Japanese Bicycle Bling


Lots of folks know about Keirin racing and the stream of nice bikes that came from Japan during the Bike Boom of the 70s and 80s. Attentive readers of global manufacturing will also be aware of the yen’s rise and the subsequent suffering of Japanese manufacturing. I spent some time in Yokahama and Tokyo in 1996 (and would love to visit again — with a bike), just after college and just as I became invested in the connections between transportation cycling, urbanism, and sustainability. I was delighted to see so many practical city bikes in use and locked up around Japanese cities and in the countryside.

Nowadays, I turn to Japan for its pockets of activity in passhunting, randonneuring, and strict adherence to French-inspired design. Larger operations like Panaracer and Panasonic combined with smaller craft manufacturers like Kaisei, Honjo, and Nitto to constitute a center of classic cycling stuff. Digg deeper, and you find design outfits like Grand Bois and small shops like Toyo and the venerable Toei.

Its hard to find out about the scene, as even in the age of global interconnection, a language and an ocean makes up a large expanse. Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, serves as a gateway to the Japanese market in the U.S. Luckily, there are also a few blogs that allow a peek into the interesting and wonderful world of Japanese rando stuff:

Grand Bois Website and Grand Bois Blog


Toyo Blog


Some great photo collection that I know nothing about.

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5 comments

  1. Ritchie

    This is a great roundup of the firms pushing French-style bikes through Japan. You’re right, it’s amazing how much language is still a barrier when you try to delve into it.

    Speaking of language barriers, I was recently in Marrakesh, Morocco and I quickly realized that all the great French bikes of the 50s and 60s have somehow migrated down to the streets of North Africa. And what’s more, due to the arid climate, many are still in AMAZING shape. Everywhere you look people are riding around on Peugeots and Motobecanes (also some great scooters around made by the same companies). I got home and started to think that it would make for an exciting (and profitable) venture to fill a shipping container with Marrakeshi bikes, fix them up, and sell them in the states. Problem is I’m having a tough time searching out someone in the city to talk to about it. I need someone there who really knows bikes, and someone who knows a good deal on something nice vs. a cheap deal on something cheap.

    This one might just remain as a dream on the shelf, but man, if it could work, it would be awesome.

  2. Simon

    Hi Velo-flaneur,
    Here a couple of links you might enjoy.

    Velocraft’s (Rando/tour focussed shop in Tokyo) blog-
    http://www.c-w-s.sakura.ne.jp/cws02/velocraft/

    Lots of scans of classic Japanese road and touring bicycle catalogues as well as pass-hunting photos etc:
    http://cyclotourist.web.fc2.com/special_00.html

    I have recently moved to northern Japan and have been obsessively researching bicycle options here..at this stage I will most probably go with a cheaper production touring bicycle that are available reasonably widely. With a Toei/Cherubim/Royal Norton in mind down the line.

    regards,
    Simon

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