Category Archives: japan
Arigatou Gozaimasu, Japan!
JAPAN-28

After three weeks on the road in Japan, I’m finally heading back to Los Angeles and just in time for summer. I wanted to thank everyone that made this trip so memorable and to the Circles family for making it possible. I’ll miss this place and its people, but will be back for sure!

Expect regularly-scheduled posts to commence this week, thanks for your patience… ;-)

Jun 20, 2016 2 comments
Makoto’s Doppo Sim Works Tourer
Makoto's Doppo Sim Works Tourer

Doppo Kunikida was a Japanese naturalist, one of the best. In fact, he’s the founder of the movement which focuses on, you guessed it, nature in literature. This love of nature inspired Sim Works to develop their own touring bike, one that would take a 27.5 or 29″ wheel and be prepared for just about anything you’d encounter on the road or trail. The Doppo is a steel bike, made in Nagoya by the framebuilder Shin and was first debuted at NAHBS this year. This is Makato’s personal bike, which he affixed with racks and panniers for our tour, while utilizing the “anything” mounts on the fork and the Sim Works “Homage” tires. You can read more about the Doppo at the Sim Works blog and contact them for ordering information…

This bike looked so good on the top of Mount Mihara that I had to shoot a few photos of it. Enjoy!

Jun 17, 2016 14 comments
Char Rie’s Cafe: The Hunter Cycles Super Coffee Bike Tourer
Char Rie's Cafe: The Hunter Cycles Super Coffee Bike Tourer

Bicycles. They’re only as great as their owners, and custom bikes, being as special as they are, still follow this rule. I’m sure every framebuilder has completed a project like this at some point. Specific, yet versatile, made for multi-surfaces and designed for a short in stature, big in personality owner.

Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles takes on projects like this frequently. Or at least it appears that way. I don’t know what it is about some of Rick’s bikes, but they seem to be an exercise in problem solving, while delivering upon their specific use with confidence. A master of the touring bike, custom racks and creative designs, Rick’s finished products are some of the most unique in the industry.

Chari means bike in Japanese.

Rie’s “Super Coffee Bike Tourer” came to be when she decided to tour Europe, after her friend Mortimer from Keirin Berlin urged her to do so. Rie decided she wanted to attend various bike events, make new friends and pour coffee from her bike, something she had been doing since 2010 at her job while working for Circles and Sim Works in Nagoya from a singlespeed city bike. This trip however, would require something more capable, so she contacted Hunter Cycles and began to plan for her trip.

She started her journey on July 15, 2013 at Keirin Berlin and finished on October 28, 2013 for her birthday in Portugal at Cabo de São Vicente, aka “the end of the world”, the Southwesternmost point of European Continent. A bike’s use doesn’t die once its job has been completed though. For the past few years, Rie has tackled singletrack in Santa Cruz and various other bike tours, including our recent trip to Mount Fuji and Izu Oshima.

My job surrounds me with Beautiful Bicycles, of all shapes and sizes, sometimes desensitizing me to just how insane they can be, yet I can’t get over how rad this bike is… See more from Rie’s trip or her bike at her blog and be sure to check out her Instagram for more photos from her life of bikes!

Yattaaaaa!

Jun 15, 2016 18 comments
Bicycle Camping on Izu Oshima and Riding Mount Mihara with Circles
So good!

Oftentimes during trips like this, you just go with the flow and don’t ask questions. When the team at Circles began planning our bicycle tour around Mount Fuji, the only things I asked were what kind of roads we’d be riding and what to expect in terms of weather. This would answer every other question in terms of my gear and bicycle selection. We already got the run down on how this trip was faring on yesterday’s post, so I’ll spare you the re-introduction here but what I will say is, sometimes rides like this present a pleasant surprise when you’d least expect it… (more…)

Jun 14, 2016 13 comments
Riding Circles Around Mount Fuji
Hakone!

Visiting countries like Japan, you’re always drawn to hyper-modern cities like Tokyo, or classic, traditional places like Kyoto. While I’ve spent a lot of time here, I’d never spent much time in the countryside, much less the wilderness. I’ve always used a bicycle to explore an urban area. When Circles brought handful of US framebuilders and myself over to Nagoya for the Gourmet Century Asuke, they asked us to bring our own bikes. Not just to display at the Personal Bike Show, but to embark on a week-long bicycle tour with. This influenced what everyone brought greatly and ultimately, was a true test of each builder’s philosophy on touring. (more…)

Jun 13, 2016 28 comments
Thank You, Nagoya!
JAPAN-27

Nagoya, it’s been real! Thank you for your warm hospitality, your wasabi, your sake and your wonderful, smiling faces. Circles, Sim Works, Pine Fields Market and Early Birds have been fantastic but sadly, we must leave. I’m off to Kyoto, Kobe, Naoshima and Tokyo this week for some tourism but stay tuned, our story has only just begun!

Jun 13, 2016 3 comments
A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark
A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark-6

Mike DeSalvo makes absolutely beautiful steel and titanium frames, with some of the best welds in the business. In fact, his construction is so wonderful that he teaches tig-welding at UBI. While Mike’s frames are gorgeous in terms of construction, he’s admittedly not the most creative in terms of paint designs. His job is to focus on the frame’s engineering, leaving the designs up to the owners. Truthfully, I’d never seen a DeSalvo painted until coming to Japan and seeing the Circles customer’s personal rigs. Titanium is great and all, but sometimes paint really makes the frame pop!

When it comes to pop, if I were to ask you who designs the most outrageous paint jobs for bicycles, you might answer “John Slawta of Landshark.” John’s a living legend and his paint designs have long burned the retinas of their owners and anyone who has feasted their eyes upon these bikes. John and Mike began talking and decided to make six frames with insane paint jobs. This is the first, for Circles Japan and if you’re wondering what the inspiration was, Mike told John to be “very aggressive…” See John’s full design below, which features street art and pop culture references from Warhol, Keith Haring and Banksy, with a balls to the wall spin. If you’re in Nagoya, make sure you swing by Circles to check it out in person! (more…)

Jun 12, 2016 11 comments
Breadwinner Holeshot Disc
Breadwinner Holeshot Disc

Breadwinner’s presence in Japan is huge. At the Gourmet Century Asuke, I saw so many Breadwinners, from the Lolo to the Holeshot, just about every group of riders sported at least one of these made in Portland frames, all built to the same general spec: Chris King everything. This one just looked so good after a morning rain that I had to shoot photos of it.

Jun 8, 2016 10 comments
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Chris King’s Own Cielo
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Chris King's Own Cielo

If you look at each and every Cielo‘s non-drive chainstay, you’ll see the phrase “Built by Chris King” but if you look at a select few, it’ll read “Built by me, Chris King.” This happens to be one of those bikes. Chris King is too busy these days to build frames but there are a few rolling around, including this one that happens to be his own. If you’re skipping to the photos now, you’ll be returning to read all about it.

Chris wanted to run a 1 1/8″ steerer on a 1″ head tube so he could run a more modern cockpit but maintain the elegant lines in the frame. The way he achieved this was by running a stainless steel headset with the skirts cut off. He then counter bore the cups and silver brazed them onto the headtube.

He used Reynolds 953 on the front triangle, NOS Campy fork ends and dropouts, Columbus SL stays from the early 80’s on the rear. After it was built, the frame received a post-build heat treat tempering process to strengthen the brazing points of the stainless tubing. This caused the stainless cups to patina with the headtube, which was then clear coated to maintain this finish.

This bike was built prior to Cielo offering stems and as far as Chris is concerned, if the current cockpit works, why change it out? The same goes for his saddle, his pedals and that saddle bag from 1977…

Jun 7, 2016 32 comments
In the Mountains of Asuke for the Chris King Gourmet Century Japan
Hairpin number one of like 100 that day.

Japan is wonderful. In the cities like Nagoya, cars zip through intersections, merge with traffic, mamacharis cruise the sidewalks, baskets rattling with groceries and pedestrians swarm cross walks. Yet if you drive or ride a bicycle outside its network of infrastructure for 40km, you’re in the mountains. Many ranging around the 3,500′ height and all covered in a dense forest. These mystical beasts lie in slumber awaiting the rainy season to drench their loamy forest floors and fill their rivers.

The rainy season is at the end of June, so very few people want to throw events this month, at the risk of it being rained out, yet that didn’t stop Shinya and the Circles team from organizing the Chris King Gourmet Century. Now, if you’ve never heard of a Gourmet Century, the format is simple. Chris King works with local bike shops to plan a route in a select city, then they fly out Chris DiMinno, their lead chef to plan food stops along the way, with the event culminating in a feast after the ride. In some cases, like Japan, Chris was able to count on the talented caterers from Nagoya, who’d drive out to Asuke the day prior to prepare food. (more…)

Jun 6, 2016 37 comments