Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Sunday ride

I finally got the paper that Len and I wrote on the Planisphere corrected and sent into the editor, which meant that for the first time in a month, I got to take some time for myself on the weekend. On Sunday, Jon and I went for a long ride down into Southern Osaka. We took a winding route through parts neither of us had seen before with a vague destination of a bike shop I had been told about in Hirano (平野). I was told it was a good shop, but nothing prepared me for what we found.

This was far and away the coolest bike shop I've ever seen, and there's a real possibility that it is the coolest one I'll ever see.

It's fastidiously organized, and every cubic meter full of bikes and bike parts. The parts range from cheap and nearly worthless, to rare and sometimes priceless - but they are all sorted by type, color and value. Some of the bikes themselves have no price, just a hand-written description. There are bikes covering the whole floor but a narrow path, bikes hanging from the walls and ceiling, and between the bikes, in every available space, there are bike parts.

All of the bikes were made by the owner of the shop who's name I never learned, but who is very old and very tiny. He told us that the tall bike in the background stands at 2.6 m and that the only person who ever rode it without support was some crazy gaijin from Canada.

The pink bike in this photo is possibly the greatest tandem ever made. The front rider sits on the pink seat, the rear rider on the white one. The rear rider reaches over the shoulders of the front rider to grip the higher bars, while the front rider grips the lower bars and leans back into the lap of the rear rider. The bike was clearly made for lovers.

He told us that he has made over 400 different kinds of bikes but that he has never built a track bike, because he only makes bikes that can be ridden until you are 70 to 80 years old.

I would pay good money to see an 80 year old riding around on this little clown bike. (In related news, when I was on my way to Osaka University of Economics (大阪経済大学) the other day, I saw an old woman on an electric scooter that looked pretty much like this bike. By the time I had gotten out my camera, however, she had actually scooted away a block and a half and I didn't want to scare her by chasing her down.)

As well as all these freak bikes, he had a few perfect gems of European racing bikes, including a beautiful old Italian bike with wooden rims.

This freak bike has wobbly wheels that seem to be built onto hubs specially made for this purpose. Actually, those hubs were the rims from the wheels on some kid's novelty bike. He refitted the axles, drilled the the rims for spokes and laced them to another set of real rims.


Anonymous said...

This is my favorite blog. JR

MindOverMatter said...

Definitely mine, too.
And this is a great entry.