Cycling 1,500 kilometers from Nagasaki all the way to Yokohama is a feat in itself — now imagine making the journey perched atop an old-fashioned “high-wheel” bike, with a huge front wheel nearly 1.5 meters above a tiny back one.
Vintage bicycle enthusiast and property manager Eric Knight shipped his high-wheeler — a replica of one with a 54-inch front wheel originally made by the Victor company — from his home in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, to Japan for the trip. He was accompanied by his friend and fellow American Mark Kennedy, a management consultant and writer based in Beppu, Oita Prefecture. Kennedy rode an e-bike, carrying the luggage and serving as Knight’s interpreter. The duo, who are both aged 55 and met as freshmen in 1986 at Maine’s Bates College, departed from Nagasaki on Sep. 24 and completed the trip in 32 days.
High-wheelers are known as daruma bicycles in Japanese, a moniker that came about from either the bicycle's resemblance to the lucky red charms of the same name or to the auspicious dharma wheel in Buddhism. Either way, Knight and Kennedy drew on the English equivalent and christened their journey “Project Dharma.”