21 September, 2006

Bikes You Can't Buy -- UPDATED

I've noticed a number of bikes made for the Japanese market that might appeal to this blog's readers. Unfortunately they are difficult or impossible to buy here.

The Emperor Touring Master, on the left, is made by Maruishi. If you follow the link, note the instructions for packing it for rinko. The fenders are separable. Not bad for $745 complete with bell and fenders.

The Araya Randonneur is made by the same folks who make Araya rims. Check out the Brooks Saddle, lovely stem, generator hub, flashlight, and the front rack with light mount. It's well worth exploring the linked site. The frame details are first rate, right down to braze-ons for a rubber slap guard. By the way, this bike costs all of $1156.

The Panasonic B-OSD2, below, has S&S type couplers allowing the frame to be separated into two parts. Like most of these bikes it has good quality components, Nitto bars and stem. It costs $1060 or a bit under $500 for the frame alone.

Panasonic also makes a similar bike without couplers, the B-OSC2. But it does have hammered fenders and lights.

One of the big problems with these bikes, other than getting them, is that they are often not made in larger sizes.


James posted a link in the comments to an interesting Raleigh Club Special made for the Japanese market

Andrew posted a link in the comments to Fukaya Davos bikes (photo below). This is a brand I was unfamiliar with, but I was impressed enough that I asked our import agent to try to arrange for us to get some. I don't know if his efforts be successfull, especially since I also asked for at least one larger size. But we'll know in a week or two. I don't suppose anyone knows what factory actually makes these?


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but what's the chance of you being able to import some of these bikes? Does the cost become prohibitive once you factor in shipping?

For folks like me who balk at paying $1500 for a frame, they might be a great option.

Dad said...

These are wonderful. The Toeis and such are of course simply gorgeous, but they are also very very precious, anal, and self-conscious. Personally I find that quite offputting.

I just don't get why they don't sell these types of rigs in the USA. They would be eminently practical for almost all people who don't race. [And even if they do: I learned early on in my career that it sure ain't about the equipment; that helps about .003471%. OK you can strip the fenders. ;-) ]

Amy said...

Who needs bigger bikes - us folks that are only 5'6" are pretty limited on choices. Those that are even shorter are even more limited.

Velo Orange said...

What has really stopped me from trying to import them is that they often top out at 54cm or 55cm. In the US the vast majority of bikes sold go from about 55cm to 60 cm. That's why Amy has a hard time finding a bike; a lot of manufacturers and importers can't be bothered with the smaller and larger sizes.

But I will ask our Japanese importer how hard it would be to get them. The cost will be higher with shipping costs and the importer's cut, probably a few hundred dollars higher.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I'm with buck-50, Chris; it seems that a proven distributor who's not seeking stratospheric mark-ups could probably get rights to import them and, in so doing, fill a niche that's currently underserved. And make a few bucks. Whether you judge it to be worth your while to deal with the Japanese language, the time difference, and shipping companies and ports is, of course, up to you.

I can't believe these lugged, presumably made-in-Japan bikes can possibly sell for so little, unless that's an at-the-factory-door price.

Anonymous said...

One man's precious and anal is another man's well-crafted machine.
Do you (or anyone) have any thoughts on smooth vs hammered fenders? Smooth aluminum are less forgiving over time than hammered, but I've never dealt with stainless. I ask because I've recently acquired what I took for a 25 year old touring bike converted to wannabe racer, but the builder tells me it was originally an upright town bike. Either way it'll need fenders. I'll post some pictures when it gets that far.

Anonymous said...


Last time I was in Tokyo, you can buy bikes like this at most shops. The one I saw cost around $1000US but it comes with everything (complete bike, fenders, rack and lights). My guess it is an OEM product for the shops I was at but it sure is a good deal. BTW, the one I saw is an 650a bike.


AN said...

Comments like these mean this: I'm going to have to sit through several more Kurosawa retrospectives before Chris gets the idea of a Japan buying trip out of his system.

Anonymous said...

American electronics fiends have a Japanese gadget procurement service that they use to buy gadgets that don't make it out of Japan. The name escapes me. They charge a fee, of course, but I don't see why it couldn't work with bikes.


Dad said...

Neil, as to fenders: I have a set of hammered aluminum Honjos on one bike and a set of smooth Berthoud stainless ones on the other. while I believe that the hammered Honjo fenders are very attractive, the Berthoud ones appear to be much, much, much more durable.

Also, the Honjo fenders are not clearcoated so they will corrode if you ride in harsh conditions, e.g. in the winter, unless something is put on them to protect 'em. Of course the muted appearance that they naturally get is not unattractive either.

All in, the Berthouds are more "set and forget". But they don't look quite as good, and they are slightly heavier.

C said...

"I just don't get why they don't sell these types of rigs in the USA. They would be eminently practical for almost all people who don't race."

The reason they don't sell them is consumers won't buy them. People rarely by what they need. Just look at the popularity of SUVs that never see dirt and sports cars that rarely get past 60mph. Where I work we use models who are in their late 20's to early 30's even though the majority of our customers are in their late 30's to early 40's. Why do we do this? Simple: extensive research shows the younger models generate more sales than the models that actually represent the buyers. In other words, when people buy a product - especially bikes - they're buying more than the product. They're buying the lifestyle it represents.

Don't think for a second that this crowd is immune to that. How many people who buy heavy duty Nitto racks actually do cross country touring? How many people who buy $300 bags use them enough to justify their durability? I'm always amused how many Rivendell and similar bikes with clean, barely used Berthoud bags I see. Nothing at all wrong with any of this - we all need our hobbies!!!

Anonymous said...

I think C probably just described me. I like the Berthoud bags because I enjoy real craftsmanship, rather than their potential for lasting a lifetime.

I'll probably buy the hammered Honjos, rather than the obviously more durable Berthouds, mostly because I like looking at them and also their homage to the old French fenders. (There is or was a set of wide 700 Lefolds on ebay recently. Pricey.) Thanks for the input.

Anonymous said...

I regularly see finely crafted, lugged steel Japanese built bikes with quality components in "American" frames sizes for sale between $50 and $200 here in the USA.

Of course, they're 20 to 30 years old, but truly nice things stay nice things, no?

Robert Cannon said...

The bicyle bug has bitten me hard and so it is with much delight that I have been reading through all the old posts on the VO blog. What you are pursuing here, these constructeur bicycles, are perhaps the apotheosis of two wheeled human powered vehicles, efficient, fun, and elegant.

Some of the Japanese productions of these are magnificent. I would be most interested in purchasing one if they were available here and in my size. I think the panasonic B-OSD-1 is already available through Yellow Jersey in Wisconsin. At any rate I think the idea of importing some and producing other constructeurs in the States would be sucessful.

I wonder if the approach of VO could be applied to other forms of Human Powered Vehicles? For instance, the xtracycle addition to a bicycle radically transforms it in to a two wheeled pick-up truck/station wagon able to carry loads of stuff, meaningful amounts of groceries, large bags of laundry, passengers, etc., much more so than even the porteurs,google them to see what I mean. People with it can just about get rid of their automobiles. While the xtracycle is an elegant solution to the question of how can I use my bike more, it is decidedly not a very elegant product. I wonder if VO might consider producing a long tail constructeur, one with very long stays resulting in an integrated xtracycle like bike which could support custom VO style luggage. It could be a HPV's version of the old Rolls Shooting Brake.

What about a constructeur velomobile?

Sorry I have rambled but there is so much here that excites me.

Also David_nj, I too live in Princeton and would love to see some of your bicyles.

Robert-I will continue reading- Cannon

Dad said...

One thing that I think is neat: on that Araya Randonneur, I love how they have the dynamo hub wires nicely routed inside the fork.

I tried a dynamo hub recently and it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm gonna get one and hopefully be able to avoid squinting and praying on my ~14-mile commute.

(I think perhaps you should consider lighting on the V-O frames -- after all, lighting's a part of the whole randonneur world-view -- and this little detail seems neat.)

Anonymous said...

i've seen a maruishi touring bike (if not this model) for sale, new in a nyc bike shop in the past year. can't remember which one--i think it was near grammercy park, maybe 16th street. wonder how it got there. maybe they have a source?

James said...

You forgot the Raleigh Randonneur, made by Araya, probably the same frame used on the Araya model. Both are made in Taiwann.

Andrew said...

These Japanese bikes are obviously too tall for a lot of the grain fed male population in the US, but they look like excellent bikes for women.

When looking for a suitable touring bike candidate for my other I ended up buying a 20 year old lugged tourerish Italian frame. Not ideal geometry with slack head angle, but all in all much better than what is available in Australia We have even less choice here than you guys have in the US - Trek 520 and Fuji tourer are about the only complete touring bikes available, and the Fuji is now hard to get.

Andrew said...

Having just had a closer look at the Araya "run donor", I'm stunned. That is a really well executed bike, with lots of nice touches. Nice lugs, special shaped alu piece under the fork crown to cradle the doryoke (fender), internal wiring all the way through the front rack to the light, Frenchy look stem, sensible tyre size choice for the frame sizes (26), etc etc etc

Andrew said...

Here's another Japanese brand making budget rando bikes, Davos:


Velo Orange said...


I just sent an enquiry about importing Davos bikes.

James said...

Those Davos bikes look promising, the only japanese bikes I've seen available in large sizes. exciting.

James said...

I was told that the three bicycles are all versions of one model the "Londoner," a 590/650A bicycle. The company is from Nagoya prefecture.

Andrew said...

Chris, good luck with Davos. I'll be interested to hear how you go. I've also alerted the only sensible bike shop here in Sydney to these little nuggets of gold, but it may be too complicated for them to arrange importation (they are a busy urban bike shop). We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a short person. I'm 5'6", and I ride a 52cm. The problem with riding a fendered bike with 700c wheels is TCO(toe clip overlap). I've been told that it's not a big deal, but it's annoying and it should not happen. Are these super neato Japanese bikes 700c? I happen to believe that all bikes smaller than 56cm should have smaller wheels, much like Chris is doing with his bikes. I don't care if they're 650A, 650B, 650C, or 559. Just do something about it. :-_

Velo Orange said...

Mike, Most of the bikes mentioned here are 650A (650B wheels also fit). The Araya uses 26" wheels.

I'm still waitong to hear about the Davos.

Anonymous said...

That's great, Chris. I wonder why manufacturers don't spec smaller bikes with smaller wheels as a matter of course. The 650A/B route may be a bit obscure, but 559 would be great. Surly does it, Riv does it on the Atlantis. Waterford does it on some bikes. It's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Too bad you can't get any of the Davos frames. They were really good value. I'm living in Japan and bought a 57cm 650A rando frame through my LBS here in Matsuyama for less than $400. Rides like a dream and there's an impressive selection of 590 tires around here, including a knobby and a snow tire! Complaints about the frame---ugly cheap looking fork crown, no rack braze-ons on the seat stays and they dented in the chainstays for chainring clearance. Nice bike for the money, though!