Rapha Rides Tokyo: Takashi Sawa

Lee Basford
3 min readNov 16, 2018

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.

I cycle everywhere in the city, for meetings and site visits, anything that involves moving within Tokyo I use a bike. At other times I ride simply to clear my mind.

My first real bike was a Bridgestone commuter with 2×6 gears. I originally challenged myself with the idea that I would ride to a city I knew nothing about other than its name — no maps, only using the signs on the road. It was also with this Commuter bike that I experienced my first cycle trip by train, having to pack the bike into a ‘rinko’ bag which is a necessity for traveling by train in Japan. For some strange reason I let the air out of the tires too, I still don’t know why I did that.

Rapha was not so well known in here back in 2007, simply wearing Rapha when I was cycling in the mountains always seemed to initiate some lively conversations with riders I’d never met before. In 2011 a week after the Great East Japan Earthquake Rapha organised the charity event ‘Ride for Tohoku’ across the whole country. I made so many new friends on that ride, it was also at this time that I began the long friendship with the staff of Rapha Japan who were organising the rides.

Even living in central Tokyo, it only takes an hour to get to the mountains by train. I really don’t mind sitting in bibs shorts and a cycling jersey with the other passengers either. I believe one day the time will come when we won’t need to use the obligatory ‘rinko’ bag to take our bikes on the train. I’ll keep fighting for it until that day comes!

I really love the moments during a ride when we chat and enjoy the time together with each other over the monotonous peddling. The most enjoyable ride we organise every year toward the end of December. It’s the last ride of the year for us on the very outskirts of Tokyo and the toughest part of the mountains of Okutama. The Mt. Mitake ride has a truly punishing main ascent which averages at over 20%! At the summit there is a village inhabited by ascetic monks from the Musashi-Mitake Shrine who also use the mountain for training.

For me the bike is not a tool for competition it’s more like a toy that I can use for my enjoyment. I can go out and ride amazing mountain roads where there are no cars, winding freely and looking good.

This story first appeared on rapha.cc
Watch the Rapha RIDES Tokyo film here:



Lee Basford

Designer, photographer, illustrator and artist. living in and around the overlap of art, design, photography and bikes | humankind.jp leebasford.com