Deep within the backstreets scattered along the Tama River are numerous workshops specialising in what seems like a limitless number of crafts. The area still retains many of these unique makers and artisans, despite the city’s constant evolution. Among these ageing workshops Equilibrium Cycleworks is something of an anomaly. Run by bespoke frame builder Vladimir Balahovsky, originally from Latvia, who’s own story of becoming a bicycle frame builder is just as unique.
The dream of building handmade bicycles was a succession of coincidences, beginning with the restoration of vintage Italian racing bikes which initially grew his fledgling obsession. Frame building courses in Japan at the time had extremely long waiting lists spanning many years, but undeterred Vlad continued to research and educate himself about techniques and materials, immersing himself in the craft. On visiting a local workshop Vlad met Ohtaki Masami, a passionate and respected NJS certified frame builder. Hesitantly asking if he would teach him his craft, Ohtaki-san unexpectedly agreed and without hesitation explained which tools Vlad would need to begin his education. …
In the eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake took place, normality has been slowly returning to the devastated region of Tohoku. These photographs were taken 3 months after the disaster, today is the first time I’ve looked at them for many years.
In June 2011 I travelled with a Japanese team that were there just a few days after the disaster. Taking fuel and supplies, counselling and helping people throughout the affected area. We travelled along the coastline where the tsunami had struck, zig zagging inland when the roads were blocked, the ruthless waves had destroyed almost everything. …
Japan Cup brings Rapha’s Team Sky journey to an end.
Emotions often run high at the Japan Cup. The race is the last in the pro-tour calendar and is traditionally a celebration of the spirit of cycle racing as much as a competition. This year’s 25th anniversary edition of the race proved especially poignant — it signified the end of Rapha’s four-year partnership with Team Sky. The team also bid farewell to domestique Xabier Zandio, one of the longest-serving riders on the squad, who chose to make the Japan Cup his final race as a pro-rider.
For eight years X-ray Sexysushi has been photographing life as it takes place around him, travelling the world, arbitrarily connecting with locals where the common language of bikes and beer goes a long way. During that time he’s worked with Cog Magazine, Hidden Champion, Loop, Oakley and a selection of other publications around the globe. He’s created a T-shirt with Futura Laboratories and worked with Max Leonard and Andrew Edwards on the book Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture.
Riding a handmade bicycle is something special; riding a steel frame made with your own hands takes things to an entirely different level. Tsuyoshi Ishizu, Japanese frame builder, rode from Osaka to Tokyo with his 10-year-old son to test one of his latest creations.
When I first met Tsuyoshi Ishizu I knew very little about his handmade bike project, Biwakoguma. His introduction to steel frame building, I later discovered, was partially circumstantial due to skills he already possessed as an artist working with metal.
Possibly the toughest Prestige in Japan to date took place over a weekend in the remote mountainous area of Kamikatsu, Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku. Famous for it’s unspoiled mountainous landscape and zero waste mission. With a contrast of falling cherry blossoms, almost 4,000 meters of climbing and the longest gravel road in Japan — 35 teams from across the globe pushed themselves beyond their limits on the beautiful but punishing 150km parcours with only 7 finishing.
To call Oki Tatsuya a bicycle messenger doesn’t really do justice to a man who’s been at the heart of Tokyo’s urban bike scene since the end of the nineties. Lee Basford caught up with him late one night in Tokyo.
In the beginning it was BMX, but that led to other things because I loved discovering new worlds, I was constantly thinking about small journeys, either by foot or by bike — finding the next train station, the next town, wanting to reach the end of the river or cycle to the ocean — always wanting to see something new. Our family moved to the country just as I was starting junior high school, which was great as I found new friends who loved touring, mountain biking, camping and fishing. Sometimes we’d camp and ride — I was about fifteen then. This led to working to get money for new bike parts or camping gear, I worked really early in morning as a paperboy to fund my obsession. After graduating high school I wanted to ride further, for longer than a day, but for this I needed money, so I worked almost every day; In the early morning as a newspaper boy and at the weekend either at a moving company or building contractor. These jobs were good for me, working with older people at the moving company I learned a lot about respect and manners. …
Takashi Sawa is a veteran of the inaugural Rapha Gentleman’s race in Japan and many since. His work as a curator has taken him around the world, combining his love of the moving image and bicycles, two of the most important sprocket, chain and crank based creations of the 19th century.
In the six years since the Great East Japan Earthquake took place, normality has been slowly returning to the devastated region of Tohoku. In June 2011 I travelled with a Japanese team that were there just a few days after the disaster. Taking fuel and supplies, counselling and helping people throughout the affected area. We travelled along the coastline where the tsunami had struck, zig zagging inland when the roads were blocked, the ruthless waves had destroyed almost everything. The scene then was shocking; debris, twisted cars and remnants of what used to be homes.