ones do both rental and member registration). Most are open from 9:30~19:00 but refer to this page to confirm.
Smart Cruise Locations
Have fun riding and stay safe!!