The Militarization of the Police Bicycle

This is what cops ride in Okinawa. Mamachari.

This is what cops ride in Okinawa. Mamachari.

Having been all over Japan in the past decade or so has led me to believe that America is a land of excess. We are so used to getting what we want (and easily, at that) that we end up buying things we don’t need. Sure, if you use a bike for transportation, you don’t need an S-Works Tarmac Disc with Dura Ace Di2. But as long as we’re spending money on a bike, why not get the best possible? After all, if we settle for spending less on a lower-end ride, we may “outgrow” it. Case in point: here in the good ol’ USA, when we need to equip our police force, we make sure they only have the best. However, sometimes the best is too much. Kind of like obese people who develop diabetes on account of their excessive diets (and for some reason chefs are celebrities here). Take the Kona Safariland, for instance. It’s a short-drive-train “patrol” bike with an adventurous name Really it’s just a beefy hybrid. The thing is built like a tank and would probably be awesome for touring across the African savannahs. A quick look at the website, however reveals a more segregated market. Only cops can buy them…presumably to run over criminals trying to escape on foot. Event the website for the bike has a popup (as of this writing) that politely informs you that “The Safariland Group,,, are all under one roof”. As if websites had roofs. Or holsters. But now that I am here I have been looking for a holster for my .454 Cassull revolver. I need it to crack engine blocks with extreme prejudice.

Take the image above. The Okinawan Police, like other police forces in Japan are equipped with exactly what they need. Their style of policing is such that this bike is totally adequate. If a perp escapes, he will most likely run into another set of cops two blocks away. Our cops? Who knows how they’re organized? They are truly never around when you need them. “But we are fighting a war on terror and a war on drugs!” you say. “The criminals have machine guns!” True. So do cops. However, I am willing to be that the aforementioned drug dealers don’t have overpriced, tank-like bicycles with which to deal said drugs. So if we are using the “bring a gun to a gunfight” analogy, a bike, no matter how solid and military-esque isn’t going to win any battles against a drug lord and his gang of car-driving thugs.

Oh yes. I was about to mention the cost of the above bike as compared to “patrol” bikes like the Kona Safariland. The mamachari pictured above probably cost the Okinawa Police about ¥20,000 or about US $200.00. The Safariland? Almost 10 times as much. Your taxes at work, ladies and gentlemen. A local shop even had one on display for a while (even though no one but the cops could buy it). It has Shimano Deore/SLX on it. Really. It also weighs like 29 pounds. If you are one of the select few that can buy one, be sure to get your riot gear and body armor (available on the same site)…you’re going to need it when you are doing crowd control on your giant military bicycle.

6 thoughts on “The Militarization of the Police Bicycle

  1. Pingback: Tour de Virus: Part 2 – MIR

  2. Cycling is what you make it. For some, that means one thing, for others the opposite.
    Gear is nice, you can reach the limits of equipment, if you ride hard and often enough, the process of ongoing personal research and development is a fascinating journey, that can cost as much or as little as you want.

    In any case, I think The real cost of a bicycle, is the time we spend riding it.

  3. The sub text of many bike loving people, less is more and there is always someone faster than you. Stay humble, ride a bike. Keep it simple. And bikes are fantastic! On the other hand there is the lingering fault of profit in the psyche of sellers, and the buyers who get trapped in the thinking beyond reality, buying into things that actually dont matter or are unnecessary. Your description of two different police forces is a perfect example and is born out in cities every day with people on all sorts of bikes that cost the price of months of work that they ride one day a week. Cheers, and ride safe!

    • I personally know a few cops. I have been helped by them and I have also run afoul of them. I don’t think that they even realize how dangerous they really are. Your comment about excess is very insightful. I talked to a guy the other day about his new Trek with Di2…he’s not a racer. He’s a doctor. He can afford it. But I end up asking myself “why?” When there are so many other bikes that will do the same thing for less.

    • Most people would say “the right tools for the job” and all that. But what they are missing is what KIND of rider they really are. Unless you aspire to go pro, there’s no need to spend thousands. Be happy with the bike you have. Tweak it. Customize it. But be frugal. Cycling is supposed to be fun…not expensive.

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