As a child, I used to think of Japan as a densely populated place full of skyscrapers and freeways. Of course, those big cities exist, but much of Japan is very rural. So when I travel from Tokyo to visit the Panaracer factory, I get to experience that transition from city to countryside.
My trip starts with one of the incredible Shinkansen trains. These trains now travel at up to 320 km/h (200 mph). Their shapes are designed to reduce turbulence when two of these projectiles meet at full speed in a tunnel. (Imagine the pressure wave!)
On the way, the train speeds by Mount Fuji, and I am reminded why the Japanese revere this volcano so much. It really is stunning.
In less than 2 hours, I am in Osaka, more than 500 km (310 miles) from Tokyo. But my trip is far from over. I now switch to the standard narrow-gauge Japanese railways, and board the “Kounotori Super Express” (above).
By American standards, it’s a fast train, and the trip through gorges and tunnels is spectacular. After 1.5 hours, I have crossed an entire mountain range, but my trip isn’t over yet.
I now change to a local train, the kind that is used by schoolchildren and people going shopping in the next town. This train finally takes me to the small town where the Panaracer factory is located. From the station, it’s just as brief walk to the place where our Compass tires are made.
What inspired our tires is also what the workers see when they look out of the factory gate: mountains.
It’s always a privilege to meet Panaracer’s engineers (above). We present them with our ideas, they give us their feedback, and we discuss how we can further improve our tires. We discuss rubber compounds, casing materials, tread patterns, and other things that make our tires perform as well as they do.
Several Panaracer engineers are avid riders themselves. All are as passionate about bicycle tires as we are, and I enjoy working with them immensely. And best of all, I get to enjoy the tires’ performance in the mountains that have inspired them.