I always thought if I were ever to get a custom built frame in Japan, it would be a Cherubim from Konno-san out in Machida. After all, he carries on the 3rensho tradition of his father. He wins all those prizes at NAHBS. And he makes beautiful bikes, including ones I actually see being ridden on brevets, especially the Nishi Tokyo brevets that start in his shop's side yard.
Or maybe I would try to get a Nagasawa track bike, the quintessential Japanese experience. If Uma Thurman needed to get a "Hattori Hanzo" sword in Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, then wouldn't the equivalent be a foreigner getting a Japanese keirin track frame straight from a great master craftsman? I imagined needing to beg Nagasawa-san to make me a frame, conducting painful training rituals in order to demonstrate that I was worthy ... or at least needing to keep my good humor through a full night of drinking, repeatedly filling his glass as he chain smoked away.
But then I started hearing about another framebuilder in town. Awhile back, I saw Gunnar riding up the hill on Komazawa Dori on a beautiful new modern steel bike. He mentioned that his friend, Vlad, had made it for him. And that he was getting another, cyclocross bike from the same builder. Then Hiroshi also started to talk about this builder. An Equilibrium Cycles frame showed up in Hiroshi's display wall at C Speed, and I would hear of Vlad stopping by for some events, including bike fitting sessions.
I found Equilibrium Cycle Works' website and its copious Flickr photo collection. A feast for the eyes. Beautiful metal, beautiful paint, obviously built (and photographed) by someone who appreciates clean, crisp lines, simplicity and, dare I say it, traditional Japanese aesthetic values. Beautiful lugs. Beautiful fillet brazing. Beautiful shiny metal. Beautiful paint.
So I was pleasantly surprised to actually meet Vlad when I stopped by C Speed earlier in the week.
Maybe to get to just the right equilibrium in cycling, or in life, it takes a high-end, light-weight, lively steel frame? Maybe there is one in your future? Or in mine?
You can read a bit of Vlad's story here on the Velocipede Salon forum. At least he had a true "sensei", a mentor and teacher.
More here. And you can find reports online -- good reviews from the most recent Tokyo handmade bike show.
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