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Char Rie’s Cafe: The Hunter Cycles Super Coffee Bike Tourer

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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!

Bicycle Camping on Izu Oshima and Riding Mount Mihara with Circles

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Bicycle Camping on Izu Oshima and Riding Mount Mihara with Circles

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…

Riding Circles Around Mount Fuji

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Riding Circles Around Mount Fuji

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.

Thank You, Nagoya!

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Thank You, Nagoya!

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!

A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark

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A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark

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!

Breadwinner Holeshot Disc

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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.

Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Chris King’s Own Cielo

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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…

In the Mountains of Asuke for the Chris King Gourmet Century Japan

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In the Mountains of Asuke for the Chris King Gourmet Century Japan

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.

Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Takayoshi and His Clever Dobbat’s Commuter

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Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Takayoshi and His Clever Dobbat’s Commuter

I’ve documented a lot of bicycles in my day and I’ll be honest here when I say, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen something as clever or unique as this bike.

At first glance, this Dobbat’s commuter looks like you’re run of the mill 1x road bike. Then you notice the flat, stand-off headbadge, which leads your eyes to the asymmetric brake routing in the top tube, which you then notice is actually quite confusing in terms of construction. Stepping back from that detail, you begin to notice the light support rack simply dies into the fork blades and it takes a moment to find the set screws.

Details like this are NAHBS-level in terms of concept and execution, yet Takayoshi has never been to NAHBS and he doesn’t spend time on the internet looking at other bikes. In fact, when we asked him what inspired these details, he said “it just popped into my head.”

If Japan keeps rolling out bikes like this, my shutter finger is going to get tired!

The Circles Japan Personal Bike Show

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The Circles Japan Personal Bike Show

With the Gourmet Century Japan being hosted by Circles, the team at this great bike shop in Nagoya wanted to do something special for their visitors. The Personal Bike Show was a way to introduce the community in Nagoya to various framebuilders and individuals, all of which have found their way to town for the ride… Many of which were visiting Japan for the first time.

The format was simple. Each guest would display their bike they brought for the Gourmet Century, alongside two local builders. After finger foods by Chris DiMinno and plenty of booze, each personality took to the stage to answer a few questions, provided by the Circles team. Things like “what was the scariest moment on the bike?” and “What do you think of Curtis Inglis?”

The evening culminated with Shinya from Circles and Chris King expanding on their opinions about why cycling is so important to a community’s health and growth. It was one of those evenings that left you excited to be a part of a global community of cyclists.

Over the next few days, I’ll be featuring some of the frames that were displayed, along with other scenes from Nagoya and beyond! If you’re going to the Gourmet Century this weekend, I’ll see ya there!

Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Dobbat’s Succeed Fillet Road

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Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Dobbat’s Succeed Fillet Road

Dobbat’s is one of the local Japanese builders who displayed their handywork at the Circles Japan Personal Bike Show. While this small builder might not be known in the Western world, he’s been building bicycle frames since the late 80’s and man, let me tell you, his experience shows. This Succeed fillet road has some of the cleanest lines I’ve seen. Everything just lines up elegantly and nothing feels forced. Not even that fastback seat stay cluster, with its top cut precisely along the seat stay line. While the seat cluster initially caught my eye, it was the stem that really made me appreciate his work. It’s like a delicate flower petal embracing the bar like some wild orchid. I couldn’t get enough of it!

Check out more DIY framebuilding goodness at the Dobbat’s blog and wait til you see his other bike!

Keita’s Reptilian Black Cat Disc Road

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Keita’s Reptilian Black Cat Disc Road

I’m in Nagoya, Japan visiting Circles, a local bike shop and quintessential bicycle mecca. I’ll dive into that more in the near future, but for now, I wanted to feature this unique bike…

California framebuilders have found a home at Circles. In turn, lot of the family, friends and community surrounding the shop have found California framebuilders. DeSalvo, Sycip, Retrotec, Hunter and Black Cat frames hang from the rafters and line the bike racks outside the shop. One of which being Keita’s Black Cat disc road. Keita runs Early Birds, the breakfast cafe attached to Circles and it was the first bike of the day that really caught my eye due to its loud, reptilian-inspired paint job.

There’s something very Weedian-inspired about this frame with its hand-painted scales and color blocking. Todd paints each frame he builds with unique patterns and designs, leaving the owner more than enough inspiration to decide how to kit their bikes out. With this paint job, Keita upped the ante with a painted Sim Works stem and green King bits.

As I said, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Circles coverage… so stay tuned!

Akira and His Kinfolk ‘Cross Bike

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Akira and His Kinfolk ‘Cross Bike

Kinfolk Bicycles began making track frames in the mid-2000’s. They tapped into the Japanese Keirin community and began working with Kusaka-san to make frames for the US market. Years passed and rider’s interests grew to road and finally ‘cross bikes. Now Kinfolk primarily works with geared bikes and in Japan, they employ Akira, who finds himself in LA usually once a year during Japan’s “Golden Week.”

This year, Akira brought this super slick Kinfolk ‘cross race bike. As you flip through this Gallery, don’t miss that Shimano crank beausage photo. I think that, along with the Paul skewers are my favorite details on this bike.

It’s been fun having Akira in town and I look forward to seeing him in Japan soon!