Bicycles you can ride even in the snow are now available at UNWIND! The birth of a local collaboration.

In the fall of 2021 “mountainman” and UNWIND Sapporo partnered up to launch a local collaboration project.

Vol.1 can be found here.

Our partner for Vol.2 is SAM’S BIKE, a pioneer bicycle shop in Sapporo specializing in off-road bicycles. We interviewed Nami Matsuura, the representative of the company, about the background of the collaboration and her thoughts on the project.

※ Masks were removed only during shooting. During the conversation, all staff members wear masks and keep an appropriate distance from each other to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while conducting interviews.

▲SAM’S BIKE Representative Nami Matsuura
▲UNWIND HOTEL & BAR Manager Shinji Oba

─ To begin with, could you please tell me how your collaboration with SAM’S BIKE began?

Oba: Initially Mearashi-san introduced us. While we were talking about our collaboration with mountainman, he suggested we offer fat bike rental and I thought that would be interesting. SAM’S BIKE also came up at that point.

Matsuura: Did you know our name?

Oba: Actually, I used to live close to SAM’S BIKE, so I knew it was there. I would often pass by the shop and was impressed by its craft-like DIY feel.

Matsuura: Oh really!?

Oba: One of the reasons behind this collaboration was to offer our guests a way to enjoy Sapporo in the winter. Up until now, I felt this was a challenge. I had actually been thinking about providing rental bikes since the time we first opened, but I figured it wouldn’t be possible to do in the winter. When Mearashi-san suggested fat bikes, I thought, “This is what we’ve been looking for!” The very next day I called Sam’s Bike about it (laughter).

Matsuura: Hardly any time passed from the time you called until you visited us (laughter).

─ How did you convince them?

Oba: After first introducing our hotel and explaining to them that we wanted to offer our guests an experience unique to Sapporo and had received a tip from Mearashi-san, I told them we’d love to be able to use their fat bikes! I also told them I had no doubt that our guests would be delighted and that it would fit perfectly with my image of a typical Sapporo experience. However, at the time, I still didn’t know if I would get an OK from within the company, so I went to them with my feelings running high (laughter).

Matsuura: Now that you mention it, you were indeed fired up (laughter). We’ve recently been offering rentals as well, but a lot of the hotels and facilities in eastern Hokkaido were focused on more serious outdoor activities. Because of that, I thought having them in Sapporo would be a great idea. We’ve learned from experience that there are often unexpected discoveries to be made by biking around town rather than walking, so we thought it would be a great opportunity for hotel guests to experience that.

Oba: The moment I entered Sam’s Bike, I felt like the shop was filled with the staff’s personality and I thought to myself, ”I want to work with these people! I need to make this happen.”

Matsuura: I’m glad to hear that. I was really impressed with your desire for people to actually experience fat biking, and not just use them for decoration. Of course, you have your own image of what you want to do, but I think riding them can change your perspective, so I really wanted you to let us provide our bikes. In any case, things came together very quickly.

Oba: It didn’t even take a week (laughter). The bikes were delivered in early December last year.

─ Are rentals available year-round, rather than only during the winter months?

Oba: Yes, year-round.

Matsuura: I definitely want people to enjoy them all year round. Fat bikes have tires that are thicker and more buoyant than normal bikes, so they are easier to pedal in the snow. Also, tires with spiked pins for use in the winter are more stable, so they aren’t as scary as walking on snowy roads. Since road conditions in Sapporo vary greatly throughout the year, I think it would be convenient to have a fat bike at home here in Sapporo, since they can handle anything (laughter).

Before delivering the bikes, we first let the hotel staff try them out, and thankfully they all said they had fun.

Oba: We had the whole staff take the bikes for a spin. They’re different from normal bikes, or even sports or mountain bikes for that matter, so I wanted the staff to experience what they’re like firsthand. They usually work entirely indoors, so being able to take the bikes for a ride outdoors was a fun and novel experience for them.

─ Was there anything you were particularly concerned about regarding the introduction of the fat bikes?

Oba: The majority of our guests are young couples or women in their 20s to 30s, so I made sure to get some advice on the size of the bikes.

Matsuura: We also suggested some equipment to make sure guests can enjoy the bike more safely.

Oba: I was also surprised to learn that fat bikes don’t necessarily need to have the tires full of air. For example, you taught me that before you take the bikes out in the snow, it’s good to intentionally release some of the air from the tires in order to increase the surface area of the tires on the ground. I think we need to learn from experience as we go, but I hope you’ll continue to give us advice.

Matsuura: Some things you can only understand by using them, so I think it would be a good idea to have the staff ride them a lot at first, to get them more familiar with the bikes. Even when renting them out to guests, I think a few words of advice could help make their time more enjoyable and expand their range of exploration. It would be nice to come up with some courses or routes for guests.

Oba: Definitely.

Matsuura: Like routes according to the length of rental time, or a route passing by some of the staff’s favorite shops. Things for everyone to enjoy.

Oba: Up until now, we were only able to guide people to spots within walking distance or near a subway station, but with the fat bikes we can suggest places off the usual path. I’d like to immediately start gathering information to be able to introduce some biking routes. Things like a half-day course, full-day course, and extreme mountainman course (laughter). There are lots of possibilities, so I’m really excited about it.

─ Just by having a bike, you can enjoy Sapporo that much more.

Oba: That’s definitely the case. Our hotel offers guests a kind of vacation from ordinary life, so even Sapporo residents often come to stay, but I think most people, even locals, have never ridden a fat bike, so I think they can enjoy a unique experience. 

Matsuura: That’s true. The number of people going to bike shops is limited, but by having them at this hotel, all kinds of people can ride them. Nakajima Park and the Toyohira River are also nearby. People can easily go from the city to nature, so I think there’s definitely something special there.

Recently, more and more women are getting interested in fat bikes. On a personal note, my husband, who was the owner, passed away five years ago, and until then I actually almost never rode bikes. But thanks to the fat bike, I began wanting to go outside again. They’re a lot of fun to ride, so I want lots of people to have the opportunity to try them out.

Oba: We used to feel like our location near Nakajima Park was a disadvantage. The most popular spots for hotels in Sapporo are generally around Sapporo Station and Odori Station. Because of our location, we wanted to emphasize the hotel’s atmosphere all the more to make people want to stay here.

I always thought of our location as a demerit, and I don’t know the future, but now that we have the fat bikes, I feel like it may, on the contrary, become an advantage soon. I can’t wait to hear what the guests think after trying them.

─ What do you hope guests will take away from their fat bike experience? 

Matsuura: I just want them to be excited! I want people to, not exactly revert to childhood, but enjoy them enough to yell out “woo-hoo!” (laughter).

Oba: I totally understand (laughter).

Matsuura: You often hear that riding a bicycle reminds you of fun childhood memories, but with fat bikes, I think it’s especially true. I think riding them out in the Hokkaido fresh air makes for double the fun.

Oba: That’s true. There’s something special about that feeling of riding through the wind. I hope this experience will inspire people to incorporate something like that in their own lives, or even just to ride a bike around on their next trip. I hope we can have a positive impact on people’s lifestyles in that way.

Matsuura: I hope it’ll be a cause for inspiration.Oba: Not to sing our own praises, but I think it’s a great experience unique to Sapporo. Riding a fat bike through parks and trees, and even in the snow…I think it’s the kind of thing people will want to tell everyone about once they return home.

▲中央: “mountainman” Creative Director Kenichi Mearashi

【Rental Bike Details】

With the cooperation of Sam’s Bike, a long-established bicycle store in Toyohira Ward, Sapporo, we will start a fat bike (made by SALSA, USA) rental service for hotel guests in December 2021.

With tires over 10 centimeters wide, fat bikes absorb and reduce road impact, making them comfortable to ride even on uneven trails. In addition, they can be ridden on the snow, which is a common feature of Hokkaido in winter, thus providing a unique experience.

With UNWIND HOTEL as your home base, you can enjoy a dynamic ride not only in the city center or nearby Nakajima Park, but you can also venture a little further to the Maruyama area where you can visit Hokkaido Shrine and the zoo. We invite you to enjoy the city of Sapporo at your leisure while taking in the sights and feeling the pleasant fresh air on your skin.

Rental cost: 500 yen per hour / maximum cost of 3000 yen.
(Helmet, light, and chain lock included. Optional insurance also offered.)

Shinji Oba
UNWIND HOTEL & BAR Sapporo / Otaru Manager

Born in Yamagata Prefecture, he worked at a city bank after graduating from university. He then studied abroad in the United States, worked as a ski instructor in New Zealand, and served as ski school principal of Hokkaido’s Kiroro Resort. After also working in the food and beverage industry, he became manager of UNWIND HOTEL & BAR Sapporo in December 2016, and concurrently manages UNWIND HOTEL & BAR Otaru since April 2019. 

Nami Matsuura
SAM’S BIKE Representative

Born in Chiba Prefecture, she and her husband Osamu founded SAM’S BIKE in 1991 in his hometown of Sapporo. The store is known as a specialty store that has taken root in bicycle culture, offering mainly American brands such as BMX and mountain bikes. Today, the store is loved not only by bicycle enthusiasts, but also by many people in the community as a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors or buy goods including box lunches, rice, coffee beans, and other daily necessities.

A fantastic blend of a resort and hotel, UNWIND HOTEL&BAR SAPPORO is a lifestyle hotel that provides an authentic lodge experience, but with the comfort and service of a hotel.

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