Bicycle Quarterly contributor Hahn Rossman and I just returned from a three-week trip to Japan. It was an incredible visit, filled with excitement, wonder and learning.
We rode through wonderful landscapes. We met randonneurs, cyclotourists, bicycle collectors and many others. We rekindled old friendships and forged new ones.
We visited amazing sites and marveled at the craftsmanship of ancient temples, castles and shrines. We were impressed by a culture that has made elaborate, beautiful things for thousands of years.
We watched builders of Keirin frames and cyclotouring bikes at work. We saw them continue the Japanese tradition of craftsmanship. We marveled at their skills, which they have honed over decades by making hundreds of frames a year.
We toured the southern Japanese Alps, where we enjoyed incredible roads, lonely mountain passes and grand vistas. We learned to watch for monkeys on the road.
We visited the makers of bicycle components. At Panaracer, we saw how much hand-work goes into making a tire, and we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of various materials and casings. At Shimano, we learned how the company has built on a long tradition of metalworking to become one of the main innovators in the cycling industry. Nitto (above) showed us how they make racks, handlebars and stems. At Kaisei, we saw tubes being butted. At Honjo, we learned how much goes into making our favorite fenders.
What we saw and learned will benefit our future product development. We discussed exciting new components that we hope to make together with these excellent manufacturers.
We enjoyed wonderful hospitality and a genuine enthusiasm for bicycles old and new. It was touching to see how much our hosts value our contributions to their passion. We loved seeing classic cycling components we only knew from photos and drawings, and we were grateful how freely our hosts shared their research and knowledge.
We enjoyed many wonderfully presented and excellent meals, like this breakfast on our last day… We spent three weeks in Japan, and every day brought new surprises and delights. We’ve collected fascinating stories and insightful reports. We look forward to publishing them in future issues of Bicycle Quarterly.